Mojahedin-e-Khalq

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The Mojahedin-e-Khalq is also known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the Mujahideen al-Khalq, the Mujahideen al-Khalq Organization (MKO), or The People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI). Its armed wing is called the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA). The organization, which was founded in 1965, is today a violent guerrilla group that opposes the Islamic Iranian government. The MKO has been officially designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States and is proscribed in the European Union, though the movement claims to be a "patriotic, Muslim and democratic organization". They have been accused of torturing dissident members by Human Rights Watch [1] (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/18/iran10967.htm)[2] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1495712,00.html).

Contents

History

The MKO began life as one of the most radical factions opposed to the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and during the 1970s carried out violent terrorist attacks against that government. Some also blame the group for attacks on American interests and the murder of Americans during that time.

While initially playing a key role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution because of its ability to mobilise hundreds of thousands of workers, students, and most importantly, many younger army officers, it lost out in the subsequent power struggle and was prohibited from taking part in the post-revolutionary government because of its leftist leanings. Its initial mass protests and demonstrations were clamped down upon by the new government and many (some sources say thousands) supporters and members were arrested and killed. Eventually MKO was driven from Iran and has had to operate from abroad since the early eighties.

Following the initial clamp down on its mass protests, the movement changed tactics and employed targeted assassinations and bomb attacks against representatives and officials of the Islamic Republic. It is difficult to estimate the exact extent of this campaign which still continues, as both MKO and the Iranian government have been accused of exaggerating their claims. The MKO's motive is supposed to be to further fund raising, while the Iranian government has been accused of trying to shift blame for events unrelated (see Haik Hovsepian). The movement has been accused of perpetrating a large number of assassinations and bomb attacks, including the killing of Mohammad Beheshti and Mohammad Javad Bahonar. The movement also launched several full scale military campaigns during the eighties and nineties, the largest of which was an attempt in 1988 to capture Kermanshah using weaponry largely supplied by Iraq. The invasion force was nearly annihilated by the Iranian military.

Initially in league with other Iranian exile politicians (like Abolhassan Banisadr) the MKO formed the National Council of Resistance (NCR). Nowadays the MKO is the only significant member organisation of the NCR and the NCR is essentially a front organisation of the MKO.

From the Iran-Iraq war until the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the MKO was supported by the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, which provided military equipment, funding, and bases for the organisation. After initially having the headquarters of the organisation in Paris, France, this was subsequently moved to Iraq, as well. Apart from the military action against Iran, Saddam Hussein also used the MKO to occasionally quell internal uprisings, particularly among the Kurds in 1991.

Post-invasion

After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 the MKO's weaponry was seized and the personnel initially placed under armed guard in a camp outside Baghdad. In August 2004, despite its own labeling of the MKO as a terrorist group, the United States granted the personnel in Iraq Geneva Convention protection, making deportation to Iran illegal. Earlier in 2004 there had been persistent rumours that Iran and the United States were negotiating exchange of MKO leaders for al-Qaida operatives held by Iran. This change in policy has led to increased speculation that the MKO may be used by the United States in potential future operations against Iran.

In recognition for its work against the Iranian Islamic revolutionary government, the movement has enjoyed long periods of freedom and, not uncommonly, public support within the Western world. The world wide headquarters was for many years in Paris, France and even after moving to Iraq during the early 1980's the base in Paris remained large and active. Similarly its operatives were - legally or at least well tolerated - active in Germany, Denmark and many other countries of the European Union. The NCR maintained an Information Office in Washington DC, USA, until its designation as a terrorist group. This designation has never been accepted unanimously. In 2003, over a hundred members of the United States Congress signed a letter calling for the lifting of this designation. Similarly, the activities in France were allowed to continue long after the official proscription in the EU. It was only in June 2003 that the group had some of its French properties raided, after suspicions that it was trying to shift its base of operations there. [3] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3010422.stm). Maryam Rajavi remains freely living in Paris and the MKO maintains its web presence without any obvious difficulties [4] (http://www.mojahedin.org).

Ideology and reaction

Ideologically, the MKO is difficult to describe. While originally being based on an amalgamation of socialist and Islamic ideas similar to the teachings of Ali Shariati, the MKO was subject to a number of rapid ideological shifts (each allegedly accompanied by severe internal purges) and has developed a strong sense of veneration for its leading couple, Masoud Rajavi and Maryam Rajavi, which some have described as a personality cult. There have been allegations that the MKO were running prison camps within Iraq and were committing severe human rights violations. To the Western world, the MKO tries to present itself as a pro-democratic and moderate political movement.

Most Iranians - whether supporters of the Islamic Republic or vehemently opposed to that regime or anyone in between - are nearly unanimous in their dislike for the MKO, especially after they moved to Iraq and co-operated with Saddam Hussein. Their record clearly shows that to achieve their political goals they have not hesitated to step on any principles. They used to kill Americans in Iran, then they helped usher in the Khomeinist Islamic regime in Iran, then they were the most ardent supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, then Saddam, and now they flirt with Washington. It is hard to even imagine a more diverse hypocritical record than this. The only Iranians who support this group are the members of the group themselves, and to a lesser degree, their family members inside Iran. But compared to Iran's total population, they are a mere non-entity.

References

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