Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iranian Resistance Movement Is Waiting for Its Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iranian Resistance Movement Is Waiting for Its Time

Article excerpt

After 15 years of iron rule by Muslim fundamentalists in turbans, do 65 million Iranians want to be governed by a 41-year-old female metallurgy graduate in a purple headscarf?

That was the gamble the Mujahideen opposition movement took when it chose Maryam Rajavi, soft-spoken third wife of its historic leader Massoud Rajavi, as "future president of Iran" and sent her to France to present a smiling new face to the world.

"The sharp edge of the mullahs' sword is directed at Iranian women. Misogyny is the underpinning of the mullahs' regime. So it is only natural that women have an equal, leading role in the resistance," she said in an interview earlier this month.

Maryam Rajavi has lived for a year under around-the-clock French police guard in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where the Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh painted and is buried. Her sole public appearance was at a Paris benefit concert by exiled Iranian musicians in July.

Her husband, forced to leave France in 1986, has stayed in Iraq, where he heads a National Liberation Army that recently conducted live-fire exercises near the Iranian border.

Under the movement's strategy, the force equipped with British-made Chieftain tanks would engage Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the government's most loyal security force, while a popular uprising fomented by a Mujahideen network spread.

But while diplomats and visitors to Iran are convinced that the Islamic government is deeply unpopular, not least because of high prices and poverty, they see little evidence that people are turning to the Mujahideen.

Originally Islamic leftists, the Mujahideen played an important role in the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah but soon broke with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and were suppressed in a ruthless clampdown that began in 1981. During the revolution, some observers regarded them as bloodthirsty young fanatics analogous to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.

The Tehran government brands them monafiqin (hypocrites) and accuses them of terrorism. Maryam Rajavi said the movement had suffered 100,000 dead and many more jailed and tortured.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau told a House of Representatives hearing this month: "Their primary base of operations today is in Iraq, with the support, sponsorship and umbrella protection of (President) Saddam Hussein.

"We do not feel that with that background, they have a very wide base of support in Iran."

French officials privately share that assessment. While they have given asylum to Rajavi and more than 100 Mujahideen staffers, earning the wrath of Tehran, they insist that she keep a low profile. …

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