Forged System of Values in MKO’s Ideological Revolution
(Mojahedin Khalq, MEK, Rajavi cult)
Rajavi forged ideological revolution as a forge to shape the adherents as he wished
… Believing to be the smith, Rajavi likens his forged ideological revolution to a forge to shape the adherents as he willed. In this new system of values, the standard for a faithful Mojahed were set to measure the members’ degree of loyalty and commitment to the organization and leadership. The imposed revolution before being considered an extraordinary way of initiating change in MKO can well be defined as an internal coup d’état to accomplish Rajavi’s own ambitions and promoting him to the highest and unbeatable status of a hegemonic leader and even above that. Of course, it was not so easy a task to compel members to surrender …
(Massoud Rajavi and Saddam Hussein)
Mojahedin.ws, January 17, 2013
Delivering a speech in the manner of a sermon in Paris in 1985, Massoud Rajavi addressed the members saying: “This [ideological revolution] is to test you; we need iron men. We seek new versions of power and capacity. Those Mojahedin who pass through this forge will be more rough and resistant”.
Believing to be the smith, Rajavi likens his forged ideological revolution to a forge to shape the adherents as he willed. In this new system of values, the standard for a faithful Mojahed were set to measure the members’ degree of loyalty and commitment to the organization and leadership. The imposed revolution before being considered an extraordinary way of initiating change in MKO can well be defined as an internal coup d’état to accomplish Rajavi’s own ambitions and promoting him to the highest and unbeatable status of a hegemonic leader and even above that. Of course, it was not so easy a task to compel members to surrender to the Rajavi’s selfish ambitious on their own will and to dissolve in a leader whom many believed to be inadequate to assume the status.
Since MKO is heavily built on a hierarchical structure, the members are controlled and organized under the command of higher ranks who in turn receive orders from higher command echelon. It made it much easier for the organization to impose the change on the members through such a forced stratum either through persuasion or designed processes of penalization. As the members would be provoked by persuasive heroic deeds of the responsible ranks, the statements of submission had to be first made by them. In this way, the rational thinking power of the rank and file had to be paralyzed under the impact of the impressive expressions of emotional parodies. Consequently, through a new plot of a systematic fashion of letter writing, the ranking members were allotted to write consecutive open letters of congratulation to the newly wed Rajavis, and Massoud Rajavi himself in particular, appreciating the heroic move and the initiated new phase in MKO.
There were countless volume of these letters, known as the letters of ideological revolution, with identical themes of expressing total devotion to the leadership and his novel ideological revolution. Resorting to these crafts to subjugate its own insiders was in direct contrast to its democratic slogans advertising on the political scene. There are more than enough volume of these letters as evidences all published in the organization’s official gazette Mojahed soon after the unconventional marriage. Writing of her unconditional dedication to ideological revolution, Mina Khiyabani, the teenage member wedded to Mahdi Abrishamchi soon after he divorced Maryam Azodanlu, in her letter addressed to Rajavi stated:
I hope to be close behind you and devoted to your emancipating revolution with my soul. To be worthy to follow the path, I need to be cleaned of whatever evil and element of filth. I bow to you to the extreme of my appreciation of your high status, and appreciate your miraculous move of self-sacrifice, that is far above the martyrdom of many thousands, that has guaranteed a history. Now I believe to be all blameworthy before this revolution. I hope this revolution will act as a motivation to reinforce iota of values within me to make me capable of being under your command as once I was. *
Mohammad Seyyedi Kashani, one of the oldest, experienced veterans whose organizational activities even exceed that of Rajavi, was another devotee who directed a letter in which he stated:
Dear Massoud, I will call you brother no more. You are my sage. Dear to my heart. You are my teacher…. many things have undergone a change in the organization and also inside us. I am sure that the last rusted layers of the old world would be eliminated from within the forces and sympathizers. Obviously, in our most favourite organization the real Mojahed is the one who is more unselfish and capable and also most cherished before God. *
In another letter from Mohammad Hayati, another member of MKO, we read:
I congratulate the blessed marriage of my ideological leader Massoud and Maryam. Definitely and knowingly I recant for failing to understand the grandeur of this leadership. *
In the letter of Hussein Abrishamchi, Mahdi Abrishamchi’s junior brother and a commander in chief of the organization, addressed to the Rajavis it was stated:
I wish I could kneel before you [Maryam] and Massoud as the forerunners of this great revolution and take my oath of allegiance. *
Mohsen Rezai, a member of central cadre, in his testament of allegiance to Rajavi earnestly supplicated salvation from him:
Great men have marvellous power of attraction and repulsion. Now I see it in you and you can influence all. Anybody endowed with an iota of humanism and nobility falls in your love and you repel whoever walks in the wrong path. I am sure that you will be among those closest to God in the Day of Judgment and I am also sure that you will take my hand for my salvation.*
Mahdi Abrishamchi, playing his own influential role in the ideological revolution, was one of the most enthusiastic espouses of the move started by his ex-wife and Rajavi:
This ideological move shed light on all of us. We were purged of our filth and dirt by passing through the hearth of purification that Rajavi demonstrated. Now our ideology is shining and we are different people. We have the honour of surpassing all those that ceased to follow the path. Now I dare say that , after this revolution, we are true members of Mojahedin, aren’t we? We pride ourselves on being his [Rajavi] followers and disciples; he is our mentor and educator who trained us and we hope he will do in future, and he will. We praise God for leading us to the right path through Massoud and Maryam, otherwise we would have gone astray. *
As seen, in all these letters the ranking members insist to state that the crystallized ideological revolution has led to great changes within them and the structure of the organization as well. According to many assertions made by Rajavi, Mojahedin are engaged in a never-lasting change until all intended objectives of leadership have been accomplished.
* The quotes are all from Mojahed issues 241, 242, 247 published in 1985.
The Life of Camp Ashraf
Mojahedin-e Khalq – Victims of Many Masters
By Anne Singleton and Massoud Khodabandeh
First published September 2011 by IRAN-INTERLINK
The book is now available through bookshops and Amazon websites throughout Europe and America
Alternatively contact Iran Interlink directly for your copy
The fascinating story of the controversial life of Camp Ashraf in Iraq from its foundation in 1986 to the present day is told in this book. Originally created to accommodate the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (aka MEK, MKO, PMOI, Rajavi cult) and its leader Massoud Rajavi for coordinating the violent overthrow of the regime in Iran, Camp Ashraf became the MEK’s main military and ideological training base. The MEK later became known as Saddam’s Private Army as it became an integral element in the Iraqi dictator’s repressive apparatus.
But, even years after the fall of Saddam the MEK still has the support and backing of many in the West and is therefore able to resist opening its doors to the outside world. It is the hidden life inside Camp Ashraf which renders it so controversial. The isolated garrison became the experimental ground for Rajavi to turn his group into a dangerous, destructive mind control cult. Rajavi keeps the rank and file in the camp in a state of modern slavery to perform acts of terrorism and to fulfil propaganda roles in Western countries for the group’s many masters.
Massoud Rajavi’s methods of enthralling his followers include banning marriage and having children, instilling irrational phobic reactions to external factors, denying any contact with the outside world through radio, television, letters or telephones. In particular members must have no contact with their families. This book exposes the hidden life of the camp and its inhabitants. It speaks for the silent victims of the Rajavi cult and for the families who wait outside the camp for news of their loved ones.
In conclusion, the book examines the ways to deal with the problem of how to dismantle a dangerous destructive mind control cult and free its members as various parties vie for control over the group for their own agendas.
1965 – 1986 THE MEK AND IRAQ 4
1986 – 1991 THE GOLDEN AGE 18
1988 – 1993 THE IDEOLOGICAL PHASE 37
1991 GULF WAR ONE 50
1991 – 1997 THE MEK’S DECLINE 61
1997 – 2003 CAMP ASHRAF PRISON – NO EXIT 84
2003 – 2007 THE MEK PLACED ON LIFE SUPPORT 104
2007 – 2009 A GROWING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS 130
2009 INEVITABLE CHANGE 153
CAMP ASHRAF – PAST ITS ‘BEST BEFORE’ DATE 174
The controversial life of Camp Ashraf from its foundation to the present day makes a fascinating story in itself. The camp was created by Saddam Hussein in 1986 to accommodate the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its leader Massoud Rajavi. Founded in 1965 the MEK first took up arms to try to oust the Shah. Two years after the 1979 Iranian revolution Rajavi tried to engineer a coup against Ayatollah Khomeini. It failed and he fled to Paris in 1981. Rajavi then tried to conduct his armed struggle against the new Islamic Republic from Paris but when this failed he was given succour in Iraq where Camp Ashraf became the MEK’s main military and ideological training base.
The close relationship between Saddam and Rajavi led to the MEK being dubbed Saddam’s Private Army; Camp Ashraf played an integral role in the survival of the Iraqi dictator after the First Gulf war when Rajavi used his forces to help crush the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings. In 2003 Camp Ashraf became an enemy target for the Multi National Forces when Operation Iraq Freedom removed Saddam Hussein from power. Then in a paradoxical move the US Government provided military protection for Camp Ashraf for eight years while its inhabitants remained on the US Terrorism List.
Camp Ashraf came under the control of the democratically elected Government of Iraq in January 2009 (under the Status of Forces Agreement). After that time it was inevitable that the camp would close. Successive Iraqi governments since 2003 insisted that the Americans close Camp Ashraf and expel the foreign terrorist group Mojahedin-e Khalq from the country because of the group’s history of terrible crimes against the people of Iraq.
In the course of twenty five years Camp Ashraf has seen many changes. But the real story of course is not about the camp but about the lives of the people who inhabited it; how they came to be there and why they must now leave.
In its forty five year history, the MEK organisation has undergone many public image changes; from guerrilla fighters, resistance army, terrorist entity to feminist democratic opposition. The man who has led the group through all these superficial incarnations is Massoud Rajavi. And behind the glamorous advertisements of a sophisticated and relentless propaganda machine, his single-minded pursuit of power at any cost and his fundamental belief in the use of violence to achieve this aim of power, has not changed one iota in all this time.
Rajavi was a charismatic speaker and skilled psychological manipulator. He discovered in himself a talent for totalitarian control which matched his narcissistic ambition for power. Although he began to convert the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation into a cult while still in Paris, it was the acquisition of the isolated, closed world of Camp Ashraf which provided the perfect crucible to extend his experiment. In Camp Ashraf he has forced the MEK members along a most extraordinary route of mental and physical anguish to meet his needs.
Over the years former members who escaped from Camp Ashraf have told their stories to a world unwilling or unable to listen. Thousands of them consistently and courageously described the conditions of the internal revolutions and Rajavi’s bizarre requirements for members to divorce and to remove all the children from the camp; to undergo the daily humiliations of public self-confessions which enforce the celibacy and gender apartheid; to suffer micro-management of their every waking moment which imposed deliberately exhausting work schedules and disorienting indoctrination sessions; to be deprived of any information from and contact with the outside world and their families. Rajavi did all this to keep his members from leaving. When this failed, he imprisoned them.
Camp Ashraf is now a double prison for the residents. They are trapped by Rajavi’s psychological manipulations which engender paralysing fear in everyone behind the barbed wire fences which he has had erected to keep them physically inside. But they are trapped ultimately by the misguided ignorance and misplaced sympathy of all those external agencies which could take action to free them but don’t.
The life of Camp Ashraf has reached a critical juncture. It must close. The residents must leave. But over and above Massoud Rajavi’s refusal to leave, there are a host of third parties with their own agendas which militate against closure. The main players are the Americans and the Iranians who have developed their own narratives and myths around the MEK in order to use it as a tool to aggravate and intensify their thirty year enmity. Between the ‘bomb Iran, regime change’ pundits in America and the ‘crackdown on foreign backed violent opposition’ proponents in Iran, all the bases are covered.
It is these voices which dominate political debates and media reporting on Camp Ashraf. But the political and security issues are a decoy to avoid answering the fundamental question. After twenty five years of testimony describing severe human rights abuses why do the individual residents of Camp Ashraf still have no voice? Why do people continue to escape the camp even in spite of the severe restrictions? At the time of Saddam Hussein perhaps these questions could be ignored. But now?
The original inspiration to write the story of Camp Ashraf came from witnessing the determination of the families of the camp’s residents to rescue their loved ones. Since 2003 they braved bombs and bullets to reach the gate of Camp Ashraf in the hope of finding their relatives. They refused to give up, refused to take no for an answer. Even when the MEK began to pelt missiles at them they refused to give up. Their extraordinary love and courage needs to be voiced and this voice needs to reach above the cacophony of the false hand wringing and political wailing to those who are in a position to help.
But as the story unfolded it became obvious that the really voiceless victims of Camp Ashraf are its residents. As the stories of individual members emerged it was clear that many had died and many more had suffered before their information could reach the public domain. Currently around 3500 people continue trapped and held hostage to the callous whims of the various pitiless powerful political forces who do not care about their individual fates. This book must speak out on their behalf.
This book therefore is an attempt to tell their story in the hope that this will halt the diversion of this issue to everything else except this fundamental question – why are people risking everything to run away from Camp Ashraf and the MEK and why is no one listening to them?
The book is now available through bookshops and Amazon websites throughout Europe and America
Alternatively contact Iran Interlink directly for your copy
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Also Read other reports:
Iran Interlink is a campaigning and activist group. Its aims are to expose the MEK as a destructive cult and to promote and protect the human rights of its victims who are mainly based in Camp Ashraf in the Diyala province of Iraq. Further information can be found at www.iran-interlink.org .
The Rule of Law
Families at the camp – acting as a humanitarian pressure group
Families as an existential threat to the MEK
MEK denies medical treatment to residents
Iraqi demonstrations and police activity at the camp
Events of April 8 2011
Aftermath of the April 8 operation
A unique dimension
Finding a baseline from which to move forward
Recommended steps for progressing removal of the camp’s residents
Iran-Interlink representative Anne Singleton travelled to Iraq mid April at the invitation of the Baghdad based human rights NGO Baladiyeh Foundation, officials of the Government of Iraq and other NGOs involved in the Camp Ashraf problem. The Baladiyeh Foundation, headed by Mrs Ahlam al-Maliki, provides humanitarian assistance to a wide range of deprived sectors of Iraqi society arising directly from the invasion and occupation of Iraq by allied forces in 2003. Baladiyeh Foundation is concerned by the humanitarian crisis at Camp Ashraf caused by the group’s leaders who are refusing to allow access to human rights organisations to verify the wellbeing of all of the camp’s residents.
Anne Singleton, a leading expert on the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist cult, was invited to speak at al-Mostanserieh University in Baghdad on the problems of removing the group from Iraq. She also participated in a one hour live discussion on Al-Masar television presented by Dr Qeis al-Atwani on the topic ‘people want Monafeqin Khalq terrorists out of Iraq’. (The term Monafeqin is a religious term meaning hypocrites and is the preferred name among Muslims for the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq cult.)
Anne visited Camp Ashraf shortly after the events of April 8 and had the opportunity to speak with Iraqi military representatives and observers stationed at the camp perimeter. She toured the outside of the camp to see where a third of the land has been reclaimed.
When Iraq’s current democratically elected parliament opened on 14 June 2010 it was known that the Iraqi government would continue to work toward the removal of the MEK from Iraq. It was known that the MEK would spill blood to resist this outcome. It was therefore a game of wait and see until a bloody confrontation erupted.
Although the election marked the beginning of a slow death for the MEK organisation in Iraq, eight years since it was captured and disarmed, the MEK in its current situation in Camp Ashraf is a spent force. The average age and both mental and physical health of the residents as well as their social and educational abilities indicate that it cannot function as a mass opposition force. Some individuals of course will be found who remain loyal to the Rajavis and who will continue to work for them in the future, but most of the residents are in need of help rather than being able to help others.
By the time the Government of Iraq (GOI) took charge of the camp in January 2009, the MEK had become used to imposing its own will on the conditions related to its survival and would not willingly relinquish an iota of this control. The MEK had in effect maintained, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a de facto illegal territorial exclave run by non-Iraqis; a state within a state. Under the Iraqi constitution it is impossible to allow such a foreign terrorist group to remain in Iraq.
Since 2003 in particular there has been a history of cynical political exploitation of the residents of Camp Ashraf by multifarious elements. The people who reside in Camp Ashraf are being treated as pawns by every party which has an interest in the camp and the Mojahedin-e Khalq brand. Clearly, in order to be effective in resolving the future of Camp Ashraf in a peaceful and humanitarian way, it will be necessary to put aside the interests of these political players and to look beyond the military and security aspect and to deal with the residents of the camp as individuals. More than that, they must be dealt with as the victims of a destructive cult.
