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Fundraising Cult techniques within MKO

Failing in its military phase, although never denouncing its armed strategy, Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) has adopted a diplomatic phase mainly stressing on a prodemocracy campaign in the Western countries as an appropriate means to survive. The new phase, in contrast to its previous aggressive phase, relies less on the human forces and more on abundant financial sources that play a crucial role in the life and demise of the organization. The ever-increasing propaganda and political expenses in the West, modern lifestyle privileges, as seen in the leaders and the members of the National Council of resistance, as well as the running daily expenses of the forces residing in Camp Ashraf and those scattered in other countries require tremendous financial resources. A simple calculation reveals that the organization does have to avail unlimited financial resources to meet its surging financial expenses. Even the organization itself implicitly denies its total rely on sympathizers’ financial aids especially when nobody knows how long they have to sit waiting for the regime’s overthrow. The curious paradox is so disturbing that it makes leaders give some justifying explanations from time to time. In his message delivered on July 3, Massoud Rajavi stated:

Only the Iranian people and history are qualified to make any judgment on the veracity and independency of this resistance. We have reiterated that we are ready to give a detailed record of what we have done through a forty-two year long struggle and any spent penny to Iranian people living in any region from the north to the south. [1]

That is nothing more than a tactic to evade giving justifiable explanations. To escape imposed allegations the organization had to react by periodically calling for donations and financial aides, as advertised in its media and press, in the past two years.

The released documents after the fall of Saddam and also admissions made by the ex-members all indicate that Mojahedin had received abundant sums of dollars from the Iraqi agents as a bounty for espionage collaboration. Only in one of these sessions, due to reported information by Abbas Davari, the Iraqi agents granted the organization a remarkable sum of 50 million in dollars.

No doubt, from the day Mojahedin settled in Iraq till Saddam’s fall, the organization fully benefitted Saddam’s bountiful financial aids. But Saddam’s fall and the regional and political fluctuations led Mojahedin into a financial vacuum and they had to look for new resources to cover their huge expenses. But Mojahedin suffered no financial shortages since they have been commonly indulged in a variety of cult-like techniques to raise funds. Besides, they have promoted much developed and sophisticated techniques. The techniques can be classified and separately discussed as follows:

– Internal techniques of financial abuse

– Organized techniques of fundraising

– Political and social techniques of abuse


Internal techniques of financial abuse

The techniques mainly rely on members, sympathizers and their families’ financial potentialities. Being under political and psychological impact of the organization, they are more open to persuasion of the group and suggestible to offer what they are demanded. Politically, socially and ideologically convinced that the group draws the boundary between two worlds of absolute white and black, they are ready to offer whatever they own in addition to persuade friends and relatives to make remarkable donations. Here are the processes.


Persuading individuals to turn over their properties

It is not too hard to prove that under influential cult mechanisms the individuals willingly surrender whatever property they have gathered all through their career. When they easily consent to do whatever they are demanded to prove their loyalty and devotion to the cult and leader, it is much easier a task to relinquish property and savings unquestionably. To achieve the cause is deemed above anything and the worldly things have to be sacrificed for the greater achievement. That is the point where the individual is persuaded to close his eyes over whatever he owns as worthless unless spent for the accomplishment of the cause. The majority of the recruits in MKO who owned properties or savings rendered them up to the organization retaining not a penny.


Persuading individuals to earn incomes

It seems common in many cults to persuade individuals to travail in fitted professions to earn money for the cult. As the active members of a cult and organization, it is a part of their struggle for the cause to raise funds for the group’s expenses. Far above a duty, it is an organizational command to load the group’s treasure. At the present, many of Mojahedin’s cadres and members, based on their education and professional abilities, are engaged in a variety of profitable businesses and jobs to channel the incomes into the organization’s accounts. Explained by Anne Singleton, fundraising activities marked the degree of loyalty to Rajavi:

