An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part 26
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, you know better that the organization had highly invested on Neda who was hardly of any weight and importance within and without the organization until she was burned to death, an anonymous girl who had suddenly become the focal attention of the media in a week. I believe she achieved preeminence in public and it can be said that she had great impact on the whole situation. Of course, that was exactly what the organization expected. As Neda’s case is sensitive, let’s talk about her and her life and struggle background and I will pose further question if necessary.
Batool Soltani: You are right. Neda was not a preeminent among the members before her immolation. It was possible that in the higher echelons they had given her some attention but nothing amongst the rank and file. Her popularity is considered to be for a variety of reasons especially her age. To talk of my acquaintance with her, we were once on the same team-work in Camp Ashraf before the US invasion of Iraq and when Maryam (Rajavi) was still in Ashraf. However, Neda left for the Europe simultaneous with Maryam’s relocation to France. Of course, Neda had been raised and living in Europe and came to Ashraf after she was graduated.
SFF: Pardon me, Ms. Soltani, I prefer to pose questions on the spot. Was Neda an active member of the organization abroad?
BS: Not from the very beginning. The organization first worked on Neda’s family and they became sympathizers through participation in rallies and protest meetings. Gradually, the organization succeeded to recruit Neda and her brother to transfer them to Ashraf. The family, however, remained just sympathizers. You know, it is one of the approaches through which the organization recruits members. There are countless instances of the families that ceased their support for the organization while their children are still enthusiastic cadres who gainsay their own families. There are also instances of the parents detached from the organization while their children are active members or vice-versa; a real tragedy that has been going on all these years within the organization.
SFF: There is a photo of Neda in her seven or eight busy fundraising for the organization. Have you seen the photo?
BS: Yes, I have seen. The very same year Neda set herself on fire, it was one of the many photos they publicized in a biography of her. It is an indication of the organization’s impact on her family to have convinced them to let their daughter to engage in fundraising activities because of her low age. So she was somehow a sympathizer from the childhood. She was naive and emotionally sensitive and could be easily impressed. I think such photos talk enough to condemn the organization of abusing the sympathizer’s children.
SFF: Were Neda’s family political refugees?
BS: I do not know. But it was typical of the organization to establish contacts particularly with the political refugees since a cause of sympathy could easily convince them to cooperate with the organization especially when the families were on the fence or were facing problems. Because of its influence abroad, the organization could attract some of these families under its umbrella to exploit them for its political aims. Noteworthy, many of these families that had been granted political asylum through mediation of the organization faced troubles after they announced their detachment.
SFF: Was Neda born in Europe?
BS: I do not know, but I know she was raised in abroad.
SFF: What about her education?
BS: I have no exact information but I have seen a videotaped celebration of her graduation as well as her photos.
SFF: I think there is something ambiguous about her academic education because of her age. How old was she when she committed suicide?
BS: I think she was twenty-one.
SFF: Naturally, she could not have possibly been a university graduate. Beside her age, she was on a continuous process of moving and relocation.
BS: I may have seen a videotaped party of her becoming a high school graduate. So she must have been nineteen when she came to Ashraf. (Here Ms. Soltany pressed some keys on the laptop at her hands to make sure) Yes, it is here, she was nineteen. However, she was in Ashraf for a year and then left for the Europe accompanying Maryam; she came in 2001 and left in 2002.
SFF: How did she behave in Ashraf?
BS: She was a kind of friendly, I mean, she was warm and intimate and very active.
SFF: What organizational rank did she carry?
BS: She was a K2, the lowest organizational rank. But she caught their attention because of her active potentiality and they were satisfied with her activeness. At the time, they hardly sent anybody abroad and they were sensitive to select one if one had to be sent to Europe. But they selected Neda to send abroad and she was one of the few who accompanied Maryam.
SFF: Did not it raise question when they decided to send someone in her eighteens abroad especially after she had just arrived at Ashraf?
BS: She was too close to organizational standards and was well melted in the relations. These parameters were influentially decisive.
SFF: How is it possible that a young, europeanized girl who had just detached from a common, bourgeoisie world to join a remote camp and whose only distinctiveness was to have been recruited from a sympathizer family could so fast become the main focus of the organization’s attention. Could she in a one-year span reach a practically ideological maturity?
BS: You know, a great drawback that disputed sending members abroad was a risk of sticking to the tastes of the bourgeoisie life there. In contrast to what you think, the age and
struggle background were not the fixed canons to pick a member for a mission abroad.
There were members with a forty-year record of struggle who the organization never consented to send abroad because they could be easily enticed by the threats of the bourgeoisie life. Nasrin Asadi, for example, was a real expert in accounting who had long lived in abroad. Then, she could be a suitable choice to be sent abroad since she was well acquainted with the social atmosphere there to play an influential role but they opposed her dispatch.
Even I, who had been already sent to England for some time to receive computer trainings, had failed to win their trust since there was a possibility of making contacts with my family and children. In general, they never selected exhausted, questionable members to dispatch to abroad where they could be probably magnetized by the bourgeoisie life. It was of great importance for the organization to learn that the selected members had truly despised the bourgeoisie life and abhorred returning to it in the same way that they loathed the imperialism and the regime.
SFF: How is it logically acceptable that a girl in Neda’s age had reached a point to despise such a life? Of course by logic I mean the very logic that rules within the organization. Possibly that is because the organization had worked on Neda from her childhood when values deeply form in man. It can be said that Neda received her ideological trainings from the very childhood which precisely differentiated her with the adults who received their trainings in their young and mid-ages. Besides, Neda voluntarily came to Ashraf while the organization insisted her stay in Europe. She had reiterated many times that she preferred a militia life to political activities and she was absolutely opposed to her transfer to Europe and even cried and begged to stay in Ashraf while others like Laleh Tariqi and Zelal Habibi who had been picked to be sent abroad submitted to orders with pocketed pleasure. I want to know how Neda could overcome the threats of being melted in bourgeoisie life while the more experienced, old members had failed?
BS: Neda was selected for abroad because she felt no attraction for the bourgeoisie life. There was no doubt and the organization had been convinced. She had no craving to return to the world she had divorced. As a rule, the organization dispatched recruits to Ashraf to caulk their bourgeoisie appeals and to obviate threats of returning to it. Talking about Neda, it is different. She was young and standing at the beginning of a long path full of costs and threats and she lacked the organizational maturity to understand these facts in a theoretic, political and ideological framework. Her sympathy for the organization was the result of her childhood enthusiast and the information the organization had instilled into her in a one way relation. Above all, she was so young to face any challenge and adversary.
She was different with those who had been tied in with the organization at least from its post-revolution phase and had long been witnessing repeated losses and Rajavi’s promises that never came true. They had surmounted a tortuous path that had raised further doubts in each step; they had been broken many times but remodeled through Rajavi’s justifications and promises. They know how Rajavi dealt with the dissidents and they were well aware of the costs they had to pay to defect; they have long been engaged in a never-ceasing battle with the past and future and the organization has to devise approaches to monitor them and to discover what passes in their mind. How busy is the young mind of Neda to know anything of these wrestling?
Unlike Neda, these members have lost a precious life with no hope to refurbish. At least they try to take advantage of any possible opportunity to rebuild the remaining days of an unsecure future, let them call it threats of reunion with the bourgeoisie life or anything, for them it is closeness to freedom. They have long been filled with promises but nothing has ever changed. That is the reason why the young Neda is selected while the old veterans are kept behind the closed doors.
To be continued