Biography of Maryam Rajavi
Place of Birth: Tehran, Iran
Education: Metallurgical Engineer, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran
• An official in the student movement affiliated with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), (Mujahedin-e Khalq, MEK) against the Shah’s regime (1972 to 1979)
• An official in the social department of the PMOI/MEK (1979 to 1981)
• Candidate for Parliament (1980)
• Joint-leader of the PMOI/MEK (1985 to 1989)
• Secretary-General of the PMOI/MEK (1989 to 1993)
• President-elect of the parliament-in-exile National Council of Resistance of Iran (1993 to present)
Who is Maryam Rajavi?
Maryam Rajavi was born into a middle-class family in Tehran. One of her brothers, Mahmoud, is a veteran member of the PMOI/MEK and was a political prisoner during the Shah’s regime.
Her older sister, Narges, was killed by the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, in 1975.
Her other sister, Massoumeh, an industrial engineering student, was arrested by the clerical regime in 1982. Pregnant at the time, she was ultimately hanged after undergoing brutal torture. Massoumeh’s husband, Massoud Izadkhah, was also executed.
Maryam Rajavi graduated with honors from the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in metallurgical engineering.
She joined the PMOI/MEK to participate in the popular resistance against the two corrupt dictatorships of the Shah and the mullahs. In the 1970s, during her college years, she organized anti-Shah student protests.
In 1980, she ran for a seat in Parliament from Tehran. But, due to widespread voter fraud by the new fundamentalist regime, none of the opposition candidates made it into Parliament. Despite the scam, Maryam Rajavi received over 250,000 votes.
She was a prominent organizer of the student movement and its demonstrations after the overthrow of the Shah. She played a crucial role in attracting high school and university students to the freedom movement. Mrs. Rajavi was one of the architects of two major peaceful demonstrations in Tehran in May and June 1981 against the rising dictatorship.
PMOI’s leadership: A new era of women’s struggle
In 1984, she became the first woman in modern Iranian history to lead a major political organization. She became co-leader of the PMOI/MEK before being elected its secretary-general four years later.
During this period, a generation of women took up difficult leadership positions under her leadership, bringing about a historical change in the PMOI/MEK. The female cadres of the People’s Mojahedin faced one of the most complex political battles in contemporary history against a cruel religious dictatorship. During the last three decades, competent women have been elected to head the PMOI. A woman is presently the organization’s secretary-general.
Marking the International Women’s Day in March 2017, in a speech to a round-table discussion entitled, Women in Leadership, the Experience of the Iranian Resistance, Maryam Rajavi said:
The Iranian women’s struggle for freedom and equality has lasted one-and-a-half centuries. Iranian and Western historians who have studied the past 150 years in Iran have attested to this reality.
Over this period, we have seen vanguard women who rose up and proved their competence in various arenas despite the reigning culture and policies of tyranny and misogyny. This phenomenon was most significantly demonstrated in women’s courageous participation in the anti-dictatorial struggles over this period.
Women’s struggle is essentially the best and most comprehensive indicator of progress in any society.
How can we measure the advances of society towards real progress and development? The answer is to the extent it endeavors to achieve freedom and equality.
Without gender equality, any political, economic, or social progress would be ineffective, fleeting, or reversible.
From this vantage point, the uprisings which led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah in Iran marked a significant leap forward through women’s remarkable and extensive participation in street demonstrations. This new phenomenon unveiled the Iranian people’s widespread desire for progress.
Women’s active participation in confrontation with the mullahs’ religious fascism formed the cornerstone and foundation of resistance against the regime.
Quantitatively, women’s participation in this struggle was extensive since the outset. Qualitatively, they were brave, inspiring, and selfless.
Tens of thousands of women were tortured or executed in the struggle against the ruling fundamentalist regime. These events were particularly transpiring in the 1980s.
Women had powerful motivations and had set their sights on a bright and magnificent horizon. Otherwise, they would have been intimidated by the merciless tortures and massacres that were unprecedented in contemporary history. But, instead, the clampdown made them even more determined and persistent.
