Bakhshali Alizadeh, Iranian Oral History, August 09 2019:… In this meeting, Bakhshali Alizadeh, Ibrahim Khodabandeh and Mohammad Mosaheb, related some of their memories of Mujahidin Khalq Organization and Mersad Operation. Bakhshali Alizadeh was the first narrator. ‘I was captured by the Ba’athist forces in the Musian zone at the front of the Iraq war against Iran in the March of 1986.’ he said, ‘For about three and a half years, I was in Ramadi Camp No. 10, an Iranian prison camp in Iraq. Bakhshali Alizadeh : Memories with Mujahidin Khalq Organisation MKO
Bakhshali Alizadeh : Memories with Mujahidin Khalq Organisation MKO
The 304th session of “Night of Memories”-1
FROM CAPTIVITY TO BITTER DAY
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian
According to the Iranian Oral History website, the 304th ‘Night of Memorials of Holy Defense’ event was held on Thursday, July 25, 2019 at the Sureh Hall of the Hozeh Honari. In this meeting, Bakhshali Alizadeh, Ibrahim Khodabandeh and Mohammad Mosaheb, related some of their memories of Mujahidin Khalq Organization and Mersad Operation. Bakhshali Alizadeh was the first narrator. ‘I was captured by the Ba’athist forces in the Musian zone at the front of the Iraq war against Iran in the March of 1986.’ he said, ‘For about three and a half years, I was in Ramadi Camp No. 10, an Iranian prison camp in Iraq. That camp consisted of four divisions, and I was in the third one. I was seriously ill and had many injuries, but there was no enough treatment. I saw that I am at the end stage of my lifetime, so I decided to spend the rest of my captivity in the Mujahidin or Rajavi sect. They came to the camp and propagate widely. They wanted to recruit. I had weighed my condition and said myself that I will be with them for a maximum of two years and then return to Iran when the prisoners were swapped.
Iraq was the headquarters of the organization. I was able to reach there and to join them. They were strong in terms of social relationships; they quickly discovered the weaknesses and strengths of individuals and used them. To what extent are people involved in the organization sensitive and what are their religious beliefs? To what extent are their political, social, and economic beliefs; they took all these into account and came up with the same “brainwashing” term. The organization had religious foundations. They used their beliefs, if some members had strong religious beliefs; from the early days of Islam to the time of Imam Zaman and afterwards. On the other hand, about those who claimed to be laic and had little to do with religious matters, social class issues and individual and social freedoms were discussed. I was neither religious nor laic, but was very sensitive to things in society, such as class distinction and the rich and poor. I could not accept that some people lived at ease and comfort and some people in poverty and misery. They quickly recognized this and began working on it. They said that the cause of these misery is the Islamic Republic! They could not fulfill their promises had given at the beginning of the revolution, so they must be eliminated!
I was one of those who had gone to defend my country, but after a while I realized that I had become one of the elements working against my country. The time I had gone, was coincided with Mersad Operation, which was called ‘Forough Javidan’ in the organization. The organization had broken after this operation. There were many casualties of nearly 1500 people. For an organization with about four thousand member at that time, a number of 1500 people was not few. On the other hand, there were many injured who had filled Iraqi hospitals. Few were able to survive, who were the forces behind the front line. At that time, Maryam Rajavi did not still shoulder heavy burden. The main task was done by Massoud Rajavi. The subject of all his speeches was to consolidate this despairing and depressing atmosphere in the organization. It was not a small blow. They aimed to attack to occupy Tehran. Rajavi’s headquarters had been prepared in Tehran. They had come up with this idea and had failed to fulfill it. It was a mental, physical, ideological, and a political blow. All of these blows hit the whole body of the organization. Massoud Rajavi wished to manage the organization and as an alternative to the Islamic Republic, to be able to reinforce its forces and to embark on against the regime. What was evident at all the meetings was that they brought in some commanders to know what the main cause of the defeat was. The result was that the main cause was the forces themselves. Four to five thousand people has come to fight against a country with at least one million troops. They did not considered the opposing forces, and blamed the forces of the organization and said that you were the cause we could not reach to Tehran. Based on some information, they asked why they couldn’t cross the Chaharzebar Strait. On the route to Kermanshah, there was a road in the center of a strategic region which was called Chaharzebar Strait. The forces of the organization could not passed it. The forces of the Islamic Republic were on the other side of Strait and Rajavi’s forces were on this side. They stopped there and Iranian fighters and airmen fired heavily. Therefore, as all the Rajavi’s forces had gathered on the road, were defeated and quickly withdrew.
When I joined the organization, witnessed that they had no such spirit they showed on television. They had a television program called ‘the face of resistance’, which aired on channel one of Iraqi television for about two hours daily, around 19:00 to 21:00 pm. It was advertising, several scenes of Mujahid men’s and women’s fighting. I joined them and saw none of them. Everyone was blue and sadness was evident on their faces. Because I didn’t know much about the condition, it took me a while to realize that this atmosphere was due to the heavy military blow that the Islamic Republic had inflicted on the organization. After that, the story of Kuwait, the ceasefire, and then the exchange of captives. So, I decided to stay in the organization. I saw that their slogans were consistent with some of my beliefs. In fact, the utopia that existed in my mind was reflected in their aspirations. Therefore, I decided to stay with them when prisoners were exchanged.
