Extracted from "Shaqayeqhaye Zakhmi" (Wounded Peonies) By Mehdi Khoshhal
I was looking for Mrs. Homa Khodabandeh, calling wherever I knew until I could contact with her by the help of his uncle, Mr. Masud Khodabandeh. Since Mrs. Khodabandeh couldn’t speak Persian well, Mr. Masud Khodabandeh translated her words to me. I started my interview:
Mrs. Khodabandeh, I was researching on Mujahedin’s children and the cruelty they suffer, when I visited Iran-Interlink website reading some of your father, Mr. Ibrahim Khodabandeh’s articles, in which one important point attracted my attention:
The issue he presented about his daughter, I mean you.
Mr. Ibrahim Khodabandeh wrote about you regularly weather when he was a member of MEK and he was forced to ignore you or when he was in Prison and needed your love to make his pains tolerable.
Therefore I would like to have an interview with you since I khow you have a lot to tell about yourself, your father, mujahedin and Iran where you traveled to visit your father. My first question:
when you were born, your father was sent on duty to Sweden by MKO and your mother who was a British woman and had married your father when they were students, went to Sweden to show her daughter to her husband and asked to meet your father. Meanwhile your father demanded his responsible to visit his daughter, the responsible replied that he can go but they have a lot of works to do. Then your father felt ashamed and blamed himself because of his demand .I’d like to know, during these twenty years while your father was a member of MKO, how many times could he meet you?
– When my father was a Mujahed he could visit me only four or five times. In fact, I could find my father in Sweden or Iraq and visit him for a very short time.
– When your father was arrested in Syria, in April 2003 and was sent to Iran, what was your reaction to his arrest and what did you do in order to liberate him?
– As soon as I heard the news of his arrest and imprisonment I called the "Amnesty International" from London. Unfortunately they told me why I contacted with them after the transfer of my father from Syria to Iran. You know that MKO had hidden the arrest of my father and his friend from any source that could do something, for two months. I really doubt about their act since they play with the fate and security of their own members.
– If the organization had informed you of your father’s arrest, what could you do in order to liberate your father?
– The Amnesty International told me that if I had informed them before my father’s transfer to Iran, they could inform the international organizations and then the Syrian officials so that they could help the liberation and transmission of my father to Britain which was possible since I am British and my father has political refugee in Britain.
– While you couldn’t do any thing in order to liberate your father in Britain, what did you do?
– Here, I have to appreciate my uncles Masud Khodabandeh and Mr. Win Grifth, since they really helped us. Mr. Win Grifth Contacted with the Iranian Embassy and arranged several visits with my father, therefore my husband and children and I could travel to Iran to meet my father. A few days later, Mr.Win Grifth, Mrs. Ann Singleton, my uncles’ wife and Sir Teddy Taylor from British Parliament also came to Iran to visit my father. Besides, Mr. Win Grifth did some efforts to apply amnesty for MEK’s leaders from Iranian Government, of which I don’t know the details and my uncle was acquainted with what was going on. Yes, I traveled to Iran to visit my father seeing what I could do.
– Would you please explain what did you get when you saw your father and Iran?
– On June 10th 2004, I went to Iran with my family. Several daily and private visits were arranged with my father, in different places especially in his paternal house.
– It seems that you were able to visit your father in the prison of Islamic Republic more than the time your father was working with MKO. I’d like to know how the MKO described the story while your father’s arrest and mutually what they asked you to do.
– Giving wrong information about my father, they asked me to go to London and set myself on fire in front of British Parliament.
– What was the wrong information and how did you feel mentally and physically during those days?
– The wrong information was that my father has been tortured excessively in Iranian prison and has been supposed to be executed the next morning. I had a terrible spiritual condition since I had recently given birth to my baby.
– What was your reply to MKO, finally?
– My response was Negative (NO)
– When you replied them that self-immolation is not a logic solution to save your father, what was their reaction?
