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The resilient MEK: An ideology rooted in freedom and equality

Members of MEK welcome NCRI president-elect Maryam Rajavi in Albania—October 2016
Members of MEK welcome NCRI president-elect Maryam Rajavi in Albania—October 2016

This is the fourth and final part of a series by Mehdi Abrishamchi, a veteran member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK).

In the first part, Abrishamchi discussed how the founding of the MEK gave rise to a popular national movement for freedom, and how the Shah and Khomeini dictatorships failed in their efforts to destroy the MEK. Read the first part here. The second part discusses how the MEK reshaped its organization and continued its struggle for freedom after the mullahs’ regime pushed its members into exile. Read the second part here. The third part discusses how the MEK has managed to weather the storms of its five-decade history through unity. Read the third part here.

After the 1979, as the MEK navigated the political struggles of those days, the second generation of the MEK joined our organization in their thousands across Iran. Several hundred joined us from abroad as they returned home after the revolution. Massoud Rajavi and the Central Committee of the MEK held briefings and lectures for our supporters as it was our first chance to freely and organically connect with our social base, which included university students, scholars, professionals, nurses, doctors, workers, laborers, mothers, ethnics groups, religious monitories, and the families of martyrs and former political prisoners.

As our organization began to operate across Iran, our various chapters provided all the resources, including money, food, shelter and centers for gatherings. Our newspaper, Mojahed, reached the highest levels of subscriptions and sales, making it the most popular paper in Iran’s political history. 

As we mobilized our network to distribute and sell our papers and organize various campaigns, we established libraries, community centers, and various institutions, especially in poor neighborhood and villages. Our goal was to empower society from the ground up and raise public awareness about individual rights and responsibilities in a democratic society.

During that brief period, we had the best practical training in politics and lessons in organizational work. While we all came from various backgrounds, ethnicity, social status and cultures, our organization became a melting pot that operated based on unity where we even addressed each other as brother or sister, a tradition that still lives on today. As we celebrate our differences, we grow together through our unity as brothers and sisters across three generations.

Additionally, our organization delivered ideological training and university lectures by Massoud Rajavi each week at Sharif University of Technology, where the most sophisticated discussions on philosophical and political theory were taught in the simplest terms. The lectures were rapidly formulated and documented into books and audio tapes to the farthest cities and villages of the country, thus providing the greatest education with clear and concrete examples of the most important political events. Talk of these lectures even reached other countries. In the spring of 1980, the French newspaper, Le Monde, acknowledged these lectures as one “of the most important events not to be missed in Tehran.” It added that these “are the courses on comparative philosophy taught every Friday afternoon by Mr. Massoud Rajavi. Some 10,000 people presented their admission cards to listen for three hours to the lecture by the leader of the MEK on Sharif University’s lawn.” These lectures are based on ideological and political message that “freedom is the essence of evolution and the principal message of Islam and revolution,” Le Monde said, adding, “Mr. Rajavi gets help from the Quran, the Old Testament and the Bible as well as from Plato, Socrates, Sartre, Hegel, Marx, etc. to explain the MEK’s ideology.” Soon thereafter, Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and first supreme leader of the mullahs’ regime, banned Massoud Rajavi’s lectures at Sharif University, as he saw how it threatening his own reactionary interpretation of Islam.

These lectures later became the MEK’s greatest asset for educating the future generations and to this day it offers the most comprehensive analytical framework for understanding world politics and social developments.

The MEK has maintained the tradition of such training and has evolved it over time despite all the difficulties. These practices are never intellectual endeavors for us, rather they are essential to our organizational growth and resiliency.

The development of MEK’s ideology

Our ideology has gone through three developmental phases, led by:

  1. Mohammad Hanifnejad (Hanif) in 1965
  2. Massoud Rajavi in 1975
  3. Maryam Rajavi in 1985

Our founders, all university graduates, had been politically active in the nationalist movement led by the late prime minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq. They later became members of Mehdi Bazargan’s Freedom Movement. They left the Freedom Movement after they realized that more serious measures are needed to challenge the corrupt Shah’s dictatorship.  As they set about establishing a new organization equipped with a modern and democratic interpretation of Islam, they were confronted by the traditional clergy, who considered themselves the sole guardians of Islam. In their research and studies of various schools of thought around the world, particularly those relevant to the Iranian society and history, they refuted the reactionary interpretation of Islam which later became the basis that Massoud Rajavi used for his extremely popular lectures at Sharif University.


As Hanifenjad articulated in his discussions with the first generation of MEK, one of the most fundamental aspect of our ideology, which demarcates the boundary between moral right and wrong, passes not through “believers” and “non-believers,” but through the distinction between the “exploiter” and the “exploited.” This was the great discovery of Hanifnejad because it made us different from all other religious and non-religious parties and groups. It gave us a moral compass to navigate through the darkest eras imposed by two dictatorships over the course of our existence. Some of the former members of our organization who ignored this basic guideline quickly went astray during the internal coup of 1975 and joined the fundamentalists.


The second development phase came in as our organization experienced the bloody coup from within in the early 1970s by the splinter group, later named as Peykar. The group denounced our Islamic orientation in favor of a self-styled Marxist-Leninist line and expelled or in some cases killed those members who refused to part ways with the MEK’s original ideology. To save the organization, Massoud Rajavi issued a 12-point declaration while in prison, articulating the Islamic orientation of our ideology. While our members outside prison were being killed by Peykar followers, Massoud cautioned our first generation not to be distracted from the main fight against the Shah’s dictatorship. He articulated a framework that avoided knee-jerk or spontaneous reactions. He showed our organization to take the most principled approach in our struggle for democracy. Massoud said, "the main antagonist in our society and the Iranian people's revolution is not these traitorous murderers, but tyranny [of the regime]."

Massoud Rajavi, clearly said, "They have no foundation and will soon disappear from Iran's political and social scene. Beware: The main enemy is the Shah and his dictatorship! Do not be distracted from the main enemy!” Now, four decades later, we can see how those traitors faded away. It was as a result of Massoud’s great discovery that two generations among us were able to survive the Shah’s and Khomeini’s slaughters and onslaught.


The third development phase, led by Maryam Rajavi, was embracing gender equality as the necessary step to defeat Khomeini’s misogynist regime.  Dealing with issues of gender equality is no small task and continues to challenge even the most democratic countries in the world. Maryam Rajavi, however, presented a practical solution to such a monumental challenge while maintaining the ideological, political and organizational unity of our organization. Her courageous discovery happened during the most critical years of Iran’s history.

Maryam raised the flag of gender equality and helped our organization achieve a higher level of excellence in maximizing our capacities and capabilities within our resistance movement. By removing any trace of sexual exploitation, she strengthened and evolved Hanifnejad’s and Massoud’s earlier doctrines. It was through Maryam’s teachings that the MEK flipped the balance of power against the regime, whose fundamentalist ideology is rigidly and necessarily anchored in misogyny.

It was only through this discovery that the MEK was able to guarantee its survival on the battlefield in their struggle against the most savage and most ferocious exploitative system in the world. A system that not only imposes the most brutal class exploitation in society, but also dominates the society through the most brutal apartheid system - based on gender apartheid - in the form of religious tyranny and fascism. And it places the most ruthless kinds of patriarchal ambitions at the pinnacle of its political hierarchy and the society as a whole.

In closing

As our organization has continued to survive and thrive in the struggle against the greatest and most powerful reactionary force in contemporary history, we continue to maintain our unity and organizational cohesion. While the level of sacrifice has been unimaginable for all of us, across all three generations of the MEK, I must remind the world that our struggle over the last 56 years has been unfolding in three major fronts:

  1. Fighting against reactionary tendencies attributed to Islam at the time of the organization’s inception;
  2. Fighting against pseudo-leftist opportunist tendencies at a time when MEK leaders were imprisoned; and
  3. Fighting against misogynistic tendencies in the form of a religious tyranny ruling Iran today

In 2007, Hossein Madani, a second generation MEK who joined us while living in the United States, said, “the Iranian regime enriches uranium, and we enrich humanity through our resistance and sacrifice.” Hossein was murdered by the mullahs’ Iraqi proxies during the 2013 massacre at Camp Ashraf.

The tables have now turned against the mullahs’ regime on all fronts since our settlement in Albania and the establishment of Ashraf-3. The MEK resistance units continue to expand and organize popular protests and nationwide uprisings inside Iran. The regime is facing a significant across the globe and the infighting among regime factions and its suppressive IRGC has reached an all-time high.

Meanwhile, the MEK holds as its virtues focus, resiliency, sacrifice, honesty, personal accountability, resistance, leadership, organizational unity, ideological and strategic unity.  Perhaps it is because of all these that the regime calls us a “cult.” We will continue to forge a path forward and we are certain that Iran will be free. As Hanifnejad, Massoud and Maryam have said, we will be victorious, and we will liberate our people from the mullahs’ regime.