The Middle East journal -- Rokhsareh S. Shoaee

The Mujahedin-e Khalq is an Iranian Islamic organization, now headquartered in
Iraq, in opposition to the Khomeini regime. A supporter is someone who financially, politically, ideologically and/or in all three areas supports the Mujahedin. She or he does not have to Obey the organizational rules or do so full time. A member, however, has already accepted the Mujahedin’s ideology, strategy and the Islamic practices. This individual must be fulltime and must follow the organizational order and rules. In the case of women, even if they acquire all the qualifications required for membership, unless they wear the veil, they cannot obtain membership in the organization. It should be noted that not every available woman working for the Mujahedin is a member. Usually it takes several years until a supporter passes all the very difficult stages of competency and becomes a member.


The Iranian women who became members or supporters of the Mujahidin-e Khalq organization of Iran are the subject of this article. It examines their personality and background, there a way are NASA of and attitudes towards women’s questions, and their success, or lack of it and, in the taming of their rights as women within the organization.

These questions are worth examining because some advocates of women’s rights maintain that Muslim women are neither equally treated nor given that any voice in the decision making areas of such organizations. Juliette Minces, in discussing the early stages of the Algerian revolution and women’s activities that, it states that women “we’re not even kept informed of what was being done; the clandestine meetings, the secret councils, only involved a man, who made the decisions.” In other words, women were “utilized” and their status in the movement was a manifestation of their social subjugation. In another study, Eliz Sansarian contends that women throughout the world have always been used in national movements, yet have never achieved their rights.

In the case of Muslim women, such arguments seem to imply that Islam is incompatible with women’s rights. At least one observer has clearly addressed this issue and a historical context. Leila Ahmed, in her review of Turkish and Egyptian women and their struggle for a man’s a patient, argues that these Muslim women were caught between the “two opposing loyalties,” loyalty to Islam into gender. Ahmed concludes that these two loyalties cannot be reconciled since all efforts to date have failed to do so.

In discussing the Mujahid women of
Iran, the issue of the “two opposing loyalties” suggests the same dilemma. For example, Azar Tabery contends:

The Mujahahedin are caught in a series of contradictions over their attitude towards the struggles of women. Unable to sever their umbilical ties to Islamic doctrine, they have kept silent on what is so clearly and unambiguously contained in the Koran about women.

She then concludes that “any struggle against women’s oppression and for emancipation will face the difficult task of opposing, openly and unambiguously, Islamic legislation in this area.”

A similar a India has been expressed by Eliz Sanasarian, who, while praising the Mujahidin, is uncertain of their future stand on women’s rights. She states:

The most interesting organization with a unique and original ideology concerning women has been the Mujahidin… The Mujahidin’s view of women’s rights, at least on paper, is impressive. In fact, they should be given credit for even acknowledging the women’s question, something very few groups have done.

Sanasarian, however, demonstrates her own concern about women’s rights in a later article in which she calls the Mujahidin’s view on women “an uneasy ideological compromise.” She says:

Another feature of the Mujahidin which raises doubts among the many scholarly elements is their heavy reliance on the Quran and Islam. How they compromise between socialism ( a secular ideology) and Islamic thought remains the puzzle to many.

Sansarian concludes that Mujahid women are “loyal followers,” since “as leaders, they would have been taught to maintain the cause, but as followers they are conditioned to give for the cause.”

Sanasarian’s argument needs to be examined, because so many thousands of Iranian women have become supporters and members of the Mujahidin since 1979. It is necessary to evaluate the position of the Mujahidin on women and, more important, how women supporters and members of the Mujahidin perceive their role and status. It is appropriate to begin such an inquiry by examining the first their position as expressed in Mujahidin literature. In particular, does the Mujahidin’s modern view of the Quran provide them with a broader interpretation that may allow them to respond to some of the questions regarding women’s rights?


In the traditional Islamic view, women are incapable of taking responsibility for search and social, economic and political tasks because they are physiologically “weaker” then men. For example, ayatollah Saduqi, once Khomeini’s powerful representative in central
Iran and a member of the “assembly of experts,” opposed women’s political rights for biological reasons. While comparing child rearing with political duties, he made the piling remarks in an assembly:

… I do not think that two jobs could be compared… now suppose we are pointed one of these of fully competent women as president or prime minister. Then one morning we will wake up to find the prime ministry closed. Why? Because last night she was giving birth. This would be scandalous for us. For god’s sake do not allow this to become law.

