An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part 24
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, in our last session, you pointed to instances of the organization’s persuasive approaches in its contact with the victims’ families with particular emphasis on Neda’s family. Did not such dual behavior raise any suspicion when the family saw that on the one hand the organization eulogized Neda as a holy martyr but on the other hand claimed her immolation as an impulsive and willful act? Did the organization or Maryam have any other scenario to justify the dual deal?
Batool Soltani: it is a good point. In General, the organization had adopted a dual position concerning the immolations. You could easily make out two images of the victims; an image was to demonstrate them as holy individuals to fuel its propaganda machine and encourage others to take the same line, and the other, to put the responsibility of immolations on the victim themselves to dodge any charges against the organization. But, as you pointed out, the organization is clever enough not to err and prepares an exact scenario before stepping into action. To make Neda’s family to believe, for example, the organization forged a journal that it claimed belonged to Neda.
It contained some personal photos and some recollections from her family and friends and especially notes indicating her enthusiastic devotion and commitment to Maryam. Neda’s parents were simple people who could simply believe as if their daughter’s life was tied to Maryam and finally, they appeared to be convinced to show no reaction even if they could not believe it all at the bottom of their hearts.
At the end, they came to be persuaded that their daughter had committed suicide and they could change nothing for her loss. Then, the organization put two choices before them; to move in parallel with the organization’s scenario in glorification of their daughter’s death or take an opposite side and spoil everything and sully their daughter’s name. Facing such a dilemma, of course they preferred to consent to the organization’s will and follow its scenario. Thus, in spite of the fact that they might have discerned the contradiction in the organization’s manner, they faced the bitter truth that they could in no way change anything. Of course, I am not sure if Neda’s parents or other victims’ families had ever become aware of such contradiction. In any case, the organization had thought of a plan to ward off any criticism or charge. The first priority was to make them reconcile themselves to the organization through a variety of offers, threatening, deception and smearing the reputation. Each can be a different subject to talk about.
SFF: In relation to the approaches you pointed out, what could have been the reaction of the organization if Neda’s family took a different turn against it?
BS: Naturally, the organization would face a rocky road to ride but not impossible. It always had a trick up its sleeve and the best working one would be to classify them as the opponents. Everything would be clear then and the organization did to the family whatever it would do vis-à-vis its opponents. To mention, remember Reza Asadi the father of Zohreh Asdi. The father separated from the organization while his daughter is still a member. Or the case of Somayeh Muhammadi whose father strives to get his daughter out of Camp Ashraf. The least charge against them is that the organization has labeled them the agents of IR regime. The organization does everything to spoil their characters and indicting them for a variety of baseless charges of theft, immorality and the like.
Imagine a defector in its worst become the agent of the regime, it might be possible. But being so scoundrel an individual was impossible especially when he had served the organization for some time and they had disclosed nothing about such a rogue. Anything for the organization is either black or white, nothing in the middle. You have to be either on its side or the opposite against whom it has adopted an antagonist attitude to the end. Even if a defector had once been exalted as a hero, nothing can save him from the wrath of the organization by joining the opposite side.
I mean to say that it could be the same thing with the families if they failed to compromise with the organization. Only if it happened that Neda’s family had taken an antagonistic route against the organization, the first person who stood against the family would be their own son living in Ashraf. And only God knows what charge would be posed against them and they would be accused of what untold scandals; and it was enough to mobilize the sympathizers against them to disturb and annoy them and turn their life into a real hell.
The organization had always a coin with two sides at hand; a brilliant, alluring side and a hell of a bad side and I have seen the bad side abroad when it decided to treat the opponents. The simplest approach was to instigate hatred among the sympathizers and the opponents; there was nothing more to do but to sit and watch them finish the job themselves. For sure, the organization had shown the other side of the coin to Neda’s family and what it was capable of doing to change things completely; they could choose to become wretched, dejected people who could not even dare to visit their daughter’s tomb.
It is a tactic for the organization not to open a war front at the first stage and to arrive at a compromise through other approaches and promises. That is because it may inflict much cost on the organization and a longer process to follow if it shows an antagonistic attitude from the very beginning. Of course, there is a red line nobody should ever transgress; the sanctity of leadership, Maryam and organizational principles should never be violated. Now imagine Neda’s family had taken a different path and had fallen with the organization; their very first move to make preparation for their daughter’s burial and mourning would turn as a backlash against themselves and they would face accusations of being provisioned and provided for by Iranian regime and more.
An odd but common approach was to coerce members to endorse in their own handwriting that they had entrusted whatever they had to Massoud and Maryam, as I did myself. We put it in writing to announce we were possessions of the two and had willingly chosen our path of struggle and devotion. We also stated that our emotional communion with family and relatives was not a superficially common and limited but relatively ‘pardakhtgar’ (an organizational jargon meaning sacrificing all love and emotion for a greater cause).
Our real love and devotion all had to be spent for the accomplishment of higher and dearer causes and for Massoud and Maryam; they were the central integrity of all love and devotion and all families had to be grateful of entrusting the life of their children into the hands of the two. I am sure Neda too had signed such papers before committing immolation and had conceded her life and love to Maryam which could be used as a winning card before her family.
To be continued