As far as I can remember, Mojahedin Khalgh or MEK, an armed opposition group, has never enjoyed national support in Iran. When the MEK’S leader left Iran for Iraq and set up a camp to launch operations against the Iranian regime from Iraq, people shied away from them.
Iran was at war with Iraq and this group stood by Saddam Hussein, helping Iraq in their struggle against Iran.
The MEK’s operations were deadly. On one occasion they assassinated key revolutionary figure Ayatollah Motahari; on another occasion, they bombed the Republic Party’s headquarters in Tehran, killing about 70 people, including Prime Minister Masoud Rajai.
I was at primary school at the time; the father of one of my classmates, Mr. Akbari, was one of those killed in the bombing.
After the Iran-Iraq War, the MEK faded from the scene, only to regain prominence when the US invaded Iraq.
Thousands of MEK members, most of them middle-aged, were residing in the Ashraf camp when it was taken over by the Americans in 2003. Iran wondered what their fate might be. Eight years later, still nothing has happened to them.
Iran won’t have them back and they’re struggling to stay in Iraq. Who’s going to offer a safe haven to 3,500 MEK members, all on the US terrorist list?
Last Friday, Iraqi forces last Friday killed at least 10 of them and injured more than 100 more.
Nouri Al-Malki’s spokesman said that they refused to let Iraqi soldiers enter the camp for a routine inspection.
On Tuesday April 11, the Iraqi government gave the residents of Ashraf camp an ultimatum: they must leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
But where they can go? What makes it more difficult is that the leadership refuses to let individual members leave.
Disarmed in Iraq by the Americans back in 2003, they blame the latter for not protecting them.
But the real problem is with their leadership. At least one-third of the MEK members in Ashraf camp are from North America or other Western countries, but the leadership won’t let them leave and go home.
In fact, no-one has heard anything about their leader, Masoud Rajavi, since 2003. His wife Maryam, who lives in France, is now running the show and she’s reluctant to hand over power to any of the members in the camp in Iraq.
Many Iranians think that the MEK are finished. Most of them feel sorry for these stranded MEK members. They regret that Rajavi trapped them and are also upset to see them being killed like animals in Iraq by Iraqis.
Some Iranians want the government to show the residents of Ashraf camp a little mercy, allowing them to come home to Iran and their families.
“These people have been wasting away for many years. It’s wrong. They are getting old and ought to come home. No-one knows who they were and what they did. An amnesty would save them from this nasty situation,” a journalist in Tehran told me.
Published in the Egyptian Gazette on April 27.