… the decision makers of the European Union should not be overly concerned with the freeing or not of the MKO’s assets (while the group apparently has millions of euros to spend on legal fees) but should be concerned instead with freeing its 3000 militants from enforced membership of a paramilitary group …
Anne Singleton, October 26, 2008
Anne Singleton is the author of the book Saddam’s Private Army
Experts on the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization (MKO) have previously stated that the huge amounts of finance and resources, particularly the cult’s human resources, expended over the past eight years solely on being removed from the various terrorist lists on which it has been named, has shown that the lists have made no material difference to the operation of this terrorist group. As a means to ‘combat terrorism and its funding‘, the terrorist lists have been, at best, irrelevant to the activities of the MKO in western countries. Indeed, in this context, inclusion in the terrorist lists has served one obvious purpose, to artificially increase the ‘threat’ value of this group in negotiation with the IRI.
In real terms the group’s relevance and actual potency as either a so-called ‘democratic’ opposition or a ‘military’ threat to Iran’s governance has dwindled severely since the MKO’s last failed effort to overthrow the regime by force in 1988.
Instead the real struggle conducted by the MKO over the past twenty years since this major failure has not been to overthrow the regime itself but has been directed at preserving its value to western powers both through its paramilitary force in Iraq and through its second base in Auvers-sur-Oise from where its financial, recruitment, planning and propaganda activities are directed.
However, the MKO’s value to western backers has been in its potential for armed activity. Armed activity is this group’s USP (unique selling point). This is what it does, what it has always done and what its real value is. The existence of the MKO as a mercenary paramilitary force – whether armed or not – in Iraq has always been the central appeal of the group, whether to Saddam Hussein, or the USA, UK, EU or Israel.
The MKO currently holds its 3000 uniformed militants captive behind the closed doors of Camp Ashraf in the Diyali province of Iraq. Since the forced disarmament of the group by the American military in June 2003, members of the group have been trapped inside the camp by cult leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi as hostages while they negotiate deals with western backers. In this, the Rajavis have been aided by the American military, which under the pretext of ‘protection’ has denied free access to the group by international humanitarian bodies, human rights agencies and even to relatives of the individuals held there.
In order to facilitate this ‘protection’ the Rajavis and the American military have maintained the lie that the MKO terrorist group enjoys UN Fourth Geneva Convention Protected Persons status, even though the competent UN body for awarding this status has stated clearly and repeatedly that the conditions for its application have not existed since 2004 and that in any case Protected Persons status cannot be applied to a paramilitary force. The perpetuation of this lie by the MKO’s western backers has, unfortunately, prevented investigation into worsening conditions inside the camp, particularly investigation into specific allegations of human rights abuses against the people held there. It has also prevented many of the people inside Camp Ashraf from taking the decision to reject violence and terrorism and leave the MKO. The people in Camp Ashraf are essentially hostages.
In this respect, the decision makers of the European Union should not be overly concerned with the freeing or not of the MKO’s assets (while the group apparently has millions of euros to spend on legal fees) but should be concerned instead with freeing its 3000 militants from enforced membership of a paramilitary group.
By analyzing its track record of activity, it is obvious that since the fall of its previous benefactor Saddam Hussein, the MKO and the group’s backers in western countries are happy to sacrifice the people in Camp Ashraf purely for their financial and political benefit in Europe, America and Israel. There is a moral and legal burden on the countries of the EU, the UK, the USA and Israel which have allowed (encouraged even) the Rajavis to take these people hostage and offer them as sacrifice, to provide retirement and immunity after the fall of Saddam and give their mercenary force shelter in their countries. They should not be left in Iraq or the Middle East but should be returned to France and the other countries which originally sponsored Rajavi and which then sold the MKO to Saddam’s regime.
Any form of legal and/or political action which will facilitate the return of this group to Europe, including de-proscription of the MKO in the EU, the USA and Israel, must be welcomed.