Even Islamic thinkers such as ayatollah Murtaza Mutahari believe in the sameness of soul and both sexes still conceded that women are “naturally delicate,” and thus “nature” has excluded them from certain duties.

Deriving their argument about physiological differences between man and woman from the Quran, the Mujahidin deny that there is any difference between man and woman. They agree with the Quranic precept that “emphasizes the sameness of soul between the two sexes in Surah IV, verse 1.” According to the Mujahidin, the biological differences argument leads inevitably to the superiority of one group over the other, which is contrary to their egalitarian ideology. This holds true in the case of sexual differences, since it will “ultimately result in a gap between the status ( of a man and woman) and the society.” Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Mujahidin organization, in a speech at the university of Tehran on the Mujahidin’s views on social issues, attacked ayatollah Saduqi’s remark, saying that “pregnancy is not a shame, viewing women as the second class citizens is a shame!” he further emphasized that the biological differences argument was merely a “justification for discrimination.”

Psychological differences

Among the major rationales that historically have excluded women from attaining equality with men are the stereotypes about women’s personalities. In the view of the traditional Islamic thinkers, women are emotional, irrational, and seductive, and thus unqualified for social responsibilities (i.e., judgment) and leadership positions that require an independent and firm personality. Ayatollah Khomeini for parliamentary elections: “can you attain of progress by sending a few women to the parliament?... we say that sending women to these places will lead to nothing but corruption.” It should be noted that personality characteristics, according to the traditional Islamic thinkers, are inherent in each individual and are given by “nature”. ” Men are the symbol of desire and love,” wrote ayatollah Mutahari, “whereas, women have a strong temptation for charm and beauty.”

In contrast the Mujahidin have opposed such stereotypes, which are used to confine a women in the “private domain” and to justify their exclusion from a leadership positions. Massoud Rajavi ones said that by participating in the movement, a woman “testifies to the fact that in the new world… she is not in any way inferior to ’men’.” He clarified this idea further and specifically referred to leadership positions for women in his message on the occasion of international women’s day,
February 5, 1984. He contended that the Iranian woman is a highly competent and that the future of the new Iranian revolution “isn’t completely dependent on her to the extent that no problem ( from the simplest to the most complicated concerning the leadership of the revolution) can be solved without the participation of woman.” The report from the Mujahidin construction camps in 1979, illustrates such a view:

The discipline and cooperation of the girl students is the manifestation of a struggle which a revolutionary woman chooses for herself. The woman who is inspired by the revolutionary symbols learns (through modifying her behavior) how to Elam and ate the concepts which historically highlight women’s weakness.

Thus, the Mujahidin do not accept the concept of male superiority. Contrary to the traditional Islamic theologians who believe that “ placing women under the authority of men would make women happier,” the Mujahidin provide us with a radically different perspective. “and Islam,” says Massoud Rajavi, quoting the Quran (49:13), “ superiority of manna over woman can be judged only by liberating in unifying piety…” In Mujahidin literature, “piety” is the find as “a quality which expresses the liberation of the individual and society from the individual and social and class constraints through consciousness.”

Women as a source of corruption

There are our dogmas about women in Islamic literature that suggests that women are sources of misery and corruption. For example, ayatollah Khomeini in criticizing the Shah referred to women’s participation in elections as “prostitution.” He said, “We say sending women to these centers will not result in anything but corruption… we are not against women’s progress, we oppose this prostitution, and these are wrong measures.” Ayatollah Mutahari, a more moderate Islamic thinker, also viewed women as dangerous beings who by means of their sexuality entrap man and lead them to corruption.

For the Mujahidin, however, the major source of immorality and social ills are the mustakbarin, the owners of wealth and power. According to Rajavi, “in the Quran, it is clear that… Those who have unjustly monopolize to the economic and political life of society and have impeded the revolution,” are the sources of corruption. Thus women are not perceived as the source of corruption. Indeed, Rajavi emphatically condemned the government for setting fire to the prostitution quarter in south
Tehran under the pretext of “combating corruption.” He has cited the examples from the Caliphate of Ali, when it the first Shi’i Imam prevented the extremists from taking similar superficial measures in regard to prostitution. Rajavi has insisted that, “prostitution and cases similar to it are only a small part of the exploitative relations which eventually will be eliminated through a structural plan against the whole concept of dominant social relations.” Similar on India’s have been expressed by the Mujahidin in it and their criticism of the bill of retribution (Qisas) ratified by the Islamic Republic in May, 1980.

