People hold up photos of family members killed by the Iranian regime during an MEK conference in Paris. Photo: Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Iran’s controversial opposition movement, held its annual conference in Paris on Saturday, attended by prominent western politicos. Representatives of the Kurdish opposition party Xabat were also present.
“We have had an alliance with MEK for 17 years for two reasons. One is MEK has approved the right of Iranian Kurds for autonomy. Second, we both want the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Kamil Nuranifar, a member of the Xabat politburo, told Rudaw.
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and personal lawyer to US President Donald Trump, participated in the conference. In a meeting with Maryam Rajavi, the leader of MEK, Guiliani said “the Islamic Republic is a corrupt regime and the people of Iran have been its longest suffering victim,” according to MEK’s official website.
Addressing a rally, Giuliani called for regime change. He said he was not there speaking on behalf of Washington, but said, "It seems to me there would be a rather happy celebration should regime change occur."
Former US House Speaker and informal Trump advisor Newt Gingrich, former Canadian PM Steven Harper, and former French foreign minister Bernard Kushner were also among the speakers.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, also has strong ties to the group.
US politicians have been well paid to speak at MEK events in the past.
In 1981 MEK formed an alliance with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). However, the KDPI left the alliance in April 1985 when the KDPI’s then leader pursued talks with the regime regarding Kurdish autonomy. MEK believed there should be no negotiation with the government.
In her speech at the Paris conference, Rajavi said MEK supports the right of ethnic minorities in Iran for autonomy.
Maryam Rajavi speaks at the MEK conference on Saturday. Photo: Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP
MEK was established in the 1960s and had a long armed struggle with Iran.
The group received financial and military support from Saddam Hussein during the eight year Iran-Iraq war and established a base in Iraq. The last members of the MEK left Iraq in August 2016. They were relocated to Albania. The US donated $20 million to help fund the move.
The organization has been criticized for its violent activities and the lack of transparency – some call it a cult. Former members have told of separation of families, forced marriages, child abuse, and torture.
Masoud Rajavi was leader of MEK, but he has not been seen since 2003 and the organization does not provide information about his fate.
The group is banned in Iran.
MEK was involved in oppressing Iraqi Kurds alongside Saddam's army. They were named on the US terror list, but de-listed in 2012 after lobbying efforts in Washington. The European Union removed MEK from its terror list in 2009.
It is expected that other Kurdish opposition parties of Iran might again start talks with MEK over forming an alliance as the Iranian regime is under pressure inside and outside the country.
The MEK has established a self-styled parliament in exile under the umbrella of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of five groups dominated by the MEK.