People's Mujahedin of Iran

People's Mujahedin of Iran
People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran
سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران
Leader Zohreh Akhyani [1]
Founded 1965
Headquarters France Paris, France
Iraq Camp Ashraf, Iraq
Ideology Previously "Islamic Marxist"; Today claims to be secular and democratic[2]
Political position Left-Wing
Official Website of the PMOI
Politics of Iran
Political parties

The People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, also MEK, MKO) (Persian: سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران sāzmān-e mojāhedin-e khalq-e irān) is a terrorist militant organization that advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Founded in 1965 by a group of leftist Iranian college students as an Islamic and Marxist political mass movement[3] MEK was originally devoted to armed struggle against the Shah of Iran, capitalism, and 'Western imperialism'.[4] In the aftermath of 1979 Iranian Revolution, at first the MEK and the Tudeh Party, chose to side with the clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini against the liberals, nationalists and other moderate forces within the revolution. A power struggle ensued, and by mid-1981, MEK was fighting street battles against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.[5][6][7] During the Iran-Iraq War, the group was given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory.[8] Government sources claim that over 17,000 Iranians were killed by the MKO.[9]

The group claims to have renounced violence in 2001[10] and today it is the main component organization of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an "umbrella coalition" calling itself the "parliament-in-exile dedicated to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran. The group has had thousands of its members for many years in bases in Iraq, but according to the British Broadcasting Corporation "they were disarmed in the wake of the US-led invasion and are said to have adhered to a ceasefire."[11]

The United States, Canada, Iraq and Iran have designated the PMOI a terrorist organization.[12][13] On January 26, 2009, following what the group called a “seven-year-long legal and political battle”, the Council of the European Union removed the PMOI from the EU list of organisations it designates as terrorist.[14][15][16][17]

The PMOI and the NCRI claim to have provided the United States with intelligence on Iran's nuclear program in 2002 and 2008.[18][19] On September 6, 2011, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) elected Zohreh Akhyani as its new Secretary General for a two-year term.[20] The new Secretary General joined the PMOI 32 years ago following the anti-monarchic revolution in Iran in 1979.[21]


Other names

The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran is known by a variety of names including:

  • Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK)
  • The National Liberation Army of Iran (the group's armed wing)
  • (Disputed) National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) - the PMOI is the founding member of a coalition of organizations called the NCRI, while others including the U.S. FBI claims that the NCRI is either an "alias" for or a front group for the PMOI. Both organizations share the same leader and offices. The PMOI itself described the NCRI as its "Political Branch" in documents found by the FBI in December 2001.[22][23]
  • Monafiqeen - the Iranian government consistently refers to the People's Mujahedin with this derogatory name, meaning "the hypocrites".[24]

Note: The acronyms MEK and PMOI are used interchangeably throughout this article as the abbreviation MEK is commonly used by the media and national governments around the world to refer to the People's Mujahedin.


The PMOI was believed to have a 5,000 – 7,000 strong armed guerrilla grouplet, based in Iraq before the 2003 war, but a membership of between 3,000 – 5,000 is considered more likely.[25] In 2005 the US think-tank, Council on Foreign Relations, believed that the PMOI had 10,000 members, one-third to one-half of whom were fighters. The think-tank claims PMOI membership has dwindled, the organization has had little success attracting new recruits.[26] According to a 2003 article by the New York Times, the PMOI would be composed of 5,000 — many of them female — fighters based in Iraq.[27]


Before the Islamic Revolution


The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran was founded in 1965 by six former members of the Liberation or Freedom Movement of Iran, middle-class students at Tehran University, including Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saied Mohsen and Ali-Asghar Badizadegan. The PMOI opposed the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, considering him corrupt and oppressive and considered the Liberation Movement moderate and ineffective.[28] It's membership has been described as part of the Iranian generation "shaken by the events of June 1963" and the radical generation Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Vo Nguyen Giap, the Tupamaros in South America, the Algerian Mojahedin, and the Palestinian fedayeen. They were more "religious, radical, anti-American" than the earlier generation of Iranian leftists.[29] In its first five years, the group primarily engaged in ideological work,[citation needed] their interpretation of Islam and economic and political ideas, though the group "never once" used the terms socialist, communist, Marxist or eshteraki to describe itself, according to scholar Ervand Abrahamian[30]

