Report has been created to act as a forum for publication of the experiences
and knowledge of experts and others on the Mojahedin-e Khalq
organization. The Mojahedin is also known as the MKO, MEK, the National Council of Resistance of
Iran, the Peoples Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, National Liberation
Army, and has many other front names. The Mojahedin and its aliases
have been included in the lists of terrorist entities
in the USA, UK, European Union, Canada,..., well before the September 11
The aim of
Survivors’ Report is to provide a unique source of information,
analysis and opinion which we hope will prove valuable and of interest
to anyone who has dealings with the Mojahedin.
Report on the situation of remaining members of
Mojahedin Khalq Organisation in Camp Ashraf after Consultation with
Iraqi Government officials
Iran-Interlink, February, 2008
Link to the pdf file (printable)
In January through February,
Iran-Interlink representative Massoud Khodabandeh was invited by the
Iraqi Government for a series of consultation meetings on Camp Ashraf.
His report has now been published.
Camp Ashraf is home to Forward
Operating Base (FOB) Grizzly, but also contains 3,400 foreign
terrorist fighters from the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation
(MKO or MEK) who were corralled and disarmed by US Special Forces in
2003. The fighters have been under US military police protection for
five years and now the Iraqi Government wants them removed from the
MKO leader Massoud Rajavi has told his group to stay in Iraq at all
costs until they can be re-armed, but human rights organisations agree
that Iraq is extremely dangerous place for the Iranian group and that
any who do not wish to be voluntarily repatriated must be taken to
third countries as refugees.
While in Baghdad, Massoud Khodabandeh met with officials from Iraq's
Ministries of Human Rights, Defence, National Security as well as
non-governmental agencies to formulate a two part solution. He
reported Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs position that 'both the
MKO and PKK are foreign terrorist organisations. They are especially
harmful to the relations between Iraq and its neighbouring countries
at this point of time. Iraq cannot accept nor afford further problems
by accommodating international terrorist organizations whether as a
group or as individuals.'
An interim plan was immediately agreed by Iraq's Ministry of Human
Rights to permit the establishment of Sahar Family Foundation.
Organised by former members of the MKO and families of people still
trapped in the camp, Sahar now provides short-term rescue facilities
for ex-MKO who are no longer being protected by US forces in Iraq
before they are taken to third countries.
SFF can be contacted directly in Iraq on Tel: +964 - 7808481650
(Arabic and Farsi), and outside Iraq at Sahar, BM 2632, London WC1N
3XX, U.K., Tel: +44 - 2076935044 (English only).
In his conclusion to the report Mr Khodabandeh outlined a longer term
plan which will enable western governments to protect the human rights
of the MKO members by taking the whole group out of Iraq to safety.
In an interview with Alaraghieh television, Massoud Khodabandeh said
he fully endorsed "the right of the Iraqi people to enjoy security and
have justice served against the perpetrators of violent acts in their
country…" In January the Criminal Court of Baghdad issued additional
arrest warrants for three leading MKO members in Camp Ashraf. It is
believed that the handling of members of the foreign terrorist group
which American soldiers are protecting will be a test of US-Iraqi
relations over the coming months.
The report can be obtained online at www.iran-interlink.org or hard
copy from [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 113 278 0503
Mob: +44 (0) 787 654 1150
Link to: Al Araghiah TV reports on the Symposium in Baghdad
Special Report from Baghdad
Camp Ashraf and the Mojahedin-e Khalq
Interlink, February 2008
link to pdf file
Introduction – What is the problem with Camp Ashraf?
Why the MKO must leave Iraq
What is Camp Ashraf
What is happening at TIPF
TIPF to close in six months
Results of consultation in Iraq
Families of MKO members
Sahar Family Foundation statement
Introduction – What is the
problem with Camp Ashraf?
The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO) came into
existence in 1965 to conduct armed opposition against the Shah of
Iran. Among those killed during its first armed campaign the group
were 6 American contractors in Iran. Most of its members were
imprisoned during the 1970s. After the Shah was ousted in 1979, the
MKO prisoners were released and after initially supporting the
revolution for two years, then began to challenge Ayatollah Khomeini
for more power. This led to exile first in France and subsequently in
Iraq. Saddam Hussein gave financial, military and logistical support
to the group and used it during his war with Iran and then to suppress
Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in March 1991, thereby guaranteeing his
grip on power.
First welcomed in the early 1980s by western governments for its
opposition to the revolutionary government of Iran, the MKO's violent
and mercenary behaviour, which led to thousands of civilian deaths in
Iran during its terrorist campaigns, led to its proscription as a
terrorist entity. Following a report commissioned by the US State
Department in 1994 the group was added to the US terror list in 1997.
The UK proscribed the group in 2000, the EU in 2002, and Canada in
2005. In May 2005 Human Rights Watch published a report titled ‘No
Exit’ detailing human rights abuses carried out by the organization
against its own members. The incarceration of dissenters in Abu Ghraib
prison was made possible by the full integration of the MKO in Saddam
Hussein’s security apparatus; well before 1991 the MKO had become
Saddam’s private army.
In anticipation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Massoud Rajavi told MKO
combatants they would launch an all-out attack on Iran. An operation
announced as ‘the black phase’. Instead, he escaped into hiding and in
April 2003 agreed a ceasefire with US Special Forces. By June, Rajavi
submitted to the US demand that his fighters completely disarm. All
MKO members in Iraq were corralled into Camp Ashraf and have remained
there since that time as prisoners under the protection of US military
police aided by a Bulgarian unit.
