Cultist groups put much energy to develop a collective identity. However, in cases of encountering the danger of split and signs of any schism, they may resort to a variety of measures that strictly negates the first preliminaries needed to keep a whole community united. In general, cult leaders unit members and gave them enemies to hate and comrades to love but love towards other members is replaced by hatred and disgust to prevent the formation of dissidence and objection within the cult. In other word, as members are instilled to hate themselves and follow the group, they are forced to hate other members in order not to be motivated to quit the organization. Eric Hoffer refers to such a paradoxical aspect in cultist relations and says:
The revulsion from an unwanted self, and the impulse to forget it, mask it, slough it off and lose it, produce both a readiness to sacrifice the self and a willingness to dissolve it by loosing one’s individual distinctness in a compact collective whole. Moreover, the estrangement from the self is usually accompanied by a train of diverse and seemingly unrelated attitudes and impulses which a closer probing reveals to be essential factors in the process of unification and of self-sacrifice. In other words, frustration not only gives rise to the desire f6r unity and the readiness for self-sacrifice but also creates a mechanism for their realization. Such diverse phenomena as a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds of the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness. (1)
The main cause of resorting to controlling procedures is the dissatisfaction on the part of members. For example, such mechanisms were developed within MKO after the initiation of the ideological revolution due to the fact that the shocking event of the marriage between Masoud Rajavi and Maryam Azdanlu, after her divorce from her high ranking member Mehdi Abrishamchi, which led to the discontentment of members, necessitated improvement of security considerations within the organization. The phase of compulsory divorces prepared much more ground for this approach. Although this procedure was justified pointing to the necessity of directing members’ emotions and feelings toward Rajavi, but in the long run it had challenging effects on the internal relations of the organization, detaching all the emotional and family attachments of members and even couples and paving the way for the application of more controlling procedures.
Under such a repressive atmosphere where the members themselves did the control job, the organization was made secure against possibility of any deviation from principles and policy. The phase of compulsory divorces was the outmost extend of enforcing cult-like process of resentment through which spouses began disparaging each other before other members only to accomplish organizational commands. The organization was well aware of the fact that hatred aroused hatred; members had to show detestation in their words, eyes, hearts and conducts.
Even beyond the milieu of the organization members were compelled to carry this revultion with them in their external relations with the world outside. And they were instructed to cover their hatred with smiles and eloquences. Many MKO ex-members point out that they had to express their hatred to their relatives, friends and even their parents in order to pass the phases of the ideological revolution. The more hatred they showed to outsiders, the more loyal they proved to be to the leader. Some members were even forced to terrify their own family members to increase needed qualification for organizational promotion. The ex-member Masoud Banisadr giving details on one of the ideological sessions writes:
The session was called ‘detachment from the past’. One man had to leave his much-loved black girl friend to become a full time supporter. He put his head on my shoulder and cried for a few minutes, telling me how much he loved her, but with her attitude toward the organization he could not marry her and work with the Mojahedin at the same time. Another had to leave his brother who was working in the Iranian embassy, and show his readiness to kill him if it became necessary. (2)
He also relates a case in which he was ordered to cut all his attachments to the past and burning his photos in order to prove his revolutionary competence and writes:
I wanted to say real good-bye this time once forever. I went home and saw Anna; she asked me what am I doing home. I explained to her, She didn’t say anything, as she knew it is not going to do any good. This time I attacked my old photographs from my own childhood till marriage and up to then, my parents photographs as I wanted to deny all of them, my father who was perhaps responsible for my bourgeois tendencies and my mother who was responsible of my own ‘mild’ and ‘gentle’ behavior known as liberal ones. Anna seeing me taking all those photographs and albums, with anger, was quietly crying, then when I attacked our marriage Album she start crying louder, and asked me to stop it. She said those are not just yours, . . . but I was not listening to her and took every thing and put them in a rubbish bag. And left for the base. Over there every body was worried where I am and thought perhaps I have left the organization or under the immense pressure which I was, in during past few weeks, have killed myself or something like that. I wrote a long report for Tahereh and with that report send that rubbish bag to her. She sent me back the rubbish bag and asked me to burn it all and welcomed me back to the organization. (3)
The applied controlling mechanisms within MKO are far beyond most known cults. Although hardly the term ‘hatred’ is mentioned in the cases where it is meant, the consequent antagonisms, resentment and hostility clearly indicate that members have been taken over willingly or unwillingly. The unbounded hatred in the members is a factor of encourage to antagonize whatever order that contradicts that of the organization’s.
1. Eric Hoffer; The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, New York: First Perennial Classics 2002, p. 58.
2. Banisadr, Masoud, The memoirs of an Iranian rebel.