The Mojahedin-e Khalq’s utilization of Karbala’s ethos and the creation of an ex-patriot nationalism

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During the Iran-Iraq war the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MeK or MKO) with its own army, the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLAI), fought side by side with Iraq’s leader. The organization, which showed determination, belief in its goals and unity and achieved several successes in the battlefield had a main, but not final, goal which was to cause the exhausted Iranian Army to collapse − so that the NLAI could then conquer Iran and replace the ‘corrupt regime’ of the Ayatollahs. By providing an understanding of how an ethos can be created, this article describes how an oppositional group’s narrative can transport it from its wishful thinking about winning a battle of the few against the many (which was objectively deemed to be impossible) to the bitter, actual result of total defeat. The article shows how the Mojahedin, by unapologetically siding with Saddam, fought against all odds with the sole result being the creation of a mythos-ethos which would replace that of ex-patriot nationalism. The Mojahedin’s defeat would ultimately translate into a new national-religious ethos in which the Imam Hossein’s fight in Karbala would be commemorated as fighting for the ‘real Islam’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-648
Number of pages13
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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