Answers to the points raised by Mr Win Griffiths, MP in his reply to my articles
|by Anne Singleton,
22 September 2004
Dear Mr Griffiths,
Thank you for your letter and the replies to the two articles on our website. As the author of both articles I will address points you made in both your replies. Of course, it would be much better to have spoken together earlier so that these issues could have been resolved then, and I apologise for not contacting you on my return from Iran.
As your reply stated, I was in Iran with my son for a few days in June to visit my family as well as to discover the facts concerning the two men and their treatment in Evin prison. Homa was more fortunate since she stayed for two weeks and saw her father every day, including one visit to Evin prison. I was aware that you were also in Tehran at that time. My visit to Ebrahim and Jamil in Evin prison was as the representative of Iran-Interlink, and I was very pleased to see that you and Sir Teddy Taylor were also present as this added to the international pressure on Iran over its human rights record.
My subsequent report (both the preliminary and the full report) was based on my own understanding of the meeting and that is why there were no direct references concerning you or the other people present. I was aware that you wished not to be quoted and I hope I respected that. Of course, everyone in that meeting would have had their own, perhaps very different, understanding of events.
It is unfortunate that you did not have an opportunity to find out the identities of the other people in the room. I made a point of asking about every person there, although as you and Sir Teddy were the main focus of the meeting (apart from Ebrahim and Jamil of course), it would not have been easy for you at the time to ascertain each person’s role and identity.
I referred to the reporters as independent partly because they are not employed by a broadcasting company, for which ‘freelance’ would have been an adequate description, but I also wanted to convey my understanding of their actual ‘independence’ since neither, when I spoke to them, revealed any ‘agenda’ other than professional investigative reporting, and I had no doubts concerning their integrity.
Inclusive reference to the Mojahedin as the NCRI is something that even the US government does. I am surprised that you still think of the NCRI (on the US list of terrorist organisations as another name for the MKO) is a different body. The MKO itself has for over a decade referred to the NCRI as its political wing. You have described the Mojahedin organization in your reply as the military wing of the NCRI. I believe that this confusion can be clarified by looking not only at the membership but also at the leadership of the two entities which is not Maryam Rajavi, but in fact her husband, Massoud Rajavi.
I believe I am correct in saying that the Mojahedin did not start a campaign to ‘free’ the two men until they had been returned to Iran. That is not to say that a campaign of sorts was not started following the two men’s arrest in Syria. What is clear is that the MKO understood absolutely that as non British citizens the two men would not have access to representation from the British Embassy in Syria. The organisation also understood fully that immediate intervention by the UNHCR, ICRC and Amnesty International would have had a much greater impact on the two men’s fate than appeals by members of parliament (much as they were motivated by the best intentions) to have the men released. Why would the Syrians release the men if a crime had been committed? What was important at that stage was to ascertain whether a crime had been committed and to ensure fair and humane treatment for the two men. That would include not being extradited to Iran which could almost certainly have been prevented had Amnesty International been involved from the start.
In this respect, an important issue surrounding the men’s arrest concerns the Mojahedin’s claim that the men were in Syria to visit their families. If that were true, why then was Ebrahim’s daughter Homa, or his brother or mother or father or any other family member, not informed of his arrest at the time. Does Ebrahim have family which his own family are not aware of?
I agree that given the human rights record of the Iranian Government our fears for their safety were not unjustified. That is why, upon discovering he was in prison in Iran, Ebrahim’s family immediately contacted Amnesty International and an Urgent Appeal was issued.
It was Homa who was the first in our family to learn of Ebrahim’s arrest the day after he and Jamil had been transferred to Iran. She told us that NCRI/Mojahedin member Mitra Baqeri travelled from London and insisted on sitting in her house all day to repeatedly tell her that her father would be executed unless she went to London that day (the day after Ebrahim and Jamil were transferred to Iran) to demonstrate outside the Syrian embassy – even though the two men were in Iran at that time. Homa was also contacted by telephone from Auvers sur Oise by Mehrafruz Peykarnegar who repeated this ‘intimidation’. More disturbingly, Homa was telephoned by Mahmood in London who derided Homa for her complacency and suggested that she should set fire to herself in front of parliament in London to save her father. I am surprised that you had not been made aware of this incident, which distressed Homa greatly, when you were asked to represent her interests as an MP. Of course it is possible to ask Homa yourself directly about these events to ascertain their veracity.
In addition, the NCRI issued three press releases – available on our website in Farsi – which stated the name and place of Ebrahim and Jamil’s torturers. Ebrahim’s former wife (you know of course that all the Mojahedin were required to divorced on direct order of Massoud Rajavi) Elahe Azimfar was introduced as his family’s representative and she spoke to the press on several occasions about Ebrahim’s torture. She told the Barnet Times on 6 August 2003: "I've no hope that there will be a fair trial in Iran. If they had a charge then they would have said what it is. They want to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives and torture them.
"To think he is under torture is the most difficult thing, and I feel that sometimes I would rather he is at least dead, so he cannot feel. But I don't want to lose my hope." If Ms Azimfar had contacted Ebrahim’s real family she would not have had these fears because Ebrahim and Jamil were able to contact their families three days after their arrival in Iran and to subsequently have family visits in prison.
