It may seem hard to believe that the first seeds of MKO’s transition to a cult of personality were sown in the heart of the Western democratic and free soil following the initiation of the ideological revolution within MKO. In fact, before MKO relocation to Iraq to execute cultic relations in Camp Ashraf as its main cult bastion, the cult thought had passed its embryo stage at Auvers-Sur-Oise in Paris. The importance of Camp Ashraf lies in the fact that it was the best remote and controlled spot as needed for cult activities. It well reinforces the first of the eight main conditions that Lifton identified as indicating the presence of ideological totalism in an organization:
Milieu control. As Lifton postulated it, this is primarily the use of techniques to dominate the person’s contact with the outside world but also their communication with themselves. People are "deprived of the combination of external information and inner reflection which anyone requires to test the realities of his environment and to maintain a measure of identity separate from it. 1
Burt before establishing its main controlled base to practice its cult process, MKO first requisite was to expand its extraordinarily exalted view of its role in political scene as the main Iranian opposition. As a result, it needed a prestigious ancillary establishment with prominent, opponent figures to confer required political legitimacy. The formation of the National Council of Resistance (NCR/NCRI) in France worked as an important alias that could accomplish the cause. It has to be pointed that formation of aliases was in no way an overnight happening. A look at the history of MKO especially after the advent of Islamic Republic in Iran reveals that the group had taken on the strategy of forming a number of affiliated groups under different pseudonyms as a working tool to recruit from among the social ranks and classes and obtain the needed public support.
Compared with other many formed aliases, the NCR is known to be MKO’s most important political wing in the West. Because of the wide membership diversity, the NCR is an exception to MKO’s cult influence. However, it has been itself utilized to intensify and expand cult relation. Although the formation of the NCR soon after MKO’s settlement in France aimed on creating an exclusively united front against the Islamic Republic, it soon turned to function as another alias for MKO. The main goal was on the one hand to recruit members with no ideology or whose ideology somehow contradicted that of MKO, and on the other hand the NCR was intended to act as a catalyst between the West and MKO. Explaining on the goal, an ex-member has said:
The fundamental reason for this new development of the NCRI was that Rajavi desperately needed to rebuild his contact with the West. He couldn’t do this directly himself as none of the Western countries would accept him whilst he continued to maintain relations with Saddam. Nor would Saddam let him loose to leave Iraq and do what he wanted beyond his control. 2
However, Rajavi needed a second trustable chip to introduce. Presentation of Maryam Rajavi as his surrogate in the West at the head of the NCR is known to be one among many errors made by Rajavi; she is hardly qualified to administer some ordinary organizational affairs let alone be elected and accepted as the president elect:
Rajavi hoped that by presenting Maryam as a President and giving her over 150 devoted members to choose from, she could go to the West and start building a place for him again in the political scene. It became a costly mistake. Maryam, as good as she was at promoting Rajavi for the members of the Mojahedin, could not act as a good CEO and take advice. 3
Still, Rajavi is the one to lead the NCR and his hegemonic rule is the sole cult characteristic that dominates it. That was enough for a number of members to leave it as they did. Yet, MKO’s active members constitute a big part of its membership, that is to say, the insiders living in a cult milieu out of a cult’s bastion.
1. Dennis Tourish & Tim Wohlforth: On the edge; political cults right and left, p. 12.
2. Anne Singleton; Saddam’s Private Army, Iran-Interlink, 2003.