The Iranian Revolution, Then and Now - Dariush Zahedi, 2000

Oppositional Forces in the Pahlavi Era -- The Oppositional Forces: The Mojahedin

The Sazeman-e Mojahedin-e Khalgh (Organization of People's Crusaders) was founded in 1965 by six former members of the Liberation Movement, including Mohammad Hanifzadeh, Saeed Mohsen, Mohammad Asgarizadeh, Rasoul Moshkinfam, Ali Asghar Badizadegan, and Ahmad Rezai. Virtually all the founding members were either university students or recent graduates with majors in technical fields who had become disgruntled with the Liberation Movement's moderate stance and interpretation of Islam as well as its strategy of peaceful struggle against the shah's regime. Accordingly, they devised a radical interpretation of Islam and adopted the strategy of armed struggle in order to dislodge the Pahlavi regime (Abrahamian, 1982, p. 489; Foran, 1993, p. 373; Milani, 1994, p. 83;Keddie, 1981, p. 238).

Sharing many common features with the writings and declarations of Ali Shariati, a nonclerical Islamist theoretician, the Mojahedin's ideology was devised through the merging of certain aspects of Shia Islam with those of Marxism. Like Shariati, the Mojahedin argued that true Moslems, instead of concentrating on the ritualistic and ceremonial aspects of their religion, must emulate the example of Imam Hossein, who sacrificed his life in the struggle against tyranny and injustice. The Mojahedin maintained that the forces of injustice in the modern world were embodied in arbitrary, despotic rule as well as imperialism and capitalism. Echoing the arguments of Shariati, the Mojahedin held that "it was the duty of all Muslims to continue [Imam Hussein's] struggle to create a classless society and destroy all forms of oppression ... [including] imperialism, capitalism, despotism, and conservative clericalism" (Abrahamian, 1982, p. 489; Foran, 1993, p. 373; Keddie, 1981, p. 238; Milani, 1994, p. 83). In a highly innovative and unlikely departure from tradition, the Mojahedin argued that the Nezam-e Tawhid (monotheistic order), which the Prophet and the Imams had endeavored to establish, "was a commonwealth fully united by virtue of being 'classless' and striving for the common good as well as the fact that it worships only one God" (Keddie, 1981, p. 238). Thus, while embracing the Marxist-Leninist political economy (including the appropriateness of the notions of class struggle and the exploitative nature of capitalism as well as the necessity of socializing the means of production and combating imperialism), they continued to regard Islam as the only ideology capable of inciting the masses to rebellion against the monarchical order (Boroujerdi, 1996, pp. 117, 119).

Yet the Mojahedin claimed that true believers do not require any guidance from the ulama, whom they generally held in contempt as agents of tyranny and exploitation, either during the struggle for the achievement of the just order or after its realization. Shariati, whom the Mojahedin revered intensely, had made the following assertion in one of his anticlerical declarations: "If Mossadeq's glory was to define an economy without oil revenue, my pride is to define an Islam without the rowhaniat [ulama]" (quoted in Ehsani, 1999b, p. 48). Consequently, they "developed a line of argument whose logical conclusion was to make the whole religious establishment redundant" (Abrahamian, 1989, p. 122). Instead, according to Ahmad Rezai, one of the organization's founders and primary ideologues, "a group of pious and knowledgeable men [should] take over the leadership and power and .. . move the society towards Islam. This group will emerge from the toiling class" (quoted in Bashiriyeh, 1984, p. 73). However, the group's leadership, its devoted rank-and-file members, and its sizable sympathizers (many of whom were inadvertently attracted, thanks to Shariati's sermons) came primarily from the ranks of young Shia intelligentsia and students. Not surprisingly, these individuals had been raised in mostly religiously and traditionally inclined Shia lower- and middle-class (mostly bazaari) families.

In the summer of 1971, the Mojahedin made its existence as an underground guerrilla organization public by declaring open warfare against the regime. The group initiated its operations to coincide with the shah's ostentatious celebration of Iran's 2,500 years of uninterrupted monarchical rule. Designed to demonstrate the vulnerability of the regime and incite the masses to rise up against the system, the acts of terror perpetrated by the Mojahedin at this time included the bombing of Tehran's electrical works and an attempt to hijack an Iran Air plane. Such tactics proved highly ineffective, and the regime responded extremely harshly by arresting and executing a large number of Mojahedin members, including the group's entire original leadership (Abrahamian, 1982, p. 491; Milani, 1994, p. 83).

