The People’s Holy Warriors of Iran
The MEK (MKO, PMOI, NCRI) was founded in 1965 by a group of students from Tehran University who opposed the Shah’s regime. Pahlevi’s policy of alignment with the US and westernization of the country displeased a part of the society, which saw in it a loss of its own values and traditions. It is a heterogeneous group where Marxists and Islamists are mixed, who share the idea of direct action and armed struggle as a strategy of opposition to the Pahlevi regime, according to the website MEK, they are, in the mid 60’s the main group of opponents to the Shah’s regime in Iran. They call themselves the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran or MEK (Mujahedin and Khalq).
The intellectual middle classes and the working classes, are those that nurtured militants to the MEK during the first steps of the organisation, Masud Rajavi joins in 67 in Tehran, stand out as one of the ideologists of the group. After 6 years in which political ideas are shaped and a political ideology based on a mixture of Islam and Marxism is formed, the MKO is ready to carry out its first activity.
In the early 1970s they plan their first operation, the attack on Tehran’s electricity grid. However the operation fails, the SAVAK (Sazeman e Ettelaat va Amniyat e Keshvar), the Shah’s fearsome secret police, infiltrated into the MEK’s ranks, disrupts the operation. As a result several MKO activists are arrested and three of their leaders, Mohamed Hanifnejad, Saeid Mohsen and Ali Asghar Badizadegan are executed. An international campaign led by Kazem Rajavi, exiled in Switzerland, in which, according to the MKO website, Francoise Mitterrand, among others, participates, leads to Masud Rajavi, also sentenced to death, having his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
The SAVAK was the intelligence agency of the Shah’s government, specialized in counter-intelligence and counter-insurgency work. It was formed in the late 1950s under the supervision of the CIA and placed under the direct command of the Prime Minister, personally supervised by the Shah. During the early 1960s it infiltrated all areas of Iranian civil society, workplaces, political, social and religious organisations and universities. He carried out censorship in the media, supervised applications for jobs in the state, while monitoring universities for dissidents. One of its main targets is the Tudeh Party, Iran’s communist party, a political organisation that gained considerable strength at the state level during Mossadeq’s rule but was reduced to a residual political force throughout the country in the early 1970s. The SAVAK in the mid-1970s has almost 15,000 members and an undetermined number of informants throughout the country. However, in the face of growing social unrest against the Shah, they are forced to collaborate with the police in a new organisation, the Anti-Sabotage Committee, to coordinate the fight against political dissent.
They are again turning their attention to relevant sectors of society, infiltrating student associations and labour organisations, both trade unions and employers’ organisations, and political parties and organisations considered to be on the left, including the MEK, although they also operate against conservative parties opposed to the Pahlevi regime. At present, the SAVAK has the capacity to control Iranian students studying outside the country, arresting those who are involved in political activities, including in third countries. It is the CIA that provides capabilities to the SAVAK for the development of this type of operation. During the years before the revolution the SAVAK dismantled most political parties and organisations, did not hesitate to imprison, torture and execute political dissidents or any citizen involved in political actions or dissidents with the Shah’s regime. The SAVAK retaliates not only against those suspected of activities, described as subversive, their families and friends are also in the sights of the fearsome secret police. Confiscations of property, withdrawal of passports, loss of jobs are some of the consequences for families of the political activity of some of their members. They operate outside the law, under the direct control of the Shah, control the streets by operating with small groups and paramilitary organisations, have their own prisons and their own powers to detain or prosecute suspects. The last prime minister of the Pahlevi government, Sapor Bajtiar, faced with the drift of the protests against the Shah, tries to limit the power of the SAVAK by purging the organisation of officers who are followers of General Nematollah Nasirí, the former prime minister, but it is too late. With the march of the Pahlevi into exile in January 1979, Bajtiar dissolved the organisation and arrested its former leaders. In September of that year, the organisation disappeared for good under the direct supervision of Ayatollah Khomeini.
