To Ms. Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: About the situation in Ahsraf
First we would like to apologize that our English is not very good. We hope you can understand our letter.
We are ex-members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organisation (MKO, PMOI). We joined the MKO around the period of the Iranian Revolution (1979) when it started as a resistance-movement against the dictatorial regime in Iran. Later the group went on to armed resistance and finally it degenerated into a terroristic cult. We have gone through all these phases inside the organisation ourselves and have lived in the MKO camp ‘Ahsraf’ in Irak for many years. We decided to leave the group in the terroristic stage, when they get extremely violent.
Because we know the situation of camp Ahsraf from the inside, and know the leaders, the members and the surrounding of the camp, we would like to respond to your letter about the recent events in Ahsraf, where Iraqi soldiers invaded the camp, and a confrontation followed involving more than thirty deaths in the camp.
In recent years we repeatedly pointed to the explosive situation in and around the camp Ahsraf area. We have been several times to the European Parliament in Brussels, we have spoken to Dutch politicians in deparliament of The Hague and to the French Embassy (near Paris is one of the headquarters of the MKO leaders). We tried to focus the political attention on the situation in camp Ahsraf and wrote many letters to international help-organisations, but so far without any result and without response. These deaths could have been prevented if there would have been earlier intervention in this situation. But we are very glad that now finally the eyes of international political and human right-organizations are open and looking toward Ahsraf.
The reason why we pointed for years to the underlying tensions in the area of Ashraf, because we know the MKO from the inside, we lived ourselves for many years inside camp Ahsraf. It really stunned us that nobody would listen to our warnings about the full tense situation in this area, who could explode at any moment.
That these tensions would erupt is very clear when we realize the situation in and around Ahsraf. First: for years the MKO fought together with Saddam Hussein, the hated dictator of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was their protector and war partner. After the fall of Saddam, the dictator was gone but the MKO stayed in the territory of Iraq. So the new Iraqi government had to allow a group who collaborated with Saddam to stay in their territory. The Iraqis were not allowed to put a post inside the camp and had to endure the presence of the MKO on their own ground. And although the MKO doesn’t pay any contribute to the Iraqi government the MKO regarded this soil as their own property. It was very predictable that this would cause much tension. Second: the MKO is a cult, a terroristic cult, as we ourselves from our own long and terrible experience inside the MKO can confirm. The leaders manipulate and brainwash the members. And if members dare to be critical or want to leave the organisation, the leaders isolate and torture them and if this has no result they can get executed (see the Human Right Watch Report 2005). The members are under constant mental control. If you are a member of this sect, as we were, and you don’t agree with something, have doubts, or want to leave the organisation, you will undergo group manipulation, threats, longtime solitary prison and torture. Many members wanted to leave the sect for long time now, but it’s not possible for them, because the leaders are in constant control of the group, they block every contact with the outside world, scare the members so that they are afraid to leave ( ‘outside the gates are the spies and secret services of the Iranian regime waiting for you to take you’ etc.) and isolate members who are thinking about leaving the group. So also inside the camp is an enormous tension…
As both inside and outside such high voltages of tension exists, it is very predictable that this situation will run out of control. Already one time before there had been a confrontation between Iraqi soldiers and members of the MKO sect where also lots of people get injured and died.
Many times we referred to this dangerous situation and pointed on the necessity to send aid-agencies to this area, but so far without any reaction or response. Now, for the second time, there was a confrontation and fighting with many deaths. This could have been avoided as international human rights organizations had interfered the situation in and around Ashraf in an earlier stage.
But now finally there will come international intervention with the camp and we are very pleased by that, because this is really very necessary.
We, as ex-members of the MKO, know the leaders and members of this organisation very well and therefore we want to highlight some very important issues that should be paid attention to:
a. First of all: at this moment it’s very necessary to prevent that in this situation the leaders will persuade the members to a joint suicide (a well-known risk of a sect in trouble). In 2005 the MKO leaders also forced members to a suicide action inside Paris. The members got orders to burn themselves into the streets of Paris, to manipulate the French government to release Maryam Rajavi, the wife of their cult leader. Many members obeyed, they put themselves into fire and died in the streets of Paris or get horrible injured.
Once the leaders and commanders of the MKO will feel that they cannot keep the sect together and fear to lose their grip on the members there is a very high risk that they will force the members to a group-suicide. They are ruthless to their members, they only pursue their own purposes and if they get frustrated they will not hesitate to kill their own members.
b. Because the MKO is a sect, the leaders want to keep constant control over the group. The members have lived for many, many years under their brainwashing and manipulation. It is therefore very important to separate the members from the leaders as soon as possible and speak to each member individually in private interviews, because after all these years of continuously groups control they dare not speak open if there are any other members around.
c. Communication between leaders and members should be totally disconnected otherwise the members will not be able to function and communicate independently and they will remain under the influence of the sect, even if they are outside the cult, in another country.
d. The members have lived many years, sometimes more than twenty years, in isolation under everyday brainwashing in a separate enclave. All this time they had no contact with the outside world. Ashraf looks modern, with television and computers, but everything is censored by the leaders. They have their own radio and television stations which only show one side information and news which is allowed or set up by the MKO leaders. The members therefore know nothing about real life. If they come out of this sect they are like birds who were locked in a cage for many years: when the door opens, they do not dare to fly out. These people really need special help, otherwise they will never be able to return to a normal functioning life in the society
e. There should be guidance if the members come out the camp to help them to get into contact with their families. The MKO taught them that their family and friends outside the gates are ‘enemies’; ‘spies of the Iranian regime’ and forbid them to contact them. They don’t know anymore how they can get in normal contact with their family. And because they have been for decades in the camp they also don’t know where their relatives are. Also they are very afraid to contact their families because they think the family doesn’t want to see them again. They need help with that.
f. If these people come out of the camp they have major trauma, which will make them both mentally and physically not able to function normally. If they don’t get specialist help there is a big risk for suicidal tendencies and drug problems. Also the family should get specialist help; otherwise they will drown into these problems, because they are not prepared at such a situation. They must learn how to deal with ex-cult members and their traumas.
g. The leaders of this sect are dangerous and violent. They want to keep the group together and want to replace it in totally to another country, because that is the only possible way they can keep their power and they are aware of that. It is very important to prevent this. Their purposes are violent. Maybe you doubt our words, therefore it is very important that you can control these yourself. Please take care that the members and the leaders get separated and ask them about the real situation in the camp. They will need time and patience, because they are afraid.
Most of the members are very tired of violence and want to get out of this situation, but they need your help with this
h. Many ex-members have children inside the camp, which they haven’t been seeing over sometimes more then 20 years. The MKO took these children away from them (because children would distract the attention of the sect members from the goal) and brought them abroad. Later when they were nearly grown-ups the MKO brought them back to Ahsraf, to become warriors. The ex-members who left the sect, are not allowed to see their children and their children learn inside the camp to hate their parents outside the camp. Also Mr. Shams Haeri didn’t see his children for about 15 years. And also the parents whose children left them at a young age to join to MKO sect didn’t see their children ever back again, sometimes for more than 20 years. Now these parents are very old and the children are 40 or 50 years. Both the parents and the children need help from organisations to reunite them again!
As ex-members we are always willing to give more information about these issues and willing to come to your office,
tel: 06 27229556