ON FEBRUARY 5, 2017, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS RELEASED A STORY REHASHING OLD AND MIS-LEADING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE IRANIAN OPPOSITION. THE IRANIAN OPPOSITION PROVIDED A REBUTTAL TO THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IN RESPONSE, BUT THE STORY WAS NOT CORRECTED OR RESCINDED AS OF FEBRUARY 7, 2017.
Now, the rebuttal has been released to the public, to detail the facts and add insight into what the Iranian opposition believes to be “the crux of the matter”.
Shahin Gobadi, press spokesman of The People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) stated, “The AP story, “Trump Cabinet pick paid by ‘cult-like’ Iranian exile group” of February 5, is a rehashing of old and long-debunked allegations aimed at disparaging the principal Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its bipartisan supporters. The religious dictatorship ruling Iran and its lobby abroad have tried for years to discredit the Iranian opposition in an effort to proffer the appeasement of the ruling mullahs as a viable policy.”
AP reporter Jon Gambrell ignored “facts regarding the conduct and history of the Iranian resistance. Instead of reporting the views of a large (number of) bi-partisan lawmakers in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, and the decisions by the highest U.S. and European Courts,…he has chosen to rely heavily on only two individuals, both of whom have been proponents of the appeasing (of) the murderous mullahs of Iran,” added Gobadi.
Gambrell's sources have been proven to have little to no experience in the region, and have no up-to-date writings or reports about the issues facing Iran and the Middle East. Updated reports, books, and studies about the history, accusations and current conduct of the MEK, have published by many independent scholars and experts, but none of these sources were cited in the AP article.
Information Gambrell presented about the day to day life at Camp Ashraf was not verified by the, who have testified before Congress that allegations against the MEK were propaganda concocted by the Iranian regime’s intelligence services.
The rebuttal also called the opening paragraph an example of “editorializing” that “makes one wonder whether ulterior political motives by the ‘echo chamber’ crowd tasked to sell the Iran nuclear deal to (the) U.S. Congress and American public was at work here.”
23 bi-partisan signatories hand delivered a letter to President Trump, in which the officials wrote about the discredited allegations, noting that “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has for many years impaired the exiled opposition by covertly spreading false and distorted claims through third parties in the West. Other governments…closely monitor Iran’s influence operations on their soil; a thorough counter-intelligence investigation by the U.S. is clearly needed and long overdue.”
The U.S., UK and France all have proven findings, showing that there is no evidence the group was ever involved in terrorism. As far as the deaths referred to in the article, these have not been credited to the MEK, as reports from independent sources, as well as from the U.S. State Department, and from well-respected Iran experts. None of these sources were mentioned in the article, as noted the rebuttal.
The New York Times reported in 2004, that a 16-month investigation by seven different U.S. agencies, including the Departments of States, Defense, Treasury, Justice, the FBI, the CIA and the DEI “found no basis to charge any member of the group with the violation of American law.” Furthermore, U.S. military commanders have testified before Congress that MEK members never engaged the U.S. forces during the invasion of Iraq.
“The local cease fire agreement of mutual understanding and coordination” signed between the U.S. military and the MEK in 2003, makes it clear that the MEK had not fired a single bullet against U.S. forces in Iraq.
Bi-partisan majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and a very large group of bi-partisan Senators have lent their unequivocal support to the MEK for the past three decades, describing it as a “legitimate resistance movement,” despite being fully aware of these illegitimate accusations.
Most importantly, the AP story didn’t reference what the MEK has done to expose the Iranian regime’s terrorism and reveal their major nuclear sites, which triggered the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspections of the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz for the first time. Since then, the majority of the visits by the IAEA inspection teams have been to the sites first uncovered by the MEK.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) told a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing that, “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the MEK for bringing this information to the world, and causing the United States and the world to focus on the problem.”
In former Secretary of State John Kerry’s farewell speech, he stated, “And one of the things that I am very proud of is the effort we made – I remember going to hearing after hearing, and you remember all those folks you’d see up there in those yellow jackets representing the Mujahedin-e Khalqu – MEK as we’ve known them – and we got 3,000 of them out of Camp Liberty and to places where they are safe and their lives are saved from being attacked regularly, as they were.”
