Conference Speech at Baghdad University to introduce the book
‘The Life of Camp Ashraf – Mojahedin-e Khalq Victims of Many Masters’
by Anne Singleton and Massoud Khodabandeh
Massoud Khodabandeh, from Middle East Strategy Consultants introduced the book ‘The Life of Camp Ashraf – Mojahedin-e Khalq Victims of Many Masters’ to the Conference. The book places the MEK in the context of its foreign ownership and concludes that these owners have invested heavily in the MEK’s ability to commit acts of violence and terrorism, and that this is the reason for western resistance to closing the camp. The book particularly highlights the MEK’s refusal to allow residents of the camp to have contact with their immediate families as a fundamental human rights abuse of every person in the camp.
The book was written primarily to give a voice to the people trapped inside Camp Ashraf and to their families who are camped outside waiting to find them and help them.
Why these families are there at all is the big question and one which is fairly easy to answer.
What is harder to answer is how to help them.
The Mojahedin as a terrorist group is not a new problem for Iraq. The MEK collaborated with Saddam Hussein to kill thousands of Iranians and Iraqi citizens.
Unfortunately, after the invasion of 2003, the Americans failed to dismantle the camp and remove this terrorist entity from the country.
So, the nation of Iraq is entitled to ask how did we end up here, nearing the end of the US military presence, but the terrorist cult they protected is still here?
And the families of people trapped inside Camp Ashraf who are still outside the locked gates of the camp, desperate to find their loved ones, they are entitled to ask, why can we not meet with our relatives in peace and freedom after all these years?
After 2003 there were some half-hearted efforts to deal with the MEK in the international political arena. For example, in Germany, Canada and Australia where action was taken by various state agencies to curtail the group’s illegal activities. In France Maryam Rajavi was arrested in 2003 along with 150 others by counter-terrorism police.
But when Maryam ordered her people to set fire to themselves the French Government gave in to the pressure and Rajavi is now free to continue promoting the European Union’s anti-Iran and anti-Iraq agenda.
The covert Western political support for the terrorist MEK, which had been in place even before the fall of Saddam Hussein became overt after the 2003 invasion. In 2004 America deliberately protected Massoud Rajavi when then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld misapplied – against all logic – the UN Fourth Geneva Convention to the group. Designed to protect foreign civilians – the MEK were foreign but were certainly not civilians – the designation gave the MEK a free hand to continue its illegal and violent activities in Iraq on behalf of Rajavi’s Western masters, this time protected by American servicemen and women. America wanted and still wants to keep the MEK in spite of the facts. These facts were clearly described in both the 2005 Human Rights Watch report and the 2009 RAND Report.
In 2009 the Americans were obliged under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement to hand over control of Camp Ashraf and the people inside it to the democratically elected government of Iraq. It should have been possible at this stage to begin to deal properly with the group from a legal and moral point of view. Certainly, the Iraqi constitution does not allow the group to stay. Nor will Iraq allow the MEK to enjoy refugee status in the country because of the crimes committed against Iraqi citizens. The Iraqi Judiciary has confirmed it has grounds to prosecute at least 150 MEK members for such crimes.
At the same time, the Government of Iraq has been clear that as well as being a terrorist organisation the MEK operates as a pernicious mind-control cult. Because of this, all the Iraqi agencies and NGOs involved have been vehement in declaring that the human rights of Camp Ashraf residents must be protected and that Iraq will not repatriate anyone who does not wish to return home to Iran.
But even after 2009, Rajavi was still refusing to obey Iraqi and international law.
Iraq has been extremely patient and reasonable in the face of extreme provocation; what must be described as pre-planned and coordinated suicidal and violent resistance.
Today the residents of Camp Ashraf find themselves with no protection and no refugee status and are also designated as terrorists in Iraq and America.
So, if the MEK is so unwanted, why is it so difficult to get rid of them?
There are two reasons. One is the nature of the MEK itself, and the other is the role of external agencies in preventing Iraq from expelling the group.
First let us look at the MEK itself.
On both occasions when Iraqi security forces attempted to impose law on the camp, Rajavi ordered his followers to kill themselves in his defence. Some victims were shot by the MEK, some threw themselves under Iraqi vehicles. The message from Rajavi was clear – come near the camp and I will kill everyone in it.