The imperative which now drives resolution of this issue is the legitimate demand of the Government of Iraq that the MEK leave the country before the end of 2011. How this is to be achieved is the essential difficulty. Putting aside the MEK’s victim propaganda it is clear that in fact the MEK is the problem, not the government of Iraq per se. So, the first question is how can all the parties concerned work together to remove the MEK from Iraq as the Iraqi government and indeed the Iraqi constitution requires?
As a helpful starting point, Western governments and agencies could certainly support the Government of Iraq position and provide positive practical interventions rather than indulging in political sniping from the sidelines.
The Rule of Law
One important aspect of the UNAMI mandate is that assistance was to be given to the new Iraqi government to bring the whole country under the Rule of Law. In this respect, the situation at Camp Ashraf should certainly have been a priority since the MEK leaders are known worldwide not to obey any law except their own. The minimum requirement that UNAMI should have demanded of the MEK from the start of its mandate in Iraq was that the group obey Iraqi law.
To reinforce its position the GOI recently began to release some of its intelligence information, gathered over the previous seven years, on MEK involvement in insurgency activity. Evidence was made available that Al Qaeda in Iraq had met with MEK leaders and helped fund the MEK in exchange for logistical support for Al Qaeda activities in Iraq. Evidence was also made available concerning MEK attempts to influence the outcome of the elections of March 2010.
Families at the camp – acting as a humanitarian pressure group
The two violent clashes which took place between Iraqi security forces and MEK loyalists in July 2009 and April 2011, in which several MEK were killed, were assured widespread attention in the West by intensive MEK lobbying. But since 2009 the most significant development at the camp has been the establishment of the permanent presence of families of Camp Ashraf residents as a humanitarian pressure group. In February 2010 a large group of families had travelled from Iran to find their relatives. The MEK not only denied them contact with their loved ones but attacked them as ‘agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry sent to spy on them and destroy the camp’. The families ignored these insults and continued to make their requests. The MEK grouped at the gates of the camp to swear and throw stones at them. In disbelief, the families travelled to Baghdad where they met Iraqi officials responsible for Camp Ashraf and solicited their help. This was the first time that Iraqi officials had been directly approached by families for help. At this point some of the families went home as they had not planned to stay for so long and their other commitments or health issues forced them to return. But other families decided that they would stay and would not leave until the situation had been resolved for them to meet their relatives. They began to ask around what could be done. They questioned who was really in charge of Camp Ashraf and why so little was being done to reach those inside. A few Iraqi human rights organisations and personalities agreed to help the families along with Sahar Family Foundation in Iraq. They called themselves the Committee to Support the Families at Camp Ashraf.
The families returned to Camp Ashraf and persuaded the Iraqi army to provide basic accommodation (containers) and allow them to set up a permanent picket.
The families began by approaching the camp gate and shouting messages for their loved ones. The MEK leaders responded by staging angry demonstrations with members shouting insults and swearing at the families. Rajavi thought they would give up and go away after only a short time.
Instead, the MEK inside the camp began to respond to the families, making surreptitious signals and encouraging them to go on with their messages. The MEK leaders then emptied the front of the camp where they were using several buildings, taking residents further inside the camp to a distance where the voices of the families could not be heard and they could not see one another. The families began using hand-held loud-speakers. This tit for tat behaviour escalated as the MEK began counter measures – banging bin-lids and metal cooking pots to drown out the families’ voices. The MEK mounted audio equipment on the back of a vehicle and stationed it in front of the families. They loudly broadcast anthems and songs in an attempt to drown out the families’ voices.
The families in turn brought their own loudspeakers and broadcast the sound of laughter of a two year old child – something the MEK had not heard for many years. The response of the MEK who were still in sight was astounding, they smiled and nodded and again made surreptitious signals to encourage the continuation of the families’ actions.
Both the families and the MEK brought larger loud-speakers. The standoff escalated. By the end of the autumn, the families had spread their protests to all the other gates of Camp Ashraf on the perimeter and established their loud-speakers and banners and pickets all around the camp. The MEK was forced to retreat into the centre of the camp. In desperation the MEK installed American-made noise parasite equipment to block the sound, broadcasting audio interference at the families. The MEK were unaware at that time that reporters were present and the exposure of this illegal action which has a detrimental health effect forced them to quickly remove the equipment. (It has since been reinstated.) But the evidence of American support for the MEK was clear for all to see as reporters questioned how the MEK had taken receipt of such equipment beyond the camp checkpoints and indeed who had supplied it.
Throughout 2010 and up to the current time the families of residents in Camp Ashraf have played a crucial role in determining the future of the camp. Their presence has forced the MEK leadership to adopt more and more defensive positions, to retreat further and further into the depths of the camp. Rajavi introduced a special force to systematically patrol the perimeter fence and use catapults and slingshots to aim metal missiles to deter anyone from approaching the fence.
It is interesting therefore to examine why this should be so and why these families present such a problem for the cult.
Families as an existential threat to the MEK
The fundamental question is ‘what is the rationale which explains Rajavi’s refusal to allow the residents of Camp Ashraf to have contact with their families?’ This is not a recent phenomenon. It has been a cult rule for thirty years that all contacts with families, including family relations inside the cult, are strictly controlled by the cult. Only in cases where there has been potential for financial gain, further recruitment of family members and/or cooperation in MEK activities is anyone allowed to make contact with their family wherever they are in the world. These contacts are ordered and rehearsed and monitored to ensure that they keep to the purpose and do not slip into any personal, emotional level.
Any family which does not have any use for the cult is an enemy of the cult. The cult member is indoctrinated to believe that their families are agents of the Iranian regime and their aim is to prevent the member from pursuing their sacred and ideological aim of struggle against the clerical dictatorship ruling Iran. In this way, Rajavi inculcates an artificial phobic reaction of fear and loathing in cult members against their own families. This means that any encounter with a family member will trigger an automatic reaction in the cult member to reject and hurt their family.
But this effect is only partially effective and relies on both the constant reinforcement of the phobic fear as well as preventing any actual meeting with or phone contact or even written contact with the families. (This is why the cult members are instructed to reject further family contact through the Red Cross Tracing Service. The Red Cross ensure that they deliver the first contact directly to the family member and do not allow the MEK leaders to deliver the contact on their behalf because they know they would not reach the recipient. However, the MEK instructs such recipients to inform the Red Cross to pass the message to their family not to contact them again.)
The reason why Rajavi tries so hard to prevent these contacts is that it is known that in cult members generally (except perhaps in the case of persons born into cults) the deep seated emotional ties to the person’s original family can, given a very small opportunity, override the messages of the cult leader. In the case of the MEK cult in which members are not allowed to form families inside the cult, they live in a very black and white emotional landscape; either love Rajavi or you are his enemy. But there exists in each member the suppressed memory of former emotional relationships. These will, of course, be triggered by contact (by letter, telephone or in person) with a family member. Even contact with other people’s families can trigger this emotional memory. A small and fleeting contact can override the indoctrination and plunge the cult member into a spiral of confusion and doubt about their exclusive relation to the leader.
As a result of this contact many cult members simply ‘snap out of it’ and are then able to begin the long and painful process of recovering from cult indoctrination. The problem for members of the Rajavi cult who are resident in Camp Ashraf is that they cannot physically leave. Otherwise they would be what is known in cult jargon as a ‘walk out’; put simply a person who walks away from the cult. The residents who have managed to escape the confines of Camp Ashraf are in effect ‘walk outs’. The conditions of their escapes are significant. Their escapes have been fraught with danger and difficulty. Firstly they know there is no TIPF to take refuge in. They will be on their own and they are aware that Camp Ashraf is far away from any place to get help and they have no money or ID and are instantly identifiable as Iranian and from the MEK. In addition, the MEK leaders have convinced them that the Iraqis will kill them if they leave and hand themselves over. (The people inside Camp Ashraf have had no uncensored news of the outside world for over two decades. They have no idea of the real situation pertaining in Iraq.) But by taking the steps to leave the physical confines of the camp they have also left the cult. It usually does not take long once freed from the psychological pressure imposed by the cult leaders until they regain their critical thinking and their emotional responses.
Such escapees from Rajavi’s cult report that the vast majority of residents in Camp Ashraf would like to leave but have no way of getting out. They are not willing members of Rajavi’s MEK nor are they indoctrinated members of his cult. They are hostages.
It is the presence of the families and these ‘walk outs’ which Rajavi fears more than anything else because it signals the inevitable dissolution of his organisation. The families of the residents inside Camp Ashraf are the true existential threat to the MEK.
With this in mind it is clear that the permanent presence of the families at the camp gates will play a major role in the efforts to ensure that external agencies are able to enter the camp and make serious efforts to relocate and rehabilitate the people inside.
MEK denies medical treatment to residents
One of the issues over which the MEK invented a false human rights crisis for Western consumption after the Iraqis took over the camp was access to medical treatment.
As more and more members succumbed to serious and life-threatening illnesses the MEK leader was faced with a problem. If he allowed the member to be transferred to a suitable Iraqi hospital for specialist treatment the member would be outside the jurisdiction of the cult. Rajavi knows that members who are not subjected to ongoing indoctrination, especially at a moment in their lives when they are more vulnerable to ‘changing their minds’, will after even a short time begin to question and doubt the path of their lives and that as this critical thinking returns this will more than likely allow them to slip away from the cult and regain their lives.
For this reason the MEK insisted that any sick person must be accompanied by at least one other loyal cult member. These minders were to be sent as a kind of mobile indoctrinator.
As well as the security concerns of allowing MEK outside the camp, the Iraqis knew full well why the MEK wanted to send these minders and refused. They argued that there are many Farsi speaking Iraqi medical staff working in Iraq’s hospitals who would be available for translation in a medical environment. The MEK of course lobbied Western parliaments on the grounds that the Iraqis were refusing them medical treatment when in fact this was not the case. The MEK were trying to dictate unreasonable terms. In this way they denied many Camp Ashraf residents from accessing treatment. Several have died as a result who could have been saved.
In March 2010, MEK leaders had denied a delegation from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights access to the inhabitants of the camp. Surprisingly, given the unusually inflated degree of interest in Camp Ashraf among members of the European Parliament, other national European parliaments, and human rights bodies like Amnesty International, this denial did give rise to protest or parliamentary questions; concerns were not raised over what may be going on inside the camp.
Over the autumn of 2010 the Iraqis were aware that three people had died as a result of not receiving early medical attention because the MEK refused them access to proper medical care. One more person was murdered by hanging (the MEK explained this as a suicide in protest at the families coming to visit them). After further enquiries, the campaign group Iran-Interlink was made privy to information that the cult leader was now prepared to kill or force the terminally sick people to commit suicide in order to put the blame on the Iraqi authorities.
Iraqi demonstrations and police activity at the camp
Throughout 2010-11 peaceful demonstrations by Iraqis demanding the MEK’s removal from Iraq and in support of the demand of the families to see their relatives took place on a frequent basis. The MEK response was invariably to initiate violent resistance – hurling rocks and other missiles at demonstrators – and to attempt to incite a violent response in the external groups whoever they may be. But while Iraqi media gave widespread coverage to these events, Western media did not find it interesting or newsworthy that local Iraqi citizens despise the MEK, nor that their peaceful demonstrations outside the camp were met with violence by the MEK. It is unsurprising then that Western politicians could be fooled into believing that the situation at the camp was a simple case of the Iraqi authorities violating the human rights of the residents.
In the autumn of 2010 Iraqi police received information about criminal activities taking place inside Camp Ashraf. When the police arrived at the camp to investigate, the MEK leaders refused to allow them access and started fighting with them using batons and knives to prevent the security officers from discharging their functions. At the same time some MEK loyalists were seen to be deliberately injuring themselves only later to accuse the Iraqi police of using heavy handed tactics.
Events of April 8 2011
Since January 2009 the GOI had attempted, in vain, to bring the residents of Camp Ashraf in line with Iraqi and international law. One of the issues which arose during this period was that of land ownership. Camp Ashraf had been built on land illegally confiscated by Saddam Hussein from local tribes and farmers on which he built his own military base Khalis garrison. He later gifted the camp to Massoud Rajavi, who renamed it Camp Ashraf, to use as a base for his fighters. In addition, over the years the MEK also unlawfully expanded its camp to occupy farmland to the north of the camp.
Since 2005 the Iraqi Judiciary had worked hard to adjudicate on such land disputes all over the country and in the case of the land occupied by Camp Ashraf, at least some of the original owners were able to provide documentary proof that they were the rightful owners. This made it imperative on the GOI to return this land to them.
The GOI tasked the military to take action to reclaim a 20 km square portion of this land (the total land mass of Camp Ashraf was 51 km sq.). The area to be taken lay to the north of the camp from where a road identified as Road 100 (the main boulevard of the camp) runs east to west.
There were conflicting reports as to what happened next. Iran-Interlink enquired of various official and non-official sources, including non governmental observers at the camp who witnessed the activities.
On April 3, the Fifth Division in Diyala replaced the Ninth Division which had been protecting Camp Ashraf. At the same time the MEK leaders were informed and served with legal notices to say that the Iraqi military would shortly be reclaiming the swathe of land situated to the north of Road 100 in order to restore it to its rightful owners. Although the MEK appeared to agree to this at the time, they immediately began a public relations campaign in the West to claim that the Iraqi military had invaded Camp Ashraf. "The forces of Iraq’s Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armoured vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday," claimed an MEK public relations statement.
Brigadier Tarek Azzawi, chief of military operations at the camp explained to an AFP reporter, "It’s a replacement of forces, not a new deployment."
"The Fifth Division in Diyala has replaced the Ninth Division that protects Ashraf, and we have not advanced even one metre," he said. "There were no clashes," he added.
An MEK spokesman reported that 40 to 50 uniformed US troops arrived at Camp Ashraf on April 2 and departed on the afternoon of April 7.
Speaking several weeks after the events, a US military spokesman, Colonel Barry Johnson said in an interview with the Miami Herald that the American soldiers had been sent to Camp Ashraf to “assist a new Iraqi army unit that was rotating into the area to replace another unit. When they left April 7, "there were no major concerns about the capability of the new Iraqi Army unit to assume the mission,” he said”. The Colonel told the newspaper, “The US units were not aware of any impending Iraqi operation at the camp.”
On April 8, having served legal notice, Iraqi military personnel arrived at the camp with bulldozers and other heavy vehicles in order to break through the barbed wire perimeter fence which had been reinforced by the MEK. They would then break through the three metre high earth banks – which the MEK had erected to prevent escapes and to prevent anyone seeing into the camp. The MEK of course had been forewarned of this operation and as such had been given the opportunity to move whatever they had from the area into the remaining section of the camp – a further thirty square kilometres.
As the Iraqis approached the camp perimeter and began to dismantle it, two MEK came forward and set themselves on fire in front of the Iraqi soldiers. Inside the camp, a crowd had been assembled whose task was to shout slogans and make as much noise as possible, taunting the Iraqis with insults and threats.
From behind the earthworks MEK specially trained and organised forces erupted and began to throw metal missiles and to catapult smaller ones at the soldiers as they began their task of breaking down the fence. Other offensive weaponry wielded by the unarmed MEK involved included clubs and knives. Molotov cocktails were used to set fire to the Iraqi military buildings and vehicles at the compound nearby. The MEK were wearing different coloured protective headgear and were coordinated to operate in various locations using an assortment of weapons. According to a former member who had recently escaped the camp, this type of offensive ‘resistance’ activity had been planned and practiced by the MEK for years in advance.
The MEK activity was intended to prevent the military from doing their work. However, the military had been ordered to complete this task and did not have orders to retreat from the scene. One commander explained that they had given legal notice of their intention several days previously which as far as they were concerned had been accepted and they had not therefore anticipated this reaction. An order was given to shoot at the legs of the protestors in order to regain control of the scene. Several individuals were shot during this activity. Some of the soldiers drove military diggers at the crowd to try to disperse them. Several MEK were crushed under these vehicles. During this incident tens of Iraqi soldiers were also injured, some seriously and had to be evacuated from the scene.
At the end of the operation, the Iraqi military had taken the land and driven the MEK back into the remainder of the camp. Over the next two days, they established a new fence along the perimeter just north of Road 100. The MEK moved residents out of the buildings close to the new perimeter fence and re-housed them out of sight and earshot of activities outside the camp.
