The Mujahedin Khalq Organization MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ the Cult of Rajavi) is considered a cult-like group if not exactly a cult, based on various western sources. Most members of the group got involved with it together with their family members. When in the 1980’s Massoud Rajavi fled to Iraq to found his so-called National Liberation Army —Saddam’s Private Army— a large number of MEK members took their family to join him. The group was sheltered in Camp Ashraf where Mujahed children were supposed to leave under the strict organizational rules.
“In order to understand the problems children in cults may experience, it is important to analyze how their parents operate,” asserts Anne Edelstam, a sociologist who experienced living in a cult led by a woman guru, Maud Pison. “The parents who are members of a cult are themselves manipulated and mentally controlled by their leader or guru.”
Mental manipulation, as used in a destructive cult, and certainly used in the MEK, is the influence a person or a group of persons have on an individual, through systematic mind control in order to achieve a change in the person’s feelings, thoughts, intelligence, behavior and will. “It can be difficult to understand how a person’s mind and thoughts can change so much,” Edelstam adds. “We are usually not educated to believe that ALL of us can be so easily manipulated.”
When in 2003, Elizabeth Rubin of the New York Times Magazine visited Camp Ashraf, she was stunned to see young women who were acting as female workers of a factory in Maoist China. “Most of the girls I was meeting had grown up in Mujahedeen schools in Ashraf, where they lived separated from their parents,” Rubin writes about the life of children at Camp Ashraf. “Family visits were allowed on Thursday nights and Fridays. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, many of these girls were transported to Jordan and then smuggled to various countries — Germany, France, Canada, Denmark, England, the United States — where they were raised by guardians who were usually Mujahedeen supporters.”
The life of children in Camp Ashraf and then, after they were totally separated from their parents, in the MEK-led orphanages in Europe was precisely the same as what Ann Edelstam describes about Maud Pison. “A cult leader, through systematic mental manipulation, is able to put an individual in such a stressful situation that he cannot use his mind correctly anymore,” she writes. “This stress or psychosis makes the cult member, mentally unstable, psychotic, emotionally unstable, cognitively unstable.
Nadere Afshari, former member of MEK was an eye witnesses who had first-hand account of the orphaned children of MEK. “Rajavi considers the family as an integral cell in his organization,” Afshari says. “He therefore feels free to intervene in the marital relations of members against their own will.”
In the book “Forbidden Love” Nadereh described the horrible situation of the children who were kept in the Cult of Rajavi, in isolated gender-segregated units located far from their parents, under a very abusive control that made them undergo severe sufferings.
“The children growing up in cults don’t have any real parents,” Edelstam suggests. “They belong to the leader and to its ideology. They are modeled to become ideal robots. This is a phenomenon that we’ve seen in Nazi Germany with the creation of the Hitlerjugend, in the Red Army and among children soldiers in different parts of the world etc. It’s unfortunately a phenomenon that is used by most tyrants, and gurus are nothing but tyrants.”
The couple guru of MEK, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, are two of the tyrants who in February 1991, separated over 800 children from 2-months-old to 18-year-old from their parents and smuggled them to Jordan with fake IDs. They were then sent to European countries including Germany, Netherlands and Sweden where they were made adopted by European families and Iranian families who were sympathizers of the MKO or were kept in crowded buildings as the orphanages run by MEK commanders.
About the life of children in the cults Ann Edelstam explains: “In several cults the children don’t get enough sleep either. They are awakened at night along with their parents to pray, read a mantra, clean or whatever excuses the leader might find to awaken them. Children who don’t get enough sleep don’t grow as well as others. They also become irritated and slow. They also get infections easier, which in some cases can even be deadly. In several cults, medicine and doctors are forbidden.”
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The memoirs of Nadereh Afshari in two books written in Persian are full of examples of maltreatments and abuses committed by commanders of the Cult of Rajavi against children. She even writes of newly born infants of MEK mothers who were beaten by a commander called Azam.
“Everyday life in a cult implies hard work often even for small children; with lots of work, little sleep and food, there is no time left to play,” Edelstam continues. “The children must early on be indoctrinated and drilled so that their personalities cannot develop and so that they learn humility.”
Considering the history of totalitarian movement like the Cult of Rajavi, one realizes that the cult system hinders the child to develop into a fully responsible adult and citizen. The cult denies the child’s right to his identity, his personality, a structure, an intellect and a critical thinking. The child becomes robotized and cannot move without the cult as a prothesis.
A number of current members of MEK are those teenagers who were taken back to Camp Ashraf after a few years of living in the group’s units in Europe. They have always been under the manipulative system of the group. It is very difficult for a child who has grown up in this weird, close, manipulative cult-world to become a normal citizen again. What is considered right and wrong for most of us isn’t at all that obvious for a former cult-member. “It is very difficult for a child who has grown up in this weird, close, manipulative cult-world to become a normal citizen again,” Edelstam. “What is considered right and wrong for most of us isn’t at all that obvious for a former cult-member.”
By Mazda Parsi