Sahar Family Foundation: Will you explain when for the first time you came to know about the suicide operation in the organization and how did they justify it and give trainings?
Batool Soltani: The first time I was notified about the sacrosanct suicide operation was when I was under political-ideological trainings to be accepted within, to be exact, when I was a trainee member studying the history of the organization. In the course of the discourses it happened to talk about Reza Rezai, as the first martyr of the organization and the first reverent suicide. The organization highly termed it the sacrosanct suicide operation and tried to inspire us with it.
They explained that when Reza was ringed by police, he detonated a hand grenade killing himself along with a number of SAVAK agents. Then they began to give reasons for his daring act saying not only he eluded being arrested alive but also destroyed his arms, information and his body to frustrate the agents’ attempt to have access to them. He was presented as an organizational archetype for the members to follow, a hero whose adherents could never be hindered to accomplish organizational ends. In fact, by the story they intended to mark some points. First, the aspiring members had to bear in mind that a devoted Mojahed disappointed the enemy even in obtaining access to his body.
Second, it was a daring act that needed ultimate bravery one could ever achieve; in the course of trainings, recruits thought it was the last stage a combatant could make it through the stages of the struggle and thus, the trainings seemed much valuable and we tried to comprehend and learn them as fully as we could. In many occasion, for instance, Massoud Rajavi reiterated that Reza deprived the enemy of accessing his information and even his arms and body. Of course, his words were much influential to create a sacramental atmosphere to halo the act and Reza, in this particular phase of trainings, became the sole archetype that could well inspire the trainees with courage, and he did indeed.
SFF: what was specific in Rezai that they made an archetype out of him?
BS: As I pointed out, he was displayed a paragon in some manners especially in his confrontation with police and an example of one with many potentialities that could be followed as a model. Maybe they had anticipated that they could successfully meet organizational ends through these suicide operations and the forces had to be prepared psychologically to carry out the mission. Besides, any training requires a certain model and there was no better match in the organization than Rezai to exemplify for others. Another point about him was his mental potentiality as well as his physical. He was illustrated to be much active in his clashes but he was also mentally competent in analytical and theoretical issues. Perhaps they meant that a combatant had to attain a high versatility but easily sacrifice himself. That is to say, even the mental potentialities of a formidably intellect member hat to in no way interfere with the commitment to the suicide act. These were all aspects of the illustrated archetype that could practically influence the trainees.
SFF: In what level of background did they arrange for this discourse?
BS: Everyone in the organization has to necessarily undergo these instructions, even if some had already passed them. It made no difference; any recruit had to pass through these discourses which the suicide operation was an inseparable part. Even I, a ranking member of the leadership Council, was constantly exposed to these discourses. It was an issue of high priority on the agenda before the leadership when the organization reached a critical stalemate. In the process of dispatching operation teams across the Iranian borders to carry out operations inside Iran, the prerequisite was a proclaimed preparedness for committing suicide. They were thoroughly checked and approved by higher ranks before they were assigned for the mission. The responsible ranks tested them to make sure they would break and swallow their cyanide capsules or did other self-annihilation actions when sensing danger. The interesting point in all these was that a second fellow had to give a pledge that his comrade committed self-annihilation and promised that his comrade would certainly destroy himself in face of danger and in any possible way.
In general, it is a responsibility all have to assume in the organization. Before the invasion of the US against Iraq, for instance, all members took the responsibility of committing suicide by chewing their cyanide capsules if Camp Ashraf would be invaded by the US forces or any threat of arrest, security inspection or else would foreshadow the camp. We had also preplanned arrangements for committing suicide by Cyanide and spilling petrol or ethanol over bodies. We were told to kill or set ourselves on fire if the US forces ventured to enter the camp to start a house by house inspection. Even later and in course of the US’s deployment of forces in the region, we were routinely checked to make sure we were in the state of readiness. Even among the cadres of the Leadership Council they were making a firm stand on self-annihilation if any threat would be posed against the camp by any forces being them Iraqis, Americans, Iranians and Kurds. It was discussed in details how to perpetrate the deed when the right time came: the members had taken the responsibility of reciprocally setting each other on fire by the means of petrol, ethanol and other flammable substances.
In the Leadership Council we were frequently notified that anybody had to be prepared for being killed or suicide. It has always been a key point in varying phases of the organization. In the phase of venture operations, the operatives’ priority was to commit suicide by chewing the carried cyanides, a commitment that the members had to be again checked for its performance in the phase of the US invasion. It was exactly what happened in the case of the 17 June self-immolations; everything was already provided for the operations and the volunteers were only ready for the signal to begin.
SFF: How they assessed and discussed the suicide operations in the Leadership Council? In how many possible ways could they be committed and under what literature they could be justified?
BS: There was a certain book in which an article especially focused on the suicide operation and definitely on the issue of arbitrary suicides. It mainly argued that an act of suicide could be appraised worthwhile and valuable only if committed under some organizational instruction and command; otherwise it was worthless and liable to criticism and belittled by the organization. It was even worse if it was a suicide done in objection to the organization; the perished body was then nothing but a corpse on the hands of the organization.
Even the bodies of these opponent suicides were buried in a different graveyard outside far from Camp Ashraf. The suicides had to be justified according to organizational line of ideology and principles as stated earlier and the cadres of the Leadership Council were not exceptional but on the front-line with the priority of using guns and cyanides. Soon after guns and cyanides were collected and confiscated, petrol and ethanol were replaced as the alternate means. None of the self-burnings done in France were arbitrary but justified organizationally; otherwise they failed to be glorified as they did. In one case, inside Camp Ashraf, a member called Rasoul, blinded in one of military operations, set himself on fire in protest against one of the articles of the ideological revolution called ”article D” (it was about superiority of women over men in all levels of organizational relations and activities). His commission infuriated Rajavi who stated that his act done in opposition to such an issue was denigrated and did not qualify a devoted member to be buried in Ashraf graveyard where the martyrs had been buried. The news of his suicide was heavily censored and they belittled it as a contemptuous act in the organization.
SFF: When they began to collect cyanides?
BS: Once Marjan Akbari snitched the cyanide belonging to her responsible rank and killed herself. Her suicide was masqueraded and reported to be a heart attack but all cadres of the Leadership Council knew the truth about her death and from then on they collected all cyanides. In one occasion, the American forces got suspicious of existing cyanides in Camp Ashraf and began to search for them but they had all been already collected and hidden in a secure place. Of course, at the same time all cadres of the Leadership Council carried capsules.
SFF: Did not Americans know that the organization had cyanides?
BS: It seems that at first they did not, but later on they began to suspect and search for them. As a result, all cyanides were collected and delivered to Zohreh Akhyani and the members were told to seek for alternative working means of suicide. However, it was resolved that in case of any threat against Camp Ashraf, the cyanides had to be distributed among the cadres of the Leadership Council.
SFF: What was the substitute for the cyanides?
BS: Both petrol and ethanol. There were even some places where they distributed the flammable liquids for the purpose of suicide.
To be continued
Translated by Mojahedin.ws – July 1, 2009