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Behavior Control Techniques in Mojahedin Cult (8)

Of the major challenges touched upon by MKO’s ex-members after the ideological revolution was the occurrence of an overall change in organizational relations as well as intra-organizational controlling procedures in order to exercise a permanent and all-out mental, emotional and political control over the insiders. It was aimed to break members’ ties of attachment to anything and replace them with an ideological, political and social dependence to Rajavi’s leadership.

However, such procedures were in progress even before the ideological revolution but in a moderate and less complex fashion. The latest medical and psychological achievements as well as mind control techniques exploited by the majority of cults have to be taken into consideration in order to develop a good understanding of MKO’s internal revolution.

Intra-organizational relations of Mojahedin bear various titles before and after the ideological revolution, for instance, security control, self-criticism, organizational doctrines, organizational training and the like. The aim here is to probe into the utilized techniques to have control on the insiders’ manner of conduct although the term ‘control’ may not fully explain the cult-like behavior of MKO. The so-called “Amaliat Jari” or the ‘current operation’ is a routinely exploited approach by MKO with no exact equivalent found in political and cult lexicons. It is an apparatus for ever appraising members’ relative degree of submission to Rajavi’s leadership. In these regular compulsory sessions members at all levels are harshly rebuked and criticized under a variety of excuses that consequently undermine the members’ confidence in themselves as well as their judgment and leads them to a state of absolute submissiveness and deprives them of pursuing any solution to the problems they may face.

Taking a brief look at the memoirs and testimonies of MKO ex-members may be of some help here. Masoud Banisadr, a detached member, in describing his mental and psychological condition in one of these sessions of current operation explains:

My temperature was rising. I could not think at all. I felt helpless as if I was naked and others were looking at me. I felt like a two-year-old baby. I had lost all my power of logic, comprehension and expression. [1]

In contrast to the Middle Age approaches of physical torture, repressions, and intimidation to have control over the individuals, Rajavi took advantage of modern psychological manipulation to influence members. Masoud Banisadr points to one of the instances in which MKO leader (Rajavi) had a meeting with ‘HE’, namely members of executive committee with the highest rank available to members. Although it may bring about a sense of disgust, it is mentioned to get a better understanding of different dimensions of relations in MKO. Masoud states:

Before saying anything else, he surprised everybody by saying: “I have heard from Dr . . . that your pee has bubble. Strangely according to what I heard from him, our ‘HE’ member’s pee has bubble while our ordinary member’s pee is bubble-less.” Then when he faced strange and puzzled look of members said: “Don’t look at me with surprise, like you don’t know what that means. It means, few years after ‘ideological revolution, still you have not been able to neutralize your sexual desires and still you have ejaculation of semen, which creates bubble in your urine. I thought this problem has been solved by the people under your responsibility!!” After his speech as usual few brothers who always were ready to follow his word and elaborate more in backing to whatever he had said already, start talking. One of them went as far as saying that: “We were not ‘HE’ we were ‘HEEE’.” The noise people make for calling or stopping donkeys. It implied that we were not members of the organization but donkeys, animals without any power to solve their natural needs. [2]

Surprisingly, Bijan Niyabati, a theoretician of ideological revolution, believes that the importance of the successful accomplishment and the main objective of the ideological revolution lie in the strict control of members both in joint and individual relations. He writes:

To unlock the boxes (minds of members) is the main theme and the first stage of ideological revolution. [3]

Niyabati justifies Mojahedin’s system of control as an appropriate means to overthrow the Iranian regime by resorting to the scientific achievements. At the same time, MKO rejects the ex-members’ testimonies of being manipulated by brainwashing techniques that are reported by humanitarian organizations and Human Rights Watch report and accuses these international bodies of a joint conspiracy with Iran against the group. Regardless of such baseless accusations, there are numerous evidences that prove these techniques are exploited within MKO. Niyabati makes use of the anatomy and structure of man’s brain in an attempt to justify the abusive tactics of the ideological revolution:

In a seminar investigating the most recent scientific achievements concerning function of different parts of the brain, it was said that the activity of each hemisphere affects the social behavior of the person. For instance, the left hemisphere is the location of such subjects such as mathematics, logic and politics and the right hemisphere is related to culture, art, poetry and emotion. Activation of any of these parts besides the genetic influences of the parents may determine the social role one might play in the future. [4]

In her book ‘Cults in our midst’, Margaret Singer brings up instances of such cultist programs that manipulate conjoined ancient and modern techniques to confront the insiders’ beliefs. She further explains that such techniques may alter the behavior, mentality and even political orientation of members thus exercising an all-out control over them. The hidden boxes (members’ minds), mentioned by Niyabati, have to be opened. The result would be persuasion to submit to a total hegemony as practiced in most cults in general and in MKO in particular. As Singer explains:

These latter-day efforts have built upon the age-old influence techniques to perfect amazingly successful programs of persuasion and change them. What is new – and critical – is that these programs change attitudes by attacking essential aspects of a person’s senses of self, unlike the earlier brainwashing programs that primarily confronted a person’s political beliefs. [5]

Singer maintains that there are different terms describing such processes all of which follow the same route:

A number of terms have been used to describe this process, including brainwashing, thought reform, coercive persuasion, mind control, coordinated programs of coercive influence and behavior control, and exploitative persuasion. [6]

The significance of such processes, as compared to the techniques utilized by other political organizations that more focus on the control and changing attitude to substitute ideological teachings, unfolds when we notice that the instrucational techniques underline the exposure of the individuals’ unconscious. Therefore, a member’s individuality, known as this Achill’s heel, makes him defenseless against a new system of value. That is what Niyabati describes as a novel move put into practice by Mojahedin after the ideological revolution:

The meetings of ideological revolution are originated as an unprecedented fashion within MKO. The instructional trainings being marginalized, the attitudinal programs are gradually imposed. [7]


1. Banisadr, Masoud; The memoirs of an Iranian rebel. Abroad Publication, 231.

2. ibid, 386.

3. Niyabati, Bijan; A different look at ideological revolution in MKO, Khavaran publication, 44.

4. ibid, 28.

5. Singer, Margaret Thaler; Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, Jossey-Bass; Rev Upd Su edition, April 2003, 60.

6. ibid, 53.

7. Niyabati, Bijan; A different look at ideological revolution in MKO, Khavaran publication, 49.

Bahar Irani – July 17, 2007

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