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Violence and the Cult of Mojahedin Potentiality for violence exists in many cultic groups particularly if they are engaged in underground activities or follow a Machiavellian philosophy of ends justify the means. Obviously, there is no easy way to predict which group may become involved in terrorism, violence, or suicide operations unless there is a record of already perpetrated instances of violence by the cult even if such deeds might have been ceased temporarily for certain reasons. Horrifying testimonies of some arrested or ex-members of cultic groups to their connection in violent operations and self immolation activities or being witnesses to instances of violence against the groups own insiders signify that inborn terrorist and violent groups, if they make some temporal accommodation with the outside world, may resort to indirect application of violence, namely, utilizing outwardly peaceful and pro-democratic measures that promote direct violence. Cults and violence are commonly bound inextricably together in the public mind since much public understanding about cults is accounts of violence in a variety of forms. The shocking reports of sarin gas release into the Tokyo underground by Aum Shinriky cult, the recent news of rescuing children from a polygamist remote compound Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and above all, the terrible and nightmarish terrorist attack of al-Qaeda are all instances of awful truth about the violent nature of some cults. Talking on the varying degrees of cults abusive and destructive nature Thaler Singer states:

Cults are abusive and destructive to varying degrees. Some abuse only their own members; others project the violence outward. Still others have it both ways. Cult members, at the direction of their leaders, have shot at law enforcement officers, engaged in drug dealing and prostitution, stockpiled illegal weapons, practiced repeated sexual abuse, beaten child members to death, enforced a variety of punishments against their own, and murdered dissident members. 88 It is hard to answer the question that why some cults, when facing with opposition and even outright persecution, react by resorting to violence. But one thing is for certain that their violent conducts towards the outside world is either direct or indirect: Not only have cultic groups engaged in openly violent behavior, but they have also engaged in other activities that have led to members' being convicted of crimes ranging from conspiracy to tax evasion, spying on governments, and fraud. 89 If we come to believe, as Singer explains, that espionage activities of a political cult are considered as indirect activities of violence, then, MKOs claimed disclosures on Irans nuclear activities that may lead to nothing but escalating global tension and even military conflict can be regarded as instances of inciting violence. Violence is interwoven in MKO and in spite of its claims to have abandoned terrorism, the group can only survive out of violence and engaging in direct and indirect violent activities regardless of the heavy cost imposed only on Iranian people. MKO is an example of leftist political cults. In many political cults of the contemporary history violence in a variety of forms has dominated. During Stalins reign over the Soviet Unions Communist Party, for instance, a new form of violence was formed in the course of harsh, internal purges. The purges, a combination of physical and psychological violence, are yet thought to have been the most unusual and eccentric techniques applied. It was only after Stalins death that some instances of the applied violence was revealed for the public through a number of novels and made movies. Somehow it can be said that, among active political cults, it is only MKO that, as a leftist group, is charged with multitude instances of violence working against its own insiders as revealed by Human Rights Watch report and the memoirs of its detached members. In addition to application of physical violence as a method of internal punishment against dissatisfied and disobedient members, there are further indirect ruthless routines of regular self-criticism sessions, cultivating malevolence and spite amongst the members, separating the families and much more. A more detailed study of different forms of internal and external violence employed by MKO will give a broader understanding of the cult.

In its past four decade history, MKO, as a leftist terrorist cult similar to a handful of other cults, has been allegedly associated with numerous recorded or unrecorded instances of tragic deaths, either in the course of terrorist operations, tortures, suicides and commanded self-immolations. The highly publicized cases have convinced the public that MKO is among one of extremist cultic groups that are highly dangerous. Although there may be little global understanding about the real nature of MKO, since now it is engaged in a widespread phony pro-democratic campaign, it is a cult that fails to exist outside of the violence mainstream. For a better understanding of the modes and targets of violence within MKO, the discourse can be outlined as the follow: 1. 2. 3. 4. Terrorist victims as the main targets of violence Sever reprimand of disobedient and dissident members Hostile repercussion against ideological sinners Cultic, suicidal operations

Terrorist victims as the main targets of violence There is a general belief that cults are dangerous either to themselves or others. But the most dangerous ones are those that employ violence not only against the world outside but the inside as well. MKO, unlike other Iranian opposition, has never refrained preaching violence for the accomplishment of internal and external objectives. In its primitive form of utilizing violence soon after declaring armed struggle against the newly formed Islamic government in Iran, MKO started a new method calling it Engineering Operation, a barbarous method to revenge their loss in the power struggle. The group began to kidnap innocent Iranian civilians and exposed them to merciless tortures that led to their death. To give a report of its operation teams only in a one-year period, considered a hallmark of its military operations in 1987, the organization published a 54-page booklet entitled Resistance on the Rise that contains a detailed account of more than 20 terrorist operations perpetraited by its teams in various Iranian regions and cities. In these attacks, Mojahedins operation teams killed and wounded hundreds of Iranian innocent civilians. Although the teams targeted many Iranian authorities, whom Mojahedin believed to have a key role in safeguarding and preserving the Islamic regime, nothing could justify brutal butchering of innocent women and children and arson attacks. To present a record of Mojahedins atrocities against immaculate civilians and to depict plights of people survived from the groups felonies, Antoine Gessler, the celebrated Swiss reporter, in 2005 published A Shared Pain. Through a display of grievous photographs and the victims testimonies, a variety of violent tactics employed by MKO to establish freedom and democracy for Iranians are well illustrated.

