Home News Iranian Opposition A Brief Look at the MEK: Part 1: History

A Brief Look at the MEK: Part 1: History

MEK supporters in the Free Iran gathering

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been instrumental in exposing the regime’s wrongdoings since the mullahs came to power, most notably surrounding human rights abuses and the secretive nuclear program. They have also been helping the Iranian people to organize their anti-regime protests over the past few years.

Once the Iranian regime has been crushed, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) will rule for a six-month transition period until free and fair elections can be held. The NCRI is a coalition of Iranian Resistance groups, with the MEK as its largest member, and serves as a parliament-in-exile.

The Beginning

The MEK was founded by three engineers – Mohammad Hanifnejad, Said Mohsen, and Ali-Ashgar Badizadgan – on September 6, 1965.

The trio were members of the Freedom Movement (sometimes called the Liberation Movement), which was created in 1961. The Freedom Movement championed the “democratic principles enshrined in the fundamental laws of 1905-09 [Iranian] Constitution” and supported “political freedom and the separations of power”.

The group was allowed to hold meetings and print newsletters for two years, until June 5, 1963. On that date, large demonstrations, supported by the Freedom Movement, swept Iran following the arrest of Ruhollah Khomeini (more on him later) for criticizing the monarchy.

The Shah’s police (SAVAK) responded with “massive firepower” and killed “thousands of people,” in what is now known as the June Uprising. Then, the Shah outlawed the Freedom Movement and sentenced Bazargan to ten years in prison. 

After two years, the three engineers came together, hoping to find a new way to bring democracy and freedom to Iran, but they knew they needed a new strategy. It would, after all, be foolish to follow the same path as the Freedom Movement and meet the same end.

The trio formed a discussion group with twenty of their most trusted friends and on September 20, 1965, held the first meeting of the MEK. The MEK members were mainly professionals living in Tehran, who met twice a week to discuss religion, history, philosophy, and revolutionary theory. 

Over the next six years, the MEK discovered the true interpretation of Islam, which is tolerant, democratic, and in-line with modern values. They developed a strategy to replace Iran’s dictatorial monarchy with a democratic government, but regrettably, they were arrested by the Shah before they could put it into practice and all but one of the MEK leaders were killed.

During the 1979 revolution, the Shah was deposed and Massoud Rajavi, the one surviving MEK leaders, was released from prison. Khomeini took power in Iran, but rather than embrace the MEK, he tried to bribe them into abandoning their democratic beliefs. When they didn’t, he banned their group and tried to massacre them. But he couldn’t kill their spirit.

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