By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
During a rare interview with a Western reporter in 1994, MEK leader Masud Rajavi said his group had collected $45 million from supporters that year.
That's a lot of cash for what started out, in the 1970s, as an urban guerrilla organization mixing elements of Islamic fundamentalism with leftist radicalism. The MEK soon killed a number of American civilians and military personnel to draw attention to the old U.S.-Shah symbiosis. After the revolution, the group briefly supported the Khomeini government before falling out with it. Members then waged an armed uprising in the early 1980s, quickly suppressed by the capture and summary execution of thousands of its soldiers.
From its current base in Iraq, the MEK conducts acts of assassination and sabotage against the Islamic regime. Periodically, the Iranian government responds with air attacks against their base deep inside Iraqi territory.
Life in the MEK camps is no picnic, reported Wall Street Journal writer Peter Waldman, who visited the group's Baghdad headquarters in 1994. MEK fighters "write detailed reports to their superiors," Waldman relayed. "Bunkmates inform on bunkmates, siblings tell on siblings, and spouses spy on spouses. The rare dissident is publicly humiliated, jailed, sometimes beaten until 'wrong thinking' is confessed. Those who ask to leave Iraq are often accused of betrayal and threatened with death."
Even so, the MEKalso known as the People's Mujahideenhas picked up supporters in the States. Reports that its activists gave nearly $200,000 to members of Congress in the mid 1990s have been slammed as untrue by the resistance council. Mainstream political support, however, is well documented. During a congressional hearing last June, Senator Torricelli questioned why the U.S. was singling out the MEK. "More than a hundred members of the House of Representatives, the majority of the United States Senate in previous years, have actually asked the State Department to engage in dialogue with the People's Mujahideen," Torricelli told the National Commission on Terrorism. "They have the objective of overthrowing the Iranian government."
Others, like New York City Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman, agree with that kind of "enemy of my enemy" approach. "I don't give a shit if they are undemocratic," he told the Voice. "OK, so the [MEK] is a terrorist organization based in Iraq, which is a terrorist state. They are fighting Iran, which is another terrorist state. I say let's help them fight each other as much as they want. Once they all are destroyed, I can celebrate twice over."