People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran

The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) or Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) (Persian: سازمان مجاهدین خلق ایران, romanizedSâzmân-ye Mojâhedin-ye Khalğ-ye Irân),[c] is an Iranian dissident organization that was previously armed but has now transitioned primarily into a political advocacy group. Its headquarters are currently in Albania. The group's ideology is rooted in "Islam with revolutionary Marxism",[14] but after the Iranian Revolution became about overthrowing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and installing its own government.[15][16][17] At one point the MEK was Iran's "largest and most active armed dissident group",[18] and it is still sometimes presented by Western political backers as a major Iranian opposition group,[19][20][21] but it is also deeply unpopular today within Iran, largely due to its siding with Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War.[22]

People's Mojahedin Organization
سازمان مجاهدین خلق
AbbreviationPMOI, MEK, MKO
LeaderMaryam Rajavi[1]
Massoud Rajavi[a]
Secretary-GeneralZahra Merrikhi
FoundersMohammad Hanifnejad[3]
Saeid Mohsen
Ali-Asghar Badi'zadegan
Ahmad Rezaei
Founded5 September 1965; 58 years ago (1965-09-05)
Banned1981 (in Iran)
Split fromFreedom Movement of Iran
Political wingNational Council of Resistance of Iran
Military wingNational Liberation Army (1987–2003)
Membership5,000 to 10,000 (DoD 2011 est.)[b]
IdeologySee below
ReligionShia Islam
Colours  Red
Party flag
Flag of the People's Mujahedin of Iran
Yellow version of the flag of the People's Mujahedin of Iran

The MEK was founded on 5 September 1965 by leftist Iranian students affiliated with the Freedom Movement of Iran to oppose the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.[3][23] The organization contributed to overthrowing the Shah during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It subsequently pursued the establishment of a democracy in Iran, particularly gaining support from Iran's middle class intelligentsia.[24][25][26] The MEK boycotted the 1979 constitutional referendum, which led to Khomeini barring MEK leader Massoud Rajavi from the 1980 presidential election.[d][28][29] On 20 June 1981, the MEK organized a demonstration against Khomeini with the aim of overthrowing the regime. Some 50 demonstrators were killed in the protests.[30][31][28] On 28 June, the MEK was implicated in the blowing up of the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP) in the Hafte Tir bombing, killing 74 officials and party members.[32][33][34][35][36]

Facing the subsequent repression of the MEK by the IRP, Rajavi fled to Paris.[37][38][39] During the exile, the underground network that remained in Iran continued to plan and carry out attacks[40][41] and it allegedly conducted the August 1981 bombing that killed Iran's president and prime minister, Rajai and Bahonar.[42][43][41] In 1983, the MEK began meeting with Iraqi officials.[44][45][46][47] In 1986, France expelled the MEK at the request of Iran,[48][49] forcing it to relocate to Camp Ashraf in Iraq. During the Iran-Iraq War, the MEK then sided with Iraq, taking part in Operation Forty Stars,[50][51][52][53] Operation Mersad,[54][55] and the suppression of the 1991 uprisings in Iraq.[56][57][58] Following Operation Mersad, Iranian officials ordered the mass execution of prisoners said to support the MEK.[59] As part of the group's ongoing underground and overseas activities, it was an early source for claims about the nuclear program of Iran.[60] In 2003, the MEK's military wing signed a ceasefire agreement with the U.S. and was disarmed at Camp Ashraf.[61]

Between 1997 and 2013, the MEK was on the lists of terrorist organizations of the US, Canada, EU, UK and Japan for various periods.[62] The MEK is designated as a terrorist organization by Iran and Iraq.[57] In 2008, the United Nations Committee against Torture labeled the group as involved in terrorist activities.[63] During its life in exile, MEK was initially financed by backers including Saddam Hussein,[64][65][66][67] and later a network of fake charities based in European countries.[68][69][70] Critics have described the group as "resembling a cult",[71][72][73] while its backers describe the group as proponents of "a free and democratic Iran" that could become the next government there.[74]


Early years (1965–1971)

Hanifnejad (left) and Badizadegan (right), two of the founders of the organization

The Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) was founded in 1965 by a group of Tehran University students whose radical ideas focused on an armed rebellion against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whom they considered corrupt, oppressive, and a puppet of the United States.[75][29] They considered the mainstream Liberation Movement too moderate and ineffective.[75] They aimed to establish a socialist state in Iran based on a modern and revolutionary interpretation of Islam,[76][3][77][16] that originated from Islamic texts like Nahj al-Balagha and some of Ali Shariati's works.[78][79] MEK founders included Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali Asghar Badizadegan,[80] and it attracted primarily young, well-educated Iranians.[81] While MEK publications were banned in Iran, in its first five years, the group primarily engaged in ideological work.[82] Despite their Marxist influence, the group never used the terms "socialist" or "communist" to describe themselves.[78][79]

During the 1970s, the MEK carried out a series of attacks against the Iranian and Western targets[29] and tried to kidnap the U.S. Ambassador to Iran Douglas MacArthur II in 1970.[83] Some sources attribute the attempted kidnap to other groups.[84][85][86] By August 1971, the MEK's Central Committee included Reza Rezai, Kazem Zolanvar, and Brahram Aram.[87] During August–September 1971, SAVAK managed to strike arrested and executed many members of MEK including its co-founders.[88]

Some surviving members restructured the group by replacing the central cadre with a three-man central committee. Each of the three central committee members led a separate branch of the organization.[89] Two of the original central committee members were replaced in 1972 and 1973, and the replacing members were in charge of leading the organization until the internal purge of 1975.[88]

Schism (1971–1978)

MEK's central committee members[87]
1971 1972 1973 1974 1975
Bahram Aram
Reza Rezaeia Taghi Shahram
Kazem Zolanvarb Majid Sharif Vaghefic
a Killed in action by SAVAK in 1973
b Arrested in 1972, executed in 1975
c Killed by Marxist faction in 1975 purge

1971-1972 arrests and executions by the Shah's security services, also infighting within the organization "practically shattered the organization".[90] By 1973, MEK members that declared themselves Marxist–Leninist launched an "internal ideological struggle",[91] and by 1975 two opposing MEK factions had formed, one being Muslim and the other Marxist.[92] The Marxist faction asserted that "they had reached the conclusion that Marxism, not Islam, was the true revolutionary philosophy".[93] Members who did not convert to Marxism were expelled or reported to SAVAK.[91] This led to two rival Mojahedin, each with its own publication, its own organization, and its own activities.[94] The Marxist faction was initially known as the Mojahedin M.L. (Marxist–Leninist). A few months before the Iranian Revolution, the majority of the Marxist Mojahedin renamed themselves Peykar (Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class) in 1978.[95] From 1973 to 1979, the Muslim MEK including Massoud Rajavi were mainly in prisons.[96] "Rajavi, upon release from prison during the revolution, had to rebuild the organization".[97][98]

Between 1973 and 1975, the Marxist–Leninist MEK increased their armed operations in Iran. In 1973, they engaged in two street battles with Tehran police and bombed ten buildings including Plan Organization, Pan-American Airlines, Shell Oil Company, Hotel International, Radio City Cinema, and an export company owned by a Baha'i businessman. In February 1974, they attacked a police station in Isfahan and in April, they bombed a reception hall, Oman Bank, gates of the British embassy, and offices of Pan-American Oil company in protest of the Sultan of Oman's state visit. A communiqué by the organization declared that their actions had been to show solidarity with the people of Dhofar. On 19 April 1974, they attempted to bomb the SAVAK centre at Tehran University. On 25 May, they set off bombs at three multinational corporations.[99] Also Lt. Col. Louis Lee Hawkins, a U.S. Army comptroller, was shot dead in Tehran by MEK assailants in 1973.[100][99] A car carrying three American employees of Rockwell International was attacked by MEK in August 1976.[101] William Cottrell, Donald Smith, and Robert Krongard were killed[102] working on the Ibex system.[citation needed] Leading up to the Islamic Revolution, members of the MEK conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and Western targets.[103] [104] In May 1972, an attack on Brig. Gen. Harold Price was attributed to the MEK.[105] According to George Cave, MEK hit squad members also attacked Harold Price and disabled him for the rest of his life.[106] These assassinations were carried out either by the Marxist[107][108][109][110] or Islamist branch of the MEK.[111][112][103]

1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent power struggles

By early 1979, the MEK had organized themselves and recreated armed cells, especially in Tehran and helped overthrow the Pahlavi regime.[113] In January 1979, Massoud Rajavi was released from prison and rebuilt the MEK together with other members that had been imprisoned.[113][114] The group supported the revolution in its initial phases,[115] and became "a major force in Iranian politics" according to Ervand Abrahamian.[116] Although it soon entered into conflict with Khomeini,[114] and became a leading opposition to the new theocratic regime.[117] Its candidate for the head of the newly founded council of experts was Massoud Rajavi in the referendum of August 1979. He was not elected.[115]

The MEK further launched an unsuccessful campaign supporting total abolition of Iran's standing military, the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, in order to prevent a coup d'état against the system. They also claimed credit for infiltration against the Nojeh coup plot.[118] The MEK was one of the supporters of the occupation of the American embassy in Tehran after the Iranian revolution although MEK has denied it.[119]

The MEK refused to participate in the December 1979 Iranian constitutional referendum organized by the Islamic Republican Party to ratify the Constitution drafted by the Assembly of Experts,[120] arguing that the new constitution had failed in many aspects "most important of all, accept the concept of the 'classless tawhidi society'".[120] Despite the opposition, the 3 December 1979 referendum vote approved the new constitution.[1][120] Once the constitution had been ratified, the MEK proposed Rajavi as their presidential candidate. In his campaign, Rajavi promised to rectify the constitution's shortcomings.[120]

Electoral disenfranchisement and opposition activity (1980–1981)

