June 17 marks the day when a group of MKO members set themselves ablaze on streets as a response to the French police detention of their leader, Maryam Rajavi.
On June 17, 20, 2003 more than 1,300 French Police kicked their way into the walled compound of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK, a.k.a. MKO) in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris that has served as the terrorist group’s headquarters.
Masked and heavily armed police detained activists on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks in France and building a support base for operations abroad.
French authorities detained 159 people in the raids on the compound north of Paris and 12 other sites outside the city. The authorities seized $1.3 million in U.S. currency, mostly 100-dollar bills, along with computers and satellite telecommunications equipment.
Among those arrested was Maryam Rajavi, wife of then Iraq-based MKO leader Massoud Rajavi and current leader of the MKO.
The raids were carried out on orders of French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere for “criminal association aimed at preparing terrorism acts and for financing a terrorist enterprise,” the Interior Ministry said.
Upon the arrest of the MKO co-leader Maryam Rajavi, MKO members took to the streets and engaged in self-immolation outside the French Embassy in London. Two women died as a result. These horrible acts of self-immolations revealed the cult-like devotion of the MKO members.
According to Madeline Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich authors of Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, a book dealing with the cults, "this induction of whole hearted devotion does not happen spontaneously but is the result of the cult leader’s skillful use of thought-reform techniques."
One of America’s leading think tanks and research institutes, the RAND Corporation published a 105-page report on the MKO in 2009 titled “The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum,” and highlighted the cult-like practices of the MKO.
The monograph says the MKO leadership had confiscated members’ identity documents, threatened them with persecution in Iran and prosecution for illegal immigration in Iraq, and prevented those who wished to do so from returning to their home country.
The report adds that Masoud Rajavi turned the MKO into an "inward-looking cult". "Rajavi instituted what he termed an “ideological revolution” in 1985, which, over time, imbued the MeK with many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and limited exit options."
On July 13, 2003, Elizabeth Rubin’s New York Times wrote an article titled “The Cult of Rajavi”. In this article Rubin details her encounters with MKO members she met in Camp Ashraf. Rubin wrote, "men and women had to participate in ‘weekly ideological cleansings,’ in which they would publicly confess their sexual desires. It was not only a form of control but also a means to delete all remnants of individual thought."