Ms Batul Soltani former member of the Leadership Council of the MKO interviewed by Sahar Family Foundation in Iraq
Ms Batul Soltani, former member of the Leadership Council of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), interviewed by Sahar Family Foundation (SFF) in Iraq
SFF: Please describe your political and organisational life briefly.
BS: My name is Batul Soltani daughter of Morteza. I was born in 1965 in Iran and at the moment I live in Baghdad. I married Mr Hosein Moradi in Iran in 1986 and then we moved to Pakistan the same year. There we were recruited into the MKO and the next year, which is 1987, we were ordered to go to Iraq. In 1991 we were separated by the order of the organisation and yet again by their order our children were taken away from us and sent to Europe. My husband and I initially resisted these orders and did not wish to either be separated from each other, nor to abandon our children, but we were put under enormous psychological pressure and we were forced to submit to their demands. My daughter Hajar Moradi was born in Pakistan in 1987 and my son Mi'ad was born in Iraq in 1991. In the year 1991 while Hajar was 5 years old and Mi'ad was 6 months old, they were separated from us - after we were forcibly separated from each other - and they were sent to Europe. They did not allow us to have any contact with them at all. I still remember my daughter crying hard as she was leaving me. And the innocent face of my six months' old son is always before my eyes. Many years later I found out that my daughter had been given to a family in the south of Sweden with the fake name of Setareh Khabbazan, and she is now studying in a university in the north of that country. My son was taken to Holland by a family and later moved to another family and eventually was left in an orphanage and now he lives in a care centre for youth in Holland. I do not have any further trace of them and do not even know if they know me at all. The MKO would not give me any addresses and I have no means to contact my children. While I was in the organisation in Iraq I had no permission to contact my family in Iran unless it was to ask for money or try to deceive them into joining the organisation. My father died four years ago whilst under severe mental pressure because of my mysterious absence and my mother is ill and lives with the bitterness of being away from me for such long time. I left the organisation last year, which is 2006, while I was a member of the Leadership Council of the MKO. I escaped from Camp Ashraf and moved into TIPF, which is run by the US forces in Iraq. Then on 14 January 2008 I left the TIPF and moved to Baghdad in order to go abroad. I managed to achieve that possibility but I preferred to stay in Iraq since I have complaints against the MKO and I wish for the Iraqi judicial system to deal with my case urgently.
SFF: Why didn't you go to abroad after you left the TIPF and had the possibility to do so? Why did you decide to stay in Iraq?
BS: I stayed in Iraq to save my husband who is the father of my children and also I wish to help other shattered families like that of my own. I will do anything in my capacity for the families and for the dissident members of the MKO. The truth is that the leader of the MKO has committed many atrocities against these families and he must be questioned for all his actions.
SFF: As a wife and as a mother what demands are you following?
BS: You'd better ask 'as a human being' what demands am I following. Of course a human being who has lost 20 years of her life and could not be with her father when he was dying and whose mother is badly missing her and who now wants to regain her husband and her children and her crushed life and rebuild everything from scratch. I will strive to attract the attention of all international political bodies as well as the media to the case of the families of MKO members in Iraq and I wish to help them by any means that I can.
SFF: You have obviously experienced the destruction of a family inside a cult. How do you reckon that one could help other families?
BS: I will do anything I can for these families. I would urge international and humanitarian organisations everywhere to help these suffering families - families who in some cases have not seen their beloved ones for nearly 20 years. The members of the MKO are in a sort of captivity which is worse than any ordinary prison.
SFF: Why is the MKO basically opposing the establishment of any family and what is their definition of a family?
BS: In my opinion the MKO is opposing families because the existence of any kind of feelings and emotions in the members and followers is considered as an obstacle in the way of brainwashing them. The essential state needed to control one's mind is to suppress anything of that sort in that person. Therefore every trace of love and care most be demolished in the mind of the subject in order to make that person successfully obedient of the leader. No other tendency must exist in the heart of the follower than that towards the leader in order to make the person ready to accept any illogical demand of the leader and to fulfil any of his bizarre desires.
SFF: How are the dissidents of the MKO in Iraq living now and what sort of help they can receive?
BS: At the moment the dissidents of the MKO in Iraq need urgent help. On the one hand they face threats from the Rajavi cult since this the rule of cults, that they cannot tolerate their dissidents and they harass them all the time, and on the other hand these people need legal and financial aid to be able to rebuild their destroyed lives where they wish. In this regard the SFF which is a humanitarian foundation and has been established by Iraqi personalities and international bodies as well as some families of the MKO members in Camp Ashraf is aiming to rescue these people as much as possible and help their families.
SFF: What is the demand of the families who come to Iraq and approach the gates of Camp Ashraf?
BS: They have a righteous and just demand. They want to see their beloved ones without any control and observation imposed by the MKO. For many years these people have been indoctrinated within the isolated boundaries of Camp Ashraf, and they have been denied their basic rights, above all of which is the right to choose freely and to enjoy family relationships. They have always been forced to choose what the leaders want them to. The members of a cult are the prime victims of that cult who need urgent help.
SFF: How could the families help their beloved ones and what can they achieve?
BS: In my opinion some important things could be done. Initially they can neutralize the belief imposed on them under the guise of 'the path to emancipation' that family relationships are a sin. This is vital in order to bring their beloved ones back to normal ideas and ordinary life so they can choose for themselves. The truth is that family values and relationships are contrary to cult relationships and would surely deactivate it.
SFF: In your opinion why is the MKO so strongly opposed to its members' free and direct meeting with their families in Baghdad?
BS: Because as soon as some sort of family tie is established, the lost human feeling of love and affection would come to life in them again, something which Rajavi's cult is so afraid of. The MKO insists that all members' feelings and emotions be directed towards Maryam Rajavi and through her to Mas'ud Rajavi.
SFF: What are your plans for the future?
BS: From now on I want to live freely and I wish to decide for myself what to do. I do not wish to be a captive in the boundaries of a destructive cult and will not let them decide for me. I am experiencing the outside world again after 20 years and now I have a better understanding of the realities of the misery inside a cult. I wish to help all those still bound within Camp Ashraf and also their awaiting families as much as I can. In this respect I wish to refer to the touching will of the father of one of those mental captives in Camp Ashraf who wrote: "I do not know for what reason I should not hold the warm hand of my beloved one while my hand is turning cold?'" He passed away without being able to see his child one more time after so many years.
SFF: We do thank you Ms Soltani for the time you provided us and the good work that you are doing and we wish you every success.
BS: I thank you too and I appreciate the efforts of all Iraqi and Iranian associates of the SFF in Iraq. I believe that you do very good work.