Mike Pence endorsed the MEK, a fringe Iranian dissident group with little support in Iran.
The group forbids members from thinking sexual thoughts, considering them a distraction from their goals.
Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo have also endorsed the group.
Former Vice President Mike Pence offered his support on Thursday to a fringe Iranian dissident group that seeks to overthrow the Iranian government, calling the group’s long-time leader, Maryam Rajavi, an “inspiration to the world.”
Pence, along with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, spoke at the 2021 Free Iran Summit in Washington, DC, a conference held by an organization affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which maintains a secretive compound in Albania.
“One of the biggest lies the ruling regime has sold the world is that there’s no alternative to the status quo,” Pence said, referring to Iran’s theocratic government, where an ayatollah wields supreme power and influences who can run for elected positions. “But there is an alternative, a well-organized, fully prepared, perfectly qualified and popularly supported alternative called the MEK.”
The room then erupted in cheers, with members of the audience chanting the phrase “M-E-K” repeatedly.
“The MEK is committed to democracy, human rights, and freedom for every citizen of Iran. And it’s led by an extraordinary woman. Mrs. Rajavi is an inspiration to the world,” Pence declared.
The former vice president criticized the Biden administration for its “embrace” of the JCPOA, or the Iran nuclear deal, from which the Trump administration withdrew the United States in 2018. Negotiations between the US and Iran over reviving the nuclear accord remain stalled.
Pence also said Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi should be removed from office by the people of Iran and “prosecuted for crimes against humanity and genocide,” referring to Raisi’s involvement in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
A secretive group that forbids sexual thoughts
Maryam Rajavi has been the leader of the mysterious group ever since the group’s previous leader, Rajavi’s husband Massoud, disappeared during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, where the group was formerly headquartered.
The group was delisted as a terrorist group by the US in 2012 after a lobbying campaign, despite killing American citizens in Iran.
The MEK has been labeled a “cult-like group” and does not appear to have significant support within the country it aims to lead. That’s because the MEK was protected for 20 years by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – who waged a brutal 8-year war against Iran – and has reportedly collaborated with Israel to kill Iranian nuclear scientists and received funding from Iran’s leading regional foe, Saudi Arabia.
Both the New York Times and BBC report that the group forbids members from thinking sexual thoughts, participating in “self-criticism rituals” and record any such thoughts in a notebook.
“We had a little notebook, and if we had any sexual moments we should write them down. For example, ‘Today, in the morning, I had an erection,'” a former member of the group told the BBC.
“You can’t have a personal life when you’re struggling for a cause,” a current member told the Times.
The MEK is also well-funded, paying American political figures like former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at their events. And prominent Trump administration officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, have also spoken at MEK events or endorsed the group.
It is unclear whether Pence was paid to speak to the group, and a spokesperson for Pence did not respond to a request for comment.
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