March 14th ten years ago, marked the day that Thomas Lubanga Dylio was found guilty by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities. About a decade later, former child soldiers of the Mujahedin Khalq (MEK/ PMOI) began speaking out giving their testimonies on how they were snatched and recruited by the agents of Massoud Rajavi.
In March 14th, 2012, the guardian reported, “The international criminal court has delivered the first verdict in its 10-year history, finding a Congolese warlord guilty of recruiting child soldiers. Thomas Lubanga was convicted of snatching children from the street and turning them into killers. He showed no emotion as the presiding judge, Adrian Fulford, read out the verdict.”
Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. According to the ICC official website, on 15 March 2020, Thomas Lubanga was released after having served 14 years of imprisonment. Thomas Lubanga had used a rebel militia to dominate the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri region. “Children as young as 11 were recruited from their homes and schools to take part in brutal ethnic fighting in 2002-03,” according to the Guardian. “They were taken to military training camps and beaten and drugged; girls were used as sex slaves.”
Lubanga’s trick to coscript militia is very similar to that of Massoud Rajavi to recruit his Mujahed militia. About eight hundred children of Mujahed parents were first separated from their parents who were allegedly fighting the Iranian government in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. They were smuggled to Europe and North America where they were kept in team houses of the MEK or were given to fostering families, sympathizers of the MEK.
Today, after over two decades, former child soldiers have launched a campaign to defend their right to reveal their own experiences of being a child soldier in the MEK. Amir Yaghmai is one of the first former child soldiers of the MEK who spoke out about his experience of living under the abusive system of the Cult of Rajavi. In 2021, two other MEK-born children who are now in their thirties spoke out. Hanif Azizi, a Swedish policeman now, published his autobiography, “Suburban snout” in Swedish recounting his childhood in the MEK’s military camps. Amin Golmaryami was the third child soldier who was officially brought to the lime light of the Western media. His life story was published by the German newspaper Die Zeit in October 2021.
This was the start of a series of revelations by other child soldiers of the MEK. Sam, Mohammad, Ray, Arman, Saeed, Zina and other young defectors of the MEK who were once recruited by the group’s agents and transferred to Iraq, spoke out in the social media, in particular Club House platform. These former child soldiers were eventually labeled as agents of the Iranian government by the MEK propaganda.
Die Zeit’s journalist Luisa Hommerich who only investigated the cases of MEK children in Cologne, Germany, writes, “From the mid-1990s, some of their former teachers remembered that People’s Mojahedin children suddenly disappeared from Cologne. They suddenly stopped showing up in their classes, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old teenagers. A former teacher says today that he informed the Cologne Youth Welfare Office and the guardian Christoph Meertens about it.”
There were a lot more children, girls and boys who were smuggled from the United States, Canada and European countries to the MEK’s military headquarters in Iraq, Camp Ashraf. At least three hundred of the MEK’s children were coerced by the MEK agents to sign a recruitment form to join the MEK’s military force, called National Liberation Army (NLA), financially and logistically sponsored by Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi dictator. Their story is very similar to Lubanga’s victims. All of these children were under 18; they were whipped from school; they were forced to wear military uniform in Camp Ashraf; they were trained military trainings and even in cases they were forced to attend military operations or clashes. Former child soldiers of the MEK even exposed several cases of sexual harassment and child abuse by MEK agents.
Although former child soldiers of the so-called People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) do not seek to sue the group leaders for the time being, Massoud Rajavi and his commanders can be hold accountable for crimes against children under legal age they recruited for the NLA. Today, former child soldiers of the MEK are determined to tell the truth as a warning for other people who are at risk of being trapped by extremist groups and destructive cults like the MEK. However, the international community must take it into consideration that the crimes of Massoud Rajavi against his own members, particularly the children of his own members are definitely blamed by illuminated public opinion.
By Mazda Parsi