Women’s role rapidly became more pronounced in the post-revolution developments in Iran. They became the pivotal force of the movement.
Today, women hold key and leadership positions in the resistance movement. They make up more than 50 percent of the members of the Resistance’s parliament-in-exile.
Women’s active and equal participation in political leadership
Our experience (in the resistance movement) is that it is impossible to break the seal of inequality without a change. One must give leadership positions to the most competent women without fear.
Women’s hegemony in this Resistance broke the norms and allowed women to undertake responsibilities in all fields. As a result of this campaign, they managed to acquire new values and get rid of obsolete and retrograde culture; first of all, they believed in themselves and their abilities.
When these women realized how crucial it was for them to accept the responsibility of advancing the struggle against religious tyranny, they left the irresponsible world of passivism. They broke out of a world of depending on someone else to gain credibility and entered the world of responsible women who lead a struggle with all its consequences.
(Excerpts of a speech on the International Women’s Day, March 9, 2013)
President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is a parliament in exile. It was established in 1981 in Tehran to overthrow the mullahs’ regime and establish a republic based on universal suffrage, secularism, and non-nuclear power. As the most longstanding political coalition in Iran’s history, the NCRI is seen as an existential threat to Iran’s ruling religious dictatorship.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran is a coalition of several Iranian opposition organizations and prominent personalities. During its plenary session in 1993, the NCRI elected Maryam Rajavi as its president-elect for the transitional period of transferring power to the Iranian people.
As the NCRI President-elect, Maryam Rajavi has mounted an extraordinary political, social, cultural, and ideological challenge to the ruling mullahs in Iran. Under her leadership, women have risen to hold pivotal positions in the Iranian Resistance. Over half of NCRI members are women. They have become a prominent voice in opposition to the ruling misogynous regime. This historical development can change the path of the Middle East.
Maryam Rajavi has addressed hundreds of international conferences over the past years, including the US Congressional hearings and conferences in European parliaments.
She has held meetings with many prominent political personalities, lawmakers, diplomats, heads of state, and human rights defenders from the US, Europe, and the Middle East.
Maryam Rajavi has made numerous speeches regarding the real message of Islam, which revolves around tolerance and democracy, in direct contradiction of the reactionary and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. She believes that one of the most important differentiators between these two entirely contradictory views of Islam focuses on attitudes toward the status of women. Among her published works are: “Islam, Women, and Equality,” “Women, the Force for Change,” “Women against Fundamentalism,” and “No to Compulsory Veil, No to Compulsory Religion, No to Compulsory Government.”
In 1994, during a speech delivered at the Oslo city hall, Mrs. Rajavi warned about the octopus of religious tyranny and Islamic fundamentalism whose heart beats in Tehran. She said: “Fundamentalism has turned into the greatest threat to peace in the region and the world,” adding, “The mullahs ruling Iran are pursuing their expansionist agenda and exporting crises and tensions by exploiting the religious beliefs of over a billion Muslims.”
During a June 21, 1996 speech entitled, “Women, the Voice of the Oppressed,” delivered at a conference in London’s Earls Court, Rajavi said, “The issue of women and the equality movement is linked to the struggle against reactionary ideology and fundamentalism. Because women are pioneers in the equality movement and the main force for progress, peace, and social justice. In my view, humankind can only rid itself of the evil phenomenon of reactionary outlook and fundamentalism if women would assume their leading role in this global campaign and employ all forms of democratic struggle to shut the door on all forms of appeasement of and compromise with the misogynous and inhumane mullahs in Iran.”
In a speech on the occasion of the International Women’s Day in March 2013 in Paris, Maryam Rajavi called for the creation of a front against fundamentalism: “The time has come for women to further expand the wide front against fundamentalism and the extensive front against religious dictatorship, on the international level for the liberation of the peoples of the region from the scourge of fundamentalism. We must expand our front against fundamentalism before the clerical regime can expand itself.”
