MKO’s posed challenges in the Western countries makes its future uncertain
It was just on April 10 that Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in his briefing to the Security Council concerning the transfer of MKO’s members residing at Camp Ashraf and the Temporary Transit Location (TTL) to other countries stated that “no country has committed to accept residents. A donor’s appeal meeting also took place the same day seeking to raise 39 million USD fund for the Ashraf project. Only one Member State made a concrete pledge and this falls far behind what we had hoped. Without international support, the process cannot succeed”.
No doubt, the residents stay in TTL is temporary and transitional and that other states are required to accept the resettlement of residents in their countries in line with their international commitments. One would better understand Mr. Kobler when addressing Member States had he specifically made reference to European countries that had already delisted MKO. At least he expects that these countries be the forerunners in accepting the residents if they really believe in removing it off the terror list. At this serious juncture, MKO desperately needs political and financial support of these countries more than any time. But as they have shown the least cooperation, a question raises that what is the reasons behind such procrastination to escape giving shelter to their favorite, de-proscribed group.
For sure, these countries have their own logic and reasons for indirectly expressing their disapproval. A review of the group’s past violent history and anti-social behaviors in Iraq and other European countries, regardless of the atrocities perpetrated against its own fellow Iranian, might well explain why they avoid risking acceptance of the group on their soil. What is just before European’s eyes is the group’s decade long persisting challenge with the Government of Iraq. Once forming close alliance with Saddam against Iranian regime, MKO acted also as his loyal mercenary in suppression of uprising Iraq dissidents. After the fall of the dictator, in a shift of position the group claimed to be standing beside the Iraqi people in a unified front to secure its stay in Iraq. As it is naturally a terrorist group whose strategy of struggle is founded on armed and violent warfare, soon it began to show its real, hostile attitude against the legally elected government and defied any reached legal decision; it preferred to make coalition with Iraqi insurgent groups. MKO in its struggle to survive not only claimed a position similar to that of Iraqi citizens with all granted rights but also postured as being in the vanguard of accomplishing democracy for Iraqi people and began interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.
Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges with the Government of Iraq, MKO has been the subject of many serious challenges and disputes for its defiance of legal and social laws in European countries and particularly in France, where its second headquarters are stationed. Some references to Antoine Gessler’s Autopsy of an Ideological Drift suffices to demonstrate that MKO’s presence in Auvers-Sur-Oise, the main strategic base for Mojahedin, has long been the center of many disputes with the French government. During their long stay there, Mojahedin have attempted to abuse the facilities for the achievement of their cultic and terrorist objectives and according to French D.S.T report, they have established another cultic-terrorist haunt in France. There are some more headlines as concrete evidences of violating and breaching asylum regulations according to Gessler’s.
1. Blatant defiance of the rules
Paris had required that the Iranian refugee leaders sign a written statement, containing the routine text promising to avoid all political activity on French soil. This would be respected for exactly two weeks.
2. Abuse of popular personalities
By hiding behind a broader front, the Mojahedin could manipulate Western public opinion as they wished. They had found the legitimacy that had eluded them for so many years.
3. Abuse of democratic capacities
Dramatizing simple situations, while distorting the facts to meet their own needs, the Mojahedin express their demands, published in press releases designed to create pity among the good people who are media consumers. They warn local authorities by subtle threats against them. In brief, they act in Europe as if they are in a conquered country.
According to our information, the organization does not use illegally obtained funds. On the other hand, the PMOI and some of its members are under indictment or civil action for misallocation of funds. This is notably the case in Germany, where significant sums of German private donations and State subsidies were used, in fact, for the purchase of arms for PMOI terrorists and militants in Iraq.
4. Violent behaviors in West
Yann Richard, researcher at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), considered a major specialist on Islam and author of Shi’ism and Islam, states that: “This group could probably be compared to the IRA or the PKK in its methods. These are rabid people who, should they actually come to power, would be worse than the present regime. They are bloody and violent madmen”?
“Concerning democratic freedoms, the sect has not yet accepted any other current of thought or any other identity but its own. In its small world and its international relations, everything is in place to punish its opponents. Prison, torture, secret executions, and dozens of other violations are common and in regular use by them against their ideological opponents. At this end of the 2O” Century, this is a blot on all humanity”.
