Bad Idea

Why delisting MEK threatens democracy movement


Bad Idea
by jamal.abdi

The unprecedented campaign in Washington to remove the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations represents a critical threat to Iran's indigenous democratic movement. Unlike Iran's democratic opposition, which advances through nonviolence the principles of democracy and human rights, the MEK is an undemocratic organization that pursues its agenda through violence. Delisting the MEK and freeing the group to inject violence into Iran's democratic opposition movement would help derail yet again Iran's century-long struggle for democracy.

Secretary Clinton will soon make her decision on whether to remove the MEK from the terrorist list; the consequences of her decision could indeed determine whether Iran's democratic aspirations are once again plunged into the abyss of a vicious cycle of violence.

The MEK enjoys almost no popular support among Iranians, yet it seeks to manipulate Iran's struggle for democracy to serve their own quixotic end -- to install MEK leader Maryam Rajavi as Iran's next dictator. MEK hopes to achieve this goal by manipulating the democratic struggle into a contest of violence, the arena where terrorist groups and undemocratic regimes prefer to compete. In this regard, there is little difference between the MEK and the regime. However, the heavily armed regime in Tehran has the upper hand when it comes to violence, including against the MEK's 3,000-man army.

Instead, the only damage the MEK would inflict would be on Iran's peaceful democracy movement. The rejection of violence has been critical to the democracy movement because it shifts the arena of competition with the Iranian government to a theatre where the opposition enjoys a significant comparative advantage. Rejecting violence provides the opposition the moral upper hand against Iran's hardliners. Hence, by confronting the regime where it is weak and where the opposition is strong, the nonviolent opposition also has the tactical upper hand. And, at the strategic level, the opposition has the upper hand because, in rejecting violence, Iranians ensure that their efforts will lead to democracy and respect for human rights, not just the shuffling of dictators.

In the past, violence has poisoned Iran's struggle for democracy. In 1965, the MEK was the first group to take up arms against the Shah, who in turn responded with further violence that unleashed a vicious cycle of brutal reprisals. As the Shah's repression grew increasingly violent, radical voices rose to the forefront of the opposition, and the voices of reason were marginalized. By the time revolution came in 1979, it was violent and undemocratic. One dictator was replaced by another.

In the aftermath of the June 12 elections, we saw yet again how the MEK seeks to manipulate the struggle for democracy to serve its own violent, undemocratic agenda. Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, just before he was imprisoned by the regime in Iran's notorious Evin prison for 118 days in 2009, reported firsthand how the MEK tried to "hijack" the peaceful Green Movement protests by launching attacks on Basijis. Bahari writes in his recent book that "MEK sympathizers had acted as agents provocateurs among the protestors, inciting violence."

He quotes a peaceful demonstrator on June 13, 2009, who says, "Some small terrorist groups and criminal gangs are taking advantage of the situation." She goes on to say, "Thirty years after the revolution and 20 years after the war, the majority of Iranians despise violence and terror. My worry is that if the government doesn't allow reforms to take place, we will fall into a terrorism abyss like the years after the revolution."

Injecting violence into Iran's opposition would turn the democratic struggle into a violent competition on the regime's terms. That is why the regime would love for the indigenous opposition to become violent and why delisting the MEK would be a gift to hardliners who have sought to smear the democratic opposition as being aligned with the MEK. Green Movement leaders have disavowed the MEK and wisely avoided taking the regime's bait, but now some in the U.S. want to use the MEK to inject violence into Iran's opposition movement.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Sadly, the people of Iran have learned all too well history's lesson that violence has only poisoned their democratic aspirations. Now, the U.S. must heed these lessons and resist political pressure to delist the MEK and perpetuating the vicious cycle of violence that has doomed Iran's century-long struggle for democracy.

Video: "Why Do We Need to Stand Up to the Mojahedin Khalq?"

Jamal Abdi is Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council, the largest grassroots organization representing the Iranian-American community in the US.


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Anahid Hojjati

Mehrdad jan,

by Anahid Hojjati on

I do taotally agree where you wrote:"in another words you don't have to be aligned/agree or support NIAC in order to oppose this disgraceful act. "


Anahid - here is NIAC's position on human rights/sanctions

by MM on


Here are the official NIAC stand with regards to sanctions which includes human rights issues.  I also included actions taken by NIAC (news letters, talks.... and not counting the articles.  I hope you look at facts instead of listening to hype by bloggers like shortened-Fereydoon.


