There was a time when Ebrahim Mohammad Rahimi and others like him were willing to fight and die for the MEK and its leader Massoud Rajavi. Not any more. What was once a mass movement of over half a million Iranians has been reduced to a group of old and sick former combatants sitting it out in a closed camp in Iraq with no hope for the future. Neither struggle nor normal life are open to them now. In many ways, Ebrahim has been among the lucky ones. After the 2003 invasion he decided to leave Iraq and, after spending four years in the Temporary Internment and Protection Facility (TIPF) run by the American army, was able to join family members in England. In 2010, he was reunited with his fifteen-year-old son who had been left with his grandparents in Iran as a baby when both his parents – former political prisoners – joined other MEK combatants in Iraq in the 1980s. Ebrahim continued to support the MEK in England as an activist. He encouraged his son to be involved too. But what should have been the beginning of a new and happy future for father and son has been sadly cut short. Ebrahim is dying of brain cancer in a London hospital. His son, Sepher, and other family members and friends attend him in his last days.
Ebrahim’s only dying wish is to speak a few words with his estranged wife who is still trapped in Camp Liberty in Iraq. Sepher, who is now twenty, would also like to renew a relationship with his mother. Since 2010 he has only been able to speak by phone to his mother three times, and each time, he says, the call was controlled by MEK minders. In August 2015, after Ebrahim’s devastating diagnosis, they wrote to Maryam Rajavi in Paris asking her to allow this contact. They had no answer. They tried through the MEK in London, with the paperwork needed to bring her to London prepared by their lawyer through the UNHCR in Iraq. Still they received no help.
Instead the MEK began a vicious defamation campaign against the father and son. The MEK’s efshahgah website and others accused Ebrahim of being a long standing “agent of the Iranian regime’. Although this is the standard response of the MEK to its enemies, nobody could have been more surprised than Ebrahim himself that he is now being accused of this faux crime. Ebrahim remains a loyal supporter of the MEK. His son also. Even worse, the MEK began writing on behalf of his former wife; this time saying that Ebrahim had forced their son Sepher to work for the Intelligence agency of the “Khomeini regime”. Of course, for anyone familiar with the MEK this label is not new, nor does it carry any weight. It is not based on fact but is in fact the name given to the ‘red line’ used by Massoud Rajavi to define who he thinks his enemies are. MEK members and supporters at all levels are inculcated with fear of these enemies. It is a cultic control mechanism.
Rajavi first began delineating this red line in order to take control of the MEK after he and others left Iran in the early 1980s. The first victims of this red line were members of the newly formed National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) of which the MEK was only one member among several. Rajavi systematically began to draw his red line closer and closer to the needs and demands of his Mojahedin Khalq organisation. Those who disagreed with him were forced to leave the NCRI. Rajavi labelled them traitors and enemies of the Iranian people, addicted to the regime as agents of the Intelligence Ministry of Iran. This red line tactic suited him well. With hundreds of thousands of members and supporters in Iran and in the west, Rajavi intensified his aim to be recognised as the ‘sole leader of the Iranian resistance movement against the regime’. In 1985 he used his controversial marriage to Maryam Azodanloo to re-position this red line. Anyone who did not agree with his leadership was ousted from the MEK. Many left – including some who could have rivalled Rajavi for leadership of the organisation. Over the intervening years Rajavi used this strategy many times. Each time he announced a new ideological demand the red line would fall between those who accepted his leadership and those who didn’t. After each round of purges Rajavi would set about trying to recruit new members with the changed ideological framework. It didn’t work.
Little by little the MEK has shrunk as he labelled more and more people as his enemies. Alongside this strategy Rajavi tried to frighten his followers into staying with him by labelling anyone who spoke out against the organisation as ‘agents of the Iranian regime’. What outsiders may not be aware of is that Rajavi deems this ‘crime’ as punishable by death and that the reason such enemies are still alive are lack of opportunity and because of prioritising the overthrow of the ‘Iranian regime in its entirety’ before dealing with such critics. All well and good when these enemies really are against you. One such former member was Hadi Shams Haeri who rejected membership of the MEK following Rajavi’s forced divorces. Shams Haeri came to live in Holland where he began to campaign alongside other former MEK members to get his children back with him. Unfortunately, he succumbed to cancer in June 2012 without ever being reunited with his grown-up children. Shams Haeri’s actions attracted vitriolic attacks from the MEK. His demand to see his family fell outside Rajavi’s red line that separated families and banned all relationships except with him. Shams Haeri rejected Rajavi and paid the price.
Now with the situation of the Mohammad Rahimi father and son, it appears the red line is drawn even tighter. Ebrahim came from the heart of the MEK to help them in London. He and his son remain loyal to Rajavi and his aims but find themselves outside the red line simply because they want to have contact with a family member. Rajavi cannot tolerate any such contact. He wants to ban every relationship which doesn’t centre on him. Perhaps as a result of this unbearable, impossible demand, ten names have come to light over the past year of men and women inside the MEK base in Paris – from high ranking members right up to the top cult lieutenants (those just below second-in-command Maryam Rajavi) – who are on the brink of committing suicide or running away from the MEK. This will happen. It is inevitable.
As Rajavi’s red line grows ever tighter there will soon be no more room for anyone. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Mehdi Abrishamchi himself – Rajavi’s most trusted lieutenant – is soon found outside the red line. The only real task of everyone’s existence at this point is about how they can squeeze themselves inside the red line and not attract Rajavi’s wrath. Surely they are suffocating. The wonder is that these people appear unaware of their predicament. Someone who is on the brink, don’t they see that they will be next to be expelled from the MEK and subjected to character assassination on the Efshahgar website?
What is amazing is that the people remaining in the MEK do not appear to see that it is not the excluded who have changed but that Rajavi’s red line is drawn tighter and tighter around him to exclude thousands of former members and supporters. Normally, cult leaders grow their cults, attracting and recruiting new members, or as a minimum, maintaining what numbers they have. But since Rajavi stole the half-a-million-strong movement in the 1980s he has shrunk the MEK to fewer than two thousand people, most of whom are sick and old and trapped in the base in Iraq waiting to be moved to safety. This can only lead us to conclude that Massoud Rajavi is not a very effective cult leader. Not only has he failed to attract any new members for many years, but he cannot even tolerate the few followers he has left. If his red line gets any tighter only he and Maryam will be left. After he rejects her will he be unable to tolerate even his own company? Suicide then will be his only option; he can use his red line to hang himself.
Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com