Aftermath of the April 8 operation
As usual because of the absence of official third party observers on the ground during the event, there has been little independent verification about what really happened at the camp. In the following days, the United Nations announced that 34 MEK died during the incident. The MEK verified this figure – subsequently increased to 35. Investigators for the United Nations said that most of the dead were shot, though an unspecified number were crushed to death when Iraqi troops and armoured personnel carriers moved into the camp. According to the ICRC representative in Baghdad, some of the injured MEK were taken to hospital in Baquba. Six were arrested and taken to Khalis police station where they were visited by the ICRC. The MEK, as before, produced their own films of the event which were distributed and broadcast with no critical qualification (for example, that this was the view of only one side of those involved in the incident). Calls came from all quarters for an independent enquiry. The GOI remained tight lipped about the event, preferring to launch its own investigation before answering external enquiries.
One eyewitness – a former member who was a bystander at the scene – said that only two people (a brother and sister) from the higher ranks were injured. They were shot in their legs, which appeared to be self-inflicted; that is, they deliberately shot themselves. All the other victims among the dead and injured came from the lower ranks. According to Iraqi officials some individuals were killed by the MEK as they tried to run away from the camp during the violence. Some were killed as they were forced to rush the Iraqi posts throwing petrol bombs and pre-fabricated missiles.
The bodies of most of the victims – the ones who did not die in hospital in Baquba – were kept inside the camp by the MEK and neither their families nor any Iraqi agencies were given access to them. Iraqi coroners were not able to carry out post mortem examinations on the bodies to determine the actual cause of death. On April 10 the MEK invited an American team comprising civilian and military personnel into the camp to perform forensic examinations on 28 of the victims and interview some of the wounded. The Americans transferred some of the injured to their facilities for medical treatment. The Iraqi authorities were not involved in or consulted about any of these activities. This was a private agreement between the MEK and the US military. (Unofficial observers stationed at the camp perimeter report that the US military runs daily helicopter sorties over the camp, and they believe make regular landings inside the camp out of sight of the Iraqi military.)
A deplorable state of affairs reigned over the fate of the dead as the MEK now prepared to play their political games using the bodies as bargaining tools.
Since the MEK’s cemetery now lay in the part of land which had been reclaimed by the Iraqis it was assumed that the dead would be buried according to normal Muslim practice within a short time inside the camp. Rajavi, the MEK leader, pronounced through his interlocutors that the MEK would only bury the dead in their own cemetery and only on condition that the land which had been seized be given back to them and that the Iraqis did not conduct further investigations. This was a demand the Iraqi government found impossible to even consider as it would contravene its own laws. In any case, after a cursory search of the reclaimed land, some unmarked graves had been found in the MEK cemetery which needed investigation. As well as this, caches of arms and ammunition had already been discovered in the cemetery and in other locations.
The Iraqi authorities were petitioned by relatives of the dead, some of whom were among the families who had been encamped outside the camp for the past fourteen months. In response to appeals by these families for humanitarian consideration, the Iraqis agreed to allow the MEK to bury the bodies in the original MEK cemetery. But the issue of returning the land was not open to negotiation.
In turn the MEK rejected this concession because the Iraqi government had stipulated that fewer than 200 MEK members attend the burials. This is because both the government and the MEK knew that the MEK was using this (having large numbers attend the funerals) as an excuse to occupy the land and then refuse to leave. They would thereby create yet another incident in which they could shed more blood and divert attention from the real problem which is that they have been holding hostage thousands of people without any contact with the outside world.
The MEK demanded that their supporters in the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson and Alejo Vidal Quadras as well as their supporters in the British House of Lords, Lord Corbett and others, be brought to Iraq for the funerals. The idea was that they would be taken inside the MEK controlled part of Camp Ashraf without any Iraqi oversight and the funerals would take place as a publicity stunt for the MEK.
The Iraqi authorities again reiterated that the funerals could take place in the MEK cemetery with no more than 200 MEK present. If any foreign visitor should attend they would also be required to abide by Iraqi law which meant that they would not be allowed to enter Camp Ashraf without an Iraqi security escort.
Typically the MEK and its supporters in these Western parliaments depicted a false picture of the crisis over the dead bodies. The MEK published photographs of elderly Iranian women in Paris holding pictures of the dead people with the headlines ‘Iraqi army bars burials’. None of the women in the pictures was a relative of the dead people. It was a propaganda move. The message given was that it was Iraqis who would not allow the funerals. This was simply not the case. The MEK used the bodies as bargaining tools, issuing impossible demands to drag the issue out as long as possible. They had no concern for the real families of the victims or the rotting bodies in the camp. The MEK’s aim was to maintain their image as victims of Iraqi cruelty. It was also to detract attention from the allegations that at least some of the dead were killed by the MEK themselves as had happened in the clashes in July 2009. The standoff also detracted from demands by the families for independent agencies to enter the camp and rescue their loved ones. More than anything, MEK loyalists would parade the ordinary camp residents past the bodies and use them as evidence to reinforce the cult message that the Iraqis would kill them if they tried to leave.
Several of the families of the victims lodged official complaints with the Iraqi Judiciary and demanded the forcible return of their loved ones to them. As the next of kin, they argued, they had priority rights over the bodies of their relatives. To date no bodies have been returned to the next of kin.
(Interestingly, the MEK’s advocates in Western parliaments have now moved on from the issues of the lost land and the MEK’s refusal to bury the dead, and are again concerned with the presence of the families at the camp perimeter.)
The Iraqi military immediately began a process of critically examining its own response to this violent incident in order to develop and implement any changes needed as a result. No doubt the security agencies from any one of the European countries which had recently experienced violent riots in their own capital cities over the recent economic crisis would have been happy to share with the Iraqis the findings and recommendations of their own enquiries had they been consulted. Regarding the incident as extremely regrettable, the Iraqis were however, confident of their ability to conduct their own enquiry.
With violence erupting in various countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the events at Camp Ashraf would not normally have elicited much interest in the West. But, the MEK’s backers in Europe, wary of Iraq’s increasing economic and social ties with Iran, took this opportunity to launch a political attack on the Iraqi government. They inflated the importance of Camp Ashraf to the level of an international crisis. Their tactics involved what amounted to political bullying and their accusations were at times ludicrous (American circuit speakers sat on MEK organised press conference panels and with straight faces referred to the event as a “massacre” or even “genocide”). The result was that various parties which found it in their own interests to condemn the Iraqi government, including some human rights organisations, and others who were simply too lazy to investigate the issue further, were vociferous in their demands that the Iraqi army be investigated.
But, the issue was not that simple or straightforward. The incident had not been one sided. More sophisticated people, while condemning the killings, began to look more deeply into the event and, taking into account the nature, the history and the behaviour of the other party to this incident, came up with a different view. Twelve members of the European Parliament from five political groups addressed a letter to their colleagues pointing out that, “The group has developed a very strong lobby in the European Parliament over the last couple of years claiming to be the only serious Iranian opposition group”. The letter continued:
“While the main responsibility for the incident seems to be with the Iraqi security forces, they have so far only acknowledged responsibility for the death of three inmates. We therefore fully support the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for an independent investigation into the incident.
“This unacceptable blood shed should not, however, distract us from an objective and level headed analysis of the track record of the PMOI [MEK]. We urge all members to seriously consider the history, actions and behaviour of the PMOI before signing any declarations or letters of support in favour of this group in the future. Their method is very simple: they mobilise MEPs justified outrage at the nuclear issue, the human rights violations and the very character of the Iranian regime, but instrumentalised [sic] such opinion for a different purpose – the political legitimation [sic] of the Mujahedin organisation itself.
“Surprisingly, the allegations of massive human rights violations inside the Mujahedin organisation are never [the] subject of debate. According to overwhelming evidence the former militant group has turned into a repressive sect far removed from the respectable image the representatives of this group display when visiting the European Parliament. The human rights violations the leaders are committing against the group’s members are amply documented, starting with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and many witness reports of ex-members who were able to flee (including testimonies in the European Parliament).”
The letter went some way to viewing the incident objectively.
Right minded observers acknowledged that this was an internal issue for the Government of Iraq to deal with, and in any case, an investigation would need to look at the conduct of the Iraqi military and riot police in a countrywide context rather than being generalised from one isolated incident.
Above all it was acknowledged that the role of the Iraqi military remained indispensable for both protecting the individuals inside the camp from danger and preventing the leaders from launching attacks on outsiders who need to enter the camp to perform the various duties needed to deal with the camp’s residents. This is a role which they took over from the Americans. They did not invent the role nor did they change its character.
A unique dimension
The MEK control of Camp Ashraf and over the lives of the residents being held hostage there does not, however, present a normal situation. This is a unique situation with its own dynamics and it will require a radically different approach to find a peaceful and effective resolution to the problem.
The phenomenon which is being dealt with here is that of a dangerous, destructive cult rather than a political or military group. The basic problem from the start was that neither the American army nor the Iraqi army was prepared in any sense to deal with this type of group. In 2003 the US army was met by “leaders who were fluent in English and who took pains to establish ties with the United States by claiming – falsely, as it turned out – that a large portion of the group had advanced degrees from American universities and family members resident in the United States”. (RAND, August 2009) Because the army was not informed about or able to deal with a violent cult, they were persuaded on the ground by the deceptive and manipulative methods of the MEK leaders. Instead of demanding the surrender of an enemy target, they entered without authority into a cease-fire situation instead. Basically they were duped by the MEK, which continued to call the shots right up to 2009.
In the same way, the Iraqi army was unprepared and unqualified to deal with the cult inspired behaviour of the MEK. In this case, the MEK knew they would never be able to persuade the Iraqis to allow them to remain in Iraq. Instead of schmoozing them, they maintained at best a hostile intransigence, and when it suited them they did what they could to provoke a violent reaction. Faced with what was suicidal violence, the Iraqi army did not have the knowledge or experience to take the sophisticated decisions needed to control the group.
Experts in the MEK and in cult behaviour are clear that it is not the role of the army or the police to deal with this group. Lessons should be taken from the 1993 standoff at the Waco ranch when police ignored the advice of cult experts and the confrontation ended in the mass deaths of the ranch residents.
At this stage there are two main impediments to moving forward on this issue.
One is the deliberate smokescreen of obfuscation, lies and deception created by the MEK itself in relation to the camp in order to distract from the central issue. This is accompanied by complete intransigence in terms of accepting any alteration to the situation of the residents of Camp Ashraf. From the time of Iran-Interlink’s last report in August 2009 negotiations with the MEK leaders have yielded no progress whatsoever. Clearly this is not a way forward.
The other difficulty is that no external body has independent access to the interior of the camp to either investigate or help in the camp. This is a vital point. The MEK will currently only allow access into the camp to agencies – including its own political supporters – which accept MEK oversight and control over whom they meet and where they visit. This is not a tenable situation from which to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and false imprisonment of residents.
It is this second difficulty which must become the focus for action. Only when investigative missions are able to get inside the camp, and gain free access to all its residents without interference by the MEK leaders, will the first impediment be swept aside allowing all relevant agencies to deal with the facts on the ground rather than grappling with propaganda and political pressure.
The problem is how to break the deadlock with the MEK on one side refusing to even admit anyone into the camp, and Iraq and external bodies on the other side trying to find a peaceful and effective way to remove the residents of Camp Ashraf.
The key difficulty attending any approach is that the MEK loyalists will continue to resist and try to provoke violence in order to prevent any interference in the internal affairs of the camp.
In this respect, one particular issue which overrides all others (political, social, humanitarian) in dealing with the MEK is what can be referred to as the fear factor. This is what makes external agencies afraid to interfere in any meaningful way. Put simply, the MEK has threatened the mass suicide of the residents should anybody interfere in the internal affairs of the camp. This is a real threat and cannot be treated lightly – European capitals witnessed a handful of public MEK self-immolations in July 2003 which killed two and permanently disabled and disfigured the others. But it is necessary to assess how realistic this threat is and work out how to avoid such a potential outcome. It is clear from the MEK reaction to Iraqi soldiers that MEK loyalists are prepared to launch suicidal violence to repel such interference. It is not clear however how many of the other residents might be involved. An understanding of this fear factor and how it artificially influences approaches to the MEK is integral to finding an effective solution.
Finding a baseline from which to move forward
While various external bodies, prompted by MEK lobbying, have called for an independent investigation into the events of April 8, this will not move the issue forward or help the Iraqi government to deal with the problem – the hidden agenda here is to focus blame on the Iraqi authorities and obfuscate on the realities inside Camp Ashraf.
But there are facts which, when taken into consideration, will form a baseline from which a plan can be developed. Indeed, perhaps the most useful way to approach this problem for everyone involved is to start with the desired outcome – the MEK as a foreign terrorist group leave Iraq. From this point it is possible to identify the steps needed to achieve this goal.
An initial approach would be to first identify what exactly is meant by the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation as it exists at Camp Ashraf. For the GOI the MEK represents the last remnants of the former Saddam regime which in addition to being culpable for horrific crimes against the Iraqi people over twenty years, is still being used to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. The Iraqis have every reason to demand the removal of every last vestige of the MEK from Iraq.
For Western observers however, the issue is slightly more complex. Duplicitous and misleading MEK lobbying in the West, in particular concerning the current existential threat to the continuation of Camp Ashraf, has led to a completely false view of the problem.
The fundamental error of external bodies is that they have accepted at face value that the MEK as an entity has a voice. It does not. That everyone in the camp speaks with the same voice. They do not. And, that this MEK voice represents the interests of all the residents of the camp. It does not. When American agencies ‘encourage’ the GOI to negotiate with the MEK over this issue they completely miss the point – because it is a cult, negotiations with anyone from the MEK will only ever represent the interests of one person, the cult leader Massoud Rajavi.
In the recent violence of April 8, 2011, eye witnesses have said that up to 200 members took part. That is, 3200 members have not been directly involved. Does this mean that Rajavi has been unable to coerce them into defending him? Is it the case that 3200 people therefore are unwilling to support Rajavi? How many of the residents of Camp Ashraf are willing and able to continue as members of a terrorist group or as members of a mind control cult?
The honest answer is that nobody really knows what is happening inside Camp Ashraf.
The only reliable information we have are the testimonies of the handful of residents who have recently escaped and who can tell us about current conditions in the camp. Interestingly, aside from some new details, their stories tally in the fundamental essentials with the testimonies of thousands of former MEK members who have spoken out over the years to expose severe human rights abuses and violations inside the organisation which affect every single member, even at the highest leadership level.
The consistent theme of all the testimonies given by those who have left the MEK is that the leader does not represent their interests. The individuals remaining in the camp are not there of their own free will and are subject to daily psychological and physical coercion to force them to remain there.
As irksome as this may be for the GOI therefore, it is not possible to advocate for the wholesale removal of the MEK from Iraq as a group. They must not be treated as possessions. This is called slavery and every concerned human rights group should be alert to this situation and take an active role in preventing the wholesale transfer of slaves to another location where they will remain under the ownership or hegemony of one man, Massoud Rajavi.
Recommended steps for progressing removal of the camp’s residents
The first step toward resolving this issue is for all the agencies involved – UNAMI, UNHCR, and others – to gain free and unfettered access to every resident of the camp. This will allow them to conduct an investigation into the actual conditions of their captivity and to ascertain any specific individual needs which they may have, whether medical or otherwise. This may or may not be achieved through negotiation with the MEK leaders as they are currently engaged. Certainly, external agencies will need to be clear, concise and uncompromising in their demand that the MEK leaders give full access to the whole of the camp.
The proper framework for such an investigation is to acknowledge that the MEK leaders will not be truthful about the situation inside the camp and cannot be relied upon to represent the interests of the residents. Above all it must be acknowledged that the MEK leaders do not have authority over the residents except that gained through fear and coercion and the leaders have not been elected or appointed by the residents to represent them. Indeed, the MEK leaders have a vested interest in hiding many of the aspects of the situation inside Camp Ashraf including the lack of basic human rights, keeping people prisoner and disallowing contact with the outside world.
In this context a leap of faith is required to depart from all previous methods of confrontation and containment. Untested an approach it may be, but it will be essential for all the agencies involved to take the advice of cult experts, particularly experts on the MEK. The MEK has an armoury of defensive tactics with which to prevent such interference. The obvious one is to meet all attempts to enter the camp with violent, suicidal resistance. But the MEK system is also supremely manipulative as the American army discovered in 2003. Certainly both MEK cult experts and recently escaped residents will be needed to identify loyal cult leaders and activists. These experts will also be able to identify and challenge the MEK’s manipulative techniques which would otherwise be effective in deceiving less experienced agencies – no matter how well meaning.