Sanctions (//

Stand with the Pewople of Iran Stance

  • NIAC opposes broad sanctions that hurt ordinary Iranians.
  • NIAC supports targeted measures against human rights violators in Iran’s government.
  • NIAC supports removing restrictions on Internet communication tools, humanitarian relief, and human rights and civil society organizations
  •  ----------------------------------------

    Human Rights in Iran

    Actions taken in 2011 regarding human rights violations in Iran in news-letters / actions taken (not counting the articles written by Jama, Trita and others): //


    Despite Iran's Rejection, Human Rights Pressure Continues

    Iran announced on Monday that it would not permit the recently appointed United Nations human rights monitor on Iran to enter the country to report on the human rights situation.

    NIAC Welcomes Appointment of Human Rights Monitor, Calls for Iran to Cooperate

    NIAC welcomes the appointment by the U.N. Human Rights Council of Ahmed Shaheed as the human rights monitor for Iran and calls on Iran to allow Mr. Shaheed to investigate Iran's human rights record without interference

    Watch: Maziar Bahari Discusses Imprisonment, How Iranian Americans Can Support Human Rights

    NIAC presents an exclusive interview (in Persian) with award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and human rights activist Maziar Bahari. His newest book, Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, chronicles the 118 days he spent in a six-by-twelve-feet prison cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

    The New International Focus on Human Rights in Iran

    The establishment of a UN human rights monitor on Iran represents hard-won leverage by the international community to press for change.

    NIAC Commends Targeted Human Rights Measures Against IRGC, Basij

    NIAC commends today's announcement that the Obama Administration is designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Basij paramilitary, Iran's national police and its chief for U.S. financial and visa restrictions due to their involvement in human rights abuses against the Iranian people.

    NIAC Condemns the Killing of Haleh Sahabi

    NIAC condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing today of Haleh Sahabi and calls on Iran's government to release all prisoners of conscience and end its campaign of systematic repression.

    Administration Officials Emphasize Multilateral Successes on Iran as Congress Considers New Unilateral Sanctions

    As Congress prepares a new round of unilateral Iran sanctions, two top State Department officials discussed the Obama administration's approach to Iran's human rights situation last Wednesday before the Middle East subcommittee of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    California Democrats Endorse Iranian Student Visa Fix, Human Rights

    The California Democratic Party voted overwhelmingly to build bridges between the American and Iranian peoples and to express its support for the nonviolent human rights and democracy movement in Iran at its annual convention in Sacramento this weekend.

    NIAC Hosts Shirin Ebadi for Discussion on Human Rights, Engagement, and War

    Speaking before an audience of NIAC members this past Saturday, Dr. Shirin Ebadi encouraged international focus on the human rights situation in Iran and warned that war, or threats of an attack on Iran, would be devastating for the country's indigenous human rights and democracy movement.

    Virginia Connection: Ebadi Comes to McLean

    As a board member of the National Iranian-American Council, McLean resident Forough Yazdani is no stranger to getting the Iranian-American community involved in civic processes. But she said it was a special honor to host Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi at her home Sunday.

    NIAC Hosts Shirin Ebadi for In-Depth Conversation on Iran Policy & Human Rights

    NIAC hosted a forum on Iran policy and human rights with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Saturday April 23rd in McLean, VA.

    Panel Debates Opportunities for Iran Engagement

    The merits of engaging Iran were debated by panelists last week at the launching of the Atlantic Council Iran Task Force's second publication, "'Strategically Lonely' Iran Exploits Opportunities for Regional Influence".

    Experts: Nonviolence, Human Rights Focus are Best Options for Iran's Democracy Movement

    "Violence can achieve short-term results quickly, but after that has been achieved, then problems arise," said Roberto Toscano, Italian ambassador to Iran from 2003 to 2008.

    Yahoo News: U.N. rights body votes to appoint Iran human rights monitor

    Yahoo News reports on the establishment of a UN human rights monitor on Iran and NIAC's efforts to support this measure.

    NIAC Applauds Today's Establishment of Human Rights Monitor on Iran

    The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) strongly supports today's successful vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to establish an independent UN human rights monitor on Iran.

    Proposal at U.N. Body Puts Focus on Iran's Human Rights Record's Jeff Baron writes about how diplomats and rights activists spoke at NIAC's human rights conference in support of a critical multinational effort to push for human rights in Iran.

    The Atlantic: A New Opportunity for the U.S. to Promote Human Rights in Iran

    NIAC's Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi present three ideas for how President Obama can support human rights in Iran and leverage the Arab uprising in The Atlantic.

    US and Swedish Officials Outline Human Rights Initiative at NIAC Conference

    "This effort is not about grandstanding or showdown, but about action on a practical step that we hope will lead to change over time," declared U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Suzanne Nossel, discussing efforts now underway at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to establish a human rights monitor on Iran.