As a result of the boycott, Khomeini subsequently refused to allow Massoud Rajavi and MEK members to run in the 1980 Iranian presidential election.[121][122] Khomeini declared that "those who had failed to endorse the Constitution could not be trusted to abide by that Constitution".[27] And the MEK was also unable to win a single seat in the 1980 Iranian legislative election.[123] Instead, Rajavi allied with Iran's new president, Abolhassan Banisadr, elected in January 1980,[113] and the group began clashing with the ruling Islamic Republican Party while avoiding direct and open criticism of Khomeini.[5] The MEK was in turn suppressed by Khomeini's revolutionary organizations.[124] On 20 June 1981, the MEK organized a demonstration against Khomeini with the aim of overthrowing the regime. Some 50 demonstrators were killed in the protests.[30][31][28] The MEK responded by declaring war against the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran,[125] and initiating a series of bombings and assassinations targeting the clerical leadership.[5]

Hafte Tir bombing

This culminated in the Hafte Tir bombing on 28 June 1981, when the MEK was implicated in the bombing at the Islamic Republican Party headquarters[126][127][128][129] which killed 74 party officials and other party members, including Mohammad Beheshti, the party's secretary-general and Chief Justice of Iran, 4 cabinet ministers, 10 vice ministers and 27 members of the Parliament of Iran.[130][131] Two days after the incident Ruhollah Khomeini accused the MEK.[129] The MEK declared that this bombing was a "natural and necessary reaction to the regime's atrocities".[132] According to Kenneth Katzman, there is much speculation among academics and observers about who carried out the bombing.[43] According to the United States Department of State, the bombing was carried out by the MEK.[133] However, the MEK never claimed responsibility for the attack.[134] According to Ervand Abrahamian, Whatever the truth is, the Islamic Republic used this incident to fight the MEK.[132]

Open conflict with the Islamic Republican Party

Bomb debris after assassination of President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei and Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar in 1981

In July 1981, the MEK then formed the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) with the stated goal of uniting the opposition to the Iranian government under one umbrella organization.[135] Rajavi assumed the position of chairman of the organization.[136] On 30 August 1981, they bombed the Prime Minister's office, killing the elected President Rajai and Premier Mohammad Javad Bahonar. Iranian authorities announced that Massoud Keshmiri, an MEK member was probably responsible.[137][138][139][140] The reaction to the Hafte Tir bombing and the bombing of the Prime Minister's office was intense, with many arrests and executions of Mojahedin.[141] The MEK responded by targeting key Iranian official figures for assassination, as well as attacking low-ranking civil servants and members of the Revolutionary Guards, along with ordinary citizens who supported the new government.[142]

Between June 1981 and April 1982, around 3500 MEK members were either executed or killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Another 5000 MEK prisoners were detained in camps, and another 8000 were imprisoned for charges such as possessing copies of Mujahid newspaper. During the same period the MEK was responsible for about 65 percent of nearly 1,000 Khomeini officials killed.[143] From 26 August 1981 to December 1982, the MEK orchestrated 336 attacks against Khomeini officials.[144] In July 1982, 13 IRGC members and Mohammad Sadoughi were killed by MEK members.[31]

Exile and underground opposition activity (1982–1988)

In 1982, the Islamic Republic cracked down MEK operations within Iran.[104] On 8 February Mousa Khiabani, Rajavi's deputy and the MEK's field commander in Iran was killed following a three hour gunfight at a North Tehran safehouse.[145] Alongside him died his wife Azar Rezaei, Ashraf Rabiei, Rajavi's first wife and six others. Rajavi's son Mostafa survived and was later sent to Paris. [146][147] This event significantly consolidated Rajavi's leadership position since like him, Khiabani was one of the few surviving initial members who had undertaken the organizations original ideological training.[145] The majority of the MEK leadership and members fled to France, where it operated until 1985.[148] The organization gained a new life in exile, and continuing to conduct violent attacks in Iran.[17]

In 1983, the MEK started an alliance with Iraq following a meeting between Massoud Rajavi and Tariq Aziz.[149] In June 1986, France, then seeking to improve relations with Iran, expelled the MEK and the organization relocated to Iraq. MEK representatives contend that their organization had little alternative to moving to Iraq considering its aim of toppling the Iranian clerical government.[148] From 1982 to 1988, despite the mounting casualties on both sides, the lingering underground presence of the MEK in Iran remained operational and went on to perform an average of sixty operations per week, resulting in assassinations of important Khomeini deputies.[147] The MEK came to be considered Iran's "largest and most active Iranian exile organization",[150][151][116] and its publications were commonly circulated within the Iranian diaspora.[152]

Operations Shining sun, Forty Stars, and Mersad

MEK leader Massoud Rajavi with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

In 1986, after French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac struck a deal with Tehran for the release of French hostages held prisoners by the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the MEK was forced to leave France and relocated to Iraq.[153] By 1987, most MEK leaders were based in Iraq, where the group remained until the 2003 US invasion. According to the US State Department, the MEK was mainly supported by Iraq during that period and was fighting on the Iraqi side in the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War.[154] In 1987 Masoud Rajavi declared the establishment of the "National Liberation Army of Iran" (NLA). Its objective was to serve as an infantry force that included different militant groups members of the NCRI. Through a broadcast on Baghdad radio, the MEK extended an invitation to all progressive-nationalist Iranian individuals to join the NLA in overthrowing the government of the Islamic Republic.[155]

On 27 March 1988, the NLA launched its first military offensive against the Islamic Republic's armed forces.[51] The NLA captured 600 square-kilometres of Islamic Republic territory and 508 soldiers from the Iranian 77th infantry division in Khuzestan Province.[156] The operation was named "Shining Sun"[50][51][52][53] (or "Operation Bright Sun")[156] in which according to Massoud Rajavi, 2000 Iranian soldiers were killed.[156]

Operation Forty Stars was launched on June 18, 1988. With 530 aircraft sorties and heavy use of nerve gas, they attacked to the Iranian forces in the area around Mehran, killing or wounding 3,500 and nearly destroying a Revolutionary Guard division. The forces captured the city and took positions in the heights near Mehran, coming close to wiping the whole Iranian Pasdaran division and taking most of its equipment.[157] While some sources claim that Iraq participated in the operation,[158] The MEK and Baghdad said Iraqi soldiers did not take part.[159][160]

Near the end of the Iran–Iraq War, a military force of 7,000 members of the MEK, armed and equipped by Saddam's Iraq and calling itself the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) was founded.[161] On 26 July 1988, six days after Ayatollah Khomeini had announced his acceptance of the UN-brokered ceasefire resolution, the NLA advanced under heavy Iraqi air cover, crossing the Iranian border from Iraq.[162] It seized the Iranian town of Islamabad-e Gharb. As it advanced further into Iran, Iraq ceased its air support and Iranian forces cut off NLA supply lines and counterattacked under cover of fighter planes and helicopter gunships. The MEK claims it lost 1,400 dead or missing and the Islamic Republic sustained 55,000 casualties. It claims to have killed 4,500 NLA during the operation.[163] The operation was called Foroughe Javidan (Eternal Light) by the MEK and the counterattack Operation Mersad by the Iranian forces.[164] Rajavi later stated that "the failure of Eternal Light was not a military blunder, but was instead rooted in the members' thoughts for their spouses".[31]

1988 execution of MEK prisoners

Following the MEK's Operation Mersad against Iranian forces, thousands of imprisoned members of the MEK, along with members of other leftist opposition groups, were executed.[165][166] The Iranian government used the MEK's failed invasion as a pretext for the mass execution of those "who remained steadfast in their support for the MEK" and other jailed opposition group members.[167][31]

On 19 July 1988, the authorities isolated major prisons, having its courts of law go on an unscheduled holiday to prevent relatives from inquiring about those imprisoned,[168] and as Ervand Abrahamian notes, "thus began an act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history". Prisoners were asked if they were willing to denounce the MEK before cameras, help the IRI hunt down MEK members and name secret sympathizers. Those who gave unsatisfactory answers were promptly taken away and hanged.[168] Human rights groups say that the number of those executed remains uncertain, but "thousands of political dissidents were systematically subjected to enforced disappearance in Iranian detention facilities across the country",[167][169] with those executed charged with "moharebeh" or "waging war on God",[170] and of "disclosing state secrets" and threatening national security".[167]

Since the executions, Amnesty International has stated that "there has also been an ongoing campaign by the Islamic Republic to demonize victims, distort facts, and repress family survivors and human rights defenders."[171]

According to Professor Cheryl Bernard, the mass execution of political prisoners carried out by the Islamic Republic in 1981 caused the MEK to split into four groups: those that were arrested, imprisoned or executed, a group that went underground in Iran, another that left to Kurdistan and a final group that left to other countries abroad.[172] By the end of 1981, the principal refuge for many exiled members of the MEK had become France.[173]

Post-war Saddam era (1988–2003)

The Iranian government is believed to be concerned about MEK activities in Iran, and MEK supporters are a major target of Iran's internal security apparatus abroad[174][175] and it is said to be responsible for killing MEK members, Kazem Rajavi on 24 April 1990 and Mohammad-Hossein Naghdi, a NCRI representative on 6 March 1993.[174] In 1991 "In a sign of the group's appreciation for Saddam's generous hospitality and largesse", MEK assisted the Iraqi Republican Guard in suppressing nationwide uprisings of Shias, Kurds and Turkmens against Baathist regime.[176][57][58]

In April 1992, the MEK attacked 10 Iranian embassies including the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York using different weapons, taking hostages, and injuring Iranian ambassadors and embassy employees. There were dozens of arrests.[177][178] According to MEK representatives, the attacks were a way to protest the bombing of a MEK military base where several people had been killed and wounded.[178]

In June 1998 FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that he received "anonymous threats of disruption from Iranian exiles" for the 1998 FIFA World Cup match between Iran and the U.S. football teams at Stade de Gerland.[179] The MEK bought some 7,000 out of 42,000 tickets for the match between, in order to promote themselves with the political banners they smuggled. When the initial plan foiled with TV cameras of FIFA avoiding filming them, intelligence sources had been tipped off about a pitch invasion. To prevent an interruption in the match, extra security entered Stade Gerland.[180]

