Iraq’s decision to close Camp Ashraf and remove the Mojahedin-e Khalq from the country is based primarily on security issues. The group’s long history of alliance with Saddam Hussein and its history of killing and suppression of Iraqi citizens are not in question. However the specific approach used to dismantle the group reveals that Iraq’s authorities have a clear understanding that the principle problem posed by the group is as a dangerous, destructive mind control cult which has no place in any society.
The Government of Iraq’s basic analysis of the group is that it acts outside the law, it acts against its own members and it acts against the interests of the host country. This of course is true not only in Iraq but in any country the group is located.
In contrast, western behaviour toward the group appears to take no account whatsoever that this is a destructive cult and instead appears to maintain the fiction that the MKO is a political or military entity. Although western governments treat the group as though it were a legal entity, in reality the MKO operates mostly outside legal boundaries.
Rather than look through the prism of security to understand the group as western governments have done with their terrorism lists, the Iraqi government has developed a sophisticated understanding of the MKO’s internal relations and how that impacts its external behaviour whether in the political or security field.
An important baseline from which Iraq has started has been the recognition that as members of a cult, MKO members are victims not heroes. They are trapped in this situation and did not choose freely and still cannot choose freely to be there. They are held as hostages for the leader and the leaders’ masters.
As part of its plan to expel the MKO, the Government of Iraq has several times made reasonable, timely requests to European countries for help. Since the Mojahedin-e Khalq is no longer legally regarded as a terrorist entity in the European Union, these countries could accept the individuals from Camp Ashraf as refugees. So far no country has been willing to accept them.
How should we interpret this intransigence?
There can be no doubt that the MKO is not an independent organisation but is backed by money and power to such an extent that western judicial and governmental officials appear to be afraid of challenging the status quo. As a result, in western countries the MKO is permitted to operate freely without regard to the law. The results of this are twofold. The MKO, on behalf of regime change proponents, operates a powerful lobby in western countries based on deception to the extent that it corrupts parliamentary democracy and infects media reporting with lies. The MKO is also free to impose severe human rights violations on its own members with impunity.
The failure of western governments to deal effectively with the group and put it in its rightful place is not based on lack of information. Parliamentary debate and governmental pronouncements reveal that nobody regards the MKO as either democratic or popular. Human rights organisations have documented decades of abuse against members. Yet in spite of this it would appear that western governments still have not made up their minds how they want to treat this group.
The group is so blatantly owned by regime change proponents that it is hard to imagine that anyone believes other than that the MKO is an artificial construct which is being artificially imposed on western governmental relations with Iran. That this is only possible because the MKO is a mind control cult whose primary victims are its own members should also be quite obvious.
In this context, it is inconceivable that any western government actually believes the MKO to be a negotiating tool in relation to Iran. This would be the most ludicrously undermining position to take. If Iraq understands the MKO as a cult, an artificially maintained western construct, does anyone believe the rest of the world doesn’t also see this? By taking a principled stand and requiring the MKO to obey the law, Iraq is unintentionally exposing the west to humiliation because of the continued failure to confront the MKO. Ultimately, this is not even to do with security or politics, it comes down to simply respecting the rule of law in their own countries.
Unlike Europe and North America, the Government of Iraq is enacting a plan to deal with the MKO based on a clear understanding of the dynamics which operate within the confines of Camp Ashraf. The same dynamics also operate in the base at Auvers sur Oise but apparently Europe does not regard this as problematic for its standing in the international community.
Outside the narrow viewpoint of the west, other countries see the MKO as a threat to parliamentary democracy in Europe, as part of that game of ‘whose lobby is the richest, most vociferous, more litigious and powerful that the rest’ rather than being about making decisions based on national interests.
A sympathetic examination of what Iraq is doing in relation to the MKO in Camp Ashraf brings up the stark contrast with what western governments are doing. Iraq has developed from its own culture a plan for dismantlement which abides by international laws and humanitarian principles. Iraq regards people in Camp Ashraf as victims of Rajavi’s inhuman cult practices. In contrast, the MKO’s backers see them only as consumables – their role is to kill or be killed, even if that means mass suicide to preserve not the people but the brand.
As a first step toward dismantling the cult the Iraqi authorities have required that all the individuals inside Camp Ashraf obey national, international and local law, and that full access to the camp be granted to Iraqi authorities to enforce the law. No group or individual can be above the law no matter what they state as their motivation or beliefs.
In the case of Iraq where the group is designated by the government as a foreign terrorist entity and is therefore an illegal entity, it is a reasonable next step for the authorities to demand that leading, controlling members of the group be removed to a separate location and that the lower ranking members be split into smaller groups. The Iraqi authorities require, on the basis of respecting human rights, that access be gained to all individual members without interference by any other member of the organisation.
In comparison we are entitled to ask why the group is permitted to operate outside the law in Europe and North America. For example, we are entitled to ask whether Maryam Rajavi is registered as a citizen of France. Does she declare an income and pay tax? Does her organisation conform to employment law in the utilisation of any one of the hundreds of people at Camp Maryam in Auvers sur Oise? When the group claims its followers are ‘volunteers’ there is still a matter of employment law to which the group and its leader must conform.
In reality the people at Camp Maryam have a status which can only be described as modern slavery. They are, in the main illegally trafficked, do not have normal residence status, and certainly do not enjoy the protection of the law in whatever country they are living. Does Europe condone this kind of activity? What reason is there to avoid investigation and prosecution? Is there really a lack of evidence, do European countries lack the judicial teeth or is there a political angle to this?
What conclusions are we to draw from the behaviour of the U.S. in relation to the MKO? The group has been on the U.S. terrorism list since 1997, yet the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California claims court documents show the U.S. government provided material support to the group. This information has been exposed because the U.S. judiciary has chosen to prosecute individuals who have pleaded guilty to fundraising for the MKO in an airport.
Western governments which are prepared to pursue the prosecution of ordinary members of the MKO while the leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi are free and unaccountable are in fact doubling the abuse of these people. They must ask themselves very carefully what they hope to achieve. Is this desirable for the countries involved? While the judiciary in each case may believe itself to be independent and acting in the best interests of the law, perhaps other interests in these countries have motives beyond the judicial system.
Imagine the MKO is removed from terrorist lists everywhere and permitted to continue its activities unhindered by considerations of law – what next? Are they really going to successfully play a part in Iranian opposition politics? Are the people of Iran really waiting helplessly to be rescued by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi and their cult? The Rajavis want to retire in the west, to play at power politics using their followers as pawns in their games. And those whose interest is regime change at all costs are prepared to keep even this group going in the small hope it will act as an irritant.
It is certain what the MKO leaders want – but we need to ask their western supporters if they really know what they want from them.
By Anne Singleton