– When they found that I objected their need for self-immolation and their other needs, and I don’t act as a Mujahed member, they insulted me disgracing my personality. When they realized that not me, not my mother and nobody from my father’s family would be caught in their net, they began to forge my family. A person claimed to be my father’s wife instead of my mother and MEK used her to represent its terrorist organization. They also brought an orphan to their 10-15 people gathered demonstrations that they hold with their communist flag and claimed that she was my father’s daughter. Of course I think the only stupids who believe this were themselves and no one else. .
– Mrs. Khodabandeh through your father’s writings and speeches I got an interesting point where, in an interview, he said:" during the first year I was in Evin Prison, I read more books, such as political, social and even novels and story books than my whole life; it was my first experience to think, relieved of " Current Operation", " Weekly Baptism", the forced organizational atmosphere, responsible and ideological despises." Now I guess that during the years your father was in Islamic Republic prison, his personality changed and learned while being in MKO for a hundred years he couldn’t get this mutation. Of course, I’d really like your father to be liberated from prison and return to his family. However, what did you get of your father’s new situation? What’s your message on your father’s past, present and future?
– As you know, my father, Ibrahim Khodabandeh, has asked me to act as his representative in Britain or other places, until he is in prison. As it concerns to me ,as a Muslim British woman, although I knew my father was working for MKO, I, personally, had no information on MKO and I wasn’t even interested in knowing them or the Iranian Political scene and my little information was limited to what I read in the newspapers. Therefore, when in June 2003, I found that my father was arrested in Syria and after two months sent to Iran, I got worried and scared. The same day MEK called my house saying that my father is under torture and will be executed soon. They insisted me to go to London and burn myself in front of British Parliament saying this is the only hope to save my father. As you know this suggestion made me more terrified. My lawyer says that according to British laws such acts are considered as crime. I’m investigating the case now to prevent such actions in my country. Imagine how shocked I got when a few weeks later, I heard some members of MEK set themselves on fire, and consequently two of them died. I even heard that they were given narcotics before setting themselves on fire.
I appreciate the efforts of Iran – Interlink to help me during that delirious atmosphere. They helped me follow correct canals to find the truth and then help my father.
During last year, I received contrary reports and suggestions. MKO always insisted that my father was still under torture and would be executed soon so, when he called me last September, I was still suspicious about what was going on but while I kept on contacting with him during the following months I found out that he is really treated well.
The good thing is that he can visit his parents whenever and as many times as he wants.
I also have to thank Mr. Win Grifth for his activities in Britain in order to help me contact the Iranian Embassy accompanying me to visit the Ambassador in London. I really appreciate him for accepting the ambassadors’ invitation to Iran to visit my father and check his situation. The visit was made with Sir Teddy Taylor who was especially an important help to my father spiritually assuring him of a just and rapid trial. I would like to thank Iran- Interlink, especially due to encouraging me and strengthening me spiritually in order to travel to Iran and visit my father in prison.
I traveled to Tehran with my husband and three children, this June. At first, my husband and I were worried about our situation there. Mujahedin had continually told us terrible stories and we expected to see a Mullah in each street suppressing women. Actually the condition in Iran was very much different from what we expected.
My father was with us, in his mother’s house, where we were staying, everyday. Since my father had joined MKO, this period was the longest during one which I could see my father and be with him. He told me that as a member of MKO he wasn’t allowed to meet his own family or contact with them except the times he was ordered to force me to participate in a demonstration in order to raise the number of their participants. Internally terrified he remembered a time when I was only thirteen, he convinced my mother to bring me to Brussels for a demonstration. My mother stayed in hotel and my father and I went to the city centre. But at the same time he received an order to go to Paris. My father told me that he had been in a dilemma. He even had thought of taking me to Paris without informing my mother. Finally he decided to leave me alone in the streets of Brussels since he had to abbey the order of MKO.