In 1999, after a 2 1⁄2-year investigation, Federal authorities arrested 29 individuals in Operation Eastern Approach,[181] of whom 15 were held on charges of helping MEK members illegally enter the United States.[182] The ringleader was pleaded guilty to providing phony documents to MEK members and violation of Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.[183][184] In 2002 the NCRI publicly called or the formation of a National Solidarity Front to help overthrow Islamic Republic of Iran.[185]

2003 French arrests

In June 2003, French police raided the MEK's properties, including its base in Auvers-sur-Oise, under the orders of anti-terrorist magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière, after suspicions that it was trying to shift its base of operations there. 160 suspected MEK members were then arrested, including Maryam Rajavi and her brother Saleh Rajavi.[186] After questioning, most of those detained were released, but 24 members, including Maryam Rajavi, were kept in detention.[187]

In response, 40 supporters began hunger strikes to protest the arrests, and 10 members including Neda Hassani, immolated themselves in various European capitals[188] by lighting themselves on fire in front of French embassies, following orders from MEK.[189] French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the MEK "recently wanted to make France its support base, notably after the intervention in Iraq", while Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, head of France's domestic intelligence service, claimed that the group was "transforming its Val d'Oise centre [near Paris] [...] into an international terrorist base".[188] Police found $1.3 million in $100 bills in cash in their offices.[190]

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas and chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on South Asia, then accused the French of doing "the Iranian government's dirty work". Along with other members of Congress, he wrote a letter of protest to President Jacques Chirac, while longtime MEK supporters such as Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, criticized Maryam Radjavi's arrest.[191] A court later found that there were no grounds for terrorism or terrorism-related finance charges.[192] In 2014, prosecuting judges also dropped all charges of money laundering and fraud.[193]

Post-U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003–2016)

Entrance Gate of Ashraf City when populated by PMOI exilees

In May 2003, during the Iraq War, the Coalition forces bombed MEK bases and forced them to surrender.[194] This resulted in at least 50 deaths.[e][195] The US forces disarmed Camp Ashraf residents.[61] In the operation, the U.S. reportedly captured 6,000 MEK soldiers and over 2,000 pieces of military equipment, including 19 British-made Chieftain tanks.[196][197] Following the occupation the U.S. did not hand over MEK fighters to Iran.[198][199] The group's core members were for many years effectively confined to Camp Ashraf,[200] before later being relocated to a former U.S. military base, Camp Liberty, in Iraq.[201] Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney argued that the MEK should be used against Iran.[202][199] They were then placed under the guard of the U.S. Military. Defectors from the MEK requested assistance from the Coalition forces, who created a "temporary internment and protection facility" for them.[203] In the first year these numbered "several hundred", mainly Iranian soldiers captured in the Iran-Iraq war and other Iranians lured to the MEK.[204] In all, during the period of US control, nearly 600 members of the MEK defected.[205]

In June 2004, Donald Rumsfeld designated the MeK as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.[206][202][207] and signed a formal ceasefire agreement.[61] Since 2009, when the Iraqi government became openly hostile to MEK, the U.S. led efforts to get the group's members out of Iraq.[72] At the same time the MEK paid Western political influencers to lobby for its removal from the list of designated terrorist organizations.[202][208][209][210] After it was no longer designated as a terrorist group, the US was able to convince Albania to accept the remaining 2,700 members who were brought to Tirana between 2014 and 2016.[202][211][212][213]

Separate to events in Iraq, the organization launched a free-to-air satellite television network named Vision of Freedom (Sima-ye-Azadi) in England in 2003.[214] It previously operated Vision of Resistance analogue television in Iraq in the 1990s, accessible in western provinces of Iran.[215] They also had a radio station, Radio Iran Zamin, that was closed down in June 1998.[216] In 2006, an EU freeze on the group's funds was overturned by the European Court of First Instance.[217] In 2010 and 2011 Ali Saremi,[218][219][220] Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei and Jafar Kazemi were executed by the Iranian government for co-operating with the MEK.[221][222]

Iraqi government's crackdown (2009–2012)

In 2009 American troops gave the Iraqi government responsibility of the MEK. Iraqi authorities, which were sympathetic to Iran, allowed Iran-linked militias to attack the MEK.[117] Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that the militant group would not be allowed to base its operations from Iraqi soil.[223] On 23 January 2009, while on a visit to Tehran, Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie reiterated the Iraqi Prime Minister's earlier announcement that the MEK organization would no longer be able to base itself on Iraqi soil and stated that the members of the organization would have to make a choice, either to go back to Iran or to go to a third country, adding that these measures would be implemented over the next two months.[224]

On 28 July 2009, Iraqi security forces raided MEK headquarters at Camp Ashraf. MEK claimed 11 dead and 400 injured in clashes while the Iraqi government claimed 30 policemen injured.[225][226] U.S. officials had long opposed a violent takeover of the camp northeast of Baghdad, and the raid is thought to symbolize the declining American influence in Iraq.[227] After the raid, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, stated the issue was "completely within [the Iraqi government's] purview".[228] In the course of attack, 36 Iranian dissidents were arrested and removed from the camp to a prison in a town named Khalis, where the arrestees went on hunger strike for 72 days. Finally, the dissidents were released when they were in an extremely critical condition and on the verge of death.[229]

In January 2010, Iranian authorities charged five MEK protesters of "rioting and arson" under the crime of moharebeh, an offence reserved for those who "take up arms against the state" and carries the death penalty.[230] In July 2010, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal issued an arrest warrant for 39 MEK members, including Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, accusing them of crimes against humanity during the 1991 uprisings in Iraq. The MEK denied the charges.[231]

In 2012, the MEK moved from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya in Baghdad (a onetime U.S. base formerly known as Camp Liberty). A rocket and mortar attack killed 5 and injured 50 others at Camp Hurriya on 9 February 2013. MEK residents of the facility and their representatives appealed to the UN Secretary-General and U.S. officials to let them return to Ashraf, which they said has concrete buildings and shelters that offer more protection. The United States has been working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the resettlement project.[232]

Iran's nuclear programme

The MEK and the NCRI revealed the existence of Iran's nuclear program in a press conference held on 14 August 2002 in Washington, D.C. MEK representative Alireza Jafarzadeh stated that Iran is running two top-secret projects, one in the city of Natanz and another in a facility located in Arak, which was later confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.[233][234]

Journalists Seymour Hersh and Connie Bruck have written that the information was given to the MEK by Israel.[235] Among others, it was described by a senior IAEA official and a monarchist advisor to Reza Pahlavi, who said before MEK they were offered to reveal the information, but they refused because it would be seen negatively by the people of Iran.[236][237] Similar accounts could be found elsewhere by others, including comments made by US officials.[234]

On 18 November 2004, MEK representative Mohammad Mohaddessin used satellite images to state that a new facility existed in northeast Tehran named "Center for the Development of Advanced Defence Technology". This allegation by MEK and all their subsequent allegations were false.[234]

In 2010 the NCRI claimed to have uncovered a secret nuclear facility in Iran. These claims were dismissed by U.S. officials, who did not believe the facilities to be nuclear. In 2013, the NCRI again claimed to have discovered a secret underground nuclear site.[238]

In 2012, NBC News' Richard Engel and Robert Windrem published a report quoting U.S. officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, that the MEK was being "financed, trained, and armed by Israel's secret service" to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.[239][240] A senior U.S. State Department official said the Department never claimed that the MEK was involved in the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.[241] Former CIA case officer in the Middle East, Robert Baer said that the perpetrators "could only be Israel", and that "it is quite likely Israel is acting in tandem with" the MEK.[242]

On 27 November 2020, Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated. Iranian Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, who heads the Supreme National Security Council, blamed Mujahideen-e-Khalq and Israel.[243]

Settlement in Albania (2016–present)

In 2016, the United States brokered a deal to relocate the MEK to Albania. About 3,000 members moved to Albania, and the U.S. donated $20 million to the U.N. refugee agency to help them resettle.[244] On 9 September 2016, more than 280 remaining MEK members were relocated to Albania.[213] Camp Ashraf 3 is located in Manëz, Durrës County, where they have been protested by the locals.[4]

Relationship during Trump presidency

In 2017, the year before John Bolton became President Trump's National Security Adviser, Bolton addressed members of the MEK and said that they would celebrate in Tehran before 2019.[245] By 2018, operatives of the MEK were believed to be still conducting covert operations inside Iran to overthrow Iran's government.[246] It also maintained some operations in France, and in January 2018, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani phoned French president Emmanuel Macron, asking him to order kicking the MEK out of its base in Auvers-sur-Oise, alleging that the MEK stirred up the 2017–18 Iranian protests.[247] By 2018, over 4,000 MEK members had entered Albania, according to the INSTAT data.[248]

On 30 June 2018, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, lectured an MEK gathering in Paris, calling for regime change in Tehran. John McCain and John Bolton have met the MEK's leader Maryam Rajavi or spoken at its rallies.[249][250]

John Bolton speaking at a MEK event

During the Free Iran 2019 conference in Albania, Rudy Giuliani attended an MEK podium, where the former New York City mayor described the group as a "government-in-exile", saying it is a ready-to-go alternative to lead the country if the Iranian government falls.[72] Additionally, the Trump administration said it would not rule out the MEK as a viable replacement for the current Iranian regime.[251]

Islamic Republic of Iran operations against MEK inside Europe

On 30 June 2018 Belgian police arrested married couple of Iranian heritage Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami on charges of "attempted terrorist murder and preparing a terrorist act" against an MEK rally in France. The couple had in their possession half of a kilogram of TATP explosives and a detonator. Police also detained Asadollah Asadi, an Iranian diplomat in Vienna. German prosecutors charged Asadi with "activity as foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder by contacting the couple and giving them a device containing 500 grams of TATP". Prosecutors said Asadi was a member of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security service, an organization that focuses on "combating of opposition groups inside and outside of Iran".[252][253][254] Iran responded that the arrests were a "false flag ploy", with the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the "two suspects in Belgium were in fact members of the People's Mujahideen".[255] In October 2018, the French government officially and publicly blamed Iran's Intelligence Service for the failed attack against the MEK. U.S. officials also condemned Iran over the foiled bomb plot that France blames on Tehran.[256] In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian diplomats due to alleged involvement in the bomb plot against the MEK (where Mayor Giuliani and other US government officials were also gathered) accusing the two of "violating their diplomatic status".[257][258] Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the MEK incited violence during the 2017–2018 Iranian protests.[259]

