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Firsthand accounts on the MKO camps in Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the Half Yearly Report on Human Rights, covering the period from January to June 2013. The report states, "UNAMI has continuing concerns about human rights abuses committed by the PMOI/MeK leadership within Camp Hurriya against the residents."[1]

It was about a decade ago when the New York Times contributor Elizabeth Rubin first wrote her firsthand experience of visiting "the Cult of Rajavi" in Camp Ashraf Iraq. Her illuminating article revealed the inside world of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO) to the western audience. [2]

There have also been numerous reports based on testimonies of former members of the group including the Human Rights Watch report titled "NO Exit" that was published in 2005. Researchers of "No Exit" visited the twelve eyewitnesses quoted in the report and inspected the "Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps". [3] However, the interviewees were claimed to be the spies of the IRI by the MKO. 

As a matter of fact, Rubin was not the only western visitor to the MKO camps who exposed the true facts about the inside world of the cult — she described as she had "entered a fictional world of female worker bees". [4] Jeremiah Goulka was a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department and a co-author of the the RAND report of the US Defense Department who confirmed that the MKO was a cult-like group after he visited Camp Ashraf  in 2009.[5]

Goulka puts, "Along with almost all of my interviewees and Human Rights Watch, I concluded that the MEK is a cult.” He refers to cult like practices the MKO leadership uses to manipulate members including   "mandated celibacy and divorce, thought control, sleep deprivation, and forced labor". [6]

UNAMI monitors complete the firsthand experiences of Rubin and Goulka and evidences made by ex-members. "UNHCR has continued to work towards identifying individuals in need of international protection and durable solutions for the residents of Camp Hurriya," UNAMI report reads. "However, UNHCR’s efforts to find durable solutions for the residents have been hindered by the non-cooperation of residents, such as the boycotting of UNHCR interviews."[7]

The UN report notifies that the leaders’ reluctance to cooperate with UN officials. It is now about 9 month past the offer by Albanian government but the relocation process to transfer 210 residents of Camp Liberty has not been completed because "the PMOI/MeK refused the names accepted by the Government of Albania, and insisted that it should decide who should be resettled there."! [8]

As it is pointed out in the first hand account by UN monitors, the MKO members’ will and determination to leave the camp do not matter to the cult leaders. "The PMOI/MeK, which has a hierarchical and authoritarian structure, imposes a number of severe restrictions on the residents’ rights, including the right of freedom of movement within the Camp and the right to leave the organization, the free right of association, along with restrictions on contacts with family members (including those residing in Camp Hurriya), on access to basic communications, and on access to medical care and treatment…". [9]

While the UN monitors and other eyewitnesses of the MKO camps confirm violations of human rights taken place inside the MKO camps, the group’s propaganda uproars about what it calls "increasing human rights violation in Iran". Elizabeth Rubin properly states that despite Maryam Rajavi’s rhetoric to advocate a secular democratic government in Iran," Mujahedeen operates like any other dictatorship". She quotes the Iranian-American Historian Irvand Abrahamian, ”No one can criticize Rajavi." [10]

Rubin wrote another article on the MKO cult in 2011 following the group’s extensive lobbying effort to get delisted. The article was appropriately titled "An Iranian Cult and Its American Friends". Once again she recited her record of visiting of "a factory in Maoist China" to warn the US politicians on the risk of supporting  Maryam Rajavi  who " lives in luxury in France" but in her followers’ camps, "access to the Internet, phones and information about the outside world is prohibited." [11]

She reminded the audience of the interviews she had, in 2003, with some of the escapees from the cult, "They recounted how people were locked up if they disagreed with the leadership or tried to escape; some were even killed." [12]

Considering the UN official report and many other reliable accounts on what is really going on inside the MKO camps, urgent action is needed to help release the group residents who are under constant pressure of the cult tyranny. The UN should mobilize the international community to save the lives and minds of over 3000 individuals taken as hostages in Camp Liberty.

By Mazda Parsi


[1] https://www.nejatngo.org/en/posts/5569

[2]Rubin, Elizabeth, The Cult of Rajavi, The New York Times, July 13, 2003


[4]Rubin, Elizabeth, The Cult of Rajavi, The New York Times, July 13, 2003

[5] Goulka, Jeremiah, Hansell, Lydia, Wilke, Elizabeth, Larson, Judith, The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq, A Policy Conundrum, RAND

[6]Goulka, Jeremiah, INVESTIGATIONS BEGIN INTO MEK SUPPORTERS UP, Salon.com, March 28, 2012




[10]Rubin, Elizabeth, The Cult of Rajavi, The New York Times, July 13, 2003

[11]Rubin, Elizabeth, An Iranian Cult and Its American Friends, the New York Times, August 13, 2011

[12] ibid

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