Huge screens that show Maryam Rajavi in the video conferences in the halls of Camp Ashraf 3 in Albania and hundreds of monitors that demonstrate the online audience of the conference from all over the world are signs of the well-funded complicated Internet system used by the Mujahedin Khalq’s propaganda machine. But you may never believe that the rank and file of the MEK do not know how to work with a smart phone. They have no access to the Internet as a core pillar of everyday life.
In fact, information control is one important sign of destructive cults. In order to control the information, the cult leaders practice deception by deliberately withholding or distorting information, and or lying. They minimize or discourage access to other sources of information (TV, internet, former members, and so on). They make extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda. In the Cult of Rajavi, the only accessible source of information is the group’s TV channel, Sima-ye Azadi and the internal bulletins.
Former member of the MEK, Bakhshali Alizadeh, speaks of a room in the MEK’s base called “the Internet Room” with a big no entry sign and the written phrase in Persian: Entry is absolutely forbidden. “The room was only authorized for a few people”, he says. “These few members had to keep everything they saw there a secret. So, their self-criticism sessions were held separately.”
According to the document issued by the Office of Human Rights High Commissioner of the United Nations (OHCHR), published in April 2021, the Internet shutdown can violate human rights. In cases that the shutdown of the Internet is neither legal nor necessary, shutdowns violate the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and freedom of association under Articles 19, 21 and 22, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The document reads, “Given that the internet is now used to enjoy a wide range of rights, including health, work, and education, shutdowns are a blunt approach that is almost invariably disproportionate. Smaller scale restrictions, such as denials of service, are often discriminatory…Shutdowns thus can significantly increase marginalization and social and economic inequalities.”
Therefor, it is not implausible that an ordinary member of the MEK has to try hard to get adopted with the high-tech smart phones and other communication devices in the outside world after leaving the Cult of Rajavi.
Based on the OHCHR’s document, titled “Internet Shutdown and human Rights”, states, regional and international organizations can help stop discrimination and human rights violation in the communities that the Internet has been banned. They should engage with authorities, pay attention to community reports and respond promptly when shutdowns occur. In case of the MEK, today there are numerous testimonies presented by former members of the group as well as investigated reports published by independent journalists on the life inside the MEK.
Moreover, families of the rank and file of the MEK living in Iran are the most significant witnesses for the Internet shutdown inside the MEK. The reason is clear. Despite their longtime efforts in order to contact their loved ones in the MEK, they have not been able to visit them or talk to them on the phone during the past decades.
Families have no way except publishing text or video messages on the Internet including Nejat Society’s website, in the hope that their loved one in the Cult of Rajavi will see their messages someday. Bakhshali Alizadeh asserts that Nejat society’s website is checked by those specific MEK agents in the Internet room of camp Ashraf 3, every day. “They see all messages sent by families on Nejat website but they are forced to keep silent about them. They should not tell the member that his or her family is looking forward to see him or her” he says.
Therefore, it seems that the legal duty of the Albanian government and the regional and international human rights bodies requires them to conform their actions to stop violation of human rights in the MEK’s camp aiding the rank and file of the group reach the outside world via the Internet and other communication tools.
By Mazda Parsi