In October 2019, Albanian police discovered an Iranian paramilitary network that allegedly planned attacks against MEK members in Albania. Albania's police chief, Ardi Veliu, said that the Iran Revolutionary Guard's foreign wing operated an "active terrorist cell" that targeted members of the MEK. A police statement said that two Iranian security officials led the network from Tehran, and that it was allegedly linked to organised crime groups in Turkey. It also said that the network used a former MEK member to collect information in Albania. Valiu also said that a planned attack on the MEK by Iranian government agents was foiled in March.[260]

In 2020, newspaper De Standaard said evidence that Iranian intelligence and security was involved in the failed 2018 bomb plot against an MEK rally was mounting. In a note to the federal prosecutor's office, the State Security writes that "the attack was devised in the name and under the impetus of Iran", with the note also describing one of the case's suspects, Asadollah Asadi, as a MOIS agent. Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who in 2018 were found with half a kilo of explosives and are also being charged in the case, admitted that they had been in contact with Asadollah Asadi.[261][253] In October 2020, the Iranian diplomat Asadollah Asadi charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a rally by the MEK "warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he is found guilty". Asadi would become the first Iranian diplomat to go on trial on charges of terrorism within the European Union.[262][263] In February 2021, Asadi and his accomplices were found guilty of attempted terrorism and Asadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison.[264]

In September 2022, Albania suffered a second cyber-attack, resulting in it cutting diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic and ordering Iranian embassy staff to leave.[257][265][266] According to the FBI and CISA, the cyberattacks were motivated by Albania's hosting of the MEK.[267]


Before the revolution

According to Katzman, the MEK's early ideology is a matter of dispute. While scholars generally describe the MEK's ideology as an attempt to combine "Islam with revolutionary Marxism", today the organization claims that it has always emphasized Islam, and that Marxism and Islam are incompatible. Katzman writes that their ideology "espoused the creation of a classless society that would combat world imperialism, international Zionism, colonialism, exploitation, racism, and multinational corporations".[14] The MEK's ideological foundation was developed during the period of the Iran revolution. According to its official history, the MEK first defined itself as a group that wanted to establish a nationalist, democratic, revolutionary Muslim organization in favour of change in Iran.[268]

Historian Ervand Abrahamian observed that the MEK were "consciously influenced by Marxism, both modern and classical", but they always denied being Marxists because they were aware that the term was colloquial to 'atheistic materialism' among Iran's general public. The Iranian regime for the same reason was "eager to pin on the Mojahedin the labels of Islamic-Marxists and Marxist-Muslims".[269]

According to Abrahamian, it was the first Iranian organization to develop systematically a modern revolutionary interpretation of Islam that "differed sharply from both the old conservative Islam of the traditional clergy and the new populist version formulated in the 1970s by Ayatollah Khomeini and his disciples".[116] Abrahamian said that the MEK's early ideology constituted a "combination of Muslim themes; Shii notions of martyrdom; classical Marxist theories of class struggle and historical determinism; and neo-Marxist concepts of armed struggle, guerilla warfare and revolutionary heroism".[270] According to James Piazza, the MEK worked towards the creation by armed popular struggle of a society in which ethnic, gender, or class discrimination would be obliterated.[271]

Nasser Sadegh told military tribunals that although the MEK respected Marxism as a "progressive method of social analysis, they could not accept materialism, which was contrary to their Islamic ideology". The MEK eventually had a falling out with Marxist groups. According to Sepehr Zabir, "they soon became Enemy No. 1 of both pro-Soviet Marxist groups, the Tudeh and the Majority Fedayeen."[118]

The MEK's ideology of revolutionary Shi'ism is based on an interpretation of Islam so similar to that of Ali Shariati that "many concluded" they were inspired by him. According to Ervand Abrahamian, it is clear that "in later years" that Shariati and "his prolific works" had "indirectly helped the Mujahedin".[272]

In the group's "first major ideological work", Nahzat-i Husseini or Hussein's Movement, authored by one of the group's founders, Ahmad Reza'i, it was argued that Nezam-i Towhid (monotheistic order) sought by the prophet Muhammad, was a commonwealth fully united not only in its worship of one God but in a classless society that strives for the common good. "Shiism, particularly Hussein's historic act of martyrdom and resistance, has both a revolutionary message and a special place in our popular culture."[273]

As described by Abrahamian, one Mojahedin ideologist argued:

Reza'i further argued that the banner of revolt raised by the Shi'i Imams, especially Ali, Hassan, and Hussein, was aimed against feudal landlords and exploiting merchant capitalists as well as against usurping Caliphs who betrayed the Nezam-i-Towhid. For Reza'i and the Mujahidin it was the duty of all Muslims to continue this struggle to create a 'classless society' and destroy all forms of capitalism, despotism, and imperialism. The Mojahedin summed up their attitude towards religion in these words: 'After years of extensive study into Islamic history and Shi'i ideology, our organization has reached the firm conclusion that Islam, especially Shi'ism, will play a major role in inspiring the masses to join the revolution. It will do so because Shi'ism, particularly Hussein's historic act of resistance, has both a revolutionary message and a special place in our popular culture.[274]

After the revolution

MEK demonstrators carrying Lion and Sun flags and those of 'National Liberation Army of Iran'.

Massoud Rajavi supported the idea that the Shiite religion as compatible with pluralistic democracy.[147] In 1981, after signing the "covenant of freedom and independence" with Banisadr, and establishing NCRI Massoud Rajavi made an announcement to the foreign press about the MEK's ideology saying that "First we want freedom for all political parties. We reject both political prisoners and political executions. In the true spirit of Islam, we advocate freedom, fraternity, and an end to all repression, censorship, and injustices."[275] They appealed to all opposition groups to join NCRI, but failed to attract any except for the Kurdish Democratic Party. The failure is mainly associated to MEK's religious ideology.[275] The covenant also proposed the protection of Iranian minorities, "especially the Kurdish minority".[276]

In 2001, Kenneth Katzman wrote that the MEK had "tried to show itself as worthy of U.S. support on the basis of its commitment to values compatible with those of the United States – democracy, free market economics, protection of the rights of women and minorities, and peaceful relations with Iran's neighbors", but some analysts dispute that they are genuinely committed to what they state.[277] According to Department of State's October 1994 report, the MEK used violence in its campaign to overthrow the Iranian regime.[278] A 2009 U.S. Department of State report stated that their ideology was a blend of Marxism, Islamism and feminism.[279]

The MEK says it is seeking regime change in Iran through peaceful means with an aim to replace the clerical rule in Iran with a secular government.[280] It also claims to have disassociated itself from its former revolutionary ideology in favor of liberal democratic values, but they fail to "present any track record to substantiate a capability or intention to be democratic".[281]

The MEK says it supports a "secular democratic system", where their leader, Maryam Rajavi, calls for a "pluralist system", non-nuclear Iran, human rights and freedom of expression, separation of government and religion, and end to Sharia law.[282]

Ideological revolution and women's rights

During the transitional period, the MEK projected an image of a "forward looking, radical and progressive Islamic force". Throughout the revolution, the MEK played a major role in developing the "revolutionary Muslim woman", which was portrayed as "the living example of the new ideal of womanhood".[283] The MEK is "known for its female-led military units".[284] According to Ervand Abrahamian, the MEK "declared that God had created men and women to be equal in all things: in political and intellectual matters, as well as in legal, economic, and social issues."[285] According to Tohidi, in 1982, as the government in Tehran led an expansive effort to limit women's rights, the MEK adopted a female leadership. In 1987, the National Liberation Army (NLA), "saw female resistors commanding military operations from their former base at Camp Ashraf (in Diyala, Iraq) to Iran's westernmost provinces, where they engaged alongside the men in armed combat with Iran's regular and paramilitary forces".[286][287]

Shortly after the revolution, Rajavi married Ashraf Rabii, an MEK member regarded as "the symbol of revolutionary womanhood".[288] Rabii was killed by Iranian forces in 1982. On 27 January 1985, Massoud Rajavi appointed Maryam Azodanlu as his co-equal leader. The announcement, stated that this would give women equal say within the organization and thereby "would launch a great ideological revolution within Mojahedin, the Iranian public and the whole Muslim World".[289]

In 1985, Rajavi launched an "ideological revolution" banning marriage and enforced divorce on all members who were required to separate from their spouses.[31] Five weeks later, the MEK announced that its Politburo and Central Committee had asked Rajavi and Azondalu, who was already married, to marry one another to deepen and pave the way for the "ideological revolution". At the time Maryam Azodanlu was known only as the younger sister of a veteran member, and the wife of Mehdi Abrishamchi. According to the announcement, Maryam Azodanlu and Mehdi Abrishamchi had recently divorced in order to facilitate this 'great revolution.' According to Ervand Abrahamian "in the eyes of traditionalists, particularly among the bazaar middle class, the whole incident was indecent. It smacked of wife-swapping, especially when Abrishamchi announced his own marriage to Khiabani's younger sister. It involved women with young children and wives of close friends – a taboo in traditional Iranian culture;" something that further isolated the Mojahedin and also upset some members of the organization. Also according to Abrahamian, "the incident was equally outrageous in the eyes of the secularists, especially among the modern intelligentsia. It projected onto the public arena a matter that should have been treated as a private issue between two individuals."[289] Many criticized Maryam Azodanlu's giving up her own maiden name (something most Iranian women did not do and she herself had not done in her previous marriage). They would question whether this was in line with her claims of being a staunch feminist.[289]