In spite of the difficulties and the danger that the political activity in Iran during the 70’s supposes, the actions of the MEK follow one another, achieving a certain relevance with attacks to American companies, Pepsi-Cola, General Motors or the air company PAN-AM, and American interests in Iran, attacks where civil and military personnel of the USA stationed in the country die. Little by little, throughout the decade, all the leaders of the MEK are imprisoned or victims of the violence of the SAVAK. In 1975, while Rajavi rots in the Shah’s jails, the Mek undergoes its first political split, by the Maoist wing of the organization. With the majority of its main leaders dead or in prison, one of the groups that make up the Mek, expresses in a manifesto its abandonment of Islam and declares Marxism the only engine of the revolution. The Islamic organisations opposed to the Pahlevi dictatorship were quick to declare the entire organisation Marxist, causing the MKO to lose much support among the popular classes, who were heavily influenced by religious rhetoric. In January 1979, Rajavi was released from prison, free and recognized as the only leader of the organization. The differences with the Islamic opposition organizations become more acute when they accuse Rajavi of collaborating with the SAVAK in exchange for his freedom. Despite these accusations he leads the Mek in the protests against the increasingly weak government of the Shah, causing a chain reaction throughout the country against the absolutism of the Pahlevi.
Finally, the protests lead to the overthrow and exile of Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, putting an end to his regime and giving way to the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The differences with the Islamic organizations quickly surfaced, because although they coincided at first with the revolution and the processes that led to it, including the participation of the MEK in the assault on the US embassy in Tehran and the subsequent hostage crisis, since Rajavi is opposed to the release of the hostages decreed by Khomeini.
The rise to power of the ayatollahs implied the suppression of political parties, causing a definitive break with the movement led by Khomeini, until it became one of its main detractors. After the revolution, Masud Rajavi ran in the 1980 elections, his candidacy being vetoed by the Islamic organizations, so that the MEK supported the president who emerged from the first democratic elections in the country since 1951, Abol Hassan Banisadr in opposition to the PRI, the Party of the Islamic Republic of Khomeini.
The PRI, founded in 1979 by the clergymen Mohamed Javad Bahonar, Mohammad Beheshti, Akbar Hashemí Rafsanyaní, the current supreme leader of Iran, Alí Jamenei and Abdolkarim Musaví-Ardabilí, all of them very close to the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. The PRI was the unifying element around which Khomeini’s followers gathered in the early years of the Revolution. The principles of the party were based on the Revolution as a way of coming to power and on Islam as a political ideology, in opposition to economic liberalism. One year before the end of the conflict with Iraq, with the Ayatollahs firmly in power, the party is dissolved.
After the invasion of Iran in September 1980, Baghdad begins to finance and provide arms and resources to the MEK and makes the organisation its main source of information on Iran. Months later, pressure from the PRI and the Islamists forced Banisadr to resign from his post as president, and in the first months of 1981, the Mek, the president’s main political support, went over to the opposition, declaring a return to armed struggle as a form of political activity and making the PRI its main target.
After Banisadr’s dismissal in July 1981, Masud Rajavi founded the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), as the political arm of the MKO, to bring together the opposition, including the KDPI (Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran), the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, the Union of Communists of Iran and the Workers’ Party. Days after the dismissal of President Banisadr, after an intense campaign by the Iranian government against the MEK, Banisadr and Rajavi leave Iran and go into exile in Paris. Part of the MKO militants go to Europe, a second group goes to Iraq, and finally a third group of MKO militants remains in Iran, going underground to continue the armed struggle. In the NCRI an autocratic style of leadership is quickly revealed, so that the KDPI splits from the organisation.
During the summer of 1981 the MEK intensifies the attacks on high government officials, fails in its attempt to assassinate Ali Khamenei with a bomb, but on June 28, 1981 the MEK achieves one of its greatest successes, by attacking the headquarters of the PRI, killing 75 people, most of them workers. One of the dead in the attack is Ayatollah Mohammed Beheshti, number two in the Islamic Revolution after Khomeini. Two days later, on August 30, 1981, a bomb attack by an MEK commando killed Iran’s new president, Mohammed Ali Rajai, and the new prime minister, Mohamed Javad Bahonar. Rajai had taken office 15 days before the attack. That summer the MKO kills more than a hundred people.
In October 1981, Rajavi meets Tarek Aziz, Iraqi foreign minister, in Paris, and, granting himself the representation of all the opposition forces in exile, he theatricalizes a peace signature between Iran and Iraq, according to Rajavi, in the name of the Iranian people. The definitive alignment of the MEK with Iraq takes place in 1983, Abol Hassan Banisadr, separates from the NCRI and with him a great number of militants tired of Rajavi’s authoritarianism and the refusal to support Sadam Hussein’s aggressor government.
In 1985 Masud Rajavi divorces and marries Maryam Rajavi, formerly married to an MEK militant, whom he forces to divorce, according to various sources. From this moment on, both share the leadership of the organization. In 1987 the Mek was expelled from France, the terrorist actions attributed to the organisation attacked an Iranian diplomat in Madrid in the summer of that year, and the Mek’s alignment with Iraq in the conflict with Iran led to the Mek being used as a bargaining chip in the kidnapping of French citizens in Lebanon. In exchange for their release, France expelled the Mek from its territory.
The whole organisation is moved to Iraq, Saddam Hussein provides the necessary infrastructure for Rajavi and 1000 of his militants to settle in the country, military equipment, training and logistics. In exchange the MEK would be integrated as a combat force in the Iraqi army. Throughout that year, around 7000 people join the MKO in Iraq, most of them MKO militants, although some also join the opposition to the ayatollahs’ government. According to the NCRI, they remain independent of Baghdad, representing the interests of the people of Iran as the only valid interlocutors with the Iraqi government.
During the war, the MKO specialised in intelligence work and operations on both sides of the Iraqi-Iranian border, directly confronting the CGRI (Guardian Corps of the Islamic Revolution).
In Iraq Rajavi creates the ENL (National Liberation Army) as the armed arm of the MEK, it is also the moment when the organisation settles in Ashraf. It is the moment of greater collaboration with the Iraqi army, leading the attacks to localities in the border and participating in actions in which the Iraqis use massive gas attacks on Iran. On the other side of the border, the government’s efforts to break up the MKO result in arrests and executions of its militants. In early 1988, according to Human Rights Watch, nearly 2,000 of them were executed by members of the MKO, Kurdish and Tudeh militants captured on the front after Operation Mersad or Eternal Light, the last major offensive of the war, executed by the MKO with Iraqi support. In the same year, 5,000 MKO fighters took part in the battle of Kirkuk between the Kurdish rebels and the Iraqi army.
The end of the conflict led the MKO to increase its actions towards its ally in Baghdad, deploying troops and participating in Kurdish repression in Kirkuk and at the United Nations, where the NCRI was struggling to clean up the image of the organisation. The Rajavi were multiplying by giving press conferences as part of an intense propaganda effort. At the same time, they regularly carried out attacks in Iran, operating from Iraq.
In April 1992, the MKO began a chain of attacks against Iranian embassies and interests around the world, which meant that in 1997, the US and the EU included the MKO in the list of terrorist organisations. The NCRI blamed this on a goodwill gesture by the Clinton administration towards the reformist government of Mohammed Khatami.
The MKO’s terrorist actions did not stop after the organisation was placed on the list of terrorist organisations. Between 1998 and 2002, MKO activity multiplied, so much so that in 2002 all EU countries, Canada and Australia recognised the MKO and its political arm, the NCRI, as terrorist organisations.
In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, the US reached a ceasefire agreement with the MKO, taking control of its main camp in Ashraf and five other smaller camps established throughout Iraq, Anzali, near the Iranian border, Bonyad in Baghdad, Alavi in Kut, Faezeh in Basra and Homayoun in Amara. The MKO accused the U.S. of attacking their camps, as a concession to the Tehran government, while in France, the government was operating against MKO interests throughout the country. At that time, the MKO was a large, fully operational fighting force, with 4,000 MKO members stationed at Ashraf, including about 600 vehicles, including tanks, armoured vehicles and transport, artillery and military equipment to arm about 10,000 fighters. It is at this point that Masud Rajavi disappears, his wife assuming responsibility for leading the organisation.
