Nejat Society, Tehran, February 21 2022:… Mohammad Reza Torabi (Ray Torabi) seeks the trial of the MEK leaders for the murder of his father under torture in the group’s prison. His father Ghorban Ali Torabi was killed in the MEK’s internal prisons in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, in 1994. As a member of the MEK, Mohammad Reza did not know about his father’s killing until he left the group, in 2017. Mujahedin Former Child Soldier – They Killed My Father
Mujahedin Former Child Soldier – They Killed My Father
Former child soldier of the MEK want justice for his father’s killers
Mohammad Reza Torabi (Ray Torabi) seeks the trial of the MEK leaders for the murder of his father under torture in the group’s prison. His father Ghorban Ali Torabi was killed in the MEK’s internal prisons in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, in 1994. As a member of the MEK, Mohammad Reza did not know about his father’s killing until he left the group, in 2017.
Mohammad Reza Torabi who is one of the former child soldiers of the MEK has recently began denouncing the MEK for violation of human rights, in the social media. He was also a victim of the MEK cult-like system. Unlike his father, he survived an 18-year-long membership in the group and could manage to leave it 4 years ago.
Mohammad Reza’s biological mother, Zahra Seraj, is still under the MEK’s brainwashing structure and denies him as her son because, as she says, “he is a traitor to the organization”. In his recent Facebook post, Mohammad Reza asks the MEK leaders to explain how his father was killed under the torture in the group’s prison.
“28 years after the death of my father, I just got to know about the whereabouts of his grave,” he writes.
“My Mujahed mother and aunts and those who killed my father did not tell me about it but I was told by witnesses of their crime. When I arrived in the MEK’s base in Iraq in 1999, I realized that my father had died 5 years earlier. I should state that I was just informed how and by who he was killed after 23 years when I left the MEK in 2017. My Mujahed mother and all those who call themselves unique revolutionaries lied to me for a long time.”
Mohammad Reza Torabi regrets all those years that he lived in close connection with the killers of his father. “I used to work with those who are responsible for the killing of my father in Camp Ashraf,” he writes. “I used to live with them, eat with the, kiss and hug them, look in their eyes while I did not know anything about what they did to my father.”
Four years after his defection from the Cult of Rajavi, the son of Ghorbani Ali Torabi is now ready to receive any information on the murder of his father by the side of the witnesses. “I’d say that I am ready to talk to any individual receiving any document and testimony in order to find the truth about my father,” he writes.
It is worth to know that the internationally documented testimony about the murder of Ghorban Ali Torabi was first published by the Human Rights Watch, in April 2005. The report was titled “No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps”. Even in the summary of the HRW’s report, the case of Torabi as a person who was killed by the MEK torturers was brought up:
Human Rights Watch interviewed five of these former MKO members who were held in Abu Ghraib prison. Their testimonies, together with testimonies collected from seven other former MKO members, paint a grim picture of how the organization treated its members, particularly those who held dissenting opinions or expressed an intent to leave the organization.
The former MKO members reported abuses ranging from detention and persecution of ordinary members wishing to leave the organization, to lengthy solitary confinements, severe beatings, and torture of dissident members. The MKO held political dissidents in its internal prisons during the 1990s and later turned over many of them to Iraqi authorities, who held them in Abu Ghraib. In one case, Mohammad Hussein Sobhani was held in solitary confinement for eight-and-a-half years inside the MKO camps, from September 1992 to January 2001.
The witnesses reported two cases of deaths under interrogation. Three dissident members—Abbas Sadeghinejad, Ali Ghashghavi, and Alireza Mir Asgari—witnessed the death of a fellow dissident, Parviz Ahmadi, inside their prison cell in Camp Ashraf. Abbas Sadeghinejad told Human Rights Watch that he also witnessed the death of another prisoner, Ghorbanali Torabi, after Torabi was returned from an interrogation session to a prison cell that he shared with Sadeghinejad.
At the time, the No Exit report was expectably labeled by the MEK’s paid lobby a group known as Friends of a Free Iran (FOFI), comprising four Members of the European Parliament – Alejo Vidal Quadras, Paulo Casaca, Andre Brie, and Struan Stevenson, as “orchestrated by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence”!
Thus, in February 24, 2006, HRW published a “statement on Responses to Human Rights Watch Report on Abuses by the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)”, in which the testimonies about the killing of Torabi were once more confirmed:
Their responses, in the view of Human Rights Watch, confirm the credibility and reliability of their original testimonies in No Exit. The Human Rights Watch report contained allegations by witnesses that two MKO members, Ghorbanali Torabi and Parviz Ahmadi, died as a result of abuse suffered in MKO detention. The FOFI document challenged these testimonies.
With regard to Ghorbanali Torabi’s death, the FOFI delegation interviewed two MKO members in Camp Ashraf who disputed these testimonies. These two MKO members, Zahra Seraj, Torabi’s wife, and Masoume Torabi, Torabi’s sister, told the FOFI delegation that he had died of a heart attack, and not as a result of beatings at the hands of MKO officials. Neither of them claimed to have been present when he died. According to a communication to Human Rights Watch from Lord Avebury, who said he had interviewed Masouma Torabi by telephone on June 13, 2005, “Masouma saw Ghorbanali a week before he died.”
