Using cellphone can be a distracter to accomplish your tasks but who denies that cellphones have opened the door to be able to communicate in different ways (text message, social media messaging, photos, etc.) However, there are still some people out there who are banned from having cellphones: Members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq .
While even kids across the world are allowed to have cellphones these days, the rank and file of the MEK who are taken as hostages in a barred camp called Ashraf 3, north of Tirana, Albania, are banned from having cellphones. Defectors of the group have bizarre experiences of forbidden cellphones inside the MEK’s cult-like group.
In the United States no law prohibits the employer from banning phone use or possession during actual work time or in a regular active working area but MEK members are not employed by the group leaders. They are not paid for the routine difficult tasks they have to accomplish every day, in Camp Ashraf. Instead, as all cult members, they are supposed to dedicate their whole life to the leaders of the cult.
Former members of the MEK who are residing in Albania have recently published their memoirs of “cellphone ban” in the MEK. Khalil Ansarian who defected the MEK in 2020 after 28 years of forced membership, writes his memoirs of the efforts made by him and his friends to find a cellphone to call their family from inside the MEK. Sarfaraz Rahimi also writes how a cellphone rescued him from the group.
According to Ansarian, after the MEK was relocated in Albania and since the group was under the scrutiny of a democratic society, Massoud Rajavi decided to pay his rank and file for the first time. “Each member was paid 8 dollars per month,” he writes. “After three decades we had 8 dollars in our pockets.”
One of his friends suggests Khalil buying one cellphone by sharing their money. As they had no idea of mobile technology, the first cellphone that they secretly bought was so old that no application could be installed on it. So, they did not succeed to contact their families after long years of separation. They planned to buy another one.
“This time we bought a used cellphone for 40 dollars,” he recounts. “The other day, my friend and I went to the hills around the camp. We tried to contact his family via Telegram by the only phone number my friend had from his family.”
They could finally get connected to his friend’s family. “We were connected!” he writes. “At first, his family could not believe him. They could not believe that their son was alive after so many years.”
Nevertheless, it was not easy to contact your family even if you had a cellphone. “We had to change the place of contact every day, “Khalil Ansarian states. “The suppressive agents of Rajavi would constantly patrol around the camp watching the rank and file.”
Sarfaraz Rahimi the MEK defector who left the MEK six years ago and married an Albanian girl, writes, “The leaders of the MEK know well that if members have cellphones, they will immediately call their families. Having been connected to the outside world, they will realize the reality of the world. Thus, the MEK does not allow members to have cellphones.”
Sarfaraz writes about his personal experience after he found a cellphone to call his family. “It was because of the cellphone that I learned that I was a hostage of the MEK,” he states. “When I started having daily contacts with my family and I surfed the Internet, I got to know that the truth was not what the MEK gave us. Every day, the truth became clearer. I realized why the MEK was against cellphone. Because it would open connections with the world outside the walls of Ashraf.”