Tens of thousands of Iranians gather in Paris to express support for Mrs. Rajavi, NCRI, and the MEK

The Rising Appeal of MEK: A Testament to the Regime’s Strategic Failings

NCRI-US Commentary, August 8, 2023

On August 2, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, in connection with the release of a new state-endorsed book aimed at vilifying the main opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), conducted a round table discussion. The dialogue, interestingly, was dominated by regime-aligned figures who, while boasting titles like ‘professors’, ‘writers’, and ‘researchers’, were essentially key players within Iran’s repressive and propaganda apparatus. And yet, in their bids to malign the MEK, they inadvertently conceded crucial truths about the organization’s resilience and relevance.

Mohammad Atrianfar, a former vice president of the Defense Industries Organization of Iran, who once nestled within the “reformist” camp and had close ties with Hashemi Rafsanjani, queried, “Why is the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) so important? What has kept it alive?”

Ebrahim Fayaz, a “researcher” and anthropology “academic”, responded with a note of introspection, saying “History has a way of echoing the past, and it seems likely that the MEK will make a resurgence.” Suggesting that the MEK’s enduring allure might be rooted in the regime’s own opacity, especially towards younger Iranians, he said “Regrettably, the Islamic Republic has failed to offer transparency to this new generation, unable to adequately convey its stance [on the MEK to them.”

Fayaz observed, “The fact that the MEK persists and has preserved its structure and that there are people who desire to join it, isn’t solely attributable to American and Britian’s backing. There’s a significant domestic narrative about the MEK that we haven’t yet turned over.”

Mohammad Qochani, former editor-in-chief of several state-run media outlets, using the phrase “the duality of the government and the opposition,” hinted at the deep societal schisms in Iran, commented that “the MEK has, in many ways, polarized the nation.”

Recognizing the MEK’s role in redirecting protests toward the overthrow of the theocracy, he added, “This organization has amplified the rift between the citizenry and the clergy and the government … So, the issue of the MEK is our issue of today.”

Abbas Salimi Namin, a regime insider within the dominant hardline establishment, succinctly captured the crux of the discussion: “Our primary challenge in the country is the MEK and we have to deal with that.”

It’s telling that the regime, through its authoritative channels, consistently identifies the MEK as its central adversary. This isn’t a mere exercise in the obvious; it’s a blatant acknowledgment of the regime’s failure in marginalizing the MEK—whether through force, propaganda, or politics.

Historically, the regime has been relentless in its efforts to undermine the MEK’s influence. Harnessing an expansive network of domestic and international mouthpieces, the regime has tirelessly promoted the narrative that the MEK lacks a genuine grassroots support base within Iran.

The regime’s previous Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, in a 1980 outburst post a significant MEK rally in Tehran, railed, “Our real adversary is not in America, nor in the Soviet Union, nor in Kurdistan, but right here in front of our eyes in Tehran.” This sentiment paved the way for the subsequent brutal purges of the 1980s, most notably the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political detainees, with the MEK being the main target and bearing the brunt of these atrocities.

Yet, far from vanquishing the MEK, these actions have only steeled its resolve. For almost six decades, the MEK’s unwavering resistance against both monarchic and theocratic dictatorships has solidified its central role in the ongoing quest for a democratic and independent republic in Iran.

The ascendance of anti-regime protests, marked by evolving organizational sophistication and tactical prowess, coupled with the burgeoning international endorsement of the Iranian Resistance’s democratic vision, underscores the regime’s prevailing “MEK quandary.” This sentiment was echoed, unintentionally, by the regime’s very insiders in the aforementioned panel, signaling that the MEK, with its enduring vision for a free and sovereign Iran, remains the most formidable challenge to the theocratic establishment.

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