By Jubin Katiraie
The war began on September 20, 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran.
Many Iranians, including MEK members living in Iran, rushed to the battlefronts to defend their homeland, and by January 1981, the war had begun to change course.
By June 1982, Iran had reclaimed all lost territory and Iraq had proposed a ceasefire and a withdrawal of troops from Iranian land, but the mullahs, hoping to turn Iraq into an Iranian province refused the terms.
MEK builds base of operations
In 1986, around 1,000 MEK members travelled from France to Iraq to build a new operations base for the Iranian Resistance. They were granted a small patch of barren land in the desert, near to the Iranian border, with only a handful of deserted and partially-constructed buildings that had no running water or electricity. It expanded rapidly as MEK supporters from the West, mainly students and professionals travelled to the remote area with hopes of bringing democracy to Iran.
This was six years into the Iran-Iraq war, which the MEK, the Iraqi government, and the people of Iran wanted to end. Thus the MEK formed the National Liberation Army (NLA), which was independent of the Iraqi army and not involved in any of the confrontations between Iranian and Iraqi troops.
The MEK’s NLA instigated cross-border raids against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), while the Iraqi army remained in a defensive formation.
In 1988, the MEK’s NLA launched its first major strike, deploying tanks and armoured vehicles ten miles into Iran. It followed this up with a battle against two Iranian divisions along a 31-mile front, and a further battle against the IRGC, in which the IRGC suffered large casualties and over 2,000 of their soldiers were taken prisoner.
With each offensive, the MEK’s NLA was penetrating further into Iran and fuelling panic among the mullahs that the next assault would spark a revolution among the people and bring the Regime to its knees. Rather than risk the fall of the Regime, Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini accepted a UN ceasefire, to end the war.
The MEK’s post-war
Following the war, the MEK turned Camp Ashraf into a 14-square-mile city with a university, mosque, museum, bakeries, shopping centre, four Olympic size swimming pools, zoo, and various social and other sports facilities.
However, they still remained committed to their objective of bringing democracy to Iran and still faced incredible opposition and violent attacks from the Iranian Regime and, later, the Iraqi government.
Over the next 28 years, the Iranian Regime launched several attacks on the MEK at Camp Ashraf and later Camp Liberty, killing dozens and injuring hundreds and the situation only grew worse after the fall of Saddam Hussein in the early 00s as the next rulers of Iraq were puppets of the Iranian Regime.
The MEK in Iraq were finally evacuated to Albania in 2016, where they continue their struggle for a Free Iran.