This brief review of the Mujahidin position as a revealed in public statements demonstrates the radical difference between their ideas and those of the traditional Islamic thinkers. The Mujahidin also recognize that women’s oppression exists. The organization has sought to explain who or what is responsible for this oppression by emphasizing cultural believes and traditions as a significant factors in a rally the eighteen women to their present status. They point, however, two other major factors and maintain that, “a sum total of social, economic, political and cultural relations has enslaved women throughout history. “Within the context of such traditions, women are viewed the first in terms of their sexuality rather than their humanity, which means that the motherhood role of women receives priority over their social, economic, and political roles.

The Mujahidin have also articulated a position on women’s personal rights. They have addressed the question of women’s rights in all social, political and economic spheres. Mujahid, the Mujahidin’s official newspaper, usually takes a strong stand, condemning restrictions imposed on women by the Islamic Republic. In Masoud Rajavi’s message on the occasion of international women’s day, he discusses sex discrimination under the present government:

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian women have been dismissed from their jobs, and various forms of discrimination are used against working women. Free and open minded Iranian women are forced to wear the veil and are constantly insulted in the streets. The possibility of entry into higher education courses is restructured and most of their social and civil rights are constantly it violated.

Rajavi adds that Iranian women will attain their air quality through participating in the revolution to overthrow the present regime.


The Mujahid women’s our role in the development of the organization has gone through three phases: (1) 1967 – 1978, (2) February, 1979 – June, 1981, and (3) June, 1981 to the present.

Struggle on three fronts: 1967 – 1978

This period begins with the recruitment of the first women into the Mujahidin and is a sham. Two major events in the early years almost destroyed the organization. The first took place in 1971, when all members of the central committee except Massoud Rajavi were executed by the Shah’s regime. A massive clemency appeal organized by his brother and with the assistance and support of the humanitarian organizations in
Europe resulted in the commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment. The second incident occurred in September, 1975, when an ideological quarrel split the organization.

During this sensitive time, three women – Ashraf Rabiee, present, and Fatimah Amini and Maryam Azodanlu, outside – played a significant role in the organization. Through years of patient work, Rabiee, Amini, and Azodanlu maintained contact with the imprisoned Mujahid members and reorganized and reactivated Mujahidin supporters who had been dispersed. This endeavour – along with efforts to rewrite the ideological works of the founders of the organization, who’s a major original writings had been burned by SAVAK-was pursued persistently and systematically. In 1977 these efforts bore fruit as the first of the anti-Shah demonstrations that preceded the revolution that took place. The Mujahid women, through connections with the Mujahidin leaders, especially Massoud Rajavi, who was still in prison, expanded their cells and actively participated in those demonstrations.

The Mujahid
LAN and maintained contact with the Mujahidin other more complicated means of communication were also used. In at least one case, Mujahid Fatimah Rezai succeeded in conducting an operation from outside that led to her brother’s escape from prison. For security reasons, however, the Mujahidin have never released any information regarding this or similar operations.

The political phrase: February, 1979 – June, 1981

Mujahid women were seriously and extensively involved and the anti-Shah demonstrations. They helped to establish political units throughout the country which cut across the social classes, age groups, geographical boundaries, educational and professional strata. Mujahid women’s other activities ranged from managing and assisting in medical and health centers for disadvantaged groups, to administrative and political participation.

The Mujahid women also participated in social services and established a center, Showra-ye eskan-gode (The Ghetto Settlement Council), in the slums of south
Tehran. Other activities included welfare and construction programs in rural areas, where Mujahid women worked among the villagers and helped them with their problems despite traditional family restrictions. Running book stands, educating the public about current political events and reading articles in the organization’s newspapers, were also among the Mujahid women’s responsibilities. Besides Ashraf Rabiee who worked with Mujahid, two other Mujahid women, Freshteh Azhodi and Batul Akbari, who were both killed during the subsequent military base, served on the editorial board of Bazu-ye engelab (The Revolution’s Arm), the organ of the workers’ section of the Mujahidin.

During the political phase, the Mujahid women’s activities are ranged from organizing rallies and demonstrations to campaigning for parliament. There were, for example, ten women parliamentary candidates from the Mujahidin organization, including the present co-leader, Maryam Azodanlu (Rajavi).