The DST chief underscored how dangerous the PMOI was. It was more like a sect, a cult of personality for Massoud Rajavi and his wife. In 2001, the PMOI had claimed responsibility for more than 195 terrorist attacks on Iran from its base in Anvers-sur-Oise.
5. Launching attacks against embassies
“The People’s Mojahedin planned to attack Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe, except in France”, stated the Director of French Counter-Terrorism during a press conference.
It was, among other reasons, through fear of serving as a sanctuary for the PMOI’s subversive activities that France decided to strike the group so strongly. As M. Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, Director of Territorial Surveillance (DST), made clear, his agents were not acting on ground they did not know. “Just for 2001, there were 195 attacks and terrorist actions against Iran claimed in statements from Auvers-sur-Oise,” he medicated. He added: “We have learned that they were planning actions outside Iran, aimed notably at Iranian diplomatic missions in Europe. This is a future danger, but a clear one”.
6. Abuse of children for fundraising activities
As stated in the US State Department’s released list of designated terrorist organizations concerning MKO, “In addition to its terrorist credentials, the MEK has also displayed cult-like characteristics”. It also asserted that MKO’s members are required to undertake a vow of “eternal divorce” and that children are reportedly separated from parents at a young age. After separating children from their parents, these innocent children were sent to Western countries to take part in the street fund-raising activities under false pretences of being homeless Iranian children whose parents were executed by Iranian regime.
Reported by the LA Times quoting the FBI, “MKO members in the name of a Charity Committee for the Defense of Human Rights collected money from passengers, mostly Asians, under the false pretenses of helping refugees. They showed the photos of children suffering from hunger and apparently victims of mistreatment and torture in Iran. In this way, they gained the sympathy of passengers by telling them that they want the money to help the refugees.” (Nimrouz, No. 628, March 10, 2000, page 1 and 49.)
7. Establishing an international HQ in West
According to the French intelligence services, the Mojahedin’s aim was to move their “world operational centre” — previously based in Baghdad — to the Val d’Oise. If the searches of about 20 sites in the Val d’Oise did not turn up arms or explosives, the Rajavi’s villa was, nonetheless, ‘a real Fort Apache’. “We were surprised by the security systems,” stated Pierre de Bousquet de Florian. “We found between 8 and 9 million US dollars in cash, as well as systems for coded communications”.
According to an Interior Ministry source, Auvers-sur-Oise had been turned into the Mojahedin’s “International HQ”. Up until March-April , their command structure was in Iraq and only moved with the outbreak of war.
8. Security threat
No European country denies the espionage potentiality of MKO that well threatens the state and social security of any country. The accumulation of sophisticated apparatus in a base where came under the raid of French police needs no further explanation: “Almost 200 parabolic antennas and a hundred computers were seized. Their examination should allow the investigators to sharpen their knowledge of the financial circuits financing the PMOI, which run through several countries and many bank accounts. During their searches, investigators also found radio scanners tuned to police frequencies”.
9. Wounding public emotions
The day after the police operation against the People’s Mojahedin in the Paris suburbs, European and world public opinion were shocked to discover individuals voluntarily turning themselves into human torches.
What level of fanaticism could push seemingly sane and healthy people to such extremes? Moreover, some of the “spectators” tried to block the access of rescue services which could have saved the victims’ lives. The French judicial system could only note the facts and prevent any repetition.
“Two Iranians suspected of preventing the intervention of rescuers while a woman was immolating herself in front of DST headquarters in Paris 011 Wednesday will be brought before an instructional magistrate for their criminal investigation.
French Government spokesperson, Jean-Francois Cope, considered these self-immolations as “obviously, extremely dramatic”. He added, “Alas! It also tells us a great deal about the mindset of their leadership”.
10. Money laundering and financing
One of the big unknowns remains the PMOI’s financing. Must we believe Maryam Rajavi when she flatly claims that the money all comes from fundraising among the Mojahedin and their supporters? This was notably the case in explaining the millions of dollars uncovered during “Operation Theo”. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The PMOI has a lot more at its disposal:
“… Maryam Rajavi rejoiced Thursday when she was freed thanks to the payment of 80,000 euros fixed by the Paris Court of Appeals. The bail was paid as of Thursday morning at the Paris Appeals Court’s administrative offices. Maryam Rajavi has been jailed since 21 June…
As to the 8 million dollars (7 million euros) found in the different homes of Iranian opposition members in Auvers-sur-Oise, Mrs Rajavi insisted that these funds belonged to the Iranian resistance: ‘Not a euro, not a dollar comes from any government or any country,’ she guaranteed, ‘Even if I am not informed of the details, I am sure that the movement can account to the judicial system for each cent’.
