Iran opposition leader maybe dead: reports

Massoud Rajavi disappeared in 2003


Unconfirmed news from several sources in Tehran reported Wednesday the death of Massoud Rajavi, leader of the anti-government organization the People's Mujahedin of Iran.

The news of the death of Massoud Rajavi, also president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was first posted on the website of reformist leader Dr. Mehdi Khazali and no official denial has been issued so far.

The pro-government news website Atynews also wrote that a source close to the website staff telephoned from abroad to report the death of the dissident leader.

The pro-reformist website Roozonline confirmed that the same story was reported by its sources in the Iranian capital Tehran and added that the news has since then been circulating among members of the Revolutionary Guard via mobile text messages.

Since 2003, there has been no news of the whereabouts of Massoud Rajavi. Some said he was detained in a cell adjacent to that of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein while others said he is under house arrest in Iraq.

There were also reports that he was at the U.S. Naval Forces 5th fleet in Bahrain and that he was seen at the U.S. Army headquarters in Qatar. He was also rumored several times to have been arrested by Jordanian security.

Non-stop rumors

This is not the first time a rumor goes around that Rajavi is dead or detained, wrote Arash Bahmani in Roozonline. Those rumors, Bahmani added, are usually circulated by pro-government media outlets.

According to Bahmani, the most famous rumor was in 2003 when Rajavi was reported dead after his house in Iraq had been bombed during the U.S. invasion of the country.

The last time Rajavi was heard of was in 2003 when he issued a statement on Ashura Day, the commemoration of the death of al-Hussein. Since then, no video or sound clip of him has appeared.

Last year, several media outlets in Iraqi Kurdistan reported that Rajavi was in the intensive care unit for a serious illness and that the hospital in which he stayed was under very tight security.

A Canadian journalist residing in France, where Rajavi fled in 1981, reported that Rajavi held a meeting with the advisor of U.S. president Barrack Obama in a yacht. There have also been reports that Obama has repeatedly refused meeting with Rajavi.

Amid all rumors about Rajavi's fate after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, statements from the People's Mujahedin of Iran reiterated that the organization's leader is alive and hiding in a safe place.

From Paris to Baghdad

Since Rajavi's absence from the political scene, his wife Maryam Rajavi has been acting as the president-elect of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Rajavi became the head of the People's Mujahedin of Iran in 1972 after several of the organization's leaders were executed during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose rule was opposed by the group since its inception in 1966.

He was later arrested by the Shah's secret police SAVAK and was released in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution took place.

After the triumph of the revolution, the gap widened between the organization and the new Islamic regime due to the former's adoption of Marxist ideologies. The tension reached its peak in 1981 when an armed conflict took place between the two parties. This led Rajavi to flee to Paris.

When France and Iran signed a deal to release French hostages taken in Lebanon during the 1982-1992 Lebanon hostage crisis, Rajavi was deported from France along with many opposition leaders who took refuge there after the 1979 revolution.

Rajavi headed for Iraq where he was given a warn welcome by Saddam Hussein with both hoping to unite to topple the Iranian regime. Rajavi founded a base on the Iranian-Iraqi border and members of People's Mujahedin of Iran joined the Iraqi National Liberation Army.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, to which the People's Mujahedin of Iran is affiliated, also joined the struggle from Europe and tried to recruit as many Iranian dissidents as possible.

The People's Mujahedin of Iran stayed on the EU list of terrorist organizations for several years and its name was removed after the organization gave up armed struggle. However, the U.S. State Department still considers it a terrorist organization.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)