You could not understand how Mujahedin organization acts, if you did not have relationship with them. Some people asked me how I could stand in the organization for 30 years. The same motivations and beliefs. We thought that we were fighting for the people of Iran and for God’s sake. We did not know that the leader of the organization was abusing the forces. What Massoud Rajavi was looking for was gaining power and ruling, and this was very prominent in his speeches. He claimed that the sovereignty of Iran was stolen during the revolution. From who it was stolen? He meant it was stolen from him! He said that he should have become president, he should have been leader! This is very evident in his speeches. Now that it is also evident in his messages.
Iraq invaded and captured Kuwait. We had to move from Ashraf Camp to the mountains and camouflage there to escape the bombardment of coalition fighters. Until the Morvareed Operation began. We called it ‘Morvareed’ and I don’t know what it was called in Iran. Rajavi decided to send a group of troops to the Iranian border during that confusion had been occurred in Iraq. I was among those forces who were sent to Khanaqin. Some clashes happened which were settled down. It took about a week and then we returned to Ashraf Camp, where was in commotion. It was a war and there was no quiet day. Now, in the anniversary of Mersad Operation, and as someone who has been there for many years and witnessed those days, I say that those fatal blows of the Islamic Republic on the body of the Mujahedin Organization are still seen. They started then to spread a story called ‘the ideological revolution’. They said you stayed behind the Chaharzebar Strait because your thoughts turned to your wife and children; a man whose thought will turned to his wife and children could not sacrifice himself and commit suiciding! You must divorce your wife and abandon your children! After a while, the member’s children were sent to European countries in various ways to be kept in families that were sympathizer of the organization. Anyone who did not divorce his wife, were expelled. Since the forces were mainly ideological ones, many tendencies began to emerge in the early 1981. Several wings were shaped. The sympathizers joined the organization mostly because of Rajavi’s personality. What he showed outside was different from what it was in his inside. Apparently we saw a sacrificing leader who has spent all his life for the liberation and freedom of the Iranian people. We have realized over time, when looking at the leadership of the cults, that their appearance differs from their terrible animal inward. We had been deceived by his look and it took a long time to find out. Since 2003 when the US invaded and Saddam Hussein fell and Rajavi hid away, it crossed to minds of many of us that if you are a leader, if you are a martyr, if you are following Imam Hussein’s way, if Imam Zaman’s goals are your goals too and you want to make Iran a monotheistic society without any class, where have you hidden now?! Come out! We were under Iraqi’s fire every day, we had lots of casualties every day; if martyring is good then appear and die a martyr; and if you are not, another person undertake the leadership of the organization instead of you. From then on, many forces became contradictory. If you look, you can see that decreasing in forces has been much greater since 2003. Many members fled, many declared separation. The story continues the same way. The war is still going on. That front and this front each has their own activities. But, legitimacy is with the one that dominates the nation and if it were not legitimate, could not rule for forty years.
I returned to Iran after 33 or 34 years. What I saw was unbelievable. I had gone in the early 1981s. The Iran I saw didn’t match the Iran which was shown by the organization. The first time I came to the streets of Tehran, was surprised to see the highways, tunnels and buildings. What is propagandized in the organization is completely different. In the organization it was always propagandized that the atmosphere in Iran is that the nation is dying of starvation and the corpses have fallen in the streets! After abandoning the organization, I moved to European countries for about three years and then returned to Iran from Germany. When we were in the organization, thought that all people around the world lived in the paradise but Iranian nation. I went to Europe and saw that they also dealt with unemployment, poverty and corruption. I saw the contradiction with my own eyes. What they said us in the organization, and now that we left it, how we see them? When I came to Iran, the story was completely different. Everything had changed. My family was in much passion. More than three decades had passed and unfortunately many people had passed away. Children had grown up and gotten married. Life went on completely; but we brainwashed into a completely false environment and deceived ourselves. They held ideological meetings. At these meetings, participants were impressed. They spoke of ‘hero masses’, but there was no ‘hero masses’. You look and see, those who have left the organization are of the same ‘hero masses’. They have sacrificed for years for the organization’s leader, but all of them are now living in the worst situation in Albania. They have sacrificed themselves for him many years, and now the humanity requires that at least he financially supported them. People have been abandoned in a stage society without identity, without knowing the language of others. They don’t have even ID cards. The Albanian government has given them a paper with the holder’s photo in order not to be arrested by the police. These papers are renewed monthly or every two or three months. The organization not only takes the responsibility for them, but if they speak, will be labeled as intelligence agents. How does such an organization want to take responsibility for an eighty million community?! I understand this contradiction, as someone who has seen both sides. I say to myself that if he takes responsibility for Iran, will not only be able to control the situation, but also makes it worse. There is a lot of propaganda against the Islamic Republic there, and as someone who sees the scene, I have to see the reality. I say without exaggeration that whatever exist there, is lie and bluffs.’