Human Rights Watch again questioned Abbas Sadeghinejad, one of Human Right Watch’s original sources on these events, about Torabi’s death. Abbas Sadeghinejad confirmed his earlier testimony, based on his experience of sharing a prison cell with Torabi. He again told Human Rights Watch that late one night, after Torabi had been taken out of the cell for two days, two men carried Torabi back to the cell, threw him inside, and locked the cell again. Torabi, Sadeghinejad said, was not breathing and his face showed signs of severe beating. He said that other cellmates examined Torabi more closely and believed that he had suffered broken bones. Sadeghinejad acknowledged that Torabi may have died of a heart attack, but maintained that the MKO had severely beaten Torabi, apparently during interrogation.
Alireza Mir Asgari corroborated the fact of Torabi’s detention and ill-treatment at the hands of the MKO, based on his own direct experience. Mir Asgari told Human Rights Watch that the MKO also detained him at the time Torabi was detained. He said that he knew Torabi well as a child in Iran, and that Torabi had recruited him in Tehran at the age of seventeen to join the MKO ranks in Iraq. Mir Asgari told Human Rights Watch that during his detention in 1995, he encountered Torabi face-to-face during an interrogation session. He said that the interrogators questioned them both about Torabi’s motivation for recruiting Mir Asgari to the MKO camps in Iraq and accused them of working for the Iranian government. Mir Asgari said that when he met Torabi during this interrogation, Torabi’s body showed signs of beatings and physical abuse.
Mir Asgari told Human Rights Watch that when he raised the subject of Torabi’s death with MKO leader Massoud Rajavi, Rajavi alternately responded that Torabi had committed suicide and that Mir Asgari and other prisoners had themselves killed Torabi because they suspected him of being an informant. He said Rajavi at no point claimed that Torabi had died from a heart attack.”
Besides, there are numerous testimonies presented in Persian by other former members of the MEK about the death of Ghorban Ali Torabi under torture. Mohammad Razaghi, Siamak Naderi, Alireza and many others who do not want their names to be exposed, testified that Ghorban Ali was brought to the cell where twenty other MEK members were imprisoned. He had bean beaten to death. It was just two weeks to the Persian New Year, in the winter of 1994.
Mujahedin Former Child Soldier – They Killed My Father
Mujahedin Khalq Child Soldiers Highlighted in British Gov. Documents
Nejat Society, January 14 2022:… British Home Office document reads: “According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 “The MeK reportedly recruited members from the USA, Europe and Iraqi prisoner of war camps and jails. Children were said to be among MeK members in Ashraf camp, including 17-year-old Majid Amini who ‘was recruited to join the MeK in Tehran with promises of completing two school grades in one year and gaining a place in college’, according to his parents. There were reports that the MeK recruited children from Sweden.” Mujahedin Khalq Child Soldiers .
Mujahedin Khalq Child Soldiers Highlighted in British Gov. Documents
Home Office documented case of child soldiers of the MEK
Recent testimonies of former child soldiers of the Mujahedin Khalq (MEK) in western newspapers and eventually in the social media, brought the case of MEK’s child soldiers to light. However, recruiting child soldiers has been a longstanding tactic in half a century history of the group. The fact was partly documented by the Home Office of the United Kingdom, in 2007.
Even before its militarization and the foundation of the group’s so-called National Liberation army, aka Saddam’s Private army in Iraq, the MEK leaders were never overly concerned with the age of their followers. Before the 1979 revolution, when the MEK conducted an underground struggle against the shah’s regime, many of its members were teenage girls and boys that had been drawn to a “modern Islam” as articulated by the organization. This Islam was a reinterpretation of the religion in mostly Marxist terms. Many of these under-18 believers were dispatched to fight against the Islamic Republic. An unknown number of them were killed.
During the late 1990s, child soldiers of the NLA were recruited from Europe and North America where they had been smuggled to in 1991 under the order of Massoud Rajavi.
In the chapter about the Mujahedin Khalq as an Iranian opposition group, the British report on Iran published by Border and Immigration Agency of the Home Office, on May 4th, 2007 reads:
“According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 “The MeK reportedly recruited members from the USA, Europe and Iraqi prisoner of war camps and jails. Children were said to be among MeK members in Ashraf camp, including 17-year-old Majid Amini who ‘was recruited to join the MeK in Tehran with promises of completing two school grades in one year and gaining a place in college’, according to his parents. There were reports that the MeK recruited children from Sweden.”
