Mojahedin-e Khalq organization (a cultist group also known as MKO, MEK, PMOI) resorts to brainwashing and controlling techniques as well as engaging in other blameful activities such as training spies in a way different from other political and security systems. Normally, espionage is considered to be a profession by itself. However, in most cases it emerges as a result of ignorance, unfounded demands, and an ever-increasing phobia on the part of those involved in it. Although it means gathering, transmitting, or losing, of information by those who pretend to be part of a system or group, Mojahedin relate it to ideological and religious issues as a valued activity.
Cultist groups make psychological use of such a phenomenon. Eric Hoffer refers to it as a marvelous slime to cement the embittered and disaffected into one compact whole, a unifying agent. He writes:
The awareness of their individual blemishes and shortcomings inclines the frustrated to detect ill will and meanness in their fellow men. Self-contempt, however vague, sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others. We usually strive to reveal in others the blemishes we hide in ourselves. Thus when the frustrated congregate in a mass movement, the air is heavy-laden with suspicion. There is prying and spying, tense watching and a tense awareness of being watched. The surprising thing is that this pathological mistrust within the ranks leads not to dissension but to strict conformity. Knowing themselves continually watched, the faithful strive to escape suspicion by adhering zealously to prescribed behavior and opinion. Strict orthodoxy is as much the result of mutual suspicion as of ardent faith (1).
Then he refers to some examples in right Fascist parties and expounds on such an assumed sacred process as follows:
Mass movements make extensive use of suspicion in their machinery of domination. The rank-and-file within the Nazi party were made to feel that they were continually under observation and were kept in a permanent state of uneasy conscience and fear. Fear of one’s neighbors, one’s friends and even ones relatives seems to be the rule within all mass movements. Now and then innocent people are deliberately accused and sacrificed in order to keep suspicion alive. Suspicion is given a sharp edge by associating all opposition within the ranks with the enemy threatening the movement from without. This enemy-the indispensable devil of every mass movement-is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors (2).
Such a deep theoretical consideration within the cultist relations of MKO constitutes what we call ideological sacredness which paves the way for the application of espionage activities. Subornation is used in order to convince members of being engaged in espionage in MKO, a common approach in the world of politics practiced by Mojahedin as well. One of the Mojahedin former members expands on such a controlling procedure and writes:
One of the undemocratic and even un-revolutionary relations is that of training spies. Spy is a person communicating with others in a friendly manner and then reporting his/her actions and speeches to the leader of the organization. This approach has penetrated within the families too. Wife spies against her husband, sister spies against her brother and vice versa giving the report to the officials which debilitates the marital relations resulting in suspicion and hatred in the families. Even in one or two hours allowed to be with each other, no one dares to talk to or consult with her/his spouse since it may end in giving secret information or criticizing the organization both of which are forbidden (3).
Hadi Shams Haeri describes such a process as follows:
Spying was another means for the mental reformation of members. The organization asked members to make daily reports of their family members and give it to their person in charge to control the affairs. Even talking in a specific dialect was forbidden not to disclose information in this way. As a result, distrust was spreading among the members and every one considered other members as security agents. Also the reporting person was affected negatively turning to a double-faced person (4).
Saeed Shahsavandi, former member of Mojahedin’s central democratic cadre, in his letter to Masoud Rajavi (MKO ideological leader) refers to one of the doctrines of the ideological revolution of Mojahedin, writing:
Members’ espionage and even that of couples is done as report writing. It was initiated after the development of the ideological revolution and nowadays is ever-increasingly practicing (5).
In a nutshell, espionage turned to be a kind of organizational advancement after the initiation of ideological revolution. In most ideological sessions of Mojahedin especially that of the so-called ‘article c’, members were told to be involved in espionage in order to get promotion. It is very interesting that this approach has no red line and all members were obligated ideologically to write reports. For example, European members returning to Camp Ashraf were accused of being secret agents too. In this regard, Masoud Banisadr writes:
By now not only we had to give reports about ourselves, and our thought, but as we were told that we have to be safeguard of each other, and report back misbehaviour of each other. God knows how many people gave such reports about us from abroad that didn’t know about this new situation. Some times I could not believe my ear when I could hear some facts people were giving about themselves or others. In a meeting, a brother was accusing another brother who sat on a seat occupied before be a sister. He was accused of wanting to touch a seat, already touched by a woman (6).
According to some detached members, sometimes even the common recollection of members they chat over turned to a means for their own indictment. However, although such exchange of information in no way aimed at giving reports, the internal relations of MKO made it inevitable to end the ordinary and day-to-day chitchats of members in giving reports against one another.
The most pitiful event was that of family members’ spy against each other done under the pretext of ideological and religious considerations. Making all members indebted to the leader is one of the most important phases of the ideological revolution without which organizational membership and advancement is impossible. This principle affected common emotional relations between relatives and made members mostly concerned about organizational upgrading and contentment of the leadership.
Some members had to divorce their spouse just because of losing their organizational status. The family turned into a place of mistrust and spying within MKO. Every one was obligated to report all events happened in his/her family to the organization. There was no freedom at home. Every one with a higher organizational status had hegemony over others and more facilities and welfare (7).
Taking members under control by means of spying is one of the appalling mechanisms practiced within MKO. According to some MKO ex-members, some members ignored all ethical principles accusing their fellow warriors falsely in order to satisfy the leadership. One of the most famous gatherings of Mojahedin in which a member was condemned harshly and sometimes beaten by others was called ‘pot’. It was like being put in a pot and boiled on fire as members were put under heavy, inescapable psychological pressures and reproach. Such sessions were formed based on the reports given to the officials about members.
The process of espionage in MKO is different from other systems and organizations; in the latter it is preferred to hide the identity of spies while in MKO it is respected because it is a duty to prove loyalty to the leadership. The value given to surveillance results from the fact that MKO leadership has theorized it ideologically. As Hoffer refers to psychological aspects of this issue, Mojahedin make use of the same aspect as well as ideological considerations thus making it an ordinary daily activity.
The study of such controlling mechanisms in MKO is of special significance since they make members do self-censorship due to the fact that no one can distinct spies from ordinary members. As a result, all members control each other automatically preventing the occurrence of any tension within the organization. There are many evidences provided by separated members proving this fact. The cases discussed above well illustrate the quality and quantity of such an unethical phenomenon in the internal relations of Mojahedin many of which are not mentioned here.
1. Hoffer, Eric, The true believer, p.114
2. ibid, p.115
3. Shams Haeri, Hadi, The impasse of deviations, p.26
4. Shams Haeri, Hadi, The swamp
5. Shahsavandi, Saeed, Documents of my letters to Masoud Rajavi
6. Banisadr, Masoud, The memoirs of an Iranian rebel, p.376
7 Shams Haeri, Hadi, The swamp