The MKO remain at risk of revenge attacks by Iraqis. In spite of this
threat, Massoud Rajavi has insisted that the active MKO members remain
in uniform in Camp Ashraf and has resisted all humanitarian efforts to
help them move or even to have members with residence rights in
western countries brought to safety. Rajavi’s perverse insistence that
the MKO be treated only as a whole entity and not as individuals and
the fact that, ostensibly, the group presented no trouble, discouraged
the American army from disturbing the status quo. American soldiers
continue to protect a group which its own State Department has
proscribed as a foreign terrorist entity, but which some in the west
regard as a possible bargaining chip against Iran.
Currently, according to US figures, there are around 3,360 active MKO
members remaining at Camp Ashraf in Iraq's Diyali province. There are
now 109 people in the Temporary International Protection Facility (TIPF)
adjacent to Camp Ashraf who have left the MKO and are seeking refugee
status and removal to third countries. Over 100 were turned out of
TIPF in December 2007 and have met with an uncertain situation
described later in this report. The US-led MNF also says 380 former
MKO have accepted voluntary repatriation and have been helped by the
ICRC and Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights to return to their families in
Now however, after five years, the Iraqi Government is insistent that
the MKO be removed in totality from Iraqi territory. In spite of
claims by the MKO in western circles that it has renounced violence,
Iraq's Ministry of Defence says there is no doubt the group is
involved in ongoing violence in the country. A solution to deal with
the group has become more urgent.
The legal status of the MKO combatants in Camp Ashraf is somewhat
unclear. In 2004 the American army granted the MKO 'protected persons'
status under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
According to a report by Robert Karniol, Defence Writer of the Straits
Times, on February 4, the UN Fourth Convention Article 133 states that
"'internment shall cease as soon as possible after the close of
"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains that
the Iraq war ended with the transfer of sovereignty to the country's
interim government in June 2004, with the fighting since then
characterised as 'an internal conflict internationalised by the
presence of multilateral forces'."
"'Neither the active MEK members nor the former MEK refugees are being
detained,' said Major Danielson [MNF spokesman]. 'The Ashraf refugee
camp refugees have every right to depart and travel in Iraq using an
Iraqi-issued laissez-passer. They can also repatriate to Iran if they
desire, or they may stay in the camp."
However, it is not only Massoud Rajavi's insistence that his
combatants wait in Camp Ashraf to be re-armed which blocks moves to
deal with them. Since every major western country has proscribed the
MKO as a terrorist group, it is virtually impossible to find a safe
haven for the group outside Iraq.
The Straits Times report continues, "'They are definitely in a legal
limbo. No one wants them,' said Mr Said Boumedouha, a researcher at
Amnesty International in London."
"The US State Department's 2007 report said the MKO maintains "the
capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East,
the United States, Canada and beyond."
"The report notes the MKO's "cult-like characteristics," such that
"new members are indoctrinated in MEK ideology and revisionist Iranian
history [and] required to ... participate in weekly 'ideological
cleansings.' "Children are separated from their parents, it adds, and
Mrs. Rajavi "has established a 'cult of personality.'."
"According to Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International, 'Our position
is that they shouldn't be returned to Iran due to the fear of torture
and the death penalty. And they shouldn't be handed over to Iraq for
the same reason. Their immediate future looks bleak.'"
However, events in Iraq are unfolding which make it imperative for
western countries to address this issue.
Why the MKO must
In December 2007 unconfirmed reports
arose indicating uncertainty over the future of Camp Ashraf. It is
understood that the original owner on whose land the camp is sited,
who fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein, has returned to Iraq with title
deeds and has now achieved a court order demanding that his land, part
of which was illegally gifted to the MKO by the former Iraqi dictator
to build their military base, be evacuated and returned to him in its
Although this has not been confirmed, subsequent events appear to
verify this news. In December US military police began removing people
from the Temporary International Protection Facility. Visitors to the
camp were also told by military police that the TIPF would be closing
in six months' time.
In January 2008 officials of the Iraqi Government invited Massoud
Khodabandeh of Iran-Interlink to a series of meetings in Baghdad where
the issue of how to deal with foreign terrorist groups in Iraq was
being addressed by various agencies.
As a result of these meetings Mr Khodabandeh has reported that the
Iraqi Government is united and determined in its demand that the MKO
be removed in its entirety from Iraqi territory. In this respect, no
differentiation is made between active or former members of the group.
The Iraqi Government regards the MKO as a terrorist entity which is
still attached to the Ba'athist remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Requests to the Americans since 2004 to remove the group have not
produced any result. The government is now taking the matter into its
own hands and will deal with the group on its own terms.
Major Danielson has said that 'they [the MKO] are not charged with
criminal offences', however this situation has now changed. The Iraqi
Government has passed the case of the MKO to the Judiciary which is
pursuing legal action against the whole group. Three separate judges
have already issued arrest warrants against three leading members in
Camp Ashraf. As the sovereign government of the country it is expected
that American forces will comply with its legal rulings in relation to
Mr Khodabandeh said, 'In each of the meetings I attended, I put to the
Iraqis a proposal which I believe is the only realistic and
humanitarian way forward for the people trapped in Camp Ashraf, and
this was universally welcomed. It is time now for all security and
humanitarian agencies in Iraq to stop prevaricating, to work together
and to adopt a realistic plan in order to act on this situation and
resolve it to the advantage of all parties.'
This report seeks to describe the situation and offer what can be the
only possible workable solution which will assure a safe and secure
future for the people in Camp Ashraf.
What is Camp
Camp Ashraf is situated northeast of
the Iraqi town of Khalis in Diyali province, 60 kilometers north of
Baghdad and about 20 kilometers west of the border with Iran.