Mujahedin Khalq Child Soldiers Highlighted in British Gov. Documents
Mujahedin Former Child Soldier
MEK Children Abused Sexually – Victims Testify
Nejat Society, December 16 2021:… It was a terrible life there. I was in Ashraf until I was eight or nine. In Camp Ashraf or in the MEK’s bases in the West, I was sexually abused by the MEK sympathizers and members. I was then given to a family that was very bad. I was constantly beaten by them. I was mentally abused. MEK Children Abused Sexually
Child soldiers speak of abuse and violence in the MEK
Mujahedin Former Child Soldier
Following the publication of the investigative report of the German Zeit Magazine on the life of a child soldier of the Mujahedin Khalq , Amin Golmaryami, the propaganda of the group reacted by accusing the author of the article, Luisa Hommerich and Amin Golmaryami of working for the Iranian Intelligence. The group’s propaganda claimed that Amin’s testimonies were false and launched a propaganda against him.
However, the group’s propaganda in the social media was responded by other former child soldiers who supported Amin and confirmed his testimonies. Even, Mohammad Rajavi, the son of the group’s leader Massoud Rajavi approved the evidences presented by Amin, in his Facebook account.
Furthermore, a room was formed in Club House under the topic “Accounts by former child soldiers of the Mujahedin Khalq”, on December 12th, in which several former child soldiers, including Amin Golmaryami participated. Confirming Amin’s testimonies, the room members revealed other cases of human rights violations including child abuse, harassment and forced military trainings against children in the MEK.
FClub House Discussions (In Persian):
The host of the room was Amir Vafa Yaghmai who has several times spoken of his horrible experience as a 14-year-old soldier in the MEK’s camps. Among speakers –mostly former child soldiers and so friends of each other—Ray, 39, was one of those who stated horrible facts about his own experience of living in the MEK as a child and then as a child soldier. He said that is determined to reveal the realities about the MEK’s attitude against children and teens because Amin is his best friend who is attacked by the MEK propaganda.
Ray who finds it his absolute right to speak out on what he endured in the MEK is the son of Mujahed parents. He was in camp Ashraf Iraq until he was nine years old. In 1991, he was smuggled to Europe and then to Canada to live in the MEK bases or with foster parents. He was then returned to Iraq when he was 16.
Ray who plans to publish his autobiography, promised to speak of details on what was going on the child soldiers in the MEK. “I left the group four years ago,” he said.
“I was there for 18 years. I was recruited by Sedighe Hosseini in Canada. I am an eye witness of the story of child soldiers… this is my right to tell my story to the world.”
About his childhood in the MEK he said,
“It was a terrible life there. I was in Ashraf until I was eight or nine. In Camp Ashraf or in the MEK’s bases in the West, I was sexually abused by the MEK sympathizers and members. I was then given to a family that was very bad. I was constantly beaten by them. I was mentally abused.”
Part of above Clube House recording (Ray explains in Persian):
Ray is a mature man right now. He is proud of himself because of his bravery to expose facts about his life. “I am a strong man who can stand up to tell the true story of my past life,” he said.
Ray who is going to get married next year, believes that it is time to denounce the MEK leaders. “No one has the right to deprive me from the right to tell my story,” he said.
As the MEK propaganda has published the so-called documents about Amin Golmaryami in order to claim that he was not forced to fight for the MEK and he joined it voluntarily, Ray states that the group’s cult-like structure coerces members to admit what the leader wants. “We were under severe pressure,” he says. “We had no choice except to write and sign what they told us. In the meetings, we were dictated by Massoud Rajavi to write word by word of the commitment letters and we had to sign them and put fingerprints on them. The MEK can not use such a paper as evidence against us.”
Other speakers of the room also exposed details on what they went through under the cult-like oppressive system of the MEK. To read more about them stay tuned.
MEK Children Abused Sexually – Victims Testify
Mujahedin Former Child Soldier
MEK Child Soldier Speaks Out – Freed At Last
Zeit Magazin, Germany, October 30 2021:… He says he involuntarily spent twelve years in Iraq in the infamous Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin. He is ready to make his story public, under his real name – as the first among the Cologne youth. “I want everyone to know what the People’s Mojahedin did to me. So that everyone knows what a dangerous group this is. ZEITmagazin put these allegations to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It did not want to comment on the details, but through a law firm, stated that information about the People’s Mojahedin was largely controlled by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. MEK Child Soldier Speaks Out – Freed At Last
MEK Child Soldier Speaks Out – Freed At Last
“I missed the rain, the meadows and forests, wandering around in Cologne’s pedestrian zone”
Amin Golmaryami came to Germany as a refugee child. When he was 15, he was taken from Cologne to Iraq together with many other young people, he says – to a military camp run by an Iranian organization called the People’s Mojahedin. He is the first of those victims of this political cult to make his story public under his name.
We’re walking. Amin Golmaryami is a man with tousled dark curls who likes to wear Nike sneakers, as he does at this first meeting in October 2020 on Zülpicher Straße in Cologne’s Neustadt, the student party district. The 35-year-old has already had many jobs; at the moment he looks after people with disabilities. He speaks accent less German and yet sometimes uses words from his native language, Persian. They are not difficult to translate, it is more difficult to explain them: Almaas-e ensaani, for example, means ‘human diamond’. This is one of the core ideological concepts of the organization, into whose clutches he fell as a child, says Golmaryami: The idea behind this is that everyone has a diamond inside them, that has become tarnished. It is the person themself with their desires who is to blame – as is the family. One must renounce all of this. Only through devotion to a leader can one become ‘pure’. This explanation is also given by other witnesses who say they have knowledge of this ideology.