“Why would the U.S. Secretary of State and his Department undertake such a massive effort to save the lives of members of a ‘cult-like’ group that has been engaged in ‘terrorism’ and ‘killing Americans’ in the first place, if they believed such allegations were true?” asked Gobadi.
More about the People’s Mojahdin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK)
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Also known as MEK, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq / Mujahedeen-e-Khalq), was founded on September 6, 1965, by Mohammad Hanifnejad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali-Asghar Badizadgan. All engineers, they had earlier been members of the Freedom Movement (also known as the Liberation Movement), created by Medhi Bazargan in May 1961.1
The MEK’s quest culminated in a true interpretation of Islam, which is inherently tolerant and democratic, and fully compatible with the values of modern-day civilization. It took six years for the MEK to formulate its view of Islam and develop a strategy to replace Iran’s dictatorial monarchy with a democratic government.
MEK’s interpretation of Islam
The theocratic mullah regime in Iran believe interpreting Islam is their exclusive domain. The MEK reject this view and the cleric’s reactionary vision of Islam. The MEK’s comprehensive interpretation of Islam proved to be more persuasive and appealing to the Iranian youth.
MEK’s founders and new members studied the various schools of thought, the Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and ideologies with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran’s problems.
MEK’s leadership’s arrest during the 70s.
The Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK, arrested all MEK leaders and most of its member’s in1971. On May 1972, the founders of the MEK, Mohammad Hanifnejad , Saeed Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan, along with two members of the MEK leadership, Mahmoud Askarizadeh and Rasoul Meshkinfam, were put before death squads and were executed after long months of imprisonment and torture. They were the true vanguards, who stood against the dictatorial regime of Shah. However, they are also recognized for their opposition to what is today known as Islamic fundamentalism.
The death sentence of Massoud Rajavi, a member of MEK’s central committee, was commuted to life imprisonment as a result of an international campaign by his Geneva based brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi (assassinated in April 1990 in Geneva by mullahs’ agents) and the personal intervention of the French President Georges Pompidou and Francois Mitterrand. He was the only survivor of the MEK original leadership.
Massoud Rajavi’s critical role in characterizing religious extremism
From 1975 to 1979, while incarcerated in different prisons, Massoud Rajavi led the MEK’s struggle while constantly under torture for his leading position.
Massoud Rajavi stressed the need to continue the struggle against the shah’s dictatorship. At the same time, he characterized religious fanaticism as the primary internal threat to the popular opposition, and warned against the emergence and growth of religious fanaticism and autocracy. He also played a crucial role when some splinter used the vacuum in the MEK leadership who were all executed or imprisoned at the time, to claim a change of ideology and policy. Massoud Rajavi as the MEK leader condemn these individual’s misuse of MEK’s name while continuing to stress the struggle against dictatorship. His efforts while still in prison forced these individuals to no longer operating under the name of MEK and adopting a different name for their group. These positions remained the MEK’s manifesto until the overthrow of the shah’s regime.
Release of Political Prisoners on the last days of the Shah
A month before the 1979 revolution in Iran, the Shah was forced to flee Iran, never to return. All democratic opposition leaders had by then either been executed by the Shah’s SAVAK or imprisoned, and could exert little influence on the trend of events. Khomeini and his network of mullahs across the country, who had by and large been spared the wrath of SAVAK, were the only force that remained unharmed and could take advantage of the political vacuum. In France, Khomeini received maximum exposure to the world media. With the aid of his clerical followers, he hijacked a revolution that began with calls for democracy and freedom and diverted it towards his fundamentalist goals. Through an exceptional combination of historical events, Shiite clerics assumed power in Iran.
Khomeini’s gradual crackdown on MEK in fear of their popular support
In internal discourses, Rajavi the remaining leader of the MEK, argued that Khomeini represented the reactionary sector of society and preached religious fascism. Later, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs, specifically Rafsanjani, pointed to these statements in inciting the hezbollahi club-wielders to attack the MEK.
Following the revolution, the MEK became Iran’s largest organized political party. It had hundreds of thousands of members who operated from MEK offices all over the country. MEK publication, ‘Mojahed’ was circulated in 500,000 copies.
