by Poorang Novak

One of the great falsehoods of the Iran lobby and the appeasers of the clerical regime in Tehran is that any effort at regime change would inevitably lead to war. This by-line can be seen in every article by the Iran lobby and the appeasers attempting to underscore the growing global support for the Iranian opposition (MEK/PMOI) and the Iranian people’s quest for regime change.

History teaches us though that the longevity of any regime born out of violent conquest is ultimately short-lived.

The Iranian regime that was born out of a revolution overthrowing the Shah, which was in turn hijacked by the mullahs and turned into a religious oligarchy. The original aim of the revolution was the formation of a secular, pluralistic democracy. That dream still exists in the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people and resonates in the various forms of protest in Iran, despite the repressive measures by the regime. Therefore, the call for “regime change” is primarily the Iranian people’s demand.

Since the early days after the 1979 revolution, the mullahs have relied on the typical tools of oppression to keep their grip on power, including the creation of a paramilitary and judiciary system so vast, it touches nearly every sector of Iranian society. At the same time, the Iranian regime and its apparatus (including the regime lobbies and appeasers) have been quick in attacking any publication or personalities who dare speaking about the Iranian people’s quest for freedom and particularly “regime change” in Iran. It goes without saying that those more in line with the regime have targeted MEK/PMOI, since MEK/PMOI is the most dedicated and the organized opposition with extensive routes and support at home, that can materialize the regime change. The people’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI (usually referred to as MEK) has therefore been the subject of dubious propaganda campaigns by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) at home and by the regime lobbies and appeasers abroad. The idea is to say that there is no democratic alternative to this regime. Hence, the only option is to put up with the dictatorship in Iran, otherwise there will be war!

A look at the back ground of the MEK/PMOI, Iran’s democratic opposition can be helpful in shedding light on the reasons for sometimes unprecedented campaigns against them. The People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is the oldest, largest, and contrary to the mullahs’ propaganda, the most popular resistance organization in Iran. The PMOI/MEK was founded in September 1965 by three Iranian engineers, who sought to replace the Shah’s repressive monarchy with a democratic government.

The PMOI/MEK enjoys broad popularity in Iran because of its longstanding support for democracyand its modern interpretation of Islam. The MEK/PMOI believe Islam is inherently tolerant and democratic, thus fully compatible with the values of modern-day civilization. This vision is in fact the cure to the growing expansion of Islamic extremism funded and supported by the mullahs in Iran.

The MEK/PMOI participated in a united front against the Pahlavi monarchy, which violently opposed democratic reforms and had one of the worst human rights records in the world. After the Shah fled Iran, the MEK/PMOI worked to establish a democratic government, but Ayatollah Khomeini hijacked the Revolution and instead created an Islamic theocracy.

The MEK/PMOI shifted course and directed its opposition against the Ayatollah, continuing its struggle to restore democracy in Iran. In June 1980, the PMOI/MEK organized a rally in Tehran to protest Khomeini’s escalating despotism. More than 200,000 people participated in the demonstration.

With each passing day, the PMOI/MEK gained strength and, in July 1980, Khomeini openly considered the possibility of defeat, stating, “Never have I so much feared the Islamic Revolution end in failure.” He lashed out at the PMOI/MEK, declaring the resistance organization as the main enemy. Khomeini said, “Our enemy is neither the United States, nor the Soviet Union, nor Kurdistan, but sitting right here in Tehran under our nose [the PMOI/MEK].”

Revolutionary Guards escalated their attacks on the PMOI/MEK, which continued to promote its pro-democracy campaign. The turning point came on June 20, 1981. The MEK/PMOI organized rallies across Iran to protest Khomeini’s oppressive rule. More than a half million Iranians attended the demonstration in Tehran.

On direct fatwa by Khomeini, the Hezbollah blocked off streets and fired weapons into the growing crowds, killing hundreds of Iranians and injuring many more, with thousands arrested. The reign of terror had begun. The following day, Khomeini’s henchmen executed hundreds of PMOI/MEK supporters who had been arrested, including young girls.

