Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, manages one of the world’s most extensive propaganda and misinformation networks. Given the historic illegitimacy of his dictatorship, he strongly believes that truth can be manipulated through winning the “war in narratives”. As documented on an official website dedicated to his speeches, Khamenei asserts, “It is imperative to narrate the truths of your society, your country, and your revolution. Failure to do so allows the enemy to dictate the narrative; if you fail to narrate the revolution or the Sacred Defense [Iran-Iraq war] incident, the enemy will do so as they please. They justify, fabricate lies, often in stark contrast to reality, and switch the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed.”
Khamenei, whose regime has perpetrated massacres, assassinations, and terrorized innocent people worldwide, portrays his regime simultaneously as a great victim of oppression. He also labels anyone who opposes his dictatorship or its terrorism as oppressors and villains.
In November 2020, Khamenei introduced a new term into his authoritarian rhetoric called “Jihad of Explanation” and called upon all authorities to engage in it, stating, “In the face of enemy propaganda, we must engage in the Jihad of Explanation. Explaining means telling the truth to the people. We must explain the truth in different languages, different literatures, different expressions, and different methods.”
Khamenei has gone even further and stated in a speech for the Iranian New Year in March 2021, “If I were not the leader of the revolution today, I would definitely become the head of the country’s virtual space. The importance of the virtual space is as significant as the Islamic Revolution itself.”
However, the Supreme Leader, who has strongly avoided directly mentioning the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK) in the past three years, has previously stated this more explicitly.
In June 2017, six months before the outbreak of nationwide uprisings in Iran, Ali Khamenei warned his followers, “Let us be careful not to confuse the martyr and the oppressor when talking about the events of the 1980s. Because the Iranian people were victimized in the 1980s, and because terrorists, hypocrites, and their supporters oppressed and committed evil against the Imam and the Iranian people, the nation took a defensive position and ultimately emerged victorious.”
The hypocrites has been a slander term, historically used by the regime to discredit the PMOI in Iran’s society.
As the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy dictatorship by the Iranian people approaches, it becomes evident that despite spending billions of dollars, the Iranian regime remains unsatisfied with its ongoing efforts to discredit the PMOI in Iranian society over the past 44 years.
Despite relentless endeavors spanning four decades, the regime continues to produce films, television series, articles, books, conferences, engage in cyber warfare, manipulate Wikipedia, and undertake numerous other activities to tarnish the reputation of the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). However, Iranian regime authorities persist in criticizing themselves and their media and intelligence apparatuses for their failure in “presenting the Iranian Resistance to the youth and the international community.”
Why is the Iranian regime spending millions of dollars to defame the MEK?
The office of Iran’s Supreme Leader dedicated an entire article on its website to what it portrayed as “exposing the hypocrites”. It sought to accuse the PMOI of being Marxists who falsely claim to be Muslims. The website, using reverse language, emphasized the regime’s primary concern about Iranian youth turning to the organization: “We have shortcomings in media, propaganda, and portraying realities. Many of our youth are unaware of events from twenty years ago; they are unaware of the events involving the hypocrites.”
On January 10, Gholamali Haddad Adel, one of Khamenei’s senior advisors, admitted that people are still gravitating towards the PMOI. During an interview with the Mizan News Agency on the sidelines of a mock trial session held by the Iranian regime every Tuesday to prosecute members of the organization, Haddad Adel said, “The lack of awareness regarding the crimes committed by the hypocritical group, resulting from deficiencies within our information and artistic institutions over the years, has unfairly influenced people’s perceptions and judgments toward these hypocritical criminals.”
However, during the mock trial session held on January 2, the representative of the prosecutor’s office articulated this matter more explicitly. He stated, “The Resistance Units who were active during recent disturbances (in 2019 and fall 2022) are essentially a new version of the hypocrites’ command center inside Iran.”
In August, the newspaper Etemad, associated with the so-called reformist faction, conducted an exclusive interview with a film director close to Iranian intelligence services named Javad Muguee. On YouTube, the clip has been meaningfully titled “Not delivering the bodies of the 1988 executed individuals to their families was not the right thing to do.”
In this interview, primarily focusing on the PMOI and their impact on Iranian society, Muguee suggests that the factor behind Ebrahim Raisi’s failure in the May 2017 presidential elections was the issue of the 1988 executions.
He said, “The PMOI underwent a complete restructuring in Iran’s public perception during the 2000s. They assumed a prominent role in the 2010s, and the 1988 executions became the central topic of the 2017 presidential election.”
His reference is to the massacre in which, according to international human rights organizations, over 90% of the victims were supporters and members of the PMOI. Within a span of three months, over 30,000 Iranians were executed simply because they refused to betray their organization and did not succumb to the oppressor’s demand for submission to the life Khamenei desired for them. What appears evident now is that, even after 34 years, many young Iranians are still compelled to fight against this regime, and Khamenei comprehends this issue better than anyone else.
However, contrary to the incessant criticisms Iranian authorities direct at themselves, the reason for this failure is not due to their lack of effort. In fact, these efforts have been largely successful and have had significant impacts both domestically in Iran as well as within the international community, and even in the realm of social media. As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But there is also an expression that says:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.