Families of members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK/ PMOI) believe that their loved ones are taken as hostages by the group leaders. They are not allowed to contact them. They are isolated from the outside world and they are under a manipulative ruling structure that coerces them to stay in the group. Qassem Salehi is a defector of the MEK whose story gives a comprehensive account of how a recruited young boy turns into the hostage of Maryam and Massoud Rajavi’s cult.
Qassem Salehi was so determined to escape the Cult of Rajavi that he would kill the man who was his teammate in the terrorist operation that they were supposed to launch in Iran. Salehi was interviewed by Victor Charbonnier, the author of “The people’s Mojahedin of Iran: A struggle for what?”, published in 2003.
In this part of the book, titled “the day I turned my gun against my fellow- soldiers”, Qassem proves that families of the MEK members are right to be extremely concerned over the fate of their loved ones who are banned behind the bars of Camp Ashraf 3, in Manez, Albania.
Read the story of Qassem Salehi’s involvement with the MEK:
Now 30, Qassim Salehi was recruited to the organization by a relative. He recalls “I had just finished my military service. I was 24 and I had no money. I was trying to find my bearings. A member of my family suggested that I join the movement in Iraq. He held out the possibility that they would help me find work in Europe or the Gulf States.”
A native of Masjid Suleiman, in Khuzistan (Southern Iran), the young man, with two others, illegally crossed the border into Iraq. Now under Mojahedin command, he began to see their hidden side: “Before becoming an official member, the candidate goes through an initiation period which can last several weeks. Isolated in a locked room, all his outside contacts are kept to an absolute minimum. to keep him busy, they order him to fill in forms which he must give a detailed account of his whole life. during this period, the organization’s members based in Iran investigate his past. The leaders are afraid of taking in spies from the Iranian regime.”
The second stage is accepting the movement’s ideology. This can last from one month to one year. The candidate learns the movement’s basic philosophy by stuffing the writings of its wo leaders: Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. Trained instructors provide additional explanations.
The third stage is military training.
Two phenomena fascinated this candidate Mojahed. First, most of the movement’s leaders are women. Second, throughout his training, organization members spoke to him constantly of Maryam Rajavi, even reciting poems in her praise. He explains: “this was to test my revolutionary commitment”.
Qassem Salehi quickly understood that the organization was based on lies and double-talk. He recalls:” They repeated over and over again that the power structure in Iran was religious and despotic. It barred all opposing opinions, even points of review somewhat different from the regime’s.
But inside the organization, we were no better off. We were forced to give up any personal ideas, to melt completely into the group and to stop asking any questions. Is there any dictatorship worse than that?”
you came here by your own free will, but you cannot leave by your own free will
Qassem remembers Hassan Rezai, a man in his fifties who had immigrated to the United in 1974. He joined the movement in Iraq in 1997. shocked by what he saw in the camps, He asked to return to the United States. They replied: “you came here by your own free will, but you cannot leave by your own free will.” he told them: “you tell us that the Iranian regime puts school boys on the front line. But you are not better. You attract young people to the organization, turn them into terrorists and send them off to be massacred. what’s the difference between you and the regime you claim to fight”?
They answered:” you are crazy because you can’t control your sexual instincts and they gave him a public beating. Most troublemakers were treated the same way.
To avoid the bullying, the punishments and prison, Qassim Salehi was outwardly submissive and obedient. He wrote daily reports in which he described his heroic fight against his sexual drives, avoided discussions with his comrades and worked so hard that he almost fainted from fatigue. But he was waiting to make his move.
In September 2000, he was ordered, along with three other fighters (an Iranian and two Iraqis) to kill a local official. As soon as he was on Iranian soil, near Abadan, the Mojahed turned his gun on his three fellow soldiers, killing the Iranian. He explains, without the slightest remorse: “Anyhow, he would have killed me. he had the same intentions”. He also wounded the two Iraqis before running away and turning himself into the Iranian authorities.
Qassem Salehi spent 25 days in jail. He told all he knew about the organization to Iranian intelligence: names, places, ties to Iraq, etc. once freed, he started his life over again. Married, he is the father of a baby: Amir Mohamamd.
The people’s Mojahedin of Iran: A struggle for what?
Translated by dr. Thomas R. Forstenzer. RSA