When I was in a dark room…
According to the Iranian Oral History website, the 304th ‘Night of Memorials of Holy Defense’ was held on Thursday evening, July 25, 2019 at the Sureh Hall of the Hozeh Honari.
In this meeting, Bakhshali Alizadeh, Ibrahim Khodabandeh and Mohammad Mosaheb, related some of their memories of Mujahidin Khalq Organization and Mersad Operation. In the first part of this report you read the memoirs of Bakhshali Alizadeh.
Ibrahim Khodabandeh was the second narrator. ‘I was born in Tehran in 1943,’ he said, ‘I went to England to continue my education in 1971, after graduating in mathematics from Alborz High School. I was a member of Islamic Associations until Revolution. In 1978, I was active in Neauphle-le-Château. I was involved in the MKO in England since 1980 and worked mainly in the international affairs of the organization until 2003, which is for 23 years. I traveled to over 20 countries and did missions in that regard.
I was in charge of the organization’s activities in Dubai when operation of Forough Javidan (against Mersad Operation) was done. We had an organization there and in some of the for-profit companies, I did political and financial works. I was told to send all forces to Iraq. They were in a hurry. We quickly stopped working and shut down the companies. There were some supporters whom we released all. We had people in Dubai as police. We said that their relationship is suspended for now to see what will happen in the future. I sent all members to Iraq, and as a last person, I traveled to Kuwait, Jordan and then Baghdad.
I had worn a suit and carried a Samsonite bag when arrived airport and was taken to Ashraf Camp. They gave me an olive green uniform which was well ironed but was two size bigger. They drove us to a camp in Khanaqin. We were briefed that the operation had begun, the troops had gone, and were now withdrawing.
Somewhere a member asked me if I have ever touched a gun. I said no. He asked if I have ever fired. I said no. Within minutes he brought a Kalashnikov and trained me and I shot. He said it was over. You’re trained right now! When the firing was over, I grabbed the barrel of gun, and as it was very hot, my hand burned badly and blistered.
He said: ‘You’re so much inexperienced that don’t know after firing, the barrel gun is hot and can’t be touched.’ Later I found out that many people were in this situation, that is, they had quickly gathered people from outside.
In Khaneqin, since there were not enough stretchers, I was put in charge to carry the wounded and to take them inside a hospital-like place. It was unclear which one of those injured was alive and which one was dead. The injured were brought by a truck and we evacuated it. All my clothes and my face were bloody. One of members noticed me and said, ‘lie down fast, it seems you’ve injured! I said, I have never been harmed. This’s not my blood. The operation ended. As Mr. Alizadeh pointed out, this failure was more than just a military blow, it was a psychological blow to everyone, because all of them thought that they would easily go to Tehran.
As a brief history I should say when we worked abroad, were sometimes sent to the Iraq for meetings. Sometimes we were in Iraq for one or two months until it came to our turn. We had a meeting with Massoud Rajavi. He briefed us for political affairs and then we returned. On one of these trips I was asked to participate in one of military tactics courses. Ahmad Waqif, whose real name was Mehdi Baraei and was one of the commanders of the organization, trained us a type of blitz invasion. He said that this kind of invasion was first carried out by Hitler and the Germans called it ‘blitzkrieg’. Using this type of invasion, Hitler could cross all the fortifications of France for six days and occupy the country. The way it works is very simple and fast. ‘Forough Javidan’ operation was also based on this tactic, which was done all on the road, in fast, and even the armored was very light and wheeled and the tanks were Brazilian Cascavel. Iraq was at unequally war against Iran. It was unequal because Iraq could buy Mirage Fighter from France, Sukhoi aircraft from Soviet and Scania vehicle from Sweden, but Iran could not buy even barbed wire because of sanction. The war went on. I studied later. The type of hypocrites’ invasion to Iran is very similar to the ISIL attack and conquering the Mosul. That is to say, it happened the same way. The Iranian artillery and armored lines were passed in short time. It was supposed to be prepared in several operations and then reached the final operations and conquered Tehran. First Khorshid Operations for conquering Fakkeh and then Chelcheragh Operations for conquering Mehran. It was supposed another operation was done to conquer West Islamabad and then they moved toward Kermanshah. What happened and surprised the MEK was Iran’s acceptance of Resolution 598. It caused all their plans broke down. Massoud Rajavi immediately visited Saddam Hussein after that. The first step in accepting the resolution was acceptance of ceasefire. Rajavi urged Saddam not to accept the ceasefire and promised him that he would win the war, because their planning was perfect. Saddam’s answer was that he had accepted the resolution earlier, plus that he could no longer continue the war. Rajavi was the only one who could convinced Saddam to leave the ceasefire over for few days and did not respond until the operation to be done; therefore, the organization’s plan changed and the occupation of west Islamabad was turned to move to Tehran.