Maryam Rajavi became increasingly important over feminism-colored politics. The emancipation of women is now depicted in Maryam Rajavi's writings "as both a policy end and a strategy toward revolutionizing Iran. Secularism, democracy, and women's rights are thus today's leading themes in the group's strategic communications. As for Maryam Rajavi's leadership, in 2017 it appears to be political and cultural; any remnants of a military force and interest in terrorist strategies have faded away."[290]

Cult of personality

The MEK has been described as a cult of personality by a variety of sources.[291][292][293][294] The MEK has been described as a "cult" by the Iranian government and Iraqi politician Samir Sumaidaie.[295] It has also been described as a cult by the United States government, and another retired United States general described it as "Cult? How about admirably focused group?".[296] Romain Nadal said the MEK had a "cult nature", and Bernard Kouchner said he was ashamed by Nadal's criticism.[297] Also numerous academics[298][299][54][300] and former MEK members who defected[301][302] have described it as a cult.[303]

Some sources argue that the Iranian government exploits such allegations to demonize the MEK.[304] The Iranian government is reportedly running a disinformation campaign to discredit the MEK, with the head of the Mackenzie Institute commenting that "Iran is trying to get other countries to label it as a terrorist cult".[305][306] According to a RAND Corporation report for the US government, during Masoud Rajavi's "ideological revolution", members were required to give "near-religious devotion" to its leaders. Also according to RAND, the MEK had "many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labour, sleep deprivation, physical abuse and limited exit options," while this is vehemently denied by its supporters and leaders.[307] United Press International (UPI) said that "The truth is that the group's ideology has evolved over the years in order to adapt with the region's geopolitical changes."[308]

In 1990 MEK leadership ordered all couples to divorce, forbid them from re-marrying, and children were sent away.[309][31] Children were removed from the MEK camp because MEK "resistance fighters" are required to dedicate themselves to their cause.[310][311] Critics often describe the MEK as the "cult of Rajavi", arguing that it revolves around the husband-and-wife duo, Maryam and Massoud Rajavi.[191][312] Members reportedly had to participate in regular "ideological cleansings".[313] According to RAND, members were lured in through "false promises of employment, land, aid in applying for asylum in Western countries" and then prevented from leaving.[307] Masoud Banisadr, a vocal former member, suggested that the MEK had become a cult in order to survive.[314][315]

Structure and organization


Alongside its central organization, the PMOI has a political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), established in 1981 with the stated goal of uniting the opposition to the Iranian government under one umbrella organization. The organization has the appearance of a broad-based coalition, but analysts consider NCRI and MEK to be synonymous and recognize the NCRI as an only "nominally independent" political wing of the PMOI.[19][316][317][318] In 2002 the FBI reported that the NCRI has always been "an integral part" of the MEK and its "political branch".[319]

The PMOI also historically maintained a dedicated armed wing known as the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) that was established in 1987 to serve as an infantry force and coordinate the different militant groups members of the NCRI.[155] It was formally disbanded in 2003 during the Iraq war.[320]

Through its history, the MEK has maintained several front organizations including the Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals, the Association of Iranian Women, Iran Aid, the California Society for Democracy, the Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia and the Union Against Fundamentalism.[321][322]


Before the Iran-Iraq war, the MEK was estimated to have about 2,000 members, peaking at 10,000 to 15,000 during the 1980s.[f] In the 2000s, the organization had between 5,000 and 10,000 members, with 2,900 to 3,400 at Camp Ashraf.[b] In February 2020, the MEK claimed to have 2500 members in its Albania camp (§ Settlement in Albania (2016–present)); a New York Times reporter visiting the camp estimated 200 people were present over two days.[117]


In 2004, a report by the US weapons inspector Charles Duelfer claimed that Saddam Hussein provided millions of dollars from the United Nations' Oil-for-Food program to the MEK.[67][65][327]

In Germany, the MEK used a NGO to "support asylum seekers and refugees". Another alleged organization collected funds for "children whose parents had been killed in Iran" in sealed and stamped boxes placed in city centers. According to the Nejat Society, in 1988, the Nuremberg MEK front organization was uncovered by police. Initially, The Greens supported these organizations while it was unaware of their purpose.[68]

In 1999, United States authorities arrested 29 individuals in Operation Eastern Approach,[181] of whom 15 were held on charges of helping MEK members illegally enter the US.[182] The ringleader pleaded guilty to providing phony documents to MEK members and violation of Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.[183][184]

The MEK also operated a UK-based charity, Iran Aid, which claimed to raise money for Iranian refugees. In 2001, the Charity Commission for England and Wales closed it down after finding no "verifiable links between the money donated by the British public [approximately £5 million annually] and charitable work in Iran".[69][281][328]

In December 2001, a joint FBI-Cologne police operation discovered what a 2004 report calls "a complex fraud scheme involving children and social benefits", involving the sister of Maryam Rajavi.[329] The High Court ruled to close several MEK compounds after investigations revealed that the organization fraudulently collected between $5 million and $10 million in social welfare benefits for children of its members sent to Europe.[69]

In 2003, General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) claimed that Netherlands charity that raises money for "children who suffer under the Iranian regime" (SIM (Dutch: Stichting Solidariteit met Iraanse Mensen)) was fundraising for the MEK. A spokesperson for the charity said that SIM was unrelated to the MEK and that these allegations were "lies from the Iranian regime".[169]

As RAND Corporation policy reported, MEK supporters seek donations at public places, often showing "gruesome pictures" of human rights victims in Iran and claiming to raise money for them but funneling it to MEK.[69] A 2004 report by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) states that the organization is engaged "through a complex international money laundering operation that uses accounts in Turkey, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates".[329]

On 19 November 2004, two front organizations called the Iranian–American Community of Northern Virginia and the Union Against Fundamentalism organized demonstrations in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and transferred funds for the demonstration, some $9,000 to the account of a Texas MEK member. Congress and the bank in question were not aware that the demonstrators were actually providing material support to the MEK.[281]

Intelligence capabilities

During the years MEK was based in Iraq, it was closely associated with the intelligence service Mukhabarat (IIS),[330][331] and even had a dedicated department in the agency. Directorate 14 of the IIS worked with the MEK in joint operations while Directorate 18 was exclusively responsible for the MEK and issued the orders and tasks for their operations.[332][333] The MEK offered IIS with intelligence it gathered from Iran, interrogation and translation services.[334]

A 2008 report by the United States Army Intelligence Center, states that the MEK operates a HUMINT network within Iran, which is "clearly a MEK core strength". It has started a debate among intelligence experts that "whether western powers should leverage this capability to better inform their own intelligence picture of the Iranian regime's goals and intentions".[335] Rick Francona told Foreign Policy in 2005 that the MEK teams could work in conjunction with collection of intelligence and identifying agents. U.S. security officials maintain that the organization has a record of exaggerating or fabricating information, according to Newsweek. David Kay believes that "they're often wrong, but occasionally they give you something".[336]

American government sources told Newsweek in 2005 that the Pentagon is hoping to utilize MEK members as informants or give them training as spies for use against Tehran.[337]

The MEK is able to conduct "telephone intelligence" operations effectively, i.e. gathering intelligence through making phone calls to officials and government organizations in Iran.[338] According to Ariane Tabatabai, the MEK's "capabilities to conduct terrorist attacks may have decreased in recent years."[339]

Propaganda and social media

The MEK's first act of counter-propaganda was to release about 2014 Iranian prisoners of war within a period of 9 months. It started on 11 March 1986 when the NLA released 370 prisoners of war. They then released 170 prisoners of war in November 1987 that had been captured by the NLA. A third wave of 1300 prisoners of war were released in August 1988, with some joining the NLA ranks. During the last release, Massoud Rajavi promoted it this as an act of compassion by the NCRI, which was in contrast to the Islamic Republic's "cruel manner of treating" prisoners of war.[53] According to Wilfried Buchta, the MEK has used propaganda in the West since the 1980s.[340] In the 1980s and the 1990s, their propaganda was mainly targeted against the officials in the establishment.[290] According to Anthony H. Cordesman, since the mid-1980s the MEK has confronted Iranian representatives overseas through "propaganda and street demonstrations".[341] Other analysts have also alleged that there is a propaganda campaign by the MEK in the West, including Christopher C. Harmon[342] and Wilfried Buchta,[343] and others.[344]

According to Kenneth Katzman, the MEK is able to mobilize its exile supporters in demonstration and fundraising campaigns. The organization attempts to publicize regime abuses and curb foreign governments' relations with Tehran. To do so, it frequently conducts anti-regime marches and demonstrations in those countries.[60]

A 1986 U.S. State Department letter to KSCI-TV described "MEK propaganda" as being in line with the following: "[T]he Iranian government is bad, the PMOI is against the Iranian government, the Iranian government represses the PMOI, therefore, the PMOI and its leader Rajavi are good and worth of support."[345] According to Masoud Kazemzadeh, the MEK has also used propaganda against defectors of the organization.[346]

Al Jazeera reported on an alleged Twitter-based MEK campaign. According to Exeter University lecturer Marc Owen Jones, accounts tweeting #FreeIran and #Iran_Regime_Change "were created within about a four-month window", suggesting bot activity.[347]

In an article published by The Intercept on 9 June 2019, two former MEK members claimed that "Heshmat Alavi" is not a real person, and that the articles published under that name were actually written by a team of people at the political wing of MEK. Alavi contributed to several media outlets including Forbes, The Diplomat, The Hill, The Daily Caller, The Federalist and the English edition of Al Arabiya's website. According to The Intercept, one of Alavi's articles published by Forbes was used by the White House to justify Donald Trump Administration's sanctions against Iran.[348] Since the article's publication, Twitter has suspended the "Heshmat Alavi" account, and the writings in the name of "Heshmat Alavi" were removed from The Diplomat and Forbes' website.[348] A website purported to be a personal blog of "Heshmat Alavi" published a post with counterclaims saying that their Twitter account had been suspended.[348][349]

Terrorist designation

Assignment of designation

The countries and organizations below have officially listed MEK as a terrorist organization:

