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3,000 Iranian captives held in by US see no sign of quick release

The crisis over the capture of fifteen British Navy personnel by Iranian Revolutionary Guards masked a longer running problem involving 3,000 Iranian captives held by US forces in Camp Ashraf, .

While Iranian treatment of the British marines gave rise to comparisons with the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and questions were raised over whether the US’s capture of five Iranians claiming diplomatic status in Iraq and holding them for over two months could have played a part in the crisis, the humanitarian crisis involving 3,000 Iranian captives at Camp Ashraf received no attention.

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK, aka Rajavi cult) which owns the captives certainly did not remain silent when the British marines were captured. This was yet another opportunity for the Rajavi cult to hang its basic demand onto an entirely unrelated issue. But that demand is not for the release of the captives in Camp Ashraf . Rather, Massoud Rajavi, leader of the MEK, is at pains to keep them captive in . His fundamental demand is that they be rearmed by the and that he be allowed to continue with his own version of ‘regime change’ from Iraqi territory. (A position totally at odds with the demands of the Iraqi government which has been asking the US to remove these foreign elements from its territory for over three years.)

On first learning that had captured the marines, the MEK claimed that this had been done in order to pressure the British to keep the group on its terror list.

During the crisis the Mojahedin held a picket outside No. 10 Downing Street asking the British government to stop all relations with and move toward placing all kinds of political economic and social sanctions, including an oil embargo, against and “taking the Mojahedin off the terrorist list”.

After the marines were released, the Mojahedin was shocked and instantly changed tack. The group now said that the marines had been released because the mullahs had become afraid of their picket and the prospect of them coming off the list… even though they had previously claimed that the marines had been taken hostage precisely so that the British government would not remove the MEK from the terrorist list. While everyone else was quick accept that the release of the captives was a result of and directly talking to one another, the MEK’s Hambastegi Meli website wrote on April 7th: “the mullahs retreated after seeing a little bit of firmness.” It continued: “… the best policy against the fascist mullahs in not to … or launch a military attack but to remove the name of this resistance from the list of terrorist organisations…”

The MEK’s efforts to suggest that issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme, the capture of British Navy personnel and the presence of Iranians in Iraq can all be solved by removing the group from terrorist lists are risible, a clear sign of desperation.

If the MEK is serious about being removed from western terrorist lists then it must pay the price; that is, to unequivocally, and unmistakably show proof that it has renounced violence as a means to achieve political aims. The proof of this would be to agree to the immediate dismantlement of its military base at Camp Ashraf and allow the removal of the combatants there to locations of their own choosing – that is, to allow the former military combatants to choose their own futures now that the military wing of the MEK is obsolete.

According to Mojahedin leaders, Camp Ashraf is their ‘strategic’ base and must be maintained at all costs. Even though this directly contradicts the claim to have renounced armed struggle. The former combatants in Camp Ashraf still wear military uniform and perform military training even though the group was disarmed four years ago.

But Camp Ashraf is more than a strategic base for Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. It is the ideological training base of their cult. Without the isolation from the outside world and complete control over the lives of its inhabitants which the camp offers them, they simply cannot exert the level of psychological manipulation and coercion on their followers which guarantees their total submission and willingness to sacrifice their lives in suicide missions.

Iranians worldwide are entitled to ask why, in spite of its vociferous demand to be removed from the terrorist lists, no efforts are being made by the US to resolve the humanitarian crisis at Camp Ashraf and free these former military personnel from their captivity. The average age of the internees is around 45 years old – this is no longer a viable fighting force. What benefit does this cult have for the in ?

The British Navy personnel were held for two weeks without consular access. The Iranian ‘diplomats’ were held for two months without contact. But the people in Camp Ashraf have been held incommunicado for four years. This is surely not acceptable behaviour by coalition forces which claim to have invaded to bring democracy and to fight terrorism. (President George W. Bush named the MEK as one of the terrorist groups supported by Saddam Hussein; one of his reasons for attacking Iraq).

In spite of UN Protected Persons status, for four years these individuals have been denied free and unfettered contact with their families. They are also denied the freedom to choose whether to remain as members of the terrorist group or not. A large minority have previous residence rights in third countries, whether as citizens, refugees or having relatives in those countries. These individuals are still denied the right to leave the Camp and take up residence in third countries.

In one example, the husband and daughter of a Camp Ashraf resident travelled from Norway on three occasions with an entry visa to so that she could join them there. At no time did the forces responsible for the group facilitate a private visit with her family. She was always accompanied by Mojahedin minders of whom she was clearly afraid. Families from the UK and Cananda have reported similar experiences.

In this context the MEK’s vociferous efforts to demand its removal from western terrorist lists cannot possibly be taken seriously. Either the group must acquiesce willingly to the dismantlement of its military wing, or coalition forces who purportedly hold them captive in Iraq must take positive steps to do this.

While it is well known that psychological coercion is being used to keep the residents in Camp Ashraf enthralled to the leader Massoud Rajavi, apparently the significance of this is either barely understood or not appreciated. Let us remind ourselves that the cult members, who burned themselves to death in London and Paris on the order of Maryam Rajavi in June 2003, were trained for suicide missions at Camp Ashraf .

There is no shortage of expertise to advise how to dismantle a dangerous, destructive cult. Without intervention the Rajavi cult is rapidly disintegrating from within. The self-destruction of a cult is a dangerous phenomenon. The Rajavi cult has already hinted at mass suicide – through bombing, self-immolations or other means. The members have only recently been required to give fresh written guarantees to obey such an order when the time comes.

The US should be aware that unless these particular captives are given a way out, the consequences of not doing so could be every bit as serious as events at Jonestown or Waco .




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Iran-Interlink – April,2007

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