AAwa.co, August 23 2014: … Masoud Banisadr, a former MEK member (an Iranian terrorist organisation) said; “Terrorism is like any other virus. It attacks through our weaknesses.” He pointed out that as long as there are “open gates” that allow the virus to spread, cults and extremist groups will have a free hand to continue. What really needs to be tackled …
Cult Experts Hold Press Conference at London College
Experts mingled with cult survivors and members of the press before launching into nearly two hours of presentations and questions at a press conference at London College in Notting Hill on August 22, 2014. These leading thinkers on extremist groups and cults spoke freely about the challenges faced by governments when tackling the risks posed by such groups.
London Press Meeting
Masoud Banisadar, a former MEK member (an Iranian terrorist organisation) said; “Terrorism is like any other virus. It attacks through our weaknesses.” He pointed out that as long as there are “open gates” that allow the virus to spread, cults and extremist groups will have a free hand to continue. What really needs to be tackled is the “undue influence” (mind manipulation) that enables such groups to thrive.
Lloyd Evans and Masoud Banisadar
All of the participants echoed this theme in their presentations.
Lloyd Evans Editor of JWsurvey.org focused on the “undue influence” of Jehovah’s Witnesses over their members. While acknowledging the right of religions to promote their unique set of beliefs, he argued that when some of those beliefs violate human rights there must be mechanisms in place for proper redress.
Linda Dubrow-Marshall is an academic researcher from Salford University. She focused on the special issues associated with individuals who are raised in cults and the challenges they face when they attempt to leave those groups. She mentioned that they may experience depression, grief, existential pain, disassociation, foggy thinking along with many other issues during their transition out of a cult. Because they will face special situations as they try to return to a more normal lifestyle, they need to be given support through an approach she called “re-entry therapy.”
The research context was touched on by Professor Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby, who admitted that he had once been part of a “political cult.” He said the evidence of the psychological impact of such groups is clear. “It is essential that governments respond,” he emphasized. “In that sense a religion or ideology should not be a shield that people can hide behind – there should be accountability. All organisations should open up for scrutiny.”
John Atack is a former Scientologist and author of the book Let’s Sell These People a Piece of Blue Sky. He gave a moving and clear presentation about the research he undertook to uncover the facts about the life of L. Ron Hubbard and the inner workings of the small cult Hubbard created known as Scientology. Mr. Atack’s efforts resulted in some personal costs due to facing litigation. He pointed out that there is a general misunderstanding of the realities of this cult – just in terms of its membership figures. While there are only about 25,000 Scientologists, the organisation makes huge amounts of money by “unduly influencing” its members and by promising them “super-human powers.”
Steve Hassan was the last to speak.
A former Moonie – he is one of the foremost authorities on cults and mind control. He has been involved in educating the public about mind control, controlling groups and destructive cults since 1976. Steve’s wrote
Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults (1988),
Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000), and in July 2012, he published the paperback and e-book,
He wrapped up the session by explaining his work that was born out of previous research by such experts as Margaret Singer and Robert Lifton. He has expanded that research and taken it much further in the development of what he calls “the BITE model.”
Bo Juel and Steven Hassan
“People born into cults have an authentic suppressed self that they need to re-examine and recover,” he stated. “Through cloning, dependence, fear, and threats – the influence of extremist groups and cults is totalistic.”
A lively period of questions followed. Bo Juel, a former Jehovah’s Witness from Norway, asked how does this relate to “human trafficking.” Steven Hassan replied, “Human trafficking, sex and labor trafficking is a ‘commercial cult.’ Kidnapping, drugging, raping – it is along the same continuum up there with labour trafficking with political ends. The media needs to connect the dots.”
Professor Rod Dubrow-Marshall pointed out that the timing was now right to look deeper into the activities of these groups and they should be held to account for their actions.
In the final comments made while the questions were being asked, it was agreed that some in the media were beginning to look more seriously at what is really happening. But much more remains to be uncovered. We need a deeper understanding of exactly how “undue influence” is being used to recruit and retain membership within extremist groups and cults.