Along with at least six other sites in Iraq, Camp Ashraf was given to
the MKO as a headquarters and training site by Saddam Hussein. From
this base, the Iraqi military equipped the MKO with tanks, artillery
and armored personnel carriers. Since 1983, the group has conducted
operations against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War and later conducted
operations against Iraqi Kurds during the 1991 uprising against
Saddam. Before 2003 it was the base from which terrorist operations
against Iran and inside Iraq have been planned and directed.
Named after Ashraf Rabiee a leading political prisoner under the Shah,
the camp's vital function since 1986 has been as the main ideological
training base for both members and supporters of the Iranian
Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO). The base is still used for the
MKO's military and ideological training.
Following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq the base came under
bombardment by American forces. After some initial resistance, with
fifty fatalities on the MKO side, all MKO personnel were rounded up
and corralled in Camp Ashraf. Over 3800 members were recorded. The MKO
leader, Massoud Rajavi fled and went into hiding as American Special
Forces attacked. He now issues his directives to the MKO members in
Iraq and in western countries from a secret hideaway. In the months
leading up to the invasion, a few hundred MKO members had been hastily
transferred to Europe where they remain today. Among them was Massoud
Rajavi's lieutenant, Maryam Rajavi, who was arrested in France in June
2003 and is awaiting trial on terrorism related charges. Maryam Rajavi
provides the MKO's acceptable western front. She heads Rajavi's
deception campaigns in western political and media circles.
At present, within the boundaries of Camp Ashraf is Forward Operating
Base Grizzly (formerly FOB Spartan, FOB Red Lion and FOB Barbarian).
The FOB is where the Coalition forces reside. The Bulgarian Army is
currently running the Temporary International Presence Facility, where
refugees who defect from the PMOI are held.
Inside Camp Ashraf itself the MKO leadership continues to maintain
control through its harsh cult methodology which denies all the
members their basic human rights. The group retains its military
structure with uniformed members undergoing both military and
ideological training regimes.
Organisationally the chief characteristics of the Mojahedin-e Khalq
organisation are that:
• it uses psychological coercion and manipulation to recruit,
indoctrinate and retain its members
• it forms an elitist totalitarian society
• its leader is self-appointed, autocratic, messianic, not accountable
and has charisma
• it believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds,
recruit people, deceive potential supporters and to achieve political
• its wealth does not benefit either the members or society
Even though he is in hiding, Massoud Rajavi continues as the sole
decision maker for the group. He continues to espouse the use of
violence to achieve his political aims. The MKO's stated aim is to
overthrow the Iranian regime in its entirety (that is removal of the
system of Velayat Faghi) and replace it with Rajavi's system of
government with him as the country's leader.
MKO personnel are indoctrinated at Camp Ashraf in the group's ideology
which involves submitting to the total, lifelong leadership of Massoud
Rajavi. The MKO accept no other legal or moral law than that
determined by Massoud Rajavi, and they submit without question to his
dictates. According to Rajavi's ideology he demands total obedience,
members must forswear marriage and children, they must be willing to
die or kill on demand. Under these conditions the only reasonable
deduction which can be made is that anyone who has been indoctrinated
in Camp Ashraf is owned by Massoud Rajavi. He has devised the term
'living martyrs' to describe the relationship of members to him. It
means that members have effectively handed their 'life' to Rajavi to
use and dispose of as he will.
The absolute value of Camp Ashraf to Massoud Rajavi is its guaranteed
isolation. Members in the camp have no contact with the outside world.
The camp is an essential element in controlling the behaviour and
beliefs of the members. For this reason Rajavi has resisted any and
all efforts to have the MKO re-located on any grounds, whether
security or humanitarian. Individuals who have residence rights in
western countries were instructed by Rajavi to refuse help and to
demand that the group be treated as a whole entity and not as
individual members. The continued wearing of military uniform
reinforces this group identity.
Although the MKO combatants in Camp Ashraf enjoy some of the highest
living standards in Iraq, the health, morale and wellbeing of camp
residents has deteriorated progressively over the past five years.
People who left the camp via TIPF have reported rape, fighting, murder
and suspicious suicides taking place as residents struggle with the
severe restrictions imposed by the MKO leaders. The head of Military
Intelligence of Bulgaria was quoted by Fars News as saying that during
2007 the Bulgarian unit has had to deal with fourteen serious clashes
in Camp Ashraf, describing them as "due to the unrest of the detainees
over the years" while stressing that there was no threat to the
The residents in Camp Ashraf were severely demoralized from the
beginning of their capture when their leader Massoud Rajavi abandoned
them and went into hiding instead of ordering the all-out attack on
Iran which he had promised them. The sheer cowardice of this act has
had irreversible effects on the group.
If we argue that in general terms terrorism needs both 'form' and
'content' together in order to come into being, then in this case,
Camp Ashraf represents the form, or container, for Rajavi's group. The
content is his ideology of hatred and violence. If the form is
removed, then no matter what is in the minds of the individuals, they
will not go on to perform terrorism. It is like taking the gun from
What is happening at TIPF
When the MKO combatants were forcibly
disarmed and confined to Camp Ashraf by US Special Forces in 2003 they
were subsequently interviewed by FBI and military interrogators.
Fingerprints and DNA samples were taken and ID cards were issued.
During the course of these interviews several individuals expressed
their wish to leave the MKO. The US army was obliged to establish a
Temporary International Presence Facility (TIPF) alongside Camp Ashraf
to house anyone who wanted to leave the MKO.
Both the residents of Camp Ashraf and the TIPF are guarded to protect
them from revenge attacks by Kurdish and other Iraqis whose knowledge
of the MKO is as part of Saddam Hussein's repressive apparatus. Inside
Camp Ashraf itself the MKO leadership continues to maintain control.
The methodology of this control includes strict gender segregation,
obligatory daily 'cleansing' reports and submitting to a micro-managed
lifestyle including the denial of any external information. This state
of affairs is what American and Bulgarian soldiers have been
protecting for almost five years.
