A notable date in Mojahedin Khalq’s history is 20 June 1981 which marks a turning point in developing a good understanding of the group’s ideological, political and strategic nature that build the fundamental premise of its challenge with the Islamic Republic. The importance of the chapter lies in the fact that in spite of Rajavi’s insistence to justify his decision, declaring armed struggle, as a strategic and well calculated move, Mojahedin not only suffered an overall loss of organizational competency, but also generated a temporal hurdle in Iran’s prime leap towards democracy.
It cost Mojahedin a big price to come to believe that it was actually impossible to overthrow the created Islamic system in a short-run process as the group had anticipated. Successive blows over the body of the organization both was leading it to the precipice of a complete termination and challenging the adopted strategy of establishing a phase of armed struggle. Hardly could Mojahedin give an explicit explanation of the factors evolving so challenging a decision, a fact that has remained unanswered to the time. However, now nearly three decades after the initiation of the phase, Mojahedin admit that it was not a sound decision and consider it as a barren move. Bijan Nyabati, a left member of NCRI, talking on the move as unproductive states:
The strategy of developing a national-wide armed move came to be nothing but undermining the position of a great social movement to that of a limited militia struggle with no perspective.*
It has also come to be the cause of a widespread disagreement among the insiders and the detachments of many as well as fostering dispute with other active oppositions.
The crushing blows the organization received during the early months following the armed move phase made irreparable cracks in its structure. Among all the blows struck, the 8 February blow was one of the most crushing ones. Talking on the strategic importance of the event, Bijan Nyabati says:
Martyrdom of the commander [Musa Khyabani] was the first strategic blow over the armed resistance. From that point on, the regime took an offensive posture while Mojahedin maintained a defensive shelter.
The killing of nearly 20 team-commanders of Mojahedin including Musa Khyabani and Ashraf Rabiee after Rajavi’s escape to France brought Mojahedin’s blind assassinations into a sudden halt. Regardless of the force loss, the operation teams inside Iran suffered a great trauma and lost a big portion of their operational potentialities. On the other hand, the tactic of urban guerilla warfare as the leading axis of the armed struggle move was facing a challenge:
And finally, the blow that bereaved Mojahedin, and not only them, for ever was that strategic one struck on 8 February 1982 that put an end to the accuracy of urban guerilla warfare!
Nyabaty refers to the event as a dead-end to the armed strategy that proves to have initially been a foul and which was followed by other received strikes. He explains:
The last blow struck on Mojahedin on the first August 1982 was merely military. Martyrdom of the commander Syavash Seifi characterizes the blow to be a military strike. Thus, the urban guerilla warfare that had faced a dead-end on 8 February 1982, reaches its climax.
The 8 February incident makes Mojahedin desperately withdraw its ranking commanders from Iran to plan a new tactic:
To break the dead-end, Mojahedin, for the moment stressing on the armed struggle policy, adopt a fundamentally tactical change. By withdrawing the remnants of its commanders and ranks out of the soil dominated by the enemy, the tactic of conduct from the outside is adopted.
The aim was to reorganize the commanders to retaliate the 8 February strike. There is an exception; the armed operation mainly aimed at the regime’s authorities shifts to target civil elements alleged to be the regime’s agents.
Massoud Rajavi, besides reviewing various strategic lines, insists on a widespread armed struggle with the difference that, from a tactical point, the aim shifts from the authoritative elements to the believed agents among the people. That is to say, to cut off the finger-points of the suppression in the society in a new turn of tactic. It was a hallmark in the sense of being an easy target for the operation teams.
The result of this turn of tactic was tragic and it is estimated that more than ten thousand civilians were the victims of Mojahedin’s atrocious blind terrorist operations and bombings.
Although a shattering blow, the 8 February strike opened Mojahedin’s eyes on the truth that the people, caught in Mojahedin’s propelled atmosphere of disorder and terror, not only despised them but also confronted them. Mojahedin attempted to trouble the society and inject terror to paralyze the security system of the regime so as to continue the line of assassinating the key authorities with the assistance of their infiltrated agents. But, seeing people in the front of the regime, Mojahedin shifted to target the “finger-points”, a Mojahedin idiomatic expression meaning ordinary people. Besides being easy targets, people could at least lose the trust in the regime and react in the way Mojahedin could take advantage of. These are the reasons that before approval of the ruling system’s legitimacy, advocates Mojahedin’s deprivation of a sound theoretic and political insight to develop a realistic analysis of social context.
The adopted tactic of conducting urban guerilla warfare in exile means that Mojahedin are convinced that people have to be disregarded in their campaign calculations. People were replaced by other supporting apparatus like Iraq that provided them with all forms of geographical, political, military, and financial backings. Consequently, a new transformation was evolved and a new definition of friends and enemies developed.
*All quotes are extracts from Bijan Nyabati’s “A distinct look at Mojahedin’s internal revolution”
Bahar Irani – February 13, 2007