Congressmen working with MEK to remove terrorist designation

Rep. FilnerRep. Filner (D-CA)

Washington, DC – Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) held an event today to introduce a resolution calling for the Obama administration to remove the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran [MEK] from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  The event also featured Reps. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX), each of whom spoke out in favor of the resolution.

The resolution, entitled the “Pro-Democracy Movement in Iran resolution,” equates the MEK with the Green Movement, calling for “an end to a selective approach to Iranian opponents who struggle for democracy and human rights.”  Congressman Rohrabacher, along with Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), were the only original cosponsors when the bill was formally introduced in the House of Representatives.

While the MEK has sought to conflate itself with the Green Movement to draw support in western capitals, leaders in the Green Movement have spoken out against the group, which has little support in Iran because it fought alongside Iraq’s military during the Iran-Iraq war and has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Iranian civilians.

The Iranian government has exploited the MEK’s statements by portraying supporters of Iran’s non-violent democratic movement as agents of the MEK in order to justify its violent crackdown on peaceful protestors. 

The Mojahedin-e Khalq – also known as MEK, MKO, or NCRI – has waged an extensive lobbying and media campaign for many years to challenge its designation as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.  However, that effort suffered a significant set back last year when the Bush administration redesignated the MEK as a terrorist organization.

The MEK’s lobbying efforts in Congress have been more successful, though, with a number of Members of Congress coming to the organization’s defense. 

The Department of State’s list of foreign terrorist organizations states that the MEK “uses propaganda and terrorism to achieve its objectives and has been supported by reprehensible regimes, including that of Saddam Hussein.”  It also notes that the MEK “assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the violent takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.”

The MEK’s history of terrorism and “cult-like characteristics” described in the Department of State’s report, however, have not deterred their Congressional backers.  In a letter sent to his Congressional colleagues in support of his resolution, Rep. Filner describes the MEK as “Iran’s main opposition.”

The U.S. government cites estimates that the MEK has “between 5,000 and 10,000 members,” the vast majority of whom reside outside of Iran.  By comparison, millions of people flooded the streets of Iran in support of the Green Movement and to protest against the June 12, 2009 presidential elections, which are widely believed to have been stolen.

This is not the first resolution Rep. Filner has introduced in support of the MEK.  He also introduced a resolution condemning the use of violence by Iraqi forces against residents of the MEK’s base in Camp Ashraf.  That resolution has gained 223 cosponsors, in what has been seen by many as a trial run for the MEK’s campaign to get Congressional support for challenging its designation as a foreign terrorist organization.




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David ElliottDavid ElliottAs Chief Operating Officer (COO), David oversees organizational planning, human resources, finances, information technology, and special projects. David joined NIAC in 2009. He worked as its Policy Associate and Assistant Policy Director before being promoted to Director of Operations in 2012.
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