• Category Category: M
  • View View: 2431
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mujahidin-i Khalq

The Saziman-i Mujahidin-i Khalq-i lran (Holy Warrior Organization of the Iranian People) is better known simply as the Iranian Mujahidin. It is a religious, but anticlerical, organization and constitutes the main opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Mujahidin’s ideology combines Shiism with Marxism. It interprets Islam, especially the Qur’an, the hadiths (sayings of the Prophet and imams), and Shi `i teachings, to be a divine message for social, economic, and political revolution. It also finds much of Marxism, but not dialectical materialism, to be an indispensible tool for analyzing politics, society, and history. As one of its handbooks declares: “We say `no’ to Marxist philosophy, especially atheism. But we say `yes’ to Marxist social thought, particularly to its analysis of feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism” (Mujahidin Organization, Tarikhchah, jiryan-i kudita, va khatt-i kununi -yi Sdzimdni Mujahidin-i Khalq-i Iran [Short History, the Coup Incident, and the Present Policy of the People’s Mujahidin Organization of Iran], Tehran, 1978). Mujahidin ideas are so similar to those of ‘Ali Shari`ati, the famous contemporary thinker, that many commentators have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that Shari’ati inspired the organization. Actually, the two developed their ideas independently of each other. [See the biography of Shad `ad. ]

The Mujahidin organization was created in the mid1960s by a group of recent graduates from Tehran University, most from the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture, who had also studied the Qur’an and Imam `All’s Nahj al-baldghah (Way of Eloquence) with Ayatollah Mahmud Taleqani [see the biography of Taleqani]. The founding leaders had been members of Mehdi Bazargan’s Nahzat-i Azadi-yi Iran (Liberation Movement of Iran), but after the bloody demonstrations of June 1963, they found their parent party too moderate and too wedded to conventional politics. Even more important, they were all deeply impressed by contemporary guerrilla movements, especially those in Cuba, Vietnam, and Algeria. They concluded that the only way to challenge the Pahlavi regime was through armed struggle and heroic deeds of martyrdom. In their own words: “After June 1963, militants-irrespective of ideology-realized one cannot fight tanks with bare hands. We had to ask the question `what is to be done?’ Our answer was straightforward: `armed struggle.’ ” (Mujdhid 4 [November 1974]). In their early discussion groups, they studied Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare, Lenin’s What Is to Be Done?, Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Regis Debray’s Revolution within the Revolution, and most important of all, Amar Ouzegan’s Le meilleur combat. Ouzegan, a former communist who had become the leading theoretician of the Algerian FLN, argued that Islam was a revolutionary socialist creed and that the only way to fight imperialism and its local lackeys was to resort to the armed struggle and appeal to the religious sentiments of the masses. The early Mujahidin adopted Le meilleur combat as their main handbook.

In the late 1960s the Mujahidin collectively wrote a path-breaking book of their own entitled Nahzat-i Husayni (The Husaynite Movement). In this book they argued that Imam Husayn had taken up arms because the Ummayyad Caliphate was exploiting the masses and betraying the Prophet’s true cause-the establishment of a classless society, which they termed nizam-1 tawhidi (unitary order). This became their battle cry first against the shah and later against the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The eternal message of the holy month of Muharram, when Husayn was martyred, Nahzat-i Husayni stressed, was that human beings, unlike animals, had the sacred duty to fight political oppression and class exploitation. The ShN martyrs, the book concluded, were like Che Guevara: they accepted martyrdom as a revolutionary duty and considered the armed struggle against class oppression as their sacred obligation. In short, both the martyrs and Guevara had died for the cause of social equality. The Mujahidin developed similar ideas in pamphlets entitled Takdmul (Evolution toward Perfection), Shindkht (Knowledge), and Iqtisdd bih zaban-i sadah (Economics in a Simple Language).

The Mujahidin also developed their own tafsir (explanatory method) for understanding scriptural texts, especially the Qur’dn and the Nahj al-baldghah. These texts, they argued, should be treated not as dead parchments, but as “guides” and “living inspirations for revolutionary action.” They should be placed in their proper “historical context” and read for their “real radical essence.” They further argued that the clergy had done to these texts what the reformist Social Democrats of Europe had tried to do to Marx and Engels-paid lip service to them, turned their teachings into harmless banalities, and emasculated their revolutionary essence.

These early works gave new meanings to old Islamic and Shi`i terms. For example, the meaning of mustaz`afan changed from “the meek” to “the exploited masses” (as in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth); ummah, from “a religious community” to “a dynamic society in constant motion toward a classless society”; jihad, from “crusade” to “liberation struggle”; mu’min, from “the pious believer” to “the true fighter for social justice”; shahid, from “religious martyr” to “revolutionary hero”; mujahid, from “holy warrior” to “freedom fighter”; and most ironic of all, imdm, from “religious leader” to “charismatic revolutionary leader.” Some of these new meanings eventually found their way into Khomeini’s own pronouncements.

