When this book was written, the Mojahedin were attempting a comeback in Western political circles, and it seemed right to provide interested people with greater information than has previously been available about who they are.
When this book was written, the Mojahedin were attempting a comeback in Western political circles, and it seemed right to provide interested people with greater information than has previously been available about who they are. Now however,
the war in Iraq has negated all the Mojahedin’s efforts, and their future looks bleak indeed. At the time of writing, it is not known what will happen to them. Given the intimate relationship between the Mojahedin and Saddam Hussein’s regime it is
possible to state with some certainty that they will not be able to continue in Iraq with their army as they have before. There are various scenarios which can be guessed at which will result from the war: The best case scenario for them is that
they are re-integrated by the West and accepted back as an opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The worst case scenario is that they are attacked by allied forces, suffer loss of life and are captured as prisoners of war. The reality is likely to
be something in between.
Rajavi himself has declared that his army will launch an all out attack on Iran should the allies declare war on Iraq. But with allied troops already cautious about the joint border with Iran this is unlikely to come about. Instead, it could be that small
lightly armed units of up to five people attempt to cross the border into Iran. In this case, it is quite possible, considering the recent Iranian reformists’ stance on the Mojahedin, that these units would be captured and returned to their families rather
than being imprisoned or killed. Another scenario which could unfold would be that the Mojahedin bases are attacked in the north by Kurdish fighters who seek revenge against them.
Again, given the control exerted by the allied forces, this is unlikely to develop on any but a piecemeal basis. The most likely scenario, given the Mojahedin’s past record, would be surrender to the allied forces and an attempt to do a deal which would allow them to preserve the organisation in Iraq fairly intact, if unarmed. Of course this depends on how much they help Saddam in the war and how much they engage in fighting the allies during the war until Saddam’s regime collapses.
Massoud Rajavi has steered the organization through several damaging crises and has survived. Although it is hard to envisage the Mojahedin remaining the same as now, it is almost certain to survive in some form or other and Rajavi himself, will no doubt be at the head of it still.
Whatever ensues, the current situation points to a radically diminished future for what started out as a heroic and popular struggle for the freedom of Iran from foreign domination, reactionary Islam and monarchy. But the demise of the Mojahedin cannot be blamed entirely on their enemies as I hope this book will show. The organisation itself accepted selfdestruction when it allowed Rajavi to pervert the original concepts and analyses which underpinned the ideology. The senior members of the Mojahedin are as complicit in this corruption as Rajavi himself. It is they who bolstered his
ambitions and hadn’t the courage to say no.
I have written about the Mojahedin from the perspective of someone who had close observation of their inner world. This is certainly not the same experience as those who have lived through it, and I have no doubt that there will be strong reaction
to what I have written from those most intimately involved. In my experience it is rare to find anyone who is neutral about the organisation. Indeed, I would regard this as one of the positive outcomes of this book if it helped to dispel the fear which many
have of speaking out about their experiences. The more people speak about them the more facts will emerge. History itself will judge them. (April 2003)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author was born in Leeds in 1958 and graduated in English Language, Literature and Creative Writing from Sheffield City Polytechnic. Working as a computer programmer she has been an active human rights campaigner for many years with a
particular interest in the Middle East and Iran.
Having been introduced to the Mojahedin’s activities in 1978 whilst a student, the author took a close interest in the events of the 1979 revolution in Iran. This interest continued with the worsening human rights situation there. The author continued to
have close contact with the Mojahedin’s activists in the United Kingdom, and attended many of their meetings and demonstrations. Such was the level of trust which developed that she was invited to visit their safe houses in the UK over a
number of years, and was peculiarly placed thereby to study from the inside, the organisational changes which took place over two decades.
The close relationship that she maintained with the Mojahedin organisation also allowed the author the unique opportunity to visit their bases in Sweden, France, Germany and the United States of America, where she was able to spend various amounts of time observing their personnel and studying their activities in different sections. This included two trips to Iraq in 1991 and 1992 to observe their military capacity and training.
This book is the result of a unique insight into the secret inner world of the Mojahedin over two decades.
The Mojahedin-e Khalq, or as they are also known in Western circles, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, remain the largest and most powerful external opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Mojahedin fields its own army, the Iraq based National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) and uses as a political alias, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Collectively these are referred to by the Mojahedin as the Iranian Resistance. The personnel of each is comprised largely of the same people. The Mojahedin, NLA and NCRI are led by one, self-appointed man, Massoud Rajavi.
