After briefly reading the history of the relationship between the two rivals, we find a history of rampant hostility written by the mullahs’ regime in letters of blood. The 54-year-old MEK, on the other hand, has used all means of legitimate struggle, including armed resistance since Khomeini rode the wave of the 1979 revolution. Khomeini used MEK as a lever to dominate the power by applying the theory of absolute rule of Velayat-e faqih, and excluding all other political parties on the Iranian internal arena.
In fact, this rampant hostility had nothing to do with what Iranian official propaganda flaunts when it either describes, People’s Mojahedin Organization MEK, as a terrorist or talks about their role in the Iran-Iraq war describing them as a movement with Marxist ideologies. Actually, this hostility has its roots in Massoud Rajavi refusing to support Khomeini’s attempts to legitimize his hegemony over the authority and questioning the religious legitimacy of Velayat-e faqih as well, which is still considered the core of the Iranian regime’s power to this day.
Contrary to what the government propaganda promotes as if the MEK were a terrorist organization and despite Tehran regime’s repeated demands that foreign governments treat the organization as a terrorist organization, the resistance group has not taken violence as a primary means of struggle against the Iranian regime, even though it went through periods of armed resistance, especially after Khomeini issued an explicit fatwa against members of the organization in the summer of 1988, describing them as enemies of God who should all be killed.
As a matter of fact, the rampant hostility between the two sides has acquired an exceptional importance over time, the most prominent features of which were manifested in the Iranian regime’s insistence on using all available means to completely eliminate this organization and, in return, the MEK’s insistence to overthrow the ruling dictatorship.
Indeed, the geographical distance between the two opponents has affected the nature of the conflict as it put an end to the durability of armed resistance to the organization, but the organization’s departure to Europe has opened wide horizons for its members to reorganize their ranks and unify their efforts so that the organization would come back stronger and stronger than before. This unification would turn the organization again into a terrifying obsession for the regime’s leaders, especially with its leadership of an organized and continuous campaign to expose the regime’s nuclear and missile programs and terrorist interventions in the region. In addition, MEK has become a platform for the repressed Iranian interior’s voice, a driver and guide for the internal uprisings (Iranian Green Movement 2009, the December 2017 uprising, the January 2018 uprising, and the November 2019 uprising).
A holistic look at the series of contradictory and recurring government slanders
A look at the long and varied list of misleading and incorrect government allegations shows the great hostility the Iranian regime officials have against MEK but, at the same time, exhibits the importance and increasing influence that the MEK has successfully gained during its long course of struggle despite the serious obstacles that have threatening its existence and its political future.
Objectives of demonization policy
In general, the main objective of the government’s policy of demonization against the MEK has been to distort the image of the organization and its members. The regime seemed to be sending internal and external messages, through which the most prominent headlines have centered on the fact that this organization lacks any
popular ground and does not have any internal balance; therefore, it cannot constitute an alternative to the ruling regime. The regime has always been trying to paint a general perception that it is the best among the worst-case scenarios, especially after it failed to polish its image on the international scene, at least.
The issue of the MEK’s relationship with the Iranian people, especially the youth group, has always been a major security issue and concern for the Iranian regime for a long time. This concern reached the extent that, even circulating the name of MEK has remained banned in Iran for long time.
Therefore, the Iranian regime sees any kind of extension or development in this relationship as a serious threat to its power hold.
The regime’s attempts to demonize the MEK at the internal level show the ruling regime’s fear of the organization’s ability to organize a home front, as well as reveal the falseness of the allegations that the regime has continued to promote about the lack of popular ground for this organization.
The foreign messages of the government’s policy of demonizing the MEK focused on the fact that this organization lacks any political future and internal popular support and has no influence on Iranian political and social developments and, therefore, cannot be a suitable alternative to the ruling regime. This regime has always tried to portray MEK to be much worse than it is, and any attempt to replace the regime with this organization would only exacerbate the current situation.
In fact, the ruling Iranian regime has never wasted any chance, whether secretly or in public, to put pressure on various parties to put the MEK on terrorist lists or hand over its leaders to the regime.
The growth of demonization policy stages
The Iranian regime has not adopted a consistent pattern in promoting a policy of demonization against MEK, rather this policy has been dependent on the political and social developments that occur on the internal and external arena alike.
Thus, the propaganda policy against MEK was constantly changing, to the extent that it shifted from the stage where news reports or televised confessions covered with a huge amount of slander in the eighties were broadcasting, to the stage of a sharp media attack on the organization and its members at the present time.
Initially, the policy of demonization in the 1980s focused on promoting that the MEK had ended, and that they had no longer the ability to recruit people into their ranks.
In the 1990s, during the era of Rafsanjani’s presidency in particular, the terrorism propaganda against the organization declined after a number of regime experts believed that any reference to MEK would lead to further promotion for it.
Nevertheless, and in clear contradiction to Tehran’s propaganda about that the political future of this organization had come to an end, the Iranian regime began to openly talk about the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran MEK at the beginning of the first decade of the third millennium.
In fact, the renewed military presence of MEK in Iraq that is close to the Iranian border and the messages of rebellion that this organized body sends into the Iranian interior on a daily basis, have constituted a growing concern among Tehran’s leaders prompting them to implement radical changes in the media policy of dealing with this imminent danger on the borders.
Producing all kinds of anti-MEK documentaries and serials
The Iranian regime produced a few films against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran during the eighties and nineties, but it spent huge sums in this field since the beginning of the first decade of the third millennium until the past few years. The average film production during this period has reached over more than 180 Documentary films and series.
