The few curious Farsi speakers who bother to look will have noticed that the Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK) has removed all trace of Farsi language from its National Council of Resistance of Iran website. This is an extraordinary move considering that this Council claims to represent Iranians and its leader styles herself the ‘President elect’ of Iran.
So why not speak to this constituency?
The answer is very simple. There is no constituency of Iranians which the MEK or Maryam Rajavi can speak to or on behalf of. Thanks to the work of real Iranian oppositionists and the efforts of former members of this already notorious terrorist group (which sided with Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war against Iran), Iranians inside and outside the country are now fully aware of its true nature and that it operates as a mind control cult; meaning it should be avoided at all costs. As a result, the MEK is no longer able to use deception and lies to recruit or even maintain members from the Iranian community. Iranians, thankfully, have achieved immunity.
The same cannot be said for Western political communities who appear as ready as ever to co-opt or be co-opted by the MEK in pursuit of forcing regime change on Iran. This is interesting because it is this enduring slogan of the MEK – that it will violently overthrow in its entirety the ruling system of Iran – which pitches Iranians living inside and outside Iran on one side and the MEK on the other. Iranians want to be normal oppositionists, not terrorists.
Thirty years ago the MEK hijacked the narrative on Iran with false and misleading propaganda and fed it to a gullible West – as has been described in a peer reviewed paper by Khodabandeh. It used its apparently unlimited finances (provided by Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia and other Western interests) and unpaid labour to wage a self-serving propaganda war against Iran which has resulted in it achieving only total isolation and inevitable disintegration.
Evidence of this can be found in the MEK’s annual rally to celebrate the start of its armed struggle in 1981. The MEK holds this expensive rally every year, but why do they need to do it and why has it become so non-Iranian? Why does Maryam Rajavi persist in this charade?
One obvious explanation is that the rally acts as make-up to disguise a reality she can’t change; the slow demise of the MEK. Throwing a huge party for your creditors is one way to hide the fact you are bankrupt. Then we need only look to the target audience of the rally to find out who Rajavi’s creditors and benefactors are. Rajavi’s speech is littered with so much trite regime change jargon that it might have been lifted from PM Netanyahu’s own speech writer. It so closely matches the extremists’ anti-Iran platform that we could see Villepinte as nothing more than make-up on the face of the Israeli war lobby to make it look like Farsi.
But don’t dismiss the MEK just yet. Closer inspection of other hidden elements will reveal the real state of the Mojahedin Khalq organisation.
Many years ago the MEK held at least three public demonstrations per year across many major European and North American capitals and cities. Its finances allowed it to maintain self-styled ‘safe houses’ in those cities in which MEK members and supporters would gather. Supporters were recruited from the pool of Iranian refugees who were still, in the 1990s, unaware of the MEK’s cult nature. Meals and entertainment were provided in exchange for unpaid work. Using psychological coercion many supporters were transferred to the military bases in Iraq and sent on terrorist missions. Those who could not be brainwashed to this extent were maintained in the west in a state of dependent unemployment by supplementing social security benefits.
Three times a year the MEK spent over six million dollars on these public demonstrations. In comparison the MEK now spends only a tenth of what it used to. Money has become an issue. The MEK’s finances have dwindled to the point that it is now cheaper to bus in rent-a-crowd once a year than maintain its safe houses and subsidise a supporter base all year round. Ironically, because of this the MEK has chosen to shed much of its Iranian base. The reason Villepinte is now held inside a venue rather than on the street is because behind closed doors nobody will see that only a small proportion of the audience is Iranian. The MEK’s latest public picket, which was held in Washington, had a core presence of only five people. Nobody will turn up without being paid.
But this abandonment of pretense over its support base among Iranians is not just about finance. Significantly the MEK has even abandoned using Afghans or Iraqis or any other refugees who look like Iranians. This is to prevent any former members, critics or Iranian journalists getting inside to film and write about the event. Instead the audience is made up of thousands of students bussed in from Eastern Europe and African heritage refugees from France.
Maryam Rajavi is running away from Iranians. The reason is that the Rajavis are afraid of the questions even their own MEK members are asking. Their leader is in hiding not because something might happen to him but because, as MEK founding member turned critic Lotfolah Meisami said “we can answer the question ‘where is Rajavi’ with the simple answer, ‘where he doesn’t have to answer anyone’.
