Massoud Rajavi is an outstanding speaker, able to move audiences with his smooth voice, staccato delivery, and sharp turns of phrase. Neo-Stalinist, caught up in his own charisma, he soon created a cult of personality around himself and eventually his current wife, Maryam Rajavi . former members of the movement frequently criticize this phenomenon, described by many foreign reporters.
Born in 1953 to a middle-class family in Tehran,Maryam Rajavi was active from 1970 in the resistance movement to the Shah. She was a student at the Sharif Technical University in the capital. Rising to a leadership position in the student movement she joined Mojahedin in the mid-Seventies. According to her official biography, the Shah’s Savak executed one of her sisters, Narges, and agents of the Islamic Republic later killed another, Maasoumeh.
Maryam Azdanlu, working hard in the social department of the Mojahedin, played a key role in winning student support for the movement. As a candidate in Tehran for the legislative elections of 1980, her supporters claimed that she won over 250000 votes. She took part in Tehran’s popular demonstrations against the Islamic Republic soon after the revolution. In 1982, she joined the Mojahedin’s headquarters staff in Paris.” Elected” in 1985, after she married Massoud Rajavi, as “ co-leader”, she was made secretary General by decree four years later. Deputy commander In chief of the National Liberation army(NLA) since 1987, the National Resistance Council “elected” her “future president of Iran” five years later. Her role was to be the country’s provisional chief executive during the transition period that the Mojahedin predicted would follow the fall of the Mullahs.
Ervand Abrahamian, a City University of New York historian, has analyzed Massoud and Maryam Rajavi’s “cult of personality’ in terms of the Mojahedin’s “sect-like” structure and behaviour. By 1987, he argues, the organization had developed all the symptoms of a religious cult or sect: worship of the leader, called “the guide” or ,less formally, but significantly :”the current Imam”. The Mojahedin’s “rigid” hierarchy was based on orders from the top and unquestioning subordination of the membership. Abrahamian describes a closed world with its own texts, censorship and enforced outlook. And this “world view” , despite frequent public denials, remained committed to a “synthesis” of the Shiite “religious message” with Marxian social science. He goes on to emphasize the organization’s creation of its own “history”,”martyrs” and “hagiography”. members follow a dress code. Finally, in Iraq, Abrahamian depicts a world apart with its own communities,press, offices, militia, training camps, clinics, schools and prisons,known as “ re-education centers”.
Peter Waldman, an American journalist, endorses this view. According to him, Massoud Rajavi’s marriage with Maryam, a relatively unknown ex-wife of one of his assistants, completed the group’s “transformation” from a political movement to a sect. he points to the Mojahedin’s publications that presented her new role as a “triumph of feminism” and an “ideological revolution” for Iranian women and Moslem world. She was used, he adds, as a contrast with the treatment of women under the Islamic Republic.
According to the former members, the “leadership cult” rose to a new pitch soon after their marriage. Waldman wrote that, Massoud Rajavi was described in a series of Mojahedin publication as “quasi-divine” and a “gift to mankind”. His marriage was compared to the Koran’s depiction of the Prophet’s, and he was seen as a source of “God’s light”. finally, according to the reporter, the group officially proclaimed Massoud Rajavi as “infallible” and “without sin”.
Dr. Ghaffour Moussawi, a psychiatrist and former member, suggest that Massoud Rajavi suffers from a form of narcissistic disorder:” this man is obsessed with his own personality. He believes himself to be above others. He can neither tolerate criticism nor face up to his own mistakes, of which, God knows.
There have been many during his long career as a despot. To establish his authority, he relies on demagogy, intimidation, raw power or the force of arms. He only recruits young people who have not yet developed their own personalities or critical capacities and will do anything to prove their loyalty. His narcissism is also evident in his avowed hatred for other Iranian opposition leaders, whom he insults and accuses of all kins of reason. He has attacked every one, including those most respected for their integrity, like Dr. Charlaat Madaari”.
From the book: The People’s Mojahedin of Iran: A Struggle for what? “By Victor Charbonnier,2004.