The Rise of the MEK and Overcoming the Regime’s Smear Campaign.
On Tuesday, July 17th, E-International Relations posted an article from Ramesh Sepehrrad entitled, “A Revolution is Brewing in Iran but What Comes Next”. As the title suggests, the article argues that Iran is on the path to a revolution and the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) will be an integral part of Iran’s future.
Sepehrrad explores the rise of the MEK, its role in the protests, and its ability to overcome the aggressive smear campaign launched by the clerical regime.
The MEK’s role in Iran’s Protests
Sepehrrad begins the conversation about Iran’s future by looking at the most important players in Iran’s opposition and political landscape. This brings him to the MEK. He writes, “no one can provide an account of Iran’s contemporary political history without reference to the MEK”.
The MEK has been operating in Iran for more than five decades. Sepehrrad points to the MEK as the only group with experience managing a large-scale volunteer force, the only group which possesses extensive international support networks, and the only group with a proven record of challenging inequality and human rights abuses in Iran.
The MEK had a major role in the recent uprisings. Spokespeople for the regime have publicly acknowledged the MEK’s role in inciting protests, as have state news sources, and regime-affiliated intellectuals.
In Kazerun, Sepehrrad says, the protestors slogans were inspired by the MEK. Similarly, following the recent protests in Tehran, which forced the closure of the Bazaar, Iranian security forces issued a statement which read, “many rioters arrested in the unrest have been trained by the MKO [MEK]”. The MEK’s fingerprints have been all over the defining moments which have pushed Iran to the brink of a revolution. The MEK has been a powerful voice and effective mobilizer among the Iranian population. It only seems right that the MEK would be involved in Iran’s future following the fall of the regime.
The view of the Iranian people
Sepehrrad goes on to examine the view held among Iranians towards the MEK. Since the first days of 2018, Iran has been racked with protest and civil disobedience. In response to the growing public unrest, the regime has intensified efforts to publicly vilify the MEK.
In spite of heavy criticism from Iranian state-run media outlets, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and the regime’s lobbies and agents abroad, the MEK has survived, and even expanded and grown its operations, demonstrating extensive support from Iranians both at home and abroad. The reason for its success is that the Iranian population support MEK members. They see the members of the MEK as the “best” Iran has to offer.
An intense smear campaign from the Iranian regime has created mixed feelings towards the Iranian leadership. However, as Sepehrrad points out, a pattern has emerged. Groups that have interacted and come into contact with the MEK directly, through intermediaries or family members, have a strongly supportive view of the organization. Those that have negative opinions of the MEK and its leadership have usually not come into contact with the organization directly and are, therefore, more likely to be affected by the extensive smear campaigns in the international and national press.
Refuting the falsehoods about MEK
Sepehrrad briefly explores the lies frequently disseminated by the regime about the MEK and its supporters in an attempt to shed some light on the ugly campaign of hate that the regime has embarked on.
The regime frequently airs the question, “why did the MEK side with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war?” But 15 years after the war, no evidence has emerged to support the claim that it did. The MEK had bases on Iraqi soil at the time, due to the situation in Iran, where the widespread persecution and murder of its members at the hand of the regime had created a domestic climate that forced the MEK to relocate its headquarters. However, this does not amount to siding with Saddam Hussein.
This is just one example of misinformation which is repeatedly printed in state-run media and regime-affiliated publications across the world. The regime’s campaign to vilify the MEK has been relentless. The regime spews the same falsehoods at every opportunity, without offering a shred of evidence to support its claims.
Sepehrrad highlights Ambassador Lincoln Broomfield’s independent assessment in 2011 of the regime’s claims. Broomfield is a former Deputy Assistance Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and undertook a mammoth task of debunking all the regime’s falsehoods and tracing them back to their source. The 94-page report finds that almost every one of the regime’s claims about the MEK can be traced back to a regime representative as the original source.
MEK, after 2016
Sepehrrad singles out a moment in 2016 as the incident which derailed the regime’s smear campaign. Audio recordings of the late Ayatollah Montazeri were leaked to the public by his son. On the tapes, Montazeri berated officials responsible for the 1988 massacre, in which the regime executed 30,000 members of the MEK in a single summer. Montazeri is clearly heard saying, “you cannot eradicate their beliefs by killing them all” and goes on to provide details of the killings.
This had a profound effect on the Iranian youth. It opened their eyes to the fact that the regime routinely lied about the MEK and its involvement in their suppression. Since 2016, the MEK has been able to better connect with the country’s youth, both because of their newfound skepticism for the regime’s misinformation, and because of the MEK’s shrewd use of technology and social media.
The MEK regularly holds Q&A sessions online. It makes the group accessible and open to those who wish to find out more.
This has left the regime scrambling for solutions. The head of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, Admad Jannati said, “cyberspace is a blow to our life”, acknowledging that the regime is losing the online battle for Iran’s youth.
MEK’s support abroad
The MEK has also successfully expanded its support from the international community in recent years. Its annual Grand Gathering draws in crowds of more than 100,000 supporters, including delegations from North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Among Iranians abroad, the MEK also features prominently in their hopes for Iran’s future. In his piece, Sepehrrad quotes one who said, “let’s hope the MEK can bring this regime down because they are the only one who can”.
The MEK continues to pick up momentum, capturing the hearts of the Iranian youth, both at home and abroad. Despite immense criticism from the regime, the MEK has managed to expand its support base, and emerge as the most effective and viable opposition group in Iran. Those that come into contact with the group, overwhelmingly describe positive experiences.
This is when #MEK members join (Via video) to their beloved supporters, the #Iranian diaspora who love their country and their heroes and heroines (MEK) who have devoted everything in their lives to #FreeIran & bring #IranRegimeChange.#IStandWithMaryamRajavi
— Ka Veh (@kaveh20092009) July 21, 2018
In the coming months, the MEK will continue to build on its successes and continue its efforts to topple the regime. As Sepehrrad says, the Iranian vehicle is on the road to revolution, and the MEK are in the driving seat, with the map, navigating the country to a brighter democratic future.