An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part twelve
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms, Soltani, you pointed out something interesting concerning the mechanism of suicide operations and self-immolations, that is, how easily one can carry out these organizationally inculcated operations just by making a liaison with a point out of one’s own self. That is, one overruns his individuality and will for a greater cause crystallized in another person called leader. The logic, regardless of its justifiably luring virtue, does not end here because any thought and attitude can easily justify itself through such a logic. That is true about many adherents of cults who do anything for the guru, preaching right or wrong notwithstanding. Following such logic, any group can claim to be rightfully on the right path and it has nothing to do at all with the nature of the source of liaison. There were people on the side of Yazid (a reference to a historical event when the army of Yazid massacred all forces on the side of Imam Hussein, the third Shi’it imam) who had accepted the leadership of Yazid and fought against Imam Hussein with a gesture of goodwill and for the sake of God. Is it right to say that liaison with a source of leadership justifies a truth? If so, there are many antitheses to discuss. Was there any opportunity to discuss these discrepancies and what were Rajavi’s responses?
Batool Soltani: Indeed there were many controversies and, of course, Rajavi insisted that the members of the Leadership Council take their time to solve any ambiguity and raised question. But his answer to these ambiguities was that first it had to be discovered why people had joined the side of the wrong. He insisted on recognition of what had motivated them to join. There was no question if they had joined for worldly and ambitious causes but it was different if they were fighting on the wrong front for the cause of truth. Then it turned to be a matter of the ideologically polluted system of the opposite front. He mainly focused on the polluted ideology of the followers of the opposite front. He gave example of the operation Eternal Light saying that we would call our killed forces martyrs as did the Islamic Republic and strongly contradicted its claims to be on the right path; he believed that the IR had deceived and misled who had come to confront the rightful Mojahedin’s forces. The IR forces had not erred in attaching themselves to the IR leadership but it was the wrong ideology that had misled them.
SFF: Then it was not totally a matter of ambitions since they too fought for ideological causes and had attached themselves to someone out of their own self.
BS: That is why he would say they had ideologically been misled and anybody following Khomein’s ideology failed to be accounted as our forces who could never be ideologically affiliated with the regime. None of the either sides could possibly agree on the oriented ideology of the opponent, but there were those who walked a middle path and dodged seeing their interests in danger. He would call them compromisers who never walked in a fixed front and changed their position whenever sensed danger from any side. Thos who shunned, for example, committing suicide or self-immolation when it was necessary belonged to this very same group. They are people of ambitions and opportunists who are enslaved by their whims and avarice and infiltrate into both sides to fill their pack and have nothing to do at all with the ideology and the leadership. In fact, he believed, they were attached to nobody but themselves while the real forces adherent to either ideology resisted to the end and never changed their positions.
Those who stood on Rajavi’s side were known to be the true believers of a right ideology while the others on the opposite front were perverted and aberrant. He would adduced the Quran as his proof for his theory and would say the Quran classifies people into four groups; the righteous, the martyrs, the faithful and the prophets. Nothing was to be told about the last group that was an exception. One way to recognize the sincere who assented to commit suicide operations was to see his frequent attendances of weekly hold sessions of ablution and confession*. It was the recognized boundary between the true ideological believers and the opportunists. It was Rajavi’s instructions preached in the meetings of the members of the Leadership Council and insisted that those who refused and dodged to attend weekly sessions of cleansing and confession would certainly stop midway in the path of struggle while others, who attended sessions, continued to the end.
These instructions were all included in the especial book prepared by himself for the members of the Leadership Council who had to attend weekly sessions as well to prove their sincerity. He would call the weekly ablutions a ‘great crusade’ through which one could unite his within with without and dared to outpour all counter-values that hindered when the time came to sacrifice to defend the leader and his interests. These were the faithful who had even outstripped the martyrs, that is what he believed in. There were sympathizers who came to take part in the demonstrations and would donate sums of money to help but never risked their life in practical struggle. They were the righteous but still lagged far behind the martyrs. Unlike them, the faithful risked their life anywhere in the world just to defend and safeguard the interests of the leadership by setting themselves on fire. They outshined the martyrs.
Now, what was the touchstone to distinguish them? They could be recognized in the frequency of taking part in the weekly sessions of ablution and who cleaned their selves by pouring out what was passing within them; their personal penchants, lust, insincere tendencies, and whatever hindered them to be unified with Rajavi. The ones that merged with Rajavi made no attempt to conceal anything from him and if they had to, it was a matter of submission to his order. Nothing could come between them and the leader and they had fused into one. No doubt, such devoted people never disappointed their leader when the time came to commit suicide and set themselves on fire. Thus, this is an answer to existing contradiction within Rajavi’s system. But I can give more details to resolve these contradictions. I think Rajavi followed a model that he had theorized in its most extreme form.
At times in inter-organizational relations and meetings, Rajavi would decry the idea of being touched by Khomeini. He meant that we should not do things to be afraid of being condemned of following the models and ideological guidelines of Ayatollah Khomeini. But then it changed. Rajavi resolved that his relation with the members and sympathizers had to be set on such pattern that was further explained in a speech by Mehdi Abrishamchi. What he said in general was that the organization should have no reluctance in abandoning fears of condemnation and following a pattern in its struggle to topple the regime. The best pattern at hand he recommended to adhere to and practice within the organization was Ayatollah Khomein’s relation with his followers, mainly founded on people’s compliance with him. Of course, they disregarded his charismatic influence on his followers that goes far beyond ordinary logic or self-interest and since Rajavi failed to understand and explain such devotional relationship, he tried to interpret it within the terms like detachment from the self and attaching to a source without; that is, the members have to be completely devoted to their leader and prepared to do anything he commands- even kill others, or themselves.
The more the time passed, the more he was obsessed with plans to become a magnet to draw devoted members and insisted to exactly, even if forcibly, accomplish the pattern he was holding onto. He was merging the principle of guidance with its authoritative aspects and opportunism to create a holy man of himself called the ideological leader. He dissolved all those assemblies and bodies whose role was to supervise the leadership and became the egocentric leader and center of all decision makings and identical to nobody in the modern world; a morally, ideologically and politically infallible leader who was even exceeding the pattern he had chosen. Thus, he became a leader from whom even the ideology drew its legitimacy.
To be continued
*. According to a recently published official report by RAND, the MeK holds daily, weekly, and monthly “sessions” that involve forced public confessions aimed at expelling deviant thoughts and behaviors that are believed to undermine group coherence. MeK members are required to keep daily records of their thoughts and nighttime dreams, particularly sexual thoughts and desires (which are, of course, forbidden), as well as observations about their fellow members. They must submit their journals to their supervisors. During large meetings, members often are forced to read their reports aloud and to make self-critical statements. MeK members are often required to admit to sexual thoughts.