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Zahra Mirbagheri’s Prison Break, an account of escaping Camp Ashraf

Zahra Mirbagheri

Zahra Mirbagheri, former member of the Mujahedin Khalq escaped the group’s headquarters in Iraq, Camp Ashraf, in 2013. She finally made it after three unsuccessful attempts. Although she was under an extensive control by her commanders and peers, she was determined to leave the MEK’s oppressive atmosphere. “Zahra! You must not get back to Rajavi’s hell!”, she told herself at the moment she started running away.

January 29th, 2013 was a landmark day in Zahra’s life. She was not only barred from the outside world by the barbed wire fences, but also, she was constantly surrounded by the MEK commanders and watched by one or two of her peers because she had previously tried to flee the group three times. “I was under severe mental and physical pressure because I resisted their lies, oppressions and brainwashing system,” she writes in her story. “I was banned from visiting my brother and sisters who were in the group too. A woman was supposed to watch me all the time and to report on what I was doing all day long.”

Zahra Mirbagheri

Zahra Mirbagheri showing the pendant that Rajavi gave to the women of the organization telling them that they were all connected to him and to no other man

Zahra was sick. Her ear was infected and she had pain in her neck and back. “After three failures in escaping and because of taking too much antibiotics I had become so weak,” she recounts. “I had a herniated cervical disk due to a blow to my neck but I was forbidden to have a doctor’s appointment.”

However, Zahra had made her decision. “I had promised myself to fight the authorities and to escape the Cult of Rajavi. I was determined to survive to reveal Rajavi’s inhumane and evil dogma,” she writes. On January 28th, the group held a meeting in which medical commander of the camp was supposed to justify the participants. Zahra was shocked to see there so many of her comrades who were not sick. The next day, when they went to the Iraqi hospital, she realized that those ones had been ordered to watch the sick members to prevent their likely escape.
The night before going to the medical center, Zahra prepared her military uniform. The next morning, she was dressed up. She was ordered to go to the eating place. Zohreh Qaemi (the then commander of Ashraf) came to the hall to speak once more. Zahra tried to pretend that every thing was normal — after her last unsuccessful attempt to escape, Zohreh Qaemi had conveyed the message of Maryam Rajavi to her, “We have decided that you will die!”.

Zahra and few of other sick members were taken to Iraqi hospital by the western side of Camp Ashraf. She was constantly watched by two female guards who were members of the MEK’s Elite Council. Families of the group’s members were calling on their loved ones who were isolated in the camp from other side of the camp fences. Zahra was ordered to pull her scarf on her face while crossing in front of the families.
“When we arrived in the hospital, I began to look around to find a way out,” she recalls. “I noticed some of the high-ranking commanders of the security unit of the MEK and I found out that I would have difficulties but again I promised my self not to give up.”

In the waiting room, Zahra found a kitchen, she looked for windows. All windows had been screened. The exit door was also closed and blocked with a big table. Zahra looked around to find a new escape route. “As I was looking around, my commander shouted at me, ‘what are you doing?’,” she recounts. “She ordered me to sit down next to her. I was not feeling well but I was really motivated to escape. So, I kept cool and sat down.”
Finally, she was examined by ENT specialist in the consulting room. The interpreter was also a member of the MEK. “The MEK had arranged everything to control members,” Zahra writes. “Nobody was allowed to stay alone with the doctors.” The specialist prescribed antibiotics for her ears so they had to go to the drugstore to take the medicines. In the drugstore, Zahra was still accompanied by her commander.

The next chance was the orthopedic specialist who was supposed to examine Zahra’s neck. Zahra recounts her escape adventure:

“Together with a few women, I was standing in front of the door of the doctor’s room. Ther was a long corridor. We were standing in the middle of it. I noticed another door behind myself. I did not know to where it opens. I looked at the commanders and security guards of the group who were walking through the corridor watching us. I recalled Massoud Rajavi’s words in his last speech, ‘It is better for a hundred of you to be killed than for one to flee’. My heart was pounding. I looked at those brainwashed women around me. ‘Do you have a doctor’s appointment too?’ I asked one of the. ‘It’s none of your business,’ she replied. I smiled and said, ‘No matter, just asked’. Just then, the woman told the others, ‘Let’s go!’.

“It was a landmark moment. I made my decision immediately after the women turned their back to me. I opened the door behind me and rushed though a hall that was for male patients. I turned left and opened another door to a hall that looked to be an eating place. The hall was empty. There was a widow at the end of it. It was covered by a flyscreen. I took out the cutter I had put under my clothes and cut the screen. Fortunately, the window had no glass. I got up to get out of the window and I was lucky that there was a staircase under the window at the foot of the wall. I stepped out and quickly rushed to my left. I reached a metal wall. I squeezed through a 20-centimeter gap in the wall. Again, I began to run. An Iraq soldier was praying before my eyes. He walked to me as soon as he saw me and took me to the commander’s office.

“When I entered the room, their walkie talkie was making too much noise about the escape of a female Mujahed. I could not contain my happiness. On my God! My dream came true. I could manage to escape.”

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