Paid hefty fees by the Mujahedin-e Khalq, lobbyists of the group have been actively working to advocate its cause as “a democratic alternative” to the Islamic Republic. The cult-like MEK with a long background of violence and terror is supported by a number of politicians in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Canada.
For Canada, the MEK has been particularly close to figures in the Conservative Party, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others in his cabinet. This coalition has helped position Canada and others like Israel and Saudi Arabia in their proxy wars against the Iranian government.
According to the Hill Times, Academics and analysts say Canadian politicians backing democracy in Iran should stop attending events organized by a controversial group that Canada once listed as a terrorist organization that is neither “legitimate nor democratic.”
The Associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs told the Hill Times that the MEK are “no friend of democracy in Iran and Canadian politicians should avoid attending MeK events.”
Thomas Juneau also twitted: “Cluelessness: NOT the case for Harper; I know for a fact he knows the MeK is a thuggish, corrupt, undemocratic cult with no support in Iran.”
This is not a new warning by Canadian academics. In August 2019, Stephanie Carvin who worked as a national security analyst with the government of Canada at the time the MEK was a listed terrorist entity, told Canada’s National Observer that the fact that current and former Canadian politicians attend MEK events is deeply problematic.
Politicians attending MEK events “help create the illusion of legitimacy,” said Carvin, who is an assistant professor of international relations at Carleton University. “It also creates the perception of influence.”
The MEK’s lack of public support inside Iran and its terrorist, cult-like background has so far been covered and investigated by many journalists, scholars and think tanks. The Amercian RAND Institute, for example described the MEK in 2009 as holding “many of the typical characteristics of a cult.” Such characteristics, it wrote, include “authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and limited exit options.”
The recent investigative reports published by The Intercept, British broadcaster Channel 4 and Al Jazeera English have depicted MEK “troll farms” where members create thousands of inauthentic accounts on a daily basis and promote hashtags and tweets, targeting anyone that favours diplomacy with Iran. Human Rights Watch has reported that MEK leaders force people to issue false confessions.
In 2006, the National Post published an extensive report about a Canadian family that got wrapped up in the group. And in 2003, Neda Hassani, a 26-year-old Carleton University student, became a martyr for the MEK when she set herself on fire in front of the French embassy in London to protest the arrest of its leader by police in France.