An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part 22
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, significantly noticed in the course of the self-burnings was the TV coverage of the incidents; I mean the footages shot by the organization itself. It can be analyzed from different aspects especially when the organization claims immolations as willful and self-initiated acts. The very originally filmed scenes of the immolations prove that anything had been orchestrated beforehand. Will you give a further explanation of the outlook?
Batool Soltani: First I have to point out that I was not in the Europe at the time and saw noting directly. Whatever I impart is personal inferences. Concerning your question, it is explicit that the footages of the immolations were all filmed by the agents of the organization itself. The fact was accentuated in the internal meetings held in Camp Ashraf that it had been all filmed by the organization and distributed to a variety of foreign TV networks. Even they displayed the footages of Marzieh Babakhani and Mohsen Sharifi’s self-burnings and underlined it had all been filmed by the equipped agents of the organization. But they never said a word about it for the outsiders and claimed the footages were random TV reports filmed by other networks. Although they had done their best not to err, you could clearly identify the members in the frame of the camera.
Besides, there are other evidences to prove the footages were the work of the organization itself. Footages are usually licensed for a certain network and any second coverage carries the original licensed logo attached to it. It is natural since there exists a competition among the Western networks and agencies to have the leading role in an incident and to own the copyright on the footage; the footages of the self-burnings all lacked the licensed logo which proves the leading role of the organization in recording all scenes.
As soon as a member sets himself/herself on fire, the camera starts recording and it is exactly positioned where it had to. The big mistake made by the organization is that the scenes are all filmed by professional hand recorders rather than ordinary cameras or mobiles, which reduces the possibility of any random record.
The used sophisticated equipments proved that it was also a simultaneously orchestrated operation. It is strange to see someone walk to gas station to procure gasoline and then march to a certain location where he sets himself on fire; nobody ever think of it as a random shot, it is a film making. How people may come to believe the claims of the organization that the immolations were unplanned but self-initiated is too amazing. No doubt, they were exactly pre-planned and followed a written scenario. Another point to notice is the reflection of these operations outside of the organization.
After her release, Maryam Rajavi claimed the French police had prevented distribution of a prepared videotaped message in which she had asked members to cease self-burnings. The claim seems to be true since termination of an action is possible when you have issued orders for its commence. No member dared to engage in any act unless authorized and approved by the leader but no outsider had a clear image of internal affairs; they had to be kept in dark about the plans to prevent further negative costs and consequences. As you saw, in the course of some held trials in European courts, they could convince the court about the voluntariness of decisions.
There are other evidences that support the idea of organizationally schemed operations. To enumerate them, the first is the widespread TV coverage of the incidents; the authentic record of events is clear and widely distributed while each is filmed in a certain part of the Europe. The second is the vast propaganda blitz they staged following the operations, and second, and the most important, is Rajavi’s message mainly focusing on the operations and referring to the victims by names. Last but not the least, there are evidences of the organization’s past threats.
I remember Massoud and Maryam once threatened the French government of staging self-burning operations which was endorsed by many members who volunteered in the letters of the ideological revolution. They would read these letters to us in the course of training classes. As Rajavi stated in one of his speeches, the identical aspect in all these letters was volunteering for self-immolation. Thus, there remains no doubt that the operations were all organizationally orchestrated and aimed to achieve certain goals.
SFF: A question to ask, had all these self-burnings been planned to kill or the priority was laid on the propaganda and political aspects of the operations? Is it possibly justifiable that the organization had already promised members that it would interrupt to survive them immediately as soon as they had staged the operations?
BS: I know nothing of these details in particular. If they had resolved on such a policy, it would have been worked out in councils out of Auvers-sur-Oise. I cannot exactly impart anything.
SFF: Well. In your opinion, is it of any significance for the organization to focus on the political aspects and convince the members that it never lets anybody get harmed but betrays them in practice and sends them to their death?
BS: I do not think it is a proper angle to look from since there is actually no need for the organization to make such preparations. When members volunteer to risk their life, it means they have given their final acquiescence to die. There is no need to trick them and nobody hesitates to set himself on fire when the command is issued. It is possible that the organization decides to limit the killings to one or two but there might come times when the span of propagation borders no limitation and the circumstances require further continuation of the operations. The momentous approach the organization utilizes to overcome its crises is directly risking the life of the members.
As a result, it has the upper hand in having a particular situation in its own control by sending multitudes of victims to their death. If ever it discriminates in favor of a ranking member and makes an attempt to save him/her, that is because of his/her organizational status and has nothing to do ever with caring for the humane attitudes and the victim’s individual values. Still, the organization regretted the attempts made for the survived. Marzieh Babakhani was badly burned when they smothered the fire and she was a pitiful creature to look at with all those burns that had damaged her face and hands. She was badly deformed and suffered a lot and it was disputed why she had been allowed to live and they openly wished she had died.
SFF: Have you seen the photos of these operations’ victims?
BS: Neither themselves nor their photos. They said the doctors had failed to treat them well and from the bulk of their propaganda it could be discerned that the victims had made a great impression. Once Mozhgan (Parsai) applauded Marzieh saying she was a living martyr of the organization. She would say Neda and Sediqeh had passed away once for ever but Marzieh was suffering and dying in any moment. It is easy to picture how emotionally they impressed the members and alleviate the psychological and physical agonies of the victims.
To be continued