United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US takes MEK off terrorism list

            On Sept. 28, the U.S. State Department revoked the Mujahedin-e Khalq’s (MEK) designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The leftist group killed six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and attempted an attack against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992. The State Department then added it to the terrorism list in 1997. But the MEK renounced violence in 2001 and no terrorist attacks have been positively linked to the organization for more than a decade.

            The following media note details the MEK’s delisting, followed by excerpts from a background briefing.   
 
Delisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq

The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.  These actions are effective today.  Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license.  These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
 
With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992.  The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
 
The Secretary’s decision today took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base. 
 
The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.
 
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SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I can’t speak with authority as to how foreign governments will react, but it is certainly plausible to assume that this action will assist in our efforts to support the UNHCR in its efforts to find homes for these people outside of Iraq.

Certainly, now with Camp Ashraf effectively closed, only a residual group remaining, and with over 3,000 of its – Camp Ashraf’s former residents peacefully relocated to Camp Hurriya, the major task in our humanitarian efforts with respect to this organization’s members is their peaceful, orderly resettlement outside of Iraq. If this decision assists in those efforts, so much the better. I will be working intensely in the days and weeks to come with European Governments and other governments bilaterally and with the UNHCR to advance this process...
 
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, let’s be clear. The timing of the de-listing has to do with the deadline given by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court had set this deadline of October 1 as a date when there had to be a decision on the MEK’s petition to have its FTO status revoked. That was the condition that led to this timing and this decision was taken on the merits for the reasons that I explained before and not for any other reasons...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We do not see the MEK as a viable opposition or democratic opposition movement. We have no evidence and we have no confidence that the MEK is an organization that could promote the democratic values that we would like to see in Iran.

There is nothing in the way they govern themselves that would suggest they’re interested in adopting democratic principles, and there is a long and fairly rich set of documentation on how they treat their own personnel that really does suggest to the contrary. So we continue to have serious concerns about the group with regard to allegations of abuse that’s committed against its own members. They are not part of our picture in terms of the future of Iran.

Click here for the full briefing.

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