The Arranged Ideological Revolutions; the Passage of Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) from a Political Group to a Religious Cult
Based on Dr. Massoud Banisadr’s “Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel”
The translated text of Hojjat-ollah Aflaki’s speech made at the Symposium of the Link between Cults and Terrorism held in Isfahan. He is an expert and researcher on Iranian history.
Structural Characteristics of Cults:
Considering proposed definitions of a cult, its purpose, nature and structure, it is revealed that all cults share certain characteristics which distinguish between them and nations, religions and religious sects. Cult formation is based on such shared characteristics, intentionally or unintentionally, which continuously develop even when the cult is declining.
Such characteristics consist of ideas, rituals, rules, doctrines and unique theories which distinguish a certain cult from other cults and the society. It has to be noted that this stage is determined intentionally by cult leaders, founders and ideologues.
There are some cases in which cult formation has not been predetermined and leaders were to bring about religious and social reforms. However, as a result of inferring new ideologies, they have separated themselves from others thus forming a cult faced with opposed ideologies on the part of the society.
Another characteristic of cult is the factor “devotion” and blind obedience of devotee toward mentor or leader. Such a characteristic is not present in the fundamental definitions of cult but the fact is that during history, cultists have not denied such a factor rather they are proud of it and consider their membership in a cult as a bliss and honour. They regard themselves as sheep protected by cult leader. For example, the factor of devotion in the cultist structure of Sufism, Isma’ilie Alamout (followers of Hasan Sabbah), Isma’ilie Mahallati (in Iran, Tajikistan, India, England, and Africa) is the main characteristic to the point that followers of Agha Khan Mahallati presented him equal in his weight gold and diamond. (Schpigel Journal, 1949, No.29, 33).
Cults have other characteristics which are either the result of above-mentioned features or complement them. First, from a cultist viewpoint, people are either insider or alien and the latter are misled. Second, cultists have to observe the factor “keeping secret” carefully so they never let others participate in their circles. For example, Sufis scarcely let others participate in their sessions of invocation or “Sama” Or leftist groups in Iran shook hand with each other in a special way and called it revolutionary as opposed to imperial one. They called each other “comrade” and “brother” and attired in contrast to common norms. As such, it may be necessary to study such cult characteristics in Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) in order to discover corresponding similarities within the group compaired wit other known cults.
B. Cult Conducts within MKO
MKO has internal and external aspects which are somehow contradictory referred to by its former members. The emphasis put by the organization on factors such as honesty and keeping secret confirms this fact since MKO is not merely a guerilla or political group rather its leaders consider it as a cultural, religious, and social group aimed at improving all aspects of human life. As such, keeping secrets in the organization involves security issues as well as instructional, ideology and inter-organizational conducts. Finally, as a result of ideological revolutions in the organization, this political group turned into a dogmatic cult.
It seems that most ideological revolutions formed by Massoud Rajavi, MKO’s leader, against Islamic republic of Iran have been preplanned and then revealed as separate revolutions to justify the organization’s actions. Eventually, all such ideological revolutions turned MKO into an ideological and religious cult and enhanced Massoud Rajavi from the stance of a guerilla leader to an ideological one who appointed his wife as the ideological mother of MKO. Below, a number of the organization’s approaches are listed.
1. Ideological revolutions concerning the relation between men and women:
The process in which Maryam Azodanloo (Maryam Rajavi) turned into ideological mother of MKO is very interesting. Such a process is a clause of ideological revolution and reveals cult formation process clearly. It has to be pointed out that such a process includes various stages of ideological revolution and has happened over years. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, 478).
Some of the clauses of the revolution which promoted Maryam Rajavi to the position of the ideological mother of the organization are as follows: only Maryam Rajavi can participate in female sessions since she is their mother. Massoud Rajavi is not only the ideological leader of MKO but occupies the position possessed by a Shiite Imam. The insiders’ heart had to be enamored with his love and submit to him in total obedience. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.242, 428,478).
Gender revolution aimed at making members far from sexual inclinations which make men consider women as subjects of trading who lure them and try to attract the attention of men by showing off. Therefore, such a revolution was brought about in order to overcome gender crisis intensified in recent years in the organization despite separation of men and women. One of the main approaches in this regard was absolute separation of men and women to the point that men were not allowed to participate in women sessions nor vice versa. Even a man could not sit on a chair on which a woman was sitting before. However, Maryam Rajavi was an exception to these rules. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, 379).
Gender attachment is human grave from which Mojahedin have to flee. They can do so through above-mentioned ways and also professing their sinfulness before Maryam and Massoud. It means that all people are sinful, wives are witches and marrying them is forbidden. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.342-5). In many sessions, Massoud Rajavi and associate cadres acted offensively toward other highly educated members some of whom represented the National Council of Resistance in countries such as the U.S. For example, once Massoud Banisadr, the representative of the National Council of Resistance in the U.S., was about to speak and Massoud Rajavi introduced him as follows: “a dead man speaking deep from his grave”. Anyway, profess of sinfulness was one of the major characteristics of this clause of revolution, i.e. all members are sinful and it is only Maryam Rajavi who is innocent. Therefore, Maryam and he have to be relied upon in all matters. Since nobody deserves knowing Massoud except Maryam, he has to pass this way along with Maryam. Therefore, members have to follow Massoud Rajavi and Maryam Rajavi fighting against Islamic republic of Iran both politically and ideologically. As such, the presence of Maryam Rajavi as the single ideological member of the organization was vital to understand Massoud Rajavi, his love to God and members and his detestation of Khomeini, the Islamic revolution leader. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.347, 354).
In fact, the main objective of all ideological revolutions is winning absolute obedience of members, the most fundamental factor for running the cults. Therefore, Mojahedin have to be absolute devotees and stop doing common practices like jesting, free study, working out of the organization, unless it is an act of fundraising, non-organizational relations, attachment to personal property and sexual relations out of organization, keeping their personal books and the like. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.207, 214).
The process of divorce revolution was as follows: Massoud Rajavi was considered as imam of the time and nobody was worthy enough to see him since the members and their partners were themselves the veils. Therefore, women were told their husband and men were their barrier. So couples got divorced. Even single members underwent such a revolution promising not to get married in the future. All divorce papers were signed and delivered to Massoud Rajavi over one week. Any doubtful member was punished severely. For example, a member called Yaghubi who was a ranking member lost his status as a result of having relation with his wife. Or other members such as Karim Haqqi and his wife Maryam Babaee were subject to severe torture over years which ended with the wife’s suicide.
In fact, the main reasons behind such revolutions, and divorce revolution in particular, were not those acknowledged by the organization’s leaders, rather, they were as follows: winning complete obedience of members, solving marriage problem in the organization (in which men were 3 times more than women) (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, p.238) and also a terrible monopolism to the point that according to a foreign reporter, Massoud Rajavi could not endure members loving anybody except him. Consequently, children were sent to orphanages so as not to see their parents.
In fact, divorce and gender revolutions were complementary. It is worth noting that before divorce revolution, members were said to marry each other to compensate for emotional problems of those members losing their partner in Forugh operation. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, 326). Moreover, in divorce revolution, couples were forced to perform three-fold divorce in which they could never possibly remarry. Such a divorce is against Islamic rules. Such actions by MKO turned it into a religious cult exceeding human rights.
Ideological revolution of MKO considered men as wild and passive creatures so that it was believed that men should be replaced by women in the organization. Moreover, they were ordered to criticize each other openly and even call their friends murderer. Otherwise, Massoud Rajavi and other officials got angry, offended them, and called them rubbish, dirty mouse, traitor, hypocrite since they did not criticize others. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.392, 426-7,).
This stage of revolution aimed at expelling opposed members and replacing them with women. In addition, they made members admit to guilts they have done before in the presence of Massoud Rajavi and Maryam Rajavi and Tahereh. Once a man complained of his wife being so thin was called by officials as obscene, cuckold, rubbish, fool, etc. it is evident that according to the organization’s ideology, women had superiority over men. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.230, 234).
Massoud Rajavi believed that ideological revolution may increase members” capabilities so they performed such offensive actions toward members. According to one clause, men could not achieve high ranks so 12 female members were selected as key members of leadership council and 12 females were selected as alternative members. All of them declared that Massoud Rajavi is their master and they are his maid. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.380, 421).
It is doubtful why 12 members were appointed. Such a selection seems ideological since 12 symbolizes the number of Shiite innocent Imams. Furthermore, appointing females instead of males confirmed the superiority of women over men. MKO believed that it was necessary to fight against Islamic Republic of Iran so women took responsibilities not based on meritocracy. Such considerations led to so called seat revolution (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, pp.285, 283, 414, 482,).
In fact, the issue of feminism in MKO aimed at expelling those male members who criticized the organization, accusing Islamic Republic of Iran of exploiting women, and abuse of women’s tender emotions to secure the leadership of Massoud Rajavi and his wife turned the organization into a cult. Although the organization tried to conceal the issue of divorce revolution which was to the advantage of Islamic Republic of Iran but the memoirs of separated members revealed it (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, 368).
It is worth noting that before the performance of forced divorces, all members got divorced in the presence of Abrishamchi, MKO’s number 2 in rank, who had already wedded them all in the name of Massoud Rajavi and Maryam Rajavi. (Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, 25).
Translated by mojahedin.ws