Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum from Iran—Interlink


  1.1  Iran Interlink is a small organisation with a highly specialised remit in relation to the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI); the main external opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran. (This description of the Mojahedin as an external opposition has two main meanings. First, the organisation is mostly based outside Iran—in Iraq, Europe and the USA. Secondly, ideologically they stand outside the Islamic Republic of Iran, and thus call for the overthrow of the entire ruling system of Iran. They do not see any hope for reform from within the Islamic Republic of Iran.) The Mojahedin is listed as a proscribed organisation in the UK (Terrorism Act 2000).

  1.2  Iran-Interlink's specific aims are:

    (a)  to help relatives make contact with family members inside the Mojahedin, (the Mojahedin has a policy of not allowing any contact with family or friends);

    (b)  to act as a pressure group in exposing the human rights violations of the Mojahedin, (as an opposition organisation and in particular as it is based in Iraq, the Mojahedin has been able for years to act with impunity in its treatment of dissenting members).

2.  Terms of reference

  2.1  Iran-Interlink's intention in this document is to indicate the extent of the unchallenged human rights violations committed by the PMOI. We do not intend, whether implicitly or explicitly, to either condemn or condone the actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or indeed of other interested parties in relation to the PMOI or Iran, and such a meaning should not be assumed from the information contained in this document.

  2.2  Criticism of the Mojahedin is not to be taken as an endorsement of the actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

3.  Human rights abuses of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran

  3.1  Over the past decade there have been increasing reports by former members of the Mojahedin concerning human rights abuses and mistreatment within the organisation. Recent reports most often state that members who criticise the leadership of the organisation are being severely and systematically punished. This has now reached a level at which dissenting members are being sent to Iraqi prisons without trial.

  3.2  Unfortunately, the Mojahedin has been able to act with impunity in this regard since all the alleged abuses have taken place inside Iraq. Clearly there has been little or no opportunity for independent investigation of the situation. Indeed since it is the Iraqi government which should be held responsible for the activities of any non-governmental organisation under its jurisdiction, there seems little hope in the short term of any opportunity to investigate the Mojahedin's activities inside Iraq.

  3.3  In January 2001 a group of 50 Iranian former Mojahedin members were removed from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad by the Iraqi authorities. They were taken to the Iran-Iraq border where they were exchanged for a group of Iraqi prisoners of war released by the Iranian authorities. Since that time, no information has been forthcoming as to the whereabouts or welfare of these individuals.

  3.4  Iran-Interlink believes that the forthcoming visit to Iran by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is the best, if not the only, opportunity to discover what has happened to these people. In addition, this would go some way to establishing the scale of human rights violations carried out by the Mojahedin. It would establish how the Islamic Republic of Iran deals with former Mojahedin members. Perhaps most importantly it would establish whether the reports of further Mojahedin dissidents still being held in Abu Ghraib prison are likely to be accurate.

4.  Statement of Massoud Tayebi

  4.1  Massoud Tayebi arrived in Germany in June 2002 to claim asylum. He had been a member of the Mojahedin since 1978. At the time he chose to leave he was a Vice President of the Army Staff Headquarters and member of the Central Council. Unlike many former members, Tayebi was able to escape from Iraq without any personal mistreatment by the Mojahedin. Unlike others, because he arrived in Europe directly from Iraq, the Mojahedin were not able to accuse him of working for the Iranian Intelligence Ministry which is a label used against all their most outspoken critics.

  4.2  When Tayebi arrived in Europe he issued a statement outlining his reasons for leaving the Mojahedin. The main issues he describes as:

  4.2.1  The absolute dictatorship of Massoud Rajavi (leader of the Mojahedin), allowing no rights to others.

  4.2.2  Lack of freedom in the Organisation.

  4.2.3  Deprivation of the right to choose and prohibition of members gathering together and holding friendly debates about their beliefs.

  4.2.4  Preventing members from contacting their family members or relatives.

  4.2.5  Inquiry into and scrutiny of individuals' beliefs and compulsory reporting to the Organisation details of what is going on in their minds and even their dreams.

  4.2.6  An internal trial of more than fifty members and the Vice President of the Mojahedin Organisation in the presence of around 2000 people without a jury or defence lawyer. Massoud Rajavi himself was both prosecutor and judge in this unfair trial, which was held in the summer of 1380 (2001).

  4.2.7  Imprisonment and torture—emotional, mental and physical—of members who wanted to separate from the Mojahedin Organisation but whom the organisation doesn't want to let go.

  4.2.8  Damage to the reputation and integrity of the Mojahedin Organisation due to inaccurate military and political actions. Worst of all is that the Mojahedin is now recognised and listed as a world-wide terrorist organisation by the USA, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

  4.2.9  Disagreement with any criticism that might help them to progress their political and military strategies.

  4.2.10  Suppressing criticism of any organisational member or official of the highest Councils; this is done systematically, and if anyone disagrees with the organisation's opinion, he/she will be subjected to severe punishment. These punishments include: (1) accepting the accusation of disloyalty to the Mojahedin Organisation in the form of a written confession; (2) in a private internal Organisational meeting, Massoud Rajavi announced that there are 400 individuals who are the opponents of and want to leave the Mojahedin Organisation; (3) imprisonment of these individuals for a minimum of two years, or five years for prominent members and vice-presidential rank, for members of the army staff, imprisonment is for over five years.

  4.2.11  Forcing individuals to take part in a televised interview. This is exactly what was done by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1360 (1981), when I was a prisoner of the government of Iran. Since 1381 (2001) up to the present, this is being done by the Mojahedin.

