Survivors' Report - September 2005
Four years ago Mojgan Parsai was appointed by Massoud Rajavi to head the Mojahedin organization, replacing the previously appointed female head, Beheshteh Shadroo. As nominal head of the MeK, Parsai officially occupied the highest position after the Rajavis in the cult's hierarchy.
After the fall of Saddam and disarmament of the MeK by US armed forces in Iraq, Mojgan Parsai, a former student in the USA, was assigned as a 'US friendly face' to be the high level contact with the US forces in Iraq. Rajavi ordered her to persuade the Americans to return the MeK's arms to them and recognise the MeK as a military force. A mission which from the outset, of course, was doomed to failure.
The effect of this failure, however, was an ever increasing desertion from the camp by people who had woken up to reality and saw no hope in remaining in the cult. Up to the present time, more than 500 members have been successful in getting themselves out and a further 400 have taken refuge with the US forces. According to reports from the escapees, over 60 percent of the remaining people would leave immediately if only the flag of the Red Cross (or any other humanitarian organisation) would be flown in the camp and they knew that there is a place of safety to escape to. Over the past few months the wave of disaffection among the members has accelerated, and the MeK has desperately placed all kinds of obstacles in the way of people reaching US army representatives in the camp. Most notably, fabricating lies about ill-treatment by the Americans should anybody 'fall into their hands'.
There are a significant number of people in Camp Ashraf who have some connection with the USA (having been students or refugees or residents in the USA before recruitment into the cult). These people have become aware of a new initiative by the US Army and the Red Cross in Iraq to help find a place of refuge for disaffected members, and have approached American representatives hoping that they could perhaps be once again accepted in the USA.
According to reports from inside the MeK, one of these people was Mojgan Parsai. She reportedly approached American forces in Camp Ashraf to seek asylum in the USA, where she had formerly been a student. It is reported that she passed organizational information to the Americans in exchange for her freedom.
Unfortunately news of her behaviour was leaked and has reached Maryam Rajavi. Parsai was immediately relieved of her responsibilities and no-one has had news of her since this event. Maryam Rajavi has consulted with her close advisors about the possible punishment Parsai should receive. In these meetings Rajavi has emphasised that her punishment should be appropriate to her rank and should be an example to any other commanders who may thinking the same way. From experience and according to the normal standards of the MeK, this punishment could not be less than execution under very slow physical and psychological torture.
Following exposure of Parsai's disappearance and fears for her safety in Camp Ashraf, the Mojahedin have tried to disguise this fact and pretend that she is still active in her duties. In response to widespread concern as to her welfare, the MKO published a written statement, apparently signed by Mojgan Parsai. However, the organization has failed to show Parsai in person either on TV or among the residents of Camp Ashraf, which renders this written statement highly suspect.
The simple demand of all those concerned for Mojgan Parsai's life is that she be visited by representatives of a human rights organization without the presence of the MKO so that her wellbeing can be ascertained.
Notably, the appointed MeK head previous to Parsai was Ms. Beheshteh Shadroo. She was also a student from the USA and according to reports from inside the MeK, her situation is not any better than that of Parsai.
Another example of such treatment is Mr. Mehdi Eftekhari who was the commander of the clandestine operation which enabled Massoud Rajavi to run away from Iran in 1981 after his failed coup attempt. Eftekhari has been under constant physical and psychological pressure for the past eighteen years. He lost his mental balance under torture around ten years ago, but Rajavi always refused to accept his condition and has continued to use him as an example of what would happen to anyone who does not obey his commands to the letter. A further example is Ali Zarkesh, second-in-command after Massoud Rajavi who refused to submit to the 'ideological revolution' (and the marriage of Massoud Rajavi with the wife of Mehdi Abrishamchi). He was subsequently demoted to the rank of foot soldier and was later shot and killed by Massoud Rajavi's bodyguard.
Maryam Rajavi has already seen the effect of disaffected members reaching Europe and exposing her and her husband's war crimes and crimes against humanity. She is now doing all she can to stop the same thing happening in the US and is putting all her energy into preventing the people who have had some links with the US from making contact with US representatives in Camp Ashraf. She is also planning to use Ms. Parsai as an example of what will happen to any high commander who tries to contact the American forces in the hope they may be rescued from the cult.
