The rise of rulers with absolute power in Europe and Asia led to World War II. The totalitarian systems of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and other relied largely on mass terror and indoctrination. Although today we live in a more democratic world with less ideological systems to rule people, there are still cult-like groups that are ruled by dictators. Cults of personalities such as the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI) use considerable violence to intimidate dissidents inside the cult.
In a totalitarian system like the one in the MEK, individuals have no rights, and the leaders suppress all opposition. However, the MEK tries to stimulate democracy using it as a tool to legitimize authority, consolidate power, and repress its members. The self-assigned president of the group Maryam Rajavi is called “president elect” to suggest that she was elected by the group’s parliament in exile, the so-called National Council of Resistance (NCRI). Actually, NCRI is 98 percent consisted of MEK members, no other fractions of Iranian political spectrum is included. She was indeed elected by Massoud Rajavi and other members had no way but agreeing with his decision.
Maryam Rajavi in her turn makes efforts to take the gesture of a democratic leader. Her “ten point plan” for the future of Iran is a representation of her alleged pro-democratic aspirations but none of the ten points of that secular democratic plan are practiced inside the group’s headquarters Ashraf 3 in Albania as a token community of Iranians.
Members in camp Ashraf 3 are not allowed to ask for their most basic rights. They are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world. They are victims of forced celibacy, forced labor, sleep deprivation in a coercive system that requires them self-criticism and peer pressure. They can never ask about the controversies they are faced with in the cult.
Indeed, the most controversial question in members’ minds might be about the whereabouts of Massoud Rajavi who disappeared in 2003 after the US invasion to Iraq and the eventual collapse of Saddam Hussein, Rajavi’s long-time financial and military sponsor in his struggle against Iran. But, no one dares to ask such a question. Even after the Saudi prince Turki Faisal announced Massoud’s death in the group’s gathering in 2016, the MEK leaders did not approve or deny the announcement.
“However, this absence has been so prolonged that it has led members to criticize and even flee the group.” Suggests Ali Alghurabi of the MNA. “Fear of the group’s collapse has forced Maryam Rajavi to repeatedly move from her Paris headquarters to Tirana to lecture to members in order to show that the situation is under control.”
Alghurabi who is an Arab journalist based in Iran, assumes that the MEK’s stance about the death of Massoud Rajavi is like a game to keep members in limbo. “It seems that measures such as former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal’s statements among members of the cult a few years ago in which he had called Masoud Rajavi dead or putting Masoud’s image among Iran’s deceased historical leaders, and, at the same time, denying his death by the cult’s ringleaders by occasionally broadcasting Masoud’s voice messages are the cult’s game to confuse members and even Iranian officials about the status of the group’s leader,” he argues. “The goals of this game are preventing the members’ exit as well as blinding Iranians’ desire to prosecute or exterminate Rajavi.”
ALghurabi correctly asserts that the MEK’s declining system will no more succeed to maintain Massoud Rajavi’s authoritarian soul over members. “It seems that under the current circumstances, whether Massoud is alive or not will have little effect on the group’s situation,” he states. “The MEK continues to be viewed as a notorious group with a bad record among Iranian people and the Iranian opposition groups; A group which had been on the list of terrorist organizations in the US and the EU, with no credible social base in Iran, dozens of its members fled its camps since 2014 when the group was relocated to Albania, the average age of its members on the rise, and many of them already too old. It is even feared that because of its relocation to Albania, the MEK could be considered a serious obstacle to Albania’s EU accession negotiations and the group’s presence in Albania could turn into a challenge for the Balkan country.”
“So whether or not the elderly leader of this cult is alive, when the MEK is facing a lot of challenges, may not matter much,” Alghurabi determines. The collapse of the world’s most powerful dictators like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and Ghaddafi is the proof. Maryam Rajavi’s hard work to trigger her troll farm in Albania makes no sense when members hardly believe in the group’s cause seeking an opportunity to escape the cult.