At a hearing in the US Congress on April 29, 2015, Maryam Rajavi said of Islamic fundamentalism: “Today, Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, under the name of ISIS or Shiite paramilitary groups, have launched a vicious assault on countries in the region and beyond including America and Europe. Islamic fundamentalism emerged as a threat to peace and security when Khomeini stole the leadership of a popular revolution in 1979 and established a religious dictatorship. The Iranian regime has served as the main source of this ominous phenomenon in the region and across the world … The experience of the past three decades shows that in the absence of a firm policy vis-à-vis the epicenter of fundamentalism, there will be destructive consequences.”
In another speech on International Women’s Day at the Salle de la Mutualité in Paris in 2016, Maryam Rajavi said: “Anything that promotes compulsion and force and denies people’s voting and free choice is not Islam; it is against Islam. And anything that denies women’s equal rights has no place in Islam.
“We will not tolerate violation of women’s rights under the guise of religion or any other pretext. We advocate democratic Islam in the face of extremism, fundamentalism, and exploitation of religion. With the emancipating word of equality and women’s active and equal participation in political leadership, we seek to turn this century in the name of women into the century of emancipation of women and humankind.
“We reiterate that Iranian women must be free! They must be free to choose what they believe in, what they want to wear, and how they live. And we repeat NO to compulsory veil; NO to compulsory religion; and NO to compulsory government.”
The Third Option
In December 2004, during a speech at the European Parliament, Maryam Rajavi proposed the Third Option, a clear prospect to resolve the Iranian crisis, which had caused anxiety globally.
She said: “In the face of this challenge, two options have been raised: The make-a-deal approach to the clerical regime to contain it or include gradual change. For the past two decades, Western countries have subscribed to this approach. The other option is to overthrow the clerical regime through an external war, similar to what occurred in Iraq. No one would want to see this repeated in Iran. But I have come here today to say there is a third option: Change brought about by the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance. And this is the only way to prevent external wars. Giving concessions to the mullahs is not an alternative to external wars. No concession is going to dissuade the mullahs from continuing their ominous objectives.”
Maryam Rajavi’s Ten-Point Plan for Future Iran
Maryam Rajavi has offered a Ten-Point Plan for tomorrow’s free Iran.
International Solidarity with the Iranian Resistance
Today, in the eyes of the Iranian people, Maryam Rajavi is the pioneer of the struggle for democratic change in Iran. She has led a global movement comprised of some of the most celebrated political and social personalities, including former US government officials and secretaries in the political and military arenas and political dignitaries and parliamentarians from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. This international movement has attained significant victories in support of the Iranian Resistance and its organized wing at Ashraf 3. The campaign has gained international credibility and legitimacy by promoting the need for regime change and establishing freedom and democracy in Iran. It has also made considerable achievements in exposing the Iranian regime’s crimes against the people of Iran, its nuclear and missile programs, and its destructive activities to export terrorism and fundamentalism.
International Campaign to Delist the MEK
Between 1997 and 2012, due to the appeasement of the clerical regime in Iran, governments accepted the regime’s request to list the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran as a terrorist organization and severely restricted its political activities.
In the eyes of the Iranian people, this was not just an action against a political organization. The designation was also against the Iranian people’s resistance for freedom and favored the mullahs’ regime.
Maryam Rajavi led a global campaign to remove the PMOI/MEK from terrorist lists in Europe and the US while exposing secret deals in the context of appeasing the clerical regime. These efforts led to the delisting of the PMOI/MEK in the United Kingdom in 2008 and the European Union in 2009, as well as the dismissal of terrorism charges in the June 17, 2003 dossier by a senior French Investigative Magistrate in May 2011, and the revocation of the PMOI/MEK’s terrorist designation in the United States in September 2012.
International Campaign in Defense of PMOI/MEK Members in Ashraf and Liberty
In 2009, the US government transferred the protection and security of over 3,000 PMOI/MEK members in Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government. On the orders of the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked Camp Ashraf in July 2009, April 2011, and again in September 2013. They killed over 100 residents and injured more than 1,000 in the process. Subsequently, the residents of Ashraf were transferred to Camp Liberty under the United Nations auspices. They were attacked several more times by missiles and rockets; dozens were killed, and many more were wounded. The objective of the clerical regime and its puppet government in Iraq was to eradicate all members of the Iranian Resistance.
Maryam Rajavi led an international campaign supporting the PMOI/MEK members in Ashraf and Liberty. The efforts included hundreds of statements issued by human rights organizations, numerous reports and statements by UN-affiliated organizations, and statements by thousands of parliamentarians worldwide, in addition to multiple resolutions passed in parliaments and international institutions. The US Congress adopted a resolution in 2015, calling for the security of PMOI/MEK members in Camp Liberty.
The relentless international and political campaigns completed the safe relocation of PMOI members from Iraq to Albania and other European countries on September 6, 2016, thus, foiling the Iranian regime’s schemes to eradicate the Mojahedin.
The movement calling for justice for victims of the 1988 massacre
In a call to the people of Iran and members and supporters of the Iranian Resistance, in August 2016, Maryam Rajavi announced the movement calling for justice for victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran. The movement’s demands included prosecution of all masterminds and perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, publication of the names, specifics, and places of burial of all massacre victims, and announcement of the identities of everyone involved in making decisions and executing the slaughter.
The Call for Justice movement rapidly grew both inside Iran and abroad. After 28 years, it turned the massacre of political prisoners into a top issue of debate in Iranian society vis-à-vis the clerical regime. The movement compelled the regime’s leaders to break their silence for over three decades and speak up about this major crime.
The families of martyrs embraced the call, and their efforts to publish the names of victims and the documents on this crime raised an extensive wave inside Iran.
On the international level, the Iranian Resistance and jurists held numerous meetings, followed by international condemnations of this horrible crime against humanity and calls for prosecution of those responsible for the massacre.
Campaign against the Covid-19 Pandemic
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in Iran, the Iranian Resistance has exposed the clerical regime’s policy of concealing the statistics on the spread of the epidemic in Iran. Maryam Rajavi has denounced the behavior of the religious dictatorship in various conferences. Notably, during the interim session of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in March 2021, she said, “If it were not for the clerical regime’s inhuman policy, the toll could be much lower. Likewise, the situation of millions of people who have lost their jobs and millions of others who are afflicted with poverty and deprivation would have been avoidable.
The regime opened the path for a rampant contagion spread and avoided taking any fundamental steps to contain the disease. They refrained from spending even a tiny portion of the trillions of dollars of assets compiled by Khamenei’s foundations and banned the import of vaccines.
International meetings and conferences
Over the past three decades, Maryam Rajavi has addressed hundreds of international, European, and Arabic conferences and met with many political leaders and cultural and religious personalities. Following are some of these activities:
• Meeting at the Parliament of Norway – November 8, 2006
• The EPP Group meeting in the European Parliament – December 2006
• Meeting in the Finnish Parliament – March 13, 2010
• Meeting in the German Parliament – March 23, 2010
• Meeting in the European Parliament – December 1, 2010
• Meeting in the Italian Parliament – July 6, 2011
• Meeting of the Human Rights Committee of the Spanish Parliament – December 18, 2012
• International meeting at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva – September 19, 2013
• Meeting at the Belgian Senate – December 3, 2013
• Meeting at the Italian Parliament – December 18, 2013
• Meeting at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Norwegian Parliament – February 26, 2014
• Hearing in the Parliament of Canada – the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights – May 15, 2014
• Conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on the UN responsibility regarding the massacres – August 13, 2014
• Conference at the European Parliament on the World Human Rights Day – December 10, 2014
• Conference at the French Senate – May 5, 2015