After five years it must be accepted that responsibility for the total membership of the MKO is no longer with Saddam Hussein, but is with the forces which invaded Iraq and removed him from power, and which now still benefit from preservation of the MKO as a paramilitary force. It is an overriding fact that the MKO’s value lies in its capacity for violence. Indeed, aside from its well-funded, propaganda activity aimed at perverting western political opinion, its only function and value is as an armed terrorist force.
Taking responsibility for the MKO it is expected that the Multi-national force (MNF) in Iraq:
1. Replace the TIPF which was closed in January 2008 with a new, separate camp in which individuals can freely seek asylum and take refuge from a terrorist organization;
2. Unlock the gates of Camp Ashraf so that human rights and humanitarian agencies, and families can have free and unfettered access to these hostages;
3. As a matter of urgency, de-proscribe the organization – the so-called ‘good-terrorists’ – from western terrorist lists so the victims of the cult can be moved to those western countries for which they have worked so hard and sacrificed so much.
Unfortunately, although the UK removed the MKO from its terrorist list, the UK has not met its obligation to accept their mercenaries in the country and provide asylum for them. This is in spite of the Iraqi government’s repeated demand that this and all the foreign terrorist groups be removed from its territory. This failure encourages the suspicion that the 3000 uniformed militants are to continue to be victimized and made to fight against the Iraqi people – just as Saddam Hussein used the MKO to suppress the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in Iraq in 1991. (It is no secret that Saddamists and other anti-Iraq groups which maintain connection with the west continue to use Camp Ashraf for meetings.)
De-proscription can be for two reasons. If the MKO’s 3000 strong paramilitary force remains in Iraq it has no other use except as an armed force and de-proscription is a political ruse. The only other interpretation of de-proscription is that all 3000 members have renounced violence. In this case, these people must be re-habilitated as non-terrorists by bringing them back to western countries to live. This will provide the best possible outcome for the Iraqi government and for western countries which are genuine in their wish to combat terrorism and its funding. ——–
MEPs intrigued by accounts of newly arrived escapees from Camp Ashraf
Discussion of the Mojahedin-e Khalq/National Council of Resistance and its activities in the EU Parliament
… Ms Ebrahimi said she saw Mr Paulo Casaca when he visited Camp Ashraf. We were not allowed to approach him and speak to him, she explained to delegates. If they had somewhere to go, she told delegates, without doubt ninety-nine percent of the people in Camp Ashraf would leave the camp and the MKO…
Reported from EU Parliament, Sep. 09, 2008
On Tuesday 9 September a meeting was held by the Delegation for Relations with Iran in the European Parliament. The meeting focused on ‘Discussion of the Mojahedin-e Khalq/National Council of Resistance and its activities in an exchange of views with:
Ms Anne Singleton expert on the MKO
Representative of the NCR (declined invitation)
Three Residents of Ashraf Refugee Camp who arrived from Iraq in the last couple of weeks: Ms. Ebrahimi, Mr. Hassan Piransar and Mr. Hamid Siah Mansoori.
Also present were former MKO members Karim Haggi, Mohammad Sobhani, Hadi Shams Haeri and Ali Ghashghavi, who accompanied the new arrivals to provide support to these vulnerable people.
Ms Angelika Beer, President of the Iran Delegation (Greens/EFA), began by describing the MKO and its activities up to the present time.
Anne Singleton briefly described her own involvement with the MKO for over twenty years.
Asserting that the MKO will not give up the use of violence to achieve its aims, Ms Singleton went on to explain why, in spite of that, she believes that the MKO has currently little to do with the Iranian political scene, but that precisely because it is a cult, its danger is that it interferes in parliamentary democracy in western countries in ways that may even involve criminal activity.
Whilst agreeing that the MKO’s platform of ‘total regime change’ in Iran could be attractive to some politicians in the west, Ms Singleton challenged the delegates to consider whether the MKO would be able to achieve its stated aim – ‘will it do what it says on the tin’? Since its last major offensive against Iran in 1988, the MKO has achieved little to further its aims. She told delegates that they should also consider the possibility that, even if they believe the MKO has changed tactic and intends to pursue its aims only through political opposition, the MKO may not actually be ‘fit for purpose’ She urged them to consider the evidence of the three former residents of Camp Ashraf who have arrived in Europe from Iraq only in the past few weeks, and who would speak later in the meeting about conditions inside the MKO.