The organization that shaped and partially destroyed his life, says Golmaryami, is the Iranian People’s Mojahedin. Iranian exiles who want to overthrow the clerical regime in their homeland. They call themselves “Mojahedin” – jihadist fighters – like many Islamic groups that fight for religious goals. Fascinated by the Marxist economy, the founders wanted to combine Islam with class struggle in the 1960s. Today the People’s Mojahedin speak out for women’s rights, human rights and freedom. They have thousands of members and supporters worldwide, including in Germany. Many work for the political arm of the organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The European headquarters are located near Paris, in Germany the headquarters are in Berlin. The lobbying work is so successful that even members of the Bundestag support the National Council of Resistance and glorify it as a democratic alternative to the Iranian regime. Presumably they do not know what people like Amin Golmaryami have suffered according to what he said about the People’s Mojahedin – or they do not want to know.
According to research by ZEITmagazin, by the mid-1990s, the People’s Mojahedin are said to have smuggled at least 40 children and adolescents who had come to Cologne as refugees without their parents into Iraq. According to a total of eight dropouts, many of them were trained as soldiers there and lived isolated from the outside world for years.
One of them is Amin Golmaryami. He says he involuntarily spent twelve years in Iraq in the infamous Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin. He is ready to make his story public, under his real name – as the first among the Cologne youth. “I want everyone to know what the People’s Mojahedin did to me. So that everyone knows what a dangerous group this is. ZEITmagazin put these allegations to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It did not want to comment on the details, but through a law firm, stated that information about the People’s Mojahedin was largely controlled by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. On its homepage, however, the organization reacted: Children like Amin Golmaryami were at that time only “returned to their parents in Iraq”, it says “as adults”. Minors were never used in the military.
Amin Golmaryami tells his story like this: He was born in 1985 in the city of Abadan in southwest Iran – underground; his parents were already resistance fighters for the People’s Mojahedin. In 1979 they and other opposition groups overthrew the Shah of Iran. However, the clerical Islamic regime that subsequently came to power did not allow the Mojahedin to participate in the government and persecuted them. The People’s Mojahedin then carried out attacks on state employees and eventually fled into exile, most of them to Iraq. Until 2009 they were on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in the EU, but now, however, they appear more moderate. Security circles see them today as a self-contained group with a cult-like character.
When he was a few months old, Amin Golmaryami says, his parents fled with him and his two older brothers from Iran to Iraq, as did thousands of other members of the organization. From there they fought against their own country in the Iran-Iraq war. Amin’s father died in one of the battles, as did thousands of other People’s Mojahedin.
In the mid-1980s, the organization turned more and more into a cult – as the US historian Ervand Abrahamian, a renowned Iran expert, describes it: “A personality cult in its most extreme form” developed around the leader Massoud Rajavi. As is customary in cults, critics were denounced as “traitors, parasites, bloodsuckers, scum and dung”. According to the Rand think tank, which advises the US armed forces, social ties had to destroyed – also a typical manipulation technique used by cults. The People’s Mojahedin regularly reject such accusations as a propaganda campaign by the Iranian regime.
When a US-led alliance attacked Iraq in 1991 during the second Gulf War, the People’s Mojahedin used the stream of refugees to send hundreds of children abroad. To save them from the bombs, say the People’s Mojahedin today. According to dropouts, however, it was also about breaking family structures and strengthening the fighting spirit. Amin Golmaryami was there too, as were his two brothers Alireza and Hanif.
Amin Golmaryami remembers the trip in fragments. “My mother stood in front of the bus for a long time, she cried and waved.” They were taken to Germany. He and about 150 other children came to Cologne. Golmaryami was accommodated in a house in the Meschenich district, he remembers a dilapidated semi-detached house. The children were there as unaccompanied minor refugees in the care of functionaries and confidants of the People’s Mojahedin. Ten of them slept in one room. “I missed my mother terribly”, says Golmaryami. Some were beaten, many had little to eat. Amin started school and quickly learned German. Most of the other Iranian children were older than him and attended the Martin Luther King secondary school in Cologne-Weiden. One of the teachers from back then remembers: “Pleasant and hardworking” the children were. But there was also something fanatical about them. Some had worshiped the leader Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam “like gods”. He informed the police. But nothing happened. The Youth Welfare Office also became aware of the children. “I was worried about them” says Klaus-Peter Völlmecke, 64, then head of department and responsible for the Iranian children. When he and his colleagues wanted to talk to the Iranian caregivers about the children, prominent German supporters appeared. The People’s Mojahedin turned to the lawyer Annemarie Lütkes.