The operations went on to the west Islamabad as previously planned and then they began moving toward Kermanshah. Again, the organization was faced with another surprise from Iran, which was that Iran did not advance with the classical army, unlike the organization. Shahid Sayyad Shirazi changed completely the tactics of the war. The tactic was that only volunteers were recruited and were armed with Kalashnikov and RPGs, and heliboarding was provided in the highlands around the operational area. Because cannon, tanks, aircraft and bombing didn’t work on that plan of organization. As you saw, Mosul fell immediately and the classical army could not resist. It was the same in Aleppo, and the classical army could not do anything against ISIL. It was different in Iran. Iranian forces were immediately helicoptered in the hills around the Mujahedin’s path and waited in ambush, especially in the Chaharzebar Strait. For this reason, the operation was called Mersad (which means ‘ambush’ in Arabic language); because the main thing was stopping Mujahedin in Hassanabad plain and Mahidashtt, in Siahkhor and especially in Chaharzebar Strait. The Mujahedin forces were stopped near Kermanshah and dispersed. Later, when I spoke with some members, they declare that were fired with Kalashnikov on every side, as if they were near them. So, they had to withdraw and to suffer casualties. This way which was later used by ISIL, has several features. One is that the invaders try to hide quickly among people. As result, the opposing force cannot use air bombardment or heavy weapons. When the Mujahidin moved on the roads where ordinary people traversed, when they entered the cities, even the Iranian aircrafts could not bomb the roads because ordinary people were at aim too. The second is that they showed brutality, just as ISIL did. They did not even show mercy to the animals during Mersad Operation. The fields and houses were set on fire. They struck terror into people’s heart. Some people who were in Mersad Operation told that they were asked not to capture, but must kill whoever appeared, even if surrendered themselves! Even the patients of Islamabad hospital were brought out in the yard and were executed by shooting! The news spread. They had enter into war in this manner that were forced to retreat from Chaharzebar Strait on Mersad Operation. Many Americans, who were members of the organization, came immediately from the United States for the operation. The proof is those burnt American passports displayed at the newly opened Museum of the Chaharzebar Strait. The plan of organization was not too irrational. Later, the plan which was implemented by ISIL in Syria and Iraq, was the one the organization wished to do in the west of Iran. Later on, Massoud Rajavi had a great grudge against Shahid Sayyad Shirazi, because he did not foresee this outcome at all.
Once an assassination attempt was made on Saddam’s son. Rajavi told Saddam that Shahid Sayyad Shirazi has done it, in order Saddam helped him in the assassination attempt.
Mujahidin, like ISIL, made the most use of Islam for controlling its members’ mind. That is, the members really thought they were fighting for Islam. I thought about Massoud Rajavi’s words. Once, when he had to retreated after Mersad Operation, said that our front against Iran is first Syria, then Iraq and after that Iran! I did not understand what he meant. How he wants to go to Syria first, then to Iraq and after that to Iran? What type of tactic it is?! Actually it was a code which was later decoded in action. Another similarity of the organization with ISIL was that the troops were brought to Turkey from Europe and the United States and then entered Iraq from Turkey. That is, all the forces of the Organization entered in this way, even those who were in Iran, went to Turkey and then to Iraq. ISIL has also deployed its forces in this way.’
Maryam Rajabi – Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian – Oral History,