17 years ago, series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks were committed by 19 militants associated with the Islamist extremist group al-Qaeda against targets in the United States. This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in US history. The attacks against New York City and Washington D. C. caused extensive death and casualty and triggered an enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism. Some 2750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in Pennsylvania (where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane); all 19 terrorists died. Hundreds of police officers and firefighters who had rushed to the scene of the attacks, were killed.
Surprisingly, the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ the Cult of Rajavi/ the PMOI) celebrated the incident in their then headquarters in Iraq, Camp Ashraf. Let’s explore the nature of the MKO and why it cheered such a human catastrophe.
The 9/11nine eleventh attack sparked investigations and researches on terrorism and its definitions, purposes and types. Eastern Kentucky University considers five types of terrorism:
State-Sponsored terrorism, which consists of terrorist acts on a state or government by a state or government.
Dissent terrorism, which are terrorist groups which have rebelled against their government.
Terrorists and the Left and Right, which are groups rooted in political ideology.
Religious terrorism, which are terrorist groups that are extremely motivated by religion
Criminal Terrorism, which are terrorists acts used to aid in crime and criminal profit.
What about the MKO? Which type of terrorism does it practice and belong to? To answer the question, all the above-mentioned types should be investigated in the history of the group.
The MKO was logistically and financially supported by the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It was sheltered In Iraq acting as “Saddam’s private army” in spying operations and cross border attacks against the Iranians. The group also aided Saddam with suppressing the uprisings of Iraqi Kurds and Shiits. The MKO even had a share of the Oil-for-Food program of Iraq.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the MKO was disarmed and at the same time guarded by the US military. It was relocated in Albania under the supervision of the UNHCR and the US. Previously, in April 2012, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker had revealed that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) of the US army conducted military and spying training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq in the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site. Moreover, there are numerous reports on Saudi’s financial support for the MKO.
The MKO was basically founded as an anti-Shah armed movement in the 1960s. It broke out with the newly established Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution and launched a massive armed struggle against the government.
Terrorists and the Left and Right
The third type refers to terrorism which is based on a leftist or rightist political ideology. The MKO’s ideology mixes Islam and Marxism –although they are hardly ever combined. As a leftist movement, the MKO assassinated American military personnel and civilians working in Iran in the 1970s because they were regarded as the arms of Imperialism by the MKO.
After the Iranian revolution the MKO leaders accused Islamic Republic of being reactionary and once again resorted to armed struggle against Iranian civilians and authorities. The MKO’s most recent terrorist attacks were the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientists that was allegedly done with collaboration of Israeli Intelligence
The MKO is a Muslim organization in which the Islamic rules are combined with cult-like practices. Hijab is mandatory for women. Male and female members are completely separated in the group’s camps. Religious ceremonies should be attended by all members. The members of the group have been indoctrinated by the group leader, Massoud Rajavi, to believe that he is vicegerent of God on earth. The ruling atmosphere is very similar to the ones of religious extremists like al Qaeda and ISIS.
Furthermore, the MKO leaders explicitly supported the extremist Islamists. A large number of former members of the group gave testimonies on the celebration that Massoud Rajavi held in Camp Ashraf to cheer the catastrophic 9/11thincidents. “This was the reactionary Islam, Look forward for the revolutionary Islam of Maryam”, Rajavi said.
This type of terrorism has always been a part of the MKO’s existence. The criminal acts of the group included bank and jewelry shop robberies before the Iranian revolution as well as child smuggling after they separated the children from their parents in Camp Ashraf and sent them to Europe. The group supporters also attacked Iranian diplomatic missions in 13 countries across the world in 1991.
Thus, whether the MKO is blacklisted as a terrorist organization or not, it has always had the potentials of committing terrorist acts. The threat of a state sponsored extremist criminal group is not deniable at all.