Lütkes was then parliamentary group leader of the Cologne Greens, and later became Minister of Justice in Schleswig-Holstein. Her husband Christoph Meertens reports that her law firm represented the children in asylum proceedings. He himself, also a lawyer, had taken on the guardianship of around 60 children. Amin Golmaryami also became his ward. Meertens says today that he initially checked on the children every week, later every two weeks. In addition, in 1993 the couple and Kerstin Müller, the then state Chair of the Greens and later parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, founded a non-profit aid organization: the Iranian Refugee Children’s Aid. This was recognized as a provider of youth welfare. From then on, it was the board of this organization which spoke with the Youth Welfare Office about the children.
Klaus-Peter Völlmecke says that the functionaries of the People’s Mojahedin always accompanied Meertens and tried to assert their interests. “They wanted financial support for the children and maximum personal influence.” The women insisted that the children should be looked after by cadres or supporters. After tough negotiations, an agreement was reached: every Iranian supervisee was assigned a German-speaking educator. This would give the young people a chance to break away from the organization. From 1994 onwards, the children were gradually moved to other accommodation. Amin Golmaryami moved to a better equipped house in Cologne-Marienburg. However, they continued to live in purely Iranian residential groups. “We have always remained under the spell of the organization,” says Golmaryami.
And yet the move from Cologne-Meschenich was a turning point for him. Thanks to the German-speaking teachers, he flourished. The children now had enough to eat, new clothes and even bicycles, and there were night hikes with campfires. Once he stayed with a German school friend and was amazed that his parents kissed them both goodnight when they went to bed. “That’s when I realised that my life is very different.”
A letter from Iraq came from his mother only once a year: “I hope you are well” – he always said that the letters were not particularly sensitive. The rare times he was allowed to telephone his mother, she often only asked: “What is happening at school?” He says that it was not until much later that he understood that the mother was probably monitored by the organization during the telephone calls. The mother was also asked by ZEITmagazin whether the depictions by her son were correct. She called them lies without going into detail.
As Amin Golmaryami got older, he rapped Eminem songs in front of the mirror, saving his pocket money for Adidas sweat pants and Nike jackets. His two brothers gave him support, especially Hanif, the eldest: a marauder whom many would have respected at the time. “He made me feel safe,” says Amin.
When Amin was 12 or 13, he happened to meet a girl on a bus with whom he was in elementary school, also a child of the People’s Mojahedin. He still likes to talk about this moment today: a first kiss. The girl’s name was Alan. He didn’t see her again until much later, in an unexpected place.
From the mid-1990s, some of their former teachers remembered that People’s Mojahedin children suddenly disappeared from Cologne. They suddenly stopped showing up in their classes, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old teenagers. A former teacher says today that he informed the Cologne Youth Welfare Office and the guardian Christoph Meertens about it.
Amin Golmaryami says that in 1999 his brother Hanif also disappeared, 18 years old. Hanif ordered Amin and the third brother Alireza to a secret meeting point at Cologne’s Westfriedhof to say goodbye. “I’m going to Iraq,” said Hanif. His destination there was the headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin, a military camp. The cadres had promised him that he would meet his mother there. Amin Golmaryami says he was shocked and burst into tears. Who would protect him now? If you talk to Hanif Golmaryami today about this time – he now lives in Canada – he says that he had bad lovesickness back then and longed for motherly advice and a hug. The People’s Mojahedin cadres had assured him that he could come back after a few weeks if he didn’t like Iraq. He believed them. “It was the biggest mistake of my life.” In a self-portrait published in German in 2014, the National Council of Resistance Iran wrote: Everyone who went to his camp was an adult and voluntarily joined the resistance.
In 1998 at the latest, the Youth Welfare Office noticed that children were disappearing. The office warned the guardian Christoph Meertens: many young people allegedly went to Iraq. If there were to continue to be payments to the “Iranian Refugee Child Aid” association, then it would have to completely replace the remaining Iranian staff with German educators. Meertens argued to the office that the young people had voluntarily returned to their parents in Iraq, which was humanly understandable. Today Meertens says he tried to talk many young people out of going to Iraq. “I didn’t succeed.” In a press release from the Youth Welfare Office in August 2000, it was said succinctly: “That said, these allegations were out of the way and settled.” And so, says Amin Golmaryami, he remained in the clutches of the group. At that time he longed to belong. That is why he went to holiday camps and demonstrations by the People’s Mojahedin, where he met the organization’s offspring from all over Europe. The cadres had spoken about the alleged martyrdom of the parents. “You have to avenge their blood, pick up their weapon again,” demanded a functionary in a holiday camp. During demonstrations, the children and young people would have chanted: “We are resistance fighters!” Golmaryami says he did not understand what all these words meant. He was proud that the cadres called him the son of a martyr. But seriously take revenge for his father, he never wanted that.
He saw his brother Hanif again in a propaganda video that the cadres showed him and other children: Hanif in Iraq, marching in rank and file. A functionary, a founding member of the Cologne association “Iranian Refugee Child Aid”, persuaded him, “Amin, you have to grow up. You have to go this way too.”
