Several of the speakers at last week’s panel said it’s widely known that the MEK was put on the terrorist list in 1997 as a nod to Iran’s then-new reformist president, Mohammad Khatami. None of the speakers, however, said that the State Department considers the group to have “cult-like characteristics,” and that Maryam Rajavi has established a cult of personality. MEK members are not allowed to marry, attend weekly “ideological cleansings” and children are separated from parents. When Elizabeth Rubin, a New York Times Magazine reporter, toured Camp Ashraf in 2003, she found Rajavi’s image displayed “almost as ubiquitously as the image of Saddam in Iraq or Khomeini in Iran.”
”Every morning and night, the kids, beginning as young as 1 and 2, had to stand before a poster of Massoud and Maryam, salute them and shout praises to them,” Nadereh Afshari, a former MEK member, told Rubin. And inside Iran? Rubin reported that, at the time, “the street protesters risking their lives and disappearing inside the regime’s prisons consider the Mujahedeen a plague — as toxic, if not more so, than the ruling clerics.”
So what brought Washington heavyweights to the MEK cause? It remains unclear. The group’s political arm is known to have a global support network and active lobbying efforts in major Western capitals. Being delisted would allow the group to fundraise and operate freely in the U.S. The State Department claims that since the fall of Hussein, the group has had to rely on front organizations to solicit contributions from expatriate Iranian communities. Meanwhile, the group that has been organizing the panels, Executive Action, LLC, bills itself as “a McKinsey & Company with muscle.” From the group’s website:
If you are under attack by political or business adversaries, unsure of how to do business in emerging markets, or being treated unfairly in the media, then you need ExecutiveAction.
This week, The Wall Street Journal reports, Jones and Richardson were in Brussels, for yet another pro-MEK panel, this one alongside former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.
You can watch the complete video of last week’s panel here:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com