Born on August 18, 1948 in Tabas, Iran, Massoud Rajavi, along with his wife Maryam 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.” Members of the group adhere to a secular interpretation of the Koran, and have been known to set themselves on fire to avoid arrest.
After being driven out of Iran in the early 1980s, Rajavi’s group established itself in Paris and Iraq. Rajavi built up the organization’s military faction in Iraq, and under his authority the group developed a 10,000-strong fighting force that helped Saddam Hussein carry out his genocidal campaign against the Kurds, and also helped him crush the southern Iraqi Shiites in 1991.
Throughout the group’s existence, it has attacked both Iranians and U.S. citizens. In 1979, it supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and has been complicit in the deaths of U.S. citizens and military personnel in Tehran.