Over these five years several hundred people have left Camp Ashraf to
take refuge with the Americans. As its tight grip on the members came
under threat with each defection, the MKO response was to frighten its
members with tales of rape and abuse by US soldiers if they ended up
The group has sent infiltrators into TIPF to try to control the
atmosphere (aimed at discouraging people from going back to Iran) and
also to direct US military police behaviour toward the group. In
addition, conditions in TIPF until very recently were very basic with
tents and US army rations for both soldiers and those who left the
MKO. Camp Ashraf provides a standard of living which is excellent in
comparison with air conditioned buildings, plentiful good food,
plumbed bathrooms and a range of leisure facilities.
The refusal of the US army to make conditions outside Camp Ashraf
better than conditions inside the MKO run camp has led to accusations
that the intention has been to give leverage to the MKO leaders to
keep people in the terrorist organisation. Indeed, the MKO has created
its own 'Exit' unit to house around 200 people inside Camp Ashraf.
These are people who have left the MKO but who, due to MKO pressure,
are too afraid to go to TIPF and so remain under MKO hegemony.
Under the terms of protected persons status of the Fourth Geneva
Convention detainees are not to be forcibly deported or repatriated.
However, the US military reports that from TIPF, 380 have accepted
voluntary repatriation and have been helped by Iraq's Ministry of
Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross to be
reunited with their families.
Some 208 former members, who remained in TIPF because they did not
wish to go to Iran, asked for UN refugee status and transfer to third
countries. However, with the huge demand on the UN and aid agencies to
deal with massive internal displacement and Iraqi refugees, nothing
has been accomplished to find places for them.
TIPF to close in six months
In January 2008, a senior Iraqi
official appeared on Alaraghieh television explaining that the
original owner of the land on which Camp Ashraf has been constructed
has been granted permission by an Iraqi court to re-possess his land –
land which had originally been illegally confiscated by Saddam Hussein
and gifted to the MKO. The owner has been told that his land will be
returned to him in six months. This will mean that both the TIPF and
the whole of Camp Ashraf must be evacuated of personnel – whether
American, Bulgarian or Iranian – within the next six months.
This news shed light on events which began in December 2007 when US
Military Police began a process of emptying TIPF. Visitors to the camp
say they were told by American soldiers that TIPF would be closing in
six months' time. They were told that the TIPF might possibly be moved
to Mosel in Kurdistan, but this did not happen.
According to those who left TIPF in December, US military police told
them they were free to leave and in fact could not stay as the camp
was being dismantled. One group refused to leave at all and are still
in the TIPF. The others were taken at intervals in small groups of up
to five to a roadside some short distance away. They were filmed to
prove they were alive and healthy and then left to make their own way.
They were given American issued 'laissez-passer' which they were told
would facilitate their exit from Iraq. However these papers did not
allow anyone to travel south toward Baghdad and they were forced to
move north. Those who arrived in Arbil managed to get some papers from
the Kurdish regional government which allowed them to remain in the
city. But these papers were taken away by local police after a short
time. They now have no papers except American issued ID cards.
The Iraqi Ministry of National Security said it does not recognize the
papers given to the former TIPF residents, and that if found outside
the camp, they would be arrested and imprisoned for belonging to a
foreign terrorist group.
Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Magazine who has been
following the MKO's situation reported on February 11, "About 100
tried to leave Iraq, some of them carrying US military letters for
travel to Turkey. Documents of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
show that at one point in their saga nearly two weeks ago, 19 were
turned back to Iraq by Turkey, dozens were picked up in Kurdish
northern Iraq and some forced to return to the dangers of central
Iraq, and 26 were missing."
Other reports state that one man was shot and wounded by border police
and is now in hospital in Arbil the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Amnesty International said it was alerted to six individuals in prison
in Turkey. They were not returned to Iraq.
There are now 109 remaining in TIPF.
During his trip to Iraq, Massoud
Khodabandeh intervened with Iraqi Government officials with a rescue
plan for these people. After talks with Iraq's Ministry of Human
Rights, officials agreed to set up an NGO which would provide
accommodation and food for those Iranians who had left the MKO but
who, since the Americans were closing TIPF, did not have anywhere to
go. The organisation – named Sahar Family Foundation – quickly set up
a network of places to which the former TIPF people could go,
including Baghdad and Arbil.
Mr Khodabandeh then visited the TIPF near Khales in Diyali province to
inform the remaining people that he would provide safe passage from
the camp to a place where they could stay until it was possible to
send them to another country. Three people immediately accepted this
offer of help. More have since followed. But this is an interim
measure designed to rescue those removed from TIPF and who reject MKO
membership. It does not of course address the main issue which is to
find a place of safety for all the residents of Camp Ashraf.
Concerned observers have pointed out the error in the logistics of
closing TIPF before the problem of relocating people from Camp Ashraf
has been resolved. TIPF represented the only way individuals could
escape the clutches of the MKO hierarchy. It is only fair to allow
people somewhere to escape to rather than be treated as Massoud
It is intended that the newly created NGO Sahar Family Foundation will
replace the function of TIPF in providing a safety net for those who
want to leave the MKO. Once they are safe they can then be helped
either to go home to their families or to find a third country in
which to take refuge.
On January 31, 2008 Massoud
Khodabandeh attended a Symposium at the Centre for International and
Inter-governmental Studies of the University of Baghdad.
The Symposium, a round table discussion centred on the issue of
terrorism in Iraq and possible solutions to this problem, was divided
into 3 parts:
- the general threat posed by terrorist groups and the ways they
operate in Iraq
- foreign terrorist organisations in Iraq
- the creation of terrorist organisations in Iraq and the global
supporters of these terrorist groups
Participants of the Symposium included Dr. Aziz Jabar Shayal, Dr.