The agencies involved must also take into account the experience and demands of the families of current residents. It is these people who can speak on behalf of the interests and needs of the 3400 individuals living there and not yield to the false and distracting concepts of either protecting the ‘rights’ of an artificial entity (the MEK) or submitting to the arbitrary dictates of its leader.
Once external agencies have been able to enter Camp Ashraf, the first major task will be to separate loyal MEK leaders from the rest of the residents. Then it will be possible to establish from among the remaining residents which are loyal to the MEK leader Massoud Rajavi and separate these from the residents who want to dissociate from the group. There will also be several people who are subject to arrest because they are under investigation by the Iraqi Judiciary for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Iraq.
Naturally at this stage it is reasonable to ask, ‘once the individuals are separated into various types and separated from one another – presumably in the same camp – what then is to be done with them?’
The simple answer would be that they must all be given access to full information about their current situation which will enable them to make informed decisions about their individual futures. That means facilitating contact with the outside world through telephone, radio, television, print media and the internet.
Individual residents should then be granted a reasonable period of time to recover from the pressure of the leaders and the effects of indoctrination before being asked to determine their next steps. After which a realistic and reasonable set of alternative possibilities should be put before them. For those who dissociate from the MEK these options might include: remaining at the camp or in Iraq as a refugee; voluntary repatriation to Iran with the help of the ICRC, Iraqi human rights ministry and Iranian embassy officials; transfer to a third country as a political refugee.
But the cult experts will suggest an additional dimension; perhaps more difficult to understand and implement but ultimately the most effective way to rescue the victims of this destructive cult. This dimension is to introduce into the cult environment – the physical, mental and emotional environment of the cult member – exactly those elements which the cult leader has taken extreme pains to deny them. In the case of the MEK, in addition to access to external information as mentioned above, the restoration of normal emotional relations will have a profound effect on these individuals.
It is not by random chance that Massoud Rajavi’s reaction has revealed that the greatest enemy of the MEK cult is not the Iraqi army or the Iranian regime or even shifting political fortunes and contingencies. As described above, the presence of families of cult members immediately outside the perimeter fence presents the greatest existential threat to the continuation of his control over the residents. MEK cult members are forbidden to be in relationship with anybody except Massoud Rajavi. They are forced through psychological coercion to worship him – though the real emotion is fear of course. The experience of countless former members has shown that when genuinely loving alternative relationships are available to them – particularly the unconditional love of a parent and other close family members – the cult victim very quickly snaps out of their cult mentality and begins to regain his/her critical faculties and the ability to begin the process of recovery and reintegration into normal society.
External agencies which have a genuine concern for the individual residents of Camp Ashraf would be advised to examine this advice and integrate it into any rescue package they devise to resolve the crisis at the camp.
Anne Singleton addressing delegates at al-Mostanserieh University
Baghdad April 2011
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Second Report on Camp Ashraf and Mojahedin-e Khalq in Iraq
Iran-Interlink.org has published a second report on Camp Ashraf, Iraq and the situation of Mojahedin-e Khalq (aka MKO, MEK) cult members at the camp. After consultation with the Government of Iraq, Massoud Khodabandeh has described events since January 1, 2009.
According to the report, Iraq is determined to rid itself of the foreign terrorist cult led by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi as soon as possible, but is hampered by western intransigence over where these people should go.
The 3416 individuals inside Camp Ashraf have no legal status in Iraq. They are not entitled to ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Neither will they be granted political refugee status by Iraq. Nor will Iraq forcibly repatriate them. But, although the MKO has been de-proscribed, at its own behest, as a terrorist group in Europe, no western country is willing to offer asylum to the individuals — even though 1015 MKO members have a passport or residence permit of a third country.
After months of fruitless negotiations with MKO leaders — with U.S. observation — a police post was established inside Camp Ashraf at the end of July. In spite of violent resistance by the MKO which led to 11 deaths, the camp residents are now subject to Iraqi law. Following evidence that MKO leaders were committing widespread and systematic human rights abuses inside the camp, the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, in conjunction with international humanitarian agencies, is now set to properly monitor activity at the camp.
Massoud Khodabandeh made several recommendations in his report. The Government of Iraq should remove around seventy MKO leaders in order to protect the rank and file members from human rights abuses and coercion. The camp must be thoroughly searched — something the U.S. Army failed to do since 2003.
Stressing that western governments bear a responsibility toward the MKO’s victims trapped inside Camp Ashraf, Mr. Khodabandeh says that western politicians must prevent further political abuse of MKO members by the Rajavi leadership and guarantee the rights of those individuals who renounce violence and are willing to return to society. European governments should work with Iraq and the UN to find third countries to which other individuals in Camp Ashraf can be transferred.
For more information contact: Anne Singleton +44 (0) 113 278 0503
Iran Interlink Second Report from Baghdad
Camp Ashraf and the Mojahedin-e Khalq
Second Baghdad Report
Government of Iraq Activity
Outline of Iraq’s demands in relation to the MKO
Government of Iraq dilemma
Government of Iraq tightens its control of Camp Ashraf
July 28 and 29
Government of Iraq plans
The role of Sahar Family Foundation, Baghdad
Reaction of the MKO leaders and advocates
Second Baghdad Report
In February 2008 Massoud Khodabandeh reported his findings following his visit to Iraq as consultant to the Government of Iraq (GOI) on the issue of the Mojahedin-e Khalq terrorist organisation (MKO) and its headquarters, Camp Ashraf in Diyala province.
This second report is the result of a follow-up consultation on the issue of Camp Ashraf since the Government of Iraq (GOI) took over responsibility for the base in January 2009 pursuant to the status of forces agreement with the U.S.
Background information covering the period up to January 2009 when the GOI took over responsibility for Camp Ashraf and the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization can be found at the following link:
Camp Ashraf Countdown http://www.iran-interlink.org/?mod=view&id=4330
Background information covering the period from March 2003 to February 2009 when the U.S. Army was responsible for Camp Ashraf and the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization can be found in the RAND Report: ‘The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq, A Policy Conundrum’ http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG871/
Since December 2003 successive Iraqi governments (from the first interim government to the present elected government) have demanded that the American Army close Camp Ashraf and remove the foreign terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) militants which U.S. forces had corralled inside it from their country. The current situation therefore is not the result of a new decision by the Government of Iraq. It is based on the MKO’s historical enmity toward the Iraqi people for two decades as part of the suppressive apparatus of Saddam Hussein. The Government of Iraq regards the MKO as a foreign terrorist entity with the additional characteristic that it is a dangerous, destructive cult. Reasons why the U.S. Army failed to close Camp Ashraf are detailed in the RAND report.
The following outlines the activities pursued by the GOI and the MKO before July 28, 2009.
Government of Iraq Activity
After the American Army handed over responsibility for Camp Ashraf on January 1st this year pursuant to the status of forces agreement (SOFA), the Government of Iraq (GOI) put into effect several lines of action toward removing the MKO and closing Camp Ashraf as a fundamental aspect of taking full, sovereign control of the country.
A joint committee was formed between various governmental departments including the Defence and Security Ministry, Interior Ministry and the Human Rights Ministry. The Committee, headed by Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie, drew up plans and coordinated activities on behalf of the Government of Iraq led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. Dr. al Rubaie developed a plan for the difficult task of dismantling an extremist cult that adopts an enlightened, humanitarian approach which could become a blueprint for tackling similar organizations worldwide.
Government officials held frequent negotiations with the MKO with the observation of U.S. Army personnel. (It should be noted that since the January 2009 handover a contingent of 25 American soldiers has remained at Camp Ashraf in an observational role. To date, they have not raised significant concerns regarding the activities by the Iraqi authorities in pursuit of this sovereign right to dismantle and remove the MKO from the country.) The U.S. has been involved at all times and at all levels, including the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.
Outline of Iraq’s demands in relation to the MKO
From January 1, 2009 the GOI’s primary, basic demand was that the individuals resident in Camp Ashraf obey Iraqi and international law. The MKO, in any country they reside, regard themselves as ‘outside the law’ of that country. The Iraqi Government challenged this situation and has been completely open about the process.
There are 3,416 people in Camp Ashraf, all fingerprinted and eye-scanned. The GOI required that all the residents at Camp Ashraf leave the country within six months. The options made available to them as individuals are that:
They could voluntarily repatriate to Iran under the supervision of the ICRC and the Iraqi human rights ministry. Since 2003 under an amnesty granted by the Iranian government, over 250 individuals from Camp Ashraf have successfully been voluntarily repatriated.
They could find a third country to relocate to. It is known that 1015 MKO members have a passport or residence permit of a third country and can leave Iraq for these countries.
If these options could not be fulfilled in a short timescale then the GOI would remove the MKO from Camp Ashraf and re-locate them in the far west of the country for their security.
The GOI made it clear that political refugee status will not be granted to any member of the MKO in Iraq.
From December 2008, the GOI began negotiations with western diplomats in Baghdad in an effort to find third countries to which the MKO individuals could be transferred. Although these western governments were quick to demand that Iraq should not force any of the MKO back to Iran, none were willing to accept them in their own countries. When, on January 26 the MKO was removed from the EU terrorism list, it seemed there was a fresh opportunity to provide an exit route for MKO members. Unfortunately, Western governments have not been cooperative in offering refuge to the individuals who must leave Iraq for somewhere.
In response to GOI efforts to negotiate a positive and peaceful outcome, the MKO leaders showed not only absolute intransigence – they failed to make any concessions at all during the six months of negotiations – but stalled the negotiations by repeating their impossible demands of the Iraqi government.
The MKO leaders have, throughout, continued to claim, falsely, that they are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, although there can be no doubt that the Geneva Convention referred to has not applied since June 2005: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/SNIA-05022.pdf). The MKO leaders demanded that the U.S. is obliged under the terms of the Geneva Convention to continue to protect them. The MKO leaders demand that they remain in the camp as a group, claiming, again falsely, that they have the right to residence in the camp and in Iraq.
The MKO leaders have refused consistently to allow any Iraqi (or U.S.) authorities inside the camp. On April 7 it was reported that the MKO leaders refused to allow a group affiliated to the Iraqi ministry of human rights to access the residents of Camp Ashraf.
The MKO leaders refuse to allow access to individual members for interview or to allow anyone to leave voluntarily.
The MKO leaders continue to demand that the MKO be kept intact as a military/terrorist organisation inside the camp.
Government of Iraq dilemma
Hampered by this intransigence, the GOI was faced with a dilemma. The evidence points to a situation in which the top leaders of the MKO, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, continue to preside over a situation inside Camp Ashraf in which the individual members are subjected to a harsh and unremitting regime involving daily violations of their basic human rights.
Dr. al Rubaie described the MKO as "an indoctrinated and tightly disciplined organization of extremist zealots who have employed terrorism and at times even self-immolation to secure their aims. In normal everyday language we can say that they have been ‘brainwashed’".
It has been a fundamental aspect of the Iraqi approach to ending the MKO’s presence in the country that, in the words of Dr. al Rubaie, "The Government of Iraq does not deal with the MKO as an organization. We deal with the residents as individuals."
Any implication that Iraq has made this assessment of the MKO in isolation is wrong. An article in The Economist (April 8, 2009) stated: “the PMOI is widely reviled by human-rights groups for nurturing a messianic cult of personality around Mr Rajavi and his wife, Maryam, and for enforcing a totalitarian discipline on its adherents. Several defectors testify, in the words of one of them, to a “constant bombardment of indoctrination” and a requirement to submit utterly and unquestioningly to the cause. No sources of news are allowed without the PMOI’s [MKO’s] say-so.”
It is clear that in relation to human rights violations of the individuals living inside Camp Ashraf, it is the MKO leaders who have proven to be the perpetrators. The MKO leaders have also been actively obstructive, indeed provocative, toward those wishing to investigate and alleviate this suffering.
Since January 1, several MKO members have escaped Camp Ashraf. Their testimonies point to a deterioration in the human rights situation in the camp.
Under observation by the ICRC and the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, Dr. al Rubaie has focused efforts to protect the individuals inside the camp following allegations that human rights abuses are being perpetrated by MKO leaders against the residents. To this end he has said, "We believe that if we can separate individuals from the all-encompassing domination by their leaders, we can allow them to begin to exercise their rights as individuals and make appropriate choices. That is, we hope to remove them from the toxic effects of their indoctrination and leaders."
In response to the many obstacles thrown up by the MKO to their removal from Camp Ashraf, Dr. al Rubaie said, "The Iraqi Army unit posted to defend and secure Camp Ashraf has exercised patience and extreme restraint in spite of the staged provocations and demonstrations that Ashraf’s self-appointed leaders have launched in defiance of the legitimate exercise by the Government of Iraq of its sovereignty." He added, "Ashraf is not above the law".
Government of Iraq tightens its control of Camp Ashraf
The Iraqi government has given guarantees that none of the captives will be forced to return to Iran against their wishes. By March, in order to move forward on this issue and establish a police post inside Camp Ashraf, Iraqi military and police personnel increased their control over the camp by limiting the access and the flow of people and goods. Only authorised personnel were allowed to leave and enter the camp and all goods except food and medical supplies were stopped, including building materials such as cement and metal. The MKO leaders lobbied agencies and lawyers to claim that the Iraqis were blocking food and medical supplies to the camp and had effectively laid siege to the camp. Unfortunately none of these experts visited the camp and relied solely on information supplied to them by the MKO when their statements were issued. Iraqi officials were not interviewed by these advocates of the MKO.
On June 9, Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai) reported the following: "The Iranian opposition group, Mojahedin-e Khalq, whose headquarters in Iraq are confined to Camp Ashraf in Diyala Governorate, has reported that the Iraqi Police’s Rapid Response Forces tightened their embargo on the camp’s occupants and banned the entry of goods and people to it. The Iraqi Committee for the Defence of Camp Ashraf had issued a statement denouncing the tightening of the noose around the group by the Rapid Response Forces as well as threats to the camp’s occupants of murder and arrest, warning of a possible humanitarian disaster."
The channel interviewed Staff Major General Abd-al-Karim Khalaf, chief of operations at the Iraqi Interior Ministry, via telephone from Baghdad.
Asked if the government is planning to close down Camp Ashraf, Staff Major General Khalaf says: "As an Interior Ministry, we are responsible for certain matters relating to the camp, such as providing protection for the camp and securing its outer perimeter; guaranteeing the entry of humanitarian goods as stipulated by international agreements – a matter that we handle in transparent fashion; and ensuring that the camp’s residents do not interact with security forces, and all three of these objectives are being met."
He adds: "Some of the security units were replaced – the brothers dispatched by the Interior Ministry left certain positions – and the Interior Ministry is bound by the constitution to provide protection – and is capable of doing so – but its work is hampered by these people [the Mojahedin-e Khalq], who are escalating the situation with certain positions and statements and are providing wrong and highly exaggerated accounts. Interior Ministry personnel have not interacted with them at all, and no siege has been laid around the camp. The camp has certain outlets through which some humanitarian goods and basic necessities are allowed to pass, and they remain operational."
Commenting on the accusations made by the Committee for the Defence of Camp Ashraf, the Major General maintained that "there has been no interaction with the camp’s residents, and the protection forces are stationed around the camp’s perimeter, so how can there be a tightening of the noose? How can the noose be tightened when the camp has specific outlets and when more than one party – not just the Interior Ministry – are overseeing the camp? One of these outlets is located near a Multinational Forces position and these forces can see what is happening."
Asked if "you have any political or military orders to close the camp in the near future," Staff Major General Khalaf says: "No, not at all." He reiterated the role of the Interior Ministry in securing the camp and regulating the flow of goods into it.
July 28 and 29
After six months of fruitless negotiation, the GOI decided on a course of action. In order to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf were subject to Iraqi law and establish the right to exercise control over protecting their human rights, it was necessary to establish a police presence inside the camp to oversee activities there.
On July 28 the Iraqi Army undertook an operation to enter Camp Ashraf with the intention of establishing a police post inside the camp’s perimeter. The Iraqi Army assessed the target as a foreign terrorist group with cultic behaviour which had consistently used violence in the past. It was understood that the group had been disarmed by the U.S. Army and therefore, in order to mitigate the risk of excessive force being used to take control of the camp the Iraqi riot police used in the operation did not carry firearms.
The Iraqi Army called in riot police to deal with the violent resistance that was put up by the camp’s residents. The operation took place over two days. Eleven members of the MKO were killed and around 200 injured. Police captain Firaz al-Atbi from the Diyala province police force reported that about 60 members of Iraq’s security forces were also injured, 20 seriously.
