Massoud Rajavi was born in 1947 in Tabas, a small town in central eastern Iran. He earned a degree in political science from Tehran University and in 1967 joined the PMOI, becoming a member of the Central Committee several years later. Mr. Rajavi was a key contributor to the group’s early discussions on religion, history, and revolutionary theory, which culminated in the PMOI’s modern interpretation of Islam.
Mr. Rajavi, along with other leaders of the PMOI, was arrested by SAVAK in 1971. He was sentenced to death and would have suffered the same fate as his colleagues but for the intervention of his brother, Dr. Kazen Rajavi, in Geneva. He organized an international campaign on Massoud’s behalf that included the assistance of France’s top officials.
Mr. Rajavi’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He spent the next seven years in jail and was among the last group of political prisoners to be set free in January 1979.
Mr. Rajavi dedicated most of his time to rebuilding the PMOI. Once a week he gave a lecture at Sharif University that was widely attended. An article in Le Monde by Eric Rouleau described the occasion:
“One of the most important events not to be missed in Tehran is the course on comparative philosophy, taught every Friday afternoon by Mr. Massoud Rajavi. Some 10,000 people present their admission cards to listen for three house to the lectures by the leader of the People’s Mojahedin on Sharif University’s lawn.”1
In early 1980, Mr. Rajavi was a candidate for the president of Iran. Khomeini blocked Mr. Rajavi’s participation a week before the election, offering the feeble explanation that he had opposed the national referendum on Iran’s new constitution, which established a theocratic government. Mr. Rajavi then ran for a seat in Iran’s new Majlis (parliament), but was denied a victory after the mullahs manipulated the vote tally and election process.
Despite these setbacks, growing numbers of Iranians gravitated to the PMOI while support for Khomeini’s regime declined. In June 1981, more than a half million people attended a PMOI demonstration in Tehran. Khomeini feared he might lose power and lashed out at the PMOI, naming the organization as Iran’s main enemy.
PMOI members were summarily arrested, imprisoned, and executed. Forced to leave Iran, Mr. Rajavi traveled to Paris on board an Iranian aircraft from a military base in the heart of Tehran. The historic flight was organized by PMOI supporters within the Iranian Armed Forces.
On February 8, 1982, Khomeini’s agents raided Mr. Rajavi’s house in Tehran. They killed his wife, Ashraf, and a top deputy, Maussa Khiabanni. Mr. Rajavi’s infant child, Mostafa, was held aloft above Ashraf’s bullet-ridden body in front of television cameras by Assadollah Lejevardi, the infamous Butcher of Evin, who vowed to make a “good Hezbollahi” out of the child.
Mr. Rajavi made the difficult decision to initiate a peace campaign during the Iran-Iraq War (see mullahswar.com). He later organized the organization’s relocation to Iraq and the formation of the National Liberation Army, which eventually forced the mullahs to sue for peace in 1988.
Mr. Rajavi managed the affairs of the NCRI and was instrumental in its expansion and resilience. He devoted most of his time to nurturing the organization and supporting efforts to topple the Khomeini regime. While the NCRI is the leading pro-democratic resistance group in Iran, Mr. Rajavi believes it is secondary to achieving the goal of restoring democracy to Iran.
“If at any time, any group or alternative is found to be better equipped to overthrow the regime and guarantee Iran’s independence, democracy and popular sovereignty,” Mr Rajavi said, “we will definitely and wholeheartedly support it, even if it is opposed to our way of thinking.”2
In 1988, Mr. Rajavi’s sister, Moire, and her husband, Asghar Kazemi, were executed among 30,000 other political prisoners by Khomeini’s agents. Two years later, his brother, Professor Kazem Rajavi, was murdered in Geneva by MOIS agents.
In 1989, Mr. Rajavi relinquished his executive responsibilities for the PMOI. His role in safeguarding the principles of the Mojahedin as a Muslim, democratic, nationalist, and progressive organization in the 1970s, in the face of a communist coup, and more importantly, against Khomeini’s all-out assault to destroy the PMOI, has made him a historic leader for the Mojahedin.
His place in history will be remembered alongside the other great Iranian democratic leaders, Sattar-Khan, Mirza Kuchak-Khan and Dr. Mossadeq.