Between 2004 and 2005, an investigation by the USA was initiated to determine the involvement of the MEK in terrorist acts and war crimes that could constitute crimes against humanity, giving rise to a complaint by militants of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in 2005 for war crimes against Rajavi. With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the group lost its main source of funding and political support, and was forced to provide 2002 information to both the US and Israel on an Iranian nuclear programme, unbeknownst to the UN, detailing two facilities in Arak and Natanz for heavy water production and uranium enrichment. After obtaining this information, the United States recognized the right of the militants of the MEK in Iraq to the protection due to civilians in time of war. Until 2009, when the MKO camps came under the control of the Iraqi government, ELN members continued to train as military units preparing for combat, leading to clashes with the Iraqi armed forces between 2009 and 2013. In 2010, the Iraqi government evacuated Camp Ashraf, relocating MKO militants and their families near Baghdad’s international airport to a new camp called Hurriya or Camp Liberty, where the MKO says there are clashes and numerous crimes against its militants by the Iraqi army and allied Shi’a militias. Tehran is of course accused of instigating these attacks. In the same year, the Iraqi High Criminal Court requested Rajavi’s arrest on the basis of overwhelming evidence of the MKO’s involvement, among other operations, in the 1991 crackdown on Kurdish rebels. Again, despite the evidence, in September 2012, the US State Department removed the MKO from the list of terrorist organisations. According to the State Department, several factors were taken into account, including the MKO’s quick disposition towards a ceasefire in 2003, the resettlement and evacuation of its base in Ashraf, as well as an alleged renunciation of violence. Human Rights Watch attributes this to the organisation’s intensive lobbying of Western governments and political bodies. This decision was decisively influenced by the support of the group by prominent US politicians such as former governors Howard Dean and Edward Rendell or the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who from 2009 to 2012 actively participated in a campaign to remove the MKO from the list of terrorist organisations, influencing the US, the EU and the rest of the countries that had declared the MKO and the NCRI to be terrorist organisations.
In mid-2013, the MEK, under the umbrella of the NCRI, established a headquarters in the US, as a key pillar of the campaign to launder and clean up an organisation which, as we have seen, had not given up its weapons and for which there was more than enough evidence of its terrorist activities. In early 2017, Giuliani put pressure on President Donald Trump, urging him to recognize the NCRI as representatives of the Iranian exile and to open talks between this group and the US government. As part of the support that the Trump administration has given to the MEK, in 2017 one of the guests of honor at the NCRI congress was John Bolton, the other was Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, former ambassador to London and Washington, who during his speech gave condolences to Maryam Rajavi, implying the death of Masud Rajavi. In June 2018, Giuliani was the star guest at the NCRI congress in France. He accused the Iranian government of being Marxist, terrorist and a sponsor of terrorism, recognized the NCRI as the resistance of the people of Iran, and insisted on the need for more belligerent policies against Tehran. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and former presidential candidate, another active militant in the cause of the MKO, also spoke at this conference.
Finally, in 2016 the MEK is relocated to Albania, in a camp near Tirana, after an agreement reached in 2013 between Barack Obama and Sali Berisha. According to the Balkan Post, the agreement included the construction of a de-radicalisation centre for MKO fighters from Iraq. According to this source, in reality the camp where the MKO militants have been resettled serves as a military training camp, where security is provided by the organisation and the Albanian government has no jurisdiction. The establishment of the MKO militants in Albania has created more than a few frictions between the Iranian and Albanian governments, the last disagreement following the death of Qasem Soleimani, when Iran called Albania a small and sinister country, an instrument in the hands of the USA, where the enemies of Iran hide, due to the presence of the MKO in its territory, where it has been settled since 2016. It has not gone beyond a mere exchange of declarations and accusations between Ilir Meta and Hassan Rohani, but it can be descriptive of the extent to which the MKO conditions Iran’s relations with third countries. According to Albanian media, the EU even looks at the presence of the MKO in Albania with suspicion.
During the first years of political action, the MKO shapes a political ideology dominated by two ideas, Islam and Marxism. Although God created the world, he also enlightened human beings so that through lessons as the powerhouse of history they would be able to shape the world. This political idea not only confronted the Mek with the Pahlevi regime, but also with Shiite orthodoxy, which considered the Mek’s erroneous interpretation of Islam as a mere excuse to justify terrorism.
With the founding of the NCRI, Rajavi gave the first signs of his authoritarian style of leadership, which, as we have already seen, led to the departure of several organisations from the NCRI.
The MEK went from being one of the most relevant organisations of the revolution that overthrew the Pahlevi, to becoming one of the most belligerent organisations with the government of Tehran. In 1985 Masud Rajavi initiated the ideological revolution of the MKO. Rajavi’s leadership cult was promoted and he came to control all aspects of the organisation, including the control of the militants, who were forbidden to leave the organisation, to control its assets and activities and to work for the organisation, adopting a structure at the organisational level more appropriate to a sect than a political party. With the end of the war between Iraq and Iran and the need to change the image given during the years of the war as a terrorist organisation, the Rajavi abandoned the pseudo-Marxist revolutionary Islamic ideology and embraced, in the eyes of the world, liberal democracy, but without any democratic intention. By their own definition, they oppose the struggle between atheists and Muslims that the ayatollahs’ government promotes and proclaim themselves to be defenders of democracy in Iran. Or what is the same, part of the process of changing the group’s image since the end of the war is to adopt a more friendly image for the West, separating itself from the ideological Marxism adopted by some of the original organisations that formed the MEK 20 years earlier.
