The Iraqi forces’ brutal attack on Camp Ashraf in April 2011 killed 36 and injured more than 300 unarmed Iranian civilians living in the camp. The attack prompted a wave of sympathy among Iranians with different political tendencies. As a result, a movement to find a solution that will prevent a repeat disaster has emerged. Human rights institutions have become the forefront of this movement
The Iranian regime, which has been spending of million dollars to destroy Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK also known as People's Mujahedin of Iran or PMOI), on one hand is asking its allied Iraqi government to attack and kill Ashraf residents, and on the other hand is working to ensure all the paths to resolve the Ashraf issues are closed. Teheran has even gone as far as to openly threaten European countries offering to accept the camp residents with severe backlash. But most importantly are Teheran’s activities in the halls and offices of Washington to ensure the MEK name remains on the United States’ foreign terror organization list. Keeping MEK on the list aids Teheran in blocking any resolution of the Camp Ashraf issue. It also increases the potential for another massacre, this time with the aim to eliminate the camp entirely.
Legal action taken by MEK
Placing MEK on the US State Department’s FTO list wasn’t a decision based on evidence found on the group’s background in the first place, but rather it was a friendly gesture by the Clinton administration to Khatami’s administration in 1997. As a result, Mojahedin filed a complaint with the State Department requesting it provide the reasoning for keeping the group on the list. The same legal action forced European countries to remove MeK from their terror list.
NIAC leads the Anti-MEK campaign
As a positive decision by the Department of State to delist the MEK seems logical, the Iranian regime and its advocates have launched an unprecedented smear campaign to prevent such an outcome. The campaign is spearheaded by National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its president Trita Parsi. NIAC has published numerous articles, producing video clips and launching petitions as part of its anti-MEK campaign.
NIAC, a pro-Tehran lobby group
Founded in 2002, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its president Trita Parsi have been leading the advocacy efforts in Washington for a friendlier policy toward the Iranian regime.
The government press in Tehran called NIAC the "Iranian lobby in US". One of the prominent leaders of the Green movement Mohsen Makhmalbaf told Washington Times that: “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”
The Iranian community has been very critical toward NIAC mainly because of its friendly attitude toward the Clerical regime. In response to its critics, NIAC launched an intimidation campaign and filed a lawsuit against one of them. The discovery process was very damaging to NIAC president as NIAC's internal documents showed his intimate relation with Iranian ambassador at UN and Parsi's "secret diplomacy" acting as Ahmadinejad's ambassador at large.
These documents show that Parsi collaborated with people inside Iran to launch and advance his lobby in US. These people work with Iranian government.
In November 2009, Washington Times published part of these discovery documents that led to an official letter by Senator John Kyl to Attorney General requesting an investigation into NIAC's lobby in favor of the Iranian regime.
Responding to the smear campaign
Is MEK a terrorist organization?
In a white paper by Iran Policy committee, terrorist allegations against MEK were reviewed and analyzed. The study uses: Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS); Global Database on Terrorism (GTD); and RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RDWTI). Neither GTD nor RDWTI lists the MEK as a perpetrator of any terrorist incidents after 2001.
MEK was founded in 1965 by three Muslim university graduates seeking to replace the Shah’s dictatorship with a democratic secular government that would respect human rights in Iran. What they did was start a resistant movement.
By definition, a resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to opposing an invader in an occupied country or the government of a sovereign state.
Resistance movements can include any irregular armed force that rises up against an enforced or established authority, government, or administration. This frequently includes groups that consider themselves to be resisting tyranny.
The oldest resistance movement in human history is said to be Sicarri’s in first century BCE, a Jewish movement opposing the Roman occupation of Palestine. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified (Luke 14:27), the manner of death reserved for rebels against Rome, was perceived to be a threat to Roman authority. More recent include but are not limited to the Sons of Liberty (1760-1770), American colonists who fought British Empire. More globally known resistances are Algerian Resistance, South Africa anti-apartheid resistance which Nelson Mandela was the symbol of resistance leader. His name was on the United States Terrorist list until 2008.