Samir Alshweely and Dr. Rasheed Saleh, professors of Political Studies
from the University of Baghdad. Several governmental and
non-governmental representatives from a wide range of ministries and
NGOs, including representatives from Iraq’s Ministries of Defence,
Human Rights and Security participated.
Massoud Khodabandeh, who is also a researcher with the Centre de
Recherches sur le Terrorisme depuis le 11 septembre 2001 (Paris), and
who was in Baghdad for meetings concerning the fate of the remaining
individuals following dismantlement of Camp Ashraf which houses the
disarmed Iranian terrorist organisation Mojahedin Khalq Organisation,
was invited to participate in the discussion.
Prominent among the participants was Mr. Bassam Alhassani, advisor to
Prime Minister Noori Al Maleki.
The Symposium ended with a full report on the issues discussed and Dr.
Aziz Jabar Shayal delivered the concluding resolution in which one
paragraph emphasized the necessity for the dismantlement and
deportation of the foreign terrorist Mojahedin Khalq organisation and
encouragement and facilitation by the government and others to help
the remaining individuals find a safe palace outside Iraq and return
to normal life.
The Symposium was covered by media representatives who reported from
the meeting room.
Alaraghieh television, Iraq’s main TV network, reported the Symposium
and broadcast a brief interview with Massoud Khodabandeh.
In the interview, Massoud Khodabandeh emphasised above all the right
of the Iraqi people to enjoy security and have justice served against
the perpetrators of violent acts in their country, in particular the
criminal heads of the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation which
was involved in the massacre of the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings
against Saddam Hussein in March 1991. Mr Khodabandeh said that in his
belief and according to the studies of the Centre de Recherches sur le
Terrorisme, the phenomenon of terrorism cannot have a single solution
and needs inter governmental cooperation as well as the involvement of
NGOs to protect the human rights of those who have been inveigled by
terrorist leaders onto this path, and to give them a second chance of
integration back into their societies.
Thanking the organisers of the Symposium Mr Khodabandeh emphasised the
cult culture of terrorist organisations and the methods they use to
brainwash their followers. He also gave examples of foreign support by
some influential groups and parties who facilitate the flow of finance
for terrorism. Not the least the relationship between the remainders
of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, London, Washington and other countries with
the Mojahedin Khalq Organisation, and the way this relationship is
becoming clear in the escalation of violence in Diyali province.
The Symposium lasted for over two hours. Afterwards the participants
formed smaller groups to further discuss the variety of issues raised
by the Seminar.
Results of consultation in
Massoud Khodabandeh of Iran-Interlink
was invited to Iraq by the office of Prime Minister Noori Al Maleki
for a series of consultations on the problem of foreign linked
terrorism in the country.
The Iraqi Government is seeking a rapid and thorough solution to
remove the remaining members of Mojahedin-e Khalq from Iraq and shut
down Camp Ashraf.
While in Iraq Mr Khodabandeh met with representatives of the Iraqi
Ministries of Human Rights, Security, Foreign Affairs and Defence. He
also had meetings with advisors to Prime Minister Al Maleki, the
Judiciary, NGOs and human rights organisations currently in Iraq.
Further meetings have been held with representatives of the Kurdish
Patriotic Union and regional government representatives.
The following represents a summary of the findings of Mr Khodabandeh
from these meetings. It must be stressed that no differentiation is
made at all in the various views below between former and active
members of the MKO.
Minister of Human Rights Vajdan Mikhael Salem's point of view: Under
no circumstances can we accept the MKO (whether as a group or as
individuals, whether before or after renouncing terrorism) to stay in
Iraq. We do not recommend this because we know of their past and the
danger posed by Iraqi Shiite and Kurds (revenge) to them. They are
only alive in Iraq because of American protection for them. The
Ministry will help in the transfer of individuals to Iran or other
countries in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC). The Ministry will also give guarantees about good
treatment by Iran under the terms of an amnesty for returning MKO and,
from its offices in Iran, regularly monitors the situation of those
who have already accepted voluntary repatriation.
Ministry of National Security point of view: We have evidence of the
co-operation between the remains of Saddam and Al Qaida with the MKO
using Camp Ashraf as a meeting place to plot against the Iraqi people.
They are part of the destabilization forces in Diyali province. These
individuals are trained by Saddam's Republican Guard and if given
freedom inside the country, they will be the core trainers for
insurgents. This is not acceptable and therefore the American Army
should find other alternatives for them outside Iraq.
(The National Security Minister Shirwan Al Va'eli has repeatedly
insisted there is no place for any terrorist organisation in the new
Iraq and that Iraq has and will continue to have full security
co-operation with neighbouring countries including Iran, Kuwait and
etc, in order to eliminate the threats of terrorism in the region.
Minister Shirwan Al Va'eli has stressed that he is talking with the
Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence to expand Iraq's
cooperation with other countries to fight terrorist networks and in
this respect some workshops have already begun.)
Foreign Affairs Ministry point of view: The MKO and PKK are foreign
terrorist organisations. They are especially harmful to the relations
between Iraq and its neighbouring countries at this point of time.