Sever reprimand of disobedient and dissident members MKO settlement in Iraq while two neighboring countries were still at war completely split it from the world to develop use of unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control to advance the Rajavis cultic objectives. MKOs camps soon turned into physically and psychologically abusive environments that harmed members and required them all never to question, criticize, disobey or distrust the Rajavis known to be the ideological parents and who were self-promoted to a status similar to that of a celestial being. Being totally backed by Saddam, MKO did not hesitate to benefit the notorious AbuGhuraib, as well as the inbuilt lockups, to silence the opponent and disobedient members and even let them experience its unbearable condition for a while. Mohammad Hussein Sobhani, a former member of the group is one among many whom experienced the torments of the both prisons. His memoirs are published in a volume called Abu-Ghuraib Prison. There are much more physical and psychological techniques to reprimand them. Scourging the dissidents was most common within the organization. Critics and dissidents were trounced by cables not only to punish them but also to instill ideological teachings into them. Human Rights Watch report under the title of No Exit, which was published to give a report of human rights abuses inside the MKO camps, is an explicit evidence of aggressive practices in the group. Explaining the process of repression on the insiders, Norooz-Ali Rezvani, an ex-member, has averred: In Rajavis system, none of the utilized forms of physical and psychological violence is observed to be a means of punishment and torture and not a bad thing at all. That is because all is done to retrieve leaderships rights. They believe that we [members] have violated leaderships rights by rejecting to submit to Rajavis absolute leadership which justifies shedding our blood. Above that, the hasher they did the punishment, the closer they could get to the leader and, thus, the ranks closer to leader showed more violence in castigating the dissidents and prisoners. Of the most common means of penalization in most prisons is pounding prisoners by cables; Rajavis prisons were no exception but one. There they would use it on prisoners heads as well as a technique of thought reform. They believe that it is the thought rather than the body that makes the dissidents. The deepest wounds would heal after long but the spoiled thought never heals but has to be reformed so the head has to be pounded to destabilize psychological balance. Once Rajavi ironically said, when I rejected his revolution, to pound my head in a mortar so I could come to my mind to accept sister Maryams revolution. 3

The organization that is making strenuous efforts to posture a pro-democratic alternative for Iranian regime fails to respect the least democratic principles in its own internal relations and affairs that are absolutely concealed from the notice of the outside world. Nobody has the right neither to question the organization nor to doubt the accuracy of the made decisions. The members live under an atmosphere of severe repression and their only choice is to submit to whatever they are commanded to do; otherwise they have to suffer the backwash of their dissidence and disobedience: Mojahedin repeatedly talk of democracy but there could be seen no sign of democracy in the camp wherein I was kept. Hardly anybody willed to stay since they were under severe pressure and even thrashing. Morteza Yusefi, for instance, was not physically fitting for the enforced trainings and stopped them. They hit him with batons in his sleep. It was so horrible. There was no answer for the questions and it was the beginning of rethinking about the cult I was living in. The dissidents would be called the agents of [Iranian] regime and as I would ask a lot, they called me Irans intelligence spay; they tortured me and deprived me of sleeping. 4 The life was even harsher for those who announced their separation and they would come under severe harassment. The condition of the ideological sinners is one of the most unusual among many existing cults. Hostile repercussion against ideological sinners As stated, of the most peculiar instances of cult violence practiced in MKO is done against ideological sinners. That is to say, following the internal ideological revolution, all the members had to submit to its principles unquestionably. To detect signs of any possible deviation, a variety of unprecedentedly odd and queer approaches were worked out. A regular weekly session called weekly cleansing is an example. Any member has to go through this cleansing process to be purged of any extended vice and sin that challenges the Rajavis initiated ideological revolution and, consequently, distances a member of sister Maryams rightful ideological path. Far beyond being regarded devised processes of preserving the values of the internal ideological revolution, these sessions are regular, public mind controlling gatherings. Through these ideological cleansings, members are under a never-ceasing watch to be found with the flaws they have hardly noticed in themselves for which they will be reproached in the presence of other members whom will have no escape from the strict criticism and have to suffer severe self-criticize. Giving explanation on these sessions, an ex-member imparts:

