Maryam Rajavi, along with her husband, Massoud Rajavi, is the leader of Mujahedeen Khalq, or "People's Combatants," an Islamic-Marxist sect that has been trying to topple the Iranian regime since 1981. Its ideology emerged as an admixture of Islam and Marxism, combined also with ingredients from the Iranian religious sociologist Ali Shariati, who advocated an "Islam without a clergy."
After being driven out of Iran in the early 1980s, the Mujahedeen Khalq (MK) established itself in Paris, under the control of Maryam, while Massoud fled to Iraq, where he built up the organization's military faction. Members of the group adhere to a secular interpretation of the Koran. In 2003, several of its members set themselves on fire to avoid being arrested by French authorities.
Maryam Rajavi is regarded by the sect as "President of the Republic of Iran," although she never won an election and has not set foot in Iran since she fled into exile in 1981. The MK has designated her to lead the country during "the transitional period following the mullahs' overthrow." Regarding this, Rajavi has said, "I have dedicated my life to a better future for the people of Iran. . . . 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."Despite Rajavi's calls for "unity" and "tolerance," her group was responsible for having created a 10,000-strong fighting force in Iraq, which helped Saddam Hussein carry out his genocidal campaign against the Kurds. Those fighters also helped Saddam crush the southern Iraqi Shiites in 1991. In addition, the Mujahedeen Khalq is responsible for terrorist attacks in Tehran, Iran in which U.S. soldiers were killed.