  4.2.12  Returning some of the disassociated individuals to Iran. That is, individuals who were politically active against Iran's regime. The Iraqi authorities and prison guards have undertaken this inhumane action. This is even being done to people who have European or North American citizenship, and who joined the Mojahedin and went to Iraq in order to fight for Iran's freedom.

  4.3  Tayebi then goes on to describe the unfair trials of several individuals which took place in July, August and September of 2001. Although described as "trials" there was no legal representation on either side during the whole process.

  4.4  Out of over 50 people, 14 individuals are named in the report. One of these, Hassan Mashoufi, was accused in the trial of covertly using a long-distance telephone line. Mashoufi had used this line to ask his family in Europe to try to rescue him. He also contacted Amnesty International to ask for their help.

  A full copy of this statement is attached[5].

5.  Internal relations of the Mojahedin and its impact on Mojahedin activities

  5.1  One of the main criticisms of former members of the Mojahedin concerns the internal structure of the organisation. It is described as operating an "iron discipline" over its members to the extent of practicing serious violations of human rights in attempts to force members to conform, or as they describe it "submit to Rajavi's leadership". But the description of "iron discipline" fails to adequately convey the behaviour of the Mojahedin towards its members. After all, armies depend upon an iron discipline in order to fight wars. But former members know that the control exerted over them is not the same as that of a classic army. Even though most former members know that they have been in what has been described in the west as a personality cult, they lack the tools to describe what this means.

  5.2  According to Ian Howarth of the Cult Information Centre, all cults share the same characteristics. The definition of any cult is that it indoctrinates its members; it forms a closed, totalitarian society; it has a self-appointed, messianic and charismatic leader; it believes that the ends justify the means; and its wealth does not benefit its members. Howarth also states that recruits are mostly a certain type of person; intelligent, idealistic, well educated, economically advantaged and intellectually or spiritually curious.

  5.3  The Mojahedin have all these characteristics, and it is the use of well-documented psychological mind control techniques which the former members describe as "iron discipline". It is a view of their structure which has not been given much attention until now. The inner world of the Mojahedin, if it is enquired into at all, is still a mystery to western observers, and it is a deliberate policy of the Mojahedin to keep it that way. Because of this, little importance has been attached to this aspect of their organisation. Yet cult culture is one of the most dangerous forms of society. Firstly because it robs the members of their most basic of human rights, even the right to think. The Mojahedin has conducted forced marriages and later forced divorces, it has separated children from their parents and had them fostered by their supporters in various countries. But the even more disturbing issues which have emerged from the secrecy of their inner world involve the incarceration of dissidents in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and their subsequent transfer to Iran (as far as the Mojahedin are concerned they were being sent to almost certain death), and the phoney trials held by Massoud Rajavi in the Mojahedin's camps.

  5.4  Amnesty International in its 2002 Annual Report, unable to investigate in the Mojahedin's headquarters and camps in Iraq the hundreds of accusations of human rights abuses which have reached its desk, resigned itself to stating:

    "There were unconfirmed reports that the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, an armed political group, ill-treated its own members at a base in Iraq. The reports were denied by the organization but it failed to provide substantive information to allay AI's concerns."

  5.5  The second, perhaps more imperative reason that cult culture presents such a danger is because it renders its members obedient to the point, as was seen with the disaster in the World Trade Centre in New York, where they are capable of the most extreme and unthinkable acts of self-sacrifice. The governments of the USA and Europe as well as the UK have placed the Mojahedin on their lists of terrorist organisations with perhaps a conventionally defined analysis based on the Mojahedin's missile attacks in Iran which have killed and injured several civilians. It may also be that because the Mojahedin's armed wing, the National Liberation Army of Iran is funded, trained and supplied by Saddam Hussein in Iraq this has been a major consideration. However, in the view of Iran-Interlink, it is the internal relations of the Mojahedin and in particular Massoud Rajavi's ruthless ambition in leadership which presents the ongoing danger associated with this organisation.

  5.6  Labelling the Mojahedin as a cult may not appear to be significantly more helpful than labelling them as terrorist in the current political climate and especially in relation to their activities inside Iran. But Iran-Interlink believes that it is this aspect of their structure which renders them most dangerous, not only for their own members and the people of Iran, but for western communities which may in future be further affected by their activities. As a cult the Mojahedin obeys only its own internal dynamic and its own ideological imperatives. As such, the Mojahedin have placed themselves beyond the sphere of influence of any country, government or any other international authority or body (except for Saddam Hussein to whom they are beholden). If they are to be dealt with at all, it is this aspect which must be grappled with as much as their military activities. The Mojahedin is currently in the process of transferring around three hundred of the top members, including Massoud Rajavi, to Europe. In the event of a western military action in Iraq, Rajavi plans to send the remaining Mojahedin members on an all-out military mission to attack Iran[6]. In the view of Iran-Interlink, Massoud Rajavi as the mastermind and owner of all the Mojahedin's activities and aliases, should be held personally accountable under the Terrorism Act 2000 for everything the organisation and its aliases do.

  5.7  Mojahedin personnel are driven by loyalty to Rajavi rather than by events in the political scene of Iran or elsewhere. Their single aim is to remove the whole system called the Islamic Republic of Iran and establish Rajavi in power in its place. Obeying their own internal dynamic, the Mojahedin have consistently denied the very palpable changes to Iran's political atmosphere following the election of President Khatami. In the view of Iran-Interlink this wilfully ignores the real force which is driving the changes inside Iran which is the people of the country.


January 2003

5   Statement of Massoud Tayebi Back

6   "Pending Human Rights Disaster" Iran-Interlink Website Back

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