The MEK is a complex organisation that responds to a multitude of different acronyms. The MEK is the original organisation, from which the different branches and denominations that make it up derive. Of the different organisations that make up the MEK, the main one is the NCRI, which is considered the political branch of the MEK and is currently based in France. They define themselves as workers for freedom and democracy and declare themselves representatives of the Iranian opposition in exile. The organisation is presided by Maryan Rajavi and is organised around five secretaries and formed by 25 committees, with the aim of planning the future of Iran. These 25 committees act, according to the organisation, as the 25 ministers of the Iranian government in exile. According to the information provided by the NCRI website, the most relevant committees are the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is in charge of influencing both the United Nations and the different governments, political parties, NGOs and organisations of certain social relevance in the countries where they operate. The women’s committee, which works on the rights of Iranian women both outside and inside Iran. Defence Committee, which acts as a sort of intelligence agency, providing information on Iran and its missile programme. Political committee, which analyses the political situation in Iran. Security and anti-terrorism, again, work on intelligence actions against Iranian infiltration of the organisation and on cyber security. It also monitors and controls all the activities of the other committees and the organisation’s militants. Cultural Committee, according to information provided by the NCRI, organises and promotes events on Iranian culture and provides shelter to all artists fleeing the regime of the ayatollahs.
Under Rajavi’s supervision, they meet regularly in a main assembly at the Paris headquarters. They are represented both in the USA and in Europe, where they have delegations not only in France but also in England and Germany.
The ENL is considered the military branch of the MEK, responsible both for the combatants and for the planning and execution of operations.
The president of the NCRI and the MEK is Maryam Rajavi, wife of Masud Rajavi, born in Tehran in 1953. As a student at the university, she joined the MEK along with several of her brothers. The death and torture of several of her brothers in the Shah’s prisons definitely mark Rajavi. She is elected to parliament in the first elections after the escape of the Shah from Iran, but with the dismissal of the Banisadr in 81, she goes into exile in France. In 1985, the leadership of the NCRI is reorganised, Maryam Rajavi is appointed co-secretary general of the organisation, giving rise to a two-headed leadership shared by the Rajavi couple. In 1991, she took over the sole leadership of the organisation, as such she was accused by the Iranian government of being the main perpetrator of the MEK’s involvement in the repression of the Kurds in Iraq. In 1993 she is elected president of the NCRI, at the same time, she unilaterally proclaims herself president of Iran in exile. From this moment she carries out an intense work of proselytism and publicity of the organisation all over the world, especially Europe and the USA.
Since 2003 he has been pressing for the removal of both the MEK and the NCRI from the list of international terrorist organisations. That same year the DST (General Directorate of Foreign Security) arrested Rajavi and 20 members of the organisation at the headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise, accused of keeping several million euros destined to finance terrorist actions. The mobilisation of MKO members led to a ban on MKO demonstrations by the Paris Prefecture following three attempts to immolate them in protest at the arrests. Two MKO members were arrested for incitement to suicide. This fact does not prevent Rajavi from continuing her political activity, being invited the following year to intervene in the European Parliament, where she is presented as the third option, accusing the West of acting either with a speech of appeasement towards the Ayatollahs or of constantly threatening Tehran with war. It was also in 2003 that he began to organise the MEK congresses on the outskirts of Paris, which have given the organisation so much political currency.
With the elimination of the MEK and the NCRI from the list of terrorist organisations, Rajavi focused his political activity on presenting the organisation as the legitimate representatives of the Iranian diaspora in exile, with very intense publicity campaigns and pressure on both governments and political parties to recognise the organisation as representing the Iranian opposition. Since 2016 it has been leading a campaign to condemn the Iranian government for the executions of MEK members during the conflict with Iraq, accusing Tehran of genocide.
Despite this, both in the US and in Europe, the MKO remains an organisation that is viewed with suspicion, several agencies and law enforcement bodies have accused the organisation of sectarian practices, encouraging the cult of leaders among themselves or, as a 2009 Rand report states, practices such as compulsory daily community confession, celibacy, authoritarian practices, forced labour, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, confiscation of property, isolation and confinement of dissidents take place within the organisation. It is noted that during the time that the MKO was integrated into the Iraqi army, the children of combatants in the front line were sent away from their parents to be educated by the organisation and when they reached the age considered appropriate to fight and complete their training, they were returned to their parents to serve as soldiers. This same RAND report in its conclusions indicates that about 70% of the MEK members in Ashraf were forcibly recruited. Similarly, a Human Rights Watch report on the MKOE denounces frequent cases of torture in Ashraf.
