Morphology of Terrorism, Cult, and Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (part 5)

Psychological strategies used for justifying people such as the length of organizational sessions, debriefing strategies and mental control, duality of extra and intra relations, humiliating members, cutting emotional relations with relatives, determining the relation of members with others, and their family in particular!nternal controlling system of MKO in contrast with traditional cultist system focuses on some complex and unbelievable dimensions.

 The translated text of Dr. Massoudinia’s speech made at the Symposium of the Link between Cults and Terrorism held in Isfahan.

5. Control of Relations within MKO: a Review of Banisader’s ‘Memories of an Iranian Rebel’

The book “memories of an Iranian Rebel” written by Mas’ud Banisadr, is one of the significant documents in inter-organizational relations of MKO. As it was pointed out, the third index of cults is brainwashing and mental control of cultists. This book is an amazing document in this regard. The final section of the present article is a review of this book in order to actualize professional indices of relations of MKO. Psychological strategies used for justifying people such as the length of organizational sessions, debriefing strategies and mental control, duality of extra and intra relations, humiliating members, cutting emotional relations with relatives, determining the relation of members with others, and their family in particular!

Internal controlling system of MKO in contrast with traditional cultist system focuses on some complex and unbelievable dimensions. Traditional system controlled members mentally using middle ages strategies. Classic cultist strategies exert security control directly toward the extent of inclination and submission of members. MKO make use of modern sciences for controlling members and even the slightest degree of members’ disobedience. Mas’ud Banisadr quotes an instance of behavior of MKO leader (Rajavi) with executive members, i.e. the highest inter-organizational assembly. This case reveals some points about the nature of such relations. He writes:

In an assembly of executive officials, Rajavi said: ‘Doctor told me that your urine is foamy, while it is not so in ordinary members’. We were shocked. He added: ‘Do not look at me as such. It seems that you do not understand what I say. It means that you cannot control your sexual tendencies yet and seminal fluid results in your urine be foamy while other members have not such a problem.’ Then a number of members started to confirm his comments and even one of them said: ‘We are not executive officials, we are heys (a word said to donkeys while carrying load). Then they all imitated him saying the word hey. (57)

Comparing sexual relations of ideological revolution of MKO with historical cases such as exoteric sect of Isma’ili under the leadership of Hassan Sabbah which emasculated members shows that the former results in more severe mental consequences. Emasculation of exoteric members has been physical while that of MKO id psychological and life-long and makes members subject to public scandal. In addition, such a process is a kind of mental emasculation. Those involved in such process, prefer methods used by Hassan Sabbah. Banisadr says:

I can not accept that physical emasculation is more difficult. It consists of a surgery with a period of convalescence while mental emasculation involves severe life-long pain. (58)

Debriefing strategies in MKO are a mixture of traditional, modern and even religious methods in middle ages and contemporary period. One of such controlling strategies of preventing any disobedience is the principle of confession. It forces members to confess to all their internal conflicts, whether mental, emotional, or sexual.

In this process, the member has to explain all his past and present events openly.

What follow is the comments of Banisadr of his memory in childhood. He has to explain it publicly to prove his capacity for transferring to the next stage of ideological revolution.

My most annoying memory is a sexual rape which happened in my childhood. I had never spoken about it .In fact I had forgotten it. But there I had to explain it. It was very difficult for me to speak about it since in Iranian culture and even in the world it is a kind of disgrace and shame. (59)

Another principle of ideological revolution is called ‘cutting all past attachments’. In this phase, members have to cut all their emotional relations of the past and form new ones based on new criteria. So they have to sacrifice all their emotions and even kill their relatives. Banisadr describes this phase of ideological revolution as follows:

The session was titled ‘cutting all past attachments’. A man had to leave his girlfriend to pass this phase. He told me crying that he loved her so much but could not marry her because of his beliefs. Another member had to leave his brother who was a council employee and even had to promise that he would kill him if necessary. (60)

Passing this phase required the destruction of whatever belonged to the past. Maybe the most difficult phase of this process for me was burning all my family photos. The members had to not only forget their past but also deny all their relations. Banisadr this process as follows:

