WASHINGTON -– Dozens of self-avowed supporters of an Iranian group on the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations met Thursday in a public building in Washington, D.C., to call on the Bush administration to legalize the activities of their group.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq, also known as the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, was first blacklisted by the State Department in June 1994. Various front organizations, including the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, were added to the U.S. blacklist in 1997.
While the blacklisting has prohibited the group from openly lobbying Congress, a variety of like-minded organizations have championed its cause, claiming to have no operational ties to the banned terrorist group.
“We sympathize with them,” one of the organizers of Thursday’s event told NewsMax, when asked why people attending the rally had been given banners with photographs of MEK leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi.
He said the event had been organized and paid for by “Iranian-American organizations,” but would not name any specific group.
The MEK and its front groups have distributed letters in Congress in support of its cause that have garnered as many as 226 signatures from members of the House of Representatives. Many congressmen who signed later said they had no idea they were supporting a terrorist group. Story Continues Below
The MEK calls itself the Iranian “resistance,” but other organized Iranian opposition groups in the United States and inside Iran consider them traitors, because the MEK allied with Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Called “Islamic-Marxists” by the former shah, today even the Marxist Organization of the People’s Fedaii Guerillas of Iran (OPFGI) has rejected the group.
But some U.S. military officers who processed MEK members after their training camp in Iraq was seized during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 believe the United States could use the MEK to lead an armed uprising against the Tehran regime.
Thursday’s pro-MEK rally was sparsely attended compared to similar events in the past. Elaborately staged to ressemble a U.S. presidential nominating convention in an elegant hall at 1301 Constitution Ave., barely 100 people attended the event.
Participants were given noisemakers and other props to make the event appear like a mass rally. Professional video crews were posted around the large ballroom and sent live footage to a satellite truck outside, which beamed it to Florida and then to Europe, technicians said.
Organizers said the only member of Congress who addressed the rally was Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. An officer from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Protective Services said he had been assigned to assist the private security detail hired by the organizers.
When asked why the U.S. government was allowing sympathizers of a group on the State Department’s terrorist list to gather in a government-owned building — the Andrew Mellon auditorium -– he said the decision had been made by his superiors. “I’m here to ensure that people can express their First Amendment rights without threat or restriction,” he said.
Also addressing the group was proferssor Raymond Tanter, who chairs the Iran Policy Committee, a private group in Washington that is lobbying Congress and the Bush administration to remove the MEK and its front groups from the terrorist list.
Tanter had just returned from Paris, where he and other members of the Iran Policy Committee had been invited to address a similar event sponsored by pro-MEK groups. IPC does not disclose its source of funding, but invites donations over the Internet.
While the MEK today opposes the clerical regime in Tehran, it took part in the 1979 revolution against the Shah. In a 1994 report to Congress, the State Department explained that it had designated the group as a terrorist organization because it had taken part in the 1979 taking of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and had murdered Americans working in Iran under the shah.