Did MEK kill Iraqi Kurds in 1991?
- International Educational Development, an NGO with UN, submitted a statement to the UN commission on Human Rights of this allegation on August 1995. Based on this report most of allegations were made by Jamshid Tafrishi-Enginee. The investigators found, tafrishi’s claim to be one of the leaders of Iranian Resistance was false. He joined the Resistance in 1988 but left after 19 months with a low rank.
“In his letter of resignation, hand-written and dated 23 September 1990, he sites personal problems and requests leave to transfer to a refugee camp. He then travelled to Europe where he began to campaign publicly against the NLA. There is compelling evidence that he is in fact an agent of the Khomeini regime’s Ministry of Intelligence. We have not come across any evidence to suggest that the Mujahedin have exercised any hostility towards the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq has its own political agenda in Iran and its members do not interfere in Iraqi internal affairs.”
United Nations Economic and Social Council, 22 August 1995, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/NGO/55
- In an affidavit provided to the US Courts in 2001, Jamshid Tafrishi admitted to his involvement with MOIS.48 .He stated, “I pretended that I was an opponent of the Iranian regime, while I was in fact advancing the assignments given by the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Ministry. In these years, I actively participated in the Iranian regime conspiracy to accuse PMOI of human rights abuses. I was also engaged in other plans… particularly alleging that PMOI is supported by the Iraqi government, to tarnish the image of the organization… From 1995 until1999, I received a total of 72,000 dollars from the Intelligence Ministry as payment for my work on their behalf.” Affidavit to US Court signed on 30 August 2001
- In 1999, Mr Hoshyar Zebari, then head of the Kurdish Democratic Party’s international relations and presently Foreign Minister of Iraq, in An affidavit to Netherland court in 1999 written by Hoshyar Zibari, he wrote, “The KDP can confirm that the Mujahedin were not involved in suppressing the Kurdish people neither during the uprising nor in its aftermath. We have not come across any evidence to suggest that the Mujahedin have exercised any hostility towards the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq has its own political agenda in Iran and its members do not interfere in Iraqi internal affairs.”
Did MEK participate in 1991 Shia repression in Iraq?
Iraqis have been very supportive of MeK members, particularly Camp Ashraf. Since the Iraq liberation, there has been strong support for MeK.
- The Association of Independent Jurists for Defense of Human Rights in Iraq collected signatures of 1000 Iraqi lawyers, who condemned the abduction of 2 members of MeK in Baghdad.
- 2.8 million Iraqis signed a petition in support of MEK and called on the governments of the U.S and European nations to remove PMOI from the terror list in 2005.
- 5.2 million Iraqis signed affidavits supported the group and Camp Ashraf in June 2006.
- 3.6 million Iraqi Shia signed a petition of MeK support.
- 525,000 residents of Diali Province signed a petition to support and demand protection for Camp Ashraf, July 2011.
Did MEK assassinate US citizens in Iran during 1970s?
- Iran Policy Committee in a published book, “U.S. Policy and the Iranian Opposition”, (see chapter 2, page 55) provides a report after extensive investigations of these killings and accusations of the MeK members involvement in carrying out these killings.
- The investigations included but not limited to open-source review of declassified U.S. Government documents, Newspapers reports from the time of the killings, books by a variety of American, Iranian and other authors, In-person interviews with current and former MeK members, Input from Iraqi officials and citizens, Plus discussions with U.S. military officers
- No record could be found to link MeK to the killing of US citizens in 70s.
Ervand Abrahamian in his book The Iranian Mojahedin writes:
- In 1972 through a massive and well-planned assault by SAVAK, 69 members of MeK were arrested, which consisted of nearly half the organization.
- All three founders of MeK and Eleven of sixteen original Central Committee members including Masoud Rajavi were among arrested. Rajavi was in prison for the next seven years.