Its first military activities, a bombing of the Tehran electrical works and unsuccessful airplane hijacking, were conducted in August 1971 in protest against the Pahlavi's extravagant 2,500 year celebration of Iran's monarchy. Nine Mujahedin were arrested and under torture one member gave out information leading to the arrests of another 66 members. Within a few months SAVAK had eliminated "the whole of its original leadership through executions or street battles." Other members remained incarcerated for many years, with the last group, including Massoud Rajavi, being released just before Khomeini arrived in Tehran in January 1979. However, in the mean time, the group survived and continued to carry out violent attacks on the regime.[31]


In October 1975 the PMOI underwent an ideological split. While the remaining primary members of MEK were imprisoned, some of the original low-level members of MEK formed a new organization that followed Marxist, not Islamic, ideals; these members appropriated the MEK name to establish and enhance their own legitimacy.[32] This was expressed in a book entitled Manifesto on Ideological Issues, in which the central leadership declared "that after ten years of secret existence, four years of armed struggle, and two years of intense ideological rethinking, they had reached the conclusion that Marxism, not Islam, was the true revolutionary philosophy." Mujtaba Taleqani, son of Ayatallah Taleqani, was one of these converts to Marxism. Thus after May 1975 there were two rival Mujahedin, each with its own publication, its own organization, and its own activities.[33] A few months before the Iranian Revolution the majority of the Marxist Mujahedin renamed themselves "Peykar", on December 7, 1978 (16 Azar, 1357), the full name is: Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.This name was after the "St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class", which was a left wing group in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was founded by Lenin in the autumn of 1895.[34]

Anti-American Campaign

It has been alleged that MEK killed six Americans in 1973, 1975, and 1976.[35]

  • The PMOI failed in an attempt to kidnap the U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Douglas MacArthur II, on 1971-11-30.[36]
  • USAF Brig. Gen. Harold Price was wounded in a May 1972 assassination attempt.[37][38]
  • The first success in the assassination campaign was the murder of Lt. Col. Louis Lee Hawkins, a U.S. Army comptroller. He was shot to death in front of his home in Tehran by two men on a motorcycle on 1973-06-02.[37][36][39][40][41]
  • A car carrying U.S. Air Force officers Col. Paul Shaffer and Lt. Col. Jack Turner was trapped between two cars carrying armed men. They told the Iranian driver to lie down and then shot and killed the Americans. Six hours later a woman called reporters to claim the PMOI carried out the attack as retaliation for the recent death of prisoners at the hands of Iranian authorities.[37][36][40][42]
  • A car carrying three American employees of Rockwell International was attacked in May 1976. William Cottrell, Donald Smith, and Robert Krongard were killed. They had been working on the Ibex system for gathering intelligence on the neighboring USSR.[36][43]

Leading up to the Islamic Revolution the Marxist wing of the PMOI conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and Western targets.[13] According to the U.S. Department of State and the presentation of the PMOI by the Foreign Affairs group of the Australian Parliament, the group conducted several assassinations of U.S. military personnel and civilians working in Iran during the 1970s. After the revolution the group actively supported the U.S. embassy takeover in Tehran in 1979, and opposed the release of the diplomats in 1981 by the Iranian regime, and called for their execution instead. As a result they staged a large demonstration. [25]


Before 1979 Iranian Revolution

The PMOI's ideology of revolutionary Shiaism is based on an interpretation of Islam so similar to that of Ali Shariati that "many concluded" they were inspired by him. According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, it's clear that "in later years" that Shariati and "his prolific works" had "indirectly helped the Mujahedin."[44] According to the U.S. Department of State' presentation of the PMOI, the philosophy of the PMOI is a combination of Marxism, Nationalism and Islam.[13]