The MKO reaction was as violent as had been expected, perhaps more so. The MKO’s own videos, which were broadcast uncritically in western media, show MKO women commanders in military uniform directing the rank and file in violent attacks on Iraqi personnel. Iraqi riot police are shown with rope batons, harshly beating back the massed protestors. Iraqi police officers reported that the MKO were being directed to throw themselves under the path of moving vehicles and that many of the casualties and some of the MKO deaths resulted from this type of activity. Police also reported MKO members hitting their own heads on the tarmac to create superficial head injuries.
On August 1, following the approval of Iraq’s government, a medical team from the US-led Multinational Force-Iraq arrived at Camp Ashraf to provide medical assistance to the injured MKO members.
By August 2, the Iraqi police had established a post inside the perimeter of Camp Ashraf and renamed the camp as ‘Camp of New Iraq’ under the flag of Iraq. The Diyala province’s Police Chief Major General Abdulhussein al-Shimari issued a statement that "members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) at Camp of New Iraq have to comply with the one-month time limit to leave Iraq. The organization members should either return to Iran or seek asylum in a third country”.
August 3, Abdul Nassir al-Mehdawi, governor of Diyala province, which has jurisdiction over Ashraf, confirmed that 36 MKO members had been arrested the day after the clashes. "Their cases are being investigated now. They are being charged with inciting trouble," Mehdawi said. "We will deal with them according to Iraqi law; we won’t send them back to Iran."
Also on August 3, a mass grave was discovered inside the MKO camp. Diyala province police officials said that the mass graves contained the bodies of Kuwaiti nationals who had fallen victim to the Ba’ath regime’s seven month-long invasion of Kuwait. “We have been informed that a mass grave has been found in Camp Ashraf. Of course we knew there was a graveyard in the MKO headquarters, but we had thought that it was a place of burial for MKO members,” said Abdulhussein al-Shemri, a local police commander. Independent confirmation of this report will expose MKO complicity in Saddam Hussein’s war on Kuwait, which killed more than 3,664 Iraqis and 1,000 Kuwaitis. MKO leaders are said to have kept the mass grave a secret so far by refusing the entry of Iraqi (and previously U.S.) forces into their base.
Following the operation to set up a police post inside Camp Ashraf, the MKO launched a propaganda blitz in western media. This relied initially on the uncritical dissemination of films shot by the MKO leaders from inside Camp Ashraf which showed alleged Iraqi brutality toward the MKO ‘victims’. In line with typical MKO propaganda tactics, they disseminated false reports that up to two hundred MKO had been killed by Iraqi security forces.
The Iraqi security forces announced 11 deaths from among the MKO members. These eleven were buried very quickly inside the camp by the MKO without any ceremonies. Iraqi authorities were refused access to the bodies in order to carry out post mortem examinations. This is contrary to the normal MKO custom of holding elaborate military ceremonies headed by leading members to bury their martyrs.
From information gathered from various sources it can be ascertained that of the eleven dead two had been shot in the back. The Iraqi army and police are clear that they did not fire any bullets during the operation. They believe that the dead must have been shot by the MKO themselves. On July 29, General Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq said that while he had not been apprised of the decision to launch the raid, he could confirm that the Iraqis used "non-lethal force."
The Iraqi police say that five of the dead were among those who deliberately threw themselves under Iraqi vehicles during the operation to enter the camp. There are also unconfirmed allegations that other victims bore injuries consistent with falling from high buildings.
Iraq’s Human Rights Minister, Ms Wijdan Michael, believes that at least some of those killed are from among those people known to have problems with remaining with the MKO. Among the dead was Mr. Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari. He is known to have attempted to escape from the camp on two occasions. Both times he was ‘arrested’ and prevented from escape by the MKO leaders.
During the entry to the camp tens of Iraqi police officers were injured by MKO members throwing hand-made bombs, stones and other missiles. Two of them received serious injuries and were hospitalised for some days.
The aim of the GOI was to establish a police station inside the camp. This was negotiated with the MKO leaders over two weeks, but they refused to cooperate. The Iraqi Government concluded that there was no other option but to start moving in forcefully to fulfil its obligation to deal with the terrorist cult. The GOI is clear about its mission and while it is necessary to have a police station inside the camp, every effort has been made to respect the human rights of the people inside. In fact according to the Human Rights Ministry of Iraq, the police station is necessary to ensure respect for the human rights of the residents.
Government of Iraq plans
Although a police post has been established inside the camp, the Iraqi authorities have still not gained access to every building. The MKO have erected physical barriers around many of their buildings inside Camp Ashraf and are resisting inspections by the police.
The police have reported that the MKO place the women in front and the men in the back. They regard this as an attempt to present a ‘soft’ target in order to manipulate police activity. The Iraqi police are aware that, in line with Rajavi’s ideological directives the leaders of the violent activities at Camp Ashraf are women military commanders.
Since the police post was established, the MKO leaders have organised a sit down hunger strike among the rank and file. From observation of this activity, the police believe that they eat and drink enough to keep them going for several months. But the police are concerned that the leaders may kill people and claim they have died in the hunger strike.
The police say there is no doubt that the MKO leaders have weapons in the camp. They are also certain that there are other activities or entities inside the camp that the MKO is very afraid of being exposed. The police are adamant that they will evacuate the MKO from the camp and get to the bottom of this. This is to be done shortly.
The Government of Iraq has good reason to be angry with the US embassy and military which are in many ways actively supporting the MKO. One of the most recent escapees from the camp has produced evidence that after he handed himself over to the Iraqi police and asked them to remove him from the camp, US army personnel intervened, arrested him and took him to some MKO leaders. These MKO leaders tried to persuade and intimidate him to stay, but when he refused they were forced to hand him back again to the Iraqi police, who were finally able to take him to safety in Baghdad.
The role of Sahar Family Foundation, Baghdad
In 2008 the U.S. Army closed its temporary internment and protection facility (TIPF) for MKO members who asked to leave the group. This resulted in dispersal of those who rejected MKO membership and had escaped from Camp Ashraf. After consultation with Massoud Khodabandeh and Batoul Soltani (a former member of the MKO’s Leadership Council who had also taken refuge at the TIPF), the GOI agreed to the interim measure of creating Sahar Family Foundation, an NGO, with the remit to provide temporary help to those who wished to escape Camp Ashraf.
Ms Soltani remained in Iraq as the director of Sahar Family Foundation and successfully aided the former residents of the TIPF. Some were voluntarily repatriated, a few remained in the Kurdish Regional Governorate where the American Army had moved them, and the rest were brought to Europe to establish claims as political refugees.
Sahar Family Foundation is now in consultation with the Human Rights Minister in relation to the people in Camp Ashraf as well as those who have already escaped since January 1. Sahar Family Foundation is expected to work with the GOI to establish a separate camp for the people who request to leave the MKO. Sahar Family Foundation is also expected to work with Nejat NGO in Iran to bring the families of these people to the camp and will try to find solutions for individuals. The Iraqi government will help in this endeavour.
Reaction of the MKO leaders and advocates
The MKO’s western propaganda system includes Lord Corbett’s system in the UK, Raymond Tanter’s system in the U.S., Alejo Vidal-Quadras’s system in the EU and U.S. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen ( http://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/). In Middle East circles it is widely believed that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is the orchestrator on behalf of AIPAC. She is also believed to be the person co-ordinating payment to the MKO through various channels (including the Lord Corbett system). She is originally from Cuba and it is believed that she uses the expertise of anti-Cuba consultants and PR agencies in support of the MKO.
A major setback for the MKO propaganda system following the July 28/29 Iraqi police operation has been that it took place just as parliaments were closing for the summer vacation. This limited their ability to disseminate misleading information in order to elicit support and indeed to garner any parliamentary support. Undaunted, Rajavi’s propaganda system was successful in having western broadcast media give uncritical airings to the MKO’s own footage of the event as filmed from inside Camp Ashraf. The films as shown only superficially described what had transpired at the camp.
However, the exaggerated figures of dead and injured did not rouse the censure of western political figures. Instead, the US Administration in particular emphasised that this was an internal matter for the Iraqi government.
Several hunger strikes were therefore established by the MKO leaders outside U.S. embassies in western capitals. The problem they soon encountered is that it took some weeks for parliaments and even media to return from their summer vacations. The hunger strikes have now been continuing for over six weeks and yet there have been no evidence that anyone is starving to death.
In response, Rajavi has ordered that the MKO members in Camp Ashraf, who are far away from the critical observation of the western media, continue the hunger strike to their deaths. While it is possible that this is another of Rajavi’s propaganda tactics, it is also highly probable, based on past behaviour, that they will kill one or two of the rank and file members to put pressure on the Iraqi government and the U.S. Administration.
There are some in the Government of Iraq who believe the U.S. has a direct interest in prolonging resistance to entering and searching Camp Ashraf. The MKO camp has never been searched, even after U.S. forces disarmed the MKO in 2003 (see the RAND Report). There are serious questions about what might be discovered if the Iraqi police are able to get in to investigate the whole camp. Cognisant of this dilemma, the GOI is willing to discuss this aspect of its activities on the understanding that the U.S. army accepts that the removal of MKO personnel from the camp is inevitable.
The MKO has already begun to transfer its people and resources to Britain and Sweden to prepare for the collapse of the camp. The MKO believes that since France and Germany have good trade links with Iran they will not tolerate them as much as Britain (due in main to the influence there of the Jackson Society and AIPAC) and Sweden (due to the relaxed laws that they have).
The MKO is currently demanding that U.S. Army or the U.N. take control of Camp Ashraf from the GOI. Following publication of the RAND Report it should be the duty of the U.S. Army to help and facilitate in any way possible the immediate closure of Camp Ashraf and the removal of the MKO personnel from Iraq. The more help given by the U.S. to achieve this, the more that amends will be made not only to the Government of Iraq, but to the MKO members and their families who have suffered needlessly for the past six years due to the failure of the U.S. to deal properly with this terrorist cult.
The GOI estimates that the MKO will remove at least one thousand of its own personnel and bring them to Europe – the preferred locations are the U.K. and Sweden. About 1000 will return to Iran within a few months and the rest will disappear during the first year.
The MKO will bring their activities to the EU (the financial, fraud and counterfeit departments will be transferred to London). The UK or other countries will not be in a position to prevent this.
The best outcome will be if the rank and file can be helped to integrate into normal society. This means that they first have to be separated from the cult leaders for some time.
In consultation with the GOI I have put forward the following steps.
The leading seventy MKO personnel should be detained and separated from the rank and file cult members. This will allow them to be relieved of the mental pressures imposed by MKO leaders. If this is done, the rank and file can be detoxified and reintegrated back into society in a matter of a few months. (Where possible, the U.S. Army should be kept out of this process, but they should be given whatever they want to take out of Camp Ashraf before starting the plan.)
The GOI should arrange for individual, private interviews and counselling to all of the residents of the camp. The GOI should arrange for a thorough search of the camp. It is already known that there are weapons inside the camp in direct contravention of the ceasefire agreement. It is known that there are people buried inside the camp that are unaccounted for, in particular a mass grave allegedly containing Kuwaiti nationals has already been found. It is known that the U.S. Army failed to search the camp in 2003 even though there were rumours of illegal activities and resources at the camp.
Western governments and humanitarian agencies must cooperate fully with the Iraqi authorities to help restore basic human rights to the people trapped inside Camp Ashraf. Any activities or resolutions should reflect the realities on the ground and give support to the humanitarian approach taken by the Government of Iraq to resolve this difficult problem. Parliamentary and/or humanitarian agency fact-finding missions should apply directly to the GOI to visit Camp Ashraf to verify such facts as would influence their activities and/or statements.
The focus of western politicians must be to prevent any further political abuse of Mojahedin-e Khalq members in Camp Ashraf held captive by their leaders, and guarantee the individual rights of those who renounce violence and are willing to return to society.
Any concerns raised in western parliaments should, above all, reflect the responsibility of western countries toward the victims of the Rajavi cult. In particular, for individuals in Camp Ashraf with residency or asylum rights in western countries, provision should be made for their rapid transfer back to these countries. European governments also should work with the UNHCR to find third countries to which other individuals in Camp Ashraf can be transferred.
The GOI should facilitate the work of Sahar Family Foundation to open a separate temporary camp as an alternative to Camp Ashraf to which people can physically escape and not be forced to continue as members of a foreign terrorist group in Iraq against their will. (Sahar Family Foundation has a list of over 200 individuals who have expressed their desire to leave the MKO but who have no alternative place to go until their final destination is determined.)
The MKO should be required to allow free and unfettered access to all of the individual residents inside Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi authorities and to official humanitarian investigative agencies.
The MKO should be required to allow free and unfettered access to the immediate family members of all the individual residents inside Camp Ashraf without supervision by MKO operatives.
Mojahedin leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, and other leading members who have escaped the camp should be arrested and brought to justice through international courts for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Report written and published by
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Report on the situation of remaining members of Mojahedin Khalq Organisation in Camp Ashraf after Consultation with Iraqi Government officials
Iran-Interlink, February, 2008
In January through February, Iran-Interlink representative Massoud Khodabandeh was invited by the Iraqi Government for a series of consultation meetings on Camp Ashraf. His report has now been published.
Camp Ashraf is home to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Grizzly, but also contains 3,400 foreign terrorist fighters from the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO or MEK) who were corralled and disarmed by US Special Forces in 2003. The fighters have been under US military police protection for five years and now the Iraqi Government wants them removed from the country.
MKO leader Massoud Rajavi has told his group to stay in Iraq at all costs until they can be re-armed, but human rights organisations agree that Iraq is extremely dangerous place for the Iranian group and that any who do not wish to be voluntarily repatriated must be taken to third countries as refugees.
While in Baghdad, Massoud Khodabandeh met with officials from Iraq’s Ministries of Human Rights, Defence, National Security as well as non-governmental agencies to formulate a two part solution. He reported Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs position that ‘both the MKO and PKK are foreign terrorist organisations. They are especially harmful to the relations between Iraq and its neighbouring countries at this point of time. Iraq cannot accept nor afford further problems by accommodating international terrorist organizations whether as a group or as individuals.’
An interim plan was immediately agreed by Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights to permit the establishment of Sahar Family Foundation. Organised by former members of the MKO and families of people still trapped in the camp, Sahar now provides short-term rescue facilities for ex-MKO who are no longer being protected by US forces in Iraq before they are taken to third countries.
SFF can be contacted directly in Iraq on Tel: +964 – 7808481650 (Arabic and Farsi), and outside Iraq at Sahar, BM 2632, London WC1N 3XX, U.K., Tel: +44 – 2076935044 (English only).
In his conclusion to the report Mr Khodabandeh outlined a longer term plan which will enable western governments to protect the human rights of the MKO members by taking the whole group out of Iraq to safety.
In an interview with Alaraghieh television, Massoud Khodabandeh said he fully endorsed "the right of the Iraqi people to enjoy security and have justice served against the perpetrators of violent acts in their country…" In January the Criminal Court of Baghdad issued additional arrest warrants for three leading MKO members in Camp Ashraf. It is believed that the handling of members of the foreign terrorist group which American soldiers are protecting will be a test of US-Iraqi relations over the coming months.
The report can be obtained online at www.iran-interlink.org or hard copy from [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 113 278 0503
Mob: +44 (0) 787 654 1150
Link to: Al Araghiah TV reports on the Symposium in Baghdad
Link to: Al Horyyah TV reports on the Symposium in Baghdad
Iran Interlink Special Report from Baghdad
Camp Ashraf and the Mojahedin-e Khalq
Massoud Khodabandeh,Iran Interlink, February 2008
Introduction – What is the problem with Camp Ashraf?
Why the MKO must leave Iraq
What is Camp Ashraf
What is happening at TIPF
TIPF to close in six months
Results of consultation in Iraq
Families of MKO members
Sahar Family Foundation statement
Introduction – What is the problem with Camp Ashraf?
The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) came into existence in 1965 to conduct armed opposition against the Shah of Iran. Among those killed during its first armed campaign the group were 6 American contractors in Iran. Most of its members were imprisoned during the 1970s. After the Shah was ousted in 1979, the MKO prisoners were released and after initially supporting the revolution for two years, then began to challenge Ayatollah Khomeini for more power. This led to exile first in France and subsequently in Iraq. Saddam Hussein gave financial, military and logistical support to the group and used it during his war with Iran and then to suppress Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in March 1991, thereby guaranteeing his grip on power.
