The MEK supported Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1979 revolution, on the condition that they share power and then participate in elections.
After winning the revolution, Khomeini reneged on his promise. Soon the former allies turned against each other. The MEK carried out several bombings in Iran targeting politicians, which also killed some civilians. In return the regime arrested, killed and tortured thousands of MEK members. The family of some MEK members received the body of their loved ones in plastic bin liners. Others suffered some of the most gruesome tortures one can only imagine.
The MEK leadership then fled to France. The Iranian government was obviously very unhappy about this. It asked the French government to expel the MEK. France did not budge. To achieve its goal, the Iranian regime started attacking French targets around the world. Finally in the mid 80s France “got the message” and ordered many members of the MEK out.
This is where the MEK leadership made one of its biggest mistake. In the middle of the Iraq – Iran war, it decided to accept Saddam’s offer of refuge in Iraq. Not only that, MEK soldiers even took part in operations against Iranian soldiers.
This was an unforgivable sin for many Iranians. Saddam Hussein is one of the most detested figures in modern Iranian history. Overwhelming majority of Iranians hate him, regardless of whether they like the regime or not. He killed many innocent civilians in Iran. Just as an example, he bombed my neighborhood of Gisha (Kooy-e Nasr) on many occasions in Tehran, despite the fact that there was no military target there. In one aerial attack all the participants at a 10 year old’s birthday party were buried alive under the rubble of his bombs. Even Rafsanjani mentions the massive bombing of my neighborhood in his memoirs
Personally I will never forget the sounds of Saddam’s bombs falling on my city and on my neighborhood, nor will I forgive him and his cronies for it.
I have found MEK members to be very aggressive and narrow minded. I personally would not want to have anything to do with them.
There are also reports of cult like leadership which runs the organizations.
Some believe that the US has caused a major mistake by removing the group from its terrorist list (it was placed there because in the 70s MEK members attacked a number of American servicemen in Iran, among other reasons). They believe that this will tarnish the image of the US in Iran between the Iranian people.
I think this view is exaggerated.
The MEK is unpopular, however after the 2009 brutal crackdown in Iran, when it comes to people of Iran’s fury the MEK doesn’t hold a candle to the anger being felt towards the regime.
Furthermore the group is no longer involved in terror activities and is in no way as powerful as it once was.
The Iranian regime will try to use this new development to portray the US government as the enemy of the people of Iran. However its extremely unlikely that it will get very far. These days the regime is discredited and disliked inside Iran like never before. Few people have time or patience for its cries of “enemy at the gates”. This call is already overused.
The MEK should use this new opportunity to show that it has changed. Its most important audience should be the people of Iran. They need convincing that its a democratic organization, that it respects human rights and is willing to treat its members and those who disagree with them within the frames of democracy and human rights. The MEK need to do a lot of convincing.
And now that they say that they have renounced terrorism, as much as I dislike their policies and am against them, I think they deserve to stand for elections in a free and democratic Iran alongside Islamists, Monarchists, Communists and whoever else the people of Iran decide to allow to run for elections.
Their choice matters far more than what the US government thinks of the MEK.