The crucial question for many people is that why people join cults. In fact, people do not join cults. Most of the time incidentally they find themselves in a cult that is successful in gaining their trust and loyalty. A large number of people who were recruited by the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (The MKO/ MEK / the Cult of Rajavi /PMOI) found themselves trapped in the bars of the group many years after their recruitment.

The process to gain the trust and loyalty of members was gradual in the MKO. The leaders of the group Massoud and Maryam Rajavi ran very meticulous methods of brainwashing to indoctrinate their cult-like ideas. The more the group members endured cult-like practices, the more they lost their trust to the outside world.

 To replace their loss of faith to the outsiders, members of the MKO had no option except to follow blindly their leaders. The outsiders included a range from the Islamic Republic to ordinary Iranians and even their friends and family. The so-called “Ideological Revolution “was a significant manipulation technique that the MKO leaders launched to deny the individuality of each member: members were forced to divorce their spouses and single members were made swear for a mandatory celibacy; they had to submit themselves whole-heartedly to the leaders and the group’s cause.

But, forced celibacy was not enough. Thus the group authorities increased self-criticism sessions in order to get to know members’ most inner thoughts. Peer pressure became a very useful tool in these sessions. Separation of children from parents, sleep deprivation, forced labor all aided the MKO leaders to keep members inside the group.

A turning point inflamed the start of a rise in defection from the group. What was the cause?

In 2003, after the American invasion to Iraq and the fall of the MKO’s main financial and military sponsor, the group was disarmed by the US army.

Once they were disarmed in the Iraqi dessert, Camp Ashraf, members of the group wandered why they were there – under the name of the National Liberation Army without any arms.

The leaders of the MKO started negotiations with American military officials; they signed agreements with them. The MKO that was previously the sworn enemy of America as an anti – Imperialism entity was now receiving US army officers warmly! This hypocritical approach was another coup to members’ trust. They began to seriously doubt the group`s cause and its sincerity.

Thus, the leaders of the cult were not as successful as they were before, any more. Members didn’t believe in an armed struggle without arms. They could not realize the truth anymore. Confused by the contradictory acts of their authorities, they were desperate and dis-trusted. 

The second peak of defection process took place after the group’s relocation in Albania. Distanced from Iranian border, the hope for the alleged near overthrow of the Islamic Republic was killed.

Doubts about the group’s leaders and their ideology was enhanced when members found themselves in a rather free world in Tirana. They could see the normal life of ordinary normal citizens whenever they could manage to get out of the group’s camp –although under sever supervision and control of their superior ranks. Hence, they got informed of the aspects of violations of human rights that the leaders of the Cult of Rajavi committed against them. This instigated the second and hopefully last stage in the decline of the cult of Rajavi.


By Mazda Parsi


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