Our Personal Experiences item this month is an interview with one of Iran's foremost and popular classical singers, Elahe. After listening to many samples of her music on the internet [using Google], I have, as have millions of Iranians before me, fallen under the spell of her enchantingly beautiful voice. The opportunity to meet with and interview this wonderful lady was one of those rare and happy opportunities for which, out of all the interviews I have conducted, I have been the most grateful and which I have enjoyed the most.
After meeting Elahe, my question was not how she managed to survive the years of her encounter with the Mojahedin organization, but rather how the organization managed to survive its encounter with her. She is gloriously warm, expressive and sociable. And she pulls no punches when it comes to describing her experiences and insights into the Mojahedin. Lest anyone think that her stance has come about after leaving them, I remember around ten years ago accompanying Bahman Etemad, who was at that time the NCRI representative in the UK, on a visit to Elahe. Although I took no part in the conversation, I was struck even then by this feisty and ebullient woman, and had a warm feeling in my heart for her as someone who would not be cowed by the machinations of the MKO cult.
And I was right. Although we did agree that anyone who has been involved with the Mojahedin in any way, at any level or to any degree will become a nervous wreck at some point in the process. If the Mojahedin can abuse the dignity and integrity of such a high standing and independent woman, then how much worse for those who have no such position from which to take a stand.
Unsurprisingly, the Mojahedin themselves have been out of the news for some months now. The organization tries to rear its ugly head by making accusations against Iran in the ongoing nuclear power saga. But by doing so, it only shows that it has completely lost its way. While western interests may be served by political wrangling with Iran over this issue, the real problems of the people of Iran continue to be centred around the economy, their standard of living, and freedoms of expression and human rights inside the country. Any opposition with its finger on the pulse would have been raising these issues in international forums. Instead the Mojahedin organization desperately hangs on to the coat tails of western powers, doggedly echoing their agenda and hoping for a crumb of attention to keep it alive.
Fortunately, the MKO's abandoned combatants in Iraq no longer look to their leaders for salvation and are little by little coming round to the real choice they face – that is, whether to go home to their families or whether to go home to their families. Yup, that's about all the choice they face. Their problem in making that choice? The MKO leaders have told them that if they contact their families, the Iranian regime will torture and execute their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and any relatives they can get their hands on.
Sinister isn't it.
News in Brief
Terrorist MKO appoints new military head in Paris
proscribed terrorist organization, Mojahedin-e Khalq, which is currently
under the protection of the US army in Iraq, has removed its military head
and appointed a new commander from Saddam's Private Army in Paris to head
MKO admits using child soldiers
Mr. Hadi Shams Haeri who has been trying to rescue his son AMIR, now 23 and daughter NOSRAT, now 19 years old, over the past 8 years, faced a surprise this month. The MKO in Ashraf camp issued statement along with their pictures in which they trashed their father in every nasty way possible accusing him of being a torturer of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. This is while Mr. Haeri has been incarcerated in the prisons of both the Shah and the Islamic Republic, and has over 40 years of political opposition experience. While many opposition groups and personalities outside Iran expressed their disgust over yet more of this behaviour by Rajavi the cult leader, Mr. Haeri himself welcomed the news as at least he was able to see recent photographs of his children. The MKO admitted in its statement that these two had been abducted from Germany when they were only 15 and 11 years old respectively. They were transferred to MKO Ashraf camp where they have been forced to fight for Saddam Hussein until the disarmament of the group by coalition forces in 2003. Iran Interlink welcomes the new confession by the leaders of MKO as this is yet further proof for the courts that the MKO used child soldiers in Saddam's private army. This also provides further evidence with which Mr. Haeri can approach the American army (now in charge of MKO camp and individuals held in Iraq) to investigate the allegations. There is also fresh hope that AMIR and NOSRAT can now be returned to their family.
Seday-e Ashena Radio
Reports indicate that 5 MKO members, escaping Camp Ashraf, have hidden in
Mojahedin on brink of collapse
The exodus of voluntary repatriation by members of the outlawed Mojahedin Khalq Organisation is rapidly accelerating. The latest arrivals according to the Nejat Association reporter in Mehrabad Airport in Tehran are:
Samad Eskandari from
On the evening 23rd
August 2005, these people arrived at Mehrabad International airport on a Red
Cross Chartered flight from Iraq. The total number of repatriated ex
Mojahedin is estimated at about 500 and the ones who are awaiting are over
400 people. Over 700 ex Mojahedin have already escaped to European countries
where they have denounced the organisation and have asked for political
Jaam-e Jam TV, Iran
president Jalal Talabani has emphasized the quick expulsion of the members
of terrorist MKO from Iraq.