The growth of the Mujahidin and their criticism of the Khomeini government, especially on political issues, led to the adoption of restrictive policies against the organization. The hostile attitude of the government encouraged the range of attacks by street mobs on the Mujahidin centers and books stands as well as on their meetings. The Mujahidin, who seemed to have information about the government’s involvement in these violent actions, began to publicize them, initially using indirect language but eventually more openly.

A review of Mujahid during 1979 and early 1980 documents a series of systematic actions that took place against the Mujahidin. These actions are ranged from a diff and that worry articles in Jamhuri-ye Islami, the official organ of the Islamic Republic party (IRP), to murdering Mujahidin supporters while they were engaged in legal political and social activities. In one case, 60,000 copies of Mujahid were burned by the revolutionary guards, although its publication had been authorized by the government and its permit was still valid.

As violent actions against the group escalated, Mujahidin became the first targets of government attacks. After the 1980 election, when the Mujahidin published a number of documents revealing a wide range of frauds by the government, they faced continuous attacks that led to the loss of over 50 Mujahidin by June, 1981. in dealing with government violence, the Mujahidin used every possible political and legal means to assert their freedom to function openly without harassment. They submitted complaints to the government authorities and even to ayatollah Khomeini. Before declaring armed struggle in May, 1981, their last statement warned the government of the consequences of its policy.

The military phase:
June 20, 1981 to the present

When the Mujahidin became convinced that peaceful opposition was ineffective, they organized the demonstration on
June 20, 1981 to protest the government’s tactics. A crowd estimated to be as many as 500,000 was brutally disbursed by the revolutionary guards a few hours after the march began. This marked the beginning of open warfare between the Mujahidin end of the government of the Islamic Republic. Since that time, thousands of men and women, both members and supporters of the Mujahidin, have been imprisoned or executed by the government.

According to a list collected by the organization, at least 12,028 persons were slain between 1981 and March, 1985, of whom 9070 or 81.5%, belonged to the Mujahidin. The total number of women on this list was reported to be 1454, or 12%. Some 1308 or 90% of these women were members or supporters; 78 others were identified as belonging to twelve Marxist organizations; for 68 women there was no information available.

Of the 977 Mujahid Mujahidin list, 666 were single and 311 were married, of whom 99 had to open. Married women with children are made up approximately 8% of the total number of Mujahid women victims. Fourteen women were reported to have had between four and seven children and one 70 year old woman had 9. It should be mentioned that 45 of the women were pregnant at the time of execution.

Mujahid women come from diverse geographical areas in environments – from
Tehran to small towns such as Khomein. If they were active in every province and activities were reported in a total of 79 cities and towns (Table 1). Of the women it whose place of death has been identified, it is interesting to note that as many as 228 of them originate it from areas with predominantly ethnic minorities – Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Bakhtiari, Boyer Ahmadi, and Fars.

Table 1

0592 – Tehran

0182 – Gilan and Mazandaran

0135 – Fars and Khuzistan

0080 – Khorasan

0052 – Isfahan

0035 – Kurdistan, Ilam, Bakhtaran

0029 – Hamadan

0027 – Central (Markazi)

0024 – Azarbayjan

0018 – Hormuzgan and Boushehr

0016 – Bakhtiari, Boyer Ahmadi and Kuhkiluyeh

0015 – Kerman and Sistan-Baluchistan

0090 – Other

1308 – Total

The professional status of women supporters and members of the Mujahidin who were killed ranged from blue collar workers to highly trained professionals as seen in table two.

The educational level of the Mujahid women was also diverse, ranging from elementary school to the doctoral level. Data demonstrate that out of 775 of the women whose educational level was identified, approximately 1/3 had either alum entry, junior or high school educations and over 1/3 had a few years of college. Those who held B.A. degrees and above made up 53 persons on the list, including six women with M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

Table 2

0576 – University and high school students

0095 – Elementary and high school teachers

0034 – Civil servants

0034 – Housewives

0016 – Health and mental health related professionals

0007 – M.D., Ph.D. and Pharmacologists

0005 – Engineers

0003 – Peasants and factory workers

0005 – Others

0533 – Unknown or unemployed

1308 – total

The educational and professional achievements of the Mujahid women appear to be a major factor in their status in the Mujahidin organization. Mujahid women now occupy a 34% of the seats in the central committee. This in addition to the resistance efforts of the Mujahid women in Iran, helps explain the evaluation of a woman, Maryam Azondanlu, to the rank of co-leadership in its February, 1985.