In the group's "first major ideological work," Nahzat-i Husseini or Hussein's Movement, authored by one of the groups 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."[31]

After the revolution

In more recent years under the guidance of Maryam Rajavi the organization has adopted strong principles in favor of women. Women have now assumed some senior positions of responsibility within the ranks of the PMOI and although women make up only a third of fighters, two-thirds of its commanders are women. Rajavi ultimately believes that women should enjoy equal rights with men.[45]

In 1981, the PMOI 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. The PMOI claims that in the past 25 years, the NCRI has evolved into a 540-member parliament-in-exile, with a specific platform that emphasizes free elections, gender equality and equal rights for ethnic and religious minorities. The PMOI claims that it also advocates a free-market economy and supports peace in the Middle East. However, the FBI claims that the NCRI "is not a separate organization, but is instead, and has been, an integral part of the [PMOI] at all relevant times" and that the NCRI is "the political branch" of the PMOI, rather than vice versa. Although the PMOI is today the main organization of the NCRI, the latter previously hosted other organizations, such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.[22]

According to the publicly stated ideology of the PMI, elections and public suffrage are the sole indicators of political legitimacy. According to their publications, the Word of God and Islam are meaningless without freedom and respect for individual volition and choice. Their interpretation of Islam the Quran says that the most important characteristic distinguishing man from animals is his free will. It is on this basis that human beings are held accountable. Without freedom, no society can develop or progress. Although its leaders presents themselves as Muslims, the PMOI describes itself as a secular organization: "The National Council of Resistance believes in the separation of Church and State."[46]

Armed conflict with the Islamic government

Following the 1979 revolution, the newly established theocratic government of Ayatollah Khomeini moved to squash dissent. Khomeini attacked the MEK as elteqati (eclectic), contaminated with Gharbzadegi ("the Western plague"), and as monafeqin (hypocrites) and kafer (unbelievers).[47] In February 1980 concentrated attacks by hezbollahi pro-Khomeini militia began on the meeting places, bookstores and newsstands of Mujahideen and other leftists[48] driving the Left underground in Iran. Hundreds of PMOI supporters and members were killed from 1979 to 1981, and some 3,000 were arrested.[49]

The MEK responded in turn, and on 28 June 1981, bombs were detonated at the headquarters of the since-dissolved Islamic Republic Party. Around 70 high-ranking officials, including Chief Justice Mohammad Beheshti (who was the second most powerful figure in the revolution after Ayatollah Khomeini at the time), cabinet members, and elected members of parliament, were killed. The Mujahedin never publicly confirmed or denied any responsibility for the deed, but stated the attack was `a natural and necessary reaction to the regime's atrocities.` The bomber was identified as a Mujahedin operative by the name of Mohammad Reza Kolahi, who had secured a job in the building disguised as a sound engineer.[50] Khomeini accused them of culpability and, according to BBC journalist Baqer Moin, the Mujahedin were "generally perceived as the culprits" for it in Iran.[51] Two months later on August 30, another bomb was detonated killing the popularly elected President Rajai and Premier Mohammad Javad Bahonar. An active member of the Mujahedin, Massoud Kashmiri, was identified as the perpetrator, and according to reports came close to killing the entire government including Khomeini.[52] The reaction following both bombings was intense with many arrests and executions of Mujahedin and other leftist groups, but "assassinations of leading officials and active supporters of the regime by the Mujahedin were to continue for the next year or two."[53] This occurred following Saddam's invasion as the Iranian regime focused more resources on national defense than confronting dissidents.

Eventually, the majority of the PMOI leadership and members fled to France, where it operated until 1986, when tension arose between Paris and Tehran over the Eurodif nuclear stake and the French citizens kidnapped in the Lebanon hostage crisis. After Rajavi flew to Baghdad, French hostages were released.

