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Cult leaders accountable to nobody

Of the common characteristics of cult leaders referred to in most academic resources is a lack of accountability for their activities and decision-makings. This practice is in full contrast to the norms of leadership in democratic and free societies in which leaders’ decisions and activities have to be parallel to the social major interests and demands of the public. However, leaders in cults not only consider themselves too superior to be reprimanded for what they do but also regard themselves as heavenly gifts bestowed to earthly followers; super-humans beyond restrictions of ordinary people and free from any error. Their self-appointed position necessitates that cult leaders assume responsibility only to a higher position like that of a god or ideology. These features are easily traceable within the notorious cultist relations of MKO, already blacklisted as a terrorist political cult.

Where this approach is rooted and on what basis it is founded constitutes one of the most basic discussions of the field of cult studies. However, it has to be pointed out that its scope depends on the specific content and orientation of each cult and despite the existing subtle differences, it is exercised commonly within all cults. Also, it has to be noted that unaccountability is more outstanding in political cults due to their external manifestations and broad objectives compared to other cults. A factor distinguishing MKO from other parallel political groups is that its leadership is not only unaccountable to the insiders but also prevents other opposition groups to assume responsibility of their doings by means of many factors like accusation, labeling, perversion, threat, subornation and other levers and sometimes even resorts to improper language to beat them off in the course of political struggle and eliminate all rivals. Therefore, the study of this aspect of cultic relations is of a wider dimension in MKO.

Here, there is an attempt to review these aspects in cults in general and in social relations of MKO in particular. First, the fundamentals and foundations of cults are taken into consideration. Stated in the Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, Bonewits, classifies unaccountability of cult leaders as one of the cults’ 16 factors:

Charismatic and self-appointed leader who claims divinity or special knowledge and demands his followers unquestioning and total loyalty and obedience. 1

And, according to Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre:

All cults share the same characteristics. The definition of any cult is that it indoctrinates its members; forms a closed, totalitarian society; has a self-appointed, Messianic and charismatic leader. 2

This is the very prominent feature of Mojahedin leadership particularly after the development of the ideological revolution that aimed at the legitimization of the idea that the ideological leadership of Rajavi would be no longer accountable to anybody. In addition, it was assumed that faultfinding with Rajavi would be a great and unforgivable sin. The study of the background and reasons of the occurrence of this feature in cult relations from a historical and theoretical point of view may give us a better understanding of the issue.

The factor of unaccountability has an obvious manifestation in all political cults and leftist parties in particular and even has influenced the right groups of fascist orientations. In the contemporary history, and especially in the reign of Stalin in USSR Communist Party as well as that of Hitler in the world of capitalism, there appeared more cases of this orientation. It has to be noted that this feature is found almost in all totalitarian and dictator leaders but it is unlikely to imply that all political leaders are cultic. In fact, this factor along with other features may confirm the cultic nature of a group.

Despite the liberal and modern gestures of some contemporary leaders like Stalin and Hitler, they were of a full totalitarian and dictator nature. Stalin made use of ideological basics of Marxism-Leninism to stabilize his god-like position at the top of the Communist Party and Hitler used the factors of ideology, science and religion to exercise his authority on Nazis. As Stalin used his self-fabricated interpretations of historical and philosophical materialism as the basis of his unaccountable leadership, Hitler grabbed at scientific theories like that of Darwin to impose his leadership on Nazis. Therefore, these leaders paved the way for constituting categorized cults of personality relying on their unaccountable status free from any challenge and question.

The main lever of these leaders for stabilizing their unaccountable position in an egocentric manner is religious taboos and deceiving members by claiming to be connected with the unseen world. However, every cult has its own unique approach in furthering the personal interests of its leader.


1. www.la.info.org/library/programming/bonewits.shtml

2. Singleton, A., Saddam’s private army, Iran-Interlink, 2003, p.xvii.

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