In March, 1985, the Mujahidin announced an “Ideological Revolution “, which was followed by a reorganization of their military forces in Iran. Almost all Mujahid women, both those who had lived abroad for many years for those who had escaped from Iran after the June, 1981 uprising, voluntarily returned to Iran to join their comrades. Only a small number of women who were active and the Mujahidin’s committees on foreign affairs and news media remained abroad. Since March, 1985, hundreds of Mujahid women have been sent to Iran to join their comrades for training in Mujahidin military camps and Kurdistan and then on to joined the resistance forces in cities throughout the country.


Of this chronological review of the role and activities of women in the Mujahidin organization gives a profile of the women attracted to this organization. An examination of the backgrounds of three prominent Mujahid women – Fatimah Aminin, Ashraf Rabiee, and Maryam Azodanlu – says it’s something about the personality of Mujahid women.

Fatimah Amini, The first Mujahid Woman

The life and activities of Fatimah Amini exemplifying a personality pattern characteristic of thousands of women who joined the Mujahidin organization. Amini began her political activities in 1962 when she was a student at the
university of Mashad. Her acquaintance with and awareness of the economic situation of disadvantaged groups in Iranians society motivated her political involvement. Amini’s initial involvement began with her work in organizing a group of Muslim women into the Anjuman-e Islami-ye Banuvan, the Islamic Women’s Association.

Amini moved to
Tehran in 1970 and later joined the Mujahidin. Because of her confidence, discipline, and dedication, she was soon accepted as a member and expanded her responsibilities, especially in organizing the mothers whose children were imprisoned. During the two major crises and the Mujahidin organization, Amini proved her ability to defend her ideology and her faithfulness to the Mujahidin on all three fronts – against the Shah’s regime, the Islamic extremists, and those who had left the organization. She demonstrated a strong and resolute personality when confronting these enemies. Amini’s philosophy of life is manifested in a quote from a letter she wrote to one of her students: “each of us confronts problems in our lives. If problems do not exist, life does not exist. A revolutionary human being welcomes these problems until she or he gains experience in reaches a more maturity.” On March 05, 1975 Amini was arrested in a northern suburb of Tehran and was taken to Evin prison, where she was subjected to brutal torture.

According to her comrades, Amini never revealed any information about her organization. Her strong faith and commitment to society can be found in the reports of those who witnessed for torture: “torture was increased and (they) burned her again. Infection from her wounds reached the point where its odor filled the present atmosphere.” Amini’s brother who was also arrested during that time saw her in prison and later stated: “(They) were still flogging her. Her legs were terribly bloody, I entered the room, as soon as she saw me, she smiled and then lost her consciousness“. Despite these traumatic experiences, Amini managed to send out a secret message regarding the security of the prison.

Amini opened her heart to the world in search of meaning. She believed it is “painful that a human being gives up when he/she confronts problems, and let’s helplessness find its way to her/his heart.“ After five months of resistance, she died under torture in the spring of 1976, at the age of 27.

Ashraf Rabiee: The symbol of the revolutionary Mujahid women

Ashraf Rabiee joined the struggle against the Shah in 1969. she was among a few women who had found their way to the prestigious Sharif university of technology and was accepted and engineering physics. She discovered and joined the Mujahidin while a student loan. Like her comrade, Fatimah Amini, Rabiee also overcame the crisis of 1971 and 1975 and remained loyal to the Mujahidin. She was arrested while on a mission and was imprisoned in 1974.

At Evin present, a comrade describes what she saw when Rabiee was under torture:

They had increased the tortured to the extent where Ashraf had internal bleeding and vomited blood. The burned her body for hours… and stimulated her wounds with scissors. Her nose was broken and she lost hearing in one ear.

However horrible these experiments as it may have been, Rabiee managed to organize the women prisoners. Her surviving fellow inmates still remember her leadership skills and contributed to the growth of women in the present:

Her method of instruction was also very interesting. In her classes every one actively participated, which resulted in deepening the instruction in the cell… She tried to establish independence and self esteem (in women) by activating them.

