Human Lives Human Rights: The Mujahedin-e Khalq Organizational (MeK or MKO) is an Iranian opposition group that have been openly confronting the so-called Islamic regime in the country through diplomacy and armed operations.
The group was formed long before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as an anti-imperialist militia but soon after the revolution found itself at odds with Ayatollah Khomeini and his concepts of Islamic rule. The group first tried to turn the tide by taking up arms and conducting “public executions” of people whose faith laid with the Islamic regime.
During the Iran-Iraq War the group sided with the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain and even sent a battalion to take over Iran’s western provinces after the countries had agreed to a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. The Iranians were alert, however, and the battle ended with a disastrous outcome for the MeK.
The hostilities didn’t end there, however, as the group spent the following years cementing it’s position as an alternative to Iran’s Islamic rule. However, the group’s record has never allowed it to get much popularity among Iranians.
In fact, latest surveys within the Iranian society indicate a strong despise for the MeK, one that even surpasses the public disregard for the Islamic rulers.
This lack of popularity always presents itself as a hurdle for the group’s attempts to mend its image, a challenge that is crucial for the MeK to overcome if it ever wants to gain international recognition as a credible alternative.
The lack of popularity took a turn for the worse in the past decade, when Iraq’s newly-appointed politicians, under heavy influence from Iran, expelled the MeK from the country.
The group currently stays inside a camp in Albania while it’s leaders reside in lavish houses in France, enjoying direct financial and political support from the United States as well as several of its European allies.
The move to the new house, however, has brought attention to the scarcely-discussed issue of women’s rights inside the organization, which many observers and former members have described as having a cult-like” environment.
At the helm, the group is led by Massoud Radjavi and his wife Maryam. Over the past years Massoud has been avoiding public appearances for unknown reasons, leaving the task for Maryam to fulfill.
Maryam Radjavi has made several high profile appearances in the mainstream media, smiling and shaking hands with heavyweight politicians such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as well as American and European lawmakers.
She has even managed to convince former U.S. envoy to the United Nation John Bolton to attend the MeK’s annual events in the French capital of Paris.
Maryam mostly appears in public events wearing full Islamic hijab as well as what appears to be the official uniform of the group’s elite commanders.
However, Maryam is pretty much the only female MeK member to have appeared on the media in the recent times.
It is not yet known how many women are currently serving in the organization.
Iranian media claim that the group has been holding the female members who joined its ranks around the revolution against their will, often subjecting them to forced marriages that suited their missions.
These unsubstantiated reports also suggest that that some members were forced to have children and then give them to other couples or outsiders who would then train them to become new members of the group in the future.
Iranian sources even claim that at some point each female member of the group were prepared by Maryam to become Massoud’s wives, who reportedly refers to himself as their father and “elder.”
While many of these reports are to be taken with a grain of salt, there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.
The group’s cult-like atmosphere, combined with awkward Islamic laws that govern how men and women who are not husband and wife should live together, means that women’s rights are more often than not violated.
There is absolutely no reports on the average age of the female members and their access to medical services.
The issue of access to personal hygiene products in an environment that women might be forced to have intimate relations with more than one partner is also of prime concern.
The group’s leaders need to clarify whether its female members have access to proper consultation and psychology services in order to cope with the high pressure of membership in the group.
There have also been unofficial reports that due to the growing age of its members and the lack of motivation among Iranian youth to join, the MeK has turned to Afghanistan as an alternative source for new female recruitments.
The MeK’s silence on such issues has stirred concern among rights activists about the treatment of its female members. It has also allowed Iranian media to further harm the group’s image by publishing reports that in turn question the organization’s legitimacy as a viable option to replace the Islamic regime.
By Phil Simmons