Khomeini set up an Assembly of Experts comprised of sixty of his closest mullahs and loyalists to ratify the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute supremacy of clerical rule) as a pillar of the Constitution. The MEK launched a nationwide campaign in opposition to this move, which enjoyed enormous popular support. Subsequently, the MEK refused to approve the new constitution based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, while stressing its observance of the law of the country to deny the mullahs any excuse for further suppression of MEK supporters who were regularly targeted by the regime’s official and unofficial thugs.
Khomeini sanctioned the occupation of the United States embassy in 1979 in order to create an anti-American frenzy, which facilitated the holding of a referendum to approve his Constitution, which the MEK rejected.
MEK’s endeavors to participate in the political process avoiding an unwanted conflict with government repressive forces
The MEK actively participated in the political process, fielding candidates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. The MEK also entered avidly into the national debate on the structure of the new Islamic regime, though was unsuccessful in seeking an elected constituent assembly to draft a constitution.
The MEK similarly made an attempt at political participation when [then] Massoud Rajavi ran for the presidency in January 1980. MEK’s leader was forced to withdraw when Khomeini ruled that only candidates who had supported the constitution in the December referendum – which the MEK had boycotted- were eligible. Rajavi’s withdrawal statement emphasized the MEK’s efforts to conform to election regulations and reiterated the MEK’s intention to advance its political aims within the new legal system”. (Unclassified report on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran(PMOI/ MEK) by the Department of State to the United States House of Representatives, December 1984.)
However, the MEK soon found itself in a direct struggle against the forces of the regime’s Supreme leader. The MEK’s differences with Khomeini dated back to the 1970s, and stem from its opposition to what is known today as Islamic extremism. Angry at the position taken by the MEK against his regime and worried about the MEK’s growing popularity, Khomeini ordered a brutal crackdown against the MEK and its supporters. Between 1979 and 1981, some 70 MEK members and sympathizers were killed and several thousand more were imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
June 20, 1981- Khomeini’s order to open fire on peaceful demonstration of half-a-million supporters of MEK
The turning point came on 20th June 1981, when the MEK called a demonstration to protest at the regime’s crackdown, and to call for political freedom which half-a-million supporters participated at. Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the swelling crowd, fearing that without absolute repression the democratic opposition (MEK) would force him to engage in serious reforms – an anathema as far as he was concerned; he ordered the mass and summary executions of those arrested.
Since then, MEK activists have been the prime victims of human rights violations in Iran. Over 120,000 of its members and supporters have been executed by the Iranian regime, 30,000 of which, were executed in a few months in the summer of 1988, on a direct fatwa by Khomeini, which stated any prisoners who remain loyal to the MEK must be executed.
Having been denied its fundamental rights and having come under extensive attack at the time that millions of its members, supporters and sympathizers had no protection against the brutal onslaught of the Iranian regime, the MEK had no choice but to resist against the mullahs’ reign of terror.
“Towards the end of 1981, many of the members of the MEK and supporters went into exile. Their principal refuge was in France. But in 1986, after negotiations between the French and the Iranian authorities, the French government effectively treated them as undesirable aliens, and the leadership of the MEK with several thousand followers relocated to Iraq.” (Judgment of the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission, November 30, 2007.)
The MEK today is the oldest and largest anti-fundamentalist Muslim group in the Middle East. It has been active for more than a half century, battling two dictatorships and a wide range of issues. The MEK supports:
• Universal suffrage as the sole criterion for legitimacy
• Pluralistic system of governance
• Respect for individual freedoms
• Ban on the death penalty
• Separation of religion and state
• Full gender equality
• Equal participation of women in political leadership. MEK is actually led by its central committee consist of 1000 women.
• Modern judicial system that emphasizes the principle of innocence, a right to a defense, and due process
• Free markets
• Relations with all countries in the world
• Commitment to a non-nuclear Iran
The MEK remains a strong and cohesive organization, with a broad reach both worldwide and deep within Iran. MEK is the leading voice for democracy in Iran, supported by its interpretation of Islam that discredits the fundamentalist mullahs’ regime.