Dwindling Parliamentary Support for the Mojahedin

Iran Interlink, March 2005


The following news item was published by the Press Association in February. Back in January 2004, the Mojahedin had claimed that 305 UK parliamentarians from both Houses of Parliament had supported its demand to be removed from the list of terrorist entities. At that time, the Mojahedin was asked to publish their names as verification. No such list was forthcoming. This time, the Mojahedin have accepted that the names be published. But what has happened to the other 293 parliamentarians?

By way of explanation, we have also published below a brief extract from a recent interview with Ebrahim Khodabandeh from Evin prison [to be published later this month]. Mr Khodabandeh, a former member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is a well known figure in the UK parliament where he spent many hours lobbying on behalf of the MKO. Since his arrest in Syria on charges of smuggling money and documents out of Iraq for the Mojahedin, he has spoken and written several times about his experience of the MKO and the NCRI.


Parliamentarians Back Iran Opposition Plea
Wed. 23 Feb 2005
Press Association, By Chris Moncrieff

Twelve United Kingdom parliamentarians today supported a call for the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin, to be removed from the international list of terrorist groups.

The plea is made in a half-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, in which they say: “At a time of mounting international concern over Iran, we believe it is now time to end the blacklisting of the People’s Mojahedin to help open the way for democratic change in Iran.”

They claim they have been blacklisted at the behest of the Iranian mullahs.

The parliamentarians, all Labour except where stated, and members of the British Committee for Iran Freedom, are Lord Archer of Sandwell, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Lord Alton of Liverpool (crossbencher), Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Kerry Pollard (St Albans), Dr Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green), Roy Beggs (UUP Antrim East), John Cryer (Hornchurch), Harold Best (Leeds, North West), Win Griffiths (Bridgend) and Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley).


Excerpt from the interview with Ebrahim Khodabandeh

Q. You have worked for the NCRI in political circles in Europe. Could you explain the kind of work you undertook and evaluate how effective that work was?

…Although the Council still [post 9/11] had some effective support amongst parliamentarians due to their past connection and also due to their ignorance about events, it did not have any contact within the British government whatsoever. In fact, all foreign affairs departments everywhere were closed to its members. On one occasion, some British Labour MPs were asked why they had once supported the PMOI [People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran] which their Government denounces as a terrorist organization. Their answer was that as MPs in the opposition they had no information about the hard facts, but that in Government they have access to intelligence which clearly demonstrates that the Organization is terrorist in nature.

In my opinion, the only effect our hard work collecting signatures ever had was just to lift the morale of our supporters to some small extent by advertising the worldwide support we had gained. This of course was to cover up our weakness in getting any results from our policy inside Iran of conducting military operations in the cities. The signatures collected from parliamentarians, which our department of International Relations had become so expert in, had no significant value in the real diplomatic world and had no effect on the policies of statesmen toward the organization in the relevant countries.

Q. If Iranians do not accept the MKO's claims to support democracy, do you think this means that Western politicians are being deceived?

I would categorize Western politicians in two groups. Ineffective ones such as those in parliament and effective ones like those in the Foreign Office. The first group could be easily deceived since they are not necessarily expert in every field and do not have access to enough information. However, I believe that if all the parliamentarians in the world supported the NCR it would not make much difference to the political situation in Iran. The second group could not easily be deceived, but they do follow their short-term interests. In the West, this group has its own relations with the Islamic Republic and from time to time, they have found the NCR a useful tool. The NCR gained its relative popularity among Western public opinion in the past due to the mistakes made by Iranian diplomats rather than its own efforts; the sort of mistakes they no longer commit, having gained in maturity and experience through the years. Support for the NCR among western politicians has, as a result, gradually declined. Unfortunately, as the Iranian regime has moved towards moderation and self-control the PMOI has shifted to a more extremist policy. After the horrifying events of September 11th, it was possible for the Islamic Republic to take advantage of the PMOI's mistakes and to corner them politically on the international scene.