Now that governments have started an inquiry into the cover-ups of child abuse within public organizations (including churches and religious organizations), there was consensus among the panel that the time is ripe for abuses (like the “Trojan horse” situation within schools in Birmingham, UK) to be investigated, uncovered and addressed.
Workshops and group meetings will continue on Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, 2014. We will provide updates on those gatherings in a future article.
Bo Juel and Steven Hassan Bo Juel and Steven Hassan Linda and Rob Dubrow-Marshall Linda and Rob Dubrow-Marshall Marc Latham and attendees Marc Latham and attendees
Press Meeting Press Meeting Richard Kelly Richard Kelly Jon Atack and Steven Hassan Jon Atack and Steven Hassan
The Cult in the Shadow War: An Interview with a former member of Mojahedin-e-Khalq
Richard Potter on November 26, 2013
Masoud Banisadr was an active member of the controversial Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK, PMOI) for twenty years, serving as the organizations representative to the United Nations and to the United States during his tenure. The group is largely obscured from public discourse, or more recently veiled in headlines describing them as political dissidents or refugees. To those more familiar with the group the debate tends to focus primarily on their nature. For many MEK is a dangerous terrorist organization, yet for others they are freedom fighters and the only legitimate alternative to the Iranian Government. They’ve been subject to several pieces suggesting they work as assassins for the United States and Israel. Masoud has published a book called Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel about his experience in the organization, which he very candidly describes in detail as a cult, and one that has long lost its strength and vibrance. He now focuses much of his work on the research and understanding of cults, terrorism, and cult behavior within those structures.
Richard Potter: How long were you active in MEK?
Masoud Banisadr: I left MEK 1996. Before that I was the representative in the United States and the United Nations.
You were only in the political arm?
You would have joined in 1976 when it was a more political guerilla movement?
Yes at the time I joined them I was a PhD student in UK in New Castle University. I was married and I had a little daughter. Of course I married young, so everything was very fast. We married in UK far from Iran, but the only source of news we had during the Iranian revolution was from MEK. So because of the past history and the number of martyrs the MEK had against the Shah we trusted them. The slogans they gave were about freedom and democracy and equal rights, women’s rights, minority rights. All destructive cults are like some lizards and can change colors very rapidly to their surroundings.
How did this change?
What happened in 1981 is that Massoud Rajavi (The head of MEK until 2003. Currently believed dead or in hiding) saw that he had attracted so many students and he thought he could repeat the Bolshevik revolution of Russia in Iran. So what he did was he suddenly on 20 June 1981 asked all members and supporters to come to the streets of Tehran and overthrow the new establishment. MEK says that 500,000 people came to the streets. They failed. They failed and they couldn’t do anything and from the next day they changed into a clandestine organization. Between the summer of 1981 the MEK went through many terrorist actions. They bombed the Islamic revolution party buildings. They killed the new President and Premier of Iran, and then they killed at Friday prayers in different cities through suicide operation, they killed different imams through suicide operations. They themselves claim that within one year that they killed almost 1400 people, high officials and supporters of the new establishment in Iran. At the same time they claimed 2000 of their members were killed in street clashes with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In Iran what they were doing was what they called “heroic terrorism operations” later they thought the word terrorism had a bad connotation, especially in the west and they changed it to heroic actions. Most of their supporters in Iran were those who joined this group because of its peaceful nature. For the democratic liberal and pro social justice nature, so they were not ready to change into terrorist or even guerrillas. People are ready to vote for a party, but not to fight for that party.
You refer to MEK as a destructive cult, when do you believe they transformed from a political group or a guerilla group to a cult?
What happened was within Iran they were left losing 99% of their member. Only 2,000 to 3000 members left in Iran. Most of them were gone because of change of policy from peaceful demonstration to terrorist activities and street fighting. Even those who could become radicals were either killed in street clashes or by execution by the government. They lost the battle in Iran. Outside of Iran they were portraying themselves as the democratic alternative to the Iranian government. Two of the most important allies of theirs were ex Iranian President Banisadr and the Kurdish democratic party of Kurdish Iran. These two left the National Council of Resistance in 1984, suddenly this coalition of Rajavi and others turned into the pseudonym MEK. In 1983 they could get support from the labor party of UK and the socialist party of France, but after this they did not have it anymore. MEK was on the verge of disintegration, so he had to do something, which is why I think he did what was called the ideological revolution, which is when it became a destructive cult.
