An interview with Batool Soltani on MKO self-immolations – Part 29
Sahar Family Foundation: Ms. Soltani, before going on, let’s open a parenthesis to clarify why the organization is primarily motivated by holding at violence as a working strategy; it is either killing others or prompting suicide operations. In fact, a permanent leg among its pillars of relation with the outside is violence and death. Of course, it has been innate from its very beginning and they even believed that when arrested, they had to behave in a way to provoke the Pahlavi’s regime to execute them. A proven fact is its leaders’ fervently presented offensive defenses in the course of their trials. In contrast to the mainstream of the political and struggling groups, the organization has hardly cared about the individuality of its members as the militants definitely framing the main pillars of its structure and to take the decisive precautionary measures to save their lives.
The members of the organization are encouraged to either kill or be killed and there has to be necessarily justifications to convince them choose the either way. Your experience may illuminate some dark aspects of the organization’s resorting to violence. Of course, the organization’s early booklets explicitly chart its worldviews but you are not old enough to be familiar with these early ideological mentalities unless they have been referred to in their ideological instructions. Do you have any perception of the founded innate strategy that can be proved through your personal experiences?
Batool Soltani: It is so sensitive an issue you are referring to. It could have been talked about at the beginning or the end of our discourse about self-immolations. But it is crucial to know why the organization, unlike other similar political or armed groups, cultivates homicidal tendencies with an emphasis on suicidal ones in a struggle to counter its adversaries and exclusively invest on the tactics that highly risk the lives of the insiders. It has to be pointed that when the organization is on a stand to advance with a heavy hand the first priority is an aggressive militarism but it recoils to a defensive suicidal stand when some bottleneck blocks its advance. It can take the form of self-immolations, imposing human shield or any other form and have been adopted as a working strategy from its very formation days.
As a vindication of its rightness in its struggle path, the organization has always boasted about the counts of its killed and imprisoned members believing that these martyrs substantiate its hegemonic legitimacy over all other opposition groups antagonizing the regime. Rajavi is of the opinion that the rightness of any ideology is maintained by the number of its victims and martyrs; in the sphere of his political and ideological imagery, the life and death of man is so simple an issue like drinking water. I remember reading some related sources in the organization but I fail to remind them clearly to give exact details.
Being a product of Rajavi’s own mind-set than a methodological study, I think Rajavi has deduced that when man can so easily sacrifice his life, so he is capable of achieving distant, inaccessible goals. When it is politically and morally, from a certain ideological point of view, acceptable to use unconventional tactics such as violence and fear to achieve certain goals, then why should one waste time to stick to others that fail to be productive at all. The recruited members of the organization that are trained to invoke fear in the opponents and exploit the vulnerability of the victims are themselves the victims that victimize adversaries for certain ambitions. In fact, whether a member kills or is killed it is the organization that profits from all these bloodshed.
I remember my first days in the organization when Rajavi repeatedly highlighted the counts of the casualties the organization had inflicted on the regime, which had been widely covered by the media, as a proof of his organization’s legitimacy and his authoritative hegemony among other opponent groups. Connecting his organization’s terrorist activities with legitimate political struggle, Rajavi played a double-faced role before the Western world; he presented the statistics of his terrorist deeds against the regime as a proof of legitimacy while he exaggerated about the organization’s martyrs as the instances of human rights violation by the regime. Rajavi is not the least concerned about the life of people, either the insiders or outsiders, and even the organization’s press coverage of the executions by the IR is a cunning manipulation of the dynamics of violence to demonize the opponent side.
I have seen plain examples of the glorification of violence and death-seeking attitude within the organization, an experience that can better than any other theoretical sources of ideology lead you to fathom why the organization delights in the martyrdom of its own members. One instance was when the news of the execution of Hojjat Zamani broke inside the organization. I have nothing to do with Zamani’s extent of cooperation and organizational career, the only thing I know is that he was arrested when dispatched on an operational mission. Sentenced to imprisonment, he escaped while he was on leave but was recaptured and at last his antagonistic attitudes led to his execution. My stress on his execution is only to illustrate the organization’s internal reaction after his death. You may be surprised to know that the news of his execution was the cause for a real celebration within Camp Ashraf, I mean a real festivity in which they sang and danced.
Nothing could have pleased them more than Zamani’s execution by the regime since it was a good excuse to appeal to human rights organizations and to condemn the regime for oppressing Mojahedin. Nobody was grieved or became furious about his death as naturally they had to and they openly congratulated his execution as it could influentially fuel the organization’s propaganda machine particularly to array human rights defenders against the regime and to help recruit new forces. Although the organization appealed to a variety of human rights defenders and organizations to bring Zamani’s execution to a halt to advertise a pro-democratic profile, it was also anxious not to have overdone to impede his execution. It will be not wrong to say that the organization prayed the regime would accelerate the process of his execution since it was one way it could boast its position as the sole active alternative the Iranian regime still cared to counter as a trouble-maker.
In a message addressed to the Leadership Council after Zamani’s execution, Rajavi asserted that his execution was equal to one thousand feats accomplished by the council because his death could muster new recruits and scatter seeds of hatred in the hearts of his family and relatives. In general, the organization craved for the execution of all those members in the prisons of the IR regime, people like Saeed Mansouri, Jamil Bassam and Ibrahim Khodabandeh. Hearing no news of their execution against the organization’s expectation, it elicited anger among us in the Leadership Council and we began criticizing and disparaging them for failing to commit suicide as we did when Arash Sametipour was arrested. We would revile them for not provoking the regime to execute them. Massoud and Maryam had reiterated that the IR Ministry of Information had adopted a new policy not to execute any member of the organization; now the organization was resolute to do its best to inflame the regime to spur executions.
Besides, the organization had contrived ways that led to the demise of the members. When, for example, Beheshteh Shadroo was at the charge of the operation teams sent to Iran, after the frequent successful return of a team, she would order the head of the team to take the forces under his/her command to a non-reconnoitered region where they could be easily hit and killed. In this way, the imposed death begot martyrs from among the forces whose date of practical competency had expired and could best serve the organization by their martyrdom. The organization hoped and prayed that the IR would kill so it had an open hand for propaganda.
There were also suggestions of arranging to club a woman to bleeding and to record the scene to use against the regime in abroad propagandas. The organization presumed that such scenes of violence and flow of blood could beget rebellion and social disturbance that could finally lead to the regime’s collapse. Benefitting the organization in its best use, the news of members killed and executed in Iran carried the menace of what destiny could be awaiting other members if they ever dreamed to return to Iran.
To be continued