Since its establishment in September 1965, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) was fighting against the Shah [monarchic] dictatorship until the 1979 Revolution. However, the religious dictatorship pushed the PMOI/MEK to continue its long-standing struggle for freedom, equality, justice, and basic human rights even after the Shah toppling.
The mullahs are not all that different from the Shah in the ways that really matter – respecting people’s rights, which is more the domain of the PMOI/MEK – and the differences are mainly superficial. They remained loyal to the Shah through the 1906 Revolution and Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq‘s national movement right up until the last days before the 1979 revolution; although they did object to modernization plans, like allowing women to vote.
The Shah had in his final months in power made some small concessions to human rights because he feared that not doing so would damage Iran’s relationship with the U.S., which under President Jimmy Carter had made a push for human rights around the world. This is what meant that the people were allowed to protest without being killed and ultimately brought down the Shah.
The founder of the mullahs’ regime Ruhollah Khomeini, who came back to Iran two weeks after the Shah left, misled the Iranian people by promising to replace the monarchy with a democratic government, but made himself King in all but name and instituting a system of government based on the mullahs’ warped interpretation of Islam, which has nothing at all to do with the PMOI/MEK’s interpretation.
Although he refused to give detailed plans or policy information, which would expose his political leanings, Khomeini said that his regime would support many policies, which were popular with PMOI/MEK supporters and Iranians at large, to gain the support of people initially. These were quickly walked back his promises of equal rights for women, a free press, peaceful relations with other countries, and democracy.
They used the strategies of “khod’ eh” and “tanfih” to trick their opponents and the country at large to minimize opposition by masking their true beliefs. Sadly, this worked and the people were tricked into viewing Khomeini as an elder statesman who opposed the Shah, would not bend to the backward view of Islam and would allow them to choose a new government.
“[T]he Shah did not destroy the religious institutions. He compromised with them, and they with him… [And that Khomeini almost immediately] began to monopolize power and concentrated everything in the hands of the clerics around him,” PMOI/MEK Leader Massaoud Rajavi said.
The PMOI/MEK leader explained that many democracy and freedom supporters were unable to fill the Shah’s power vacuum as a result and that Khomeini rejected a constituent assembly being elected, opting to appoint a clergy-dominated Assembly of Experts, and imposed the velayat-e faqih [Guardianship of Jurist] constitution, which is a government based on the rule of the Supreme Leader, which Khomeini made himself.
“Step by step, the fundamentalists’ ogre began to wipe out the achievement of the revolution and solidify an autocratic theocracy in the name of Islam,” Massoud Rajavi added.