Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, September 5, 2020—Fifty-five years ago, on this day, three young Iranian intellectuals in their mid-twenties embarked on a journey to realize the long-suppressed dream of freedom and democracy in Iran. Mohammad Hanif Nejad, an agricultural engineer from Tabriz, Saeid Mohsen, a mechanical engineer from Zanjan, and Ali Ashghar Badizadegan, a chemical engineer from Karaj, gathered in a small apartment in Tehran and planted the seeds of what later became the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the most-organized and longest standing opposition movement in Iran’s modern history.
During their youth, all three had been supporters of Iran’s popular prime minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and had closely witnessed how the Shah regime had suppressed all efforts for the establishment of a free and democratic government. But while others had retreated into solitude and despair, the founders of MEK sought a solution to the deadlock in Iran’s freedom movement.
Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh among his supporters
Hanifnejad, Mohsen, and Badizadegan studied the past resistance movements in Iran and other countries and laid the groundwork for an organization that would be entirely devoted to serve the people. Given past experiences, it was clear that the only way to achieve freedom in Iran would be to overthrow the Shah regime. The founders of the MEK had no delusions that the path that lay ahead was dark and treacherous. They meticulously recruited members from among Iran’s elite students, and one by one, the MEK grew from a trio to dozens and hundreds of members.
The path toward freedom would not be without sacrifices. In 1970, the Shah regime arrested most MEK members, including all three founders and its senior members. Hanifnejad, Mohsen, and Badizadegan were given death sentences for founding the opposition movement. The Shah regime offered them pardon in exchange for disavowing their ideals and bending the knee to Iran’s tyrant monarch.
PMOI/MEK members in Shah's military court
Hanifnejad and his co-founders knew that only a great sacrifice on their part would ensure that Iran’s freedom movement would stay alive. They openly rejected Shah’s offers and proudly faced the firing squad. The Shah regime celebrated their deaths as a victory, not knowing the founders of MEK had set an example of selflessness and devotion to freedom that would outlive his regime and continue to grow in the hearts of the Iranian people for more than half a century.
After the death of MEK’s founders, Massoud Rajavi, the sole-surviving senior member of the fledgling organization, became the leader of the movement. Massoud Rajavi helped steer the MEK through the trials and tribulations that lay ahead.
Massoud Rajavi in Qasr Prison, a month before 1979 revolution
After the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah regime, the MEK became a very popular movement among the Iranian people. As the regime of Ruhollah Khomeini, who had newly rose to power, began to spread its rule of terror and fundamentalism across the country, people in every city and town flocked to the MEK, which represented the ideals of freedom and democracy that the people had risen for before the revolution.
Like the Shah regime, Khomeini tried to eliminate the MEK through sheer force and brutality. In 1981, he banned all opposition movements, and ordered his Revolutionary Guards to open fire on the peaceful protest rallies of the MEK. Subsequently, his regime rounded up thousands of MEK supporters and members, murdered them in the streets, brutally tortured them in prisons, and executed them by the thousands. In 1988, Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the purging of Iran’s prisons of all members and supporters of the MEK. More than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the MEK, were summarily executed afterwards.
Khomeini's paramilitary forces terrorize people in the streets
Yet, inspired by their founders and leaders, the members of the MEK continued to weather the storm and push back against the repression of Khomeini’s regime.
In tandem, the regime tried to defame the MEK through propaganda and demonization campaigns at home and abroad. Where those efforts failed, it resorted to terrorism and assassinations against members and supporters of the MEK across the world.
But despite the regime’s relentless efforts, the MEK still stands as the largest and most organized opposition movement of Iran and the democratic alternative to the fascist and fundamentalist rule of the mullahs.
Today, the ideals and goals of the MEK have become deeply rooted in the Iranian society and garnered widespread support abroad, and manifest themselves in the brave activities of Resistance Units inside Iran and the tireless efforts of thousands of Iranians who attend the rallies and events of the MEK across the globe.
Resistance Units celebrate MEK anniversary in Iran
Politicians, legislators, human rights defenders and religious leaders across the world acknowledge that the Iranian regime is a threat not only to its people, but to the entire world. They also recognize the MEK as the alternative that can establish freedom in Iran and by extension help restore peace and security in the Middle East and beyond.
Today, 55 years after the founding of the MEK, the spirit of Hanifnejad, Mohsen, Badizadegan, and the hundreds of thousands of martyrs who have laid down their lives for freedom in Iran continue to live in new generations of Iranians who continue the struggle for freedom inside Iran and across the globe.