Camp Ashraf was considered the physical container of Rajavi’s cult of personality, in Iraq. The enclosed place, which was several hectares in size, was actually a prison by itself because, despite the walls, barbed wire, guard towers and strict protection, the passage was strictly controlled; contact and communication with people outside the camp, even if they are members’ families, were completely cut off –the situation is still the same in Camp Ashraf 3, in Albania.
But all this does not mean that inside the camp there was no space as a prison; There were several different spaces for imprisonment and torture, the most famous of which was known as the Eskan Prison due to its complicated history.
Although only the ruins of Eskan Prison remain today, there are undeniable evidence and narratives of the lived experience of the former members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in the solitary cells of this prison. They will be discussed in this series of notes. First, a brief explanation about the place and its physical space is provided:
Eskan was actually a building in the southeast of Camp Ashraf that had been built in the early 1980s for the residence of married members of the MEK during the weekends. After a week of non-stop organizational work, the men and women of the Cult of Rajavi went to the accommodation units with their spouses and children on Thursday evening and enjoyed the family center until Saturday morning. A park and a school were built in the area too, out of nearly 4 decades of presence of the MEK in Iraq, they used the place in a moral way only for the few first years.
Since 1989 and after the fatal defeat of the MEK in Operation Forough Javidan and Masoud Rajavi’s order regarding the forced divorce of married members and the permanent celibacy of unmarried members, Eskan was practically out of use. Not long after, Masoud Rajavi ordered the departure of MEK children in 1990, and more than 800 children were separated from their parents and trafficked to Western countries. In this way, Camp Ashraf was cleared of the most insignificant family elements and Eskan lost its meaning.
With the beginning of the 90s and the beginning of the wave of kidnappings by the MEK operatives in Iran’s neighboring countries, Eskan became a reception place for the initial organizing of members who had been deceived by the MEK recruiters in Turkey, the UAE and Pakistan with the promise of work and immigration to Europe. There was also another wave of recruitment of teenagers who had been smuggled to Europe and America a few years ago and now were trafficked to Iraq again as child soldiers to join the so-called liberation army of the group.
Mohammadreza Mobin, a former member of the MEK, was present there in the early days when Eskan turned into a prison. His account is as follows:
“In 1996, this area was called reception of the liberation army. This area was divided into two separate parts, known as upper and lower reception. I was in lower reception. A few months later, the militias [child soldiers] were also deceived from the West. Masoud Rajavi’s son, Mohammad, was among them. But at night, they were taken to another part, which seemed to be the upper reception. The first six months of 2016 were among the most inflammatory days of reception. Almost a large number of us had come from Iran. We were from all ethnicities. Almost in July or August of the same year, the organization took all the militias to the army, and the reception process, for those who came after us, ended very soon, and this issue brought many contradictions to us, including the fact that the MEK leaders did not trust us, who had come from Iran. This was discrimination.
They gradually took us to the upper reception and the lower reception was emptied. In less than two or three weeks, the conflicts between us and the officials of the group escalated. All these contradictions led to the imprisonment of most of those who protested discrimination.
I persistently asked for an explanation about the existing discrimination, but they did not give any answer. So, I asked to leave the group or at least to have a phone call with my family. But no attention was paid. It was the beginning of October when at night, after three days of hunger strike and stay in the hospital, they put me in a Land Cruiser and transferred me to the lower reception area. Everything had changed there. They had built an inspection gate on the way with guardians who had covered their faces.”
Hamid Dehdar Hassani, also a former member of the MEK, writes about his bitter experience of being imprisoned in Eskan. He describes the place:
The former Eskan had been turned into a warehouse and prison. Previously, it was a set of appartments with mostly 4 rooms with a bathroom, a toilet and a room as a kitchen that they had built for couples in the organization, where they settled every Thursday to Friday evening until 1988. But from 1988 onwards, with the start of the internal ideological revolution issues and divorce issues, Eskan was closed and turned into warehouses or prisons. I was imprisoned in one of the rooms of these apartments where the other three rooms had been locked.
In next sections, we will discuss the stories of former members of the Cult of Rajavi from imprisonment and torture in Eskan.