Iraq cannot accept nor afford further problems by accommodating
international terrorist organisations whether as a group or as
Advisor to the Prime Minister's point of view: The MKO is the tip of
the anti-Iraqi forces still in Iraq. They are responsible for the
massacre of Kurds and Shiites and they should be handed over to the
Iraq Judiciary to bring them to justice. The fate of the MKO (and
other remains of Saddam who are wanted for war crimes and crimes
against humanity) is a matter for Iraq and the US should hand them
Judiciary point of view: There are already claims against the heads of
this organisation (about 150 individuals). There are arrest warrants
as recent as a few weeks ago for crimes committed in the last few
months by MKO heads (Abbas Davari, the political liaison of MKO in
Camp Ashraf, Mozhgan Parsaii, Commander of Rajavi's army in Iraq and
Sediqeh Hoseini, Secretary General of the MKO). There are several
ongoing investigations into the deeds of MKO leaders against Iraqi
people. The Judiciary should investigate all of these and then decide
who is to be deported and who is to be brought to justice.
UNHCR: (Ms Hanieh Mofti refused to accept a meeting with me or any of
the families of those trapped in Camp Ashraf, although she travels
regularly to Camp Ashraf for private meetings and dinner parties with
the heads of the terrorist organisation.) As far as I could ascertain,
Ms Mofti is sympathetic to the MKO's demand that all its members
should be given refugee status in Iraq but not under the jurisdiction
of the Iraqi Government. They should continue to be protected as a
[uniformed military] group in Iraq but without the permission of the
[We must assume that refugee status can only be given to individuals
and not to an army. In this case, perhaps Ms Mofti must wait for the
US army to take the military uniforms from these people and then treat
them as individuals according UNHCR rules.]
Amnesty International and other Human Rights organisations' point of
view: MKO members should not be given to Iran, nor should they be
given to Iraq because of the insecurity of human rights and the death
penalty in those countries. MKO members need to be given humanitarian
protection (not indemnity from prosecution for crimes) meaning that
they will certainly need to be taken to third countries.
American Army point of view: No official view was made. However, after
5 years the army is apparently still prevaricating about US polices
against terrorism. (Certainly the US army's ambiguous approach is
widely perceived as facilitating terrorism in the region.) Actual
behaviour of the US army toward internees at Camp Ashraf can only be
interpreted as tacit approval for the group's continued existence and
activities. (Camp Ashraf is used to host meetings of Diyali tribal
leaders loyal to the Baathists).
The point of view of the Centre for International and
Inter-governmental Studies of the University of Baghdad: (from the
report of the symposium and according to their announcement and
recommendation to the Iraqi Government) MKO individuals have to be
helped by western countries. They should not be kept in Iraq for the
good of people of Iraq and their own good. The group should be
dismantled by US and UK forces before transfer outside Iraq. The main
support for the group comes from London, Washington and Tel Aviv and
the Mojahedin should be transferred to these places with the help of
Families of MKO members
When the interim Iraqi government
assumed control of Iraq in June 2004, the internees in Camp Ashraf
were granted protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva
Convention. After years of forced [by Rajavi] estrangement, the
families of people trapped in Camp Ashraf began to hope that they
could at last get some news of their relatives there.
The Fourth Geneva Convention of course protects the internees from
forced repatriation. Instead the families risked their lives to travel
to Iraq from all over the world in the hopes of meeting a son or
daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, brother or sister. Some
families had not seen their relatives for over twenty years. Some were
not even sure if they were still alive.
Such family visits were undertaken according to the rights established
under Chapter VIII which deals with external relations of detainees,
in particular Article 116 which states: 'Every internee shall be
allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular
intervals and as frequently as possible'.
Article 8 also clearly states: 'Protected persons may in no
circumstances renounce in part or in entirety the rights secured to
them by the present Convention…'
But from the beginning the visiting families met resistance. For four
years it has been almost impossible for anyone to visit their relative
without the presence of MKO minders who overshadow the families to
prevent free association or conversation. Even where families
travelled to Iraq after taking legal advice and procuring legal
documents outlining their right to have free and unfettered access to
their relative, they have been unable to secure such meetings.
Unfortunately, in some cases families have been turned away by
American military police, acting presumably on orders from MKO
commanders to refuse access.
This latter state of affairs has been experienced by so many families
that there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the American soldiers are
taking their instructions from the MKO rather than vice versa. There
is no reason whatsoever – legal, moral or for security - that these
families should be denied these visits. In one case a UK resident
family was told by an American soldier to contact the MKO in Britain
(where of course it is proscribed so that this action of itself would
be illegal) and to ask the group to arrange a visit, including a stay
in the MKO controlled Camp Ashraf. This family were left wondering
what the legal ramifications would be if they had followed this
advice, would they be allowed entry back into the UK without arrest
for contacting a terrorist entity in the UK and visiting a terrorist
Where such obstacles are overcome and visits do take place due to the
sheer courage and persistence of families who turn up at the gate of
Camp Ashraf and refuse to leave, the conditions of the visit do not
meet even a minimum standard expected under the Fourth Geneva
Convention or indeed under any human rights legislation.
Families are harassed, insulted, physically assaulted and repeatedly
accused of being 'agents of the mullahs' regime' sent to undermine the
MKO's struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. Among the most
recent cases of a family's attempt to meet relatives was the Mohammady
family from Canada. This was their ninth visit to Iraq in an attempt
to visit their daughter Somayeh who was taken to Camp Ashraf some
years ago when she was seventeen years old. Mr Mostafa and Mrs
Mahboubeh Mohammady spent three months in Iraq and saw their daughter
for only 45 minutes.
This time the parents were allowed to stay in a bungalow in the US
part of Camp Ashraf for three days. On December 8, after constant
requests to the Americans, they were able to meet with their daughter,
Somayeh, for 45 minutes. Somayeh was afraid to speak to her father
stating 'he is an agent of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry', but did
talk to her mother.
On the morning of December 9 the American soldiers in charge of TIPF
asked the Mohammady family to leave the camp since they had met with
their daughter. The Americans escorted them to the gates and let them
out while still watching them from behind their gates. As Camp Ashraf
is located in a deserted area with the closest road and public
transport some kilometers away, the Mohammadys began walking. Suddenly
they were confronted by a group of MKO who pretended to be passing
drivers and who offered them a lift.