The Mujahidin launched their guerrilla struggle in 1971 with a series of bombings and armed attacks. In the course of the next eight years, the organization gained a nationwide reputation for courage, determination, and efficiency. At the same time, however, it lost many of its leaders and cadres through arrests, executions, and street shootouts. Of the eighty-three Mujdhids who lost their lives from 1971 to 1979, almost all came from the ranks of the young intelligentsia in Tehran and the central Persian-speaking’ provinces. They were engineers, teachers, accountants, and most often, university students. By the mid-1970s, the Mujahidin, as well as the Marxist Fida’iyan, were considered to constitute the main opposition to the shah.

Despite this success, the Mujahidin suffered a major schism in 1975. Some members declared themselves Marxist-Leninists and denounced Islam as a “conservative petit bourgeois ideology.” Their religious disillusionment was caused by the discovery that Khomeini and the clergy, with the notable exception of Tdleqdni, refused to support their armed struggles. These Marxists later renamed themselves the Saziman-i Paykdr dar Rdh-i Azadi-yi Tabaqah-yi Kdrgdr (The Combat Organization for the Emancipation of the Working Class Paykdr, in short. Ibrahim Yazdi, a Nahzat-i Azadi leader, argued that this schism so weakened the Mujahidin that it paved the way for the clergy to come to power. The split, he claimed, changed the whole course of Iranian history (Akharin Taldsh-hd dar dkharin ruz-ha [Last Struggles in the Last Days], Tehran, 1984).

By late 1978 and early 1979 little remained of the Mujahidin-and those who were left were incarcerated in prison and led by Mas’ud Rajavi, one of the few early members to have survived the executions and the armed confrontations. A graduate of Tehran University’s law school, Rajavi had been arrested in 1972 and condemned to death. An international effort made on his behalf by his brother, a student in Switzerland, had persuaded the shah to commute Rajavi’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Rajavi did not leave prison until late 1978, but when released, he promptly regrouped his followers, who then helped deliver the old regime its coup de grace in the final street battles of February 1979.

In the two years after the Iranian Revolution, the Mujahidin grew rapidly into a major force. It established branches throughout the country. It rebuilt an underground armed network-much to the consternation of the new authorities. Its organ, Mujahid, became one of the country’s largest-circulation newspapers. Its parliamentary candidates drew substantial votes, in some constituencies posing serious challenges to the clerical favorites. Its electoral supporters included not only numerous trade unions, leftist organizations, professional associations, and regional parties-notably, the Kurdish Democratic party-but also an impressive array of prominent writers, lawyers, politicians, antishah politicians, and even some maverick clergymen. Its rallies drew tens of thousands-sometimes hundreds of thousands-of enthusiatic supporters. Gradually the Mujahidin became allied with Abol-Hasan Bani Sadr, the popularly elected president, who, after taking office, accused the clergy of monopolizing power and plotting to establish the “dictatorship of the mullatariat.”

The Mujahidin grew for a number of reasons. It had a well-earned mystique of revolutionary martyrdom. It adhered to Shiism, but opposed Khomeini’s brand of Islam. It denounced his concept of vildyat-i fagih (wilayat al fagih, jurist’s trusteeship) and his claim that the clergy had the divine right to rule. It dismissed as “medieval” his attitudes toward women and his interpretation of shari’ah-especially on the questions of corporal punishment and laws of vengeance. The Mujahidin often cited Taleqani’s famous warning that “the most dangerous form of tyranny is that of the clergy.” It called for political pluralism, freedom of the press, elected councils in towns, villages, and workplaces, and complete equality for all citizens (men and women, clerics and nonclerics, Muslims and non-Muslims, Shi’is and Sunnis alike). Moreover, the Mujahidin advocated farreaching social changes, including land reform, literacy campaigns, medical services, low-income housing, work projects, income redistribution, nationalization of large companies, and worker’s control of industrial factories. In short, the Mujahidin presented a radical but modernist intepretation of Islam.

The Islamic Republic’s restrictions on the Mujahidin intensified as the latter’s popularity increased-especially after Taleqani who had tried to mediate between the two, suffered a fatal heart-attack. The regime labeled the Mujahidin iltiqati (“eclectic”) and gharbzadah (contaminated with the disease of Westernism). It barred Mujahidin spokesmen from the radio-television network; disqualified Rajavi from the presidential race; periodically closed down Mujahid and its provincial offices; and stopped the ballot-count in constituencies where Mujahidin candidates were doing well. The Khomeini regime also refused to grant demonstration permits, and it used club-wielders, known as Hizbullahis (those of the Party of God), to break up Mujahidin rallies. More than seventy Mujahids lost their lives in such incidents in 198o and 1981-almost as many as had been killed in nine years of guerrilla warfare against the shah. Most of the victims were college and high school students. Finally, in June 1981, Khomeini pronounced the Mujahidin to be mundfiqin (“hypocrites”), and cited the Qur’an to argue that the “mundfiqin were more dangerous than the kdfir [infidels].” The regime promptly declared the Mujahidin to be the “enemies of God” and ordered the revolutionary guards to execute summarily Mujahidin demonstrators, irrespective of age.

