Mojahedin Khalq Coercive Cult Techniques for Manipulation of Insiders Finding out members certain personal potentialities and capacities Any organization when recruiting new members tries to discover certain potentialities and capacities in them for a better professional classification. As a result, the new recruits are appointed to the same jobs that suit their abilities and qualify them physically and psychologically for the responsibilities. They are usually required to fill out questionnaires and to write a resume of their past responsibilities and professional proficiencies that may nominate them for a position that best fulfill the interests and goals of the organization.
The same process is followed in many cults in spite of their being unsocial. Since the initial desire of the cults is to benefit from the individuals certain abilities to manipulate them in anti-social missions that may even threaten the social security or the insiders’ own life, the recruits have to undergo an initial process of writing down or talking of their past biography that digs up untold truths. It happens that a recruit may not be fully aware of his own abilities that best suit him for a cult activity. An analysis of a recruit’s life history by the cult best nominates him/her for an aggressive activity which he/she may have never dreamed of in life but proves to be capable of accomplishing most appropriately.
In the same way that a cult’s ideology works to set the spiritual or political route of the leaders ambitions, recognition of members’ abilities works as the practical means without which no goal is ever expected to be fulfilled. Thus, recruits with inappropriate abilities and inclinations are rejected from the very beginning since they will be much troublesome elements that fail to be or become as they should. They are the ones that jeopardize the safety of the cults and make them vulnerable to irreparable coups. Singer calls them "bad actors":
And most cults weed out "bad actors" at the point of recruitment: the disobedient, the unruly, the delinquent, the hard to handle and difficult to influence are turned away. They take too much time and thus are not cost effective to change, and they break up the atmosphere the leader wants to keep in place, the ambience that by fitting in things will go better. 1
However, as the life of cults depend on the multiplicity of members and continuation of recruiting new members, they have to let unqualified members in as well. But in political cults, and in MKO in particular, the suspicious members are recognized to be purged or forced to adapt themselves to principles through a especially contrived process. In MKO it is done through going over the life history of the members to find out their weak-points to be utilized against them if they ever showed signs of antagonism against the organization and the leaders. In fact, the personal and private information that has to be kept confidential are used against the providers. The critic and dissident members have no other choice but to submit to organizational demands to safeguard the privacy which is the organization’s strongest winning card. As a defector explains:
Members afraid of their secrets being unveiled accented to anything. A never ceasing stress of secrets revelation would disturb and traumatize members and deprived them of the necessary self-confidence and the free-will. 2
That is sheer blackmail and heavily practiced by illegal and underground organizations. No legal and authorized party and organization forces its members into cooperation; the adopted process by MKO verifies illegitimacy of the organization as a political organization and best lists it as a cult of personality. Thus, the process becomes known as a technique of persuasion.
In Mojahedin organization, they employ a variety of techniques to change a member’s personality. It is common that a free man has a pile of different point of views and personal tastes and experience of his own career. But thoughtfulness and having the power of reasoning and understanding is in contradiction with the dominant hegemonic leadership within the organization. A unanimous thinking route is believed to decrease any objection, disagreement and criticism and makes all liable to obedience. Thus, any member had to pass a long process of personality change. 3
It has to be pointed out that such a process of cutinizing members’ life-history is most common in political cults that live on the founded ideologies of certain magnitude. All the members have to be dispossessed of whatever antagonistic ideologies that have spoiled them in their past social and political career to adapt themselves to the cult ideology. It is a hard examination to pass since all those they would be closely associated in the past are viewed as foes unless they fall in with the cult’s ideology:
In some political cults, members repeatedly had to go over their backgrounds as part of examining their "class history." Each person’s life was orally inspected and reviled. Members were told their thinking was totally determined by the bad class they had been reared in. Even working-class members had their thinking pulled apart and attacked as still reflecting "the training and education that is controlled by the ruling [bourgeois] class." Some leftist groups rebuke their members with Chairman Mao’s words that "every kind of thinking is stamped with the brand of class." In some rightist groups, members have to "purify" their personal histories by not mentioning relatives, friends, or "connections" who are not of the right political persuasion in their outlook or who are, for example, of color or foreign born. 4
Obtaining even the least information about a member’s conflicting social class and status, MKO value it as working tool to reproach a member when it becomes conscious of any form of objection. For instance, a member might be heavily attacked and criticized for having strong inclination to bourgeoisie while the objection and disobedience has nothing to do with the class at all. An excerpt from Massoud Banisadr’s memoirs sheds much light on the issue:
Then she asked me to leave everything and think about my bourgeois tendencies and write about them. In this meeting any time she wanted to call me unlike before and despite everybody else, she was using my both name, first and family name, reminding me of my family tendencies and my relation tendency toward ‘Banisadr, the president.’ Soon it became her custom to name me by my first name and family name at the same time and in no time I could see every body else is naming me in the same manner. So from then on even I had to suffer from my own name not only from my own masouls but from any body else including people under my own responsibility. As I was told to see my self as a bourgeois and see all my behaviour, including my ‘kindness’, ‘understanding’, ‘caring’ and ‘helping’ toward others as a ‘bourgeois tricks ‘for “fooling people and keeping them within chains of its own trap.” I was trying very hard not to show any affection toward any body and even more, create some dislike and hate toward myself. 5
Similar to other cults, the Cult of Mojahedin, tolerating no disobedience on the part of members, masterminds coercive techniques so cleverly that members feel to be in the organization’s debt rather than its antagonist.
1. Thaler Singer, Margaret; Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, p.168.
2. Shams-e Haeri, Hadi; The swamp, vol. II.
4. Thaler Singer, Margaret; Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, 166.
5. Masoud Banisadr; Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel.