A Brief Biography of
Maryam Rajavi was born in 1953 to a middle class family in Tehran and is married to Massoud Rajavi. She has a daughter (born in 1982) and a degree in metallurgical engineering. Mrs. Rajavi became acquainted with the anti-shah movement in 1970. After entering Sharif University of Technology in Tehran to pursue her education, she quickly became a leader of the student movement and joined the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, the Muslim, democratic and nationalist movement that espouses the establishment of a secular government in Iran. The shah’s regime executed one of her sisters, Narges, and the Khomeini regime murdered another, Massoumeh, who was pregnant at the time, along with the sister’s husband.
A Capable Organizer
Mrs. Rajavi was active in the social department of the Mojahedin, and
played an instrumental role in attracting and recruiting university and
high school students to the movement in the post-shah Iran, when the Mojahedin
emerged as the principal opposition movement to the Khomeini regime. She
was a candidate for parliamentary elections in Tehran in 1980. Despite
widespread rigging, she received more than a quarter of a million votes.
Mrs. Rajavi played a decisive role in organizing two major peaceful demonstrations in Tehran in April and June of 1981 against the new dictatorship. Following June 20, 1981, Khomeini unleashed his pervasive terror on Iranians. Tens of thousands were arbitrarily arrested or executed. During this period, the Pasdaran (the Revolutionary Guards Corps) raided her places of residence several times, but she managed to survive these encounters.
In 1982, Mrs. Rajavi was transferred to Paris, the political headquarters of the movement. She rose rapidly through the ranks and emerged as the most capable and qualified woman member of the movement. She was eventually elected as the Mojahedin’s joint leader in 1985 and four years later, in 1989, became the Secretary General of the organization.
Following the formation of the Resistance’s military arm, the National Liberation Army (NLA), in 1987, she was appointed the army’s Deputy Commander in Chief, playing an instrumental role in transforming the NLA into a well-trained, modern and mechanized military force.
In August 1993, the National Council of Resistance, the Iranian Resistance’s
Parliament, elected Mrs. Rajavi as Iran’s future President for the transitional
period following the mullahs’ overthrow.
She subsequently resigned from her posts in the Mojahedin and the NLA to devote her entire time to her new responsibility. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Rajavi went to Paris to lead the Resistance's endeavors on the international scene.
In her new role as the President, she quickly presented a formidable and serious political, social, cultural and ideological challenge to the ruling clerics.
Under her leadership, women have attained key positions within the ranks of the Resistance. Women comprise half the members in the NCR. They occupy the most senior positions of responsibility in political, international and military arenas in the Resistance. One-third of the NLA’s combatants and many of its commanders are women, as is the entire Leadership Council of the Mojahedin.
Mrs. Rajavi’s election gave the oppressed and demoralized citizenry, especially women, new hopes for a better future. Equally profound and inspiring was the impact of her election among Iranians living abroad. Many delegations from the four-million-strong Iranian exile community, consisting of the most educated and skilled sectors of the society, rushed to meet Mrs. Rajavi in Paris.
Mrs. Rajavi says: "I have dedicated my life to a better future for the people of Iran. I want to prove that as a democratic alternative for society, Islam is not aggressive and can be quite constructive for women. This sense of responsibility gives me inner calm and the feeling of genuine freedom... After the mullahs are overthrown, we must try, before all else, to eliminate the sense of vengeance and hatred among our people. We must create unity and expand the notion of tolerance in society. It is our responsibility to revive the Iranian people's identity and values."
Reviving the arts
Mrs. Rajavi also paid special attention to Iranian art and culture, two rich and deeply invaluable features of the Iranian history, which the mullahs have adamantly tried to pervert.
Under her direction, Iranian artists and musicians, forced into exile, stepped forward and began performing to revive Iran’s arts and culture.
In summer 1994, Marzieh, the grande dame of Iranian music for the last 50 years, left Iran after 15 years of silence in defiance to the mullahs and came to meet Maryam Rajavi and join the ranks of the Resistance. She became a member of the National Council of Resistance and was appointed as the Cultural Advisor to the President-elect.
Internationally, those acclaimed for their artistic achievement and contribution, such as Yehudi Menuhin, met Mrs. Rajavi. In a letter to Mrs. Rajavi in June 1996, Lord Menuhin wrote: “Of all the people I know and respect, you are the one who can speak with greatest authority and from experience on the tragic subject of persecuted women.”
Advocating Basic Human Rights
In a speech to 15,000 Iranians in Dortmund on June 16, 1995, Mrs.
Rajavi presented her 16-point “Charter of Fundamental Freedoms” for future
Iran after the mullahs’ overthrow. In her speech, Mrs. Rajavi said that
love of freedom was the driving force of Resistance movement. Without it,
she said, “we could not have stood firm against the ruling dictatorship.
Our nation has paid the price of freedom with 100,000 martyrs.” Mrs. Rajavi
also presented the main platform of the Resistance for the future of Iran
emphasizing the Resistance’s commitment to the freedom of speech, opinion,
the press, parties and political associations, and free elections. She
emphasized that elections will serve as the sole basis in determining the
legitimacy of government.
In article 6 of the platform, Mrs. Rajavi reaffirmed women’s equal political, social, cultural and economic rights with men. She also underscored women's rights to choose and get elected, their complete freedom to choose any occupation or government post, including judgeship and presidency, the right to choose their husbands, equal rights in divorce and freedom in choosing their clothing.