Ms Singleton asserted that Iranian people – as those delegates who have visited Iran are aware – are not waiting to be rescued by the MKO and are capable of opposing their own government. Iranian women are not waiting to be taught about feminism by Maryam Rajavi who leads an organisation which – as Batul Ebrahimi will testify – badly abuses women members.
Then Ms Singleton described the current situation of the MKO in Iraq. Control of Camp Ashraf, the MKO’s headquarters, has been transferred from the American military to the Iraqi military. Ms Singleton said that Iraqi government officials are angry at reports which suggest that the MKO would be ‘massacred’ if the Americans handed over Camp Ashraf.
Instead, the people inside the camp are facing a humanitarian crisis because they are not allowed even basic freedoms such as the right to enjoy contact and visits from their families. A rumour has arisen that the Americans have removed around 300 of those captive in Camp Ashraf and left the others. Ms Singleton said that if this is the case then she would consider the remaining 3000 individuals in Camp Ashraf to be ex-members of the MKO. They should be brought to western countries as soon as possible.
Finally, Ms Singleton presented delegates with one solution to the crisis at Camp Ashraf, remove the MKO from the European terrorist list and bring ALL 3,300 residents to Europe where those who are mentally, physically and emotionally sick would be able to receive help.
Ms Singleton finished by reminding delegates that continuing support for the MKO would, of course, mean that the European Parliament accepted to have a cult operating in its midst and continuing to interfere in parliamentary democracy. However, if that is the decision to be made, then so be it.
Ms Beer thanked Anne Singleton for her contribution and asked the three recently arrived, former Camp Ashraf residents to speak.
Ms Ebrahimi (speaking in Farsi) told delegates that she had gone to Camp Ashraf when she was sixteen years old and although she quickly realised she wanted to leave, she was captive there for another ten years. She described conditions for women in the camp. Not only does the MKO not allow women to marry, women are made to work in the scorching sun for hours at a time so their complexions are ruined and they become ugly. This is so they do not develop the vanity to think they could be attractive to a man, she told delegates.
In order to remove hope from the women of ever having a family, they are being sent under surgery for spurious medical conditions to have their wombs removed [hysterectomy] and around ten percent of women in Camp Ashraf have now undergone this surgery. When they tried to impose it on her, Ms Ebrahimi ran away. She begged delegates to take doctors to Camp Ashraf to check the veracity of what she was telling them.
The MKO told her that if she left the camp and went with the American soldiers, they would rape her. For this reason it took two years before she was able to have the courage to escape.
Ms Ebrahimi said she saw Mr Paulo Casaca when he visited Camp Ashraf. We were not allowed to approach him and speak to him, she explained to delegates. If they had somewhere to go, she told delegates, without doubt ninety-nine percent of the people in Camp Ashraf would leave the camp and the MKO.
Mr Hamid Siah Mansoori (speaking English) told delegates he had been in the MKO for over twenty five years. He described how he had gone to Iraq from Canada. He had a good education, and a good life in Canada and had his own business before leaving everything behind in the mid 1980s to go to Iraq. He then described the MKO’s attitude to family. He said no one is allowed to contact their family, except in a few cases where people were told to contact their family to get money from them. He said the MKO told his family he was dead. They came to look for him five years ago – at the beginning of the American occupation – but were told he was dead.
Mr Hamid Siah Mansoori said he had arrived only a week ago, but had lost any contact details for his family. Nevertheless, his first priority now was to make contact with his parents and the rest of his family.
Ms Beer asked delegates if they had questions. One delegate asked how the MKO continued to be financed which allowed them to continue to undertake such expensive campaigns in parliament and elsewhere. Another delegate asked for more detail about the role of the Americans in supporting Camp Ashraf when the US State Department so strongly describes them as a terrorist group.
Anne Singleton answered these questions, pointing out that during the reign of Saddam Hussein the MKO had received almost unlimited finance from Saddam Hussein, as well as from Saudi Arabia and some western governments from behind the scene. Now, however, although it is clear that MKO finances are dwindling somewhat, it was unclear how the MKO could continue to spend so much money, and the only people to answer that are the MKO themselves.
