Authors, analysts and experts on cults often express their concern over the destructive effect of cults on the foundation of family and family relations, and clarify why cults, due to some features that they all share, may not tolerate the family structure. Regarding the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), which adopts cult-like approaches and is considered a terrorist group, the situation is even worse. On the occasion of the belated International Family Day May 15, we will take a look at how the MEK views family.
The MEK terrorist group was founded in 1965 as an Islamist-Marxist group opposing the Shah. Soon after establishment, the group started its violent and armed struggle against the regime. At the time, the group was involved in liquidating the opposition along with its own members who were critics of the group. A short while after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the MEK came into serious conflict with the political system, which led them to enter an armed phase and assassinate Iranian officials and ordinary citizens. In the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, the MEK sided with Saddam, enjoyed the financial and military support of the former Iraqi dictator, and continued carrying out its terrorist operations both against Iranian and Iraqi citizens.
It was during these years that the MEK’s leader, due to failure in his military attack against Iran, decided to drastically change his approach within the group and as a result, the group took on a more cult-like dimension which continues up to now.
The MEK is a cult of personality and acts based upon a certain hierarchy which emphasizes the concept of “Revolutionary Family”. The concept is not new; however, it became more prominent in 1989 within the framework of the “Ideological Revolution”. According to this framework, all male and female members of the cult are brothers and sisters. They constitute a family, which must remain obedient and loyal to its leader. Focusing on the group’s goals, which are set by the leader, and blind obedience to the leader are superior to any sort of family ties.
How the MEK behaves towards family members
Critics of the group reason that the way MEK treats families will in fact disrupt the dynamics of the family. Statements and memoires of the group’s defectors as well as analysis of the group’s historical records all verify the views of these critics and reveal that families are, to a great extent, negatively influenced by the MEK’s militant approach.
The most fundamental measure of the MEK against families was taken after the imposed Iran-Iraq war. The group’s leader blamed families for his humiliating defeat in war. In his opinion, loyalty to family has an inverse relationship with loyalty to the leader. Therefore, the process of forced divorces began. Children were separated from their parents and banished to Europe. All women were forced into marriage with Rajavi in a cult-like ceremony and marriage was banned afterwards. It must be mentioned that since the group’s presence in Iraq, any type of contact with families had already been forbidden. These limitations existed even after the group was relocated to Albania and they continue up to now. Overall, there are very strict rules regarding families in this group which have led to chronic emotional distress of members and disintegration of family ties.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that women in the MEK are sexually exploited. Leader of the group is said to enforce strict rules about female members by limiting their personal freedom and depriving them of the right to work and receive education. Former members of the group have reported gender segregation, limitations in veiling, prevention of marriage and hysterectomy within the group.
The children growing up in the MEK are also brought up in an unconventional and strict manner. Such actions severely affect children’s well-being and growth. According to irrefutable evidence, children were forcefully separated from their parents and placed under surveillance. They were sent to some European countries. Based on interviews with the group’s defectors in Europe, the MEK sent some of the children to families, who supported the group, in order to strengthen their ties with them and also to receive financial support from European charities. This money would later be spent on the military affairs of the group. Some of the children went through ideological training and some were sent to streets to collect donations from people. These children were taught to lie and say that their parents are political prisoners in Iran or have been executed to be able to attract people’s attention. Also, in multiple cases, the children suffered malnutrition and experienced sexual violence by their new family.
Although the group was expelled from Iraq and resettled in Albania, they still continue their strict policies about families. MEK defectors believe that family ties can seriously weaken or dismantle Rajavi’s group. That is why the group’s leaders are by no means willing to change their anti-family approach because any change could lead to a huge wave of defection and shocking revelations concerning the group’s practices.
Assassinating Iranian families
This cult-like strictness in dealing with families is only part of the story of how the MEK treats families. Since the 1980s, thousands of Iranian families have fallen victim to the group’s acts of terror. The MEK assassinated a significant number of Iranian citizens inflicting irreparable emotional and psychological damages. As their assassinations targeted both males and females from all walks of life, it is perfectly conceivable that loss of a mother or father would place family members, especially the children, under unrelenting pressure.
There are also many cases where the whole family were assassinated. For example, in Iranian northern province of Gilan, the MEK terrorist group assassinated a father named Shahgaldi Almasi along with his two young sons who were farmers. Another case is that of an Arab family called Beit Salem who were all on a motorbike when they were attacked by the MEK. The attack left the parents and their two young sons crippled for life.
Other methods of assassination that the MEK used were also unbelievably inhumane. There are many instances of breaking into a house and shooting the targets before the eyes of their families. For example, MEK terrorist went to a house in Mashhad and rang the bell. A young girl opened the door and they told her to call her father to come to the door. When her father arrived, the MEK terrorists assassinated him in front of his daughter. These crimes and other similar ones have caused a great deal of emotional damage to family members, especially women and children.
Now that the MEK has targeted families, it is very important to take serious measures to reduce the emotional damage caused by the anti-human acts of this group. International authorities should pay a visit to the impenetrable camp of this group in Albania and conduct a detailed investigation. The leaders of the group should stand trial for the crimes they have committed against Iranian families and citizens. The political approach of some countries opposing Iran has caused them to turn a blind eye to such behaviors that violate human rights. The media, if focused on the dark history of the group, can uncover the truth and set free all the people incarcerated in the group. Meanwhile, families of terror victims seek justice. The International Day of Family can be a good opportunity to take note of these people and take a step to reduce their pain forever.
Habilian Staff Writers