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THE MEK Evolution and Resistance




THE MEK Evolution and Resistance

In July 2019, the prominent French-Colombian politician, Íngrid Betancourt, spoke at three separate events organised by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) in Germany, Belgium and Albania. With Iran currently at loggerheads with the United States (US) and much of the international community, we explore the history, and future prospects, of Europe’s most active political opposition group to the Ayatollah’s regime in Tehran.


MEK was founded on 5 September 1965 by leftist Iranian students opposing the Shah’s regime. Following the 1979 Revolution, the Supreme Leader of the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, prevented MEK’s leader, Massoud Rajavi, and other MEK members, from running for office in Tehran’s revolutionary government. By 1981, Iranian authorities had banned the MEK, forcing the organisation underground. Most of its members and supporters escaped to France.

Iraq and the Armed Struggle

In 1986, after France’s (then) Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, struck a deal with Tehran for the release of French hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon MEK was forced to leave France and relocated its headquarters in Mehran, on the Iran-Iraq border. The Islamic Republic took immediate advantage of MEK’s relocation in neighbouring Iraq and launched an aerial bombing campaign targeting the group. MEK responded with a series of attacks inside Iran, including bombings and assassinations against government officials and leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC). In 1988, during the closing stages of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, MEK militias joined Iraq’s regular forces, alienating many of their supporters inside Iran and triggering Tehran’s mass execution of political prisoners.

Back to Europe and on the Run

Between 2009 and 2013, the US and Iraq’s new Iran-backed government, led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, cooperated to force MEK’s relocation to Albania. Tehran’s government has repeatedly accused MEK of using its new Albanian base, located in Manëz, to orchestrate covert activities inside Iran. Recently, Iran’s intelligence officials have been accused of carrying out plots against MEK’s affiliates and supporters in several European Union (EU) member states. In 2018 alone, Belgium arrested two individuals for plotting to bomb the MEK’s annual meeting in Paris while an Iranian diplomat working at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna was arrested in Germany for coordinating with the agents arrested in the Belgian plot. In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian diplomats involved in a separate terror plot against MEK affiliates.

EU Action and Solidarity

In January 2019, the scale of the Islamic Republic’s activities targeting MEK members on European soil, prompted the EU to freeze the assets of the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran and two of its individuals members, Deputy Minister, Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, and Director General of Intelligence, Assadollah Asadi. The group–currently led by Maryam Rajavi (wife of former leader Massoud Rajavi)–is increasingly attracting the support of prominent human rights advocates in the West, including Emma Bonino and Íngrid Betancourt.


The Euro-Gulf Information Centre (EGIC) acknowledges that Betancourt and Bonino’s support to MEK suggests that the organisation is on the right path to became a major player when it comes to peaceful efforts aimed at improving the human rights situation of ordinary Iranians living inside the Islamic Republic.