On the eve of the revolution, February, 1979, Rabiee was released and along with other political prisoners and continued her political activities under the new regime. From February, 1979 until February, 1982, when she lost her life, she responded dynamically and tirelessly to the rapidly changing needs of the movement. Her marriage to Massoud Rajavi placed in a double burden on her because she was then in the ranks of leadership though was never officially announced. She occupied one of the highest ranks in the organization, like Rajavi, and became a major source of support for the families of the Mujahidin supporters and members who had lost relatives and the violent attacks by the government. Rabiee’s message to them read:

There is no room for weeping and worrying; it is time for combat and revolution. We indeed living in the exciting course of mankind’s history and have a great responsibility on our shoulders; at this moment we are perhaps unaware of the substantial role of Islam and the destiny of Islam, the Quran and the liberation and salvation of mankind.

During the military base, Rabiee was a race the involved in combating the regime and stayed in Iran when her husband had to leave the country. She carried her twenty month old son with her from one hideout to the other. On February 08, 1982 however the revolutionary guards discovered the Mujahidin’s commander in chief Mousa Khiabani, we’re holding a meeting. After hours of bloody fighting, she and the others were killed.

Maryam Azodanlu: a woman in a leadership

Rabiee’s endeavors to establish a distinguished and independent identity for the Mujahid women bore fruit in 1985 when Maryam Azodanlu was elevated to the top of the leadership along with Massoud Rajavi in the organization. Azodanlu embodied an identity that had been symbolized by Fatimah Amini and had reached its zenith in Ashraf Rabiee – the identity of the “Mujahid Woman.”

Maryam Azodanlu is a graduate and metallurgical engineering from Sharif University of Technology. She began her political activities in 1970, became a supporter of the Mujahidin in 1973 and, and obtain the rank of a member in 1974. Azodanlu also confronted the crises of 1971, demonstrating her faith in the Mujahidin buy a posing all their enemies.

Azodanlu’s major contribution during this time was the rate organization of Mujahidin supporters and who had been dispersed. And such an effort required time around, resolute personality, and an insight into the future. For example, to maintain ideological priorities, she “stayed up many nights preparing and rewriting the Mujahidin’s instructional materials. “ in addition, she raised considerable funds for the organization and conducted operations that, in some cases, resulted in the escape of her comrades.

After the revolution of 1979, Azodanlu, like Rabiee and Amini, mobilized women in all social strata and attempted to raise their consciousness, despite existing cultural barriers. She had major responsibilities and organizing high school and university students. The recruitment of women and girls had to be undertaken in ways that would minimize conflicts with traditional family restrictions on females, while maintaining harmony with the Mujahidin’s strong emphasis on family consent. Rajavi expressed the necessity for political activities that would not harm family relations:

The criteria for being a revolutionary… Is not disregarding all traditions, be they ideological, religious, and/or the family values; (it) is not ignoring parents’ respect or spouses rights… being a revolutionary before anything else, is a commitment, a commitment to people’s life.

Azodanlu also worked to organize older women and Muslim societies. And she was careful to recognize their family responsibilities and other constraints and to two objections from their husbands. Azodanlu, and the Mujahidin, seem to have realized the significance of mobilizing older women and of recognizing their power and legitimacy among others. For example, Behjat Dehqan, formerly the court nadir of five units of Mujahid and the Muslim Mother’s Society of Karaj, Iran, commented that the Mujahid mothers had enough illegitimacy to mobilize other women. The Mujahid mothers, according to Dehqan, work a strong source of support for their children’s activities in the organization, despite their husband’s objections. In addition to active participation and antigovernment demonstrations, some of these mothers took part in military missions and, along with their children, even lost their lives, in clashes with government forces at Mujahidin bases.

Mobilization of women workers was another serious cast for Azodanlu which, according to an observer, began many years ago, when Mujahid women took jobs at factories. Azodanlu’s endeavour in organizing women workers could be one of the reasons for the popularity of the Mujahidin. Azar Tabari, in her research in
Iran in 1979, emphasizes the support of the working class for the Mujahidin and states that the Mujahidin were and still are popular in “ the various pharmaceutical factories around Tehran and the textile and thread producing factories were the predominant force was women.“ Tabari further indicates, “the dominant political force in the workers’ council was the Mujahidin, not the left, and not supporters of the Islamic fundamentalists who later began to take over these councils.”

During the military base, when Azodanlu’s sister along with hundreds of Mujahid women lost their lives, the Mujahidin took Azodanlu, despite her pregnancy, and her husband out of
Iran. She’d been continued her political activities in the Mujahidin’s new headquarters in Paris. In February, 1985, as noted earlier, Azodanlu was elevated to the rank of leadership of the Mujahidin organization. The declaration of the Mujahidin’s Central Council reads:

...after making a comprehensive political, military and organizational appraisal of the fourth year of the nationwide resistance, the Mujahidin’s Political Bureau and Central Committee They acknowledged an ideological and organizational position at the head of our organizational pyramid for the most competent and highest ranking of the Mujahidin women.