This statement is in serious contradiction with the police investigators who all note that large amounts of PMOI money circulate around the world through “dirty” networks.
11. Defying refugees’ rights
MKO has been recognized responsible for a variety of antisocial behaviors against its own defectors living in countries where they have been granted asylum. There are many cases of attacking their meetings and rallies in European countries and injuring them as well as direct and indirect threats. Many of former members have accused MKO of physical and psychological threats after their separation and starting a new life as European citizens.
12. Illegal cross-border travels
Members of the organization used false passports to travel to European countries and raise funds to buy arms and pay for their propaganda.
13. Escalation of costs and surveillance measures
Acceptance of refugees like members of MKO imposes extra costs on any country as has already imposed on France. The boss of France’s Direction for the Surveillance of the Territory (DST), Prefect Pierre de Bousquet confirms the danger posed by MKO:
“But it was the indirect consequences of the American intervention in Iraq that pushed us to accelerate our actions. The concomitant factors of the retreat to Auvers-sur-Oise of its leaders, veteran soldiers and intelligence officers coming to us from many sources were convincing. We could see that the PMOI aimed to establish its new world HQ in France, now that it had lost its Iraqi bases. For reasons of principle, as well as the presence of risks to our fellow citizens, we could not accept these developments”.
14. Operating under aliases
The main problem arises when a group, mostly a proscribed one, comes to operate under a variety of aliases or forms affiliated groups and associations that actually serve to fulfill the objectives of the mother group. MKO is one of the best examples. As described by the US State Department Report on the group: “The MKO’s penchant for aliases has created some confusion. The group’s original Persian name, the Sazeman-e Mojahedin-e Khalq-e Iran, has been shortened and translated into several commonly-used monikers: the Mojahedin-e Khalq, the Mojahedin, the MKO, the Mek, the people’s Mojahedin of Iran, and the PMOI. Currently, the group favors the “PMOI” appellation. The Mojahedin’s deliberate use of the name of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCR) also is misleading”.
MKO’s umbrella associations active only in England outnumbers 20, not speaking of a lot more active in other countries. The fact will reveal the extent of the jeopardy of offshoots of a terrorist organization. None of these organizations and unions was known to be the aliases of MKO when they were permitted to be established.
15. Provoking crises
According to French police, the raid on 17 June 2003 was “one of the biggest undertaken by the DST (French Counter-intelligence) in the last 30 years”. International press agencies reported that it was the result of more than three years of investigation. The post-raid incidents set of one of the serious, unprecedented crisis in France and other European countries. A number of the group’s insiders immolated themselves in public to protest Maryam Rajavi’s arrest. According to reports issued by Mojahedin, “16 people attempted to set themselves alight in three days in Paris, Berne, Rome, London, Ottawa, Athens and Nicosia”. The human tragedy ended with two deaths; two women, Sediqeh Mojaveri, 44-year-old, and Neda Hassani, 19-year-old, died because of the self-immolation injuries.
And there are many more to mention. The European countries as well as other the UN state members have witnessed MKO’s violent reactions to the Iraqi government’s decision to evacuate Ashraf and it agreed to relocate after inflicting many deaths and injuries on the both sides. It might be a scenario repeated in any country where they will be resettled. Besides, Rajavi in his recent message to his disciples has compared them to “ready to launch missiles”. As a result, is it logical in any way to jeopardize the internal security and political relations of a country just for receiving these residents?
The past experiences, at least for the France, has proved that you let some ranking members or leaders of MKO in a country and others will follow and open their way through the abuse of existing gaps in democratic rules and political leverages. While a country that houses them is expected to fully adhere to the principles and regulations and behave them according to international commitments, the group abides by no promise to respect any code of social and political behavior. However, there might be some countries that out of humanitarian concerns and under some external pressures or for political concerns yield and let some to settle on their soil. But they are well aware that they have to bear serious consequences, the first of which will be an angry and strong reaction from the side of Iran that pushes it even to reconsider its diplomatic relations, if it has any. How the public opinion and the opponent parties react is another question.