GholamReza Shekari was twenty years old when he crossed the Iran-Iraq border in order to immigrate to Europe seeking a better life. As his bad luck had it, Iraqi security forces delivered him to the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ Cult of Rajavi). This was the start of 27 years of detention in the cult-like structure of the MEK. His requests to depart the group was not met as long as they were in Iraq. The group had confiscated his documents and told him that if he left the group, he would end up with torture in Iraqi prison.
After the group was expelled from Iraqi territory, Shekari was relocated in Albania in 2017 and eventually he asked to leave the group again. He was allowed to leave but he was under the group’s control as far as he was given a monthly payment by the group. In 2018, when he announced that he was not willing to work for MEK, the group cut off his monthly pension. Since then the UNHCR supported him financially.
A few months later, Shekari was interviewed by Luisa Hommerich, the correspondent of Der Spiegle. Hommerich’s investigative report on MEK, titled “Prisoners of Their Own Rebellion, The Cult-Like Group Fighting Iran” was published in February, 2019. As expected, The Spiegle’s article was labeled as the propaganda of the Iranian Government.
As Hommerich reports, “Gholamreza Shekari, a slender 50-year-old man with bony cheeks, says he spent 27 years as a member of the People’s Mujahedin, adding “the organization’s public face is liberal. Internally, though, it works by way of lies, manipulation and fear.””
“They spoke of freedom and democracy for Iran,” Shekari told Hommerich. “And then they promised me that they would arrange a visa for Europe for me.”
In March, 2019, Shekari officially declared his defection from the MEK. His statement of defection that was published by Nejat Society, contained horrific facts about the dark days he had experienced inside the MEK.
Eventually he began writing in Persian his account of the mental and physical torture he had endured in the MEK’s notorious Camp Ashraf, in a series of articles in Persian. This is an extensive account of what he mentioned about torture by MEK commanders in his interview with the Spiegle.
Shekari told Spiegle that he repeatedly asked when he would be allowed to leave. “But that turned out to be a mistake: According to Human Rights Watch, the organization began torturing members who wanted to leave the group or who asked critical questions in the mid-1990s,” Hommerich accurately states.
“They insulted me as a spy, beat my shins until they were bloody and put out burning cigarettes on my skin,” he told Hommerich. “After a week, he says, his lower legs were completely black. He rolls up his jeans to reveal scars covering his legs.”
Besides the strict regulations of the Cult of Rajavi that required absolute obedience, According to Shekari and many other defectors such as Bahman Azami, Adel Azami, Nader Naderi, Nader Chapachap, in 1994 and 1995, dozens of members of the group were imprisoned in groups and in solitary confinement, tortured and even killed by the commanders of the group. Defectors revealed the names of some of the torturers of the Cult of Rajavi. Mokhtar Jannat, Majid Alamian, Mahvash Sepehri, Assadollah Mosana, mohammad Eqbal and some other high-ranking members of the group were in charge of interrogating, beating and torturing the imprisoned members who did not even know what their accusation was.
After months of torture and imprisonment, Shekari told the Spiegle, “the leader Masoud Rajavi gathered all those who had been tortured”. “He threatened that if we ever spoke about it, we would be handed over to the Iraqis, which would mean additional torture or death,” Shekari added.
The group still claims that Shekari and other former members are agents to spread the disinformation of the Iranian Government. “The organization claims that we are all agents so that nobody believes us,” he told the Spiegle. “But I’m not working for anyone.”
This is just a short part of four episodes of Shekari’s memoirs of torture and imprisonment in Camp Ashraf:
“Majid Alamian and Mokhtar Janat, the two torturers and slaughterers received me…They took off my clothes. I was completely naked when Mokhtar began beating me. He gave me pajamas to put on. Again, they started beating on my head. I raised my arms to cover my head, he kicked me in the back. Then the major commander, who was called Kak Adel, came and told them to take me to the cell. They covered my eyes and took me around the place. Finally, they uncovered my eyes in a cell where about ten other of my comrades had been jailed.”
This was the start of Shekari’s five-months imprisonment, interrogation and torture in the Cult of Rajavi. He was under the most severe mental and physical pressures from January to May, 1994.