Relations with Iraq under Saddam Hussein

The PMOI transferred its headquarters to Iraq in 1986, during the Iran–Iraq War. According to the US State Department, the PMOI received all of its military support and most of its financial assistance from Saddam's government until the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The PMOI also has used front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities. PMOI's main economic development is based on tributes and endowments from its supporters all over the world.

The PMOI's decision to move its headquarters to Iraq in the middle of the war — which was started by an invasion by the Iraqi army and cost many tens of thousands of Iranians lives — caused the PMOI to lose most of its supporters in Iran, regardless of their views towards the Iranian government.[54] A report by the Foreign Affairs group of the Australian Parliament states the PMOI "is believed to have lost much of its popular support within Iran since siding with Iraq".[25]

National Liberation Army of Iran

Near the end of the 1980-1988 war with Iran, a military force of 7000 members of the PMOI, armed and equipped by Saddam's Iraq and calling itself the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), went into action. On July 26, 1988, six days after the 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. It seized and razed to the ground 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. On July 29 the NLA announced a voluntary withdrawal back to Iraq. The PMOI claims it lost 1400 dead or missing and the Islamic Republic sustained 55,000 casualties (either IRGC, Basij forces, or the army). The Islamic Republic claims to have killed 4500 NLA and Iraqi troops during the operation.[55] The operation was called Foroughe Javidan (Eternal Light) by the PMOI and the counterattack Operation Mersad by the Iranian forces.

1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners

A large number of prisoners from the PMOI, and a lesser number from other leftist opposition groups (somewhere between 1,400 and 30,000),[56] were executed in 1988, following Operation Eternal Light.[57][58][59][60][61] Dissident Ayatollah Montazeri has written in his memoirs that this massacre, deemed a crime against humanity, was ordered by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and carried out by several high-ranking members of Iran's current government.Recently The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights violations for Iran, to take action on such actions since 1988[62].

Relations with France in the mid-1980s

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 PMOI was forced to leave France and relocated in Iraq. Investigative journalist Dominique Lorentz has related the 1986 capture of French hostages to an alleged blackmail of France by Tehran concerning the nuclear program.[63]


According to presentations of the PMOI by the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Affairs group of the Australian Parliament, the PMOI assisted the Iraqi Republican Guard in suppressing the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.[25] Maryam Rajavi, who assumed the leadership role of the PMOI after a series of years as co-leader alongside her husband Massoud Rajavi, has been reported by former members of the PMOI as having said: "Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards."[27]

In the following years the PMOI conducted several high-profile assassinations of political and military figures inside Iran, including Asadollah Lajevardi, the former warden of the Evin prison, in 1998 and deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, Brigadier General Ali Sayyad Shirazi, who was assassinated on the doorsteps of his house on April 10, 1999.

In Iraq after the 2003 invasion

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, PMOI camps were bombed by coalition forces because of its alliance with Saddam Hussein. On April 15, U.S. Special Forces brokered a ceasefire agreement with the leaders of the PMOI and entered into a ceasefire agreement with the coalition after the attack. Each compound surrendered without hostilities.[64][65][66] In the operation, the US reportedly captured 6,000 PMOI fighters and over 2,000 pieces of military equipment.[67][68] This was a controversial agreement both in the public sphere and privately among the Bush administration due to the MEK's designation as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.[69]

In the operation, the US reportedly captured 6000 MEK soldiers and over 2000 pieces of military equipment, including 19 British-made Chieftain tanks.[68][70] The MEK compound outside Fallujah became known as Camp Fallujah and sits adjacent to the other major base in Fallujah, Forward Operating Base Dreamland. Captured MEK members were kept at Camp Ashraf, about 100 kilometers west of the Iranian border and 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.[71]

