Dariush Qanavati’s Prison Break, an Account of Escaping Camp Ashraf

Dariush Qanavati, 47, from Mahshar, Khuzestan is a former member of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization. He joined the group in 1999, when he was 24. As a young enthusiastic Iranian, he thought that the MEK would help him eradicate injustice from the Iranian society but after he arrived in the group’s headquarter in Iraq, Camp Ashraf, he realized that he was on the wrong path. For years, he was looking for an opportunity to escape the bars of the oppressive unjust Cult of Rajavi. Finally, he could manage to escape Camp Ashraf in 2004.
After the US invasion to Iraq and the disarmament of the MEK, in 2003, the group was concentrate in Camp Ashraf under supervision of US military. The other day, the commander Sediqeh Hosseini spoke of a Mujahed who had fled the camp and gone to the US camp, located by the side of Camp Ashraf. Thus, Dariush got to know that there was a way to escape the isolated bars of the MEK.

Dariush Qanavati
Dariush Qanavati

A few months later, American forces let families of the MEK members enter Camp Ashraf. The group commanders could not prevent members from visiting their parents but they made efforts to brainwash members before they met their families. However, a group of members never got back to the MEK’s camp. Visiting families had awaken the emotions in the heart of members. “During a short time after the family visits, a large number of the group members escaped or defected the group gradually,” Daiush writes in his memoirs. “I was also seeking an opportunity to release myself from the hellish Cult of Rajavi.”

On March, 26, 2004, Dariush found it a good chance to escape the camp. He recounts, “It was Friday, 9 am. Commanders had gone to a meeting in another unit. I used the opportunity. I had already prepared myself. I got on my work clothes and went to the tomato farm. Then I went to the motor parking and from there I went behind the embankment and then I rushed to the fences.”

It was too dangerous, Dariush risked his life but it was worth getting liberated from the MEK. “A few American officers were patrolling there,” he recalls. “I called them and said ‘help me! I want to come with you.’ There were two MEK guarding stations a few hundred meters away so I was lying down on the ground. The American officer talked on his walkie talkie and reported to his superior. It took a few minutes but it was like forever to me. I was so frightened of getting arrested by the MEK agents.”

Dariush was lucky. The American officers took him to TIPF camp where other escapees of the MEK had been settled. “The moment I got on the US vehicle was the best moment of my life,” he writes. “I was so happy. The Americans took me to TIPF where other defectors of the group welcomed me warmly. Chanting ‘Down with Rajavi’, we hugged each other.”

In contrast with the group’s propaganda about TIPF the atmosphere of the camp was friendly. “We were friends sharing a past life ruined by Rajavi but we were hopeful about the future,” Dariush writes. After a few months, Dariush Qanavati got back to Iran and joined his family. He is now an active member of Nejat Society in the campaign to save other hostages of the Cult of Rajavi.

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