In February 2001, when Amin was 15, he finally turned to his Iranian supervisor: He wanted to follow his big brother to Iraq. The two pretended to the German educators that Amin Golmaryami had simply run away from the home after a fit of anger. Cadres would have brought him to their European headquarters in France, a house surrounded by high concrete walls in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small community northwest of Paris. His brother Alireza, who had also run away a few weeks earlier, was already waiting there. Amin had to hand over his cell phone, he says he never got it back. He was woken up in the middle of the night and taken to the airport. According to the stamps on their travel documents, it was mid-March 2001.
If you ask Amin Golmaryami today, he says that Iraq was like a train everyone jumped on, “and only you are standing outside.” He was gripped by the fear that his whole family and all his friends would gradually leave him. That he had to stay alone in Germany. He also imagined Iraq as a large holiday camp. He was a child, immature. “They manipulated me,” he says.
Camp Ashraf, the headquarters of the People’s Mujahideen in Iraq, was the size of a small town, 65 kilometers north of Baghdad, in the middle of the desert. Amin remembers driving down a dusty road past eucalyptus trees. They got out in front of a bungalow, and a committee of high-ranking women with headscarves greeted them. Whatever the teenagers wore, they had to give up. He was given a uniform to replace his Nike jacket. The cadre withheld his travel document.
He had to undertake in writing not to have any romantic or sexual relationships with women. So he became one of around 3,800 soldiers of the People’s Mojahedin at the time – he, the 15-year-old who had never held a weapon before. In the beginning, he says today, it all seemed like a strange dream to him. Barbed wire fences spanned the camp. Women and men were strictly separated. Even friendships between the soldiers should be avoided. They lived according to strict Shiite Islamic rules and had to pray three times a day. Contact with the outside world was almost completely forbidden. It was unthinkable to hear Eminem here, the cadres had restricted access to music as well as television, newspapers and the Internet. His brothers were also at the camp, but at first he was only allowed to see Alireza more often because they had completed their military training together. In its self-portrayal from 2014, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claims that the camp was open and tolerant.
He actually wanted to leave immediately, says Amin Golmaryami, but Alireza persuaded him to wait and see. And he complied with everything: getting up at four in the morning, marching, learning to shoot, and later also driving a tank.
After two weeks, he was allowed to see his mother again for the first time, who also lived in the camp. She came with an aunt and several other women, hugged him and his brother and cried. But after the greeting she was very distant, and the women listened to every word like watchdogs. He later learned that the People’s Mojahedin urged their members to spy on one another.
From now on he was only allowed to see his mother once a year. Secret meetings: impossible. His longing for maternal security was not fulfilled. Today, Amin Golmaryami says that later on instead of love he even felt hatred and disgust for his mother. Hatred because she gave him away as such a small child.
Amin Golmaryami in May 2021: another meeting, the third. He’s sitting in his kitchen in Cologne – unplastered walls, chairs from the flea market. When the conversation turns to his mother, he looks sad. He says he still feels the consequences of never having a normal family.
After his return to Germany, he was restless for a long time. He had partied all night, continued working without sleep, smoked weed to calm down. He had palpitations, anxiety. After a panic attack, he began psychotherapy. For the first time, he says, he was able to sort out what had happened to him in his head.
At Camp Ashraf, the cadres tried to use psychological techniques to make the soldiers submissive. Once a day everyone would have had to bare their innermost feelings in front of a group and criticize themselves: Would they have not wanted to take part in shooting training or would they have doubted one of the superiors? Later they would have had to confess sexual thoughts in front of the group – for example when they had masturbated or had an erotic dream. This is also confirmed by independent studies by the think tank Rand. The organization denied such allegations years ago.
Golmaryami says he internally resisted the brainwashing. Only rarely did he express his true thoughts. So he kept a clear head. Then suddenly and unexpectedly he saw Alan again, the girl who kissed him on the bus in Cologne. “She was in the back seat of a car. I waved to her. But she just stared impassively at me through the window. He hadn’t gotten any closer to her. A few weeks after seeing her again, Alan shot herself; several dropouts confirm this. The People’s Mojahedin told them that her death was an accident. Golmaryami says he was deeply sad afterwards.
Just weeks after his arrival, Iranian rockets hit several People’s Mojahedin camps. He says he sat next to frightened adult men in the bunker and heard them cry and cry, “I don’t want to die!” He was terrified. When they staggered out of the bunker days later, he asked a supervisor for a meeting. “I don’t feel comfortable here,” he said. “I want to go back to Germany.” – “We’re thinking about it,” she replied. After that he was allowed to see his mother again, unplanned. She encouraged him to stay in the camp: Fear is normal, we are freedom fighters, that’s part of our path, she said. The mother does not want to comment on this depiction by her son today either.
From now on, the cadres overwhelmed him with tasks, says Amin Golmaryami, kept him up late in the evenings, criticized him heavily in order to break his will. On their homepage, the People’s Mojahedin present the camp differently, they quote a US colonel who was there: He had never seen “a man or a woman being detained in the organization against his/her wishes.”
Amin Golmaryami says he thought about Alan incessantly back then. And about Germany: “I missed the rain, the green meadows and forests, strolling around the Cologne pedestrian zone.” He also missed New Year’s Eve parties, Nutella, McDonald’s, kebab, cinema, and traveling by bus and train. And Eminem. In the camp in the shower, he secretly cried. Slowly, says Golmaryami, over months and finally years, he learned to harden himself internally and no longer attract attention.
About five months after his arrival, there was a special ideology session that lasted for weeks, from morning to night. The leader Massoud Rajavi personally directed it, a man in uniform with a round face. It was about things that Amin Golmaryami did not understand, but he was curious about the man who had managed to rally a small army around him. Rajavi threatened: Sex and the longing for Europe destroyed the organization. Anyone who escapes ends up in Saddam Hussein’s Abu Ghraib torture prison. Years ago, the organization described similar reports as “ridiculous and fictitious film scenarios.”
Golmaryami says that many of the Mojahedin jumped up indignantly: “Who wants to go? We’ll put them against the wall!” Others accused themselves. These were then insulted as “spies” or “traitors”. Some of the others spat on and hit them. According to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, some of those who wanted to leave actually ended up in Abu Ghraib. Others were tortured in a People’s Mojahedin prison, which they deny. One of the last days of the meeting was September 11, 2001, the day on which the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York. The “two horns of imperialism” fell, a high-ranking member of the People’s Mojahedin rejoiced.
For many years, Golmaryami did not give up hope that someone from Germany would rescue him from this nightmare. But nobody asked about him. One thing is certain: neither his guardian nor his former tutors were looking for him in Iraq. After all, the Federal Criminal Police Office was dealing with the People’s Mojahedin. In December 2001, investigators from the BKA searched 25 of the organization’s properties in Germany, including the office of the Iranian Refugee Child Aid in Cologne. In the room there was evidence of social welfare fraud with alleged orphans – that is, with the children who had come to Cologne. The functionary, whom Golmaryami says encouraged him to join the armed struggle, was wanted on an arrest warrant on suspicion of forming a terrorist group; but she had fled to Iraq. The investigation was later closed. However, several People’s Mojahedin were convicted of other offenses. In May 2002 the EU Council of Ministers put the People’s Mojahedin on its terrorist list, and in July the Cologne Youth Welfare Office terminated its cooperation with the Iranian Refugee Children’s Aid. Nobody looked for the missing children anymore.
Then something happened that suddenly made the People’s Mojahedin appear in a different light – and possibly extended Golmaryami’s stay in the camp by many years. At a press conference in August 2002, the US spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran surprisingly presented evidence that Iran was working on a secret nuclear program.
This press conference gave the People’s Mojahedin a certain amount of credibility in the eyes of many to this day. In 2006, the New Yorker revealed that the Israeli secret service Mossad had leaked the information to the resistance fighters.
When the US Army invaded Iraq in 2003, says Amin Golmaryami, his superiors sent him to the Iranian border. He crouched there in trenches for weeks. He and his comrades were to attack Iran as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Fortunately for him, the opportunity never came. Finally, on May 10, 2003, the American troops disarmed the People’s Mojahedin, including in Camp Ashraf.
When US soldiers questioned Amin Golmaryami, he said he wanted to go back to Germany. He was offered to be transferred to an internment camp for dissenters. But there was hardly a way to Europe from there. When he asked to call a former educator in Cologne, the Americans laughed. “They thought, why isn’t he calling from the camp?” But there the cadres continued to prevent contact with the outside world.
In Europe, meanwhile, the organization was reaping the fruits of its lobbying work. From 2004 onwards, an EU parliamentary group called “Friends for a Free Iran” invited Maryam Rajavi to Strasbourg several times; she has been running the People’s Mojahedin since her husband disappeared without trace in 2003. And since 2005, German politicians have been campaigning for the People’s Mojahedin in a group called the German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran. Former Bundestag President Rita Süssmuth (CDU) sits on the advisory board. She does not want to comment on this at the moment. In the past, she said it was about standing up for women’s rights, freedom and democracy in Iran.
From 2009, Golmaryami reports, life in the camp had become even more dangerous for him. The US handed over responsibility for security in the camp to the Iraqi government, which wanted these enemies of Iran out of the country. Security forces stormed the camp and people were killed. From 2012 onwards, the UN had the People’s Mojahedin taken to a temporary camp next to Baghdad airport. Everyone in the camp was interviewed individually. When it was Amin Golmaryami’s turn he was finally able to make a phone call, he says – the first contact with the outside world in so many years. He called a number in Cologne that he had received from another member, but it had got through to a supporter of the organization. The superiors in the camp would have known immediately that he had done something forbidden. He was interrogated for hours. “Only a spy does that,” they had said.
In February 2013, pro-Iranian militias fired rockets at the interim camp. Eight people died, including members of his military unit, Golmaryami says. He could hardly sleep, could hardly eat. “I had an old man’s face.” In the end, it was possibly a packet of cigarettes that saved him. An employee of the UNHCR refugee agency, who regularly visited the camp, played a role in this. She still remembers Amin Golmaryami well today. Many People’s Mojahedin turned to her in fear, secretly whispering something to her.