First welcomed in the early 1980s by western governments for its opposition to the revolutionary government of Iran, the MKO’s violent and mercenary behaviour, which led to thousands of civilian deaths in Iran during its terrorist campaigns, led to its proscription as a terrorist entity. Following a report commissioned by the US State Department in 1994 the group was added to the US terror list in 1997. The UK proscribed the group in 2000, the EU in 2002, and Canada in 2005. In May 2005 Human Rights Watch published a report titled ‘No Exit’ detailing human rights abuses carried out by the organization against its own members. The incarceration of dissenters in Abu Ghraib prison was made possible by the full integration of the MKO in Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus; well before 1991 the MKO had become Saddam’s private army.
In anticipation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Massoud Rajavi told MKO combatants they would launch an all-out attack on Iran. An operation announced as ‘the black phase’. Instead, he escaped into hiding and in April 2003 agreed a ceasefire with US Special Forces. By June, Rajavi submitted to the US demand that his fighters completely disarm. All MKO members in Iraq were corralled into Camp Ashraf and have remained there since that time as prisoners under the protection of US military police aided by a Bulgarian unit.
The MKO remain at risk of revenge attacks by Iraqis. In spite of this threat, Massoud Rajavi has insisted that the active MKO members remain in uniform in Camp Ashraf and has resisted all humanitarian efforts to help them move or even to have members with residence rights in western countries brought to safety. Rajavi’s perverse insistence that the MKO be treated only as a whole entity and not as individuals and the fact that, ostensibly, the group presented no trouble, discouraged the American army from disturbing the status quo. American soldiers continue to protect a group which its own State Department has proscribed as a foreign terrorist entity, but which some in the west regard as a possible bargaining chip against Iran.
Currently, according to US figures, there are around 3,360 active MKO members remaining at Camp Ashraf in Iraq’s Diyali province. There are now 109 people in the Temporary International Protection Facility (TIPF) adjacent to Camp Ashraf who have left the MKO and are seeking refugee status and removal to third countries. Over 100 were turned out of TIPF in December 2007 and have met with an uncertain situation described later in this report. The US-led MNF also says 380 former MKO have accepted voluntary repatriation and have been helped by the ICRC and Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights to return to their families in Iran.
Now however, after five years, the Iraqi Government is insistent that the MKO be removed in totality from Iraqi territory. In spite of claims by the MKO in western circles that it has renounced violence, Iraq’s Ministry of Defence says there is no doubt the group is involved in ongoing violence in the country. A solution to deal with the group has become more urgent.
The legal status of the MKO combatants in Camp Ashraf is somewhat unclear. In 2004 the American army granted the MKO ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
According to a report by Robert Karniol, Defence Writer of the Straits Times, on February 4, the UN Fourth Convention Article 133 states that "’internment shall cease as soon as possible after the close of hostilities’."
"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains that the Iraq war ended with the transfer of sovereignty to the country’s interim government in June 2004, with the fighting since then characterised as ‘an internal conflict internationalised by the presence of multilateral forces’."
"’Neither the active MEK members nor the former MEK refugees are being detained,’ said Major Danielson [MNF spokesman]. ‘The Ashraf refugee camp refugees have every right to depart and travel in Iraq using an Iraqi-issued laissez-passer. They can also repatriate to Iran if they desire, or they may stay in the camp."
However, it is not only Massoud Rajavi’s insistence that his combatants wait in Camp Ashraf to be re-armed which blocks moves to deal with them. Since every major western country has proscribed the MKO as a terrorist group, it is virtually impossible to find a safe haven for the group outside Iraq.
The Straits Times report continues, "’They are definitely in a legal limbo. No one wants them,’ said Mr Said Boumedouha, a researcher at Amnesty International in London."
"The US State Department’s 2007 report said the MKO maintains "the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada and beyond."
"The report notes the MKO’s "cult-like characteristics," such that "new members are indoctrinated in MEK ideology and revisionist Iranian history [and] required to … participate in weekly ‘ideological cleansings.’ "Children are separated from their parents, it adds, and Mrs. Rajavi "has established a ‘cult of personality.’."
"According to Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International, ‘Our position is that they shouldn’t be returned to Iran due to the fear of torture and the death penalty. And they shouldn’t be handed over to Iraq for the same reason. Their immediate future looks bleak.’"
However, events in Iraq are unfolding which make it imperative for western countries to address this issue.
Why the MKO must leave Iraq
In December 2007 unconfirmed reports arose indicating uncertainty over the future of Camp Ashraf. It is understood that the original owner on whose land the camp is sited, who fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein, has returned to Iraq with title deeds and has now achieved a court order demanding that his land, part of which was illegally gifted to the MKO by the former Iraqi dictator to build their military base, be evacuated and returned to him in its entirety.
Although this has not been confirmed, subsequent events appear to verify this news. In December US military police began removing people from the Temporary International Protection Facility. Visitors to the camp were also told by military police that the TIPF would be closing in six months’ time.
In January 2008 officials of the Iraqi Government invited Massoud Khodabandeh of Iran-Interlink to a series of meetings in Baghdad where the issue of how to deal with foreign terrorist groups in Iraq was being addressed by various agencies.
As a result of these meetings Mr Khodabandeh has reported that the Iraqi Government is united and determined in its demand that the MKO be removed in its entirety from Iraqi territory. In this respect, no differentiation is made between active or former members of the group. The Iraqi Government regards the MKO as a terrorist entity which is still attached to the Ba’athist remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Requests to the Americans since 2004 to remove the group have not produced any result. The government is now taking the matter into its own hands and will deal with the group on its own terms.
Major Danielson has said that ‘they [the MKO] are not charged with criminal offences’, however this situation has now changed. The Iraqi Government has passed the case of the MKO to the Judiciary which is pursuing legal action against the whole group. Three separate judges have already issued arrest warrants against three leading members in Camp Ashraf. As the sovereign government of the country it is expected that American forces will comply with its legal rulings in relation to the MKO.
Mr Khodabandeh said, ‘In each of the meetings I attended, I put to the Iraqis a proposal which I believe is the only realistic and humanitarian way forward for the people trapped in Camp Ashraf, and this was universally welcomed. It is time now for all security and humanitarian agencies in Iraq to stop prevaricating, to work together and to adopt a realistic plan in order to act on this situation and resolve it to the advantage of all parties.’
This report seeks to describe the situation and offer what can be the only possible workable solution which will assure a safe and secure future for the people in Camp Ashraf.
What is Camp Ashraf
Camp Ashraf is situated northeast of the Iraqi town of Khalis in Diyali province, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad and about 20 kilometers west of the border with Iran.
Along with at least six other sites in Iraq, Camp Ashraf was given to the MKO as a headquarters and training site by Saddam Hussein. From this base, the Iraqi military equipped the MKO with tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers. Since 1983, the group has conducted operations against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War and later conducted operations against Iraqi Kurds during the 1991 uprising against Saddam. Before 2003 it was the base from which terrorist operations against Iran and inside Iraq have been planned and directed.
Named after Ashraf Rabiee a leading political prisoner under the Shah, the camp’s vital function since 1986 has been as the main ideological training base for both members and supporters of the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO). The base is still used for the MKO’s military and ideological training.
Following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq the base came under bombardment by American forces. After some initial resistance, with fifty fatalities on the MKO side, all MKO personnel were rounded up and corralled in Camp Ashraf. Over 3800 members were recorded. The MKO leader, Massoud Rajavi fled and went into hiding as American Special Forces attacked. He now issues his directives to the MKO members in Iraq and in western countries from a secret hideaway. In the months leading up to the invasion, a few hundred MKO members had been hastily transferred to Europe where they remain today. Among them was Massoud Rajavi’s lieutenant, Maryam Rajavi, who was arrested in France in June 2003 and is awaiting trial on terrorism related charges. Maryam Rajavi provides the MKO’s acceptable western front. She heads Rajavi’s deception campaigns in western political and media circles.
At present, within the boundaries of Camp Ashraf is Forward Operating Base Grizzly (formerly FOB Spartan, FOB Red Lion and FOB Barbarian). The FOB is where the Coalition forces reside. The Bulgarian Army is currently running the Temporary International Presence Facility, where refugees who defect from the PMOI are held.
Inside Camp Ashraf itself the MKO leadership continues to maintain control through its harsh cult methodology which denies all the members their basic human rights. The group retains its military structure with uniformed members undergoing both military and ideological training regimes.
Organisationally the chief characteristics of the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation are that:
• it uses psychological coercion and manipulation to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
• it forms an elitist totalitarian society
• its leader is self-appointed, autocratic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma
• it believes ‘the end justifies the means’ in order to solicit funds, recruit people, deceive potential supporters and to achieve political power
• its wealth does not benefit either the members or society
Even though he is in hiding, Massoud Rajavi continues as the sole decision maker for the group. He continues to espouse the use of violence to achieve his political aims. The MKO’s stated aim is to overthrow the Iranian regime in its entirety (that is removal of the system of Velayat Faghi) and replace it with Rajavi’s system of government with him as the country’s leader.
MKO personnel are indoctrinated at Camp Ashraf in the group’s ideology which involves submitting to the total, lifelong leadership of Massoud Rajavi. The MKO accept no other legal or moral law than that determined by Massoud Rajavi, and they submit without question to his dictates. According to Rajavi’s ideology he demands total obedience, members must forswear marriage and children, they must be willing to die or kill on demand. Under these conditions the only reasonable deduction which can be made is that anyone who has been indoctrinated in Camp Ashraf is owned by Massoud Rajavi. He has devised the term ‘living martyrs’ to describe the relationship of members to him. It means that members have effectively handed their ‘life’ to Rajavi to use and dispose of as he will.
The absolute value of Camp Ashraf to Massoud Rajavi is its guaranteed isolation. Members in the camp have no contact with the outside world. The camp is an essential element in controlling the behaviour and beliefs of the members. For this reason Rajavi has resisted any and all efforts to have the MKO re-located on any grounds, whether security or humanitarian. Individuals who have residence rights in western countries were instructed by Rajavi to refuse help and to demand that the group be treated as a whole entity and not as individual members. The continued wearing of military uniform reinforces this group identity.
Although the MKO combatants in Camp Ashraf enjoy some of the highest living standards in Iraq, the health, morale and wellbeing of camp residents has deteriorated progressively over the past five years. People who left the camp via TIPF have reported rape, fighting, murder and suspicious suicides taking place as residents struggle with the severe restrictions imposed by the MKO leaders. The head of Military Intelligence of Bulgaria was quoted by Fars News as saying that during 2007 the Bulgarian unit has had to deal with fourteen serious clashes in Camp Ashraf, describing them as "due to the unrest of the detainees over the years" while stressing that there was no threat to the Bulgarian soldiers.
The residents in Camp Ashraf were severely demoralized from the beginning of their capture when their leader Massoud Rajavi abandoned them and went into hiding instead of ordering the all-out attack on Iran which he had promised them. The sheer cowardice of this act has had irreversible effects on the group.
If we argue that in general terms terrorism needs both ‘form’ and ‘content’ together in order to come into being, then in this case, Camp Ashraf represents the form, or container, for Rajavi’s group. The content is his ideology of hatred and violence. If the form is removed, then no matter what is in the minds of the individuals, they will not go on to perform terrorism. It is like taking the gun from their hands.
What is happening at TIPF
When the MKO combatants were forcibly disarmed and confined to Camp Ashraf by US Special Forces in 2003 they were subsequently interviewed by FBI and military interrogators. Fingerprints and DNA samples were taken and ID cards were issued. During the course of these interviews several individuals expressed their wish to leave the MKO. The US army was obliged to establish a Temporary International Presence Facility (TIPF) alongside Camp Ashraf to house anyone who wanted to leave the MKO.
Both the residents of Camp Ashraf and the TIPF are guarded to protect them from revenge attacks by Kurdish and other Iraqis whose knowledge of the MKO is as part of Saddam Hussein’s repressive apparatus. Inside Camp Ashraf itself the MKO leadership continues to maintain control. The methodology of this control includes strict gender segregation, obligatory daily ‘cleansing’ reports and submitting to a micro-managed lifestyle including the denial of any external information. This state of affairs is what American and Bulgarian soldiers have been protecting for almost five years.
Over these five years several hundred people have left Camp Ashraf to take refuge with the Americans. As its tight grip on the members came under threat with each defection, the MKO response was to frighten its members with tales of rape and abuse by US soldiers if they ended up in TIPF.
The group has sent infiltrators into TIPF to try to control the atmosphere (aimed at discouraging people from going back to Iran) and also to direct US military police behaviour toward the group. In addition, conditions in TIPF until very recently were very basic with tents and US army rations for both soldiers and those who left the MKO. Camp Ashraf provides a standard of living which is excellent in comparison with air conditioned buildings, plentiful good food, plumbed bathrooms and a range of leisure facilities.
The refusal of the US army to make conditions outside Camp Ashraf better than conditions inside the MKO run camp has led to accusations that the intention has been to give leverage to the MKO leaders to keep people in the terrorist organisation. Indeed, the MKO has created its own ‘Exit’ unit to house around 200 people inside Camp Ashraf. These are people who have left the MKO but who, due to MKO pressure, are too afraid to go to TIPF and so remain under MKO hegemony.
Under the terms of protected persons status of the Fourth Geneva Convention detainees are not to be forcibly deported or repatriated. However, the US military reports that from TIPF, 380 have accepted voluntary repatriation and have been helped by Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross to be reunited with their families.
Some 208 former members, who remained in TIPF because they did not wish to go to Iran, asked for UN refugee status and transfer to third countries. However, with the huge demand on the UN and aid agencies to deal with massive internal displacement and Iraqi refugees, nothing has been accomplished to find places for them.
TIPF to close in six months
In January 2008, a senior Iraqi official appeared on Alaraghieh television explaining that the original owner of the land on which Camp Ashraf has been constructed has been granted permission by an Iraqi court to re-possess his land – land which had originally been illegally confiscated by Saddam Hussein and gifted to the MKO. The owner has been told that his land will be returned to him in six months. This will mean that both the TIPF and the whole of Camp Ashraf must be evacuated of personnel – whether American, Bulgarian or Iranian – within the next six months.
This news shed light on events which began in December 2007 when US Military Police began a process of emptying TIPF. Visitors to the camp say they were told by American soldiers that TIPF would be closing in six months’ time. They were told that the TIPF might possibly be moved to Mosel in Kurdistan, but this did not happen.
According to those who left TIPF in December, US military police told them they were free to leave and in fact could not stay as the camp was being dismantled. One group refused to leave at all and are still in the TIPF. The others were taken at intervals in small groups of up to five to a roadside some short distance away. They were filmed to prove they were alive and healthy and then left to make their own way. They were given American issued ‘laissez-passer’ which they were told would facilitate their exit from Iraq. However these papers did not allow anyone to travel south toward Baghdad and they were forced to move north. Those who arrived in Arbil managed to get some papers from the Kurdish regional government which allowed them to remain in the city. But these papers were taken away by local police after a short time. They now have no papers except American issued ID cards.
The Iraqi Ministry of National Security said it does not recognize the papers given to the former TIPF residents, and that if found outside the camp, they would be arrested and imprisoned for belonging to a foreign terrorist group.
Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Magazine who has been following the MKO’s situation reported on February 11, "About 100 tried to leave Iraq, some of them carrying US military letters for travel to Turkey. Documents of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees show that at one point in their saga nearly two weeks ago, 19 were turned back to Iraq by Turkey, dozens were picked up in Kurdish northern Iraq and some forced to return to the dangers of central Iraq, and 26 were missing."
Other reports state that one man was shot and wounded by border police and is now in hospital in Arbil the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Amnesty International said it was alerted to six individuals in prison in Turkey. They were not returned to Iraq.
There are now 109 remaining in TIPF.
During his trip to Iraq, Massoud Khodabandeh intervened with Iraqi Government officials with a rescue plan for these people. After talks with Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights, officials agreed to set up an NGO which would provide accommodation and food for those Iranians who had left the MKO but who, since the Americans were closing TIPF, did not have anywhere to go. The organisation – named Sahar Family Foundation – quickly set up a network of places to which the former TIPF people could go, including Baghdad and Arbil.
Mr Khodabandeh then visited the TIPF near Khales in Diyali province to inform the remaining people that he would provide safe passage from the camp to a place where they could stay until it was possible to send them to another country. Three people immediately accepted this offer of help. More have since followed. But this is an interim measure designed to rescue those removed from TIPF and who reject MKO membership. It does not of course address the main issue which is to find a place of safety for all the residents of Camp Ashraf.
