The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, was founded on Sept. 6th, 1965 by Mohammad Hanifnejad and two other young intellectuals, Sa'id Mohsen and Asghar Badi'zadegan . The three wanted to establish a Muslim, progressive, nationalist and democratic organization.
The ultimate goal of the founders, who were all university graduate, was to pave the way for a democratic government to replace the Shah's regime. In contrast to most of their contemporaries, they believed that a new, democratically inclined interpretation of Islam was the means to this end. They set about establishing a political organization that could survive the shah's repression and respond to the needs of ordinary citizens.
Until 1971, however, the PMOI was involved in formulating a new interpretation of Islam that rejected traditional and reactionary understanding of the religion. In six years the Mojahedin succeeded, for the first time, in the modern day Islamic world in presenting a new, systematic and comprehensive vision of Islam that was entirely independent of what was espoused and advocated by the fundamentalist mullahs who considered the interpretation of Islam their exclusive domain.
They and the organization's new members studied the various schools of thought, as well as Iranian history and those of other countries, enabling them to analyze other philosophies and theories with considerable knowledge and to present their own ideology, based on Islam, as the answer to Iran's problems.
The Shah's secret police, SAVAK, arrested all PMOI leaders and most of its member's in1971. Finally, at the dawn of May 25, 1972, the founders of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), Mohammad Hanifnejad , Saeed Mohsen and Asghar Badizadegan, along with two members of the PMOI leadership, Mahmoud Askarizadeh and Rasoul Meshkinfam, were put before death squads and were executed after long months of imprisonment and torture in Shah's SAVAK dungeons. They were the vanguards, who stood against the dictatorial regime of Shah.
Massoud Rajavi's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after a campaign by his Geneva based brother, Dr. Kazem Rajavi (assassinated in April 1990 in Geneva by mullahs' agents) and the personal intervention of the French President Georges Pompidou and Francois Mitterrand.
From 1975 to 1979, while incarcerated in different prisons, Massoud Rajavi led the Mojahedin's struggle for which reason he was taken to the Tehran Komiteh's torture center and tortured to the brink of death. He stressed the need to continue the struggle against the shah's dictatorship. At the same time, he characterized religious fanaticism as the primary internal threat to the popular opposition, and warned against the emergence and growth of religious backwardness and despotism symbolized by Khomeini. These positions remained the Mojahedin's manifesto until the overthrow of the shah's regime.
On 16 January 1979, the Shah fled Iran, never to return. All democratic opposition leaders had by then either been executed or imprisoned, and could exert little influence on the trend of events. Khomeini and his network of mullahs across the country, who had by and large been spared the wrath of SAVAK, were the only force that remained intact and could take advantage of the political vacuum. In France, Khomeini received maximum exposure to the world media and assistance from the French government. With the aid of his clerical followers, he hijacked a revolution that began with calls for democracy and freedom and diverted it towards his fundamentalist goals. Through an exceptional combination of historical events, Shiite clerics assumed power in Iran.
In internal discourses, Rajavi argued that Khomeini represented the reactionary sector of society and preached religious fascism. Later, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs, specifically Rafsanjani, pointed to these statements in inciting the hezbollahi club-wielders to attack the Mojahedin.