The admirers of Vincent Van Gogh can hardly resist spending a few hours in the French village of Auvers-Sur-Oise where the great artist spent his last days. Describing the place in a letter addressed to his brother, the painter once wrote “Really, it’s seriously pretty; it’s open countryside, characteristic and picturesque”. He was right and it hasn’t changed so very much since then, except for the established headquarters of Mojahedin Khalq cult on Rue des Gords since early 1980’s. Known to be the residence of Maryam Rajavi, the cult’s vice-guru leading the organization in the absence of her husband, to many it seems like a castle of mystery that leaks no information of what is going on inside.
It was only on the morning of 17 June 2003 when French SWAT teams went over the walls and broke into its headquarters for the first time to discover what was going on therein. It was only a few months after Nicolas Sarkozy became Interior minister that the French authorities began to suspect cult practices and terrorist activities within the highly guarded headquarters. It was mostly because mobs of members were swarming back from Iraq to their French enclave following Saddam’s fall, a globally despised dictator to whom they were notoriously known to be serving as mercenary pawns. And the aroused suspicion in French authorities proved to be well justified.
The shocking finding was not many illegal instruments, communication devices and big sums of money discovered and seized, but the raid’s aftermath. Maryam Radjavi was arrested and as a protest, several members of the cult set themselves on fire. Parisian could not believe the human torches running right before their eyes in the broad daylight. The tragic scene is best depicted by the French reporter, Alain Chevalerias, in his Brûlé Vif (Burned Alive):
June 18, 2003, on Wednesday we were in Paris. Street Nelaton, in the 15th district, about ten individuals gathered in front of the offices of the ministry of the interior. They had the air of eastern people. Chanting vague slogans, they shook brandish flags and the big photos of a smiling woman in their hands. Without going to preoccupy building, the police officials ascended the markets of it to begin their operation. It was 9:25. It was hot.
Suddenly, a scream tore the air. A little further in front of the line of the aerial subway, the flames were flying in the air. A man ran in the scene. Policemen intervened. It was too late; In the dark a monstrous figure was standing on the restless ground of soubresaut. The victim was obvious. She was an Iranian. The same country as theirs, she was a 42 year old woman called Marzieh Babakhani. She wanted to sacrifice herself by the fire to obtain the liberation of the woman whose picture floated above the small assembled crowd, to some extent, in front of the ministry of the interior. Urgently transported to the hospital Cochin, the insured’s soul returned in the evening.
In the midday, having splashed gasoline on her another was transformed to the same place. She introduced herself Sedighieh Mohageri and said she was 38 years old. Later in the afternoon, Mohammad vakilifard, a man of 46 years repeated the fatal gesture. An epidemic of suicides by the fire seemed to win the planet: the very day, a man in Bern; the day before and the next day four in London; two again in Rome and another in Ottawa.
The human tragedy ended with two deaths. For Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, the director of the DST, the decision taken by authorities was justified, "There was a danger for our country and our fellow-countrymen”.
Now leading France as its President, Nicolas Sarkozy is counted on not to have forgotten about this very controversial organization in France and in the world and the dangerous bunch of cultists who are dominating Auvers-sur-Oise. Any cult needs to found its own ashram as did Franklin Jones in Lake County, California or that of David Koresh located in Mount Carmel near Waco, Texas. That is also the case with Mojahedin in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, a complex that is highly controlled. The residents are not free to go wherever they want in spite of having obtained political refugee status in France; no gate opens to let anybody in or out unless they carry a required written authorization.
It will not take long to turn this picturesque French village into a complete ashram for Mojahedin Khalq if their comrades in Camp Ashraf join them with a show of good-will from the French part. And, of course, the shining, smiling pictures of Maryam Rajavi will outdo those of Van Gogh if French MIVILUDES (Inter-ministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combating Cultic Deviances) fails to take precautionary measures to fully monitor the activities of the organization. Eyes are needed to watch it from the within before it is too late.