In the early 1970s, supporters of Khomeini decided to create
the Mojahedin movement to organize operations against the shah's
government. Initial demands made by Mojahedin leaders, who included
clerical officials like Hashemi-Rafsanjani, covered such points
as the cancellation of all security agreements with the United
States; expropriation of multinational corporations; nationalization
of agricultural and urban land, banks, and large industries; administration
of the army and other institutions by people's councils; creation
of a "people's army"; regional autonomy for Iran's ethnic minorities;
and various measures to benefit workers and peasants. Unlike other
anti-shah organizations, the Mojahedin channeled its efforts into
gaining supporters and developing an effective party network.
The members were not ideologically inspired by outside sources
but focused on strong nationalistic arguments and attacked the
shah and his perceived abuses. By 1979 the membership of the Mojahedin
had reached a record high of 25,000, and it had hundreds of thousands
of supporters. The movement frequently mobilized these masses
against the shah.
The organization fell out of favor immediately after the Revolution,
however, when its new leader, Masud Rajavi, boycotted the referendum
on the new Constitution and advocated the total separation of
the religious establishment and the state. Khomeini considered
this a calculated and direct challenge to the IRP and the revolutionary
regime. Rumors spread that the Mojahedin organization was a pawn
of foreign powers, especially the United States. In response,
the Mojahedin launched its own anti-Khomeini campaign by calling
on the government to purify the Revolution.
President Bani Sadr supported the Mojahedin. When he lost the
support of Khomeini, Bani Sadr sought refuge with Mojahedin leaders
and was smuggled out of Iran, along with Rajavi and other senior
representatives. In July 1981, the two leaders announced the formation
of the National Council of Resistance (NCR) and launched a campaign
to overthrow the Khomeini regime. From its headquarters in France,
the NCR recruited additional support both within and outside Iran
and welcomed ethnic minority leaders to its ranks. Its published
charter was almost identical to the program of the Mojahedin.
Partly to satisfy its diverse constituency and partly to distinguish
itself from the Khomeini regime, the NCR offered a new agenda
that reflected special concern for the interests of the lower
middle class. In its attempt to gain the support of minor civil
servants, shopkeepers, artisans, and small merchants, it adopted
a slightly more moderate position than the one the Khomeini government
had espoused concerning private property. The charter also promised
to respect individual liberties, "except for persons identified
with the shah's or Khomeini's regime," and guaranteed special
rights for ethnic minorities, particularly the Kurds.
A score of other promises were made, including the return of
land to farmers who would, however, be encouraged to consolidate
their holdings in collective farms; the increase of available
housing, education, and health services; the guarantee of equality
for women; and the establishment of a "democratic army" in which
the rank and file would be consulted on decisions and selections
of officers. Yet, these promises could not be implemented because
the NCR was not in power. The organization had to operate inside
Iran, and the process strained the leadership's unity; disagreements
over goals eventually led to the dissolution of the NCR. By March
1984, Bani Sadr and Kurdish leaders withdrew from the coalition.
The French government asked Rajavi to leave France in July 1986.
The Mojahedin set up their headquarters in Baghdad, whence they
continued to launch military and propaganda offensives against
the Khomeini regime.
In June 1987, Rajavi announced the formation of the Iranian National
Army of Liberation, open to non-Mojahedin members, that would
escalate attacks. Subsequently, Mojahedin sources claimed to have
set up military training camps near the war front and to have
launched numerous attacks against Pasdaran outposts. The Mojahedin
has also been active in Western Europe and the United States;
it has organized numerous rallies, distributed anti-Khomeini literature,
and recruited Iranians living abroad (see Opposition Political
Parties in Exile , ch. 4).
Data as of December 1987