US disarmed the MKO and realized that most of MKO members want to leave the
Organization, they established a camp near Camp Ashraf and settled
defectors-whether those who had escaped MKO or had left it with the
assistance of Americans- in that camp. MKO, entangled in a crisis, resorted
to dirty tricks to stop members from leaving. For instance, Americans’
interpreter in interviews was a woman called “Paria”. MKO bribed her with
gold and jewelry and asked her to change the translation of defectors’ words
(that is, to distort the reality) so that Americans open an unreal file for
them. Defectors were not aware of this since they didn’t know English. But
the time came for a former member who had lived in the US for years and had
come to Iraq (MKO) from the US.
MKO's Revelations Are All Lies
Safa Haeri/Iran Press Service
MeK traps POWs in Camp Ashraf
August 8, 2005
indicate that early in June this year, General Miller (commander of
coalition forces in Iraq) sent a letter the MKO which said that the Iraqi
government wanted to interview nearly 400 Iran-Iraq prisoners-of-war who
were in the MKO.
Who is behind the abduction of two MeK members in Baghdad?
Ahmad Al-Basri/Iraq Papers
Mojahedin-e khalq Organization claimed on 4th of August that two of its
members, Hussein Pouyan and Mohammed Ali Zahedi, have been abducted in
Karadeh Street in Baghdad. This comes at a time when the members of this
group have pledged not to leave their camp (Ashraf) near Baghdad. MKO says
Special Forces of Iraqi Interior Ministry and Badr Brigade are responsible
for the abduction.
Elahe is one of the most important singers in Iran's history. She has sung and made famous many of Iran's traditional (asil), pop, jazz, and standard hits. Her voice was so liked by Davood Pirnia, the original creator and director of Radio Iran's "Golha" program, that he employed Elahe to manage it for a while. Her voice is on more "Golha" shows than any other singer.
Would you please briefly describe your singing career for us.
I trained for two years in the classical Iranian singing style. At that time, Davood Pirnia, introduced this style to radio listeners with the popular Golha programme. The orchestra and the singers of this program established this form of classical music in Iran. I was the leading singer for fifteen years that the programme was broadcast. Of course, after the revolution it was no longer possible for women's singing voices to be heard and we were silenced.
With this background please tell us how you became involved with the Mojahedin organisation.
For a long time I was unable to sing for the people in Iran. One of the ways I could have continued with my singing career was to join with the exiles on the American west coast. But there was so much infighting between them and petty behaviour that I didn't want to join with any of the factions.
Then, in 1994, I was approached by some people who said they were from an Iranian intellectual group in Europe which wanted to stage a concert as a gesture of defiance toward the mullahs' regime and to show solidarity with the people inside the country in their struggles for freedom and democracy. They told me they were supporters of the Mojahedin. Of course I had heard of the Mojahedin but I knew little about them. The way these young people described them was as freedom fighters.
They invited me to sing in the concert. I have always felt that my voice, because it was made famous by the listeners of the Golha programme, my voice belongs to the people of Iran and that I should return it to them somehow. So, the Mojahedin became the way to do this. Of course, I wasn't alone and there were several other popular singers who also agreed to sing in the concert.
Can you describe how they approached people and how they behaved toward you in persuading you to take part in their concert.
I told them that although I was sympathetic to the Mojahedin's stance against the regime, I would not be involved in anything political, so there should only be Iranian flags at the concert, and I would sing some classical songs and nothing else. Now, in all my singing career, I have never had a written contract. My word was always enough. But they insisted on having a contract. I believed they were just amateurs and so I agreed. The contract was for six evening concerts with a forfeit of several thousand dollars if I didn't show up. Since this had never been a problem for me in the past, I agreed. Then they went away and I didn't hear from them again. A month before the concert I still had no news, so I tried to contact them without success. Then a week before the concert it was announced everywhere as a Mojahedin concert in support of Maryam Rajavi!
After the concert, Iranian radio stations started swearing at me because I had sung for the Mojahedin. The Mojahedin themselves paid me only half the money we had agreed and then no more. Radio USA said that I should go on air and apologise to Iranians everywhere. All that happened was that all the rest of the opposition groups, instead of helping me, only pushed me further toward the Mojahedin with the pressure of their criticisms and these uncompromising attacks on me. I didn't have a sympathetic refuge anywhere.