Apparently, the Iranian Green Movement that broke out in 2009 was one of the most important motives that forced the Iranian regime to change its propaganda policy towards MEK after the regime was only content with implicitly referring to them.
This weapon was one of the most important government propaganda tools for the internal influence against the popular sympathy with MEK presence in Iraq. The organization’s success in getting out of the list of American and European terrorism in 2012 cemented the government propagandas even more. Furthermore, the brutal attacks led by the regime on Ashraf Camp in the period between 2009 And the year 2013 describe the regime’s attitude toward MEK.
However, the films produced by government propaganda against MEK were generally very stereotypical and unprofessional due to their exceedingly reliance on presenting a highly caricatured image of the organization, such as the evil characters in Hollywood films or a group of barbaric people who had no rationale but to kill.
However, the movie ” Midday Adventures: Trace of Blood ” (The Noon Events 2), which was shown to the public in October 2019, tried to take some kind of credibility to win the trust of Anti-regime viewers at first sight, while its main objective was to justify the crimes committed by the Iranian regime against members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq MEK in 1988.
Therefore, the production of documentaries was one of the tactics to influence the audience opposed to the regime as well. These documentaries aimed to send a message to them that the path they are taking will turn them into savage human beings, and that the winner in this battle is the ruling regime.
Use of Cyberspace
With the last cadres of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran transferred to the Albanian lands on September 9, 2016, radical changes occurred in the conflict between these two arch-rivals; the period of armed resistance of MEK was put to an end, after which, gradually, the manifestations of the renewed conflict, for which the Cyberspace was an essential and important arena, emerged.
The ruling regime in Tehran did not hesitate to use this tactic relying on great human and material capabilities- aiming to create thousands of deity accounts on various social media platforms to promote the government’s policy of demonization against MEK.
Tehran used the Cyberspace to spread rumors about the expulsion of members of the organization from European countries in an effort to impose a state of psychological warfare against them.
MEK and its cadres have always been one of the most prominent victims of cyber campaigns organized by Iranian threat agents, who worked to affect the spread of MEK’s messages throughout Iran via social media by creating a flood of negative messages in favor of government propaganda.
Buying media and recruiting former members of the organization
The dark image surrounding the ruling regime and the increasing regional and international political isolation it is experiencing, due to the policy of brutality and exporting foreign terrorism, forced it to adopt indirect methods to promote the policy
of demonization because direct tools have been ineffective in giving any credibility to government narratives.
These indirect tools have depended on buying and bribing some famous media outlets to present the negative narrative in a different way. These media were to provide narratives of former members of MEK so that the fabricated government narrative would have the necessary impact.
Still, this indirect method sometimes included a simultaneous criticism of the ruling regime and MEK at the same time. This was for flooding the observer with the details that have always ended in consolidating an image that says that the MEK is worse than the mullahs that must be preserved so that the situation does not go to uncontrollable levels.
In general, the anti-government narrative of the MEK had been concealing its true nature by using the language and culture of the target audience, which was subjected to a widespread disinformation campaign led by paid writers. These writers at times even pretended to be independent or secular writers opposed to theocratic government and religion.
The important point of this indirect approach is that covert Iranian media operations have always been adapted to the dialogue aspects that originally appeared in the regime’s state media. Once these dialogue aspects appear in a different form that seems more credible and durable, they are passed on to other media outlets until the original source is almost forgotten. Then, the regime websites start talking about them as objective aspects quoted from world famous news outlets.
People’s Mujahedin of Iran threatens the ruling regime
Compared to other scattered opposition currents, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran has always been the most prominent threat to the ruling regime
as it offers a real alternative that capable of mobilizing people and equipment in case of a real confrontation with the ruling regime. This organization has a broad popular ground, whose features are evident in the slogans of rebellion shouted by the uprising Iranians during the past decades, let alone the organization international representation’s weight in international forums and its relationship with Western governments.
The efforts of MEK to expose the nuclear and missile program and the blatant regional interference of the ruling regime have boosted the organization’s political capital among Western governments, especially those that find it difficult to adopt a policy of appeasement with Tehran.
In addition, the awareness of MEK of the important and main role of US foreign policy in Iran’s internal developments and their members’ quest to acquire tools to influence it, especially within the Republican Party camp, have earned MEK the ability to challenge the ruling regime and present a clear vision for Iran’s future.
The clear despair and frustration the Iranian people have over reforming the ruling regime, which has been constantly seeking to obliterate the Iranian national identity and squander national wealth on nuclear projects and regional interventions, have confirmed the validity of MEK’s slogans that is, this regime is not reformable and must be overthrown. This attitude may open the door wide making more disgruntled Iranians Against the ruling regime join the slogans of rebellion. These slogans have been exclusively adopted from the beginning by MEK, which is the largest and most organized Iranian opposition organization.
The above leads us to a set of conclusions:
v The policy of demonization and the terrorist operations carried out against the MEK were two sides of the same coin as Tehran legitimized its criminal actions against members and leaders of this organization by cementing the policy of demonization and these terrorist operations, on the other hand, were
a practical explanation for the rampant hostility essence that is self-evident in Tehran’s media messages.
v Tehran deliberately distorted the image of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran to send internal and external messages, the most prominent of which centered on the fact that this organization has lost any popular ground and cannot constitute a real alternative to the ruling regime.
v The People’s Mujahedin Organization has presented a rare example in confronting the ruling regime, especially after being subjected to a number of severe and harsh tests in an unequal confrontation with it. MEK’s discovery of new laws and strategies thousands of kilometers from their homeland has given this organization more dynamism outstands facing the regime’s malicious schemes that are against MEK’s objectives.