These awkward but natural questions focus on a few key issues. ‘Why can’t we have contact with our families?’ And, ‘why, after three decades, have we made no progress in our struggle to overthrow the Iranian regime?’ And, ‘where is Massoud Rajavi, why is he in hiding?’ And, ‘why aren’t the residents of Camp Liberty being transferred to safe countries rather than remaining in danger in Iraq?’
To circumvent criticism of her evasiveness, Rajavi has drafted in the grownup offspring of MEK members to parade with. For example the Gharari children whose uncle is still a thug with the MEK and whose only claim is that their father was executed thirty years ago. For an all-expenses paid trip from Norway to Paris, they will not be rocking the boat.
It is not only an Iranian audience Rajavi is afraid of. Apart from well-rehearsed MEK stooges slipped in to demonstrate pluralism, she is the only Iranian speaker at Villepinte where non-Iranian paid members of the panel are all happy to conform to MEK prepared scripts. There is no risk of any alternative Iranian voice being heard. No risk of other points of view. This time the cost is political capital. No other Iranian, not even former members of the so-called Council (NCRI) like Karim Ghassim, will risk their reputation by regurgitating the MEK script. Even has-been former MEP Struan Stevenson has tried to salvage his reputation by claiming in a book that he supported the MEK for humanitarian reasons; adding disarmingly that he had been warned to avoid them by the UK government and MI5. Last year the French Foreign Ministry denounced the MEK saying that France knows it inside out and is of the conclusion it is not trustworthy. But the likes of John Bolton and Rudi Giuliani have no such compunction and will happily spout MEK jargon for a fee.
So, if the message of Villepinte is not one any Iranian or right minded person wants to be associated with, what is it?
Essentially the rally is not held to project power as an opposition against Iran but as a CV for Western payers. Since the loss of its military camps in Iraq, the MEK’s terrorist planning headquarters has transferred to Auvers-sur-Oise where Maryam Rajavi had already set up a de facto independent enclave. From here she is able to access western political circles.
For three decades the MEK has tried to win western support by pretending to be an Iranian opposition group. But everyone knows that its only use is for violence. Saddam knew it and Donald Rumsfeld knew it when he kept the MEK intact in post-Saddam Iraq against the constitutional demands of successive governments of a sovereign Iraq. Since then the MEK has tried to hide the fact it is finished. Wearing the mask of political activity it campaigned to be removed from Western terrorism lists. Then it was all ‘nuclear revelations’ – which turned out to be mostly fabricated. And then it was human rights advocacy as a spanner in the works hoping the P5+1 negotiations would grind to a halt. Now that hasn’t happened, Rajavi has latched on to a new crisis – the Daesh carnage – to keep her cult alive. She has lost the ability even to put a mask on it and is straightforwardly advertising her failing cult as a terrorist entity.
It is an interesting advertising campaign. Struan Stevenson’s book plays its part in a way he probably has no knowledge of. It is doubtful he knows the history of the woman featured on the dust jacket. Throughout the 1990s Zohreh Ghaemi commanded terrorist operations, sending MEK members into Iran to perform acts of violence. In the end she perished in controversial circumstances as one of 53 people killed in Camp Ashraf, Iraq in 2013. An official investigation was inconclusive due to lack of cooperation by the MEK, but some evidence pointed to this being an inside job. The MEK killing its own unwanted people? It wouldn’t be the first time. The message of this book therefore is that we can still deliver any act of violence required.
The background to Villepinte 2015 has been a long campaign to get support not only from war mongers but from those waging war. Already in 2012 Maryam Rajavi was begging the Syrian rebels to absorb them into their struggle, and more recently she has visited the Saudi ambassador in France to offer the MEK’s services in Yemen. But the MEK is not an attractive prospect even for them. From past experience they know that Rajavi cannot be trusted.
Now, however, it looks as though there is some hope for the MEK. In Albania.
In 2012, Albania bowed to pressure from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to accept several hundred MEK members from Iraq. This was a way to keep the Iraqis happy by removing these former terrorists, and to keep Rajavi quiet by moving them as a group rather than dispersing them among different countries; a move Rajavi resisted with the blood of his members in order to keep the cult intact. There are now well over four hundred who came from Camp Liberty, and a handful of cult commanders transferred from Europe to take charge of them.