Ms Singleton pointed out a five year rift in policy toward the MKO between the US State Department – which has a very thorough knowledge of the MKO – and the US Defense Department under Donald Rumsfeld. Some in the US Administration wanted to use the MKO in confronting Iran and therefore Camp Ashraf has been protected by the US military in Iraq for five years. Ms Singleton conceded that this protection was beneficial in keeping the MKO out of danger in the midst of a war zone. But that the Americans had also flouted the UN Fourth Geneva protocol by not allowing MKO to meet their families and not enabling them to leave the situation.
Ms Beer then introduced Mr Mohammad Sobhani who had previously addressed the Delegation. Following that meeting he had been the subject of unfounded accusations of having attacked MKO members in Paris. Instead, Mr Sobhani was the victim of a violent attack when some fifty MKO supporters ambushed a meeting at which Mr Sobhani was a speaker.
Following this, Mr Hadi Shams Haeri briefly pleaded with delegates to help him have contact with his children whom he has not been allowed to see for eighteen years. He asked that Mr Paulo Casaca accompany him to Camp Ashraf and help him meet with them again.
At the end of the meeting Ms Beer expressed her appreciation for the speakers and said it had been a valuable meeting. One which, given the ongoing situation at Camp Ashraf, might soon be repeated.
After the meeting, several of the attendees stopped to talk to the visitors – in particular the three who had just arrived from Iraq – and asked them to keep them informed of developments.
MEP lines up with remains of Saddam against Iraqi government
Open Letter to Mr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras
… Of course, as Vice-President of the European Parliament, I was surprised that I did not hear of your visit from Iraqi government officials. Perhaps you did not see the need to discuss your concerns about this foreign terrorist entity with the legitimate government of the country you were visiting. Unfortunately, the unofficial nature of your visit to this terrorist group aligns you with the remains of the Saddam regime in Iraq…
Massoud Khodabandeh, November 2008
Bât. Altiero Spinelli
60, rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60
I read about your recent unofficial trip to the infamous Camp Ashraf garrison which houses the remains of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation.
Of course, as Vice-President of the European Parliament, I was surprised that I did not hear of your visit from Iraqi government officials. Perhaps you did not see the need to discuss your concerns about this foreign terrorist entity with the legitimate government of the country you were visiting. Unfortunately, the unofficial nature of your visit to this terrorist group aligns you with the remains of the Saddam regime in Iraq.
I also read the open letter sent to your good self from Sahar Foundation in Baghdad – I have the honour to have been involved in its creation in Iraq earlier this year to save the victims of this terrorist cult.
The letter sent to you by Sahar Foundation needs no further elaboration but it is worth reminding your good self that the government of Iraq (with which I am now in regular contact and consultation) regards the group in which you have such an interest as part and parcel of Saddam’s repressive army and therefore is adamant to expel them from their country. The Iraqi government sees no benefit or in fact obligation to assist a part of Saddam’s private army who are neither Iraqis nor civilians. You must surely agree that these people cannot remain in Iraq. The American army will soon hand over the security of Diyali province to the Iraqi government which has pledged to remove the group from the country.
You visited the camp without any human rights organisation representative accompanying your good self. You visited the camp without any official from the government of Iraq and you visited the camp without even investigating the allegations as to what is really going on behind its closed doors. Whatever your intention, yours was certainly not a visit to investigate allegations of widespread, unnecessary hysterectomies performed on women in the camp, otherwise you would have taken the trouble of asking a couple of physicians to accompany you. You even failed to take an independent translator with you (or did the cult leaders deny entry to independent people?)
The least you could have done was to take with you a couple of the many hundreds of parents who have not been allowed to see their children for the last 25 years. Or, you could have asked for telephone lines to be installed to contact the people inside the camp.