One month after Azodanlu’s promotion, the Mujahidin organization announced for divorce from Mehdi Abrishamchi and her remarriage to Massoud Rajavi. The Mujahidin Political Bureau, Central Committee, and Central Council unanimously endorsed the marriage as “the necessity for stability, continuity and growth of the new leadership in the ideological, organizational, social and political arena.“ Azodanlu conducted the wedding ceremony herself while giving a detailed speech. She openly expressed her consent to the new marriage and said that it was necessary to ensure continuity of leadership.

Azodanlu then it became actively involved in the international scene, both in regard to
Iran’s general political issues and in issues of women’s rights. In a message on the occasion of international women’s day, for example, she condemned Khomeini, who views women as “slaves” and ” within that context has constantly restricted their social and civil rights. “

Similarly, on the controversial issue of the hijab, or veil, Azodanlu strongly opposes compulsory veiling imposed by the Iranian government, although she wears the hijab herself. In a recent message, she expressed her and her word the regimes knew the proposed bill of reconstruction camps for the improperly veiled women: the enemy’s double exploitation of women which has never had any limit in the past is again astoundingly increased. Referring to the cases of rape reported by the Mujahid women prisoners, she says that the government is the major source of corruption and thus urges Iranian men and women to rise against the government’s “attack on your women’s honor and dignity.

In June, 1985 when the French government unofficially ceased its toleration of Mujahid activities, Azodanlu left
France and joined the Mujahidin end their new headquarters in Iraq.


The Mujahid women's struggle has been consistent, organized, and continuous for nearly 18 years. They have been combating on two fronts: social injustice and women's inequality in Iranian society. As revolutionaries, they have been active—like their male comrades—in social and political activities as well as in military operations. These missions and responsibilities have now become even more complex and extensive since the Mujahidin announced the formation of Iran's National Liberation Army, on June 20, 1987. Thousands of the Mujahid women have sacrificed their lives to prove their loyalty to the movement.

The Mujahid women have succeeded in occupying a considerable number of powerful positions in the organization and in representing themselves at the top of the leadership. These achievements appear to affect the expectations of Iranian women regarding the future of women's rights, if the Mujahidin gain power. Being aware of such expectations, Maryam Azodanlu pursued issues pertaining to the situation of Iranian women under the Islamic Republic and actively publicized its repressive policies. Simultaneously, Azodanlu and Rajavi prepared a draft for the rights of Iranian women, rejecting any discrimination between man and woman under the name of Islam. Rajavi, as the chairman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (
NCRI), presented these ideas to the council's members. After nearly a year of discussion, the Declaration on the Freedoms and Rights of Iranian Women was unanimously ratified on April 17, 1987.

The declaration specifies the future provisional government's plan of action regarding the rights of Iranian women. According to this plan, Iranian women's equality will be recognized in all social, economic, political, personal, and familial spheres. Women's equality will also be recognized in regard to such legal matters as testimony, guardianship, custody, and inheritance. The interesting part of the plan is the
NCRI's support for Iranian women's organizations and consideration of special facilities for their activities.

Thus, we can conclude that the Mujahid women's understanding of and struggle for reconciliation between the two loyalties—loyalty to "culture" and to "gender"—has enabled them to gain more rights as women compared to their Muslim sisters in other similar revolutionary struggles. However heroic and thought provoking these struggles may be, Muslim women have had historical experiences of being utilized for the revolutions and being denied rights afterward. The cases of Algerian and Iranian women are good examples. The Mujahid women must therefore be prepared for the following questions: How can they
maintain their equality once their organization is transformed from an opposition group to that of a governing group? For example, with the high rate of unemployment in Iran, could the Mujahidin keep their promise of equal employment opportunity for women and ask men to stay home? How can Mujahid women face the challenge of the more conservative elements of Iranian society? How would they deal with Marxists and Islamic extremists? How will they react to the feminists? With the expansion of the movement, and the attraction of different social classes, how can they solve the conflict between more Westernized and perhaps more educated women and the traditional elements within their organization? And finally, how can they convey their interpretation of Islam regarding the status of women to the Muslim masses? Resolving these questions will be a vital task for Mujahid women in the coming years.





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