The MEK tried everything in its power to get the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, to speak at the Villepinte rally – to be the first governmental representative to support the MEK in its history except Saddam Hussein. This would act to legitimise this movement of personnel as a humanitarian gesture. Except Albania has done nothing for them except allow them in. The refugees are actually supported by the UNHCR. Furthermore, the MEK has been paying them to remain loyal to the cult, asking only that they keep quiet and don’t talk about what happens inside the MEK, and also to work as keystroke operators in the MEK’s famous cyber-wars.
In spite of every effort to keep the cult intact in Albania – using coercion, blackmail, intimidation and psychological manipulative tactics in addition to the payments – at least half the newly arrived people have separated from the MEK. Some of them have risked the (very real) wrath of the MEK and are in touch with former MEK members in Europe with whom they share information about conditions on the ground. What has been disclosed is revealing. The MEK has bought land and property around Tirana and is building a replica cult camp to replace the one it is slowly but irrevocably losing in Iraq. Several top level cult commanders have been brought from Paris to facilitate this. Troublesome and non-compliant members have actually been forced to leave the MEK’s accommodation. Again, the MEK is not averse to shedding a few people to achieve its aims and this activity gives every indication that Rajavi himself intends to transfer there where he will be safe behind closed doors. This is bad news for the individuals trapped in the cult. But it is also an indication of Rajavi’s plans to rescue the MEK. Certainly it makes sense that a deal was struck with Hillary Clinton to have Camp Liberty residents moved to Albania in exchange for removing the MEK from the US terrorist list in 2012.
But there is more to this than at first appears. While American officials no doubt hoped that the Rajavis would be happy to continue with their delusion of playing at being spiritual leader and president for their own mini-Iran, and allowed that the group would want to be used as part of the anti-Iran phalanx led by Israel, they have shown woeful ignorance as to the depths of perversity and treachery they are capable of. For, while Rajavi and his wife are happy to continue to rule over their cult members, they still need to find the money to finance it.
As part of the advertising campaign to find a new ‘landlord’, Maryam Rajavi has popped up on Fox News and in the Washington Times to repeat the false narrative about Iran. With this kind of publicity she may not even need to spend money on Villepinte next year, and could easily reach her target audience with a few cheap screen appearances. Rajavi’s message of regime change is not her own of course. It belongs to some other interests. She is simply using this message to make the MEK attractive to people with deep pockets who can use her brand of publicity. But even this is not enough to fund a cultic base in Europe.
It is instructive to dissect Maryam Rajavi’s message at Villepinte and to the European Parliament and to Washington to find out what else is going on here. Rajavi repeatedly pitches herself on the same side as the anti-Assad forces in Syria, as Daesh in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Yemen. She is actually saying that America should openly commit to backing Daesh and other terrorist forces alongside the MEK to attack Iran. This is the same message as Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri’s before he died and is what the remnants of Saddam’s regime still say: use our forces against Iran, because whether they are called AQI or insurgents or Sunnis or now Daesh, we are all on the same side against Iran. Rajavi wants the Obama administration to stop sitting on the fence between Daesh and Iran and choose the side of the terrorist forces in Iraq.
With its defunct force and ageing, sick population in Iraq, it is not clear on the surface what contribution Maryam Rajavi is suggesting that the MEK could make in such a scenario. However, the MEK has a long history of training, planning and providing logistics for terrorism which could be exploited as an educational resource. The MEK are expert in the use of the sophisticated mind control and psychological coercive techniques which underpin terrorist activity. This means suppressing a person’s authentic moral, ethical and emotional values, and brainwashing them into acting in ways illegal, immoral and unethical and certainly against their better interests on the whim of the leader; perhaps the definitive definition of terrorism. Massoud Rajavi doesn’t really expect America to arm the group in Iraq, nor does he expect to be able to hold on to many cult members in Albania, let alone recruit any more Iranians. They, as has been previously stated, are immune to deceptive recruitment by the MEK. Instead, while the various routes to Turkey, Syria and Iraq are under scrutiny, terrorist commanders from any mercenary group can slip beneath the radar and seek training and logistical support in Tirana.
What better location to establish a clandestine terrorist training camp than in Albania. It is in Europe, but not in the EU and therefore not so open to scrutiny by the international community. It is a Muslim country but is also notorious for corruption and mafia-like gangs. The Rajavis will fit right in. The real message of Villepinte is this: the MEK have branched out and are open to do business with any terrorist group.
And if this sounds implausible, just think, is it really more plausible to believe that Maryam Rajavi will be president of Iran one day?
By Anne Khodabandeh and Massoud Khodabandeh