The bloodbath was unrelenting. In the months and years that followed, more than 120,000 PMOI/MEK members and supporters were killed by Khomeini and the ruling mullahs. In only one occasion in summer of 1988, over 30,000 political prisoners (mainly members and supporters of the MEK/PMOI) were mass murdered in Iran, based on a direct fatwa of the mullah’s Supreme Leader, Khomeini. The savagery removed any legitimacy the Islamic Republic may have once had. The regime is now viewed by the people of Iran as fascist, maintaining power through fear and brutality.

Members and supporters of the PMOI/MEK have suffered greatly in their struggle to restore democracy to Iran. Iranians respect the many sacrifices made by the MEK/PMOI and revere its martyrs.

Through the years, the MEK/PMOI has been steadfast in its battle to rid Iran of the mullahs’ nightmare regime, overcoming severe hardships and setbacks. Contrary to the Iranian lobby’s claim, the support by the Iranian people for the PMOI/MEK is also steadfast. The resistance organization has earned their respect and trust and it gives voice to their aspirations for a free and democratic Iran. This can be seen in the latest activities of the supporters of the MEK/PMOI, in Tehran and other major cities across Iran, during the election show and in solidarity with the Free Iran gathering in June and July 2017.

Hundreds of video clips and photos of banners and placards hanging from pathways over highways and auto routes on billboards, or in the shape of graffiti on walls in Tehran and other major cities, are published on various Telegram and YouTube channels, showcasing the vast magnitude of these activities. This is while activists have been prosecuted and some even executed for far less “crimes” in the past decades. To an extent that the regime’s supreme leader had to change plans and give in to a second term for Rouhani as president to end the spreading protest and infightings in fear of a similar 2009 uprising that could sweep his regime, was the result of the MEK/PMOI’s presence and their activities.

Activities seen in cities across Iran during the election season, were all following a call made by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), who spread the slogan “My vote is regime change” across the country. This brought the mullahs to the conclusion that the dangerous consequences of deepening divides amongst the regime’s senior elite were paving the path for nationwide uprisings similar to those seen in 2009. As a result, the mullahs’ ruling elite decided to quickly bring an end to the election farce in the first round and prevent any further opportunities for protests and possible uprisings.

Dr. Rafizadeh, a leading Iranian-American political scientist, president of the International American Council on the Middle East, and best-selling author in an opinion piece in Huffington post publishing 8 video clips of MEK/PMOI activities inside Iran, wrote: “The activists of the network of the Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its group the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI), inside Iran have been engaged in an extensive campaign nationwide, calling on Iranians to boycott the elections.

Their activities involved hanging huge portraits of the Iranian opposition leader, Maryam Rajavi from overpasses or bridges in major freeways in Tehran and other cities, posting her pictures on walls in different streets and other public locations, such as in the bazaar or outside the paramilitary Bassji headquarters, or placing them on the windshields of cars, and distributing flyers and T-shirts with the MEK/PMOI emblem and calling for government change.”

He concludes: “Finally, from my perspective, it is critical to point out that Iranian leaders fear the soft power of oppositional groups more than the military and hard power of foreign governments. That is why Iranian leaders and media outlets normally react forcefully and anxiously to activities by the opposition, such as the recent critical move where Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently met with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in Tirana, Albania. Iran’s oppositional groups can be a very powerful tool to counterbalance the Islamic Republic.”

Some of the MEK/PMOI affiliates activities reflected on the opposition media outlets include:

In Tehran: Haghani cross section, activists of PMOI/MEK put up a poster in a major cross section reading: “My Vote Overthrow, Big No of the People of Iran to Election Farce in Clerical Regime. Down With Khamenei, Hail to Rajavi (the leader of Iran opposition).”

Iran, Tehran and Azarbaijan, in the run - up to the sham presidential election, activists of MEK/PMOI in the capital Tehran, and Azarbaijan province Notrh in Western Iran put up posters against Iran regime's sham election written: Our vote is for Maryam Rajavi.

Iran, Uremia , in the run - up to the sham presidential election, activists of MEK/PMOI in Uremia Azarbaijan province North- West Iran put up posters against Iran regime's sham election written: Our vote is for Maryam Rajavi.

Iran, Marvdasht, in the run - up to the sham presidential election, activists of MEK/PMOI in Fars province Central Iran put up posters against Iran regime's sham election: “No to Rouhani the imposter , No to Raisi the murderer.”

Supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK) have filmed and photographed themselves holding up photographs of Iranian Resistance President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi and slogans in support of the 'Free Iran' rally.

Another hallmark for understanding the extent of activities of MEK/PMOI and its popularity among youth, is the recent expressions of concerns followed by crackdowns on the youth under the pretext of cybercrimes. Recently, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, regime’s deputy public prosecutor said that cyberspace have become extremely worrisome for Tehran. Referring to “Telegram”, by far the most popular social media platform in Iran with over 20 million users, he said:

“More than 30% of these Telegram channels are involved in criminal activities against the country’s security and disrupting the entire nation.”

“The MEK Telegram channel inside Iran is very active… all the regime’s opponents are providing the people all their books and written material through this online platform. If you sought to purchase them you have to pay huge amounts of money. If you wanted to publish a book, it would be very demanding, but on the Internet it is quite easy,” added the regime’s deputy public prosecutor.

The Iranian regime has time and again negotiated with Telegram’s managers to block the MEK/PMOI website and associated channels, only to be rejected each time. This has left Tehran facing an impasse.

Either accept the MEK/PMOI’s vast network with all its grave consequences or pay the ultimate price of blocking Telegram. The latter, however, will raise even more dissatisfaction that can even trigger a protest.

The 2009 uprisings and massive protests that were viciously put down sent shivers down the mullahs’ spines and served as a sharp reminder that their hold on power is tenuous at best. Hence, they actively repress a free press, continually arresting and imprisoning journalists, editors, photographers, and now bloggers, who voice, print, transmit or illustrate any hint of dissent.

Dictatorships that stand on fragile ground are always more oppressive. The Iranian regime fits that bill to a T.

In addition to using blunt force on people, the regime invests heavily in the massive propaganda effort it mobilizes through state-controlled media and via its lobbies and paid agents abroad, in order to discourage more support for the MEK/PMOI, which is the main driver for regime change in Iran. The extent of the anti MEK/PMOI propaganda has increased, particularly after the July 1, 2017 gathering in Paris, which had a clear message: “Regime change in Iran is within reach”. Some 100,000 Iranian diaspora and supporters of MEK/PMOI gave energy to it. A nightmare for the criminal mullahs that cannot be avoided.

This is why it serves the regime’s purposes to continually dangle the threat of war over the heads of its people. It also helps the Iran lobby’s PR efforts to cast Iran like some poor, defenseless nation under threat by the big bad U.S. and its allies, such as Saudi Arabia or the Iranian resistance movement, the MEK/PMOI.

Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council and staunch advocate for the Iranian regime, appeared on Bloomberg to beat the war drum again, as well as attack the Trump administration for not living up to the Iran nuclear deal, even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the renewal of the compliance certification for another 90 days.

But the Trump administration also is asserting that Iranian regime’s development of ballistic missiles; support of terrorism and militancy; complicity in atrocities by the government of Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad; cyberattacks on the U.S.; and other actions “severely undermine the intent” of the nuclear accord.

Based on those actions, Trump is announcing an additional package of sanctions against 16 Iranian entities and individuals found to be supporting Tehran’s activities in the region, according to the Washington Times.

The real threat to the Iranian regime though lies not within sanctions, but in the simple acts of defiance that the Iranian people undertake themselves, such as the hanging of banners on Tehran overpasses bearing the image of MEK/PMOI leader Mrs. Maryam Rajavi; an act punishable by death if the perpetrators were caught.

The regime is also threatened by every protest over low wages or unsafe working conditions. In many ways large and small, the process of regime change can happen slowly, methodically, and inexorably.

Mrs. Rajavi, in a recent speech at the annual gathering of the Iranian resistance movement and supporters of MEK/PMOI, opined that the movement did not require outside assistance from governments, such as the U.S., to succeed. It only needed the recognition by governments to be empowered.

The heavy lifting of pushing for regime change must come from within Iran from the Iranian people, said Mrs. Rajavi.

So long as the Iranian regime keeps trying to place a tight lid on the simmering pressure for change by the Iranian people, the harder it will be to prevent the inevitable.