Over the past few years they have whitewashed their image and blurred their past as a terrorist organisation, in order to present themselves to other Western organisations and political parties as representatives of the political opposition to the Tehran government. The removal of the MKO from the list of terrorist organisations in the US and the EU has been controversial, as there is no evidence that the MKO has abandoned the armed struggle, and there is no evidence of intensive international image whitewashing. According to Tehran, the change in the US and the EU with respect to the MKO as a terrorist organisation is due not only to the profound work of whitewashing the organisation’s image, but also to bribes paid to politicians, parties and institutions in Europe and America.
The truth is that the abandonment of the armed struggle as a form of political opposition has been determined by the change of political regime in Iraq, its main support, after the US invasion in 2003, and the support given to the organisation by prominent US political figures, who see in the MKO a tool to force regime change in Iran, or at least the way to show the face of political opposition to the Ayatollahs. The NCRI frequently proselytizes in the US and Europe in order to attract funding and support among the political classes, most notably the interventions in events during 2015 and 2016 by Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation of the US Government, for which they have spent nearly 70,000 dollars. At a local level they operate with similar organisations, through which they organise different events and where they solicit contributions for the Iranian opposition in exile, such as the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, Iranian-American Community of Northern or The Society of Iranians professionals in California, USA. In England, they have used the white label Iran Aid. A common practice to attract funding comes from the families of MEK fighters in Europe and the USA, where under the cover of the Iranian diaspora, they form this type of association or organisation, where the MEK is never named, and which through different acts and events collect donations destined for the opposition in exile, which finally end up in the hands of the MEK. Another source of funding is donations from the families that are part of the MKO or from the families of MKO combatants, who, as we have seen, are forced to send their children away from the front, generally Iraq, so that the organisation can take charge of their education. In return, these families make donations to finance the MKO. In most Western countries the MKO cannot apply for or raise funds under this name or any of the other names it uses for the organisation. In Germany they have raised funds under the guise of refugee aid involving even political parties, which otherwise would not have collaborated with the MKO, such as the Greens. In the same way, under the cover of aid to Iranian refugees, they have operated to raise funds from individual donors to whom they promise anonymity, without specifying that these donations go into the coffers of the MKO.
Throughout its history, the MKO has used a variety of names and denominations, MKO, NCRI, ELN…in Iran they are popularly referred to as monafeghin, the hypocrites or the sect. It is considered a blasphemous organisation in which the leader, Rajavi, is worshipped. They accuse the Rajavi of appointing themselves president of the Iranian government and head of the armed forces, and censure the presence of women as combatants in the ranks of the MKO, since part of the MKO’s ideology emphasises the role that women play in the organisation, including during the war between Iraq and Iran, the presence of women in the front line of combat. They consider MKO members to be unthinking machines, and women initiated into the cult of the Rajavi to be sex slaves.
The MEK is not very well established in the country, and its leaders have, as we see, little or no consideration in Iranian society, despite this they operate internally in hiding and have first-hand information about the country. Their historical leader, Masud Rajavi, is still missing and so far it has not been possible to determine whether he is alive, in hiding, as declared by the MEK in 2011, or dead, as suggested in 2017 by Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, and what the causes of his disappearance have been. What is certain is that since 2003 he has been placed in many different scenarios, dead in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, arrested by the US and then transferred to Bahrain, arrested by the Jordanians and handed over to the US, or in hiding in Paris, where he is sure to meet with Obama.
Tehran holds the organisation responsible for the death of nearly 12,000 Iranian citizens around the world. The abandonment of the armed struggle has reduced, theoretically to a minimum, the military capacity of the organisation, because as we can see the capacity to finance and recruit new members is increasing, to which we can add the tolerance with which some western countries treat the MEK, especially the US. For the US, even more so at this time, when the confrontation with Iran is a matter of the first order, supporting, or at least not bothering too much an organisation like the MKO, may be a reasonable option in order to destabilise the government of Tehran. Before taking office in the Trump administration, John Bolton testified at the MEK Congress in France in 2017:
There is a viable opposition to the leadership of the ayatollahs and that opposition is meeting in this room today.