An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – a précis of parts 27-28
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, if you will, let’s have a discussion on the issue of human shield and mass suicides and what necessitated its application. What are the parameters that influence the operations and to what degree and under what circumstances they extend?
Batool Soltani: At the threshold of the US invasion against Iraq and when threats were nearing the action, Rajavi was sensitive on two things; defending Ashraf against external threats including closing the camp and expulsion from Iraq and second, adopting an appropriate means to defend Ashraf and resist. He specifically reiterated that Ashraf had to be defended tooth and nail. But the premise developed into more objective form of defense when Saddam collapsed and the suggestion of human shield turned to be a serious option on the agenda of Rajavi. Of course, at the time the organization was busy preparing passports for high ranking members including the members of the Leadership Council to relocate when the right time came.
The option was first brought to attention in a session where Massoud Rajavi addressed the audience through a satellite broadcasted videoconference. Of the subjects he focused on were Ashraf and Auvers, stating that Auvers and Maryam were believed to be the brain of the organization while Camp Ashraf was the beating heart of the resistance against Iran. For sure the brain kept working until the heart beat. Ashraf was the heart that pumped the blood to brain and had to be protected by any means; the two were interconnected and one failed to operate without the other. It was what he talked about from a theoretical point of view.
Following the incidents of the June 17, it was broached that the members of the Leadership Council had to be prepared to protect Ashraf. It was the first time the human shield tactic was implicitly touched on in general. In one of his messages to Mozhgan (Parsai) Rajavi recapitulated that we would stay, die and bury here in Ashraf but never move. It was a question of resisting or dying if the Iraqis decided to repatriate members to Iran or evict from Ashraf to another location. Of course, repatriation to Iran was out of question because of the internationally guaranteed IDs issued for the members under the article four of the Geneva Convention. To tell the truth, it was not at all important for the organization to make any attempt for the safety of the members; all it cared about was survival of the organization and preserving Camp Ashraf and protect it against external threats. Then, the focal point was to think of means to accomplish the end.
The human shield was one of the opted options; mass suicides could effectively frustrate any effort that aimed at dismantling the integrity of Ashraf. It included any other threat like forced entry of American or coalition forces to temporarily close or deactivate the camp. Our first choice to resist against intruders had to be using non-firing weapons; needless to say that the organization actually made no resistance against the American forces and succeeded to take the control and hegemony of the camp in its own hands.
However, the human shield tactic was temporally removed from the agenda since Ashraf continued to be under the organization’s control and there was no need to make use of the ploy.
As Rajavi stated, he preferred the ‘arms carriers’, meaning the disarmed members, to the arms themselves; an incorporated armless army could be much functional and appropriate than the arms. The question of suicide operations and human shield were all directed at safeguarding the entity of the organization and its hierarchical order; it was the red line that could not be crossed and all members had to preserve. It was the policy adopted until 2006 when I left the organization. The deployment of the American forces at Ashraf made no change in the organizational structure and it took the liberty of acting according to its ironbound disciplinary.
The regular commute of individuals into Ashraf followed its routine and they brought anybody into the camp under the cover of the visiting families and they were even present when American forces inspected visitors at the check points.
There is a statement issued by the National Council of Resistance that specifically warns against the outbreak of what the organization refers to as human tragedy in the case of any possible attack against the camp by the IR forces or missile attack. It is what the organization expresses for the outsiders but its real definition for the insiders is the use of human shield to thwart any threat of eviction or expulsion enforced by the Iraqi government. The statement explicitly clarifies the responsibility of members in defense of Ashraf; any member has to become a human shield to impede disintegration of Mojahedin’s main bastion and heart. I remember a time when there came the news of Badr’s 9th army and groups of local Shi’its nearing the gates of Ashraf.
The organization announced full alert and all the members of the Leadership Council began preparations for mass suicide. Some brought arms and cyanides were checked and distributed. So serious were they in carrying out their mission that two members of the council, Marzieh Ali-Ahmadi and Darz Beigi, committed suicide when in their returning to camp they got an impression of being challenged.
SFF: What were the more highlighted factors about mass suicides, the manners, conditions or their reflection in the media?
BS: They were much sensitive to record the scenes of the immolations for immediate and widespread media coverage. In fact, the priority was having the control of media and resources in hands. To air first hand reports, the organization had positioned equips of photography in the vicinity of the scenes of operations.
SFF: How the suicides were planned to be launched and what conditions caused their materialization?
BS: the suicides had to be carried out first individually and one by one. In the next stage, if threatening forces behind the gates of Ashraf were resolute to break into the camp, the members had the order of committing suicides in groups. In the case of a widespread military intrusion that could lead to the fall of camp, all the members were to commit a mass suicide. The Leadership Council had clearly delineated anything to counter threats against the heart of the organization and to coerce a line of human shield before Ashraf.
To be continued