- The remaining members not arrested divided the organization into 3 separate branches to avoid further arrests.
- One of the leaders was Bahram Aram. He and Vahid Afrakhteh together in a unilateral decision decided to kill Americans to establish their credentials as the most radical elements capable of ousting the Shah. He was responsible for the killing of three Rockwell International Contractors in 1976.
- Vahid Afrakhteh who was eventually caught and executed by the Shah’s forces admitted to ”personally kill Lt. Col. Lewis Hawkins in Tehran in 1973 and to lead the cell that gunned down Col. Paul Shaffer and Lt. Col. Jack Turner in 1975 while speaking with a Western journalist who visited him before his execution.
- In an article titled, “Three U.S. Civilians Slain by Guerrillas in Tehran,” The New York Times reported on August 29, 1976 that, “the three civilian victims were killed by members of the same self styled ‘Islamic Marxist’ anti-Government terrorist group that was officially blamed for the assassination of two American colonels in Tehran last year.”
- In that branching of the ideology of this particular branch was changed to accept Marxism. This has been contributing factor to label Mojahedin e Khalq “Marxist Islamist”.
- The group used the same emblem of MeK only without Koranic verse appearing on the original logo up until few months prior to 1979 revolution, this branch chose to abandon Mojahedin name and the symbol and adopted the new name “The Organization for the Struggle on the Path for the Emancipation of the Working Class” or “Peykar” .
- In conclusion, it was two individuals who were tied to these killings directly and when these murders were carried out, both were operating outside of the legitimate MeK organization.
Did MEK participate in US Embassy Take Over 1979?
Parsi in its article in a desperate effort falsely states:
U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.
- Reviewing the link refers to a letter correspondence between Hon. Lee Hamilton and then Secretary of State Warren Christopher about a resolution to dialogue with PMOI and National Council of Resistance (NCR)
- The document is in the congressional record and can be obtained by the public for review.
- In no section of this document could any statement be found suggesting the above accusation by Parsi.
- The seizure of the American Embassy in 1979 was planned by Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a member of Muslim Students, followers of the Imam’s Line.
- Asgharzadeh was the leader of newly formed Office for Strengthening Unity, a group founded by Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti to counter the influence among university students of the anti-theocratic Mojahedin-e Khalq.
- The others among the group were Mohsen Midamadi, Habibolah Bitaraf and Masoumeh Ebtekar.
- Khomeini himself was behind the attack and strongly supported the group.
- Mojahedin Khalq had no part in the seizure of the US embassy and hostage taking.
- Many of yesterday’s hardliner students now have become Iran’s reformers today.
Did MEK members celebrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks in US?
Parsi in another dull quest tries to alter the attention from his bosses to Mojahedin e Khalq.
In past few weeks more legal action has been taken toward the regime, since it is clear that there are strong evidences of Mullah’s regime roles in that attack.
- Iranian regime colluded with al-Qaeda to facilitate 9/11 attacks CNN reported on May 31, 2011
- Lawsuit hangs 9/11 responsibility on Iran
o "Our experts, including three former 9/11 Commission staff members, have stated that the evidence is 'clear and convincing' that the Islamic Republic of Iran was involved in the 9/11 attacks," said Timothy B. Fleming, of the District of Columbia office of the firm Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis and also an investigative attorney in the case.
IS MEK a cult?
The word Cult has been used cleverly by the regime in Tehran to divert the attention from its own atrocious human rights record to demonize Mujahedin. This tactic has worked for those who don’t know Mujahedin well enough to differentiate between dedication and commitment versus following a group blindly.
The reason some label Mojahedin as a “cult” is that by labeling MeK as a cult opposing the mullahs prompts western countries to seek out other opponents and avoiding MeK. Of course there is no other strong mainstream opponent to the Mullah’s regime except Mujahedin and that should explain it clearly.
Naturally, in the event of not finding a viable opposition, Western governments tend to choose to deal directly with the Teheran government with some changes from within than supporting any opposition.
