A combination of situations could lead someone to think of suicide. Some risk factors increase the possibility of suicide. Mental illness, such as depressions, social isolation, criminal problems, financial problems, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, job problems or loss, legal problems etc. may push people to commit suicide. Now, consider the Mujahedin Khalq Organization as a cult-like group in which members are deprived from their most basic human rights. The MEK provides its members with the combination of situations that can lead them to consider suicide as the last resort.
In the early days of December, 2021, the Albanian news media, Gazeta Impact reported of a suicide attempt by a young man named Shahpour Danafar in the MEK’s camp in Manez, in north of Tirana. The report called the case as “the Danafar family tragedy”. Shahpour whose real name is Nikfarjam is the son of Behrouz Danafar a longtime member of the MEK.
According to Gazeta Impact, “The Danafar family tragedy occurred in late November when the Danafar family decided to leave the Rajavi Cult. The father of the family and his two sons, Navid Danafar and Shahpour Danafar, asked their Rajavi Cult superiors to allow them to leave the Manez camp and live in the city of Tirana like many other former members of the cult. The commanders of the camp on the direct order of Maryam Rajavi, the cult leader, refused to allow the family in question to leave the camp in Manez and settle in Tirana. One of the sons, Shahpour Danafar attempted suicide by cutting the veins of his wrist. Shahpour was hospitalized in QSUT Hospital (University Hospital Center “Mother Teresa”). Albanian state bodies are keeping a dirty silence over this case of attempted suicide.”
Banning member’s departure is the old tactic that the leaders of the Cult of Rajavi have always used to maintain their cult of personality. However, a large number of the group members –about fifty percent of the population– have left it during the two past decades.
Based on the report by RAND institute on the Mujahedin Khalq sponsored by the of the office of the US Secretary of Defense, “Rajavi instituted what he termed an “ideological revolution” in 1985, which, over time, imbued the MEK with many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and limited exit options.”
Thus, Massoud Rajavi created many of risk factors that increase the possibility of suicide for his own members –better said hostages. The case of Shahpour (Nikfarjam) is not the first one in the MEK. Some names are repeatedly referred to when former members want to testify about suicide in the MEK: Yaser Akbarinasab, Alan Mohammadi and Marjan Akbari.
Yaser Akbarinasab was 17 when he was taken from Europe to Iraq to join the MEK’s National Liberation Army (NLA) together with his 14-year-old brother, Musa. Yaser had almost no sympathy for the MEK and so he began to protest against the MEK’s cult-like attitudes. He wanted to leave the group but he was not allowed by the group leaders and so he was put under severe pressure by the commanders. Finally, on a summer day, after lunch time, Yasser’s friends in the cult saw smoke from behind the base number seven, at Camp Ashraf. Commanders did not let his friends see the body of Yasser. Yasser had set himself on fire.
Marjan Akbari (nicknamed Faezeh) was a child soldier too. She had been separated from her Mujahed parents in 1991 and then she had been brought back to join the NLA as a teenager in the late 90s. A few years later, Marjan asked to leave the group but she was not permitted. Just like Yaser, her request was faced with commanders’ anger. In 2004, Marjan stole the cyanide capsule of her commander and swallowing the capsule she committed suicide.
Alan was only 13 years old when she was brought from Germany to Camp Ashraf to receive military trainings as a soldier of the NLA. She requested to return to Europe, but she was faced with what is usual in the MEK. Mental and physical tortures that were imposed on Alan by the MEK authorities finally resulted in her mental breakdown. She was 15 years old when she committed suicide and put an end to her life. She shot herself when she was on her guarding post at Camp Ashraf.
Today, the MEK propaganda boasts with the names and pictures of Yasser, Marjan, Alan and many other of its victims as martyrs of the struggle against the Iranian government. However, the naked truth about what really goes on in the MEK is increasingly being exposed to the world. The more the MEK propaganda tries to silence the defectors, the less it can mange to cover the truth. As Gazeta Impact also puts, concerns over the fate of two thousand hostages in the MEK’s base in Albania should not be neglected by the Albanian authorities and the international human rights bodies.