In spite of being labeled as a terrorist entity by the governments of the USA, the UK and Europe, the Mojahedin continues to operate unchecked under its NCRI alias, allowing it to lobby and win the political approbation of the parliaments of those countries. This raises the immediate question as to why this gap exists between the support given by individual politicians and the official government line. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a simple answer. While the governments
have been accused of political cynicism and the parliamentarians are said to be acting out of ignorance, neither response can be dismissed by such raw arguments. In reality,
despite these respective positions, the Mojahedin remain something of an enigma in Western political circles. Neither supporting them as ‘the sole democratic alternative’ to the mullahs, nor attacking them as terrorists, effectively addresses the issue of who they really are and what they represent.
To add to the problem of how to assess the Mojahedin, the exiled Iranian community takes a completely opposite view from the West’s. Whilst any Western political support gained by the Mojahedin is dismissed as simply a propaganda exercise, there has been strong protest against the terrorist labelling, even among those Iranians who most strongly oppose the Mojahedin.
In the West, the Mojahedin are a dark horse in Iran’s equation of power. On one level their political platform shows them as liberal, pro-Western and capitalist, with a strong emphasis on women’s rights. Some of their Western supporters
refer to them as ‘Iran’s democratic opposition’.
This points more accurately to their actual political approach. This describes Rajavi’s true platform, which is to have‘everything or nothing’. * World Socialist Web Site 14th September 2000 (www.wsws.org).
The Mojahedin ignore the schisms when talking about the regime, because it is in their interests to continue to treat the Islamic Republic as a single indivisible entity. Rajavi can only have everything, if everything that is there now, is swept away
in a second popular revolution and his own system replaces it in its entirety.
For two decades, the Mojahedin enjoyed a huge amount of support from Western governments in their armed struggle and propaganda battle against the Iranian regime. The Mojahedin organisation in the guise of the National Council of Resistance,
continues to win support as the ‘sole democratic alternative’ to the regime, from the US Congress, the US House of Representatives, the British Parliament and some of Europe’s parliamentarians. But now the governments of all these countries have labelled them as terrorists. Whether this labeling is simply a cynical political manoeuvre to allow closer relations with the Islamic Republic, is consequently a matter of some conjecture.
In the two decades since then, the Mojahedin have both grown in influence and died in support. Today they are shunned and even feared by Iranians at home and abroad. At best they are regarded by the youth of Iran as an anachronism, in much the same way that for the young founders of the Mojahedin, Mohammad Mossadeq, whose star had risen and fallen in the early 1950s, had become an irrelevance in their armed struggle for freedom. At worst, Iranians see the Mojahedin as dictators in
‘If they behave like this now, what will they do if they come to power?’ is the rueful phrase greeting each new revelation of the Mojahedin’s activities.
Conversely, the Mojahedin righteously and articulately point their accusing finger at the Iranian regime as misogynist, operating a gender apartheid, and as practicing the worst aspects of what they describe as Islamic fundamentalism. That is, gross violations of human rights, the assassination of political enemies, and the denial of political and social freedoms to the people. This regime, say the Mojahedin, is a total perversion of the true, progressive Islam that the Mojahedin follow.
But to lead the analysis of the Mojahedin organisation down the path of which version of Islam they promulgate would be to ignore the one very dangerous characteristic, which renders it unacceptably dangerous per se. The danger from some organisations or countries is clear: terrorism performed against Western interests and societies.
Yet the danger posed by the Mojahedin is not so clear. Their Western educated, middle class ‘diplomats’ visit Western parliaments, academics and human rights activists, with a democratic platform ideally suited to gain the utmost sympathy. The sinister nature of the Mojahedin’s real agenda is one not immediately recognised by those examining their political or religious motivations.
One of the main criticisms of former members of the Mojahedin, concerns the internal structure of the organisation. It is described as operating an iron discipline over its members, to the extent of practicing serious violations of human rights in an attempt to make members conform. However, the description of ‘iron discipline’ fails to adequately convey the behaviour of the Mojahedin towards its members. After all, armies depend upon an iron discipline in order to fight wars.
Even though most former members know that they have been in what has been described by many, including the US State Department, as a personality cult, they lack the tools to describe what this means.
In fact, according to Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre, all cults share the same characteristics. The definition of any cult is that it indoctrinates its members; forms a closed, totalitarian society; has a self-appointed, Messianic and charismatic leader; believes that the ends justify the means; and its wealth does not benefit its members. He also states that recruits are a certain type of person; intelligent, idealistic, well educated, economically advantaged and intellectually or spiritually curious.
