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Hanif was trained for terror as an MEK child

Hanif grew up in the rebel movement Mujahedin-e Khalq.
He was only six years old when he was trained in the use of weapons, and as a nine-year-old he was sent by his mother alone on the run. – For my mother, the fight was more important than the love for me.

Iraq, 1988: Hanif is six years old and the weapon in his hand is heavy. With all his might, he manages to lift the Kalashnikov over his head in a victory movement. His teacher laughs and the children around him cheer. It is a regular school day at the Camp Ashraf military base in the Iraqi desert. – The fight against Ayatollah Khomeini permeated our lives and marked my entire childhood. That was what life was all about, and the battle came before anything else. Another memory: He draws a drawing for his mother Zohreh, which depicts an automatic weapon surrounded by red stars. He gets the highest grade and the art teacher says his mother will be proud.
Dad died in battle

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini took power. He created an Islamic state and changed Iran from base. Hanif’s parents agreed to fight in the resistance movement People’s Mujahedin and settled in neighboring Iraq. Hanif’s father lost his life in the battle. A common question among children at the military base was: “Are your parents alive?” We were many who answered no to that question. We shared the suffering together, and somehow it made the loss less painful. It is said that if one “have not lost a parent, you are not a real Mujahedin child. It sounds absurd, but that’s the way it is,” Hanif said.
He remembers the great desert and the great gray tanks that were donated by Saddam Hussein. He remembers the cohesion, and despite being aware of the struggles, he was rarely scared as a child. But as the conflict escalated, risks increased, and Hanif’s mother, like many others in the rebel movement, decided to send her children away.

Hanif Azizi

– She could have followed, but for her the fight was more important than us. Hanif was given responsibility for his little brother He was nine years old and carried a bag in black imitation leather. The bus was covered in mud to camouflage it, thus reducing the risk of bombings. – The memory of my mother’s words has etched itself, she looked serious and said that I was grown up enough to take care of my little brother so as I had the responsibility for my little brother. When I waved to her, I did not know that it would not see each other gain. I remember holding my little brother’s hard in my hand tightly. The two brothers ended up in Sweden and eventually in Norrköping. Hanif did everything to fit in to take care of himself. But his father’s death and flight to Sweden had affected him deeply.

– I had a hard time focusing and for the first time began to question the way we had lived. The grief made me become something of a mess and I made quite a fuss. I was seen as a problem wherever I went, and with each adversity the hole and emptiness within me grew larger. I was a strange bird that did not fit in anywhere. He felt outside and alone, and in his teens, the feelings got worse. – I had long tried to distance myself from the movement and did not want to be reminded of my past. I tried instead to become as Swedish as possible. But it did not work, I remained stranger. He missed his mother, his roots, a connection.

Hanif Azizi

The missing pulled him back to Iraq When the Mujahedin of the People reached out, I took it. I was recruited to become a warrior and join the fight. On a subtle level, room for maneuver was limited and there was a form of radicalization and brainwashing that I was exposed to. I was not lured into the movement, but slowly my thoughts were reworked to fit their purpose. There was also a warmth that was so existentially comfortable that I continued to be a part of the movement.

Human Rights Watch claimed in a report in 2005 that the movement was a sect, and it was until 2009 that the movement was removed from the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. But Hanif was attracted by the community and by resuming contact with his mother. – I was like a ticking bomb, full of emotions that could explode at any moment. Everything was clear. He had to travel to fight for the Mujahedin. But one detail, a broken passport, put an end to his plans. – In hindsight, I have realized that the incident gave me a relief and I got a chance to stop and think. I understood that I was looking for an identity and not for a place in the struggle. How did you realize that? – I have thought about it a lot and often get questions about it. But there is no easy answer, rather several factors. Part of it, I think, was that I had a strong desire to become Swedish and saw myself as a Swedish.

Hanif Azizi

Hanif’s life can make a difference for young people in the same situation
Hanif’s life took a new turn and he trained as a policeman. Today he works in Rinkeby and often meets people who are outside society, but also in different phases of radicalization. – There is no point in preaching about the right path, I have realized this through my story, but you can reach the young people in a different way. They can feel that I am not just talking, but that I understand. He no longer has any contact with his mother, and the bitterness of his mother leaving her children was for a long time the dominant feeling in him. – It’s a trauma that has left its mark on me. A part of me will always be an abandoned child. Now I have turned my back on my past to be able to move on and it is a sadness but somehow it has also given me an inner peace. I have found my place and it is here in Sweden.

udeoghjemme.dk , Translated by Nejat Society

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