The stories of children of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) can be documented as evidence of the existence of abusive practices and maltreatment in the group. All children of Mujahed parents are more or less survivors of traumatic experiences. However, not all of them find the courage to recount their sufferings after leaving the cult-dominated atmosphere. The most recently published account is that of Atefeh Sebdani whose traumatic childhood has even moved her therapists.
The story of Atefeh is so touching that her therapists could not help displaying compassion what is not so normal during the healing process. “How could she help me when she did not know which trauma she should work on?” Atefeh asked in an interview with the Iranian researcher Farah Shilandri.
Atefeh Sebdani published her autobiography, “My hand in mine” a few months ago in Sweden where she and her two brothers were smuggled by the MEK agents over three decades ago. Together with seven hundred children of the MEK, they had been separated from their parents and trafficked to Europe and North America under the order of Massoud Rajavi, leader of the MEK cult.
“The more I wrote, the calmer I got,” she told Shilandri. “But I also want to point out that there are many people who secretly contact me who are either defectors of the MEK, or are the children separated from their parents by the group, and they say that they are happy that someone has the courage to talk about this and in my opinion, this is a very important issue that should be raised. Many do not dare to speak out loud about this.”
As a survivor of the Cult of Rajavi, she clarifies why it is so difficult to dare to speak out, “I would like to point out is that we, the children of Mujahedin, have lost everything a person can lose, we have nothing more to lose. To the extent that we were not only deprived of our parents, but also erased our identity from our minds. They even planned our feelings, thoughts and beliefs. At first, it was difficult for me to understand this situation. Finding myself and finding my values was not easy for me, who had learned to deny myself, my character and my values.”
When Atefeh was 19, she left the foster parents who were members of the MEK and had imposed all types of child abuse against her, her two younger brothers and two other foster kids who were also children of Mujahed parents – a girl and a boy, the boy was later recruited as child soldier and sent to the MEK’s camp in Iraq, where he was killed. The killing of Hamid was one of the last traumatic events for the teenager, Atefeh.
To answer Shilandri about how her experience with therapists were, she says, “I have gone to different psychologists, but to no avail. I don’t want to raise myself up. But the fact is that my experiences and problems were so complex that psychologists did not know how to treat them. I visited for the first time for two phobias. But I did not get any results. The second time was after my foster brother was killed (as I said before, he and his sister lived in that house with us). My foster brother went to Camp Ashraf and joined the MEK, but he was killed during the Iraqi attacks on Camp Ashraf in 2011.”
According to Atefeh, the Mujahedin and the family who were in charge of her and her siblings were very happy and proud of his death which they called martyrdom. “But his death hit me hard,” she says. “This is why I went to the psychologist again on the recommendation of my colleagues. For two years, I went to counseling and psychoanalysis sessions every other week. I would talk, and the psychologist would just cry.”
Atefeh suggests that her book is like a statement to her that indicates that she stands by her belief. She believes that someone should write about what happened to children who have been victims of the Cult of Rajavi. “I consider it my responsibility to write and express the truth,” she says.