An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part fourteen
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, we intend to have a discourse on the issue of self-immolations in June 17, 2003. My first question is under what motives and ends were these incidents broached within the organization?
Batool Soltani: I was not present in the Europe at this phase, but the question was that the members’ main responsibility to repel the direct threat posed against the leadership’s interests was to make sacrifice in any possible way and degree.
SFF: I mean, through what clear process did the organization conduct such feats and what were the targets it directly aimed at?
BS: The main objective was to release Maryam Rajavi as fast as possible but hardly had they thought of possible controversial consequences of such operations. In the higher echelons there might have been a different analysis and conjectures concerning the incidents but in our membership level the stress was on the acceleration of Maryam’s release.
SFF: Maybe I have failed to properly phrase my purpose. So I phrase it anew with an explanation. The motives behind these self-immolations are a matter of dispute. It can be looked upon as a reaction against the leadership’s sacrilege. Or it can be a matter of infringing regulations, that is to say, if Maryam Rajavi’s case was to follow a legal process, especially with concern to the charges against her, she had to face legal trials and the consequent verdicts of punishments. Looking it from this aspect, could these anti-social deeds be challenging and charging Maryam Azodanloo with further allegations and their irreparable consequences? If you remember, prior to this session, you had a reference to Rajavi’s best position taking concerning Maryam’s arrest and explained that her arrest could have serious legal outcomes for her and the headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise. Your reference to these deeds was from a precautionary point of view. The motives behind these self-immolations were only a reaction against the sacrilege to the leadership or coverage for allegations such as laundry, plot against the opponents and other charges of her case? Will you explain if in their inter-organizational analysis the issue was discussed from this aspect?
BS: What they mainly focused on in the organization was the very aspect of the leadership’s sacredness and that we had to do our best to force French judiciary into withdrawing or at least baffle their attempts to take serious decisions. Thus, it can be concluded that their principal objective was aftereffects of the arrest. If you may ask for the cause, the organization has already an experience of Rajavi’s expulsion from France. It happened at a time when Rajavi had resolved to join hands with Saddam and make an alliance. That is, the organization had prepared a de facto background to settle if expelled from France. Of course, there is also a possibility that France’s decision to expel Rajavi was in line of his own volition to leave France. That is why he showed the slightest resistance with the excuse that Iran and France had reached a compromise on his expulsion.
Naturally, when the expulsion by itself helped to actualize general objectives of the organization, it was in no way rational to show reactions like that of the 17 June immolations. Of course, such operations were on the agenda at that time but Rajavi had resolved on a willing decision to leave. But in the case of Maryam it was totally different; Camp Ashraf was no more a stable bastion to settle and her chance of relocation to Iraq had sank to zero. Furthermore, the strategy of the organization was to keep her in the Auvers and to fortify the new bastion there with her as the leader of a pro-democratic and counter-fundamentalist opposition. Naturally, accomplishment of such objectives required a timely decision and reaction. Just as the organization thought France was cozy up to her settlement there she was arrested on many charges that not only seemed to be a violation of the leadership’s sacredness but also could in itself lead to unpredicted consequences; she could even be possibly tried and expelled from France. There had to be taken a calculated risk since the organization lacked a brain at the top; one leader was absent and the other was arrested.
The immolations were the sole option to overcome the crisis, call it a reaction against violation of Maryam’s sanctity or anything else. What the organization needed at that critical moment was to strip members of their capacity for rational activity because it could not preach for them about the legal adverse consequences of Maryam’s apprehension. Then, what had to be done? It is already instilled into them to react whenever the leadership’s sanctity happens to come under direct violation regardless of any regulations they have to submit in the country wherein they are living. The sole goal becomes to release Maryam and they have nothing to do with the legal and illegal aspects of her arrest. The immolations were blind operation that could either aggravate the crisis or temporally tone it down.
It was all outside reflections. As soon as Maryam was arrested, Mozhgan Parsai held an extraordinary meeting in Camp Ashraf and announced that Massoud had delivered a message to inform the arrest of Maryam and a number of other rankings in France. The squall among the members of the Leadership Council disturbed the meeting but Mozhgan continued reading Massoud’s message saying he had insisted that for the release of Maryam, even one hour sooner, all the interests of the organization throughout the world, all its possessions and all the members failed to be enough to be set on fire. It was the reflection of her arrest inside Camp Ashraf. That is why I insist that the organization tried to keep the sacredness of the leadership infringed since it could easily stir the emotions if the sanctity was proclaimed to have been violated. As it was a question of the survival of the organization, leadership and ideology, Mozhgan persisted on emotional aspects of the issue to be magnified for the rank and file. She ended the meeting by saying we were all in our organizational preparedness.
SFF: What did she mean by organizational preparedness?
BS: Nothing in particular. It was only an emphasis on the normalization of the relations among the present members of the Leadership Council and that, all had to behave normally when encountering the lower ranks to pretend nothing serious had occurred. The mixed up appearance of the rankings, swollen red eyes and disorderly hair, could disturb and lower the rank and file’s morale.
SFF: How sincere do you think were the ranks in their emotional reactions?
BS: For myself, it was not sincerely at all. At that moment I had my own doubts. Among the members of the Leadership Council were those who had volunteered to set themselves on fire before Americans, but I believe it was nothing more than a histrionic behavior and there is no clear evidence to say if they were truthful in what they showed. In some cases, it was genuine emotions mixed with insincerity that had their impact on the others to create a homogeneous unity.
To be continued