The Mojahedin have all these characteristics, and it is the use of well-documented psychological mind control techniques, which the former members describe as ‘iron discipline’. It is a view of their structure, which has not been given much attention
until now. The inner world of the Mojahedin, if it is enquired into at all, is still a mystery to Western observers, and it is a deliberate policy of the Mojahedin to keep it that way. Because of this, little importance has been attached to this aspect of their organization. Yet cult culture is one of the most dangerous forms of society. Firstly, because it robs the members of their most basic of human rights. The Mojahedin has conducted forced marriages and later forced divorces, and has separated children from their parents and had them fostered by their supporters in various countries. But there are even more disturbing issues emerging from the secrecy of their inner world.
In January 2001, a group of fifty Iranians were taken from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, to the border with Iran where they were secretly exchanged for Iraqi prisoners of war. The Iranians were not prisoners of war, they had been sent
to Abu Ghraib prison without legal process by the Mojahedin and the Iraqi Secret Service, after they had expressed criticism of the organisation’s policies. The Mojahedin had full knowledge of the deal with Iran. As far as they were concerned,
these people were being sent to almost certain death. This was the latest in over a decade of accusations from former members of the Mojahedin who have complained of terrible human rights abuses inflicted on them whilst under the jurisdiction of the
Amnesty International in its 2002 Annual Report, being unable to investigate in the Mojahedin’s headquarters and camps in Iraq, the hundreds of accusations of human rights abuses which had reached its office, resigned itself to stating: ‘There were unconfirmed reports that the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, an armed political group, ill-treated its own members at a base in Iraq.
The reports were denied by the organization but it failed to provide substantive information to allay AI’s concerns.’
The second, perhaps more imperative reason that cult culture presents such a danger, is because it renders its members obedient to the point, as was seen with the disaster in the World Trade Centre in New York, where they are capable of the most extreme and unthinkable acts of self-sacrifice. Could this be one of the reasons that governments have placed the Mojahedin on their lists of terrorist organisations? Or have they still a more conventionally defined analysis of the Mojahedin based on their
missile attacks in Iran which have killed and injured several civilians. Or perhaps the fact that the Mojahedin’s armed wing, the National Liberation Army of Iran is funded, trained and supplied by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, is a major consideration.
This book seeks to examine these issues and although no definitive answers emerge, it is hoped that this examination will form the basis of a more realistic and in-depth appraisal of the Mojahedin’s place in current Iranian politics.
Iran is one of the very few countries in that region which holds democratic elections. Each country holds these elections within a very narrowly defined constitution or system of rule. In Iran, this is based on the preservation of Islamic rule. In Israel, it
is the Jewish faith, which defines the state; Israel was founded as, and remains, the Jewish homeland. But their citizens have the power to vote in secret ballots for their choice of leader within that framework
But for the Mojahedin who claim to believe in democracy, none of these count. They don’t want to see gradual change emerging from the involved struggles of the people. They want to control the scene and impose their own government on the country. Their army is waiting on the border to do just that. The leader of the Mojahedin, Massoud Rajavi, wants to replace the Islamic Republic with what? With a secular democracy? How does he intend to implement that? More importantly, as the spiritual leader of the Mojahedin, could he resist the temptation to become the new Spiritual Leader of Iran, replacing Khomeini and Khamenei? How can the leader of a cult become an effective leader of a country? These are questions, which need to be examined in evaluating the Mojahedin.
This book does not set out to be a history of the Mojahedin organisation, although it charts the organisational changes chronologically.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One leading up to the ‘Ideological Revolution’ and Part Two describes what happened afterwards. This dividing point is of the highest significance. Regardless of how the Mojahedin present themselves to the outside world through the NLA or the NCRI or the new National Solidarity Front to Overthrow Religious Dictatorship in Iran, the Mojahedin only obeys its internal dynamic, which is the need to keep all the members loyal and obedient.
The mastermind and owner of all the Mojahedin’s aliases and activities is one man, Massoud Rajavi.
It was Rajavi who engineered a complete rewrite of the organisation’s ideology in 1985 with his ‘Ideological Revolution’. With that he took control of the organisation and transformed what had been a political organisation led by a twelve member Central Committee, into an ideologically based cult, with himself as the sole leader. Though ironically it is probably the use of cult culture which has preserved the Mojahedin, while most of Iran’s other external opposition has diminished or dissolved in the difficult conditions of exile. Rajavi’s main asset is undeniably the unquestioning devotion of his followers, which he is able to use in disregard of the normal constraints imposed on political organisations.
This book examines how Massoud Rajavi promoted himself beyond accountability, and how he converted what had been at one point, one of the most popular and powerful armed resistance movements in the world, into a deceptively dangerous
cult. A cult which has only its own massive propaganda machine and a few terrorist acts, to preserve it as what is now a very real threat to the process of democracy in Iran.
It remains to be seen whether the voice of the people is more powerful than the gun.
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