• The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg – January 26, 2015
• Visiting the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, speech at the official meeting of the Group of the European People’s Party, and official meeting of the Union of Liberals and Democrats – January 26, 2015
• Rally on the International Women’s Day in Berlin featuring more than 100 female personalities from five continents – March 2015
• Hearing at the US Congress – April 29, 2015
• Conference at the European Parliament – March 2, 2016
• Conference on the World Human Rights Day in the European Parliament – December 6, 2017
• Official meeting of the European People’s Party, the European Liberal Democrats, and the Alliance of the European Left at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg – January 24, 2018
• Conference at the French National Assembly – February 21, 2019
• Conference at the European Parliament – October 23, 2019
• King Hussein of Jordan – September 1994
• Yasser Arafat – July 1996
• Yehudi Menuhin
• Meeting with François Hollande, first secretary of the French Socialist Party – July 2003
• Meeting with Abbé Pierre, prominent French priest and founder of the Emmaus movement in Auvers-sur-Oise, headquarters of the National Council of the Resistance north of Paris – December 2006
• Meeting with a high-level multi-party delegation of British parliamentarians
• Meeting with Ahmad Jarba, Chairman of National Coalition of Opposition Forces and Syrian Revolution in Paris – May 23, 2014
• Meeting with a delegation of British parliamentarians and personalities led by David Jones, in Auvers-sur-Oise – February 13, 2016
• Meeting with George Sabra, member of the Syrian National Coalition and one of the leaders of the Syrian People’s Democratic Party, in Auvers-sur-Oise – May 12, 2016
• Meeting with a high-ranking delegation of the Syrian resistance – June 11, 2016
• Meeting with Gérard Deprez, Belgian Minister of State and Vice-Chairman of the Budget Committee of the European Parliament – November 11, 2016
• Meeting with Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Armed Services Committee, at PMOI headquarters in Tirana – April 14, 2017
• Meeting at the PMOI headquarters in Tirana with a high-level delegation from the US Senate, consisting of Senator Roy Blunt, Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, member of the Committees on Appropriations, Information, Legislation, Administration, Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Senator John Cornyn, Senate Majority Leader, member of the Judiciary, Information, and Finance Committees; and Senator Tom Tillis, member of the Armed Services, Judiciary, Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Armed Services Committees -August 10, 2017
• Meeting with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Ashraf 3, Albania – July 11, 2019
• Meeting with a US Congressional delegation, Dana Rohrabacher, California Representative and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Europe-Asia and Emerging Threats; and Judge Ted Poe, Texas Representative and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Anti-Terrorism, Nuclear Nonproliferation and Trade in the House of Representatives – March 6, 2018
• Meeting with Albanian President Ilir Meta – September 16, 2019
• Meeting with US General James Jones, President Barack Obama’s first National Security Advisor and former Commander-in-Chief of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) – November 17, 1998
• Meeting with David Jones, prominent British MP, Minister for Wales in David Cameron’s government and former minister in Theresa May’s government in negotiations with the European Union – April 6, 2019
Ill-fated assassination attempts: a frightened regime strikes back
Over the past three decades, Mrs. Rajavi has been the target of the clerical regime’s sinister terrorist plots:
• Simultaneous with the grand rally of Iranians in Dortmund, Germany, in June 1995, the mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry organized a terrorist plot against Mrs. Rajavi.
• In 1996, the mullahs’ regime attempted to bomb Mrs. Rajavi’s home in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, with a 320 mm mortar designed for this purpose. The mortar was discovered and seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp.
• In March 2018, the clerical regime planned a massive bombing of the PMOI’s Nowruz (Iranian New Year) gathering in Albania, where Mrs. Rajavi was to speak. The attack was discovered and foiled at the last minute. The government of Albania subsequently expelled the Iranian regime’s ambassador and three diplomats from the country.
• A bombing attempt at the annual rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran on June 30, 2018, was foiled in Villepinte, a suburb of Paris, where Maryam Rajavi was the keynote speaker. An hour before the operation, the terrorists were arrested, and the bomb was defused. On July 1, 2018, a senior Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested. He had hand-delivered the explosives to agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. The terrorist diplomat was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His three terrorist accomplices were sentenced to 15 to 18 years in prison.