After a four-month investigation by several U.S. agencies, including the State Department, only a handful of charges under U.S. criminal law were brought against PMOI members, all American citizens. The PMOI remains listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the Department of State.[72] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared PMOI personnel in Ashraf protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They are currently under the guard of US Military. Defectors from this group are housed separately in a refugee camp within Camp Ashraf, and protected by U.S. Army military police (2003-current), U.S. Marines (2005–2007), and the Bulgarian Army(2006-current).[73]

On January 1, 2009 the U.S. military transferred control of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government. On the same day, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that the militant group would not be allowed to base its operations from Iraqi soil.[74]

Iraqi government's crackdown

On January 23, 2009, and while on a visit to Tehran, Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie re-iterated the Iraqi Prime Minister’s earlier announcement that the MEK organisation will no longer be able to base itself on Iraqi soil and stated that the members of the Organisation will have to make a choice, either to go back to Iran or to go to a third country, adding that these measures will be implemented over the next two months.[75]

Eleven Iranians were killed and 500 injured in a July 29, 2009 raid by Iraqi security on the MEK Camp Ashraf in Diyala province of Iraq. 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.[76] 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, 7 of which was dry hunger strike. Finally, the dissidents were released when they were in an extremely critical condition and on the verge of death. [2][3][4]

The Iraqi government had earlier denied anyone died when they took control of the camp, which has been home to the People's Mujahideen for two decades. Other accounts list said a dozen had been killed. According to Simaye Azadi, there main channel, many attacks got filmed and uploaded on websites like youtube.[77]

2003 French raid

In June 2003 French police raided the PMOI'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 PMOI members were then arrested. In response, 40 supporters began hunger strikes to protest the arrests, and ten immolated themselves in various European capitals. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (Union for a Popular Movement) declared that the PMOI "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".[78]

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of 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 PMOI supporters such as Sheila Jackson-Lee, Democrat of Texas, criticized Maryam Radjavi's arrest.[27] However, the PMOI members were quickly released.

A "bargaining chip" between Tehran and Washington?

During the Iraq war, U.S. troops disarmed the PMOI and posted guards at its bases.[79] The U.S. military also protected and gave logistical support to the MEK as U.S. officials viewed the group as a high value source of intelligence on Iran.[80] The PMOI is credited with revealing Iran's nuclear program in 2003 and alerting Americans to Iranian advancements in nuclear technology.[81]

The same year that the French police raided the PMOI's properties in France (2003), Tehran attempted to negotiate with Washington. Iranian officials offered to withdraw military backing for Hamas and Hezbollah, and to give open access to their nuclear facilities in return for Western action in disbanding the PMOI, which was revealed by Newsnight, a BBC current affairs program, in 2007. The BBC uncovered a letter written after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 where Tehran made this offer[82] The proposition was done in a secret letter to Washington via Switzerland. According to the BBC, the U.S. State Department received the letter from the highest levels of the Iranian government[citation needed]. According to Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, interviewed by the BBC, the State Department initially considered the offer, but it was ultimately rejected by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.[83]

Nuclear issue

The PMOI and the NCRI claim to be the first entities that revealed Iran's nuclear activities in 2002, which has turned to be a major concern for the US and some of its allies today.[18] Recently on Feb 20, 2008, the NCRI claimed to have revealed another nuclear site of Islamic Republic. This claim has never been independently verified.[19]

Designation as a terrorist organization

On December 14, 2006, Time Magazine published an article about PMOI and reported: "In 2003, French anti-terrorist police raided Maryam Rajavi's place in Auvers-sur-Oise, securing millions of euros and taking Maryam Rajavi and some of her collaborators into custody. Several of Rajavi's followers set themselves on fire to protest her arrest, confirming official French concerns about the cultish nature of the group."[84]

On September 14, 1981, Time Magazine published an article about PMOI and reported: "The Mujahedin platform focused on anticapitalist, anti-Western slogans. It demanded the nationalization of all foreign businesses run by Iranians and continuation of the anti-imperialist struggle, especially against the U.S. Western intelligence sources doubt that the Mujahedin, though superbly organized, have as many followers as they claim. "They are not a popular movement," one analyst asserts. "Their ideology is not understood by the masses. They are capable, of carrying out terror operations but not of governing Iran.""[85]

On April 21, 1997, Time Magazine published an article about PMOI and reported:

"There is a cult of personality around Massoud Rajavi and Maryam Rajavi that is unhealthy,"

says Michael Eisenstadt, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy. "If they were to achieve power, it is unlikely they would give it up."[86]

On August 28, 1988, New York Times published an article that after chemical attacks by PMOI against western Iranian cities, Alireza Jafarzadeh as then public spokesman for PMOI in the United States said:

"Mujahedeen have learned to take proper tactics when and if necessary. We have always adjusted tactics in our fighting. The form of fighting is secondary."[87]

The Mujahedeen claimed to have inflicted 40,000 Iranian casualties.[87]

In 1991, Maryam Rajavi as then leader of PMOI's army forces directly ordered the massacre of Iraqi Kurdish people

On July 13, 2003, New York Times published an article that in 1991 when Saddam Hussein used the PMOI and its tanks as advance forces to crush the Iraqi Kurdish people in the north and the Iraqi Shia people in the south, Maryam Rajavi as then leader of PMOI's army forces commanded:

"Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards."[88]

On December 14, 2006, Time Magazine published an article about PMOI and reported: "By the mid-1980s, the group (PMOI) had cozied up to Saddam Hussein, who provided them with funds and a compound, Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad. The U.S. government has accused the group of helping Saddam brutally put down Iraqi Kurdish people in the early 1990s, and of launching numerous attacks inside Iran."[84]

On January 05, 2009, Time Magazine published an article about PMOI and reported: "Despite its position on the U.S. terrorist list since 1997, and reports by former members of abusive and cultlike practices at Ashraf, the MEK has gathered support from some surprising places abroad — especially since the U.S. invasion — by pitching itself as a viable opposition to the mullahs in Tehran. "They have been extremely clever and very, very effective in their propaganda and lobbying of members of Congress," says Gary Sick, a Persian Gulf expert at Columbia University's Middle East Institute and the author of All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran. "They get all sorts of people to sign their petitions. Many times the Congressmen don't know what they're signing." But others, Sick adds, "are quite aware of the fact that this is a designated terrorist organization, and they are quite willing to look the other way for a group that they think is a democratic alternative to the Iranian regime.""[89]

On May 18, 2005, Newsweek published an article about PMOI and reported: "Human Rights Watch alleges that the Iranian exile group known as Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) has a history of cultlike practices that include forcing members to divorce their spouses and to engage in extended self-criticism sessions. More dramatically, the report states, former MEK members told Human Rights Watch that when they protested MEK policies or tried to leave the organization, they were arrested, in some cases violently abused and in other instances imprisoned. They were held in solitary confinement for years in a camp operated by MEK in Iraq under the protection of Saddam Hussein. MEK representatives in the United States and France, where MEK is headquartered, did not respond to NEWSWEEK phone calls and an e-mail requesting comment. The new Human Rights Watch report does allege strange and sometimes brutal behavior by the group's leaders and internal security apparatus. According to Human Rights Watch, following this 1988 military defeat, the Rajavi's leadership of MEK became increasingly authoritarian and cultlike. According to an MEK defector's memoir, Rajavi claimed to have a mystical relationship with a prophet known as Imam Zaman, who is Shia Islam's version of the long-awaited Messiah. In order to better cement their relationship with their leader, and hence ultimately their Messiah, Rajavi then instructed his followers to divorce their spouses. The group had already established a practice of "self criticism," under which members were asked to undergo their own personal "ideological revolution" by confessing personal inadequacies in cultlike confession sessions. Human Rights Watch says the testimony of former MEK prisoners paints a grim picture of how the organization treated its members, particularly those who held dissenting opinions or expressed an intent to leave the organization. Other witnesses told Human Rights Watch claimed it was the practice of MEK interrogators to tie thick ropes around prisoners' necks and drag them along the ground. One witness told investigators: "Sometimes prisoners returned to the cell with extremely swollen necks--their head and neck as big as a pillow." In a statement accompanying its investigative report, Joe Stork, a Human Rights Watch expert on the Middle East, commented:

"The Iranian government has a dreadful record on human rights. But it would be a mistake to promote an opposition group that is responsible for serious human rights abuses."[90]

MEK's Human Rights record

In May 2005, Human Rights Watch claimed that the PMOI were running prison camps within Iraq and were committing severe human rights violations against former PMOI members.[91] The report described how the PMOI was held under tight control of the husband and wife team of Masoud and Maryam Rajavi. The report prompted a response by the PMOI and a few friendly MEPs (European MPs), who published a counter-report in September 2005.[92] They noted that HRW had "relied only on 12 hours interviews with 12 suspicious individuals", and stated that "a delegation of MEPs visited Camp Ashraf in Iraq" and "conducted impromptu inspections of the sites of alleged abuses." Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca (PP), one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, alleged that Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was the source of the evidence against the PMOI.[92]

Prompted by the FOFI document, Human Rights Watch re-interviewed all 12 of the original witnesses, conducting private and personal interviews lasting several hours with each of them in Germany and the Netherlands, where the witnesses now live. All of the witnesses restated their claims about the PMOI camps from the 1991-2003 period, saying PMOI officials subjected them to various forms of physical and psychological abuses once they made known their wishes to leave the organization.[93]

According to Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri writing,

Countless first-rate analysts, scholars and human rights organizations -- including Human Rights Watch -- have determined that the MEK is an undemocratic, cultlike organization whose modus operandi vitiates its claim to be a vehicle for democratic change.[94]

In an interview with RFERL escaped MEK leader Abdul Latif Shardouri (aka Abdollatif Shadvari) who says he had been in the MEK for 25 years stated that his family thought he was dead because he had had no contact with them during those 25 years. "Using the telephone, mobile phone, Internet, and even listening to radio is forbidden in the organization."[95]

The issue is, as [MKO leader Massoud] Rajavi has said many times, whoever wants to escape from Ashraf will be punished with death and execution. Not only me, but many of my friends who are now in Ashraf don't have the possibility to leave the camp. Escape is the only way.[95]

Hunger Strike

The Ashraf City camp was attacked by Iraqi forces on 28 July 2009. They had depended on the American forces for protection. When Americans withdrew to bases, the Iraqi government stated they weren't bound by previous agreements. At least 11 died, and a hunger strike ensued among the People's followers.[96]

See also


  1. ^ Annual Congress elects Zohreh Akhyani as new Secretary General
  2. ^
  3. ^ ,The Iranian Mojahedin By Ervand Abrahamian, 1989
  4. ^ Keddie, Nikkie, Roots of Revolution, (1981), p.238
  5. ^
  6. ^ Takeyh, Ray (27-05-2009) (in English). Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs (1st ed.). USA: Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780199754106. Retrieved 04-06-2011. 
  7. ^ Buchta, Wilfried (01-02-2002) (in English). Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic. USA: Washington Institute for Near East Policy. p. 113. ISBN 0944029361. Retrieved 04-06-2011. 
  8. ^ The curious case of Iran's Mujahideen, David Shariatmadari, 26 June 2009
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ BBC News, 12 Dec 2006, EU unfreezes Iran group's funds
  11. ^ BBC News, "Iranian group in UK terror win", 24 June 2008
  12. ^ "Council Common Position 2005/847/Cfsp" (PDF). Official Journal of the European Union L 314: 44. 2005. 
  13. ^ a b c "Chapter 6 -- Terrorist Organizations". US Department of State. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  14. ^
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