Article 14 of the platform stipulated that in the future of Iran, a free market, private ownership and investment to expand the national economy will be guaranteed. The foreign policy of a democratic Iran, Mrs. Rajavi affirmed, will advocate peace, coexistence, regional and international cooperation.
Tehran-inspired Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest threat to world
peace and stability. The International community has more than just a moral
responsibility to boycott this medieval regime, she said. Greater delay
would have dire consequences.
Mrs. Rajavi says that one cannot fight fundamentalism with an anti-Islamic culture. The only way to confront it is to offer a modern and lenient Islam. In promoting this interpretation of Islam, the Iranian Resistance has presented a modern and tolerant visage of Islam and rejected the mullahs' savagery cloaked in religion.
With this message, a new international awareness on this issue was evoked by Mrs. Rajavi. In her meetings with international dignitaries, politicians, academicians, parliamentarians and journalists from Europe and the U.S., Mrs. Rajavi underscored this reality, launching an international campaign against the mullahs.
She says: "Let me proclaim that the peddlers of religion who rule Iran in the name of Islam, but shed blood, suppress the people and advocate export of fundamentalism and terrorism, are themselves the worst enemy of Islam and Muslims. The day will come when they will be forced to let go of the name of Islam.”
The Voice of the Oppressed
London's Earls Court was the scene of the biggest-ever gathering of
Iranians on June 20, 1996, as 25,000 people had gathered to listen to Mrs.
Rajavi's speech, titled "Women, voice of the oppressed."
She said: "These reactionaries who suppress the Iranian people, especially women, and export terrorism and fundamentalism under the cloak of religion, have nothing to do with Islam. They are peddlers of religion and exploit the name of Islam to advance their sinister, inhuman objectives. Islam is the religion of peace, freedom, liberty, equality, love, mercy and liberation. The mullahs' fundamentalist mindset, however, rests upon vengeance, enmity and ignorance and is at war with human values and world peace.
Among NLA combatants
In his return from France, Mrs. Rajavi addressed some 15,000 NLA combatants along Iran-Iraq frontier in 1998. She said: "It was this very Resistance which forced Khomeini to drink the chalice of poison of the cease-fire. And it is this Resistance which has forced the regime to drink the chalice of poison on the political arena, through its political and military struggle and its all-out domestic international endeavors. By relying on the NLA, this Resistance is well on its way to uproot the mullahs' regime."
A Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, July 1992:
"The council has democratically elected a capable leader, a Muslim, Mojahed woman as an answer to Islamic fundamentalism."
425 British parliamentarians, June 1995:
“Support for the NCR and its President-elect, who reflects the aspirations of the wide spectrum of the Iranian people, will expedite the establishment of democracy in Iran and contribute to the restoration of stability in the region.”
Senator Robert Torricelli, June 8, 1995:
"Members of this institution have now spoken in support of the recognition of the National Council of Resistance and in particular, Mrs. Rajavi's leadership."
Gary Ackerman, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, July
"The National Council of Resistance and its President-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, have turned a new page in Iran's history. It is therefore necessary that this council and Mrs. Rajavi's presidency be supported internationally."
Georgie Anne Geyer, The Washington Times, August 26, 1994
"In my 30 years as a foreign correspondent, I have interviewed many "unusual" leaders -- but I do believe I have finally found the most stunningly unusual one. Her name is Maryam Rajavi; she has been elected the "future president of Iran" by the growing Iranian Resistance, and she is driving the women-hating mullahs of Iran crazy!
"As eloquent as she can be regarding freedom for Iranians -- and particularly freedom for women -- it soon becomes clear that this cultured 41-year-old woman is a figure to be watched... It is also Maryam Rajavi who is rapidly becoming the Rorschah blot of hope into which the long-suffering modern and liberal Iranians can read all kinds of hope... Meanwhile, she is becoming the symbol of something new -- the modest but active Islamic women."
Lord Eric Avebury, June 21, 1996:
"Her presence here [in London] has been noted by the Independent and the Times, which had previously included her in the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world... But nobody who has met Mrs. Rajavi and listened to her can possibly doubt that she reached the top because of her own qualities of leadership and her own commitment to the causes of democracy and human rights."
William Nygaard, Norwegian publisher, October 31, 1995:
"She is charismatic and has very interesting views about how Islam as a religion can be democratic in society, that there is no contradiction between Islam and democracy and human values."
Fouzieh Mehran, distinguished Egyptian writer, June 26, 1996:
"Her message is the message of future and her revolution is victorious. The zenith of our dreams embodies itself in Maryam Rajavi. I believe with her help, we will soon achieve victory. This revolution will soon triumph and change the course of history."
Nina Karin Monsen, Norwegian philosopher and author, July 12,
"Maryam's impressive compassion and historic character bespeak of a woman totally different from famous women of our history. In her political work for the future of Iran, she can do things which Norwegian women can only dream about. Her character and her call for freedom is indicative of an Islam based on love of humanity and light years away from a terrorist interpretation of the mullahs about Islam. Maryam Rajavi can be compared to such leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. She is also a great religious reformer, doing with Islam, what Martin Luther did with Catholicism. Maryam Rajavi can change history."