People's Mujahedin of Iran
The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or the Mojahedin-e Khalq (Persian: سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران, romanized: sâzmân-e mojâhedīn-e khalq-e īrân, abbreviated MEK, PMOI or MKO), is an Iranian political-militant organization based on Islamic and socialist ideology. It advocates overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership and installing its own government. It was the "first Iranian organization to develop systematically a modern revolutionary interpretation of Islam – an interpretation that differed sharply from both the old conservative Islam of the traditional clergy and the new populist version formulated in the 1970s by Ruhollah Khomeini and his government". The MEK is considered the Islamic Republic of Iran's biggest and most active political opposition group.
MEK was founded on 5 September 1965 by leftist Iranian students affiliated with the Freedom Movement of Iran to oppose Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The organization engaged in armed conflict with the Pahlavi dynasty in the 1970s and contributed to the overthrow of the Shah during the Iranian Revolution. It subsequently pursued the establishment of a democracy in Iran, particularly gaining support from Iran's middle class intelligentsia. After the fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the MEK refused to take part in constitution referendum of the new government, which led to Khomeini preventing Massoud Rajavi and other MEK members from running office in the new government. This created conflicts with Ayatollah Khomeini and by early 1981, authorities had banned the MEK, driving the organization underground.
The MEK organized a large demonstration against the Islamic Republic party and in support of president Abolhassan Banisadr, claiming that the Islamic Republic had carried out a secret coup d'état. Afterward the government arrested and executed numerous MEK members and sympathizers. According to Sandra Mackey, the MEK responded by targeting key Iranian official figures for assassination: they bombed the Prime Minister's office, attacked low-ranking civil servants and members of the Revolutionary Guards, along with ordinary citizens who supported the new government. Struan Stevenson and other analysts say that the MEK targets included only the Islamic Republic’s governmental and security institutions.
The MEK attacked the Iran regime for "disrupting rallies and meetings, banning newspapers and burning down bookstores, rigging elections and closing down Universities; kidnapping imprisoning, and torturing political activists". The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps raided MEK safe houses, killing Massoud Rajavi's first wife, Ashraf Rabi'i, and Musa Khiabani, MEK's second in-command at the time.
The organization gained a new life in exile, founding the National Council of Resistance of Iran and continuing to conduct violent attacks in Iran. In 1983, they sided with Saddam Hussein against the Iranian Armed Forces in the Iran–Iraq War, a decision that was viewed as treason by the vast majority of Iranians and that destroyed the MEK's appeal in its homeland. In 1986 the IRI requested France to expel the MEK from Paris, so it took base in Iraq where it fought against Iran during the Iran–Iraq War alongside the Saddam Hussein's army, and assisted Saddam's Republican Guard in suppressing the 1991 nationwide uprisings against Saddam. In 2002, the MEK was a source for claims about Iran’s clandestine nuclear program. Following the occupation of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces in 2003, the MEK signed a ceasefire agreement with the U.S. and put down their arms in Camp Ashraf.
The European Union, Canada and the United States formerly listed the MEK as a terrorist organization. This designation has since been lifted, first by the Council of the European Union on 26 January 2009, by the U.S. government on 21 September 2012, and lastly by the Canadian government on 20 December 2012. The MEK is designated as a terrorist organization by Iran and Iraq. In June 2004, the U.S. had designated members of the MEK as ‘protected persons’ under the Geneva Convention IV relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which expired in 2009 after full sovereignty of Iraq. Many experts, various scholarly works, media outlets, UNHCR, HRW and the governments of the United States and France have described it as a cult built around its leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi.