Interview with Lord Corbett and… about Rajavi cult
Early February, 35 British Parliament members asked the government officially to lift the name of MKO from the Britain’s list of terrorist organizations.
This group was headed by Lord Corbett, member of House of Lords from Labour Party, who’s collecting signatures to force Home Office to present its reasons for designating the MKO as a terrorist group.
Five years ago, the British government added the MKO to its list of terrorist organization. Now, Lord Corbett and his friends say despite MKO’s history of armed struggle, it’s now acting peacefully and is no threat to Britain or any other country.
We have interviewed Lord Corbett on the issue, and then we have discussed British government’s reasoning for designating the MKO as a terrorist entity. In the end, in an interview with Arvand Abrahamian, Iranian historian, we have asked why some Westerners support the MKO.
We asked Lord Corbett on his efforts to take out MKO from terror list. He responded as follows:
"The only reason for banning the group was that Mullahs had asked Jack Straw to do so. To sit at negotiation table, Iranians had set forth this condition."
– Don’t you think that they were added to the list because they had performed terrorist attacks against Iran? They assassinated a number of senior Iranian officials.
"They did it but it was done before 2001. They never targeted civilians. But about government officials; they killed a known criminal who was in charge of Evin Prison. He had been involved in killing tens of thousands of people. In such situation, the attacks are acceptable. however, the main point is that the group was added to the list in 2001 and at that time it was clear that the MKO had no organizational structure in Britain and that there was no evidence showing hostile activities by the MKO against Britain."
– But this is conventional in talks between governments. Each side asks for advantages in exchange for agreements. Don’t you think that even if Britain gave an advantage, it was right?
"This is no important whether it was conventional or not. My point is that such considerations can’t be regarded as enough reasons for designating a group. Honestly, I believe that in 2001, when the list was being provided, no one of the groups was given a chance to have a fair hearing or comment on the accusations."
-Personally, why do you think the MKO shouldn’t be on terror list?
"With Iran’s brutal regime, a group that seeks nonreligious democratic government should be supported".
– Do you think that British government’s decision was wrong? Why other European countries and the US have banned the group?
"This is a contagious issue. When the British government did this, the EU and the US also follow the example. However, this doesn’t prove that Britain’s first decision was right."
Lord Corbett said Human Rights Watch’s report on repeated cases of human rights violations in the MKO were baseless and lacked enough evidence. Former members of the group, who have repeatedly charged the group with torture and abuse in MKO’s camps in Iraq, were also accused of being tied to Iranian regime by Lord Corbett.
MKO and British Government
In 2000, a new antiterrorism law was passed in Britain.
According to this law, British government added 44 armed groups active across the world to its list of banned groups.
This list covered groups from North Africa to the Middle East, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; the MKO was among these groups.
The reasoning of British and other European government was and has been that 1990s was the era of political extremism growth and at that time many groups resorted to violence and bloody methods. Since it’s easy to immigrate and establish communication nowadays, such groups have created financial, recruiting, communication and back up networks in European countries.
The purpose of UK Terrorism Act 2000 was to ban the activities of such groups and giving more authority to the judicial system in order to prosecute these people and stop their activities.
The rules were passed by UK parliament when Jack Straw was in Home Office. Restricting the overt activities of MKO- including holding gatherings, raising money and propagandistic activities in Britain- was one of the consequences of these rules.
The MKO protested to the decision and claimed that it was done in favor of Iranian regime. Claiming that it has quitted armed opposition since 2001, the group wants the UK government to lift its name from terror list.
We called Home Office but they said they couldn’t comment on the issue since the MKO has officially asked legal institutions to review its status.
According to the rules, related to UK Terrorism Act 2000, Home Office has banned the MKO according to its own regulations and keeps the group on the list of the majority of MPs don’t protest. However, there’s an independent group called "Appealing Commission for Banned groups", to which real and legal entities can appeal.
This group has received MKO’s appeal, which would be reviewed this fall.
Meanwhile, Home Office told BBC Persian that according to British laws, the decisions of this Commission are not binding for Home Office. Therefore, even if the Commission accepts MKO’s protest, there’s no necessity for Home Office to lift MKO’s name from the list.
Interview with Arvand Abrahamian
This is not the first time the MKO’s political fate has become controversial due to its history and methods.
Islamic Republic has always considered it a terrorist group and has proposed that other countries ban the group if they wanted good relations with Tehran.
Meanwhile, 25 years after leaving Iran, the MKO is still continuing to live and sometimes creates tension.
In an interview with Arvand Abrahamian, professor of Iran’s political history and author of the first authentic book on the MKO, we asked about the MKO, about its nature, why Iranian government is sensitive towards it and how it’s identified in the Western political circles.
– How do you interpret the protest of a group of British MPs to banning the MKO?
"The term often used to describe this group is ‘terrorist’, but I believe that the concept of ‘terrorist’ has been used repeatedly and sometimes wrongly. So, it might not give a precise description of the MKO. This group is similar to a cult whose members are ready to do leaders’ orders in any way possible. So far, the group has changed its policies, methods and even internal relations several time and what has remained under the command of Massoud Rajavi is a group of people who obey the orders blindly and are ready to kill, die and even commit suicide for him; these are all signs of an organized cult."
– With these characteristics, why the MKO has a place in political equations? Why is the Iranian government sensitive about it? Is the group popular in Iran?
"No. In years leading to the revolution and in 1979, we could consider it a popular movement but after it settled in Iraq and following its cooperation with Saddam Hussein government, and with its violent methods inside Iran, I don’t think the group is popular and that it has any support in Iran. We shouldn’t forget that this group assassinated several senior Iranian officials, especially between 1981 to 1984. this wave of violence and its consequences for many Iranians has put the MKO beside the wave of horror and fear."
– If, as you say, the MKO is a cult-like group with terrorist history, lacking popularity inside Iran, why is that some Westerner politicians are supporting it and consider it as a democratic alternative for current regime?
"In an impartial view of their support for the group, we can say that they don’t know what they’re precisely supporting. Sometimes, these politicians sing petitions for the sake of humanitarian issues or democratic issues in Iran without knowing that a group like the MKO could be behind it."
– The final issue is about their financial strength, their equipments and their propaganda!
"Financially, they’re strong and the question is that where do they receive these equipments. An organized system is acting. Many believe that when Saddam had a good benefit from oil revenues, the MKO received large amounts of financial aids from the dictator. However, some observers say that it’s likely that some Middle Eastern states help the group. I don’t think anyone in the US government or European states is doing that since the group is on terror list but I don’t reject the idea that some pro-American governments in the Middle East may be helping the group covertly."
BBC persian, February 23, 2007