In this gathering, all the members have to prepare a written report of whatever sexual fancies they have had in a weekly period about female members, actresses, models in papers and TV advertisements, and even feminine pictures on the cans and boxes and read them aloud before other members. These sexual fantasies were called Facts and anybody, even if he was invulnerable against such fantasies, had to fabricate a few, at least 30. It is hard to explain what happens to someone who is to suffer the shame of standing before his other comrades and talk of daydreaming he may have never fancied unless one is exposed to the circumstance. 5 Ali Qashqavi, another ex-member, spent only five years in MKOs camps in Iraq. Although he was not familiar with the initiated revolution within the organization, he had to totally submit to the principles he could not accept. He could not believe that mans natural instincts could ever be considered great sins and liable to suppression: From the time I arrived in Iraq, the atmosphere of suspicion in the camps shocked me. Our leaders asked us for total devotion, heart and soul, to the organization. They remote controlled us, like robots. They told us, 'If you have sexual fantasies, even a dream, you must report it in writing in order to exorcise it. 6 Cultic, suicidal operations MKO can be considered as having followed a sectarian detour from its once political activities to an obviously fanatical and cult behavior. Tragic self-destructions have proved to be sad truths about destructive cults to achieve their anti-social demands. The shocking self-immolations and prolonged hunger strikes in June 2003 to protest apprehension of the groups leader and to deter French justice illuminated the darkened cult-like nature of MKO for the west besides its already uncovered violent and terrorist potentialities. Although Maryam Rajavi and her entourages, charged with the terrorism, were released on bail, France was alarmed of the groups added threat. Many believed that it was decadence of a metamorphosed terrorist cult as it was the same with other doomsday cults: Tom Heneghan of the British press agency, Reuters, asked himself if he was watching a sect in full collapse: "The images of men and women spraying themselves with petrol before setting themselves on fire in the streets of several European capitals has shed dramatic light on the last days of the main armed opposition to the Teheran regime. 7 Surprisingly, while the public was still under the shock of being witness to individuals voluntarily turning themselves into human torches, the jubilant MKO members purred

into the streets celebrating freedom of their guru. The then French Government spokesperson, Jean-Francois Cope, considered these self immolations as "obviously, extremely dramatic" adding that: Alas! It also tells us a great deal about the mindset of their leadership". 8 Committing such appalling, cult-like self-immolations endorses MKOs restoring to complexities of a cult. Although the ideology in itself does not necessarily suggest application of violence against others, self-destruction practices are known to be the most influential approach undertaken by the cults. Overt practices of violence against other individuals spread psychological terror among a society while acts of selfdestruction, besides spreading psychological terror, endanger emotional and social health. In other words, when someone consents to commit self-destruction in so appalling a way, no doubt he is capable of wiping out masses in cool-blood. Following cult codes, Mojahedin owns a prearranged, deliberate list of volunteers who have registered for self-immolation wherever and whenever the organization deems it appropriate. Alireza Jafarzadeh, a Mojahedins media spokesman, in a letter published in one of Mojahedins newsletters, prior to his demands to be registered as a volunteer of self-burning, stated: Truly, the ignorant have not fully made out the sharpness, shrewdness and decisiveness of a Mojahed Khalq element more because they have failed to acknowledge Massoud. They are too narrow minded to know what a storm Rajavis order might give rise to, and that this generations will might leave them in a dark world of absolute desperation. 9

Far beyond the threat of terrorism that can partly be curbed through implementation of anti-terrorist measures, cult violence exposes further threat to societies since it goes unnoticed living next door. None of the French citizens, among whom Mojahedin members were living, ever thought of seeing these seemingly amiable, pro-democratic campaigners set themselves on fire unexpectedly. So, is there any guarantee, with the given instances of cult violence, that even if MKO is removed from the terror lists, on the ground of claims to have ceased terrorist operations, it will not resort to unconventional cult practices as the most antisocially influential approach? The answer is plain if you have no doubt that MKO has rendered up the soul of its struggle to aggression and violence.


1. Thaler Singer, Margaret; Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, p. 88. 2. Ibid, 89. 3. Rezvani, N. Neo-scholastics in Rajavi's cult; interview with a detached member, 1996. 4. The memoirs of Hassan Khalaj; interview with Nimrooz magazine. 5. Memoirs of Massoud Uoladi on Ideological cleansings. 6. Victor Charbonnier; The People's Mojahedin of Iran: A struggle for what?, 2003. 7. Antoine Gessler ; Autopsy of an Ideological Drift, 2004, p. 136. 8. Ibid. 9. Alireza Jafarzadeh letter; Newsletter of the Union of the Muslim Student Associations, No. 127, 11.