Five points about removal of MEK from the U.S. terror blacklist

The recent announcement by the United States Department of State about ‎removing the notorious ‎Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) Organization from its ‎blacklist of terrorist organizations on September ‎‏28‏‎, ‎‎‏2012‏‎, has been ‎followed by many analytical accounts. ‎

They ranged from many media analyses provided by the Western and Iranian experts who ‎were ‎opposed to the decision, to admiring accounts by former American politicians. The ‎proponents of the ‎move among former US politicians were mostly those whose palms had ‎been greased by the MeK ‎through accepting hefty financial contributions from the ‎organization. They had, therefore, organized ‎extensive campaigns and lobbies across the ‎United States in order to take the name of the ‎organization out of the list of terrorist ‎organizations.‎

This article does not actually mean to put renewed emphasis on this grave mistake which has ‎been ‎committed by the US government. It is already too late and the United States has provided ‎the group ‎with considerable maneuvering room. (A secondary point here: given the behavior of ‎the Canadian ‎Prime Minister Stephen Harper and its government in the past years, especially in ‎the past few ‎months, it is almost certain that Ottawa will soon remove the MeK from its list of ‎terrorist ‎organizations in order not to lag behind the United States and the European countries in ‎this regard!)‎

This paper only means to remind Western politicians of a few characteristics of this terrorist ‎‎organization as defined by firsthand Western sources. Let’s hope that this would help the ‎Americans ‎to realize that delisting the MeK is not just a simple delisting of an organization from ‎the long list of ‎‏52‏‎ ‎organizations designated as terrorist entities by the US Department of State. ‎This delisting, however, ‎will have consequences and implications which may prove to be quite ‎different from what they may ‎seem at a first glance.‎

‏1‏‎. The issue of weird and cult-like conduct of the leaders of this organization and their bizarre ‎‎treatment of other members has been acknowledged by many Western sources. A special case ‎was a ‎report released by RAND (Research and Development) Corporation in ‎‏2009‏‎, entitled “The ‎Mujahedin-‎e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum,” (‎‏1‏‎) in which a special part had been dedicated ‎to “Cultic ‎Characteristics of the MeK.” Under that title, the report says, “… [MeK’s] subsequent ‎exile ‎undermined its optimism and openness. In France, Masoud Rajavi dramatically changed the ‎nature of ‎the organization. In ‎‏1985‏‎, he announced that Maryam Azodanlu, the wife of his close ‎associate Mehdi ‎Abrishamchi and the younger sister of a senior MeK member, would assume the ‎position of MeK co-‎leader. Rajavi divorced his second wife, the daughter of former Iranian ‎president, Abol-Hasan ‎Banisadr, Rajavi’s ally, and announced that Maryam would divorce her ‎husband and marry him. These ‎actions would advance a new “ideological revolution.”‎

The Rajavis claimed that their new revolution was meant to highlight the equality of women, an ‎idea ‎that the IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] found threatening. Although the MeK did promote ‎women to ‎leadership positions, which constituted a reversal of tradition in Iranian society, the ‎marriage and the ‎subsequent aggrandizement of Masoud Rajavi’s leadership role marked the ‎beginning of an ‎organizational transformation into a cult of personality. Initial changes included ‎increased mandated ‎study, enforced communal living arrangements, and imposed supervision of ‎the group’s membership ‎in exile throughout Europe.”‎

Elsewhere in the same document, it says, “After the MeK moved to Iraq in ‎‏1986‏‎, the Rajavis ‎created ‎the NLA [National Liberation Army], which included nearly the entire MeK contingent ‎in Iraq, and they ‎used its militaristic structure to consolidate their control.‎

Following the failure of Operation Eternal Light, the Rajavis initiated a series of policy changes ‎that ‎continued the transformation of the increasingly insular organization into a cult. While rarely ‎admitting ‎total failure, Rajavi implied in his speeches that the operation had not achieved its ‎goals due to ‎insufficient devotion to the overthrow of the IRI among the MeK rank and file, ‎who were instead ‎distracted by sexual interests as a result of their coeducational housing. To ‎enforce a new “military” ‎discipline, rank-and-file members were instructed not just to move into ‎gender-segregated housing ‎but also to divorce their spouses, maintain complete celibacy, and ‎even cut off communication with ‎friends and family, both within and beyond MeK compounds. ‎Love for the Rajavis was to replace love ‎for spouses and family. In addition, the Rajavis used ‎funding provided by Saddam to construct self-‎sufficient camps that included schools, medical ‎clinics, training centers, and prisons (often called ‎‎“reeducation centers”) so that the population ‎had little need for contact with the society beyond its ‎walls.”‎

