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Understanding Iran Opposition MEK “Resistance Units”

MEK Resistance Units hung banners of Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition on a Passover- File photo
MEK Resistance Units hung banners of Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition on a Passover- File photo

The Middle East is a region of constant turmoil due to the malign meddling of the extremist theocracy ruling Iran. Through such terrorism, Tehran attempts to mask its domestic turmoil, a fire simmering beneath the ashes threatening the very foundation of the mullahs’ rule.

Despite it's warmongering and support for terrorism that overwhelms many governments, the most formidable foe Tehran faces is the principal democratic opposition movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Many groups have come and gone in the past 40 years while the MEK has paid the demanding price of the struggle, standing firm on its principles while suffering over 100,000 supporters being sent to the gallows.

Over 30,000 such MEK members and supporters were executed in the span of mere months during the summer 1988 massacre. At least 500,000 have endured torture behind bars as political prisoners.

Nevertheless, the MEK has maintained its organizational cohesion and unity in the face brutal crackdown at home and obstacles placed against its efforts prompted by the western appeasement of Iran. 

Today, the MEK has a network of “resistance units” expanding in cities checkered across Iran. Their objective: establishing a grid of units within the Iranian society and creating a sustained and strong linkage between the Iranian people and the fires of a revolution aiming to topple the mullahs’ rule.

The effectiveness of this strategy can easily be recognized in comments made by Iranian regime officials in their state-run media, especially the MEK's direct role in the Dec 2017 / Jan 2018 uprising that spread to over 140 cities across Iran.

The official website of Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the highest-ranking authority of the regime, quoted him as saying that the MEK organized mass protests against the regime in 2018.

An official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Directorate said on January 3, 2018, “The [MEK has] formed a social network ... and it managed to organize protests in 32 cities on Friday with slogans that called for the destruction of the system, the slogans were identical in all cities, and when they succeeded on Friday, they called for demonstrations in 72 cities for Saturday and there were confrontations in at least 40 cities.”

Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the IRGC Quds Force, said on December 31, 2017: “Maryam Rajavi, the head of the [MEK], in a message posted on her Twitter account… claimed it is now time to expand the ‘Resistance Units.’”

According to reports cited by Deutsche Welle in late December 2017, Ahmad Alamalhoda, Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad, northeast Iran, referred to MEK leader Maryam Rajavi saying, “It is not right that some people at the gathering were saying ‘Leave Syria and think about us instead,’ and then a woman who is the [MEK] leader repeats its, thanks to you. We should not feed the enemy's media.”

Realizing the threats posed by the MEK network inside the country, Iranian authorities have launched a major crackdown campaign against resistance unit members.

116 MEK teams had been arrested in the past year, according to remarks made by Iranian regime Intelligence Minister (MOIS) Mahmoud Alavi on April 19.

Three days later, MOIS Director General for East Azerbaijan Province made another announcement saying, “MEK activities in the Province increased in 2018. Last year the MEK exploited the economic and social problems to expand its activities. Some 60 individuals associated with the group were arrested and 50 more people identified and warned.”

In May, Tehran’s “revolutionary” court sentenced MEK activist Abdullah Ghassempour (34) to death for "assembly and collusion against the regime," and "membership, propaganda, and cooperation with the Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK),” according to the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency.

The same court sentenced three other prisoners, Mohammad Hossein Ghassempour (Abdullah’s brother), Alireza Habibian (Ghassempour’s relative) and Akbar Dalir to five and a half years in prison on similar charges.

Despite the regime’s severe crackdown, it is significant that the number of those joining the rank of the resistance exceeds the number of those arrested or imprisoned. This is a major development.

These remarks and reports lead to the conclusion that MEK resistance units have evolved into a significant dilemma for the mullahs. This network of resistance units is transforming into the most important force for the Iranian people’s new revolution.

Resistance Units have an imperative role as a beacon of hope against the regime’s campaign of crackdown and oppression.

With conditions ripe inside Iran and abroad, as witnessed recently in Iraq and Lebanon, the MEK is guiding its “resistance units” strategy using these newly-formed organized teams and establishing a growing network of dissidents who are now directly standing up to the fundamentalist theocracy. These are indigenous forces that should be supported.

The MEK resistance units are injecting new life in the Iranian society and guiding protesters in the streets. A new uprising mirroring those of 2009 and 2017 is taking shape. A new democratic Iran is emerging and the West must support its rebirth.

Ali Safavi (@amsafavi) is an official with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

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