The common dominator for all dictatorships is that the ruling establishment maintains its grip on power by controlling territory, wealth, weapons and media.
When a totalitarian regime in a country is on the verge of collapse due to popular dissent, its officials view any organized domestic opposition capable of mobilizing and guiding protests as their most perilous threat.
The Iranian regime is no exception. It has secured its grip on power for four decades through repression, terrorism, persecution and assassinations parallel to a vast and costly demonization campaign against the main Iranian opposition group, the People Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), and the broader coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), inside and outside of the country.
Today, the regime in Tehran is stuck in several different crises. Since the beginning of 2018, the Iranian people have been protesting to get rid of the current corrupt system, but the regime has responded with suppression and brutal crackdown.
These ongoing popular protests against the regime caught the Western governments and Iran pundits with surprise. The protests corroborated MEK’s long-maintained assessment that the Iranian people do not want the theocracy and aspire a democratic change.
The campaign to suppress and demonize the opposition, most notably the MEK, has been launched since the Islamic regime usurped power in Iran.
In fact, the Iranian intelligence and security apparatus has been actively pursuing various activities against the MEK such as monitoring, assassinating and, more importantly during recent years, demonizing the opposition group in media.
For instance, in 2015 and 16, the regime produced at least 30 films, TV series and documentaries to spread false allegations and lies against the opposition in Iran’s society. This is apart from hundreds of websites and exhibitions across Iran to pursue the same goal.
Unsurprisingly, part of this propaganda against the MEK and the broader coalition, the NCRI, has found its way all the way into Western and Middle Eastern media.
During the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein’s trial, his lawyer, Khalil al-Duleimi revealed that the Iranian regime had offered him 100 million dollars if he blamed the Halabja chemical attack during Iran-Iraq war on the MEK.
Now, as the NCRI is preparing for its annual gathering in Paris which gives voice to the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people for regime change, the regime has stepped up its domestic crackdown and launched a new propaganda offensive in the West.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially Iran pundits, because the annual gathering is a clear indication of the organized opposition’s ability and capacity to mobilize the popular dissent against the theocracy. It also manifests the wide international support for Iranian people’s demands for increased rights and a free and democratic Iran.
On 25 May, the MSNBC Special Series “On Assignment with Richard Engel” broadcast a report where its chief Foreign Correspondent, Richard Engel, accused the MEK of what the Iranian regime and its MOIS have repeated for the past three decades.
This report is not the first and will not be the last hit-piece against the MEK because the clerical establishment in Iran views this organized Iranian opposition as the most serious threat to the ruling theocratic regime.
Mr. Engel, of course without evidence, accused the MEK of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, an allegation which the US State Department clearly rejected on September 28, 2012.
But the individuals Mr. Engel chose to interview for the program divulge the true aim of this MSNBC report. His key witness to confirm the allegations against the MEK was Masoud Khodabandeh. According to a report by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress in December 2012, Masoud Khodabandeh and his wife Anne Singleton “agreed to work for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS) and spy on MEK.”
The Iranian regime, its lobbying arms such as NIAC as well as proponents of appeasing the regime in Tehran have pushed the narrative for years that the MEK has no support inside Iran. But one has to listen to regime’s most senior officials in the last few months to realize the hollowness of this assertion.
In addition, their constant efforts and the vast amount of resources and activities they devote to demonize the MEK belies their assertion and proves that the MEK is a true player on Iran affairs.
The ongoing protests in Iran with slogans against the regime and the gathering in Paris on 30 June prove this reality and show that the ayatollahs are on their weakest footing and have become more susceptive than ever.
Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. He currently lives in Glasgow, Scotland, where he is a human-rights and political activist and works as a freelance journalist. Follow Bahrami on Twitter and visit his blog.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.