An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part eighteen
Sahar Family Foundation: Soon after the arrest of Maryam Rajavi, Rajavi is said to have delivered a videotaped message to Camp Ashraf. What was the message about?
Batool Soltani: in fact, it was neither a message nor videotaped; it was a phone call. It was directed at the self-burnings remarking that whatever we had done through an individual or organizational endeavor, that is, by setting ourselves on fire and sacrificing lives at any cost, failed to be enough for the freedom of Maryam. Interestingly, he used the expression ‘dilly-dally’ meaning that the members had dilly-dallied in June 17 self-burnings and we had to, and have to if necessary, sacrificed much more. He was accusing members of dawdling while more than twenty members had set themselves on fire throughout the Europe and some were in serious condition in hospital. His words denoted that self-burnings had to continue until Maryam would be released but at the same time judged that the very same dilly-dally hade greatly affected the French judicial system. Actually, he was calling for intensification of self-burnings to achieve desired result.
I have to point out that the organization was facing serious restrictions following Maryam’s detention; there were heavily imposed controlling measures and further mass arrests loomed. In fact, part of these self-burnings was considered countermeasure activities to stop losing momentum or dismantling of the organization in France. I mean to say that although all self-burnings were directed for the freedom of Maryam, the organization was concerned about the aftermath that posed a threat and irreversible damage against the organization in France. It was much disappointing that all rankings present in Auvers-sur-Oise were arrested.
Rajavi knew all these and his stress on extension of self-burnings justifiably warranted the survival of the organization. Thus, rather than appreciating the self-burning operations, he encouraged advent of more similar efforts. It was all about his phone call which made a profound impact on all. Although at the time they strongly prohibited committing these suicide operations in Camp Ashraf, Rajavi was encouraging a morality in members and preparing them not to hesitate to engage in such activities within Camp Ashraf whenever necessary. His call instigated a widespread excitement among different ranks in the camp and many volunteered for the self-burning operations. However, they were rejected since self-burnings in the camp were of no use and they had to be carried out just in France and before the eyes of the western media.
SFF: What happened in Camp Ashraf after Maryam was released? I mean how they reacted and what was its impact on the camp?
BS: Massoud made more contacts after her release, with high rankings of the Leadership Council in particular. The first message was mainly centered on congratulation for the achieved victory which he said was the consequent of the members’ sacrifice. But he showed his double face by complaining that Maryam’s confinement could have been made shorter if we had escalated the operations in full-scale. It seemed as if all were, and had to be, indebted to the organization and had to make more sacrifice when commanded.
I remember him saying we should not have hesitated one hour to release Maryam and that we could have played a more influential role in her freedom. I believe if we had access to his phone messages to have a reevaluation, we would find out many things that we, the separated members, had hardly noticed at the time but can reconsider more realistically at the present. That how can one, under any title, allow himself to risk many lives to defy the legal measures of a country that is investigating someone for presumably founded allegations?
When inside the organization, we looked at these as values that had been violated; but now in an open world where we can freely reconsider the past, we see, alas, we had long appraised big lies as values and had deified people who had nothing of extraordinary. It is not at all justifiable even for great leaders of the world to become the object of worship let alone the leader of a group whose members never exceeded four thousand at the time. I believe Rajavi acted so cleverly in respect to Maryam’s arrest because if the legal actions had not been ceased by intimidating reactions for sure the surfaced facts would lead to disbandment of the organization in France or expulsion of all its leading ranks.
That is the reason Rajavi restructured members for prolongation of Maryam’s detention. Less has been talked about the destiny of the organization if Maryam’s detention continued its routine, legal process. All know well that French police and the judiciary, because of political, human rights, social and individual freedom causes under the constitution, hardly ventures in such sensitive cases.
Rajavi is well aware the unfounded claims that the whole case was the product of a political compromise between Iran and France and he knew there were enough evidences to prove the allegations and posed charges. The organization’s appalling reaction did shocked and paralyzed the French police and, as it felt a responsibility to prevent further bruise of public emotions, made it to withdraw. The authorities had been convinced that the immolation would continue for a year-long if they kept Maryam in custody; the awful impress on public opinion was not something the state could tolerate. The sole solution to end the social crisis was then to temporally set Maryam free.
You may remember the widespread hunger strikes of the sympathizers on the banks of Auvers-sur-Oise with many strikers collapsed here and there. Such scenes were too loathsome for the culturally tender French to tolerate. Of course, at the time I was not in the Europe but watched the scenes on Mojahedin TV; I think neither in the past had France experienced such scenes nor it will in future unless re-erected by Mojahedin there or any other European country. The incident opened a new chapter for the West to develop a new understanding of an organization that could so easily violate the social and human principles by setting themselves on fire before the eyes of the public. People could not believe that a group warranted itself the right to breach adopted social rules for the mere claims that could be dealt with through the legal system.
SFF: Of course, the incident granted some Western researchers and reporters to an opportunity to conduct some research. Antoine Gessler’s Autopsy of an Ideological Drift and or Alain Chevalerias’s Brulé Vif (Burned Alive) for instance. Interestingly enough, as it is typical of the organization when reacting against the opponents, it denounced the two authors and accused them of a give and take with the IR regime. You may have come across these accusations in web sites.
BS: unfortunately, not yet. But I will be grateful if you could help me have access to. It can help to fathom the aspects of the tragedy and how they may analyze such incidents. When you come across such human tragedies, possibly you can look back at the backgrounds that led to the instigation of disasters that seemed impossible to occur at the first look. But, unfortunately, we see how easily and fast all those analyses and theories happen to be materialized in a way that bewilders you.
SFF: You touched the point. Can you now speculate about the extent and potentiality of such operations that the organization may put into action when facing similar circumstances anywhere in the world?
BS: To tell the truth, I have been convinced that nothing can surprise me anymore. I do not intend to state that the organization has demonstrated its ultimate potentialities, it is the nature of the demonstrated objection, self-burning, that looks appalling and pathetic in general. Hardly can you stay long beside the bed of a burned man in a hospital while you may spend hours at the bed of any other patient. Now imagine what may happen if you see people spilling gasoline over themselves to become human torches burning before the public.
And all for claimed rights that can be easily solved trough legal procedures. Now imagine the extent of tragedy if the demands necessarily fail to be legally settled and go against any logic and impossible to grant. So, I have learned that anything is possible in this organization and nothing may hit as unexpected. Above all, the members have already been briefed theoretically and ideologically on any unexpected circumstance and the only left option is to push them into action to create a human tragedy in Camp Ashraf or any other place.
SFF: To what degree you think it is possible that they will prompt a human tragedy?
BS: It is really possible. You may not believe, but once Rajavi propound the possibility and enforced it a duty for all and even prepared the instruments to carry it out. The Camp Ashraf residents, for instance, are equipped with cyanide capsules and there are as plenty as gasoline and other inflammable liquids at hand. The human tragedy was an option the organization had adopted even in the reign of Saddam. Rajavi’s excuse is that if disclosure of Ashraf might lead to our annihilation, then, it is better for us to die all here inside Ashraf. His logic is that at least our death here is for the defense of something, the organization, without which we are the walking dead outside. Then let’s die in its defense with a brave death. It was all stated in a meeting before the fall of Saddam.
SFF: Thank you. There are more questions concerning Maryam’s release, but I prefer to continue in the next session, adieu.
To be continued