Errors of a cult leader; cloaking conversion of ranking members
Of the major strategic mistakes made by Rajavi is his issued order to conceal a number of the group members’ conversion to Marxism. Additionally, as underlined by eye witnesses and prison-mates, Rajavi himself has confessed to have been converted to Marxism but desisted to declare it to prevent negative consequences. A big bulk of deviation within the organization, at least after its schism in 1975, may be pertained to its adoption of a divisive and dual policy. Rajavi’s strategic turnabout may be the very same reason compelling him to insist on concealing the conversion of other members like Bahman Bazargani. Had Rajavi been a Muslim, he would not have allowed Marxist members like Bahman Bazargani to have their hold on the organization and, above all, ask them to show as true Muslim who even stood as others’ prayer leaders.
Many of Marxist members wanted to announce their strategic turnabout even before the declaration of Marxist wing manifesto. There are many statements made by imprisoned Mojahedin in this regard some of which may be mentioned here. All of them focus on Rajavi refusing to reveal the identity of Marxist members as well as his own conversion from Islam to Marxism. It has to be pointed out that the formation of Marxist wing of Mojahedin has its roots in 1971 mass arrests. Marxist members justified that religious inclination rooted in Mojahedin was the reason they restricted them to make due decision in some events such kidnapping prince Shahram, Shah’s nephew. They further pointed out that ethical and ideological bonds of Mojahedin to Islamic rituals like that of saying daily prayers and the like reduced their organizational freedom. Finally they concluded that religion was the source of external challenges the organization was faced with so they had to fight against whatever hindering ethical and religious considerations.
One of the early activists of MKO, Mohammad Mehdi Jafari, collects his observations in a book called “An internal look at MKO”. Although many members are referred to in his statements, but the main focus is on Rajavi having the leading role in the organization’s dualistic relations. He believes that a number of members like Rajavi who joined the organization after its formation were Marxist. Though he refers not directly to Marxist leaning of Rajavi and other members, but expounding on such matters like stopping saying prayers and being highly affected by philosophy of Marxism confirms that they walked on an anti-religion path. In this regard, he writes:
Those who joined the organization later on, such as Masoud Rajavi, Musa Khiabani, etc never declared overtly to be Marxist and even pretended to be anti-Marxism; however, they were so influenced by Marxism that legitimized some forbidden actions in Islam. For example, they asked some members not express publicly their Marxist conversion and to pretend performing daily rituals. 1
He further refers to some points affirmed by other former members too such as Bahman Bazargani’s conversion to Marxism and Rajavi’s refusal to reveal it. This action resulted in the development of ideological discord within MKO. In this regard, it is said:
It is said that Masoud Rajavi knew Bahman Bazargani was no longer Muslim but a Marxist and communist. He advised Bazargani to continue to say his prayers and also lead others’ prayer to conceal his conversion. 2
Dr. Karim Rastegar, an early member of MKO, believes that many years before the schism of Marxism wing, a number of members in Qasr prison had already adopted Marxist ideology. He refers to Masoud Rajavi among other members and writes:
In late 1971, I was sent to cell number 3 in Qasr prison. Many MKO high-ranking members like Reza Bakeri, Bahman Bazargani, Mehdi Khosroshahi, Musa Khiabani, and Masoud Rajavi were there. There were heated ideological discussions there and some members expressed their beliefs. In other word, they said that they no longer believed in Islam and were Marxist. 3
He also adds that one of the interrogators of SAVAK (Pahlavi’s regime’s security and intelligence organization) was well aware that Rajavi was a Marxist and called him a Marxist in front of others:
One night Rasouli, a SAVAK interrogator, came to our cell. As usual, every one was silent and motionless. He told me “stand over there Osqof”. I knew this name was not recorded in my dossier and wondered how he had come to know that. Then he addressed Masoud Rajavi calling him a damned communist. Then he told Rajavi “we know you are all Marxist”. We did not understand what he meant by that. It happened coincident with the arrest of Khalil Dezfuli through whom the information had been leaked to SAVAK. But we did not know that. 4
He also considers Rajavi to be more at fault than Taqi Shahram (the guerrilla fighter blamed for the organization’s 1975 schism) in the organizational schism:
I think Rajavi was more responsible for this adversity than Shahram since Shahram was performing his evolutionary responsibility in cleansing members’ mind off the bourgeoisie thoughts, but Rajavi, playing a pro-Islamist, endorsed the rupture by keeping silent. In fact he betrayed his own ideology. 5
Lotfollah Meisami, being Rajavi’s intimate in prison and team-houses, is a reliable witness who can well disclos aspects of Rajavi’s dual behavior. He explains the causes behind the ideological shift of the organization and the passive role some members like Rajavi’s played in unveiling the identity of Marxist members:
Bahman Bazargani had already talked about his ideological problems with Masoud Rajavi, Musa Khiabani, and some other members saying that he was no longer a Muslim and could not perform related rituals since he considered it to be an act of insincerity. Masoud Rajavi asked him to say his prayers for three more years and to cease talking about it further. Interestingly, he was forced to lead others’ prayers too. Zein-al Abedin Haqani told me parts of the fact when I was sent to the prison in Shiraz, Bahram told me all about it after I was set free. 6
He points out that in spring 1975 in Qasr prison, Parviz Yaqubi was asked to try Rajavi for his refusal to reveal the beliefs of Marxist members.
In 1974, I was arrested for the third time. Losing the sight of my eye and being in solitary confinement for 16 months, I was sent to Qasr prison. There I met Parviz Yaqubi and told him to try Masoud since if in Qasr prison he informed us that Bahman was a Marxist, we would try to find a solution. He should not have made such a mistake. 7
Rajavi asked Bazargani to hide his ideological turnabout for three yeas. The reason might have been an attempt by Rajavi to hang on an opportunity to announce the organization’s total ideological shift to Marxism. Although there is no clear reason why Rajavi insisted on disguising the ideological identity of members, however, he was well aware of the fact that religious beliefs could secure social support for the organization without which it could never survive. Furthermore, he knew that improvement of any organizational doctrine depended on restoration of Islamic values and putting Marxist ideology into discard. Therefore, he hides members’ as well as his own Marxist conversion. Now the question is whether Rajavi did so to keep the integration of the organization and prevent its split or he was concerned about his own organizational status and hegemonic rule. A brief look at the evidences on Rajavi’s narcissism well answers this question. Therefore, such events can not be ignored easily as accidentally made mistakes of Rajavi.
1. An interview with Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Jafari on MKO.
3. An interview with Dr. Karim Rastegar on 20 June.
6. Meisami, Lotfollah, Those who went