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Children Recruited and Exploited by the MEK

A photo of Auver

A large number of children are being trafficked by terrorist and violent extremist groups around the world. The International bodies may believe that this is a new phenomenon but the truth is that the Mujahedin_e Khalq (MEK) began using children in its conflicts at least four decades ago. Amir Yaghmai is one of those children. He reveals how he and about three hundred of MEK’s children were brainwashed and recruited by MEK commanders.

Amir Yaghmai, who was under the military training of the MEK at Camp Ashraf in Iraq from the age of 14 to 20, shares a photo of the MEK’s headquarters in Auver sur d’Oise in the suburbs of Paris. In the photo, a group of teenagers can be seen who were separated from their mujahid parents in Camp Ashraf a few years ago and were smuggled to Europe. Amir writes in the caption of this post on his X account:
“A photo of “Auver”, the main base of Mujahideen in the suburbs of Paris in 1998. The underage children in this photo were all sent to Iraq and Camp Ashraf. They were brought from Germany during the school holidays to be brainwashed and recruited by the Mujahideen. I’m in the middle with a red shirt.”

The exploiting of children in armed conflicts is forbidden by international law. According to international law “child” is defined as “every human being below the age of eighteen years.”

Today, terrorist organizations like DAESH and Boko Haram recruit and train child soldiers who could be exploited as couriers, spies, fighters and even suicide bombers. Political, economic problems and insecurity give safe havens for these groups for setting up their training camps, especially in border regions.

The MEK is the leading extremist group that recruited child soldiers as early as the 1990s. At the time it was located in Iraq near Iranian border and tried to smuggle the children of Mujahed parents from western countries back to Iraq. Around one thousand children had been earlier smuggled to Europe from Iraq in 1990, after the first Gulf War.

Massoud Rajavi, the leaders of the group had ordered their parents to divorce. The separation of children from their parents was the next step and the last step was to recruit those children as soldiers of the MEK’s army.

The children were given to MEK sympathizer families in Europe or North America or they were kept in team houses of the group in European cities. The group officials in the west were charged with manipulating these children preparing them for the day they will get back to Iraq to were military uniforms.

Sharing another photo Amir Yaghmai introduces Fereshteh Yeganeh, a high-ranking member of the MEK as the official who was in charge
“Fereshte Yaganeh, the person in the first row on the left, was responsible for brainwashing the youth in the organization’s office in Paris by showing the Mojahedin’s army films and making the children emotional, as well as long talks to convince them. When I asked for separation in Iraq, this same person threatened to send me and my mother to prison in Iran.”

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has published a Report on Children and Counter-Terrorism. The report examines the position of children in international law as perpetrators and victims of terrorism. It also explores radicalisation, de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation by analysing counter-terrorism laws and practices of two case study countries. Finally, the report provides a number of generally applicable recommendations that will allow governments to strengthen their capacity to integrate international child rights standards into domestic counter-terrorism frameworks.

Fereshteh Yeganeh

Fereshteh Yeganeh

Children of the MEK are adults who might be still taken as hostages in the group’s camp in Albania, or they might have been killed in the group’s violent conflicts. The lucky ones might have managed to release themselves from the physical and mental bars of the MEK. There has been no de-radicalisation system to help the last category get back to the society. They just did it by themselves.

Amir Yaghmai, Atefeh Sebdani, Ray Torabi, Amin Golmaryami, Parwin Hossiennia, Zhina Hosseinnezhad and many other former child soldiers of the MEK are European citizens who have endured a traumatized childhood. They have been courageous enough to share their heart-breaking stories but their stories must be heard and must be considered as evidence to stop the MEK leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, from captivating those hundreds of victims inside Manez camp in Albania.

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