Guest post by John Hughes
In October 2023, journalist, author, and influencer L Todd Wood published Paying the Price. Based on his interviews with Iranian freedom fighters (Mojahedin-e-Khalq or MEK) and his extraordinary travel to Europe and the Middle East, Wood provides a fascinating and essential introduction to an Iranian dissident group and their cause.
Founded in 1965 to oppose the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran, the MEK quickly grew in numbers and influence. In 1979, the MEK assisted the Iranian mullahs in overthrowing the Shah in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. However, once the Shah was removed, the MEK’s dreams of an Iran free of totalitarianism faded as the mullahs quickly sought to eliminate the MEK. To date an estimated 130,000 MEK members have been killed by Iran’s current regime, many were children and women.
Wood interviewed many current MEK members who recounted the ideology and tragedy of their organization. Many women fill their ranks due to the organization’s push for women’s rights. Leader Maryam Rajavi early on developed the Ten Point Plan for Iran’s Democratic Future: Universal Suffrage, Political Freedom, The Abolition of the Death Penalty, Secular Government, Equality, Independent Judiciary, Defense of Human Rights, Market Economy, Pursuit of Peace, and a Non-Nuclear Iran.
Paying the Price traces the rise of the MEK from the time before, during, and after the 1979 Revolution. Wood clearly articulates how, after seizing power, Ayatollah Khomeini quickly moved to silence and persecute the MEK who was the main opposition to his totalitarian and religious vision for Iran’s future. When persecution failed, the Iranian government used more direct methods including prison, torture, and murder. The book interviews survivors of the 1988 massacre that saw over 30,000 MEK and other political prisoners executed and dumped into mass graves.
“In 1988, the mullah’s regime, threatened by the mere existence of the MEK, decided to murder all MEK prisoners. The massacre was ghoulish, and the blood flowed. Many were hung over swimming pools to collect the blood.”
The Iranian mullahs’ desperation to cling to power is appalling. Interviews reveal the night sweeps, torture, starvation, denial of healthcare, and other tools used by the government agencies to discourage support for the MEK. The brutal treatment was not just limited to the MEK members. Family members, friends, and other acquaintances were similarly treated and, in many cases, executed. In some of the most egregious testimonials, family members who tried to have funerals for executed prisoners were themselves hanged by the Iranian government.
Throughout all of this tragedy, the MEK members reveal the perseverance and spirit of members dedicated to the cause of freedom. From condemned inmates jumping onto gallows to be hanged in a signal of defiance to MEK members forming cells and camps both inside and outside of Iran, the MEK has shown its commitment to freedom. Despite being repeatedly double-crossed by the UK, US, France, and many other nations, the MEK remains committed to working with the West to end Iran’s nightmare. The MEK has helped to inspire ongoing widespread Iranian public opposition to the Ayatollah’s tyranny. Their ideals resonate particularly with women and the youth, which is why these two groups have been victims of so many government led reprisals and killings.
Iran has a long history of violence and oppression. From the Shah to the current theocracy, living Iranians have not known a free country. Wood’s exploration into the world of Iranian freedom fighters is an important read for those who wish to understand modern Iranian political dynamics and highlights how many in the West can easily take freedom and basic human rights for granted.
John Hughes, MD, (www.americandoctor.org) is the author of American Doctor – Coming Home to War and a writer on medical and military matters. He is a 1996 West Point graduate, veteran of Haiti/Iraq/Afghanistan, and is a practicing Emergency Physician. He is a contributor to CDMedia and Armed Forces Press, has been featured in Real Clear Defense, Washington Examiner, and American Thinker, and has been a medical expert for Epoch Times. He is a leader in the MacArthur Society of West Point Graduates and a member of STARRS.US.
This article is the opinion of the author and does not represent the stance of any organizations or corporations.