Based on their prior knowledge and experiences of the MKO, Mr
Mohammady and his wife refused their offer and kept walking towards
the main road. At this point, the MKO grabbed Mrs Mohammady by force
and pushed her into the car in an attempted kidnap. At the same time
Mr Mohammady was defending himself against their physical attacks and
also trying to secure their bags since their assailants were slashing
them with knives and managed to break open their camera trying to
remove the memory card by knife. When Mr Mohammady started shouting
for help one of the MKO guys pulled a gun from under the driver's seat
and put it to his head.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation the American soldiers who
were watching from a short distance intervened to rescue them and
later arranged for a safe ride to Baghdad. Upon arrival in Baghdad Mr
and Mrs Mohammady received medical attention for their injuries and
began legal action against the leaders of the MKO for the damages
incurred by their family, including this latest assault.
The result was that the Baghdad Criminal Court issued arrest warrants
for the three leading MKO members in Camp Ashraf - additional to two
existing arrest warrants for each of the three which had previously
been issued by two other courts.
In February two more families experienced disturbing meetings with
relatives. Ali Bashiri and his daughter traveled from Norway with
legal papers demanding a visit with the girl's mother. When Mr Bashiri
went to the US embassy in Baghdad with papers drawn up by a Norwegian
lawyer he was expelled. Eventually he and his daughter got to see the
mother in the presence of MKO minders. The mother did not come closer
than three metres and only swore viciously at her daughter before
In another case, Mr Reza Akbari Nasab traveled to Camp Ashraf to ask
for the body of his nephew Yaser who died there last year so the
family could bury him in Iran. Mr Akbari Nasab told Alaraghieh
"I went to the American Camp at Ashraf and asked to meet my brother
and his son, I also asked them to let me go to my nephew’s tomb and
see the documents of his death.
"The American officials told me to make my request to the MKO
authorities [sic]. During the hours I was waiting for my beloved ones
the American soldiers and officials hosted me in a courteous manner.
"I was enjoying the friendly atmosphere of the American camp which had
decreased the pressure on me when a man carrying a file came over
shouting at me: “why have you come here?”
"He was speaking Persian angrily so I didn’t recognize him. But he was
no other than my kind and lovely brother, Morteza!
"He was carrying a file which he said contained my writings on the
death of Yaser. He actually threatened me that he would hand them to
the Americans since I had written some polite criticisms of the
"I told him sympathetically: “you may be right, but let‘s have a short
talk which is something normal in any political organization’’. But he
didn’t accept and he didn’t even let me get closer than 3 meters.
"My former kind brother insulted me in front of the American soldiers.
My nephew Musa didn’t get permission to visit me since he is a German
citizen and the Mojahedin were afraid. The Americans didn’t answer my
questions simply and to answer my claim that the MKO members are
manipulated they just said that it’s not their responsibility!
"They didn’t let me visit the tomb of Yaser either.
"I expected more of American democracy.
"While leaving, I told the American lieutenant: ‘’you are developing a
There are many families like the Mohammadys, Bashiris and Akbari
Nasabs, who refuse to give up on their relatives trapped in Camp
Ashraf. But they have limited resources. Following a meeting with
Massoud Khodabandeh who explained the situation in detail, the Iraqi
Ministry of Human Rights pledged to help by supporting a newly formed
non-governmental organization called Sahar Family Foundation which
will provide help to the visiting families and to MKO members who
leave the organization in Iraq.
Sahar Family Foundation has already established a network of safe
accommodation in several towns, including Baghdad, to house the
individuals who were removed from TIPF in December 2007. In January,
three others left TIPF to take refuge with the group.
Sahar Family Foundation
The Sahar (Dawn) Family Foundation is
a non-governmental, non-political and non-profitable organisation
which has been established to provide humanitarian aid to the families
of members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) who are based
in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. This foundation is solely focused on
charitable and human rights issues regardless of political or group
considerations and geographical boundaries and only aims to help the
The Sahar Family Foundation covers a great number of families as well
as former members of the MKO who seek help. This foundation enjoys
good support amongst the local and international bodies in Iraq which
is the base of the foundation.
The MKO has been based in Iraq, precisely in Camp Ashraf, for more
than two decades. This organisation is run as a classic cult and
therefore would not give its members the chance of free association
with the outside world or with their families. Therefore the families
of these members are suffering severely and seek assistance from
When the former regime of Iraq was toppled, a small light of hope lit
the hearts of the families and they thought that, in the new situation
in Iraq, they would be able to visit their beloved ones freely and
adequately without the presence of a third party. Some of these
families have not heard from their relatives for more than 20 years
and some even don't know if their beloved ones are still safe and
sound. According to these families those who are residing in Camp
Ashraf – as is the case with many cults throughout the world – are
considered to be captives both mentally and physically and therefore
are assumed as hostages. The Sahar Family Foundation is striving to
reunite the members of these families again using every possible
Camp Ashraf is the base of the MKO members which is guarded by US
forces in Iraq. On the other hand the present Iraqi government insists
that Camp Ashraf must be dismantled. Iraqi constitutional law does not
permit any foreign terrorist organisations to remain in that country.
The US State Department as well as that of Canada, along with the
European Union and the British parliament and many other governmental
and international bodies have officially designated the MKO as a
destructive and terrorist cult. Obviously the members of a cult and
their families are considered to be the prime victims who must be
helped. In May 2005 Human Rights Watch published a report called 'No
Exit' which details human rights abuses meted out by the MKO against
its own members.
