A cult is most frequently a religious or utopian group with a charismatic leader. Such groups can do a lot of damage causing anything from the breaking up of families to horrific acts of ritual murder, mass suicide and terrorist acts. Fanatical devotion to a leader, who is usually male and make claims to omniscience that are unsupported by evidence, is usually a prerequisite.
Although the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MEK/ MKO/ PMOI/ Cult of Rajavi) takes the gesture of a pro-democracy political movement to replace the Iranian government, it has been acting like a cult during its half-a-century existence, according to the above-mentioned criteria.
The MEK has all the trappings of a totalitarian cult. The 1994 State Department report on the group documented how Massoud Rajavi the charismatic leader of the MEK “fostered a cult of personality around himself” which had “alienated most Iranian expatriates, who assert they do not want to replace one objectionable regime for another.”
However, the self-immolations that took place after the arrest of Maryam Rajavi by the French Police in June, 2003, was the tip of the iceberg of what Massoud Rajavi has done to his followers. The MEK is no longer a political movement in any case, but just a cult in which members and sympathizers worship the Rajavis and their minds are so manipulated that they cannot even think about right and wrong. The leaders think for them.
On June 17, 2003, Maryam Rajavi was arrested by the French counter-terrorism force, together with 165 MKO members in 13 offices. The police also confiscated $3 million in cash in her residence in Auver sur d’Oise, a Parisian suburb. Through the next days, a dozen of MEK members set themselves on fire in European capitals to protest the arrest. Two of them, two women, died of her burns, Neda Hassani and Sedigheh Mojaveri.
These acts of MEK members are akin to what followers of Hassan ibn Sabbah or devotees of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian did. They all qualify to be considered as destructive cults.
When the MEK first started as a political movement, it took arms and launched several acts of terror against the Governments of Shah and Islamic Republic in Iran. A large number of civilians were killed in the attacks. As a destructive cult, the MEK is responsible for the death of even more people including its own members and sympathizers including those who were killed under torture and cult-like pressure and those who were convinced by the leaders to commit suicide and self-immolation.
While violence has been so widespread in the group’s practices, it is not considered a political movement, it is literally a terrorist cult of personality.