The Mujahidin countered state terror with its own brand of “revolutionary terror”-ambushes, suicide attacks, bombings, and assassinations. The regime, in turn, retaliated with a reign of terror unprecedented in Iranian history: mass arrests, torture, executions, and even public hangings. During the height of this terrorwhich lasted from June 1981 until September 1985-the

Mujahidin suffered more than nine thousand dead. Most of them came from the young generation of the intelligentsia: they were teachers, civil servants, doctors, veterinarians, technicians, accountants, and most important, college and high school students. The dead also included some factory workers, especially ones with high school diplomas. In terms of geography, most came from Tehran, the Caspian region, and the Shi`i and Persian-speaking regions of central Iran and northern Khurasan.

The reign of terror forced the leadership, especially Rajavi, to move into exile, first to Paris, then, after June 1986, to Iraq. In Paris, the Mujahidin created a broad coalition named the Shura-yi Milli-yi Muqavamat (National Council of Resistance). Its avowed goal was to replace the Islamic Republic with a Democratic Islamic Republic. Initially the council included Ban! Sadr, the Kurdish Democratic party, and a number of leftist and liberal organizations as well as prominent national figures. In Iraq, the Mujahidin set up training camps, a radio station named Sada -yi Mujahid (Mujahid Voice), and most important, the National Liberation Army-a well-equipped force of some seven thousand men and women. Moreover, the Mujahidin, using the National Council name, established public-relations offices in the United Nations and in many capitals-in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, as well as in the West. These offices hold press conferences, fax news bulletins, publish pamphlets, and circulate videos to convince their host publics both that the present Iranian regime is highly unstable and that the National Council is the only viable alternative to the Islamic Republic. In early 1986, for example, these offices collected signatures from more than five thousand public figures-including thirty-five hundred legislators in Western countries-denouncing mass executions and violations of human rights in Iran.

Although it remains a significant force in exile, the Mujahidin has lost much of its social basis within Iran. The open alliance with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein-especially during the Iran-Iraqi War-has alienated the general public. Important allies, notably Ban! Sadr and the Kurdish Democratic party, have gone their separate ways. In fact, the National Council has been reduced to a mere front organization. The Mujahidin has lost some of its own cadres; some have dropped out of politics, others have created rival offshoots, yet others have made their peace with Tehran. The organization’s denunciation of former allies as “traitors”, “leeches,” “garbage,” and “parasites” has led many to wonder whether its version of Islam would be any more tolerant than that of Khomeini.

The Mujahidin has increasingly become an inwardlooking religio-political sect. It has surrounded its leader with an intense personality cult, proclaiming that “Rajavi is Iran, and Iran is Rajavi.” It has purged the halfhearted and denounced them as the enemies of Iran. It has ceased publishing intellectual works, serious analyses, and even regular newspapers. For some secular observers, it has become another sect-albeit an armed one-eagerly awaiting the New Revolution, much in the same way as the early Shi`is expected the Return of the Mahdi.

[See also Iranian Revolution of 1979.1


Abrahamian, Ervand. The Iranian Mojahedin. New Haven, 1989. Association of Committed Professors of Iranian Universities. Facts and Myths on the People’s Mojahedin of Iran: Examples of the Lies, Distortions, and Fabrications in Ervand Abrahamian’s The Iranian Mojahedin. N.p., 1990.

Irafani, Suroosh. Revolutionary Islam in Iran. London. 1983. Mujahidin critique of the Islamic Republic.

Mujahidin Organization. The History of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, 1965-1971. Long Beach, Calif., 1981. Contains short hagiographies of the founding members.

Mujahidin Organization. How to Study the Qoran? Long Beach, Calif., 1981. Summary of the organization’s method of exegesis. Mujahidin Organization. Massoud Rajavi. N.p., 1981. Short biography of the organization’s leader, together with its program in 1980-198i.

Mujahidin Organization. List of Names and Particulars of 14,028 Victims of the Khomeini Regime’s Executions. N.p., 1987. The organization’s book of martyrs since 1981.

Radjavi, Kazem. La revolution iranienne et les Moudjahedines. Paris, 1983. Authored by the brother of the organization’s leader, it describes the Iranian Revolution from the Mujahidin perspective. Shoaee, Rokhsareh. “The Mujahid Women of Iran: Reconciling ‘Culture’ and `Gender.’ ” Middle East Journal 41 (Autumn 1987): 519-537

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/mujahidin-khalq/

  • writerPosted On: September 9, 2014
  • livePublished articles: 768

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Translate »