The PMOI and NCRI have been fortunate to have outstanding leaders, from its founders to NLA commanders and heads of committees. Sadly, many were executed, first by the Shah's regime and then by Iran's fundamentalist mullahs. Since the early 1970s, the organizations have been led first by Massoud Rajavi and later by Maryam Rajavi. Following are brief biographies.
Massoud Rajavi was born in 1947 in Tabas, a small town in central eastern Iran. He earned a degree in political science from Tehran University and in 1967 joined the PMOI, becoming a member of the Central Committee several years later. Mr. Rajavi was a key contributor to the group’s early discussions on religion, history, and revolutionary theory, which culminated in the PMOI’s modern interpretation of Islam.
Mr. Rajavi, along with other leaders of the PMOI, was arrested by SAVAK in 1971. He was sentenced to death and would have suffered the same fate as his colleagues but for the intervention of his brother, Dr. Kazen Rajavi, in Geneva. He organized an international campaign on Massoud’s behalf that included the assistance of France’s top officials.
Mr. Rajavi’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He spent the next seven years in jail and was among the last group of political prisoners to be set free in January 1979.
Mr. Rajavi dedicated most of his time to rebuilding the PMOI. Once a week he gave a lecture at Sharif University that was widely attended. An article in Le Monde by Eric Rouleau described the occasion:
“One of the most important events not to be missed in Tehran is the course on comparative philosophy, taught every Friday afternoon by Mr. Massoud Rajavi. Some 10,000 people present their admission cards to listen for three house to the lectures by the leader of the People’s Mojahedin on Sharif University’s lawn.”1
In early 1980, Mr. Rajavi was a candidate for the president of Iran. Khomeini blocked Mr. Rajavi's participation a week before the election, offering the feeble explanation that he had opposed the national referendum on Iran's new constitution, which established a theocratic government. Mr. Rajavi then ran for a seat in Iran’s new Majlis (parliament), but was denied a victory after the mullahs manipulated the vote tally and election process.
Despite these setbacks, growing numbers of Iranians gravitated to the PMOI while support for Khomeini's regime declined. In June 1981, more than a half million people attended a PMOI demonstration in Tehran. Khomeini feared he might lose power and lashed out at the PMOI, naming the organization as Iran's main enemy.
PMOI members were summarily arrested, imprisoned, and executed. Forced to leave Iran, Mr. Rajavi traveled to Paris on board an Iranian aircraft from a military base in the heart of Tehran. The historic flight was organized by PMOI supporters within the Iranian Armed Forces.
On February 8, 1982, Khomeini’s agents raided Mr. Rajavi’s house in Tehran. They killed his wife, Ashraf, and a top deputy, Maussa Khiabanni. Mr. Rajavi’s infant child, Mostafa, was held aloft above Ashraf’s bullet-ridden body in front of television cameras by Assadollah Lejevardi, the infamous Butcher of Evin, who vowed to make a “good Hezbollahi” out of the child.
Mr. Rajavi made the difficult decision to initiate a peace campaign during the Iran-Iraq War (see mullahswar.com). He later organized the organization’s relocation to Iraq and the formation of the National Liberation Army, which eventually forced the mullahs to sue for peace in 1988.
Mr. Rajavi managed the affairs of the NCRI and was instrumental in its expansion and resilience. He devoted most of his time to nurturing the organization and supporting efforts to topple the Khomeini regime. While the NCRI is the leading pro-democratic resistance group in Iran, Mr. Rajavi believes it is secondary to achieving the goal of restoring democracy to Iran.
“If at any time, any group or alternative is found to be better equipped to overthrow the regime and guarantee Iran’s independence, democracy and popular sovereignty,” Mr Rajavi said, “we will definitely and wholeheartedly support it, even if it is opposed to our way of thinking.”2
In 1988, Mr. Rajavi’s sister, Moire, and her husband, Asghar Kazemi, were executed among 30,000 other political prisoners by Khomeini’s agents. Two years later, his brother, Professor Kazem Rajavi, was murdered in Geneva by MOIS agents.
In 1989, Mr. Rajavi relinquished his executive responsibilities for the PMOI. His role in safeguarding the principles of the Mojahedin as a Muslim, democratic, nationalist, and progressive organization in the 1970s, in the face of a communist coup, and more importantly, against Khomeini’s all-out assault to destroy the PMOI, has made him a historic leader for the Mojahedin.