Three years after the RAND report was released, that behavior still continues within the ranks of ‎the ‎organization. Many examples of it can be found in the weblogs run by ex-members who have ‎‎succeeded to escape the clutches of this organization. The authors of the RAND report have also ‎‎noted in the conclusion part of their report that, “MeK leaders and supporters … allege that ‎former ‎MeK members and critics of the MeK are either Iranian agents or their dupes. However, ‎interviews ‎with US military and civilian officials, information voluntarily furnished by former ‎MeK members at the ‎ARC, and visits to Camp Ashraf suggest that these denials are not ‎credible.”‎

‏2‏‎. The MeK is also no favorite with major human rights organizations. A great number of ‎documents ‎on frequent instances of human rights violations within the ranks of this cultic ‎organization can be ‎found here: Human Rights Watch, No Exit: Human Rights Abuses inside the ‎MKO Camps, New York, ‎May ‎‏2005‏‎.‎

‏3‏‎. The United States, put the MeK, or as better known in Iran as ‘Monafeqin (hypocrites)’, on its ‎list of ‎terrorist organizations in ‎‏1997‏‎ and delisted them in ‎‏2012‏‎. The Council of Europe also ‎listed the MeK as ‎a terrorist organization in ‎‏2001‏‎ and delisted it in ‎‏2009‏‎. Britain, likewise, put ‎the MeK on its terror list in ‎‎‏2001‏‎ and delisted it in ‎‏2008‏‎. Such periods of being “listed” and ‎‎“delisted” have been seldom repeated ‎for any other terrorist organization. Many such ‎organizations have stayed on the terrors lists of the ‎United States, the UK, or the European ‎Union for many long years. It would be very ridiculous to ‎assume that this development ‎followed a decision by members of this group to really give up ‎terrorism, regret their past deeds ‎and try to go for more democratic approaches. Therefore no other ‎explanation for this measure ‎may occur to an analyst, except for the direct role of political decisions ‎and expediencies, topped ‎by the decision to use the MeK as a means of exerting pressure on Iran. The ‎independent ‎observers have, as such, considered this issue as a proof to the fact that the United ‎States’ ‎judiciary is not a truly independent power.‎

‏4‏‎. Last year, the UN special rapporteur on human rights for Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, submitted his ‎first ‎report to the UN Human Rights Council in which had had pointed to ‎‏17,000‏‎ names given to ‎him by an ‎Iranian nongovernmental organization in writing as the names of those killed in ‎terrorist operations by ‎the MeK. The Iranian nation will never forget two facts about this group. ‎The first fact is countless ‎cases of blind assassinations carried out by MeK members in early post-‎revolution years which were ‎mostly carried out by members of this group in desolate streets and ‎places and targeted people who ‎were only suspected of being connected in some way to the ‎nascent establishment of the Islamic ‎Republic. They included many shoemakers, workers, bakers, ‎teachers and civil servants. The second ‎fact is their unbridled cooperation with the former Iraqi ‎dictator Saddam Hussein during his imposed ‎war against Iran. Without a doubt, it will be ‎impossible for the Iranian nation, regardless of their ‎political tendencies for or against the Islamic ‎establishment, to imagine that the United States does not ‎consider this group as a terrorist group ‎anymore.‎

‏5‏‎. From ‎‏2003‏‎ onward and after this terrorist group lost its support from Saddam, its members ‎lived in ‎limbo at Camp Ashraf. The internal cult-like rules of the organization considered ‎escaping to Iran by its ‎members as a great treachery which was punishable by death. However, ‎since ‎‏2005‏‎, many of them ‎have returned to Iran voluntarily and through mediation of the ‎International Committee of the Red ‎Cross (ICRC). Perhaps, removing the MeK from the US ‎Department of State’s list of terrorist ‎organizations will make it possible for its members to ‎interact more freely with the ICRC, or return to ‎their families in Iran with more ease. In that case ‎and if the MeK actually decided to stop its overt ‎activities as well as covert terrorist operations ‎against Iran and accept a more democratic structure in ‎order not to be listed as a terrorist ‎organization again, it would perhaps die in a few years. The reason ‎is that the MeK owes its ‎identity to its strange, clichéd, cultic, and inflexible rules and any kind of ‎compromise in that ‎regard will totally change its identity. There is a Persian proverb which says that “at ‎times a ‎remedy works just the opposite of what it is intended to do.”‎‎‏2363‏‎-five-points-about-removal-of-mek-from-the-united-states-‎terror-blacklist.html