You’ve written about the organization forcing you to divorce your wife at this point, can you elaborate?
At this time they were telling me that my wife was what they called “revoluted”- meaning that she had accepted the ideological revolution and she was now a disciple of Mr. and Mrs. Rajavi and if I wanted to leave the group I had to leave my wife and my children as well. This was my main problem. It wasn’t just leaving the group it was leaving my children and the love of my life. I tried to rationalize it and I tried to stay in the group. Then there was some time later when they asked me to divorce my wife, again it was the same problem. Then I was in the United States and everything was wrong and slogans were wrong and meaningless, everything they said was meaningless.
How did you rationalize all of this?
There is an experiment where they put a live frog in a pot and they turn the heat up degree by degree. Outside the pot is cold, inside the pot is warm. The frog won’t jump out of the pot. It can but it won’t. It’s because the outside is cold. But when it’s realized that it is boiling and it is cooking the opportunity is gone because all of his muscles have been cooked. This is what happened to us. When the ideological revolution changed and we could see the pot was boiling, all of our muscles were cooked. All our self confidence or individuality that would help us jump out of the pot were gone.
MEK was originally aligned with some of the Kurdish groups but later on there was a great deal of fighting between MEK and Kurdish groups. What caused this change?
After the gulf war when Saddam lost the war the Kurds in the north and Shia in south thought they could revolt against Saddam Hussein and get rid of him. Unfortunately the US didn’t help and this is why they lost. Since Saddam’s army wasn’t in good shape after the war they asked MEK to attack some of the Kurdish guerillas in the north and MEK committed many atrocities. Of course then I was outside of Iraq and I couldn’t believe that we did this. After I left the group and I met other who left I realized it was true. What we were told was we were fighting Iranian revolutionary guards who had Kurdish guards, and this is what I was believed. When the accusation was brought up at the UN or anyone I would deny it vehemently, but when I left the group and met ex MEK from that war I realized this wasn’t an accusation, but a fact. They say they even killed women and children.
Saddam was probably one of the only allies in the Middle East MEK had at that time, no?
No. At this time Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were helping as well. As a matter of fact, Rajavi at one juncture traveled to Saudi Arabia and met the king. In MEK they showed us a video of him meeting the king. It was secret, the KSA and UAE support. Everyone knew about Saddam, but even within the group they didn’t speak about KSA or UAE. I saw the video when I reached the highest rank men could go in MEK. When MEK had their last battle, Forough Javidan, which means eternal light, the plan was that MEK, with the help of Saddam Hussein, would take part of Iran and announce the government order over it, calling it the democratic Islamic government of Iran- They’d go and capture western Iran and establish a government and immediately Saddam Hussein would recognize it and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates would support it, and there were others. They were hoping Kuwait would join and the United States could be pressured to acknowledge them and they could create a situation of pressure on Iran like North and South Vietnam, or Korea. This was their tactic.
This one of the bloodiest incidents during this period, no?
They failed. They lost a third of the members. As a matter of fact I was in that battle. I lost some of the muscles in my right soldier because I was shot. Of course, we were not trained, not for that battle. They said everyone had to attend, even representatives who weren’t in Iraq. So I had to go back to fight. I had no military training but I had to go. Rajavi wanted everyone to attend but himself and his wife.
I’m sorry to hear about this
It was very horrible. There were 15 students who were from the United States, they were supporters. They were brought to Iraq and in the same night they were moved to the battle field. Because of my political rank I was a commander even though I had no military background. I didn’t know anything about fighting. Only a few days before for the first time I saw a machine gun, and I only shot it once. So in the first battle I almost lost my life, I was shot and went unconscious and was take back to the hospital. Unfortunately I learned all 15 died because they didn’t have any training, and because it was done so quickly no one asked them their names and nothing was recorded. I didn’t even know their names. It was horrible.
How did you eventually get out?