I cut all my family photos into pieces since I had to deny all my relatives and even my parents. Maybe my father is responsible for my bourgeois tendencies and I have inherited my calm nature from my mother. Ann (my wife) asked me crying not to do so because they were not just mine. But I had to do so. After that I was welcomed to the organization. (61)

The points of similarity between these comments and studies about cultist relations which cut members from their past is amazing. It is even more interesting that such an action is considered as a holy one. Such a strategy considers cutting emotional relations as a religious action. Singer refers to this point in his cultist studies:

As part of the process of inducing guilt, all the recruit’s former personal connections are deemed satanic or evil by the cult and are shown to be "against the chosen way. Since nonbelievers are bad, all relations with parents, friends, and other nonmembers are supposed to be halted. Any weakness in this area is considered bad. The consequent impact is that recruits feel deep guilt about their pasts. Besides having their families and personal relationships condemned, recruits are also led to believe that they themselves were "bad people" before joining the group. (62)

Singer refers to a case in which MKO prevented a woman to meet her brother. How can we justify such an action? And why such an ordinary meeting is considered so significant? Singer answers as follows:

In another example, a woman’s brother, who lived out of town, came to the cult house to visit her while she was working her shift in the cult-run factory. For this reason she missed seeing him, but cult officials told her, "See, the Divine Plan willed it that you must not see your brother. (63)

Singer describes psychological aspects of such a process as follows:

Brainwashing is not experienced as a fever or a pain might be; it is an invisible social adaptation. When you are the subject of it, you are unaware of the running procedures and, moreover, the changes that form inside you. (64)

Members are convinced that they can not live without cultist relations and without which they would be subject to banality, passivity, etc. Singer describes this aspect of cultist relations as follows:

The recruits are also imbrued that if they leave, they will be damned or they themselves will die a pitiful death or become losers or lost souls. In this way, anxiety is heaped upon the guilt. Just as the initial love bombing awakened feelings of warmth, acceptance, and worthiness, now group condemnation leaves recruits full of self-doubt, guilt, and anxiety. Through this kind of manipulation, they are convinced that they can be saved only if they stay within the group. (65)

The mechanisms of cults make members believe in leadership to the point that they even kneel down to the leader and pronounce the articles of faith. Hossein Abrishamchi writes to Rajavi:

I wish to come to you, who are the leader of this great revolution, and kneel down and profess my devotion …. (66)

Abu-al-Ghasem Rezaei, another member of MKO asks Rajavi to intercede on his behalf in the hereafter. (67)

Mas’ud Banisadr refers to the long time of sessions during the ideological revolution and points out its mental consequences. He says that some sessions lasted three days. He says:

This session (with Abrishamchi) took three days and nobody slept. (68)

Banisadr describes the reaction of one of members who wanted to resist against the revolution as follows:

Suddenly, one of officials called Behnam knocked his head to the wall so strongly that it bled. (69)

Terrorism is a threat against security and peace. It exploits people in organizational relations. The findings of recent studies show that as technology and science develop, the strategies used for the exploitation of members in terrorist groups and cults get more complex. MKO is one of such cases. The disaster caused by the group in contemporary world is unprecedented in terms of the extent of the aggression imposed on citizens. Global consensus and unbiased judgment is the best way of controlling such a phenomenon. Western countries should not repeat their mistakes concerning Al-Qaede in the case of MKO. Such organizations do not regard terror and aggression as an instrument but as a worldview. Rajavi says: “viper does not give birth to dove". This is his most truthful comment. As such, terrorism would never give birth to democracy and freedom. According to Oscar Wild, it is too difficult to shake hands with blood-stained hands even in exchange for freedom.


57. Banisadr, Mas’ud,. Memories of an Iranian Rebel, 2005, Khavaran Publication.

58. ibid.

59. ibid.

60. ibid.

61. ibid.

62. Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in our midst, 118.

63. ibid.

64. ibid, 61.

65. ibid, 119.

66. Mojahed journal. No.247. p.27.

67. ibid.

68. Banisadr, Mas’ud; Memories of an Iranian Rebel, 2005.

69. ibid

Nejat Association May 2007

Translated by

July, 2007


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