After Khomeini's return to Iran, he dispatched his son, Ahmad, to meet with Massoud Rajavi. Ahmad, on behalf of Khomeini, offered Mr. Rajavi a proposal: “If you support the Imam and oppose his opponents,” he said, “all gates will be open before you and you will receive everything you want.”1
Mr. Rajavi rejected the offer, explaining the PMOI supported the establishment of a democratic government. If the Ayatollah followed this path, Mr. Rajavi pledged the full support of the Mojahedin.
At a rally on February 23, 1980, Mr. Rajavi announced the PMOI’s political platform for a new Iranian government in a speech at Tehran University. He positioned the PMOI as the main opposition party to Khomeini and the fundamentalist clerics. As explained by Mohammad Mohaddessin:
"Rajavi's speech in Tehran University was in fact the Mojahedin's anti-fundamentalist manifesto. The prestige and credibility that years of struggle against the Shah bestowed on the PMOI made it a prime candidate to challenge the mullahs’ power in the country. The PMOI’s emphasis on political freedoms as the most important issue of the day put it on a collision course with Khomeini and his supporters, including the KGB controlled Tudeh Party.”2
Weeks after the Shah’s overthrow, the mullahs began a secret campaign of low-level violence against the PMOI. Hezbollah gangs, called “club-wielders,” attacked PMOI offices, rallies, and supporters.
As the PMOI’s popularity increased, the Hezbollah thugs, in turn, ratcheted up their brutality and frequency of assaults. The PMOI absorbed the violent blows and refused to respond in kind. It focused its attention on peaceful struggle, hoping the strategy would eventually restore democracy and freedom to Iran. The PMOI's strategy was to delay an all out confrontation with the regime for as long as possible.
During this period, “The PMOI became identified for its steadfastness against the religious tyranny and the regime’s efforts to impose its fundamentalist Islam on the country,” according to author Shaul Bakhash.4
In January 1980, a year after the revolution, Iran organized its first presidential election. Since Mr. Rajavi's release from prison, the PMOI had made great strides in rebuilding the organization. It had branches and offices in more than 250 cities. The daily circulation of its newspaper, the Mojahed, reached nearly 600,000, the largest in the country.5
Mr. Rajavi announced his candidacy for president. His bid for public office received widespread support, including other parties, ethnic and religious minorities (Kurds, Sunnis, Christians, Jews, etc), students, young people, secular groups, and women.6
A week before the presidential election, Khomeini issued a fatwa, vetoing Mr. Rajavi’s candidacy. Khomeini, fearing Mr. Rajavi might win the election, banned his participation on the basis that he had not voted for Iran’s new constitution that created an authoritarian theocracy.7
Forced to withdraw from the race, Mr. Rajavi said the PMOI would continue to pursue its political goals within the constraints of the constitution and new legal system.
The mullahs increased their pressure on the PMOI. They prohibited Mojahedin representatives from appearing on university campuses. And in dozens of towns, Hezbollah club-wielders “attacked and looted Mojahedin headquarters, student societies, and meetings.”8 “In February 1980, 60,000 copies of Mojahed were seized and burned.”9
An estimated 700 PMOI supporters were injured by Hezbollah in an attack on the PMOI headquarters at Qaemshahr and another 400 were assailed in Mashad.10
Mullahs traveled from town to town spreading vitriolic lies about the PMOI. Cleric Hojjat ol-Eslam Khaz’ali, for example, told a congregation in Mashad, “Even if they [PMOI] hide in a mouse hole, we will drag them out and kill them…We are thirsty for their blood. We must close off their jugular."11
Denied the opportunity to run for president, Mr. Rajavi submitted his candidacy for a seat in the Majlis, Iran’s parliament. In the first round, the mullahs rigged the vote tally to prevent Mr. Rajavi and other PMOI candidates from gaining a seat.
The PMOI denounced the election and documented widespread “rigging, fraud, and violence.” Ballots supporting Mr. Rajavi were diverted to Islamic Republican Party (IRP) candidates. At polling stations, people without proper identification were allowed to vote and Islamic militants filled out the ballots of other voters. In some cases, lists of IRP candidates were distributed at polling stations, violating election laws.12
Khomeini warned voters they would be considered sinners if they failed to support candidates who favored an Islamic government.13 He further manipulated the process by only promoting IRP candidates prior to the campaign and then prohibited all electronic media coverage during the campaign, disadvantaging opposition candidates.14
Protests were leveled. The government was forced to set up a commission to investigate the vote rigging and fraud, but nothing came of its action.
1) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs," by Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.
4) "The Reign of the Ayatollahs," by Shaul Bakhash, Basic Books, New York, 1984. Quoted in "Enemies of the Ayatollahs," by Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.
5) "Enemies of the Ayatollahs," by Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.
6) "Amendment for Sunni Moslems, Khomaini (sec) Makes Concession to Ethnic Regions," Reuters, The Globe and Mail, January 21, 1980.
7) "The Reign of the Ayatollahs," by Shaul Bakhash, Basic Books, New York, 1984. Quoted in "Enemies of the Ayatollahs," by Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.
11) "Cheating Charged Iran Election May Be Declared Invalid," Reuters, The Globe and Mail, March 17, 1980.
12) "Iranians Return to Polls Today," The Globe and Mail, May 9, 1980.
13) "Parliamentary Vote Turnout Suggests Win by Iranian Clergy," Washington Post, March 15, 1980.