In 1996 Maryam Rajavi (Wife of Massoud Rajavi and current head of MEK) was speaking in London and they asked me to come and mobilize supporters, and talk to British politicians and arrange meetings for Mrs. Rajavi, including Margaret Thatcher. So in London after five or six years I met my daughter. Before that she was 13 and now she was 18. I was faced with a lady. Emotions and feelings are very important in destructive cults. They isolate you from your loved ones, so you don’t turn your emotions to your loved ones. In London I could see my daughter and my sister and my old friends. From early morning to midnight I had to see old friends, ex-supporters of MEK, and answering thousands of questions which internally I had no rational answer for any of them. So these things, my feelings between my friends and family helped me change. And also luck. I had an accident and back problems, and I was so active in London that I had to go to the hospital. My back gave out. Fortunately for me MEK was very busy then for Maryam Rajavi with different meetings, so they didn’t care about me. If it was another juncture they’d make sure someone was with me, because MEK never leaves a member without a chaperone, always at least two with each other they watch and look after each other. So in the hospital I was alone for the almost a month and I could see normal relationships of people with each other. There was a guy beside who had an accident and I was helping him to shave his beard, or to feed him and so on, and this revived my individuality and my humanity and self confidence. All gradually it came back. When it came that I left the hospital I left MEK. I didn’t reject them fully yet, but I realized I couldn’t be with them anymore.
There are many who believe MEK serves as proxy for the West and that they are allied, do you believe this?
I don’t think so. Another problem MEK has is that Americans and Europeans know MEK has no support. In the early eighties there was an illusion of support but it was realized there was no support. There are no demonstrations for MEK and no one comes to support them. Even in Iran anyone who hates the government, hate the mullahs, even the old supporters, if you ask them they’ll say MEK is worse than the Mullahs. Western governments know this. Would the US repeat the same mistake they made in Afghanistan by supporting MEK where in Afghanistan they supported the Taliban but now they fight them. All of this aside it isn’t said that they don’t use MEK, because they do. As long as there is a bad relation with the United States and Iran they will use MEK. The Israelis, they also use MEK very much. But it doesn’t mean that even the Israelis trust them.
There was an accusation that the US was training MEK in Nevada to be used as assassins. Do you believe this?
No I don’t believe this. What is the average age of MEK members now/ I think it is about eighty. What do you want to do with people this old? I don’t think so. Probably not even spying. The only use they might have for them may be in relation to some terrorist activities in Thailand and in Europe where they say Iran or Hezbollah are committing terrorist attacks against Israeli embassy or the personnel of the Israeli embassy. Probably they could use MEK to discredit the Iranian government or even Hezbollah because Politically I don’t believe they use these tactics at this point, it would be political suicide for them. There was a story in the United States that came to the media and vanished about someone who was going to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States. It’s possible they can create this news with MEK members to work against the Iranian government, but no real action.
Press TV, August 11 2014: … Batoul: At this point, Maryam Rajavi would tell us, “You women, after divorcing your husbands, you should marry Masoud.” And we always considered her words as an ideological thesis. I could never imagine that her words would be put into practice some day and I would have to sleep with Masoud. I really thought that it was merely a
Daniel Larison, Th American Conservative, August 10 2014: …It’s important to remember that the MEK and its umbrella group are not “the main Iranian opposition” or anything like it. For one thing, the real “main” Iranian opposition is still in Iran, and unlike the MEK it is not widely loathed by Iranians. Naturally, any exile group would like foreign governments to believe that …
Mazda Parsi, Nejat bloggers, July 31 2014: …To justify its support for the Iraqi crisis makers the MKO propaganda refers to “remarks” of its self-claimed leader Maryam Rajavi who is swollen with pride to address “parliamentarians and prominent political figures, especially former U.S. senior officials”. Her so-called remarks say…
A. Sepinoud, Nejat bloggers, July 29 2014: … The Mujahedin Khalq launched “Eternal Light,” against Iran in the immediate aftermath of Iran’s acceptance of the U.N.-brokered cease fire agreement on July 18, 1988. Massoud Rajavi falsely analyzed the ceasefire as notifying the weakness of Iranian forces. So as the group leader …