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Dwindling of MKO’s Social Prestige

Preceding articles investigated two major factors leading to the development of internal ideological revolution of Mojahedin and the role they played therein. The encountered crises following declaration of armed struggle as well as the failed strategy of overthrow were grave challenges threatening the organization. Rajavi’s hurried and unreasoning resort to armed phase followed by an illogically drawn timetable of short-term toppling of Iranian regime heavily affected the internal and external relations of Mojahedin. The third factor that forced the organization to cling to the alternate of the ideological revolution was the gradual dwindling of its social prestige and legitimacy. Besides, feelings of distrust began to arise among the cadres as a result of observing ever increasing anti-democratic relations within the organization.

Gradual dwindling of MKO’s social prestige

An optimistic analysis of MKO’s failure in the accomplishment of its short-term promise of overthrowing Iranian regime well indicate that Rajavi had an incorrect and subjective evaluation of the public element, namely, masses. His alliance with Bani-Sadr and confidence in the supposed potentiality of sympathizers and members gave him the illusion that Mojahedin was highly supported. He was under the false impression that the march of a number of members and sympathizers might lead to the elimination of any public fear that prevented masses from entering onto the scene in support of the group. The failed rally on 27 September 1991 made it clear to Mojahedin that masses walked in an opposite track which totally disappointed them of relying on social support as their last winning card from the very beginning months of the armed phase. However, the overall failure of this event was a severe put-down to the false illusion of Rajavi. Niyabati, in his review of this phase of armed struggle, points to the fact that it had no gain for Mojahedin but disappointment. He also believes that the September rally made Rajavi reconsider about having any faith in masses’ support. In fact, it was a test that convinced Mojahedin not only people accounted them no political-ideological legitimacy but also would engage in battle against them if needed:

After the wide-range military offences of Mojahedin in the summer 1981, the organization withdrew to take a defensive position; it was decided to test the social element once more. As such, Mojahedin started masterminding armed rallies in late summer 1981 in order to prompt people onto the scene. At the peak of these rallies, the test of the social element was ascertained to be negative. (1)

The confession well approves the strategic miscalculation on the part of Rajavi and Mojahedin. Although Niyabati tries to hide the lack of social support under the banner of the controlling strategies used by the regime, he acknowledges the fact that Mojahedin came to realize that they could in no way rely on the masses to bring about regime’s downfall:

The fact was that Mojahedin were still facing the problem of mobilizing masses for armed struggle that was known to be a locked strategic bolt and the three-year-long plan to overthrow the regime proved to a an absolute failure.(2)

The test being failed, Mojahedin turned to target the ‘social elements’, besides top official figures, to retaliate the defeats. His hopes totally frustrated, Rajavi this time termed the ‘social element’ as tip-fingers of the regime to intensify challenging ordinary people. He states that against his expectation, the masses had played a different role against Mojahedin. Elaborating on Mojahedin’s shift of attitudes in terrorist actions Niyabati has said:

The failure of Mojahedin in bringing the social element onto the scene, so as to unite them with the vanguard forces, through organizing rallies sheltered by Mojahedin’s military units results in the continuation of resistance by cutting the tip-fingers of the regime. (3)

Hadi Shams-Haeri, an MKO ex-member, analyses the 27 September rally as follows:

The organization’s analysis was that people supported the rally in heart but did not dare to participate since they were not armed. So we had to assure them that we would support them in case of firing from the side of [regime’s] guards to encourage them. Therefore, the 27 September rally was organized but again the masses refused to come and the strategy failed. The organization had predicted that 27 September was the regime’s last day and it would assume the power in the evening, but nothing happened. (4)

It is self-evident that the leadership’s miscalculations not only failed to work up support but also took away the little prestige it had already gained. Besides, the organization had to deal with the consequent challenges faced from within. Although it took some time to get internal tensions externalized, their invisible internal impacts cannot to be ignored. To curb internal reactions of any form, a number of decisive decisions had to be made.

The increase of distrust in the leadership

The first serious and critical consequences were the rapid grow of distrust in Rajavi’s leadership. Rajavi’s egocentric decision makings all resulting in strategic failures put the blame on him and made many doubtful about Rajavi’s ideological and political qualification. In spite of the fact that his inefficiency came to be even more palpable after the ideological revolution, according to Mehdi Abrishamchi, in any circumstance Rajavi was the one who said the last word:

Even prior to the internal ideological revolution, it was evident to all of us that Massoud was the key answer to all the ideological necessities of revolution in this historical phase. (5)

As such, it goes without saying that the leader was the one mostly met by crises and the consequent result would be escalation of distrust. As Niyabati openly points out:

The failure of Mojahedin in the short-term overthrowing of the regime as well as the failure of NCRI, considered as the sole democratic alternative, in recruiting all the anti-Shah and anti-sheikh political forces made Mojahedin subject to intolerable pressure both from inside and outside of NCRI. Evidently, the main target of all pressures in the first place was Massoud Rajavi. (6)

The rapid swelling of distrust within the organization put no other solution before the leadership but to resort to preventive measures to meet internal challenges.

The increase of anti-democratic relations in MKO

The only solution to the internally threatening critical conditions was to put an end to the question of leadership and his criticism forever. Cultivation of anti-democratic relations in MKO and NCRI was Rajavi’s short-term solution. However, a fundamental change in the organization’s internal and ideological structure deemed necessary. Still, before the initiation of the ideological revolution, the encountered serious backlashes were severely repressed in a variety of forms. Going into details about organizational reactions, Norooz-Ali Rezvani has said:

In 1984, MKO imprisoned more than 700 members out of whom 73 members, including me, had criticized the organization’s ideological, strategic flaws like accuracy of armed warfare and lack of any democratic internal relations and violation of the members’ democratic rights. I spent 10 days in gaol and 47 days in solitary confinement in the cities of Kahrizeh and Soleymanieh [in Iraq]. Finally, we cut our ideological connection with the organization and announced we were ideologically detached. (7)


The dispersion of organization’s forces

Rajavi called upon all members of the resistance cells and sympathizers inside Iran to leave the country. It led to the dispersion of members who now completely desolate, had to submit to Rajavi’s hegemony. Therefore, the reformation and revival of organizational relations and exercise of hegemony on members demanded a new mechanism to bring and control all the members under a single leadership:

It seemed something much unattainable at the end of 1984 if the past [organizational] framework had to be maintained. Therefore, to safeguard the new revolution and prevent another failure of Iranian people in struggle against repression and colonialism, the integrity and strategic stability of the leading organization had to be preserved. (8)


1. Niyabati, Bijan; A Different Look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, Khavaran Publication, p.14.

2. ibid, p.16

3. ibid, p.54

4. Shams-Haeri, H. (1996). The Swamp, vol 2. Khavaran publication, p.90

5. The lecture delivered by Mehdi Abrishamchi on the ideological revolution.

6. Niyabati, Bijan; A Different Look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, Khavaran Publication, p.15.

7. Rezvani, n. (1996). Neo-Scholasticism in Rajavi’s cult, p.8.

8. Niyabati, Bijan; A Different Look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, Khavaran Publication, p.18.

Bahar Irani,Mojahedin.ws,December 14, 2007

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