The increasingly brutal dictatorship of the Shah in 1965 led Mohammad Hanifnejad, a 26-year-old agricultural engineer, and two of his colleagues, Saeid Mohsen, a civil engineer, and Ali-Asghar Badizadegan, an assistant professor in chemical engineering, to found the PMOI/MEK. The PMOI/MEK flourished as a democratic Muslim and patriotic movement that challenged the Shah’s dictatorship.

The newly founded PMOI/MEK believed in a democratically inclined interpretation of Islam that promoted democratic change, in which the people’s vote is the sole criterion for political legitimacy, and protection of the democratic right of dissent is essential. The PMOI/MEK broke the still night of the Pahlavi dictatorship with a message of resistance to a despotic regime that does not tolerate peaceful political activity.

The founders were the political continuation of the democratic aspirations of Mosaddeq’s popular democratic ideals, and their message gained traction among various social classes, especially among intellectuals and students.


In 1971, Iran was a police state and the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, arrested the entire PMOI/MEK leadership and the majority of its cadres. The Shah executed most of them on political charges and imprisoned a few until his fall in 1979. The sole surviving member of the original MEK leadership was Massoud Rajavi. His execution sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after an extensive international campaign by his brother resulting in interventions by international political dignitaries such as Francois Mitterrand. Mr. Rajavi was freed from Evin prison in January of 1979 by the Iranian people’s uprising.

A special display is dedicated to the PMOI/MEK’s founding and its pivotal role in contemporary Iran.