10 Myths About Iran -- And Why They're Dead Wrong
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7. The Mujahideen-e Khalq (aka MEK, MKO, PMOI and NCRI) is not “Iran’s main opposition.”
The short story is that at one time the MEK was a popular revolutionary force in Iran that was brutally repressed. But for decades, it has been detested or considered irrelevant by the majority of the population. It worked for Saddam Hussein’s regime during the bloody and long Iran-Iraq war. It has also committed terrorism inside Iran that led to the death of U.S. citizens.
Now, the MEK is lobbying the United States to remove it from its foreign terrorist organizations list through a well-funded campaign. It's akin to Al Qaeda advertising in the New York Times, the Washington Post or on cable TV. Its advocates include former George W. Bush administration members Frances Townsend and Michael Mukasey, who has described MEK members as "courageous freedom fighters," as well as the likes of Howard Dean.
Analysts and journalists who have no affection for the Iranian government have reported the facts about MEK, despite well-organized campaigning by its members to silence criticism or deflect attention by bringing up the real human rights issues its members face in Iraq. MEK supporters have reacted furiously to the Rand Corporation’s description of them as a “cult” and deny the disturbing abuses attributed to their leadership by Human Rights Watch. According to their lobbyists, negative depictions of MEK are funded by the Iranian government, thereby implying that the U.S. State Department and the FBI were also controlled by Iran!
If that isn’t enough to make those who still buy into MEK’s propaganda think twice, consider that when millions of Iranians took to the streets in 2009 after the hotly contested presidential election, the people were focused on democracy in Iran and the “Green Movement,” not MEK. But regardless of what MEK and its former high-ranking U.S. official advocates do to change the reality surrounding them, the fact remains that this group inspires no hope among the vast majority of more than 70 million Iranian citizens.
8. Iranians speak a different language than Iraqis.
It’s common for Iranians to be mistaken for Arabs, but people in Arab nations speak a different language (Arabic varies by region just as Farsi is not the only spoken language in Iran) and have different cultures. Persian food and Arabic food also differ significantly, regardless of which Arabic country you are talking about. As stated in an “explainer” article in Slate: “Alone among the Middle Eastern peoples conquered by the Arabs, the Iranians did not lose their language or their identity.”
9. Iranians don't want another revolution.
There is indeed widespread discontent about the Iranian leadership and life inside Iran among its citizens at home, who have been negatively impacted by years of increasingly harsh U.S.-led sanctions. The widely attended protests of 2009 and 2010 forced the world to recognize this even if the Iranian government refuses to acknowledge the facts. But unlike the protest movements in Arab countries that began in 2011 and resulted in the fall of multiple governments, the Green Movement has since been mostly dormant while the Iranian leadership is alive and more focused on crushing internal dissent amongst establishment figures than democracy activists.
When I was in Iran this time last year, there were weekly protests for imprisoned Green movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and widespread arrests and other forms of government-sponsored intimidation. But the protests were nowhere near the scale of what we saw in 2009, and by the Iranian holiday period in March, Tehran cleared out like it always does. This was just a month after Mousavi and Karroubi’s house arrest began.