History and ideology of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) militant group

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Originally published on Instagram on November 25th, 2022

MEK was founded on 5 September 1965 by leftist Iranian students affiliated with the Freedom Movement of Iran to oppose the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This controversial Iranian resistance group was initially a blend of Marxism, feminism and Islamism. It was once listed as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the United States for its alleged killing of U.S. personnel in Iran during the 1970s.

MEK contributed to the overthrow of the Shah during the 1979 Iranian Revolution but lost out in the power struggle. The group refused to take part in the March 1979 Iranian Islamic Republic referendum, and as a result, they were banned from running for office. After the revolution, they bombed the Prime Minister’s office and attacked low-ranking civil servants and members of the Revolutionary Guards, along with ordinary citizens who supported the new government. The MEK was the first group to carry out suicide attacks in Iran.

By 1981, authorities had banned the MEK and begun a major crackdown on the group’s members and supporters, driving the organization underground and by 1983 their base eventually moved to Iraq and France.

The MEK supported Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran and was an arm of the Iraqi intelligence. At the end of the war, they formed a group called National Liberation Army (NLA) and at one staged captured 600 square kilometres of southern Iranian territory, killed 2000 soldiers, and $100m worth of regime weaponry was captured. However, their supply lines were eventually cut off and the Islamic Republic killed many of them until they voluntarily withdrew back to Iraq.

In 1988 Ayatollah Khomeini ordered a series of mass executions of political prisoners across Iran that consisted of myk members. The current president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, was one of the members of “Judges of Death” and ordered the killings of 2800-3800. Because the number of prisoners who were going to be executed was extremely large, the prisoners were loaded into forklift trucks in groups of 6 and hanged from cranes in half hour intervals.

In April 1992 the MEK attacked 10 Iranian embassies including the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York. Some of the attackers were armed with knives, firebombs, metal bars, sticks, and other weapons. In the various attacks, they took hostages, burnt cars and buildings, and injured multiple Iranian Ambassadors and embassy employees.

In the course of operation Iraqi freedom in 2003, air forces of the US and the UK bombed military camps of MEK and forced the group to surrender and hand over their arms.

After operation Iraqi freedom, MEK members and it’s leaders were on the edge of prosecution due to the crimes against humanity. Thanks to the generous financial support of Saudi Arabia, the group managed to pay for advocacy of the US, UK, Canada, and other countries to be taken off terrorist lists.

In 2013, the United States requested that the MEK relocate to Albania, but the organization initially rejected the offer. The MEK eventually accepted to move about 3000 members to Albania, and the US donated $20 million to the UN refugee agency to help them resettle.

In 2019 Rudy Giuliani appeared at an MEK conference in Albania. Both Giuliani and Bolton have received tens of thousands of dollars from the group in exchange for speaking at its rallies and conferences.

The leader Marjan Rajavi considers herself the President-elect of its National Council of Resistance of Iran and considers its members a Parliament in Exile. They advocate for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic government. The group is allegedly supported by the Saudis and has strong lobbying around the world as it is trying to reshape it’s image. In the last few days Marjan Rajabi made remarks to Irish MPs and senators, members of the Canadian parliament and members of the UK Parliament, aligning herself with the movement advocating that she is the alternative.

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