Written by Staff Writer, July 10, 2020
For the past four decades, the theocratic regime in Iran has endeavored to slander its main democratic opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) – also referred to as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – in order to foster the perception that there is no viable alternative to the ruling dictatorship. There are, however, growing indications that Tehran’s ferocious demonization campaign against the MEK has lost much of its strategic effectiveness. Characterized by censorship and violent persecution of pro-MEK sentiment in Iran and a smear campaign in the Western media, the effort has failed to erase the power of the MEK’s message of hope and change. Despite attempts to downplay and/or eliminate the Mojahedin’s influence in Iran and the Iranian diaspora, the movement’s deep roots have prevailed.
Among its many anti-MEK projects on the domestic front, the regime has spent billions of dollars and dedicated its intelligence apparatus to producing hundreds of books, TV series, and movies presenting a revisionist history vilifying the MEK and its leadership. These efforts – largely spearheaded by the notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – have failed to quell revolutionary support among the people. In fact, the hyperbole often backfires, resulting in a more favorable public perception of the MEK, because the incessant attacks expose the desperation and weakness of the regime.
For example, the MOIS employed Jalil Saman, a Bassij (the para-military branch of the IRGC) filmmaker, to make the anti-MEK TV miniseries “Nafas,” only to realize that Saman’s finished work had left a positive impression of the MEK on its audience. The annoyance of the MOIS was such that Saman’s handlers told him that he should ask for the last installment of his salary from the MEK; since they had benefited from it, they should be the ones compensating him for it. The exchange between the MOIS and Saman, laying bare the regime’s frustration at the ineffectiveness of its efforts to control the narrative about the MEK, was documented in the state-run Etemad newspaper.
The nationwide uprisings in January 2018 and November 2019 attest to the role that the MEK and its resistance units play in Iranian society. Often organized and inspired by the Mojahedin, the protests embodied the Iranian people’s embrace of the vision for a free Iran put forth by the MEK. Even Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was obliged to acknowledge the MEK’s part in organizing the unrest.
Internationally, governments are becoming increasingly aware of the misinformation peddled by the regime. In June 2020, the German court issued an emergency ruling against a hit-piece published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung. The court declared that the allegations against the MEK were unsubstantiated and slanderous and those malicious passages had to be omitted, a clear blow to the regime’s credibility. The ruling was the second by a German court. The first was in March 2019, when the court ruled that an article in Der Spiegel, which accused the MEK of torture and terrorism, was libelous and the paper was ordered to remove the reference from its website.
Perhaps the biggest sign of the propaganda campaign’s failure to achieve its strategic objective on the global stage is in the US, where a broad bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives sponsored H.Res. 374, entitled, “Condemning Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.” The resolution acknowledged and condemned the regime’s attempts to bomb the Resistance’s 2018 “Free Iran” conference in Paris, France, and the bomb plot against the March 2018 New Year’s gathering of thousands of Iranian opposition members at the MEK’s Camp Ashraf in Albania.
At a time of unprecedented partisanship, H.Res 374 signals a consensus of support for the democratic movement for a free Iran led by the MEK. And it makes it equally clear that the regime’s propaganda barrage isn’t fooling anyone.
Ultimately, the threat the MEK poses to the Iranian regime is an alternative value system, not just differing politics. The regime recognizes that an ideology based on freedom and human rights is both powerful and attractive to Iran’s oppressed population. That appeal explains why the regime fears the MEK so much, and why, having lost all credibility, it resorts to slander in a bid to cloud the waters about a viable alternative. Although the regime can and does use violence in its efforts to suppress and intimidate pro-MEK support in Iran, it has not and can never kill the desire for freedom that reverberates throughout Iranian society. That yearning will always guide the people in the direction of the MEK, as the most effective organization dedicated to establishing freedom in Iran.