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Estimating Support for the MEK in Iran: Part 5

The MEK/PMOI as the archenemy to the Iranian regime plays crucial role in protests.

The Iranian Regime has been claiming that there is little to no support for the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) inside Iran. As we said in our previous piece, the fact that the MEK is illegal in Iran and support them can be punishable by death, which means that it’s hard to determine the exact number of Iranian supporters, but there are some ways to estimate support. 

 

Over the next two parts of this series, we will look at the 2009 uprising. 

Just two hours after voting booths closed in June 2009, despite a reported 40 million people have voted, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with 62% of the vote and something felt off. 

Even the opposition candidates, who in Iran are not real opponents, said the election had been rigged and the vote totals manipulated in favor of Ahmadinejad. This was true. Investigations of the election found that at 30 polling sites voter turnout was above 100% and at 200 more turnouts was over 95%. Something that would be suspicious in any election. 

So people poured into the streets and the MEK and other groups, including the newly formed Green Movement, organized the protests. They chanted traditional MEK slogans of “Down with the principle of velayat-e faqih” and “Down with the dictator”, alongside the new chant of “Where is my vote?”.  

(Please note that Velayat-e faqih means “guardianship of the jurist”, which is one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic and sets out the Supreme Leader as the head of government, with the mullahs believing that the Supreme Leader is “God’s representative on Earth” and his legitimacy is “divine”. This is not unlike medieval kings, which, in fairness, is how the Supreme Leader acts.) 

Within weeks, the MEK’s slogans dominated the protests, which showed public support for the MEK as well as the MEK’s organizational skills. Why else would people risk their lives to chant MEK slogans? 

The Regime issued a crackdown on the protests, not unlike the one that is happening now against the 2019 uprising, by banning anti-government rallies, blocking websites, and turning off cell phone transmissions. They killed dozens of people and arrested many MEK members and Green Movement supporters. 

The Green Movement members were mostly released, as they were affiliated with the mullahs to a certain degree. The MEK members and sympathizers were given harsh sentences. 

Saeed Mortazavi, the Prosecutor General of Tehran, discussed the role of the MEK in the uprising in a report to the Iranian parliament, saying that the MEK acted in an organized manner and were “plotting for a velvet coup” through organizing the protests. Mortazavi said the MEK played a role at three main points in the event, adding that they had infiltrated the election headquarters. 

In our next piece, we will continue our look at the 2009 uprising led by the MEK, specifically looking at the regime’s report on MEK involvement in the protests that should have overthrown the mullah's clerical regime.