“Our water pipes are broken,” he told the UNHCR employee on her tour, says Golmaryami. A sentence that cadre would have impressed on him beforehand. Talking about personal matters with the UNHCR was forbidden. He said quietly afterwards: “Please help me.” She understood immediately. “The walls here, should they stay?” She asked back. “Yes, they stay.” And he added quietly: “I have a pack of cigarettes in my pocket, there is a letter in it. Please meet me again if no one is watching.”
The next day the woman tracked him down. He slipped her the box. The UNHCR has kept the corresponding letter to this day, it contains the pleading request for an interview: “I hope you understand the urgency of an appointment, as I feel under enormous pressure about my future.” Today Golmaryami says: “This one woman saved my life.
To Cologne: UNHCR staff told him he could not go back there; he got another offer. More than 200 People’s Mojahedin were allowed to travel to Albania. Three weeks later, in May 2013, the UNHCR took them to the airport. On board the plane, says Golmaryami, he was with his brothers and five or six others who had once come from Germany. On the plane they toasted with red wine: “To freedom!” Amin Golmaryami was now 28 years old.
Your luck: In Tirana, the first People’s Mojahedin – thousands followed later – were under more public scrutiny than in Iraq. The cadres, says Golmaryami, could no longer determine their lives as they did in Iraq. At first he lived with his brothers in a refugee house, then with his brother Hanif in a hotel room paid for by the UNHCR. But the way to Germany remained blocked for the time being. His residence status had expired. He bought a cheap smartphone, set up a Facebook profile and sent friend requests to people he knew from his childhood. A woman from the Netherlands responded, two years older than him, whom he knew from one of the holiday camps. Her name here is Sarah.
Sarah says of herself that she has gone from being an ardent supporter of the People’s Mojahedin to a dropout. She called Golmaryami, and soon they were Skyping every day. In July 2013, Sarah flew to Albania, and they met in the courtyard of her hotel. They hugged in greeting and didn’t let go of each other for ten minutes.
“We were totally confused,” she says today. “The shared memories, the shared story. And Amin was so lost.” They both said they fell in love instantly. However, at first, Golmaryami says that he could hardly endure so much closeness. They would often argue when Sarah was with him again for a few weeks. “But without her,” he says, “I would not have made it psychologically.” With Sarah’s help, both say that Golmaryami finally managed to flee to Germany in October 2014. He cried when he saw Cologne Cathedral from the highway, says Golmaryami.
Amin Golmaryami and Sarah were a couple for three years after his return to Germany. To this day, both say, they are united by a deep friendship. In 2015 Golmaryami was recognized as a refugee in Germany. He caught up with his secondary school diploma and passed his high school diploma. The city of Cologne rejected an application for naturalization for the time being: he has not lived in Germany long enough.
Golmaryami’s brothers also managed to get out in Albania, says Hanif Golmaryami, both of whom now live in Canada. Amin Golmaryami says he has little contact with them and that their time in the camp has alienated them. Hanif says on the phone that he still feels guilty today for luring his little brothers into ruin by leaving the country. Most of the 40 minors who were allegedly smuggled from Cologne into Iraq have allegedly now dropped out; many live in Cologne again. At least ten, however, are said to be with the People’s Mojahedin to this day, somewhere in the world. Some are said to have died in attacks in Iraq.
Amin Golmaryami’s mother, now over 60, still lives with the organization in Albania, says her son. The country has taken in most of the People’s Mojahedin from Iraq. The organization has built a new camp near Tirana. Dropouts there report that cult practices continued there, but the organization denies this.
Amin Golmaryami says he has forgiven his mother. She was “brainwashed” by the People’s Mojahedin. He was last allowed to see her in the summer of 2019, in a restaurant in Tirana. When he offered to help her leave the organization, the mother became aggressive. “Only traitors and agents of the Iranian regime say that,” she screamed. He no longer has any hope of being able to save her. She doesn’t want to comment on that either.
Cologne in August 2021, the fifth meeting with Amin Golmaryami. He is now 36. He seems relaxed. He has told everything. And he’s made provisions in case the organization attacks him. Because it is conceivable that it will try to put him under pressure after this article is published – a popular means is to damage his reputation on the Internet. Golmaryami has obtained legal assistance as a precaution. He and his pregnant girlfriend have just moved. He also changed jobs. He is now removing graffiti from house walls for the city of Cologne. One could interpret this: He is trying to repair what others have destroyed. But Golmaryami says: he does it because he enjoys it. Outside, on the road in Cologne, he feels free.
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Behind the story: All details of Golmaryami’s report have been checked and verified as far as possible – with the help of archive material and through discussions with former classmates and caregivers, with teachers, diplomats and in security circles. The author was also able to speak to seven other witnesses who also state that they were smuggled from Cologne to Iraq as children.
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