    Holding Iran Accountable for its Human Rights Record

    Deputy Assistant Secretary Suzanne Nossel spoke today on Capitol Hill at an event sponsored by the National Iranian American Council to make the case for creating a Special Rappateur on Iran at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    NIAC Commends UN Human Rights Council Efforts on Iran

    NIAC commends efforts underway at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to productively address the continued campaign of human rights abuses in Iran.

    Congress Clashes over U.S. Participation at the Human Rights Council

    Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee clashed over U.S. participation in the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) last week.

    Arrest of Iranian Opposition Leaders Further Demonstrates Need for International Efforts

    NIAC condemns the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and reiterates its call for the international community to take serious steps to address human rights violations in Iran.

    NIAC Commends Targeted Human Rights Measures

    NIAC commends today's announcement that the Obama Administration is designating Basij Commander Mohammed Reza Naqdi and Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi for US financial and visa restrictions due to their involvement in human rights abuses against the Iranian people.

    NIAC Applauds Senate Call for Human Rights Monitor

    NIAC applauds Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and 23 other Senators who today called for the Obama Administration to work with the international community to establish an independent UN human rights monitor on Iran when the UN Human Rights Council convenes this March.

    Take Action to Help Stop Human Rights Abuses in Iran

    The threats, abuses, and political killings in Iran must stop. The UN has a chance to finally take serious measures to help stop these horrific abuses. Take action now and you add your voice to the call for serious action on human rights in Iran at the UN.

    Independent UN Experts Call for Moratorium on Death Penalty in Iran

    Two independent UN experts called for Iran to halt executions on Wednesday, warning that there had been a dramatic surge in death sentences carried out in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards for fair trails.

    Leading Diplomats, Experts and Organizations Call on Obama to Reinvigorate Diplomacy with Iran

    On the eve of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul, a diverse group of leading diplomats, experts, and organizations have called on the Obama Administration to reinvigorate diplomacy with Iran.

    Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions Demonstrate Need for Serious International Efforts

    NIAC condemns today's sentencing of prominent human rights lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh and Shiva Nazar Ahari, and the December sentence handed down against Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.



    Anahid jan: Refute, counter or agree

    by Bavafa on

    with the points and content of this article is and should be welcomed by all, including me. So, please don't take my comment regarding distraction as a response to your argument. It is a response to those who (amazingly always first to comment) constantly and continuously bring NIAC into the conversation, in my belief, solely to distract and change the subject from MEK.

    My opinion/comment specifically said to voice your concern either individually or collectively, in another words you don't have to be aligned/agree or support NIAC in order to oppose this disgraceful act.

    So, I hope this clarifies it.

    But also regarding your point that IRI has brought violence to this struggle, I think you can hardly get any disagreement to your point from many of us who adamantly oppose IRI and wish for democracy and freedom for our home land. Perhaps were we differ in opinion is that MEK is not a correct response to Iranians struggle for achieving freedom, nor beneficial to US long term interest. There are certainly many other opposition groups within and outside of Iran that deserve US moral support. RP would certainly be a far better opposition with far more support within Iranian population then MEK. Not to mention the Green movement (I don't mean Mousavi or Kohlrabi) but many millions of people that poured onto streets with their true leaders (i.e. Nasrin Sotoodeh, etc) currently serving long term jail sentence, they deserve all the support and not a cultish group that has nearly zero support within Iranian population.

    The fact of the matter is legitimizing MEK will only set back Iranian opposition and will help IRI directly.

    'Vahdat' is the main key to victory 


    Anahid Hojjati

    Dear MM,

    by Anahid Hojjati on

    You write:"I see this as an opportunity to AGAIN call for unity amongst the Iranian true secular opposition, otherwise, .." but why should so much focus be on delisting of MKO? Why the rest of opposition who are against MKO, cannot focus on IRI? At the present, problem of people of Iran is not MKO but IRI. However, recently, NIAC has focused on MKO. When some people asked NIAC about why NIAC does not focus on Human Rights violations in Iran, the answer was that NIAC is an Iranian American organization and some other wording that basically made it sound that it is not in NIAC charter to be too active aginst human rights violation in Iran. So same organization is focusing now almost 90% on delisting of MKO. Is this an Iranian American issue? No, delisting of MKO is a very political matter and if human rights focus does not have mcuh place in activities of NIAC, focusing on MKO should have even less.



    by MM on

    I agree that the voices of freedom for Iran are dispersed and all  are involved in pissing contests amongst each other.  I see this as an opportunity to AGAIN call for unity amongst the Iranian true secular opposition, otherwise, MKO will dominate the news once they are off the terror list and get the funding from the taxes that you and I pay to the US government. 