His place in history will be remembered alongside the other great Iranian democratic leaders, Sattar-Khan, Mirza Kuchak-Khan and Dr. Mossadeq.
Madam Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has dedicated her life to restoring democracy and freedom to Iran.
Ms. Rajavi was born in Tehran on December 4, 1953. She attended Sharif University of Technology, earning a BS Degree in Metallurgy. While at the university, she helped organize the student movement against the Shah.
One of her sisters was executed by SAVAK agents and another one by Khomeini's regime. Massoumeh was pregnant when she was apprehended by the secret police, tortured, and then murdered. Massoumeh’s husband suffered the same fate.
After the revolution, Ms. Rajavi joined the PMOI, working as an official in the social section. She ran for a seat in the first Majlis (parliament) in February 1980. As with the other PMOI candidates, the mullahs manipulated the voting to block her success.
Ms. Rajavi fled Iran and in 1985 and become a joint leader of the PMOI. She subsequently married Massoud Rajavi. In 1989, she was elected Secretary General of the PMOI, serving in this capacity until 1993, when she was elected President-elect of the NCRI.
Ms. Rajavi has published three books: “Islam, Women and Equality,” “Women, the Force for Change,” and “Women Against Fundamentalism.” The first two publications are compilations of her speeches and the later work details the experiences of women in the Iranian Resistance in their struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.
A key issue for Ms. Rajavi is gender equality. Today, about half of the members of the NCRI are women, filling positions in international, political, social, and cultural affairs. Ms. Rajavi has addressed many leading forums throughout Europe. Below are quotes on various topics:
"Freedom is the most precious value. It is the very essence of progress....For us, freedom is an ideal and a conviction. It is the spirit that guides our Resistance. Freedom is the raison d'être of our movement, it is the reason for its growth and development."
"The reason Khomeini so interferes in all the minute details of the people's lives and leaves them no room to breathe is because the world of this demon and his heirs is comprised of vengeance, obsession, and hatred....In contrast, we must go among our people with a spirit of compassion and openness. Let them be free. Let them step forward to vote and elect freely. Let a spirit of mutual understanding, forgiveness, love of construction, and national unity take the place of spite and vengeance. Let the scars left by Khomeini on the body of this nation be healed."
"Iranian women must free themselves. Freedom does not come free and no one will ever deliver it to us in a silver platter. We must build relationships that are unimpeded by gender-based distinctions and discrimination. The path to liberation begins the moment you believe that no one can prevent the liberation of a woman who has chosen to be free of all fetters we all know too well.”
"Parallel to the liberation of women, men are also liberated and become even more responsible. This is because men who reject gender-based distinctions and discrimination and recognize women's freedom of choice, first of all liberate themselves."
Mullahs and Islam
"These demagogues commit their crimes in the name of Islam, a despicable and horrendous act, and itself one of their most heinous crimes. As a Muslim woman, let me proclaim that the peddlers of religion who rule Iran in the name of Islam, but shed blood, suppress the people, and advocate the export of fundamentalism and terrorism, are themselves the worst enemy of Islam and Muslims. The day will come when they will be forced to let go of the name of Islam."
"Allow me as a woman to tell of the wicked and misogynist mullahs: With all of your reactionary and medieval savagery, misogyny and oppression, you have done all you could do to Iranian women, but I warn you to beware of the day when this tremendous historic force is set free. You will see how you and your backwardness will be uprooted by these free women. You mullahs have chosen, with your unspeakable crimes against women, and you cannot avoid being swept away from Iran's history by these same liberated women."
"I have devoted my life to bring hope for a better future to the people of Iran....And to also prove to the world that Islam as a social and democratic religion is not belligerent and can be productive for women. This is the mandate that gives me inner satisfaction and a sense of true freedom....After the overthrow of the mullahs, we should, more than anything else, try to cure the sense of revenge and hatred amongst our people. We should create unity and expand the spirit of tolerance and patience in the society. It is our mandate to revive the identity and value of Iranian people."
"Whereas Khomeini espouses the culture of sorrow, despair, and disappointment...the Iranian Resistance advocates the culture of love, jubilation, affection, life and happiness. So it is the task of the Resistance at this juncture and in future Iran to prepare the ground for artists to flourish by using their ingenuity in an open, free and healthy environment. We hope that our genuine culture and art can take the spirit of life and hope, light and brightness, prosperity and abundance throughout the country and deep into heart of every Iranian, fueling the flames of hope for a better life and a brighter future."
1) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs," by Mohammed Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.