Concerned observers have pointed out the error in the logistics of closing TIPF before the problem of relocating people from Camp Ashraf has been resolved. TIPF represented the only way individuals could escape the clutches of the MKO hierarchy. It is only fair to allow people somewhere to escape to rather than be treated as Massoud Rajavi’s chattels.
It is intended that the newly created NGO Sahar Family Foundation will replace the function of TIPF in providing a safety net for those who want to leave the MKO. Once they are safe they can then be helped either to go home to their families or to find a third country in which to take refuge.
On January 31, 2008 Massoud Khodabandeh attended a Symposium at the Centre for International and Inter-governmental Studies of the University of Baghdad.
The Symposium, a round table discussion centred on the issue of terrorism in Iraq and possible solutions to this problem, was divided into 3 parts:
– the general threat posed by terrorist groups and the ways they operate in Iraq
– foreign terrorist organisations in Iraq
– the creation of terrorist organisations in Iraq and the global supporters of these terrorist groups
Participants of the Symposium included Dr. Aziz Jabar Shayal, Dr. Samir Alshweely and Dr. Rasheed Saleh, professors of Political Studies from the University of Baghdad. Several governmental and non-governmental representatives from a wide range of ministries and NGOs, including representatives from Iraq’s Ministries of Defence, Human Rights and Security participated.
Massoud Khodabandeh, who is also a researcher with the Centre de Recherches sur le Terrorisme depuis le 11 septembre 2001 (Paris), and who was in Baghdad for meetings concerning the fate of the remaining individuals following dismantlement of Camp Ashraf which houses the disarmed Iranian terrorist organisation Mojahedin Khalq Organisation, was invited to participate in the discussion.
Prominent among the participants was Mr. Bassam Alhassani, advisor to Prime Minister Noori Al Maleki.
The Symposium ended with a full report on the issues discussed and Dr. Aziz Jabar Shayal delivered the concluding resolution in which one paragraph emphasized the necessity for the dismantlement and deportation of the foreign terrorist Mojahedin Khalq organisation and encouragement and facilitation by the government and others to help the remaining individuals find a safe palace outside Iraq and return to normal life.
The Symposium was covered by media representatives who reported from the meeting room.
Alaraghieh television, Iraq’s main TV network, reported the Symposium and broadcast a brief interview with Massoud Khodabandeh.
In the interview, Massoud Khodabandeh emphasised above all the right of the Iraqi people to enjoy security and have justice served against the perpetrators of violent acts in their country, in particular the criminal heads of the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation which was involved in the massacre of the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings against Saddam Hussein in March 1991. Mr Khodabandeh said that in his belief and according to the studies of the Centre de Recherches sur le Terrorisme, the phenomenon of terrorism cannot have a single solution and needs inter governmental cooperation as well as the involvement of NGOs to protect the human rights of those who have been inveigled by terrorist leaders onto this path, and to give them a second chance of integration back into their societies.
Thanking the organisers of the Symposium Mr Khodabandeh emphasised the cult culture of terrorist organisations and the methods they use to brainwash their followers. He also gave examples of foreign support by some influential groups and parties who facilitate the flow of finance for terrorism. Not the least the relationship between the remainders of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, London, Washington and other countries with the Mojahedin Khalq Organisation, and the way this relationship is becoming clear in the escalation of violence in Diyali province.
The Symposium lasted for over two hours. Afterwards the participants formed smaller groups to further discuss the variety of issues raised by the Seminar.
Results of consultation in Iraq
Massoud Khodabandeh of Iran-Interlink was invited to Iraq by the office of Prime Minister Noori Al Maleki for a series of consultations on the problem of foreign linked terrorism in the country.
The Iraqi Government is seeking a rapid and thorough solution to remove the remaining members of Mojahedin-e Khalq from Iraq and shut down Camp Ashraf.
While in Iraq Mr Khodabandeh met with representatives of the Iraqi Ministries of Human Rights, Security, Foreign Affairs and Defence. He also had meetings with advisors to Prime Minister Al Maleki, the Judiciary, NGOs and human rights organisations currently in Iraq. Further meetings have been held with representatives of the Kurdish Patriotic Union and regional government representatives.
The following represents a summary of the findings of Mr Khodabandeh from these meetings. It must be stressed that no differentiation is made at all in the various views below between former and active members of the MKO.
Minister of Human Rights Vajdan Mikhael Salem’s point of view: Under no circumstances can we accept the MKO (whether as a group or as individuals, whether before or after renouncing terrorism) to stay in Iraq. We do not recommend this because we know of their past and the danger posed by Iraqi Shiite and Kurds (revenge) to them. They are only alive in Iraq because of American protection for them. The Ministry will help in the transfer of individuals to Iran or other countries in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Ministry will also give guarantees about good treatment by Iran under the terms of an amnesty for returning MKO and, from its offices in Iran, regularly monitors the situation of those who have already accepted voluntary repatriation.
Ministry of National Security point of view: We have evidence of the co-operation between the remains of Saddam and Al Qaida with the MKO using Camp Ashraf as a meeting place to plot against the Iraqi people. They are part of the destabilization forces in Diyali province. These individuals are trained by Saddam’s Republican Guard and if given freedom inside the country, they will be the core trainers for insurgents. This is not acceptable and therefore the American Army should find other alternatives for them outside Iraq.
(The National Security Minister Shirwan Al Va’eli has repeatedly insisted there is no place for any terrorist organisation in the new Iraq and that Iraq has and will continue to have full security co-operation with neighbouring countries including Iran, Kuwait and etc, in order to eliminate the threats of terrorism in the region. Minister Shirwan Al Va’eli has stressed that he is talking with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence to expand Iraq’s cooperation with other countries to fight terrorist networks and in this respect some workshops have already begun.)
Foreign Affairs Ministry point of view: The MKO and PKK are foreign terrorist organisations. They are especially harmful to the relations between Iraq and its neighbouring countries at this point of time. Iraq cannot accept nor afford further problems by accommodating international terrorist organisations whether as a group or as individuals.
Advisor to the Prime Minister’s point of view: The MKO is the tip of the anti-Iraqi forces still in Iraq. They are responsible for the massacre of Kurds and Shiites and they should be handed over to the Iraq Judiciary to bring them to justice. The fate of the MKO (and other remains of Saddam who are wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity) is a matter for Iraq and the US should hand them over.
Judiciary point of view: There are already claims against the heads of this organisation (about 150 individuals). There are arrest warrants as recent as a few weeks ago for crimes committed in the last few months by MKO heads (Abbas Davari, the political liaison of MKO in Camp Ashraf, Mozhgan Parsaii, Commander of Rajavi’s army in Iraq and Sediqeh Hoseini, Secretary General of the MKO). There are several ongoing investigations into the deeds of MKO leaders against Iraqi people. The Judiciary should investigate all of these and then decide who is to be deported and who is to be brought to justice.
UNHCR: (Ms Hanieh Mofti refused to accept a meeting with me or any of the families of those trapped in Camp Ashraf, although she travels regularly to Camp Ashraf for private meetings and dinner parties with the heads of the terrorist organisation.) As far as I could ascertain, Ms Mofti is sympathetic to the MKO’s demand that all its members should be given refugee status in Iraq but not under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi Government. They should continue to be protected as a [uniformed military] group in Iraq but without the permission of the Iraqi Government.
[We must assume that refugee status can only be given to individuals and not to an army. In this case, perhaps Ms Mofti must wait for the US army to take the military uniforms from these people and then treat them as individuals according UNHCR rules.]
Amnesty International and other Human Rights organisations’ point of view: MKO members should not be given to Iran, nor should they be given to Iraq because of the insecurity of human rights and the death penalty in those countries. MKO members need to be given humanitarian protection (not indemnity from prosecution for crimes) meaning that they will certainly need to be taken to third countries.
American Army point of view: No official view was made. However, after 5 years the army is apparently still prevaricating about US polices against terrorism. (Certainly the US army’s ambiguous approach is widely perceived as facilitating terrorism in the region.) Actual behaviour of the US army toward internees at Camp Ashraf can only be interpreted as tacit approval for the group’s continued existence and activities. (Camp Ashraf is used to host meetings of Diyali tribal leaders loyal to the Baathists).
The point of view of the Centre for International and Inter-governmental Studies of the University of Baghdad: (from the report of the symposium and according to their announcement and recommendation to the Iraqi Government) MKO individuals have to be helped by western countries. They should not be kept in Iraq for the good of people of Iraq and their own good. The group should be dismantled by US and UK forces before transfer outside Iraq. The main support for the group comes from London, Washington and Tel Aviv and the Mojahedin should be transferred to these places with the help of their backers.
Families of MKO members
When the interim Iraqi government assumed control of Iraq in June 2004, the internees in Camp Ashraf were granted protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. After years of forced [by Rajavi] estrangement, the families of people trapped in Camp Ashraf began to hope that they could at last get some news of their relatives there.
The Fourth Geneva Convention of course protects the internees from forced repatriation. Instead the families risked their lives to travel to Iraq from all over the world in the hopes of meeting a son or daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, brother or sister. Some families had not seen their relatives for over twenty years. Some were not even sure if they were still alive.
Such family visits were undertaken according to the rights established under Chapter VIII which deals with external relations of detainees, in particular Article 116 which states: ‘Every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible’.
Article 8 also clearly states: ‘Protected persons may in no circumstances renounce in part or in entirety the rights secured to them by the present Convention…’
But from the beginning the visiting families met resistance. For four years it has been almost impossible for anyone to visit their relative without the presence of MKO minders who overshadow the families to prevent free association or conversation. Even where families travelled to Iraq after taking legal advice and procuring legal documents outlining their right to have free and unfettered access to their relative, they have been unable to secure such meetings. Unfortunately, in some cases families have been turned away by American military police, acting presumably on orders from MKO commanders to refuse access.
This latter state of affairs has been experienced by so many families that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the American soldiers are taking their instructions from the MKO rather than vice versa. There is no reason whatsoever – legal, moral or for security – that these families should be denied these visits. In one case a UK resident family was told by an American soldier to contact the MKO in Britain (where of course it is proscribed so that this action of itself would be illegal) and to ask the group to arrange a visit, including a stay in the MKO controlled Camp Ashraf. This family were left wondering what the legal ramifications would be if they had followed this advice, would they be allowed entry back into the UK without arrest for contacting a terrorist entity in the UK and visiting a terrorist training camp?
Where such obstacles are overcome and visits do take place due to the sheer courage and persistence of families who turn up at the gate of Camp Ashraf and refuse to leave, the conditions of the visit do not meet even a minimum standard expected under the Fourth Geneva Convention or indeed under any human rights legislation.
Families are harassed, insulted, physically assaulted and repeatedly accused of being ‘agents of the mullahs’ regime’ sent to undermine the MKO’s struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. Among the most recent cases of a family’s attempt to meet relatives was the Mohammady family from Canada. This was their ninth visit to Iraq in an attempt to visit their daughter Somayeh who was taken to Camp Ashraf some years ago when she was seventeen years old. Mr Mostafa and Mrs Mahboubeh Mohammady spent three months in Iraq and saw their daughter for only 45 minutes.
This time the parents were allowed to stay in a bungalow in the US part of Camp Ashraf for three days. On December 8, after constant requests to the Americans, they were able to meet with their daughter, Somayeh, for 45 minutes. Somayeh was afraid to speak to her father stating ‘he is an agent of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’, but did talk to her mother.
On the morning of December 9 the American soldiers in charge of TIPF asked the Mohammady family to leave the camp since they had met with their daughter. The Americans escorted them to the gates and let them out while still watching them from behind their gates. As Camp Ashraf is located in a deserted area with the closest road and public transport some kilometers away, the Mohammadys began walking. Suddenly they were confronted by a group of MKO who pretended to be passing drivers and who offered them a lift.
Based on their prior knowledge and experiences of the MKO, Mr Mohammady and his wife refused their offer and kept walking towards the main road. At this point, the MKO grabbed Mrs Mohammady by force and pushed her into the car in an attempted kidnap. At the same time Mr Mohammady was defending himself against their physical attacks and also trying to secure their bags since their assailants were slashing them with knives and managed to break open their camera trying to remove the memory card by knife. When Mr Mohammady started shouting for help one of the MKO guys pulled a gun from under the driver’s seat and put it to his head.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation the American soldiers who were watching from a short distance intervened to rescue them and later arranged for a safe ride to Baghdad. Upon arrival in Baghdad Mr and Mrs Mohammady received medical attention for their injuries and began legal action against the leaders of the MKO for the damages incurred by their family, including this latest assault.
The result was that the Baghdad Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the three leading MKO members in Camp Ashraf – additional to two existing arrest warrants for each of the three which had previously been issued by two other courts.
In February two more families experienced disturbing meetings with relatives. Ali Bashiri and his daughter traveled from Norway with legal papers demanding a visit with the girl’s mother. When Mr Bashiri went to the US embassy in Baghdad with papers drawn up by a Norwegian lawyer he was expelled. Eventually he and his daughter got to see the mother in the presence of MKO minders. The mother did not come closer than three metres and only swore viciously at her daughter before leaving.
In another case, Mr Reza Akbari Nasab traveled to Camp Ashraf to ask for the body of his nephew Yaser who died there last year so the family could bury him in Iran. Mr Akbari Nasab told Alaraghieh television:
"I went to the American Camp at Ashraf and asked to meet my brother and his son, I also asked them to let me go to my nephew’s tomb and see the documents of his death.
"The American officials told me to make my request to the MKO authorities [sic]. During the hours I was waiting for my beloved ones the American soldiers and officials hosted me in a courteous manner.
"I was enjoying the friendly atmosphere of the American camp which had decreased the pressure on me when a man carrying a file came over shouting at me: “why have you come here?”
"He was speaking Persian angrily so I didn’t recognize him. But he was no other than my kind and lovely brother, Morteza!
"He was carrying a file which he said contained my writings on the death of Yaser. He actually threatened me that he would hand them to the Americans since I had written some polite criticisms of the American officials.
"I told him sympathetically: “you may be right, but let‘s have a short talk which is something normal in any political organization’’. But he didn’t accept and he didn’t even let me get closer than 3 meters.
"My former kind brother insulted me in front of the American soldiers. My nephew Musa didn’t get permission to visit me since he is a German citizen and the Mojahedin were afraid. The Americans didn’t answer my questions simply and to answer my claim that the MKO members are manipulated they just said that it’s not their responsibility!
"They didn’t let me visit the tomb of Yaser either.
"I expected more of American democracy.
"While leaving, I told the American lieutenant: ‘’you are developing a new Al-Qaida.”"
There are many families like the Mohammadys, Bashiris and Akbari Nasabs, who refuse to give up on their relatives trapped in Camp Ashraf. But they have limited resources. Following a meeting with Massoud Khodabandeh who explained the situation in detail, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights pledged to help by supporting a newly formed non-governmental organization called Sahar Family Foundation which will provide help to the visiting families and to MKO members who leave the organization in Iraq.
Sahar Family Foundation has already established a network of safe accommodation in several towns, including Baghdad, to house the individuals who were removed from TIPF in December 2007. In January, three others left TIPF to take refuge with the group.
Sahar Family Foundation statement
The Sahar (Dawn) Family Foundation is a non-governmental, non-political and non-profitable organisation which has been established to provide humanitarian aid to the families of members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) who are based in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. This foundation is solely focused on charitable and human rights issues regardless of political or group considerations and geographical boundaries and only aims to help the suffering families.
The Sahar Family Foundation covers a great number of families as well as former members of the MKO who seek help. This foundation enjoys good support amongst the local and international bodies in Iraq which is the base of the foundation.
The MKO has been based in Iraq, precisely in Camp Ashraf, for more than two decades. This organisation is run as a classic cult and therefore would not give its members the chance of free association with the outside world or with their families. Therefore the families of these members are suffering severely and seek assistance from humanitarian organisations.
When the former regime of Iraq was toppled, a small light of hope lit the hearts of the families and they thought that, in the new situation in Iraq, they would be able to visit their beloved ones freely and adequately without the presence of a third party. Some of these families have not heard from their relatives for more than 20 years and some even don’t know if their beloved ones are still safe and sound. According to these families those who are residing in Camp Ashraf – as is the case with many cults throughout the world – are considered to be captives both mentally and physically and therefore are assumed as hostages. The Sahar Family Foundation is striving to reunite the members of these families again using every possible means.