At the present time Baghdad is the central meeting point for the
misfortunate families and the former members, as well as concerned
entities who are all waiting for the crack of dawn. They seek help
from humanitarian bodies throughout the world. Anyone can help a
little. On the other hand, of course, Camp Ashraf, according to many
international security professionals, is a centre for training
terrorists. The families are concerned about the fate of their
children who are subjected to brainwashing and terrorist training.
Please contact us. We would be more than pleased to have your comments
and ideas. Help us in any way you can. The members of Sahar Family
Foundation are all volunteers who have moved to Iraq to work in the
difficult situation of that country merely to gain family reunions.
When the regime of Saddam Hussein
came to an end, 3,800 members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation
were bombarded, captured and disarmed by US Special Forces in Iraq and
confined to Camp Ashraf.
Five years on the American military must be given full credit for the
excellent job it has performed in containing the MKO in Iraq and
keeping the people secure. Dealing with a dangerous, destructive cult
is not an easy task. It is widely acknowledged that the American
forces are perhaps the only ones who could do this, particularly in
the violent and chaotic conditions of Iraq.
But the situation has now developed to the point at which urgent
action must be taken to deal with the group. As this report has shown,
the MKO can no longer stay in Iraq. The Iraqi Government has taken
matters into its own hands and is pressing on with moves to prosecute
and punish any MKO members the Judiciary can prove have been guilty of
crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq, and to quickly remove
all others. The whole organisation is at risk if it remains in Iraq.
Organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the
International Committee of the Red Cross and others are absolutely
clear that Iraq is not a place the MKO can stay. Indeed it presents
perhaps the most dangerous place in the world for the group’s members
– even, as events with the TIPF people has shown, for the ones who
have separated from the MKO. There should be no doubt at all that if
the group does remain in Iraq and the Americans step back even a
little from protecting it then there will be bloodshed and violence.
At this point in time, people are looking to the American
Administration for leadership to resolve this problem. The MKO are
prisoners and must be dealt with as such. It is expected that the
American military will continue to garner the credit for dealing with
the MKO and assist the efforts of human rights organizations, the
families and the Iraqi Government rather than hinder them. The
American Administration is facing a legal and moral dilemma which
requires attention sooner rather than later.
In particular, does the American military intend to defy the Iraqi
Judiciary when arrest warrants are served by not handing over the
subjects? Will American soldiers continue to defy its moral and
humanitarian obligations by continuing to repulse the families of MKO
members who want only a private meeting with their relatives? Will
American soldiers argue that they cannot bring MKO members the short
distance from Camp Ashraf to Baghdad to meet a parent who has
travelled thousands of miles to see them under the terms of protected
Sahar Family Foundation was established as an interim measure to help
families of MKO trapped in Camp Ashraf and to help anyone who wants to
leave. There should be no doubt that the existence of Sahar will
increase and accelerate the defections from the MKO. Indeed this is
already being seen. American soldiers can either help or hinder in
this situation. The result will be the same but the credit for good
action will go where it is due.
This however, does not address the fundamental problem of what to do
with the active MKO members in Camp Ashraf. They must be given refuge
somewhere and the only feasible place is in a western country.
Currently MKO members in the camp exist in a kind of legal and moral
limbo. While western governments are clear about the terrorist nature
of the MKO in their own countries, none wants to take responsibility
for what happens to the people in Iraq. Every major western government
has proscribed the group as terrorist. No one wants them.
In Europe, efforts to de-proscribe the Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation
have been led, particularly in the UK, by the neoconservatives in
London, Washington and Tel Aviv. They argue that the Mojahedin has
renounced violence. Until now, these powerful lobbies have evaded
taking responsibility for or even acknowledging the humanitarian
crisis looming over the people in Camp Ashraf. However, the value of
this group for its supporters is that it represents 'the largest
Iranian opposition group' because of the number of active members. It
makes sense to have those members safe rather than languishing in
Iraqi jails. Supporters like the British Parliamentary Committee for
Iran Freedom, chaired by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, have a moral and
political obligation to rescue exactly those people they have
vigorously promoted as the means to bring democracy to Iran. The lives
and rights of the MKO members in Camp Ashraf must be protected as a
This is only possible if they are brought to safety in the west. As
one Iraqi Minister said bluntly, "the western supporters of the MKO
especially in the UK should keep their tools in their own closets!".
Both Iraq and Iran see Europe as the final and perhaps only
destination for the MEK. Transformed from an army into a civilian
group, this would allow the active members who wish to do so, to
continue with non-violent opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Certainly de-proscription of the MKO in the UK would enable Iraq to
remove the MKO as a group and allow London to receive them
individually as refugees. The resources which are currently used to
maintain the camp in Iraq must also be transferred to support them in
the UK. Of course, any members who wish to voluntarily repatriate to
Iran should continue to be protected by existing guarantees by the
Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and the ICRC.
This is a rescue package which is workable and which will have the
best outcome for Iraq, the UK and the 'Iranian Resistance' which says
it has renounced violence. This solution provides a straightforward
and humanitarian resolution to the so-far intractable problem of what
to do with the group. Indeed, given the facts, it is probably the only
pdf file (printable)
Sahar Family Foundation
Tel: +964 - 7808481650 (Arabic and Farsi)
Contact (outside Iraq):
Tel: +44 - 2076935044 (English only)
Report written and published by
PO Box 148
Leeds LS16 5YJ
Tel: +44 (0)113 278 0503
Araghiah TV reports on the Symposium in Baghdad
Khodabandeh replies and "Alseyassah" explains (Alseyassah, February07,
Symposium on Terrorism
Ministry of Human Rights: NGO should facilitate safe MKO exit from
Links to External Sites
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International Web site
for Amnesty International's documents on Iran
Click here to
view The Universal Declaration of Human Rights