Dear Mr Vidal-Quadras,
Did you not notice that the camp has no children inside? Did you not think that this is because the cult leader has banned marriage and family relations? Did you not notice that the citizens of “Ashraf City” wear uniforms and do not see “Rejection of Violence” as contradictory with “military training”? Did you not notice that all the people who were allowed to get near you were saying the same thing and acting the same way? Dear Sir, you are a politician. Surely you know better than anyone that if you have 10 people who wear the same uniform, say the same thing, laugh at the same time and shout at the same time, there must be a dictating force behind them.
And did you not see that the “city” you visited had no nursery, no shops, no school, no cinema, no marriage registry office, no public phone box, no post office, no….
Dear Sir, I really think you should visit the camp again, and this time I offer my services to accompany your good self. After all, I don’t think that they have taken you to see the anti-nuclear Leadership compound which was built as a gift to Massoud Rajavi by Saddam Hussein, I am sure they have not let you visit the “Exit” section of the camp where over 300 people who refuse to take military orders are imprisoned by the cult.
Immediately after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Massoud Rajavi, guru of the Mojahedin Khalq cult, went into hiding. After three years incommunicado, a statement was issued in 2006 in his name. In it Rajavi announced his timescale for toppling the Iranian regime: “in the next two years”. Little attention was given at the time. Rajavi has made this kind of claim frequently over the past 30 years without effect.
Information from inside the cult, however, indicates that the specific deadline of January 2009 is part of a more sinister plan by the cult leaders. Following the announcement of this date, every member was required to sign a piece of paper giving their oath that they will not leave the cult until January 2009 – by which time, according to Rajavi, the regime must be toppled.
Rajavi’s message states that when the deadline of January 2009 arrives: ‘anyone who wants to can leave, and I will myself throw out all the useless ones. I will keep the rest who are pure, and I will tell them then what they have to do for me’. Experts on the MKO’s cult jargon interpret this as Rajavi’s intention to have his followers ‘wreak havoc’; the most predictable scenarios being mass suicide in Camp Ashraf and/or attacks on external interests with suicidal intensity in other parts of the world where the MKO cult has bases. That is, the ‘pure’ MKO operatives will kill all Rajavi’s opponents in Europe and then kill themselves.
The 2006 US State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, which describes the Mojahedin as a terrorist entity with cult-like characteristics, warned: “Many MEK leaders and operatives, however, remain at large, and the number of at-large MEK operatives who received weapons and bomb-making instruction from Saddam Hussein’s regime remains a source of significant concern.”
Our friends who have managed to escape for the camp during the last 5 years are deeply worried about yet another series of self-immolations or even suicide operations like the ones carried out by order of the cult leaders as recently as 2003.
We are deeply concerned that with the elapse of the deadline of January 2009 as Massoud Rajavi has promised, the remaining people will be forced into mass suicide and or mass murder of the ones who do not obey Rajavi anymore.
Sir, as someone who has access to the cult leaders, as someone who now has access to the inside of the camp, and as someone who has the ability and the power to make a difference, I urge you to help us to:
1- Open the gates of this camp ASAP to human rights organization representatives, in particular to independent physicians and psychologists.
2- Open the gates of this camp to the immediate families of people inside, some of whom have not seen their loved ones for over two decades.
3- Arrange a place of refuge (to replace the TIPF) for the ones who do not wish to continue serving the leaders of a terrorist cult so that they could run away from the hands of the Camp leaders.
4- Facilitate the transfer of all the people in the camp from Iraq to the safety of European countries where they can be rehabilitated and re integrated into normal societies.
Preliminary to a return visit, I would like to meet with you and bring to your attention some basic facts and information concerning Camp Ashraf and to discuss with you the Iraqi government’s position toward the group which you apparently failed to ascertain whilst visiting their country.
Iran Interlink Special Report from Baghdad
Report of a meeting on the MKO in the European Parliament
Report “No Exit” by Human Rights Watch
Report of the US State Department 2007
Letter of SAHAR Foundation from Baghdad
– Office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki
– Office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
– Office of Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union
– Office of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN
– Human Rights Watch (New York)
– Amnesty international (London)
– UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
– US State Department
– Embassies of France, Germany, Russia and China in London
– Relevant MEPs