In 1999 German Security Agency in its annual report noted that Iranian Intelligence Services “focused on the political neutralization of opposition groups and their anti-regime activities. MeK and NCRI continued to be the focus of their interest.”
L.J. West, a foremost specialist on cults, defines cults as a closed society. The cult leaders often force members to close off from the society especially from mainstream.
- MeK members travel, write and speak widely in public places. They actively and consistently reach out to the media.
- They televise all their all hands meeting, elections and sessions.
- They nominate and vote to choose the next head of Mojahedin e Khalq and discuss their views openly.
- Reviewing Sima E Azadi, the organization’s official media, the most recent news, Internet contents, programs are broadcasted daily. That proves the members of the group have full access to the latest news, articles and movies.
- What other organization does all this openly?
Are MEK members detained against their will?
Parsi in another part of his article claims 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes. Referring to a RAND Corporation study.”
- The focus of this report was in particular on whether MeK members were taken to custody and detained under the appropriate terms in accordance with Fourth Geneva Convention or not.
- The only reference to 70% in the report is to the percentage of population of Camp Ashraf joining the camp; which says 70% of the residents join the group after they relocated to Iraq back in 1980s. (page 77/133)
- The Rand’s link, like many other links of this article, either does not work or is redirected to Huffingtonpost.com.
- Contradictory to what is claimed; all Camp Ashraf residents have family and relatives not only in Iran but also abroad. All of them are contacting their families regularly, if they aren’t happy to live in Camp Ashraf couldn’t they tell their relatives when they are contacting them?
- FBI, CIA, other agents, Rand’s own researchers and right now UNAMI have been visiting regularly so why never heard of the voice of this 70%?
- Also why majority of 70% aren’t able to overrule the minority of 30% and leave the camp on their own?
Does MEK lack any popular support?
Another claim made by NIAC-Parsi and mullahs in Iran is that the group is unpopular.
Reviewing this claim brings up other facts:
- Who determines if MeK is popular or not?
- Is there a statistic supporting this claim?
- Has there been any referendum observed by international group to see which group has won the popularity contest?
- Meanwhile the largest rallies outside of Iran are held by the main opposition, in support of MeK.
- During the 1980’s repression, over 100,000 people were killed by the regime. More than 90% of them were PMOI supporters.
- All of them had families, relatives and friends. If not all of them at least half of them are still either supporters of MeK or have positive views on the group.
- Many of those families are currently in prison, such as Farah Vazehan, Shabnam and Farzad Madadzadeh and many more…
- Since December 20th of 2010, 3 supporters of Mojaehdin were hanged and one died due to lack of medical treatment.
- There are 3400 MeK members living in Camp Ashraf who are ready to give their lives for the MeK. So far in two attacks since 2009, over 50 people have lost their lives defending the camp and their rights.
- What other Iranian opposition group has been able to demonstrate such support? They are not even able to gather 1000 people in their rallies.
- On the other hand, Mujahedin supporters know the danger of their support in Iran and still continue their work.
Shirin Nariman is a human and women right activist. She has written on Iran's issues and done analytic articles on changes impacting Iran and Middle East. Shirin was 15 during Iran’s revolution in 1979, and became involved with political activities in Iran. She became familiar and very involved with the Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
Less than two years in 1981, she was arrested for support of PMOI. She became one of the youngest and the most severely tortured at the time. She was visited by Red Cross in Evin’s prison and her name ended up in the Red Cross list of underage prisoners. She witnessed the brutality of this regime including the executions of 13 year old teenager, 70 year old woman, a pregnant woman and to mothers who left their children for their inmates to take care of.
She came to the United States in 1986. In years of living in the US, she has enjoyed freedom and democracy and has every intention of seeing her Iranian compatriots to have the same rights.
She has had several interviews with medias about Iran (see media interviews). Among her researches, she co-authored an analysis on women’s condition and statistics for Beijing +5 submitted to UN.