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|General Secretary||Mohammad Tavasoli|
|Head of Politburo||Mohammad Tavasoli|
|Head of Youth Wing||Emad Behavar|
|Founded||17 May 1961|
|Split from||National Front|
|National affiliation||National Front (1961–1965)|
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The Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) or Liberation Movement of Iran (LMI; Persian: نهضت آزادی ايران, translit. Nahżat-e āzādi-e Irān) is an Iranian pro-democracy political organization founded in 1961, by members describing themselves as "Muslims, Iranians, Constitutionalists and Mossadeghists". It is one of the oldest parties active in Iran and has been described as a "semi-opposition" or "loyal opposition" party. It has also been described as a "religious nationalist party".
The organization was split to the National Front (II), and was established with the support of Mohammad Mossadegh. It then applied for the membership in the front with a platform advocating national sovereignty, freedom of political activity and expression, social justice under Islam, respect for Iran’s constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Charter of the United Nations. It believes in the separation of religion and state, while that political activity should be guided by religious values.
Despite being outlawed by the prevailing government in Iran, the group continues to exist. The organization accepts to comply with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran despite its rejection for Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. It had not been allowed to run in any election since 1980 (exempting 2003 local elections in which the Guardian Council did not vet the candidates). It was also denied membership in the House of Parties of Iran.
The organization's members have close ties to the Council of Nationalist-Religious Activists of Iran.
The group originated in the early 1950s, after the 1953 coup d'état against the government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq who was Prime Minister of Iran from April 1951 to August 1953 (with a very brief interruption in July 1952). That coup brought down Mossadegh and his colleagues from power and reinstalled the Shah as the dominant force in Iranian politics. The newly installed government quickly rounded up Mossadegh's closest supporters, outlawing freedom of expression and cracking down on free political activity. Mossadegh himself was placed before a military court and sentenced to three years in prison. A group of low-ranking leaders from the Mossadegh era quickly formed an underground organization calling itself the National Resistance Movement (NRM). It is significant in the context of the FMI's history because this reincarnation of the National Front (the umbrella group for Mossadegh's supporters) was constituted mainly of religious laymen, which differentiated it from the secular members of the banned National Front, including Mossadegh himself. The NRM campaigned for the 1954 Majlis to be free and fair (they were not) and attempted
In 1960, the Second National Front was formed, which mostly involved figures from the early 1950s during Mossadegh's time in office. However, in 1961, Mehdi Bazargan, Mahmud Taleghani, Yadollah Sahabi (all prominent liberals) broke away to form a more religious (and radical) counterpart to the National Front. This new group quickly gained a large following exceeding that of their rival and its leaders advocated civil disobedience such as protests, sit-ins and strikes as a way of pressuring the Shah to reinstitute democratic rule. But, after a brief period of reform under Prime Minister Ali Amini, the government cracked down on dissent. In June 1963, a massive uprising occurred in five Iranian cities over the arrest of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a radical cleric who had been making inflammatory statements concerning the government of the Shah and his allegedly anti-Islamic policies. Faced with this, the government sent in the army infantry and tanks to crush the riots, which resulted in at least hundreds (some believe thousands) of deaths. Because the FMI had supported the uprising, their group was singled out for harassment and made to disappear by the mid-1960s. But, in 1964, the FMI (along with other parties) helped to form (with Mossadegh's blessings) the Third National Front which, like the FMI, took a more active and radical stance toward the Shah's government compared to that of the more cautious Second National Front. By 1965, all legal forms of dissidence had been done away with, leaving armed violence as the only means of inflicting some sort of damage on the government.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the FMI operated mostly outside in the country, mainly in the United States and Europe. The seemingly omnipresent nature of SAVAK (the Shah's secret police force, allegedly responsible for executing, imprisoning and torturing tens of thousands of political inmates) and the stifling police state atmosphere discouraged any sort of major activity inside Iran. Until the mid-1970s, those Iranians who had actively opposed the Shah had been mainly of left-wing or liberal background, with the former dominating by far. But beginning in that decade, thanks partly to the FMI, the religious elements (including the mullahs) began to dominate the movement. They were able to do this because the Islamic movement had a network of over 9,000 mosques, 180,000 mullahs and millions of pious followers in Iran and it could freely operate, unlike the left-wing elements who were mercilessly crushed by SAVAK, the police and the government's military apparatus. In January 1978, the pro-government newspaper Ettelaat published an article accusing Khomeini of being, among other things, a reactionary and British agent. This led to an uprising in the holy city of Qom and the uprising soon spread to Tabriz, Tehran and other major cities. By the end of 1978, the government of the Shah (once touted as possessing the fifth largest military force on Earth) had all but collapsed under the weight of massive uprisings and workers' strikes. In response to the Shah's appointment of Shapour Bakhtiar as prime minister, Khomeini appointed Mehdi Bazargan as head of the provisional government (which was not yet in power). On Feb. 11 1979, the government fell and what became known as the Islamic Republic of Iran took its place.
The Islamic Republic of Iran was proclaimed on 1 April 1979 after the results of a referendum in which allegedly more than 98% voted for this system. The Provisional Government took office on 12 February, right after the former government fell, but it quickly became apparent that this government lacked any real power, which was instead concentrated in the Islamic Revolutionary Council (which was dominated by hard-line religious fundamentalists) and the local Islamic Komitehs (committees). The PG was composed mainly of elements from the FMI (including Bazargan, Taleghani, Sahabi, Yazdi, Nazih and Bani-Sadr), but also included a few leaders of the National Front (Sanjabi, Ardalan, Forouhar). This period expressed the height of the LMI's influence over Iranian politics, but it was not to last. By Aug. 1979, the new government was clamping down on dissent, outlawing nearly all political parties and instituting a campaign of terror against its critics. The Bazargan cabinet resigned en masse on 5 November 1979, and thus, ended the Interim Government of Iran. The Islamic government (led by Ayatollah Khomeini) crushed all dissent in the country so that the oppositionists, both real and potential, either fled abroad or were murdered or imprisoned. But the LMI continued to exist as a barely tolerated force in the Majlis, where it called for an early end to the war with Iraq in 1984 (the war had started in September 1980 when Iraqi forces, under the orders of Saddam Hussein, invaded Iran).
In 1995, Bazargan died (of natural causes) and Ebrahim Yazdi took over as leader of the organization, which held until his death in 2017. The group continued to exist as a tolerated party until the government cracked down on it in the year 2000, arresting and placing on trial dozens of activists belonging to the group, making the party non-operational.