In the struggle to reclaim freedom an democracy from the Khomeini regime after the June 1981 decimation of all political avenues of dissent by regime violence, the PMOI/MEK engaged in an all-out battle with the virulent ideology and regime that Khomeini instituted.
A major factor enabling Khomeini’s grip on power in Iran was the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The PMOI/MEK had criticized Khomeini in 1980 for interfering in Iraq with the export of clerics preaching his brand of reactionary Islam. This interference was a major instigator of Iraq’s fatal mistake in attacking Iran.
The PMOI/MEK initially participated in the defense of the Iranian people from Iraqi aggression and many PMOI volunteers were arrested on the frontlines at the instigation of pro-Khomeini clerics. By June 1982, the Iraqis were no longer on Iranian territory. The Iraqis proposed a ceasefire after months of standstill and destruction on June 17, 1982, but Khomeini did not accept. Khomeini welcomed the war as a boon, calling it “a divine blessing,” as he used it demagogically to bash all opposition to his regime as an Iraqi fifth column. The demagoguery did not intimidate the PMOI/MEK who began an earnest effort to sue for an end to the war.
The PMOI/MEK called out Khomeini’s selfish disregard for Iranians’ lives and property, and his warmongering campaign to install an image of his government in Iraq. At the time, hundreds of thousands of Iranian school children were being pressed into military service and forced to charge into frontline minefields, resulting in needless death and sorrow for all Iranians.
The NCRI announced its Peace Plan to end the war on March 13, 1983. It called for an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of all forces to behind territorial boundaries, exchange of all POWs, acceptance of the 1975 Algiers Agreement’s line of demarcation between the two countries, and arbitration of damages by the International Court of Justice. An international campaign by the NCRI to push for peace resulted in official Iraqi acceptance of the NCRI’s peace plan by March 21, 1983, and backing by over 5,000 European, US, and international legislators and political figures. Khomeini, however, would not budge as he recognized the war’s utility to the existence of his regime. The PMOI/MEK and NCRI campaign for peace at home made it more difficult for the regime to mobilize the public for war.
The PMOI/MEK relocated to the border region between Iraq and Iran in May 1986 in agreement with the Iraqi government to establish an independent presence to pursue freedom and liberation of their country. Ashraf rose in the deserts of Diyali province about 60km from the Iranian border with thousands of Iranian dissidents volunteering for the struggle. The effort developed into a seasoned force for change that attracted many Iranians who joined the newly formed National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) to overthrow the mullahs in Tehran. The NLA had successive battlefield victories and eventually forced the Khomeini regime to accept a cease-fire with Iraq in July 1988.