If you’ve been watching cable news lately, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed some out-of-the-ordinary adverts. Namely, a 30-second spot done in the grainy style of a spy-thriller flashback calling for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group, to be taken off the official U.S. terrorist watch list. It’s a conspicuous outsider in the typical ad roster filled with car commercials and cholesterol meds, which might have led some viewers to wonder, “What’s up with that?”
Ask and ye shall receive.
What does the MEK purport to be?
As tabloid editors who traffic in celebrity divorces and teen-idol feuds well know, there are two sides to every juicy story. In the words of the commercial mentioned above, the “MEK is Iran’s democratic opposition working for a nuclear-free Iran founded on human rights.” The ad employs cinematically ominous music and a narrator whose vocal stylings are more stress-inducing than a pelvic exam, all to great effect. It closes with pictures of U.S. politicians and officials who have publicly supported the group, along with the imperative, “Secretary Clinton, for democracy and freedom in Iran, delist MEK.”
This sentiment is well in line with how supporters of the MEK portray the group—as a political movement with freedom-fighting roots going back to the overthrow of the shah. The MEK didn’t mesh well with Iran’s new Islamic government, however, (Marxist leanings appear to terrify powerful imams just as much as they do senators from Wisconsin), and its members were booted from the country in 1981.