The book ‘The Life of Camp Ashraf’ explains with detailed evidence that this is no ordinary group. It is a dangerous, destructive mind control cult. Without getting too deep into explaining what this means, basically they brainwash and exploit the members to the point they have no will of their own and will obey the leader without question, even if this means killing themselves to order.
Rajavi has trapped the members inside the camp – physically and mentally.
The gates to the camp are locked from inside. The perimeter fence is reinforced from inside.
Residents are made to believe they will be killed by Iraqi soldiers if they try to escape or if they survive they will be sent to Iran to be tortured and executed.
Iraq’s government understands what it is dealing with. Iraq’s problem is that other external parties do not see the group in the same way.
The international community (US and EU) have clearly sided with the cult leader for their own political gains.
The biggest favour Iraq could do for America and Europe now is to become involved in the mass deaths of the MEK. That way the West would be rid of the problem and could still point the finger at Iraq and say ‘what savages, how inhuman you people are’.
But Iraq will not fall for that trick.
Clearly, it is the unwarranted western political support for the MEK leaders which prevents the rescue of the camp’s residents.
In a meeting of the Iraq Delegation on November 22, what did the European Parliament chose to talk about in relation to Iraq? While Iraq has all kinds of issues, trade links, reconstruction, security, health, social and religious issues which could be discussed, the only item on the agenda was the MEK and how to protect them.
The MEK killed 25,000 Iraqis. What is there to talk about?
Two major questions remain – how to get in and who should go in?
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has agreed to go into the camp to interview residents individually for refugee status.
So far they have not succeeded.
Unfortunately, if external agencies don’t understand the cult nature of the MEK they will fall into the trap of manipulative lies and deception.
Certainly, the biggest deception must be exposed.
Rajavi does not represent the hostages. He is the hostage taker – therefore neither he nor his minions are able to negotiate on behalf of the 3500 people trapped inside. Until it is possible to go into the camp and speak individually to the residents without MEK oversight it is not possible to say what should happen to them. At this moment, nobody knows how many of the residents remain loyal to Rajavi. From the testimonies of recent escapees – from all levels of the organisation – we can estimate that only five or ten percent of the residents in the camp are loyal to Rajavi. This means that everyone else is being kept there against their will. For this reason Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry has been insistent that it is necessary to get inside the camp to protect the residents against the abuses of those leaders.
Once this simple fact has been recognised it will become clear that the key to opening the gate of Camp Ashraf is to involve the families of the people inside.
Why? Because this is Rajavi’s greatest fear. How do we know this? Rajavi has deliberately separated the MEK from all relationships with mother, father, sister, brother, husband or wife or child.
Rajavi knows that once a member re-discovers the love and affection of their family and friends, they will abandon him forever.
A wonderful example of this is Mahmoud Rostami who escaped the camp two months ago.
Rostami was a Prisoner of War in Iraq and was deceived into joining the MEK.
He had not seen his family for twenty two years.
Rostami’s mother visited Camp Ashraf three times.
Hearing his mother’s voice over the loudspeakers finally brought Rostami back to reality.
When Rostami also heard the other family members crying out to their loved ones his humanity was re-awakened.
After months of planning Rostami escaped and met with his mother and father after two decades of forced separation.
There can be no legitimate or moral objections to opening the gate of Camp Ashraf to allow people to go inside; whether family members or humanitarian agencies. This has nothing to do with the Iraqi timetable to evacuate Camp Ashraf. It is a purely humanitarian gesture. The only barrier is the leader Massoud Rajavi and his second-in-command Maryam Rajavi who refuse to do the right thing.
Of course, there must be a proper framework if those inside are to be accorded effective help.
United Nations interviews should be supplemented by visits from cult experts and family members or representatives of the families of residents.
Each person interviewed must be given information about their rights and their possible future steps.
The families have no political agenda, they come in a spirit of love and concern to rescue their loved ones. They are there to help the residents.
Families are the key to opening the locked gates of Camp Ashraf and opening the locked hearts of the imprisoned residents. The families are the solution, not the problem.