Christmas is one of the most important events of the year for the inhabitants of Europe. A festive atmosphere with its shining lights, colorful and musical celebration spread Christmas spirit across Europe including Albania where more than two thousand Iranians reside inside the isolated headquarters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK/ PMOI), Ashraf 3, in the village of Manez, north of Tirana.
While members of the MEK, kept as hostages in Ashraf 3, are deprived from the least joys of Christmas, defectors of the group are grateful to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere after years of custody inside the Cult of Rajavi. This enjoyment seems to be so imperative that defectors paid especial attention to it writing about it in their accounts on social media.
It might seem bizarre that a person who has lived in Europe at least for six years had no experience of Christians’ new year celebration before he left the MEK. At least three defectors of the MEK wrote about their experience of Christmas time inside the MEK compared with now that they are outside the MEK.
Three accounts of Christmas gloom and pleasure
About a month ago, Hamid Atabay who is the most recently defected member of the MEK posted a picture of his, with the background of a Christmas tree in the streets of Tirana, on his Facebook. His simple and friendly caption reveal a bitter fact about the cult-like suppressive MEK system.
“I have been in Albania for six years but as far as I was in the MEK cult, I was never allowed to have fun in such a place at night,” Atabay states. “We were apparently free but we were literally imprisoned. I have been able to hang out with my friends since I got myself released.”
This is evidence to differentiate between a destructive cult and a normal political movement. Cults prevent their followers from contacting the outside world including their friends and families and normal occasions of a normal life. Followers are required to dedicate their whole time, money, energy and love to the cult leader.
Although Christmas celebrations and its related traditions are not costumery in Iran and perhaps for some of the Iranian diaspora, the lease advantage of the festivities for the Iranian diaspora can be the few days that they can be off at work. And, this is unheard of in the MEK, even if it is located in a European territory.
On Christmas eve, former member of the group, Mohammad Reza Sedigh writes in his Facebook, “During the years I was in the MEK, I never saw a Christmas tree.”
He points out the discriminating ruling system of the MEK. “Christmas celebration was only for Sister Maryam but for us it was a taboo,” he asserts. “Why? Because according to the MEK, Christmas is the symbol of desire for life! The first Christmas after our relocation in Albania, they banned going to the town on the New Year’s Eve. The next year we were working hard to build Ashraf 3. I saw the fireworks over the walls of the camp. I felt very sad that we should not take part in such a great event.”
Khalil Ansarian, who has recently published his autobiography as a defector of the Cult of Rajavi recalls that thinking about and speaking of Christmas made him the subject of punishment in a self-criticism meeting in the group.
He tells about it on his Facebook account: “When I was in the MEK cult, I always wished I could take part in Christmas celebrations. After we were relocated in Albania, I made the suggestion to my commander but he responded in an irrational way. He told me that Christmas celebrations are kind of bourgeoisie act. He accused me of thinking about life! He made me to write a report on what I was thinking about and read it in the self-criticism meeting to criticize myself about why I made such a suggestion.”
Today, a large number of MEK defectors live across the world enjoying the delights of Christmas. This could be the right of the residents of Ashraf 3 too but the will not enjoy this basic right until they are taken as hostages by Maryam Rajavi.