Currently listed by   Iran Designated by the current government[350] since 1981, also during Pahlavi dynasty[351] until 1979
  Iraq Designated by the post-2003 government[231][352]
Formerly listed by   United States Designated on 8 July 1997, delisted on 28 September 2012[353]
  United Kingdom Designated on 28 March 2001,[353] delisted on 24 June 2008[353]
  European Union Designated in May 2002,[353] delisted on 26 January 2009[353]
  Japan Designated on 5 July 2002,[354] delisted on 24 March 2013[355]
  Canada Designated on 24 May 2005,[356] delisted on 20 December 2012[357]
Other designations   Australia Not designated as terrorist but added to the 'Consolidated List' subject to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 on 21 December 2001[358]
  United Nations The group was described as "involved in terrorist activities" by the United Nations Committee against Torture in 2008[63]

In 1997, the United States put the MEK on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.[57] The Clinton administration reported the Los Angeles Times that "The inclusion of the People's Mojahedin was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected president, Mohammad Khatami."[359][57]

In 2004, the United States also considered the group as "noncombatants" and "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions.[360] In 2002, the European Union, pressured by Washington, added MEK to its terrorist list.[361] In 2009, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied the MEK its request to be delisted,[362] and MEK leaders then began a lobbying campaign to be removed from the list by promoting the group as a viable opposition to the clerical regime in Iran.[31]

The MEK after the US invasion of Iraq tried to remove the group from the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and consequently turning it into a legitimate actor.[363][25]

During 2011, lobbying firms DLA Piper, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and DiGenova & Toensing were paid almost $1,5 million to lobby for delisting the MEK in the US.[364]

In 2012, Seymour Hersh reported names of former U.S. officials paid to speak in support of MEK, including former CIA directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss; New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Vermont Governor Howard Dean; former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis Freeh and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.[365] The National Council of Resistance of Iran rejected these allegations.[233]

Removal of designation

The United Kingdom lifted the MEK's designation as a terrorist group in June 2008,[366] followed by the Council of the European Union on 26 January 2009.[367][368] It was also lifted in the United States following a decision by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton[201] on 21 September 2012 and lastly in Canada on 20 December 2012.[357]

The Council of the European Union removed the group's terrorist designation following the Court of Justice of the European Union's 2008 censure of France for failing to disclose new alleged evidence of the MEK's terrorism threat.[367] The EU courts declared that the listing was unlawful because of "serious procedural failures" and lack of evidence connecting the MEK with terrorist activities.[369] Delisting allowed MEK to pursue tens of millions of dollars in frozen assets[368] and lobby in Europe for more funds. It also removed the terrorist label from MEK members at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.[370]

Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, James T. Conway, Bill Richardson and other American politicians at the MEK event in 2018.

On 28 September 2012, the U.S. State Department formally removed MEK from its official list of terrorist organizations, beating a 1 October deadline in an MEK lawsuit.[201][371] Secretary of State Clinton said in a statement that the decision was made because the MEK had renounced violence and had cooperated in closing their Iraqi paramilitary base.[372] It was reported that MEK was removed from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations after intensive lobbying by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.[117] An official denied that lobbying by well-known figures influenced the decision.[372][373] Some former U.S. officials vehemently reject the new status and believe the MEK has not changed its ways.[374]

The MEK advocated to remove itself from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, having paid high-profile officials upwards of $50,000 give speeches calling for delisting.[375][376] Among them, Rendell who admitted himself being paid to speak in support of the MEK[377] and Hamilton who said he was paid to "appear on a panel Feb. 19 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington."[378] In February 2015, The Intercept published that Bob Menendez, John McCain, Judy Chu, Dana Rohrabacher and Robert Torricelli received campaign contributions from MEK supporters.[379]

In May 2018, Daniel Benjamin who held office as the Coordinator for Counterterrorism between 2009 and 2012, told The New York Times that the MEK offered him money in exchange for his support.[380]

Ervand Abrahamian, Shaul Bakhash, Juan Cole and Gary Sick among others, published "Joint Experts' Statement on the Mujahedin-e Khalq" on Financial Times voicing their concerns regarding MEK delisting.[381] The National Iranian American Council denounced the decision, stating it "opens the door to Congressional funding of the M.E.K. to conduct terrorist attacks in Iran" and "makes war with Iran far more likely."[201] Iran state television also condemned the delisting of the group, saying that the U.S. considers MEK to be "good terrorists because the U.S. is using them against Iran."[382]

The campaign to delist the MEK in the European Union counted with Spanish MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras as one of its lobbyists. Vox, the far-right party he founded, later received funding by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The party received almost €1 million between December 2013 and April 2014.[383]

Foreign relations

Letter in Persian requesting that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lend any amount of money (up to US$300,000,000) to the Mojahedin Organization and requesting that the supporters of the Mojahedin Organization be allowed to cross the Soviet-Iranian border and be granted a temporary asylum. Memorandum to the CK KPSS from Olfat.[384]

While dealing with anti-regime clergy in 1974, the MEK became close with secular Left groups in and outside Iran. These included the confederation of Iranian Students, The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, and the People's Front for the Liberation of Oman, among others.[385] The MEK sent five trained members into South Yemen to fight in the Dhofar Rebellion against Omani and Iranian forces.[386]

On 7 January 1986, the MEK leaders sent a twelve-page letter to the "comrades" of Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, asking for temporary asylum and a loan of $300 million to continue their "revolutionary anti-imperialist" actions. It is not clear how the Soviets responded, according to Abbas Milani.[387][better source needed]

Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad maintains connections with the MEK, dating back to the 1990s.[388] Until 2001, the MEK received support from the Taliban.[389] The MEK was also among the opposition groups receiving support from Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia.[390]

In April 2012, journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command had trained MEK operatives at a secret site in Nevada from 2005 to 2009. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Barack Obama took office in 2009.[365]

Hyeran Jo, associate professor of Texas A&M University wrote in 2015 that the MEK is supported by the United States.[391] According to Spiegel Online security experts say that U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel provide the group with financial support, though there is no proof for this supposition and MEK denies this.[189]

Position on the Israel–Palestinian conflict

Initially, the MEK used to criticize the Pahlavi dynasty for allying with Israel and Apartheid South Africa,[392] calling them racist states and demanding cancellation of all political and economic agreements with them.[393] The MEK opposed Israeli–Palestinian peace process[394] and was anti-Zionist.[395]

The MEK's Central Cadre established contact with the Palestinie Liberation Organization (PLO), by sending emissaries to Paris, Dubai, and Qatar to meet PLO officials.[396] On 3 August 1972, they bombed the Jordanian embassy as a means to avenge King Hussein's unleashing his troops on the PLO in 1970.[397]

Relations with the United States

In the late 1970s, the intelligentsia as a class in Iran was distinctly nationalistic and anti-imperialistic. The MEK had impeccable nationalistic credentials, calling for the nationalization of foreign companies and economic independence from the capitalist world, and praising writers such as Al-e Ahmad, Saedi and Shariati for being "anti-imperialist".[398] Rajavi in his presidential campaign after revolution used to warn against what he called the "imperialist danger."[120] The matter was so fundamental to MEK that it criticized the Iranian government on that basis, accusing the Islamic Republic of "capitulation to imperialism" and being disloyal to democracy that according to Rajavi was the only means to "safeguard from American imperialism."[399]

After exile, the MEK sought the support of prominent politicians, academics and human rights lawyers. Rajavi tried to reach as broad a Western public as possible by giving frequent interviews to Western newspapers. In these interviews, Rajavi toned down the issues of imperialism, foreign policy, and social revolution. Instead, he stressed the themes of democracy, political liberties, political pluralism, human rights, respect for 'personal property,' the plight of political prisoners, and the need to end the senseless war.[400]

In January 1993, President-elect Clinton wrote a private letter to the Massoud Rajavi, in which he set out his support for the organization.[401] The organization has also received support United States officials including Tom Ridge, Howard Dean, Michael Mukasey, Louis Freeh, Hugh Shelton, Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bill Richardson, James L. Jones, and Edward G. Rendell.[402][403]

As Mukasey mentioned in The New York Times, in 2011 he had received $15,000 to $20,000 to present a lecture about "MEK-related events", as well as what he listed as "a foreign agent lobbying pro bono for MEK's political arm".[404]

Some politicians have declared receiving payment for supporting the MEK, but others support the group without payment.[405][54][406]

Human rights record

In 2006, Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki told the MEK it had to leave Iraq, but the MEK responded that the "request violated their status under the Geneva Convention". Al-Maliki and the Iraqi Ministry of Justice maintained that the MEK had committed human rights abuses in the early 1990s when it aided Saddam Hussain's campaign against the Shia uprising.[407] According to Time magazine, the MEK has denied aiding Saddam in quashing Kurdish and Shia rebellions.[408]

In May 2005, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report describing prison camps run by the MEK and severe human rights violations committed by the group against its members, ranging from prolonged incommunicado and solitary confinement to beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution, and torture that in two cases led to death.[409] This report was disputed by the UK's Lord Corbett.[353][328] Human Rights Watch released a statement in February 2006, stating the criticisms they received concerning the substance and methodology of the [No Exit] report, was unwarranted.[410]

Former American military officers who had aided in guarding the MEK camp in Iraq gave differing accounts. Those suggested by MEK said its members had been free to leave the camp and that they had not found any prison or torture facilities. Captain Woodside who was not one of those who MEK suggested, said that US officers did not have regular access to camp buildings, or to group members and that it was difficult for members to leave.[117] Jo Hyeran, in her work examining humanitarian violations of rebel groups to international law, states that the MEK has not accepted International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits to its detention centers.[411] According to criticism of Human Right groups, marriage had been banned in the camp.[412] Upon entry into the group, new members are indoctrinated in ideology and a revisionist history of Iran. All members are required to participate in weekly "ideologic cleansings".[413] Members who defected from the MEK and some experts say that these Mao-style self-criticism sessions are intended to enforce control over sex and marriage in the organization as a total institution.[279] MEK denied the brainwashing describing it as part of Iranian 'misinformation campaign.'[117][414] Also Abbas Milani calls those describing MEK as a cult as lobbyists paid by Iranian regime.[387] In July 2020 a German court ordered the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to remove false information about the MEK.[415]