Camp Ashraf is the base of the MKO members which is guarded by US forces in Iraq. On the other hand the present Iraqi government insists that Camp Ashraf must be dismantled. Iraqi constitutional law does not permit any foreign terrorist organisations to remain in that country. The US State Department as well as that of Canada, along with the European Union and the British parliament and many other governmental and international bodies have officially designated the MKO as a destructive and terrorist cult. Obviously the members of a cult and their families are considered to be the prime victims who must be helped. In May 2005 Human Rights Watch published a report called ‘No Exit’ which details human rights abuses meted out by the MKO against its own members.
At the present time Baghdad is the central meeting point for the misfortunate families and the former members, as well as concerned entities who are all waiting for the crack of dawn. They seek help from humanitarian bodies throughout the world. Anyone can help a little. On the other hand, of course, Camp Ashraf, according to many international security professionals, is a centre for training terrorists. The families are concerned about the fate of their children who are subjected to brainwashing and terrorist training.
Please contact us. We would be more than pleased to have your comments and ideas. Help us in any way you can. The members of Sahar Family Foundation are all volunteers who have moved to Iraq to work in the difficult situation of that country merely to gain family reunions.
When the regime of Saddam Hussein came to an end, 3,800 members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation were bombarded, captured and disarmed by US Special Forces in Iraq and confined to Camp Ashraf.
Five years on the American military must be given full credit for the excellent job it has performed in containing the MKO in Iraq and keeping the people secure. Dealing with a dangerous, destructive cult is not an easy task. It is widely acknowledged that the American forces are perhaps the only ones who could do this, particularly in the violent and chaotic conditions of Iraq.
But the situation has now developed to the point at which urgent action must be taken to deal with the group. As this report has shown, the MKO can no longer stay in Iraq. The Iraqi Government has taken matters into its own hands and is pressing on with moves to prosecute and punish any MKO members the Judiciary can prove have been guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq, and to quickly remove all others. The whole organisation is at risk if it remains in Iraq.
Organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross and others are absolutely clear that Iraq is not a place the MKO can stay. Indeed it presents perhaps the most dangerous place in the world for the group’s members – even, as events with the TIPF people has shown, for the ones who have separated from the MKO. There should be no doubt at all that if the group does remain in Iraq and the Americans step back even a little from protecting it then there will be bloodshed and violence.
At this point in time, people are looking to the American Administration for leadership to resolve this problem. The MKO are prisoners and must be dealt with as such. It is expected that the American military will continue to garner the credit for dealing with the MKO and assist the efforts of human rights organizations, the families and the Iraqi Government rather than hinder them. The American Administration is facing a legal and moral dilemma which requires attention sooner rather than later.
In particular, does the American military intend to defy the Iraqi Judiciary when arrest warrants are served by not handing over the subjects? Will American soldiers continue to defy its moral and humanitarian obligations by continuing to repulse the families of MKO members who want only a private meeting with their relatives? Will American soldiers argue that they cannot bring MKO members the short distance from Camp Ashraf to Baghdad to meet a parent who has travelled thousands of miles to see them under the terms of protected persons status?
Sahar Family Foundation was established as an interim measure to help families of MKO trapped in Camp Ashraf and to help anyone who wants to leave. There should be no doubt that the existence of Sahar will increase and accelerate the defections from the MKO. Indeed this is already being seen. American soldiers can either help or hinder in this situation. The result will be the same but the credit for good action will go where it is due.
This however, does not address the fundamental problem of what to do with the active MKO members in Camp Ashraf. They must be given refuge somewhere and the only feasible place is in a western country. Currently MKO members in the camp exist in a kind of legal and moral limbo. While western governments are clear about the terrorist nature of the MKO in their own countries, none wants to take responsibility for what happens to the people in Iraq. Every major western government has proscribed the group as terrorist. No one wants them.
In Europe, efforts to de-proscribe the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation have been led, particularly in the UK, by the neoconservatives in London, Washington and Tel Aviv. They argue that the Mojahedin has renounced violence. Until now, these powerful lobbies have evaded taking responsibility for or even acknowledging the humanitarian crisis looming over the people in Camp Ashraf. However, the value of this group for its supporters is that it represents ‘the largest Iranian opposition group’ because of the number of active members. It makes sense to have those members safe rather than languishing in Iraqi jails. Supporters like the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, chaired by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, have a moral and political obligation to rescue exactly those people they have vigorously promoted as the means to bring democracy to Iran. The lives and rights of the MKO members in Camp Ashraf must be protected as a priority.
This is only possible if they are brought to safety in the west. As one Iraqi Minister said bluntly, "the western supporters of the MKO especially in the UK should keep their tools in their own closets!". Both Iraq and Iran see Europe as the final and perhaps only destination for the MEK. Transformed from an army into a civilian group, this would allow the active members who wish to do so, to continue with non-violent opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Certainly de-proscription of the MKO in the UK would enable Iraq to remove the MKO as a group and allow London to receive them individually as refugees. The resources which are currently used to maintain the camp in Iraq must also be transferred to support them in the UK. Of course, any members who wish to voluntarily repatriate to Iran should continue to be protected by existing guarantees by the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and the ICRC.
This is a rescue package which is workable and which will have the best outcome for Iraq, the UK and the ‘Iranian Resistance’ which says it has renounced violence. This solution provides a straightforward and humanitarian resolution to the so-far intractable problem of what to do with the group. Indeed, given the facts, it is probably the only solution.
Sahar Family Foundation
Tel: +964 – 7808481650 (Arabic and Farsi)
Contact (outside Iraq):
Tel: +44 – 2076935044 (English only)
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New document on Mojahedin Khalq released by RAND
(The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq, A Policy Conundrum)
RAND, August 05, 2009
A new document (133pages) was released today by RAND
… For more than 60 years, the RAND Corporation has pursued its nonprofit mission by conducting research on important and complicated problems. Initially, RAND focused on issues of national security. Eventually, RAND expanded its intellectual reserves …
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… A RAND study examined the evolution of this controversial decision, which has left the United States open to charges of hypocrisy in the war on terrorism. An examination of MeK activities establishes its cultic practices and its deceptive recruitment and public relations strategies. A series of coalition decisions served to facilitate the MeK leadership’s control over its members. The government of Iraq wants to expel the group, but no country other than Iran will accept it. Thus, the RAND study concludes that the best course of action would be …
(Massoud and Maryam Rajavi the cult leaders)
U.S. Handling of Mujahedin-E-Khalq Since U.S. Invasion of Iraq Is Examined
(The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq , A Policy Conundrum)
Jeremiah Goulka, Lydia Hansell, Elizabeth Wilke, Judith Larson, RAND, August 04, 2009
(Massoud Rajavi and Saddam Hussein)
At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Coalition forces classified the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant organization from Iran with cult-like elements that advocates the overthrow of Iran’s current government, as an enemy force.
The MeK had provided security services to Saddam Hussein from camps established in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War to fight Iran in collaboration with Saddam’s forces and resources. A new study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, looks at how coalition forces handled this group following the invasion.
Although the MeK is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, coalition forces never had a clear mission on how to deal with it.
After a ceasefire was signed between Coalition forces and the MeK, the U.S. Secretary of Defense designated this group’s members as civilian "protected persons" rather than combatant prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The coalition’s treatment of the MeK leaves it – and the United States in particular – open to charges of hypocrisy, offering security to a terrorist group rather than breaking it up.
Research suggests that most of the MeK rank-and-file are neither terrorists nor freedom fighters, but trapped and brainwashed people who would be willing to return to Iran if they were separated from the MeK leadership. Many members were lured to Iraq from other countries with false promises, only to have their passports confiscated by the MeK leadership, which uses physical abuse, imprisonment, and other methods to keep them from leaving.
Iraq wants to expel the group, but no country other than Iran will accept it. The RAND study suggests the best course of action would have been to repatriate MeK rank-and-file members back to Iran, where they have been granted amnesty since 2003. To date, Iran appears to have upheld its commitment to MeK members in Iran. The study also concludes better guidelines be established for the possible detention of members of designated terrorist organizations.
The study, "The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum," can be found here.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with the authors, contact Lisa Sodders in the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 393-0411, ext. 7139, or [email protected].
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Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps
New U.S. approach to Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO, MEK) in Camp Ashraf overlooks the victims’ human rights
… The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc. Nine years after the fall of Saddam …
Attitudes are slowly crystallising and shifting over what should be done about the MEK, with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey introducing a new and positive approach in U.S. dealings with the group in Iraq. But the July 4 Miami Herald article ‘Iranian dissidents in Iraq want refuge in 3rd country’ , also highlights the danger that various elements are still trying to derive their own benefits from the MEK even though the demise of Camp Ashraf has become inevitable. Of course you would need to ask those involved what they each hope to get out of such a defunct group.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, addressing only MEK leaders, has urged them to “‘dissolve’ their paramilitary organization and become refugees someplace else in Iraq”. In its turn the MEK itself has already threatened to massacre its own members if any external body interferes in the camp. Jeffrey added that the group "really believe that the U.N. and the United States will protect them forever." Well, they have good reason to believe that to be so.
Trita Parsi’s timely article Washington’s Favorite Terrorists exposed U.S. hypocrisy in dealing with the MEK in Washington. But we may very well see a similar level of support continuing in Iraq. The obvious way this would manifest would be for the MEK to be taken (en masse) inside a U.S. military base and held there until further notice. This would protect the group from Iraqi attempts to expel them from the country, and also obviate the need for the U.N. to enter Camp Ashraf and rescue the individual residents from their enforced imprisonment by the MEK leadership.
The wholesale transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf would truly be a human rights disaster. The sooner it is acknowledged that Rajavi is nobody’s representative but his own, the sooner the victims of the MEK will be helped.
From the hardliners in Iran who want to keep their dangerous foreign backed enemy, to the neoconservatives in the U.S. who want to keep the hatred between Iran and the west (as the neocon version of Holocaust denial, the fact that the MEK has killed so many Iranians is what feeds this hatred), to Iraqi internal factions which want to use the MEK for attacking other factions, to Europeans who still believe the MEK are a useful bargaining chip with Iran or can be used to influence the internal affairs of Iraq. All these have an interest in keeping the MEK intact. None wants the dissolution of the camp or the organisation. They all want to stop the camp being disbanded because they are using the MEK for their own various agendas.
The problem is that without taking the necessary action to access the individual residents of the camp they are essentially being left in the ownership of the Rajavis and their backers. In this respect where are the human rights organisations which should be directly involved in helping these victims? What attempts have the U.N. made to actually get inside the camp and have free access to the residents? Human Rights Watch published its ‘No Exit’ report in 2005 which was laudable, but what have they done since then? Amnesty International still prefers to think of the MEK as an entity and ignore the existence of the individuals in the camp. What has AI said about the internal problems of the residents; the daily violations and abuses of their basic human rights?
The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc.
Nine years after the fall of Saddam and the disappearance of the cult leader it is not acceptable for a U.S. official to simply try to move the group from one part of the world to the other part without the slightest concern about the human rights of the captives there.
Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, NCRI, Rajavi cult) began their terror campain by killing Americans
… Massoud Rajavi was on the stage and while he had his hands on his waist he began a war cry against the USA, and in his admiration for Osama Ben Laden and his organization, Al Qaeda, he said, ”This was fanatical Islam which trembled and shacked the basis of US Imperialism and they destroyed the twin towers which were the symbol of their power, and successfully reduced it to rubble through their successful mission”. Then he (Massoud Rajavi) with a smile on his face continued his war cry and said, ”What will happen to the USA if revolutionary Islam with our Ideology and Maryam’s leadership comes to power, then this paper tiger (the USA) will be destroyed as a whole.” …
Iran Interlink, November 06, 2010
* Some ot the Mojahedin Khalq documents from their own publications:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
Mojahedin began their terrorist operations against American citizens and American offices located in Iran in 1971 which are as follows:
– June 22, 1972- U.S. Air Force Brigadier General HAROLD PRICE, chief of the Air Force Section of U.S. Military Advisory Group in Iran.
– January 1973 – bombing the office of Shell Oil Company.
– A few days later bombing the office of Pan American airlines
– 3 June 1973 – assassination of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Hawkins, U.S. military mission.
– 25 May 1974 bombing of Jewish American establishments like General and British establishments like Yorkshire Bank and Tichno Co. HQs
– January 27 1975, in response to the visit of Henry Kissinger to Iran the explosion of the office of TT International and Joan Doer Company.
– 11 May 1975 – assassination of Colonel Paul Schaeffer and Lieutenant Colonel Jack Turner, U.S. Air Force officers in the mission.
– 4th July 1975, PMOI’s terrorists stopped the motorcade of the American Ambassador in Tehran and opened fired on his car, but because of the darkness inside of the car, an Iranian official who was working for American Embassy in Tehran and was the PMOI’s infiltration agent was killed by mistake.
– In July 1975, two bombs were exploded in two places, first in the USA and Iran Committee building and the second one in the English Consul in the city of Mashad.
– 28 August 1976 – 3 civilian employees of Rockwell International, Donald J Smith, Robert R Grangrad and William C. Catrel, advisor to the Iranian military were subject to bombing and kidnapping.
1. In December of 1970 carried out an abortive attempt to kidnap U.S. Ambassador Douglas MacArthur.
2. President Richard M. Nixon’s trip was marred by a series of bombings, including one explosion at the tomb of the Shah’s father shortly before the President and his hosts were scheduled to arrive.
3. The offices of El Al Airlines, Shell Petroleum, British Petroleum, British Overseas Airways, a Jewish Emigration office in Tehran, and numerous other U.S. facilities and properties were bombed and victimized.
4. In 1979, they supported the American Embassy occupation in Tehran and participated in the occupation of the Embassy by their agents who were student leaders.
As a result of the terrorist operation which happened in 9/11 in the USA, every country became astonished and confused at such brutal and barbaric acts, which targeted thousands innocent people in the twin towers, and all these countries and their governments condemned such brutality and savagery. But, surprisingly the PMOI’s operatives and leaders threw a very big party in Bagherzadeh Garrison in Iraq and celebrated that incident and showed their admiration for that terrorist act by dancing, shouting and congratulating one another in front of their leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi.
Massoud Rajavi was on the stage and while he had his hands on his waist he began a war cry against the USA, and in his admiration for Osama Ben Laden and his organization, Al Qaeda, he said, ”This was fanatical Islam which trembled and shacked the basis of US Imperialism and they destroyed the twin towers which were the symbol of their power, and successfully reduced it to rubble through their successful mission”. Then he (Massoud Rajavi) with a smile on his face continued his war cry and said, ”What will happen to the USA if revolutionary Islam with our Ideology and Maryam’s leadership comes to power, then this paper tiger (the USA) will be destroyed as a whole.”
After the downfall of Saddam Hussein, all the PMOI members underwent various interviews for recognition of their identification by the US State Department’s agents, the CIA, FBI, and specifically US Military Information section MI. They gained a huge amount of very valuable information from the PMOI members – all of which documents and information substantiate and prove that the ideology and the strategy of the PMOI are all anti-western, and particularly anti USA.
After the downfall of Saddam Hussein, the PMOI rapidly mobilized all its organization for three weeks to destroy all books, CD’s, tapes, newspapers, archives, and even the members’ personal memorandums which were produced in various of Rajavi’s sessions and gatherings. Whatever could be interpreted as anti-USA were pulled out of their library, archives, offices, storage rooms and etc, and were all burned to ashes under the direct supervision of the PMOI’s commanders. Right now if you go to the PMOI’s main garrison Camp Ashraf, you won’t find even a single piece of paper which is anti-USA. They performed the same exercise with their computers as well.
The US State Department has justly listed the PMOI and its political wing the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) as a terrorist organization in its terrorist list. While the State Department listed them as a terrorist organization, it did not have the valuable information which it now has now. In a report that was published in 2005 by the US State Department regarding the terrorist organization list, it mentioned justly that the PMOI is a potential threat and is a very dangerous terrorist organization. In that report it was mentioned that the PMOI has the potential to become a dangerous organization in any period of time because of their special terrorist training and cohesive organizational structure. For instance, on 17th of June 2003 when Maryam Rajavi was arrested by French Police, PMOI leaders ordered their members to set themselves on fire in public streets. If there was no complaint and protest from the international bodies and humanitarian organizations against this kind of brutality and savagery, it was still going to become one of the biggest of human catastrophes.
Tthe US State Department has justly listed the PMOI as a terrorist organization in the terrorist list and has justly mentioned in the US State Department report that the PMOI has signs of being a cult. we must stress that even though the State Department reports of 2005 and 2006 are not complete, that the report shows that this organization is a religious cult.
* Some ot the Mojahedin Khalq documents from their own publications:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)