Of the most common controlling techniques within MKO is that of collective control. Camp Ashraf plays an important role in keeping full all-out control over all members as well as carrying out brainwashing mechanisms. Strengthening security systems within Ashraf to prevent the members’ exit, resistance against transferring Mojahedin to other places and such activities imply the necessity of collective life for Mojahedin. The first consequence of dispersion of MKO members may be the destruction of intra-organizational controlling systems. Although lifestyle of members located in Ashraf is similar to that of Auvers-Sur-Oise and early headquarters of the organization in Iran, it is better to review the history of the formation of Ashraf in order to gain a better understanding of its strategic significance.
Before the formation of Ashraf, MKO members lived separately in Iran, Europe, Kurdistan and other countries and cities; therefore, it was impossible for the leadership to develop a collective life. It is not clear whether Ashraf was formed due to predefined ideological objectives or its formation was the inevitable consequence of some events like the disintegration of resistance cells of Mojahedin within Iran, and Europe’s disagreement for the collective settlement of Mojahedin. However, it can be claimed that Rajavi made an informed decision to keep the integrity of his organizational running for many years.
strategic failures of Mojahedin, their expulsion from France, Rajavi’s meeting with Tariq Aziz were some main factors that lead to the true prediction that Rajavi was planning to form a camp consisting of Mojahedin’s military and organizational members in order to prevent members’ passivity and disintegration of the organization. Considering Ashraf as the symbol of Mojahedin and a utopia proves the above claims. Ashraf, as the location of the development of the ideological revolution, may be regarded as the controlling lever against dissidents too. Taking a brief look at the labels defined for Ashraf may lead to a better understanding of its strategic role. In this regard, it is said:
Mojahedin’s Heart (Camp Ashraf) is called by a woman’s name, a woman who is to have a major role in the internal ideological revolution of Mojahedin. (1)
There is a kind of dialectic relationship between camp Ashraf and the ideological revolution of Mojahedin:
There is no doubt that the considerable resistance of Ashraf under the hegemony of Mojahed women had its roots in the internal ideological revolution within MKO. (2)
Although Rajavi justified his decision to move to Iraq under the pretext of changing strategy and being close to Iranian soil, his main objective was keeping full control over members. The consequences of the development of the ideological revolution such as the increase of dissidence among members were another factor to make such a decision. The dispersion of members would result in their opposition to leaders’ policies and decisions; however, living in Ashraf would reduce this probability.
It has to be pointed out that Camp Ashraf prepared the grounds for application of brainwashing mechanisms as well as physical control of members by means of the prisons formed within it. The statements made by the MKO ex-members imply the fact that resorting to mental and physical pressures against dissident members were common activities in Ashraf. Taking a look at the security considerations in Ashraf and calling it as Mojahedin’s symbol, laboratory, heart, utopia, etc may clarify this point. An MKO former member describes collective life in Ashraf and says:
Camp Ashraf turned to a laboratory for testing Rajavi’s theories and members turned to guinea pigs. (3)
He also refers to Ashraf as the Mojahedin utopia in which collective life paves the way for winning full control over the members:
Camp Ashraf is a model of Mojahedin’s utopia promised by Rajavi. Organizational hierarchy is developed based on ranking officials and inferior rank-and-files. There is no separation or collection among members; every one is connected to the ideology. Every one has to obey his superior who is more ideological. Every one needs a leader. Masoul is a person connecting members to leader. The relationship between Masoul and members inferior to him/her is like that of water and a thirsty person in which the latter can not live without the former. In MKO each Masoul is subordinate to his/her Masoul too up to Rajavi at the peak of the organizational pyramid. (4)
The running lifestyle in Ashraf is under full control. Internal as well as external relations of Mojahedin are monitored and controlled using various controlling levers:
Camp Ashraf is located out of the city and is surrounded by barbed wire. Members never leave it except for visiting doctors and accompanied by another Masoul. It resembles military camps in which members are imprisoned voluntarily. Most members have been there for an average of ten years except for military maneuvers. No one visits it but some Iraqi officials. (5)
In a nutshell, according to the supporters and sympathizers of the ideological revolution, Camp Ashraf is a must, a model focusing on collective life due to the ideological considerations. As a result, the significance of such a social life is based on an all-out control over the members and their full submission. In other words, in MKO collective life grants a chance for further monitoring and control of members. Camp Ashraf has been described as follows:
After the strategic settlement of Mojahedin in Iraq, their leader had the chance to test his revolutionary theories in a small society under his own control and free from the outside value systems. Such a society had to be a micro model of a real society consisting of government, president, the parliament in exile, armed forces, police forces, prison, court, mass media, diplomatic relations, economical and logistic systems. (6)
Collective life is common in almost all historical cults and a number of American cults. The place where these cults are located is so significant that sometimes the name of the cult is derived from the name of their location like Alamout castle and the cult called Alamout led by Hasan Sabbah. Likewise Ashraf and Mojahedin have the same connotation today. What is of importance is the fact that all such considerations are taken aiming to control members and to give cultist identity to them.
1. Niyabati, Bijan, Another look at the ideological revolution within MKO
3. Shams-e Haeri, Hadi, The Swamp
6. Niyabati, Bijan, Another look at the ideological revolution within MKO