Modern Maccabees: The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran

It was almost twenty-two centuries ago that a small band of Jewish patriots rose up in rebellion in 167 B.C.E. to throw off the oppressive yoke of imperial rule and religious intolerance that marked the reign of Seleucid Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV. Against almost insurmountable odds and at great personal cost, the leaders of this independence movement — the Hasmonean family of Mattityahu HaKohen and his sons, led by Judah the Maccabee (“the Hammer”) — succeeded after three years in foiling their enemies’ attempts to eradicate them and their beliefs, and re-established an independent, free Jewish state. Their trials, travails, triumphs and tragedies are recorded in the apocryphal books I and II Maccabees.  

The Maccabees are the heroes of the ancient and modern Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.  These brave individuals, as well as their supporters and fellow freedom fighters, have served as role models and heroes for those oppressed by intolerant regimes down through the millennia to this very day.

There exists today another small band of freedom fighters, individuals who have sacrificed their personal pleasures and concerns to fight the tyranny of an oppressive, religiously intolerant regime. I refer to the members of the Iranian resistance movement known in Farsi as the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or in English as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI.) They are fighting the brutal, oppressive, intolerant, and corrupt regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Now, their home is located in Ashraf City in Diyala Province in Iraq, northeast of Baghdad, near the Iran-Iraq border, where they have resided for over two decades.

The Iranian clerical mullah regime of Ali Khamenei and his personally selected figurehead president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, regard the PMOI as its number one enemy, ahead of its declared enemies, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel. The Islamic Republic has spared no expense in its attempts to eradicate this organization and over the past three decades has executed over 120,000 of its members and supporters. It has sent “hit” teams around the world to assassinate its leaders and used every dirty trick in the book to discredit the PMOI.

The Tehran regime is currently engaged in a high-pressure campaign on the Iraqi government of co-religionist Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to have the Iraqi government illegally — in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which guarantees the right of non-refoulment (non-displacement) — forcibly move the 3400 residents of Ashraf to the site of the notorious desert prison fortress of Nigret al Salman in the midst of the Samawa Desert of southwest Iraq, where summertime temperatures approach 150 degrees. Currently the al-Maliki government is besieging Ashraf and has cut off supplies of food, water, medicine and medical personnel, in an attempt to force the Ashraf residents to comply with an order for their forced relocation to Nigret al Salman.

Aided by members of the Iranian regime’s terrorist Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), al-Maliki’s police and Baghdad Brigade attacked Ashraf’s unarmed population on July 28th and 29th of this year, causing eleven fatalities and nearly 500 casualties, and kidnapping 36 members of the PMOI for 72 days until international outcry forced their release. As of this moment, 136 Members of Congress have signed on to House Resolution 704 which calls for the protection and integrity of Ashraf City and its PMOI residents.

The residents of Ashraf are unarmed; they voluntarily disarmed in May 2003 following Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which they remained non-combatants despite being bombed by allied forces and suffering some 50 fatalities. When attacked by the Iraqi army units this past July, they stood defenseless while attacked, and did not return blow for blow. These courageous 3400 individuals include over 1000 brave Iranian women, and as videos clearly demonstrate, the women and men of Ashraf stood shoulder to shoulder to repel the Iraqi invasion with nothing but their bare, outstretched  arms.

What motivates someone to stand defenseless before an attacker and stand rather than run? What inner fortitude motivates such individuals? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that it is the same courage and commitment to the freedom of their beloved homeland of Iran that has motivated their fellow resistance member, Mother Rezai to give seven of her nine children to the cause of freedom of Iran, three to the late Shah’s executioners, and four — including a daughter — to the henchmen of Ayatollah Khomeini. Mother Rezai’s fortitude and courage in the face of such cruelty visited personally upon her family, resembles the heroism of Hannah and her seven sons, as recorded in the Book of II Maccabees 7. I am proud to be able to say that my family knows Mother Rezai and that we have visited with her and her remaining sons — our friends — on several occasions.

Although the PMOI voluntarily disarmed in 2003, having renounced violence two years prior, the 3400 residents of Ashraf meanwhile have not been “twiddling their thumbs”. Starting in 2004, Ashraf became the site of intensive talks between Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities, brokered by the PMOI which provided Ashraf as a safe neutral ground for all those who would reject fundamentalism and violence. The result after five years is the formation of the Solidarity Congress of the Iraqi Peoples with a membership of 5.2 million — Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians — and the organization of over 3.5 million Shiite Iraqis into parties rejecting Islamic fundamentalism and Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. No wonder the al-Maliki government — comprised of Shiite fundamentalist parties that include the al-Daawa and the SIIC (Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council) — wants to expel the PMOI from Iraq.

The PMOI has helped the majority of Iraqis to realize that the Islamic fundamentalism that the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to export to Iraq is inimical to their well-being and the political independence of the Iraqi people.

The PMOI has also been in the forefront of the efforts to reveal Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program as well as to organize the Iranian People to oppose the corrupt regime of Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although outlawed in Iran, the PMOI maintains an extensive intelligence network inside Iran as it enjoys considerable support there (as well as abroad) despite regime propaganda to the contrary.

The PMOI was — at the request of the Tehran regime — declared a “foreign terrorist organization” by the United States during the Clinton administration.  Having been removed from the like “Proscribed Lists” of the United Kingdom in 2008 and that of the European Union in 2009, the PMOI anticipates that its legal status will improve in the United States once its case is reviewed in federal court next year. It will have been thirteen long years that this anti-fundamentalist Iranian Moslem organization has been fighting to restore its good name because of an ill-conceived political deal made between the U.S. State Department and the Tehran regime of Ali Khamenei in 1997. Unfortunately, having pulled the wool over American government eyes for much of that time, the mullah regime has been very busy building weapons and supplying anti-Western regimes and groups with weaponry and cash, literally buying proxies in its war against us.

The PMOI, long aware of the treachery of the Tehran regime, its corruption and its hegemonic designs for the region, has been a leader in revealing the nature of Khomeinism and Iranian Islamic fundamentalism. If world leaders such as President Obama have any sense, they would be very well advised to start to heed carefully the warnings that the PMOI have been giving.

It was seven years ago that my friend Alireza Jafarzadeh, then spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran — the Iranian parliament-in-exile of which the PMOI is an important constituent member — revealed the Iranian regime’s clandestine nuclear research and warned the world that it was a weaponization program. It is finally this week that our intelligence agencies are admitting that the PMOI has been correct all these years.

It isn’t always true, but here the old Middle East adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend really is correct. The PMOI is on our side in our battle to bring genuine democracy — a democracy that embraces civil rights and the rights of the minority as well as the dignity of the individual, no mater what race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference — to Iran and the Middle East. It’s time that President Obama and the other leaders of the Free World stop appeasing the clerics and the terror-sponsors of Tehran and support those that fight for freedom and the dignity of the individual. The nuclear clock approaches midnight, and our shrinking planet really needs some truth and honesty.

Trita Parsi, Vali Nasr, Susan Maloney and Ray Takeyh to the contrary, if we are to stop the Islamic Republic of Iran — the number one state sponsor of terrorism worldwide from acquiring nuclear weaponry — it will be important to support the Iranian People to remove the current regime. That “reformation” requires that we unshackle the Iranian opposition and permit it to act with the Iranian populous against the regime. If the PMOI is worthy, the people will embrace it; if not, they will reject the PMOI. But it’s long overdue that we stop protecting the mullahs from the PMOI. Allow the good people of Iran to choose whom they trust to serve them and help them bring a secular democratic republic to their nation; they’ve earned that right after thirty years of living in the hell of a Khomeinist Islamic republic.