Seyed Davood Salehi, the host of ‘Night of Memorials of Holy Defense’, said: tell us a memory from Ashraf Camp.’ Alizadeh said: ‘the most important memory I have is about the time when families came to visit their children. In 2003, some families could travel Iraq to see their children. A few years later, the connection was cut. In 2009, when the families came, the organization closed the doors, claiming that they were not families, but were intelligence agents. We were not allowed to visit our families. My father had also come. Influenced by the organization’s advertising, though I loved to see him, but unfortunately I didn’t go. I still haven’t forgiven myself for doing that. My father was 70 years old at the time. He had come with that difficulty and on that age to see me. I did not forget that story and later became ashamed of it. I kissed his hands and feet and asked him to forgive me. But that day is one of those days that I remember with bitterness.’
Bakhshali Alizadeh : Memories with Mujahidin Khalq Organisation MKO
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Eli Lake, Bloomberg, August 01 2019:… Milani recommends for example that Trump make clear that the relationship between his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and the People’s Mujahedin, or the MEK, does not reflect U.S. government policy. This exiled opposition was once designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is largely reviled by Iranians because it sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. Giuliani has called it a “government in exile.” Milani says that sort of talk is risky: “The U.S. has to declare that it is not in the business of picking Iranian leaders.” Trump Should Publicly Reject Giuliani and Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism .
Trump Should Publicly Distance Himself from Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism
Iran’s Resistance Needs a Light Touch, Not ‘Maximum Pressure’
Trump could help the democracy movement while hurting the regime.
Opposing the Iranian regime doesn’t have to mean sanctioning its banks and oil
Just ask Abbas Milani. The director of Stanford University’s Iran studies program cannot be called a squish when it comes to Iran; he has devoted much of his scholarship to the regime’s struggle against modernity and to understanding the country’s democracy movement. As Milani told a small group of reporters this week in Washington, he believes the best U.S. policy today is to encourage a democratic transition.
One might think Milani would appreciate the Trump administration’s approach to Iran, sometimes known as maximum pressure. After all, the Trump administration has re-imposed crippling sanctions on the regime and taken a public diplomacy line at times that highlights the corruption of Iran’s rulers and the plight of its people.
But Milani is no fan of maximum pressure. He says it undermines Iran’s democracy movement and strengthens Iran’s ties with Russia and China.
On this second point, Milani pointed to this week’s announcement that Iran and Russia would be conducting joint military exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Milani said that even a few years ago this would have been unthinkable. In 2016, when it leaked out that Russian planes were flying missions for Syria from a base in Iran, the regime was embarrassed and disavowed the story. Iran’s constitution bars foreign forces on its soil.
More important though, Milani sees a danger that U.S. efforts to punish nations and banks that do business with Iran have given a discredited regime a useful foil. “The sanctions have exacerbated but not created Iran’s economic crisis,” he said. “They have also given the regime an excuse to say all of this is because of the sanctions.”
Here Milani has a valid point. Before Trump re-imposed the sanctions in 2018, Iran’s economy was already in trouble. Its banks were failing. A new round of protests that started at the end of 2017 blamed the regime’s leaders for lavishly spending on a war to save Syria’s dictator while neglecting domestic priorities. Ecological mismanagement had led to drinking water shortages. Add to this a growing movement among former reformers and activists demanding changes to the constitution to limit or eliminate altogether the office of the Supreme Leader. All of this is evidence that Iran’s leaders lacked popular legitimacy before Trump re-imposed crippling sanctions.
There is still popular unrest. In March, for example, Iranian teachers conducted a nationwide strike for better pay. Iranian rail workers and bus drivers have conducted strikes in the last year as well.
That movement is worth supporting, but the U.S. must use a careful light touch.
Milani recommends for example that Trump make clear that the relationship between his personal lawyer,Rudolph Giuliani, and the People’s Mujahedin, or the MEK, does not reflect U.S. government policy. This exiled opposition was once designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is largely reviled by Iranians because it sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. Giuliani has called it a “government in exile.” Milani says that sort of talk is risky: “The U.S. has to declare that it is not in the business of picking Iranian leaders.”
Milani suggests that Trump ease some of the immigration restrictions on Iranian citizens to make it easier for dissidents to travel to the U.S. He said Stanford has not been able to bring Iranian dissidents or scholars to the university for two years. The current immigration policy is particularly cruel, Milani said, because it allows the children of regime elites to attend U.S. universities but has barred the victims of the regime from visiting.
He also recommends that the U.S. modify the current sanctions to allow Western financial institutions to process transactions for medicine.
In the grand scheme of things, these are small policy fixes. That’s the point though. Most Iranians blame their leaders for their country’s isolation and poverty. The best outcome America’s economic war offers is a new deal with a despised regime. At worst, the crippling sanctions allow that regime to blame the U.S. for the misery of its people. Why not get out of the way and support Iranians who want to take their country back?
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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Trump Should Publicly Reject Giuliani and Mujahedin Khalq MEK Terrorism