Then the Mojahedin themselves started a campaign of showing great affection and kindness toward me. They pretended to really care for me and that they were concerned about me. In this phase, they couldn't do enough for me. I know now that this the usual method used by cults to recruit people. At that time, even though I knew it was all lies, there was something seductive and intriguing about their behaviour so I ended up curious to find out more about them.
Could you describe your perception of how the Mojahedin operates as a cult.
I was invited to join them as a singer, and I had thought they were freedom fighters, but it soon became apparent that they are a cult – an extremely narrow and strict cult.
After the people burned themselves when Maryam was arrested I told them not to contact me anymore.
They are like Hassan Sabbah. No, worse. Sabbah protected his men from their sexual urges by castrating them, but he never asked them to burn themselves for him. Rajavi has no mercy. He places himself above everyone. The Rajavis have their own luxury lifestyle with the best homes, clothes and food while everyone else has to suffer degradation.
No friendships exist inside the Mojahedin, they are extremely harsh with even their supporters. The commanders order them about this way and that on nonsensical work. They have two faces, one is the good public face they show to the outside world, the other is all swearing and harshness and anger.
Most of all I hated what they did in Iraq with Saddam. I hate what Iraq did to my country in that war. I discovered in that relationship that Rajavi has no limits – he really doesn't care who he allies himself with, friend or foe. I asked Maryam once about their work with Saddam. She told me: 'if Saddam hadn't lost the war and had captured Iran. When we had taken over in Iran we would have rewarded Saddam and given him Khuzestan'!
One thing that was very interesting to observe from close up is that both of the Rajavis are obsessed with power. I remember one of the NCRI members was talking to Massoud Rajavi about what the Mojahedin would do once they arrived back in Tehran. Rajavi, with a glint in his eye, told him: 'When we go to Iran it will take a few days before we reach Tehran. On the way we will kill one million Bassij forces and one million Pasdaran and…, then we'll just see what happens.'
There are some interesting dynamics between the leaders. It is obvious that Maryam wants power and is prepared to push Massoud aside to achieve this. Also, her ex-husband Mehdi Abrishamchi wants her to replace Massoud.
If the USA supports them now and pushes them into Iran, they will be worse in Iran than Saddam was for the US in Iraq. They performed intelligence work against their own country in a time of war. I met an Iranian nurse recently and she wept as she told me about the war. She said the Azmayesh factory constructed metal sheets to use in the war to shelter from attack. 30,000 Iranian soldiers were there. But the Mojahedin gave the intelligence to the Iraqis, who then bombarded them. Between 70-80,000 men lost their lives because of the Mojahedin. That's why I know they are more ruthless than anyone can believe.
Did you know the Mojahedin before you met them.
I had heard of them, everyone had. But I didn't know them as I do now. I thought they were freedom fighters. We hadn't heard about the crimes they committed with Saddam. And especially we hadn't heard anything about how they behave inside the organisation.
Nowadays I have seen more than enough with my own eyes, and if I say nothing else, it is to warn others not to go near them. They are criminals and traitors. When I call them criminals I'm not exaggerating. I was once visiting them in Paris. Of course, they go all out to be hospitable and look after us. But there was a young woman there who was working alongside us that I remember well and with good reason!
One evening I was really tired but felt too anxious to sleep, so when I went to my room I took a sleeping pill and settled down to rest. After a while I heard a noise in the room and, half-awake I lifted my head to look. I saw the young woman standing with her hand in my handbag. I was so drowsy I didn't know if I was dreaming or not and drifted back to sleep.
When I woke in the morning I discovered she had stolen my passport, my Green Card and around one thousand US dollars from my bag. Yet there she was in front of me. When I confronted her about it, one of the women commanders stepped in and sent her away. But they never returned my things.
Another time I was persuaded to visit them in their camp in Iraq. It happened that back home my shoes had been giving me some discomfort, so I had put a piece of paper in one of them to ease the pain. While I was having dinner in the garrison, I slipped my shoes off to be more comfortable and the paper must have been visible. Without warning the woman sitting next to me grabbed my shoe, took the paper out and ran away. For a moment I was amazed and perplexed. What …? Then I realised what had gone on. They suspected that someone in the camp had passed me a secret message to take out of the camp. In that moment I knew everything I ever needed to know about them. I knew that people inside were desperate to leave. I knew that they would do anything in their power to prevent that happening, and I knew that all the stories I had heard about their prisons and torture of their own people were all true. It was truly disturbing.
