Washington, DC – Congressional supporters of the drive to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. terrorism list defended the organization’s use of violence while dismissing Iran’s nonviolent Green Movement at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week. The hearing was also remarkable in that senior leaders of the designated foreign terrorist organization were caught counseling some of the witnesses before the hearing. It is illegal to coordinate with a foreign terrorist organization to advocate on behalf of the terrorist group.
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, compared the use of terrorism by MEK to violence employed during the American Revolutionary War. He justified the “cult-like” behavior of the MEK, saying American revolutionaries included “religious fanatics and Christian cults.”
Rohrabacher called for the MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which prevents the group from receiving government funding and makes it illegal for MEK to operate in the U.S. “Any group that chooses to use violence to resist doesn’t make them right or wrong,” Rohrabacher stated. “Backing people who fight against tyranny is also something the U.S. should be doing.”
Despite the terrorist listing, Ali Safavi, a senior member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was at the hearing, where he openly counseled witnesses before and during their testimony. The NCRI is the MEK’s political wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The hearing’s witnesses included three former U.S. officials who have actively participated in pro-MEK conferences, including former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
All three witnesses who previously appeared at MEK conferences unanimously called for the MEK to be removed from the terror list, though none were asked to disclose whether they had received money to support the organization, as have other officials who have advocated for delisting the group.
The lone dissenting voice among the witnesses, former Obama Administration advisor Ray Takeyh, was subjected to an intense back and forth with Representatives on the panel.
Takeyh warned panelists who viewed MEK as a viable alternative to the Iranian regime that the organization has no support in Iran.
“I don’t agree,” responded Representative Bob Filner (D-CA). “Even if you’re right, so what?”
Filner laughed off evidence that MEK President Maryam Rajavi is a cult leader, despite reports from the State Department and FBI of “cult-like” practices by MEK that include indoctrination rituals and torture. “She is as intelligent, humorous, humane and humble as anyone I’ve ever met,” Filner observed, recounting what he said have been numerous meetings he has held in Paris with Rajavi.
Filner accused Takeyh of justifying violence against the MEK by highlighting the group’s history of terrorism, and said the U.S. should be supporting the organization as a “third way” alternative in Iran because it opposes the Iranian regime.
“These are our friends! We should be getting out of their way and de-list them,” Filner exclaimed. “Let them do what they can! Why are we helping Iran by not helping the MEK?”
Rohrabacher defended the MEK’s history of violence, saying, “This is a territory that’s filled with violence—I would be surprised if there wasn’t any organization that wasn’t in some way involved with using force to protect themselves.”
“Oh I would disagree with that,” responded Takeyh. “Within Iran there are many opposition movements, such as the Green Movement, that explicitly reject violence.”
But Rohrabacher was adamant in his support for MEK. “I will have to admit the thing that attracts me to this movement is that it is willing to fight,” he responded. “It won’t just be pacifists,” Rohrabacher said, referring dismissively to the Green Movement, “it will be people with courage and people who stand up.”
Mukasey, in addition to calling for the MEK to be removed from the terrorism list, urged that MEK members be allowed to resettle in the United States. Mukasey acknowledged that members of terrorist organizations are legally barred from entering the U.S., and suggested legislation be introduced to change the law for MEK members.
Prior to the hearing, Mukasey was witnessed receiving coaching from Alireza Jafarzadeh, who served as the official spokesman for the NCRI before it was declared a terrorist group and its offices raided by the FBI in 2003.
Meanwhile, many were turned away from the hearing or sent to the overflow room to watch the proceedings because the hearing room was at capacity. It was filled with individuals in yellow jerseys emblazoned with the slogans, “De-list the MEK,” “Protect Ashraf,” and “Ramp up sanctions.”