    I certainly do not think that the John Boltons of this world care for Iran or Iranians, or who they freaking elevate as freedom-fighters:

    MJ Rosenberg: John Bolton: Israel Should Nuke Iran

    Anahid Hojjati

    MM, I have been aginst MKO for more than 30 years

    by Anahid Hojjati on

    From the time that I saw how their young supporters acted more non democratic than even supporters of IRI. But my problem is with other conclusions That Jamal Abdi makes. Also if by delisting MKO, they become voice of opposition, then part of the blame is with the opposition too since if that happens, major part of it will be because opposition is passive.


    Dear Bavafa: Why do you

    by vildemose on

    Dear Bavafa: Why do you assume that people are not doing what they can to oppose MEK de-listing??

    Holding NIAC accountable does not mean we are blind to MEK's threat and their pathetic mercenary role in betraying Iran, yet again.



    by MM on

  • FBI Report
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Rand Report
  • Knowing what I have gathered over the years, and after reading the above reports on MEK, I decided that MKO will not be the voice of freedom-fighters and the Iranian opposition against IRI.  Which they will be once they are off the terror list and the John Boltons of this world elevate them as our voice.

    Sorry that I have to disappoint you too.

    Anahid Hojjati

    Mehrdad, for your information

    by Anahid Hojjati on

    When Mr. Abdi writes an article claiming that MEK wants to inject violence, it is very much to the point to answer to him that violence has already been injected into the Iranian political scene.


    Distraction by any means/method from MEK and its consequences

    by Bavafa on

    Is directly to aid legitimization of this cult

    It is our responsibility to voice our concern and distaste for such despicable act to legitimize this cultish group who have a clear record of violence and treason.

    Make your voice heard, call and write your representative and State dept. either collectively or individually.

    Don't allow distraction from this very important issue by engaging and allowing the conversation to be changed.

    'Vahdat' is the main key to victory 


    Anahid Hojjati

    Mr. Abdi

    by Anahid Hojjati on

    Even though I am not a member of NIAC presently but I was a member for several years. I also oppose MEK. But your article angers me. You are writing as if MEK will be the one which will inject violence into democratic opposition. Violence has already been injected by IRI. IRI keeps killing people and opposition is supposed to just smile and act like bunch of sheep ready to be slaughtered.

    Perhaps if intellectuals like you had not brainwashed people two years ago, by now, Iran would be in a different situation. You guys keep selling this non-violence to people. It is wrong. You can not fight a violent criminal regime with non violence. One way or another there will be violence gainst this regime if it has to fall. If you are against MEK, write about them but don't preach the non violence. that was tried two years ago.



    AI: Agreed. I do believe

    by vildemose on

    AI: Agreed. I do believe indirectly NIAC is responsible for delisting the MEK.

    How pathetic are both of them...How tragic that we don't see the irony...

    Artificial Intelligence

    Bad Idea?

    by Artificial Intelligence on

    The Bad idea was NIAC's support of elements in the IRI terrorist government. NIAC's willingness to deal with the IRI government, a bigoted entity, was a Bad idea. NIAC's own participation in fear mongering business re "Neocons, AIPAC, Israel, Zionist " garbage, which are the talking points of the NIAC supporters on this site, is the catalyst for this MEK delisting in the US. Now the terrorist supporting cult  that is called NIAC will have some competition in Washington. Competition is always good!

    areyo barzan

    I am wondering

    by areyo barzan on

    Could this be a reverse sociology campaign where the more you talk about an issue or a group such as MKO, the more desensitisation of public attitude? To a point that an issue which use to rage every one will now be accepted as a fact of life.


    In a short period there were three articles about this group and the downward trend of comments shows that at least on these site commentators and readers have accepted MKO as a fact of life and do not bother to argue or comment on their goals any more.


    Now! Wasn’t that the final goal of MKO? As far as I know they never wanted to be embraced by Iranians as they knew this won’t happen any time soon. All they wanted was to be included as a part of the argument and not to be forgotten, to the point that they could be seen as an accepted player in Iran’s political game.


    Well! Congratulations are in order as you have already achieved this goal for them and in such short time period


    I am sure what you (NIAC) have achieved for MKO they could not have achieved even with the best publicity managers and spending millions of Dollars and that’s what makes one wonder


    Which side you’re really on?


    NIAC = MEK

    by Fred on

    As an entity with a lifetime president, NIAC lobby/cult should be the last to complain about another cult with a lifetime president.

    And what part of the 501c tax-free status allows NIAC lobby/cult to openly back the faction of the Green Movement belonging to the out of power Islamists with cloud of crimes against humanity hanging over their heads for the mass murder of thousands of Iranians?

    Why just like MEK cult, the NIAC lobby/cult does not answer critics?