I have seen more than I needed to. I have seen that they do many illegal things. But you know, the thing they do worse than all this, which isn't even illegal is to play with people's minds and hearts.
I joined with them because of the people of Iran and all the time I tried hard to change them and to inform them about the realities both of the world and about themselves. It was as though they could not see anything but their own lies. I even tried to get Maryam Rajavi to change those hideous clothes she wears. When I first met her she was wearing a military uniform. It was completely inappropriate for what she wanted to do. Then, after I suggested she dress more attractively, she spend thousands of dollars on outrageous pink or yellow clothes, handmade from upholstery fabric! She doesn't have a clue and no one around her dares to criticise or even suggest she does things differently. It was only me who got her out of that uniform.
All the time I was with them singing in their concerts, they told me, don't talk about Iran only talk about Maryam. But I had no interest in her. I didn't work with the Mojahedin, I was an opposition voice, a thorn in their flesh. I sang because I wanted to return my voice to Iranians.
How did the Mojahedin behave toward you when you wanted to dissociate yourself from them?
It is true that once anyone gets into the claws of the Mojahedin they get trapped there, like in a cat's paw, and every time they try to escape the paw comes down on them again, sometimes with claws extended, sometimes with softness. But nevertheless it's a real trial to get away. One of the ways they used to trap people like me was through debt. They never paid us fully for our work even though we had agreements. They were always promising to pay next week, next month, next time.
One of the veteran NCRI members spoke to me in confidence some time ago, he said, 'Elahe, why don't you get out of here. People like me can't leave because we are totally dependent on the Rajavis for all our needs. We don’t have a penny, but at least you have a home and independence, and family. Leave now while you have the chance.' I was really saddened by this.
I visited Maryam in Paris one day and I told her: 'Look, the cage you have put me in is not even golden, it's wooden. I can't see the people and they can't see me'. All she could do was just stare at me. I asked them to pay me the money they owed me for all the concerts I had performed for them which I had not yet received.
Whenever I asked for the money which they owed me, which I have to say was a considerable amount, they kept telling me they can't pay. A short time after the start of the war in Iraq I saw Mohammad Mohaddessin and he told me: 'Look our people in Iraq are stuck and we have no money'. Then four days later, the French police raided Maryam Rajavi's home in Paris and along with all her garments and computers, they found eight million dollars in cash. Imagine. The next time I saw Mohaddessin he blushed with embarrassment. But I still didn't get my money.
Last year, I decided that I had had enough. I wrote a formal letter of resignation and faxed it directly to Maryam. But for a year they haven't announced my decision and it appears they don't want to accept it. They kept phoning me, saying OK, come and get your money. Once they said I should go to see Maryam in Paris to get my money. When I got there, they had laid on an extravagant dinner party apparently in my honour. They invited many of their French neighbours in Auvers-sur-Oise and even Danielle Mitterand came to dinner. All the time, Maryam kept trying to sit next to me so she could get some photographs or film me with her. But I knew what she was doing so I evaded her. Again, I left without my money.
In fact I was afraid too. I know that even now they use intelligence surveillance against people that they suspect are against them. They use phones in that way. They ring someone up and pretend to be someone else so they can get information from that person and record what they have to say. They don't just do it with Iranians, they do it with westerners too, with human rights workers and government places. It's not just Iranians. I also discovered that they have plans for 'accidents' for people. Right now I am worried. They are capable of anything. They have a widespread network in European countries and they could easily and quite discreetly harm me or my children. I am still afraid of what they could do to me or to my children.
Do you think being linked with the Mojahedin has changed how people view you?
I believe that history will be the judge. We have all made mistakes in our lives, we all have our ups and downs, especially now because Iran's recent history has been of change and upheaval for many people and we have all had to do our best to cope with this. What I am certain of is that my legacy is my voice and that for years to come people will enjoy my voice and my songs. These belong to Iran and to the world of music. The Mojahedin will also take their place in history regardless of my involvement. I believe history will judge them to be the despicable liars and traitors that I and others know them to be.
Finally, how would you describe the MKO's appreciation of art?
Art for the Mojahedin is like anything else. If they can exploit it they will do so. It has no other meaning. They use anything and everything for their own aims whether that is people or art. Just as they use and destroy people, they use and destroy art. And, I should add, the artists too.