Intelligence campaigns against the MEK

The Shah's regime waged a propaganda campaign against the MEK, accusing them "of carrying out subversive acts at the behest of their foreign patrons" and claiming that "the shoot-outs and bombings caused heavy casualties among bystanders and innocent civilians, especially women and children". It also obtained "public confessions" that accused former colleagues of crimes including sexual promiscuity. The regime claimed that the MEK were "unbelievers masquerading as Muslims", and used the Quranic term "monafeqin" (hypocrites) to describe them.[416]

The Islamic Republican Party later used many of the same tactics, labelling the MEK "Marxist hypocrites and Western-contaminated 'electics', and as 'counter-revolutionary terrorists' collaborating with the Iraqi Ba'thists and the imperialists".[416] After the 1994 Imam Reza shrine bomb explosion in Mashhad which killed 25 and wounded at least 70 people, the Iranian regime immediately blamed the MEK. A month after the attack, a Sunni group calling itself "al-haraka al-islamiya al-iraniya" claimed responsibility for the attack. Despite this, the Iranian government continued to hold the MEK responsible for both attacks.[417] According to an anonymous U.S. official, Ramzi Yousef built the bomb and MEK agents placed it in the shrine.[418]

Even into the 2000s, the MEK has remained a major target of Iran's internal security apparatus.[419] Since 2001, several reports by Dutch, German and US intelligence services have noted the ongoing efforts by the Iran's Ministry of Intelligence to "track down and identify those who are in contact with opposition groups abroad", including the MEK.[420][421] German and US intelligence have noted that Iranian intelligence was directly financing a misinformation campaign and trying to recruit active or former members of opposition groups, sometimes through "threats to use force against them or their families living in Iran".[420][422][423]

In 2018, U.S. District Court charged two alleged Iran agents of "conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States and collecting intelligence on Americans linked to a political organization that wants to see the current Iranian government overthrown". During the court process, it was revealed that the two alleged agents of Iran had mostly gathered information concerning activities involving the MEK.[424] The two men pleaded guilty in November 2019 to several charges including conspiracy and "acting as an undeclared agent of the Iranian government". The Justice Department said that one of the men arrived in the US to gather "intelligence information" about the MEK (as well as Israeli and Jewish entities). The other admitted to taking photographs at a 2017 MEK rally in order to profile attendees.[425][426]

In January 2020 Iranian-American Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar was sentenced by a U.S. court to 38 months in prison for conducting surveillance on American MEK members.[427] In September 2020 The New York Times published a report where researchers alleged that opponents of the Iranian regime had been targets of a cyber attack by Iranian hackers through a variety of infiltration techniques. MEK was reportedly among the most prominent targets of the attacks.[428]

Targeting of MEK members outside Iran

From 1989 to 1993, the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out numerous assassinations of MEK members. Between March and June 1990, three MEK members were assassinated in Turkey. On 24 February 1990, Dr Kazem Rajavi (a National Council member) was assassinated in Geneva. In January 1993, an MEK member was murdered in Baghdad.[53]

On 23 September 1991, an attempt was carried out to assassinate Massoud Rajavi in Baghdad. In August 1992, a MEK member was kidnapped and brought to Iran. In September 1992, MEK offices in Baghdad were broken into. In January 1993, a MEK bus was bombed without casualties. Towards the end of 1993, anonymous gunmen attacked Air France offices and the French embassy in Iran after France allowed Maryam Rajavi and 200 MEK members to enter France.[53]

In March 1993, the NCRI's spokesman was murdered in Italy. In May 1990, a MEK member was murdered in Cologne. In February 1993, a MEK member was murdered in Manila. In April 1992, a MEK member was murdered in the Netherlands. In August 1992, a MEK member was murdered in Karachi. In March 1993, two assassins on motorcycles murdered NCRI representative Mohammad Hossein Naqdi in Italy.[429] This led to the European Parliament issuing a condemnation of the Islamic Republic of Iran for political murder.[53]

The Iranian regime is also believed to be responsible for killing NCR representative in 1993, and Massoud Rajavi's brother in 1990. The MEK claims that in 1996 a shipment of Iranian mortars was intended for use by Iranian agents against Maryam Rajavi.[419] In May 1994, Islamic Republic agents assassinated two MEK members in Iraq. In May 1995, five MEK members were assassinated in Iraq. In 1996, two MEK members were murdered in Turkey (including NCRI member Zahra Rajabi); in the same year two MEK members were killed in Pakistan and another one in Iraq.[53][430][431][432]


Inside Iran

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the MEK gained significant support from the Iranian public, becoming the most popular dissident group.[433][117] However, after becoming more violent and siding with Saddam Hussein's Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War the MEK's standing inside Iran diminished.[22]

Inside Iran, the strength of the MEK is uncertain since many of its supporters have been executed, tortured, or jailed.[434][53] Karim Sadjadpour believes the MEK is a "fringe group with mysterious benefactors" with a negligible amount of supporters in Iran.[404] Kenneth Katzman wrote in 2001 that the MEK is "Iran's most active opposition group".[19] A 2009 report published by the Brookings Institution notes that the organization appears to be undemocratic and lacking popularity but maintains an operational presence in Iran, acting as a proxy against Tehran.[435] The group has been described as Iran's main political opposition group.[436][437]

The Iranian government consistently refers to the organization with this derogatory name monafiqeen (Persian: منافقین, lit.'the hypocrites'). The term is derived from the Quran, which describes it as people of "two minds" who "say with their mouths what is not in their hearts" and "in their hearts is a disease".[438]

While Khomeini and the MEK had allied against the Shah, Khomeini "disliked the MEK's philosophy, which combined Marxist theories of social evolution and class struggle with a view of Shiite Islam that suggested Shiite clerics had misinterpreted Islam and had been collaborators with the ruling class",[113] and by mid-1980, clerics close to Khomeini were openly referring to the MEK as "monafeghin", "kafer", and "elteqatigari".[439] The MEK in turn accused Khomeini and the clerics of "monopolizing power", "hijacking the revolution", "trampling over democratic rights", and "plotting to set up a fascistic one-party dictatorship".[26]

By other Iranian opposition parties

The group kept a friendly relationship with the only other major Iranian urban guerrilla group, the Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas (OIPFG).[273] An October 1994 report by the U.S. Department of State notes that other Iranian opposition groups do not cooperate with the organization because they view it as "undemocratic" and "tightly controlled" by its leaders.[440] In 1994 rival exiled groups question the organizations's claim that it would hold free elections after taking power in Iran, pointing to its designation of a "president-elect" as an evidence of neglecting Iranian people.[440]

Due to its anti-Shah stance before the revolution, the MEK is not close to monarchist opposition groups and Reza Pahlavi, Iran's deposed crown prince.[440] Commenting on the MEK, Pahlavi said in an interview: "I cannot imagine Iranians ever forgiving their behavior at that time [siding with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war]. [...] If the choice is between this regime and the MEK, they will most likely say the mullahs".[441]

Iran's deposed president Abolhassan Banisadr ended his alliance with the group in 1984, denouncing its stance during the Iran–Iraq War.[440]

The National Resistance Movement of Iran (NAMIR), led by Shapour Bakhtiar, never maintained a friendly relationship with the MEK. In July 1981, NAMIR rejected any notion of cooperation between the two organizations and publicly condemned them in a communiqué issued following the meeting between Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz and Rajavi in January 1983 as well as the "Holy and Revolutionary" nature of Rajavis in April 1984.[442]

In the media

The MEK has been featured in several documentaries, including A Cult That Would Be an Army: Cult of the Chameleon (2007),[443] The Strange World of the People's Mujahedin (2012)[444][445] and Midday Adventures (2017).[446]

See also


  1. ^ Since 27 January 1985, they are "Co-equal Leader",[1] however, Massoud Rajavi disappeared in 2003 and leadership of the group has de facto passed to his wife Maryam Rajavi.[2]
  2. ^ a b Available estimates of MEK membership in the 2000s are:
  3. ^ The most common denominations in English sources are People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) and Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO).[6] Some sources have used literal translations such as People's Struggler's[7][8][9] or People's Holy Warriors.[10][11][12] The group had no name until February 1972.[13]
  4. ^ Khomeini declared that "those who had failed to endorse the Constitution could not be trusted to abide by that Constitution".[27]
  5. ^ It was later revealed that the U.S. bombings were part of an agreement between the Iranian government and Washington.[195]
  6. ^ Available estimates of historical MEK membership are:
    • Jeffrey S. Dixon and Meredith Reid Sarkees estimating prewar strength at 2,000, later peaking to 10,000.[323]
    • Pierre Razoux estimating maximum strength between 1981 and 1988 to about 15,000 fighters.[324]