My father has asked me several times why I still love him considering the years of separation and the way he treated me during those years. It doesn’t really have an explanation. I think the love among the members of a family is stronger then everything and since I believe in Islam which guides me in all domains, I could forgive my father in spite of all the difficulties he caused me and my mother. While my trip to Iran, it really became clear to me that my father didn’t do any of those works with his own will and choice. He was under the influence of mind controlling methods of a cult that had prevailed over him severely, so he was in fact a victim of MKO too. That’s why when my father was arrested in Syria; he denounced the truth about MKO’s smuggling activities clearly, but MKO is still insisting that he had gone to Syria to visit his family. My father knows well at whom points accusingly. Although he is ashamed and puts faults on himself in front of me, he repeatedly has told me that MKO had told lies to him and his friend and deceived them. He asked me to send this message to those of his ex-colleagues who can listen. Especially he said that Elaheh Azmifar, his former wife who is still with MEK, shouldn’t listen to them and should come to Iran in order to reveal the issue. He said:" I guarantee her health and security in here. She doesn’t have to stay here but she can come and meet me and Jamil Bassam and find out that we are safe and well." He said that his friends in MKO shouldn’t listen to the lies the leaders tell them. He said that he believes in a secular and non-ideological but now that he has seen the reality and various political parties of Iran closely, he thinks that Rajavi has been removed of Iran political scene for years. He didn’t see any sympathy or support for MEK’s terrorist operations in Iran; he didn’t see anyone who has forgiven Mujahedin for being mercenaries of Saddam Hussein during Iran-Iraq war, either. He said that at the beginning of his imprisonment the guards took Jamil Bassam and him to the streets of Tehran telling them to ask anyone they want to give his or her opinion on MKO. My father said that this was really a useful experience. The few people who knew MKO, hated them due to their cooperation with Iraq during the war.Because of that, both of us ,are really happy that all the ones who met my father including an independent journalist, saw what is going on in Iran with their own eyes . I think all of us got familiar with the real and new life in there. For example I found the Iranian women enjoying more individual freedom than all the other Middle Eastern countries I’ve ever seen
Once I had gone shopping in a middle class quarter of the city. It was interesting to my father when the salesperson found out that I wasn’t Iranian and got surprised. He said:" but she is the only woman wearing a perfect Hijab in the whole street." At the end, the total message my father wanted me to send, was his thanking to the ones who have helped him and tried for him; especially Iran-Interlink, Barroness Ema Nickelson, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. Win Grifth.
My father is really hopeful to his own future and the future of all those people who are the victims of MKO and he believes that finally a way will be opened to liberate them. Even if to find this way they’ll need to go to prison.
My own message is again thanking you. I should definitely thank all the Iranians who treated us unexpectedly respectfully and kindly.
– I’d really appreciate you, Mrs. Homa Khodabande, because of the information you gave us.
– I also thank you.
– Homa Khodabande was born in Newcastle in 1978. Her father, Ibrahim Khodabande was one of the founders of MKO in abroad, he was practically separated from his family from the beginning of his struggle and his daughter, Homa, was grown up by mother, under the protection of her grandparents. Before the beginning of Gulf War, her grandmother took Homa to Baqdad. She could arrange an exceptional visit between Homa and her father in MEK’s Camp. The little Homa who was interested in Islam from her teens, started to study Islamic studies while studying in the College. Meanwhile she got familiar with a person named Taher. Taher who came from a religious family and had graduated a few years ago working as an electric engineer, fell in love with Homa. The fruits of their marriage are three children two boys and a girl. They are a religious family who is opposed to fundamentalism seriously and Taher (who is the manager of railway projects of Alstum Company in Britain and is living with Homa and their kids in Birmingham) fights any stupid ideology like this according to his Islamic duty. Homa says that she never allows a person like Rajavi misguides and corrupts her children under the cover of Islam. She says :"I tasted enough of the bitter poison of such people during my childhood"
Published by Aawa Association – NEJATNGO translation