- Published: Wednesday, 24 January 2018
- Written by Mahmoud Hakamian
Iranian citizens recently took to the streets throughout the country to demonstrate their opposition to Iran regime’s foreign and domestic policies. Beginning as an economic protest that quickly turned political, these demonstrations signaled the Iranian people’s discontent with the ruling regime in Tehran and its failing ideology.
Iran regime suppressed the uprising to an extent, by attacking the peaceful rallies, arresting and killing the protesters and detainees which is still going on, Is it finished? Is this regime really stable? Are Iranian people just asking for some reforms? Certainly not, the depth and extend of the protests the discontent and involvement of almost every strata of the society (with apparent exception of the ruling class) showed it is far from over.
Among many questions and numerous factors involving the creation, organization and spread of protests from one city to over 120 cities throughout the country, one question is outstanding? Who was behind all this, if anyone? Ali Khmenei the supreme leader of the regime explicitly put the responsibility on the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK/PMOI), and in his speech on January 9, 2018 stated:
Khamenei said: “[The PMOI/MEK] have been ready since months ago ... since several months ago (they were ready) to organize, and meet this person and that; and to select some people inside the country, find them and help them, so they would come and call on the people. They announced their call, and made the slogan “No to high prices”. Well, this is a slogan that everyone likes. They managed to attract some people with this slogan. And then, they could come to the scene and pursue their goals, and make the people follow them”.
Who are the people’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI)? What is their background, why Iran regime’s supreme leader believes they are the one leading the protests? So why the name of such an organization with this dimension of popularity and root all over Iran was in the black list?
Knowing the facts and truths about PMOI/MEK is essential for anyone interested in figuring out the geopolitics and the future trend of events in Iran, and the region. Here are some background and facts concerning MEK.
In September 2012, the US finally removed the Iranian Resistance group Mujahedin-e Khalq or People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK/PMOI) from their list of foreign terrorist groups, after 15 appalling years.
This followed previous delistings by the UK, France and the European Union however, the MEK should never have ended up on any terrorist list in the first place and their wrongful designation should shame any Western government who put them there.
How did the MEK end up on a list of terrorist groups?
There was never any evidence to support the lies that the MEK was involved in terrorism, but the West wanted to appease the reigning mullahs in the Iranian Regime by targeting their democratic opposition. Instead of looking for the facts, the West took the word of a hostile regime that the MEK was ‘dangerous’ and accepted propaganda as gospel.
MEK: Origins of the Terrorist Designation
“[There] was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. Top Administration officials saw cracking down on the [MEK], which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace, as one way to do so.” ~ Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Clinton Administration.
The allegation of terrorism levied against MEK by the US Department of State has its roots in the Iran-Contra (Irangate) scandal of the mid-1980s, when in exchange for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by the Iranian regime’s proxies, the Department issued a statement accusing the MEK of “continu[ing] to employ terrorism and violence as standard instruments of their politics.”
If at the time it was unclear as to why the Department of State would so suddenly and strongly lash out at the leading opponents of a regime which the US had been consistently describing as the most active state sponsor of international terrorism, the release of the Tower Commission Report two years later solved the mystery. That report cited a letter by an Iranian go-between, Manouchehr Ghorbanifar, to his US counterpart as saying that one of the nine demands of the Iranian regime from the US was the “(issuance) of an official announcement terming the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)Marxist and terrorist.”
When the deal with Tehran fell through, the Department of State reversed course and began to formally meet with the MEK, even at the height of the organization’s armed resistance against the clerical regime.] In a testimony before the House Europe and the Middle East Subcommittee in April 1987, Assistant Secretary Richard Murphy explained the reasons for that volte face by saying: “I don’t want to overstate our knowledge of the organization... I will very freely admit there were gaps in our knowledge about the organization... We have met with the Mujahedin organization here in Washington... They are a player, and they are hurting in Iran.... We are not boycotting them.”
A decade later, after Mohammad Khatami — wrongly perceived by some in the US as a “moderate” influence within the ruling establishment — became the Iranian regime’s President, the Department under Secretary Madeleine Albright formally designated the MEK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on October 8, 1997. Highlighting the political motivations of the move, the very next day, a senior Clinton administration official told the Los Angeles Times, “The inclusion of the People’s Mujahedin was intended as a goodwill gesture to Tehran and its newly elected president, Mohammed Khatami.”
In September 2002, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Clinton Administration, Martin Indyk, told Newsweek, “[There] was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. Top Administration officials saw cracking down on the [MEK], which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace, as one way to do so.”
Four years later, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “In 1997, the State Department added the MEK to a list of global terrorist organizations as ‘a signal’ of the U.S.’s desire for rapprochement with Tehran’s reformists, says Martin Indyk, who at the time was assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs. President Khatami’s government ‘considered it a pretty big deal,’ Mr. Indyk says.”
The same paper wrote after the MEK’s victory in its legal battle in the UK in 2008, that, “Iranian officials for years have made suppression of the MEK a priority in negotiations with Western governments over Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues, according to several diplomats who were involved in those talks.”
How did the MEK’s wrongful terrorist designation affect the fight for freedom in Iran?
With the MEK listed as a terrorist organisation in the West, it was easy for the Iranian Regime to further demonise the MEK inside and outside Iran; after all, those who didn’t trust the Regime were likely to trust the US and Europe.
This meant that the Iranian Regime could effectively ignore calls by its people for democracy or human rights, whilst cracking down on MEK members and other political activists in Iran under the guise of preventing terrorism.
Even MEK members outside of Iran were not safe.
In 2003, French authorities raided the headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and arrested its leaders, but found no evidence of terrorist activity or ideology. The NCRI is a coalition of Iranian dissident groups, including the MEK.
In the same year, the US and UK launched air strikes on MEK camps in Iraq, killing 50 and forcing the MEK to move to more remote areas
At the behest of the Iranian Regime, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki violently oppressed MEK members living in exile in Camp Ashraf killing at least 100 and wounding hundreds more in attacks, whilst also blocking food, fuel, and medical supplies.
While the West and Iraq were treating the MEK as the problem, they were also distracted from the Iranian Regimes ever-increasing military budget which was being spent on terrorism, the pursuit of nuclear weapons, and destabilisation of the Middle East.
The MEK warned the West about all of these things- even while being treated like terrorists by them- because it was important that the Regime not get away with creating a nuclear bomb or funding Hezbollah.
How did the MEK get removed from the terror lists?
The MEK challenged their illegitimate designation in courts across Europe and the US, with every court ruling that there was no evidence to support putting the MEK on a terrorist watch list. Despite this, the governments of Europe and the US refused to comply with the decisions and fraudulently kept the MEK on the list.
Thankfully, the MEK found many allies in politicians from almost all political parties in those countries and eventually the combined effort of the MEK and their supporters forced the governments to delist the MEK.
This victory was celebrated by all those who value freedom and democracy in Iran and across the Iranian Diaspora, but the scars left by the designation are still visible and painful. It jeopardised the freedom of the Iranian people and the safety and security of the Middle East for no good reason.
The MEK as the main force in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is still fighting for freedom and democracy in Iran and despite the many hardships they face- unlawful terrorist designations being one- they will continue fighting until they see a Free Iran.
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