Demonstrating a high degree of resilience, however, the group managed to survive, replace the older leadership, and recruit new members. It even expanded its violent attacks against the regime, engaging in six bank robberies, assassinating Tehran
's police chief as well as an American military adviser, and bombing several foreign-owned business establishments (Abrahamian, 1982, p. 491). In 1975, however, the group became beset with irreconcilable internal divisions when a portion of the new leadership (concluding that Islam was a "middle-class ideology" incapable of bringing "salvation" to the working class) sought to abandon the group's overarching Islamic tendency in favor of a wholesale adoption of Maoism (Abrahamian, 1982, p. 491; Parsa, 1989, p. 201). As a result, the organization split into two groups, with the Islamist wing, active mostly in the provinces, retaining the name Mojahedin, and the Marxist wing (later adopting the name Paykar [Combat] being mostly active in Tehran) (Foran, 1993, p. 374).

The split in the ranks of the Mojahedin served not only to divide its social base; it also diminished the group's organizational capacity by fragmenting its resources. Nevertheless, both factions of the Mojahedin continued to oppose the regime actively, and the regime, in turn, continued to suppress them harshly. After 1975, "the exploits of the Islamic Mojahedin included a bank robbery in Esfehan, a bombing of a Jewish emigration office in Tehran, and a strike in the Aryamehr University... Those of the Marxist Mojahedin included the bombing of the offices of ATT [American Telephone and Telegraph] and the assassination of two American military advisers" (Abrahamian, 1982,p.494). From their formation in 1975 to the triumph of the revolution in 1979, the Marxist Mojahedin lost thirty of their members. And there are eight years of armed struggle against the monarchy, the Islamic Mojahedin lost seventy-three members (foran, 1993, p. 374).

By the eve of the revolution, both groups were endowed with underground organizations across much of the country, had access to firearms and, significantly, had gained experience and fighting the authorities. They were also endowed with a highly committed core of dedicated members and a larger band of sympathizers. In addition to being at odds with one another, however, their support base was confined almost entirely too young and election was. Their ideology and tactics appealed neither to the traditional or modern members of the middle-class nor to the religious establishment. Moreover, despite their best efforts, due to state repression and suspicion from workers, they have not succeeded at all and mobilizing the urban poor.

The Opposition Today – Excerpt

...The Mojahedin, however, constitute the only organized Iranian opposition with a small band of highly devoted adherents inside Iran, willing to put their lives on the line by occasionally assassinating prominent members of the Islamic Republic. After eighteen year period of inactivity within Iran, the Mojahedin in 1998 assassinated the theocracy is detested longtime chief warden, Assadollah Ladjvardi. In 1985, Ladjevardi became the warden of runs of most notorious prison, Evin, and in 1989, he was promoted to head of the nation’s entire prisons system. From 1981 to 1985, Ladjvardi had served as prosecutor general, taking a leading role in the prosecution and execution of numerous “counterrevolutionary as,” most of whom were members of the Mojahedin. Unit August of 1988, after the Mojahedin launch an attack inside Iranian territory from Iraq , the Islamic Republic embarked upon killing most of the Mojahedin political prisoners it was still holding. As head of the Evin prism, Ladjvardi oversaw the execution of most of the more than 1000 Mojahedin prisoners in Iran (“Mojahedin Slay Ex-Warden,” 1988).

In 1998, the Mojahedin also detonated the bomb at the headquarters of the revolutionary courts, which resulted in the death of three individuals . In addition they fired mortars of a revolutionary guards Garrison in Tehran, which, according to the regime, resulted in no casualties. In another daring move, the majority assassinated lieutenant general Ali Seyyed Shirazi, the deputy chief of the general command headquarters of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic, as he was driving his son to school in 1999. As with Ladjevardi, Shirazi was apparently deliberately selected by the Mojahedin in order to exact revenge for the prominent role that the general had played in rudely crushing Mojahedin’s penetration into Iranian territory in August, 1988 at the end of the Iran-Iraq war (“Mojahedin Murder General,” 1999).




  • The Iranian Revolution, Then and Now - Dariush Zahedi, 2000

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