As regards membership, Rajavi has at his disposal, a totally loyal and self-sacrificing force of up to three thousand people who are willing to perform any task or deed he requires without question. One of the most important of these tasks has been a concerted and prolonged fund-raising campaign. For nearly two decades, the Mojahedin have been collecting money under the disguise of charity work for victims of Iranian repression, earthquakes and floods. Everyone who becomes involved with the Mojahedin is required to take part in fund-raising activities. This means standing in the street in all weathers, all day and asking the public for money. In the evening, a door to door collection is also employed. Collectors are urged to make up any deficit in their daytime amount in these evenings by working even harder. So important has this fund-raising become that classes are held to teach newcomers how best to manipulate the ‘subject’. Fund-raising very early on became a litmus test for support. Only those prepared to undergo the hardship and difficulty of this activity, were regarded as ready to move on to the next stage of involvement. [2]


Persuading individuals to engage in extortion and charity activities

As part of the organization activities’ duty in Western countries, they resort to a variety of alms gathering and charity activities in the streets. Through deceitful ways, they try to win the sympathy from European citizens under different pretexts of raising funds for homeless Iranian children, political refugees, the families of political prisoners, jobless and needy people and the like. Referring to bullying tactics of fundraising in Western streets, Anne Singleton writes:

When Maryam came to Europe in 1993, she brought with her a totally dedicated force who undertook any task required. They set about taking over from the supporters’ role of fundraising. With their bullying tactics, their productivity far exceeded anything seen before. Some were able to return up to 1500 pounds sterling, per day. But even before this, in one year alone, Iran Aid charity in the UK had a declared income of 5 million pounds. Its undeclared income has been estimated at over twice this, making a total of over 15 million pounds in one year. If this amount is multiplied for just ten countries: UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, then an annual amount of 150 million pounds can be estimated to have made its way to the Mojahedin organisation. If this is multiplied over ten years, then the figure of 1.5 billion pounds gives a rough estimate of the resources which Massoud Rajavi has amassed through the efforts of his devoted followers only in the streets of the West. [3]

Anne Singleton also states that the organization even exploited elderly members and sent them into the streets to collect money:

The Mojahedin have also brought to Europe some of their more elderly members who can no longer cope with the harsh conditions in Iraq. These people are also used in fund-raising. That is, standing in the streets from morning until night collecting money under the guise of Iran Aid. These elderly people have little other choice considering the pressures on them. [4]


Persuading individuals to extort money from the families

The individuals are persuaded to conceptualize a black and evil picture of whoever stays out of the context of the cult or organization. Thus the members are convinced that any action to deceive people in general and their parents and relatives in particular are acknowledged as right and ethical. As explained by Margaret Singer:

Psychotherapy and self, improvement cults are particularly known for getting members to produce revised personal histories and, especially, to view their parents as evil and no longer trustworthy. Similarly, as I have mentioned, the religious cults train members to regard outsiders, even blood relatives, as of Satan and to be avoided at all costs. [5]


The individuals, who have left their parents when they needed to have them along, as it is the case with members of Mojahedin, can readily plot to extort money from them. Many MKO’s ex-members confess that under the group’s instructions, they pried big sums of money out of their parents.

Cults also turn members against their families, using a plethora of rationales made to fit the group’s ideology. One political cult, for example, "tests" young recruits by having them deliberately lie to their parents while someone in leadership stands next to them when they make the call. This is a first step in both separating recruits from their families and teaching them to follow irrational orders. [6]


Revolutionary seizure

 Admitted by a number of the ex-members, the properties of some members and sympathizers in European cities were confiscated by the agents of the organization under the direct command of the Rajavies. The process will be discussed in detail.


[1]. Massoud Rajavi’s delivered message on July.

[2]. Anne Singleton’s Saddam’s Private Army.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Thaler Singer, Margaret; Cults in Our Midst, p. 89.

[6]. Ibid.


Bahar Irani – Mojahedin.ws – October 27, 2007



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