  1. ^ a b c O'Hern 2012, p. 208.
  2. ^ Sloan, Stephen; Anderson, Sean K. (2009). Historical Dictionary of Terrorism. Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest (third ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. 454. ISBN 978-0-8108-6311-8.
  3. ^ a b c Chehabi, Houchang E. (1990). Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini. I.B. Tauris. p. 211. ISBN 978-1-85043-198-5.
  4. ^ a b "Durrës locals protest MEK members' burial in local cemetery", Tirana Times, 9 May 2018, retrieved 15 June 2018
  5. ^ a b c Zabih 1988, p. 250.
  6. ^ "Mujahedin-E Khalq Organization (MEK Or MKO)".
  7. ^ Saikal, Amin. The Rise and Fall of the Shah. Princeton University Press. p. xxii.
  8. ^ Emery, Christian (2013). US Foreign Policy and the Iranian Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 60.
  9. ^ Sazegara, Mohsen; Stephan, Maria J. Civilian Jihad. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 188.
  10. ^ Hambly, Gavin R. G. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7. Cambridge University Press. p. 284.
  11. ^ "Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)". Conflict in the Modern Middle East: An Encyclopedia of Civil War, Revolutions, and Regime Change. ABC-CLIO. p. 208.
  12. ^ Abedin, Mahan (2019). Iran Resurgent: The Rise and Rise of the Shia State. C. Hurst & Co. p. 60.
  13. ^ Vahabzadeh 2010, p. 100, 167–168.
  14. ^ a b Katzman 2001, p. 99.
  15. ^ Katzman 2001, p. 2.
  16. ^ a b Abrahamian 1989, pp. 1–2.
  17. ^ a b Cohen 2009, p. 23.
  18. ^ Cimment 2011, pp. 276, 859. "The strength of the movement inside Iran is uncertain [...] MEK is the largest and most active Iranian dissident group; its membership includes several thousand well-armed and highly disciplined fighters."
  19. ^ a b c Katzman 2001, p. 97.
  20. ^ Rozenberg, Joshua (23 October 2008). "Ban on Iran opposition should be lifted, says EU court". The Daily Telegraph. Iran's main opposition group
  21. ^ Campbell, Matthew (22 August 2021). "The People's Mujahidin: the Iranian dissidents seeking regime change in Tehran". The Times. the biggest and most resilient Iranian opposition group
  22. ^ a b For the diminishing popularity of the Mojahedin in Iran, see:
    • "Iranian dissidents in Iraq: Where will they all go?". The Economist. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2018. In return, the PMOI made attacks on Iran itself, which is why Iranians of all stripes tend to regard the group as traitors.
    • Ostovar, Afshon (2016). Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Oxford University Press. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-0-19-049170-3. Unsurprisingly, the decision to fight alongside Saddam was viewed as traitorous by the vast majority of Iranians and destroyed the MKO's standing in its homeland.
    • Kirchner, Magdalena (2017). "'A good investment?' State sponsorship of terrorism as an instrument of Iraqi foreign policy (1979–1991)". In Kaunert, Christian; Leonard, Sarah; Berger, Lars; Johnson, Gaynor (eds.). Western Foreign Policy and the Middle East. Routledge. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1-317-49970-1. With regard to weakening the Iranian regime domestically, MEK failed to establish itself as a political alternative, its goals and violent activities were strongly opposed by the Iranian population–even more so its alignment with Iraq.
    • White, Jonathan R. (2016), Terrorism and Homeland Security, Cengage Learning, p. 239, ISBN 978-1-305-63377-3, The group is not popular in Iran because of its alliance with Saddam Hussein and Iran–Iraq war.
    • Cohen 2009, p. 174. "there was a decrease in the Iranian people's support for the Mojahedin since it had joined since it had joined and cooperated with their worst enemy - Iraq - during the long years of the war"
    • Torbati, Yeganeh (16 January 2017), "Former U.S. officials urge Trump to talk with Iranian MEK group", Reuters, Reuters, retrieved 20 July 2017, The MEK's supporters present the group as a viable alternative to Iran's theocracy, though analysts say it is unpopular among Iranians for its past alignment with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and attacks on Iranian soldiers and civilians.
  23. ^ Newton, Michael (2014). "Bahonar, Mohammad-Javad (1933–1981)". Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1.
  24. ^ "The People's Mojahedin: exiled Iranian opposition". France24. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  25. ^ a b Svensson, Isak (1 April 2013). Ending Holy Wars: Religion and Conflict Resolution in Civil Wars. Univ. of Queensland Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-7022-4956-3.
  26. ^ a b Katzman 2001, p. 100.
  27. ^ a b Abrahamian 1989, p. 198. "The Mojahedin also refused to participate in the referendum held in December to ratify the Constitution drafted by the Assembly of Experts [...] Once the Constitution had been ratified, the Mojahedin tried to field Rajavi as their presidential candidate [...] Khomeini promptly responded by barring Rajavi from the election by declaring that those who had failed to endorse the Constitution could not be trusted to abide by that Constitution."
  28. ^ a b c Katzman 2001, p. 101. "Khomeini refused to allow Masud Rajavi to run in January 1980 presidential elections because the PMOI had boycotted a referendum on the Islamic republican constitution."
  29. ^ a b c Goulka et al. 2009, p. 2.
  30. ^ a b Abrahamian 1989, p. 206-207,219. "by the fateful day of 20 June, the Mojahedin - together with Bani-Sadr - were exhorting the masses to repeat their 'heroic revolution of 1978-9'...The success of 1978-9 had not been duplicated. Having failed to bring down the regime, Bani-Sadr and Rajavi fled to Paris where they tried to minimize their defeat by claiming that the true intention of 20 June had not been so much to overthrow the whole regime."
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h Merat, Arron (9 November 2018). "Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2019. On 20 June 1981, the MEK organised a mass protest of half a million people in Tehran, with the aim of triggering a second revolution… 50 demonstrators were killed, with 200 wounded. Banisadr was removed from office...
  32. ^
    • Sinkaya, Bayram (2015). The Revolutionary Guards in Iranian Politics: Elites and Shifting Relations. Routledge. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-138-85364-5. The most drastic show of terror instigated by the MKO was the blast of a bomb placed in the IRP headquarter on 28 June 1980 that killed more than seventy prominent members of the IRP, including Ayatollah Beheshti, founder of the IRP and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; four cabinet ministers; and twenty-seven members of the Majles.
    • Fayazmanesh 2008, pp. 79–80. "In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar"
    • Atkins, Stephen E. (2004). Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups. Greenwood. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-313-32485-7. the MEK leaders found that they had no role in the new regime…In response, supporters launched a terror campaign against Khomeini's regime. On June 28, 1981, two bombs killed 74 members of the Khomeini Islamic Republic Party (IRP) at a party conference in Tehran.
    • Pedde, Nicola. "ROLE AND EVOLUTION OF THE MOJAHEDIN E-KA". ojs.uniroma1. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  33. ^ Ismael, Jacqueline S.; Perry, Glenn; Ismael, Tareq Y. Y. (5 October 2015). Government and Politics of the Contemporary Middle East: Continuity and change. Routledge. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-317-66283-9.
  34. ^ Newton, Michael (17 April 2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1.
  35. ^ Goulka et al. 2009, p. 57. "The most ambitious attack attributed to the MeK was the bombing of the IRP's Tehran headquarters on June 28, 1981. This attack killed more than 71 members of the Iranian leadership, including cleric Ayatollah Beheshti, who was both secretary-general of the IRP and chief justice of the IRI's judicial system."
  36. ^ Goulka et al. 2009, p. 58. "Khomeini's Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps brutally suppressed the MeK, arresting and executing thousands of members and supporters. The armed revolt was poorly planned and short-lived. On July 29, 1981, Rajavi, the MeK leadership, and Banisadr escaped to Paris"
  37. ^ Abrahamian 1989, p. 219. "The success of 1978-9 had not been duplicated. Having failed to bring down the regime, Bani-Sadr and Rajavi fled to Paris where they tried to minimize their defeat by claiming that the true intention of 20 June had not been so much to overthrow the whole regime"
  38. ^ Atkins, Stephen E. (2004). Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups. Greenwood. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-313-32485-7. These attacks led to a brutal crackdown on all dissidents. Throughout 1981 a mini - civil war existed between the Khomeini regime and the MEK . By the end of 1982, most MEK operatives in Iran had been eradicated . By the time, most MEK leaders left Iran for refugee in France.
  39. ^ Abrahamian 1989, p. 220-221,258. "By the autumn of 1981, the Mojahedin were carrying out daily attacks...The number of assassinations and armed attacks initiated by the Mojahedin fell from the peak of three per day in July 1981 to five per week in February 1982, and to five per month by December 1982."
  40. ^ a b Goulka et al. 2009, p. 85.
  41. ^ Newton, Michael (2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1. Retrieved 19 July 2019. On August 30, 1981, a bomb exploded in the Tehran office of Iranian prime minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. The blast killed Bahonar, as well as President Mohammad-Ali Rajai...Survivors described the explosion occurring when one victim opened a briefcase, brought into the office by Massoud Kashmiri, a state security official. Subsequent investigation revealed that Kashmiri was an agent of the leftist People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK)
  42. ^ a b Katzman 2001, p. 101.
  43. ^ Shay, Shaul (October 1994). The Axis of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Terror. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7658-0255-2. The organizations' ties with Iraq (mainly Rajavi's meeting with Tariq Aziz in January 1983) were exploited to demonstrate the organizations betrayal due to its willingness to join forces with Iran's enemies on the outside.
  44. ^ Piazza 1994: "At the beginning of January of 1983, Rajavi held a highly publicized meeting with then Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Tarqi Aziz, which culminated in the signing of a peace communique on January 9 of that year. Rajavi, acting as the chairman of the NCR, co-outlined a peace plan with Aziz based on an agreement of mutual recognition of borders as defined by the 1975 Algiers Treaty."
  45. ^ "Iraqi Visits Iranian Leftist in Paris". The New York Times. 10 January 1983. The Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and the exiled leader of an Iranian leftist group met for four hours today and said afterward that the war between their countries should brought to an end. The conversations between Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz of Iraq and Massoud Rajavi, leader of the People's Mojahedin, an organization that includes a guerrilla wing active in Iran, were described by Mr. Rajavi as the first of their kind. He said the exchange of views had been "an important political turning point on the regional level and for the world in relation to the Iran-Iraq War"
  46. ^ Shay, Shaul (October 1994). The Axis of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Terror. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7658-0255-2. Despite the mortal blow inflicted on the organization, the Iranian regime continued to regard the Mujahidin as a real threat, and therefore continued to persecute its followers and damage their public image. The organizations' ties with Iraq (mainly Rajavi's meeting with Tariq Aziz in January 1983) were exploited to demonstrate the organizations betrayal due to its willingness to join forces with Iran's enemies on the outside.
  47. ^ Piazza 1994, pp. 9–43.
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  62. ^ a b United Nations Committee against Torture (2008), Jose Antonio Ocampo (ed.), Selected Decisions of the Committee Against Torture: Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment, vol. 1, United Nations Publications, p. 212, Communication N 2582004 section 7.2, ISBN 978-92-1-154185-4, E 08 XIV4; HR/CAT/PUB/1, The MEK has been involved in terrorist activities and is therefore a less legitimate replacement for the current regime.
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