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Women Lured by Mojahedin-e Khalq, the Religious Cult

 I have only one solution: to rise above this absurd drama that others have staged around me.

Still reeling from my bitter experience, I am trying to come to grips with many years of my most vulnerable life spent in a religious, destructive cult called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK); an experience which shattered my confidence and left me feeling abused and betrayed.

I was seeking freedom and the equal rights of men and women in my homeland Iran when I was recruited by and trapped in the Mojahedin cult.

At the time that I succumbed to them and became a member of the MEK, I would never have thought that one day the MEK’s leaders would betray me as they did.

As a former cult member, I endorse the view that the Mojahedin cult’s leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi are deceptive, exploitive masters of mind control who can weave pernicious spells capable of holding followers in thrall for decades, especially the women. Like many leaders, they are handsome, attractive and seductive.

The organization itself vehemently rejects the notion that it is a cult–and all that the designation brings with it. The leaders prefer to describe their outfit as a legitimate political group which wants to bring freedom to Iran. Unfortunately, behind this façade they do not follow even the minimum principle of freedom which is the freedom of personal decision making. However the MEK characterizes itself, an individual’s foray into the cult netherworld can exact a huge emotional toll.

The surrender of personal autonomy, even during the first brief enchantment, can cause profound self-doubt and loss of self-esteem. A longer stay can seriously derail (if not destroy) a member’s life. The damage is even greater if exiting members were abused and abuse of women’s sexuality in the MEK cult is a common theme for women members. Some former women members describe being forced into marrying men that they did not know. Then, in 1990 the leader of the MEK cult ordered all the members to divorce. This meant that all the married couples in the MEK must divorce without any question or protest. For unmarried members, both men and women, they were required to divorce their sexuality and purify themselves of all sexual thoughts and feelings. Women in the MEK are indoctrinated into performing whatever has been planned for them by the leaders. After the divorces, the women had to give up their children and denounce and destroy their feelings of motherhood.

How much do we have to fear from these groups? And how do otherwise intelligent and seemingly sensible women get trapped in such madness?

In the main, cults target people in transition–college students away from home for the first time, people who have moved to new cities for jobs, those who have just been divorced or widowed. The vast majority of members are merely looking for a sense of community during a difficult time in their lives. This is how the MEK as a cult group operates. The MEK recruiters deceive and trap people by finding the weak point of the individual. Once recruited, the individual is subjected to a daily indoctrination using patterns of mind control. This will start by keeping recruits so busy and so isolated that they have no time to question or reflect on what they’re doing or to talk to others who might instill doubts. Rigid rules and rituals help reinforce the autonomy of the MEK cult, particularly in women. Yet experts in cults disagree on whether mind control without the use of force is even possible. "No-one who has observed these groups closely has concluded brainwashing is the reason people are in such cult," insists David Bromley, a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and this is what exactly MEK does. Another powerful factor is the charisma, magnetism, and seductive talents of the cult leaders. "They are con artists par excellence," I would insist, invasion of privacy, and the infliction of severe emotional distress.

Cults like the MEK should not remain such a mystery to people at this time. It is no longer an unknown phenomenon. Broad agreement does exist among psychologists and sociologists about what is meant by referring to a group as a cult. The study of countless cults has given rise also to valuable research into the use of mind control techniques and what is meant by psychological manipulation and psychological coercion.

Still, while organizations like the MEK are taken at face value and not subjected to rigorous investigation and research, it is clear that not enough is known about the many former members who have been able to extricate themselves from the clutches of the cult and return to a normal life. Nor is it not possible to ascertain how many people are still being recruited through the front door by dangerous, destructive cults like the MEK even as disenchanted members leave through the back door.

As a former member of the Mojahedin cult, I wonder why the public does not know more about destructive cults and the warped motives of their leaders. While experts may argue the finer points about what actually makes a cult or whether or not mind control or brainwashing keeps members in thrall, former members like myself struggle to put their lives back together. But, it certainly isn’t easy: being in a cult is not something you walk away from and forget, it is like a disease and needs a long term cure.

There is no doubt that the Mojahedin-e Khalq is a destructive cult. But, when the claim of such an entity to be a democratic, freedom-loving political force which respects human rights, is not subjected to real scrutiny based on the evidence of former members, then I believe the tolerance of such destructive cults will be far more detrimental to society than anyone can imagine they are.
Parvin Haji, Canada

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