You say that Ebrahim’s telephone contact with his daughter – three times in a year – is ‘hardly regular’. The use of the word ‘regular’ is in the context that as a member of the NCRI/Mojahedin, Ebrahim had contact of any kind with his daughter about seven times in twenty years – in spite of frequent efforts by Homa to establish contact with her father, even to the extent of visiting him in Ashraf camp as a child and resorting to Red Cross messages more recently (please verify this with the British Red Cross tracing service if in doubt). What is significant and what I wanted to express in my article was that both Ebrahim and Jamil were free to contact their families at any time, and both men visited their families at home in Tehran on a regular basis (ie weekly) from very early on. However, since nobody actually contacted Ebrahim’s family, this fact was not widely known and his situation was therefore misrepresented to yourself and other members of parliaments such as Theresa Villiers and Sir Sydney Chapman.
late as April 2004 Elahe Azimfar told reporters for the Barnet Times: ‘She
believes the men are being tortured in Evin prison in Iran because they
support the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which opposes the
current clerical regime.
My reference to Ebrahim weighing only 6.5 stone came from his daughter Homa who was with him as he weighed himself at her home in 2002. His own explanation when she visited him in Iran was that his condition was due to the deliberately drastic physical and mental conditions imposed on people inside the MKO. He is certainly not the first one to complain about conditions in the MKO and this is certainly not the first cult to use the methods of starvation and lack of vitamins to reduce the critical abilities of the brain. (Information about methods of physical and psychological manipulation are available on our website.)
I have said in my report that the account of the MKO prisoners “moved and disturbed us” and that both MPs were “both moved by the direct appeal” to stop supporting the MKO. This of course was my interpretation of the expression I saw on your and Sir Teddy Taylors’ faces. I agree that my interpretation might have been wrong and you were not moved by their appeals. You go on to say you are not “absolutely certain that their highly critical accounts of the PMOI/MKO, were the outcome of quiet contemplation unencumbered by any pressures, physical or psychological, from the Iranian regime.” I can point to many more people than those you saw in the prison who are living outside Iran, who actively oppose the Iranian government and who are more than happy to explain their own treatment inside the MKO – including those sent by the Rajavi’s to Abu Ghraib prison – if you are interested.
You question why the prisoners had not tried to kill themselves when they were arrested. Yet during the meeting at the prison, most of the prisoners gave explanations about how they had variously tried and failed to use the cyanide capsule or were prevented from using them, indeed one even said that he had used it but it didn’t work. The prisoner who had lost his right hand did so because he tried to blow himself up with a grenade when he was arrested.
You have stated that by describing myself as the representative of a non governmental human rights organisation there is an attempt to “give the impression that she is neutral in the struggle between the Government of Iran and the NCRI”. Do you really believe that anyone who criticises the Mojahedin for its well-documented human rights abuses is automatically ‘on the side of the regime’, as though there were no place to stand except between the two? If you mean that, then every Iranian opposition and many of your colleagues in parliament which have ever criticised the Mojahedin must then be a friend of the Iranian government. This is frankly an unrealistic conclusion to come to. Perhaps if you had spoken to me and ascertained my own view as regards the Iranian government you might have seen my position differently.
Iran-Interlink’s engagement with the Mojahedin is intended to expose and stop the well-documented violations of human rights which it commits. The day that this is stopped, we will disengage.
Describing you as one of the handful supporters of the MKO is correct. The list you have referred to from January 2004 does not in reality exist. The only document available is a letter from Lord Corbett to the Foreign Office claiming that 305 five MPs had supported the MKO, no attached list had been posted. We believe that the vast majority of MPs give enough credence to expert analyses and information (including from the Foreign Office) not to take the MKO at face value. According to the MKO, over half a million Iraqis, thousands of Iraqi law makers, over 700 members of parliament all over the world, etc are supporting them. To date they have failed to publish a single document in support of these claims.
My information that the MKO had tried to dissuade you from visiting Iran – which visit I believe was highly beneficial to both the arrested men and to all those wishing to see an end to this long lasting bloodshed - came from a source inside the NCRI. The same source has advised us that Lord Alton met with Mrs Rajavi following the Brussels demonstration on 13 September, and that Lord Archer will visit her at the end of September. After this visits by Mike Hancock, yourself, Lord Corbett, Rudi Vis, and an MP with the surname Smith are in the pipe line. Mr Alejo Vida Quadra, MEP (Spain) and Mr Andre Brie, MEP (Germany) are also scheduled to visit in October as is Lord Clarke. The London office of the NCRI (Ms Nowrouzi) is inviting MPs to go and visit Mrs Rajavi and you have been designated (whether you are aware of it or not) as the person who can encourage these people to do so. Although the program – the target has been set as one visit per week for some weeks to come - is most probably for propaganda use on the MKO’s Farsi websites and for internal purposes, we would welcome this as an initiative by yourself for starting dialogue.
Indeed, while reading your replies and writing my own answers to your points it has become overwhelmingly clear that the only reason for such misunderstandings and misinterpretations is that we and everyone else involved in the issue of the Mojahedin and the Iranian government’s treatment of it, do not talk to one another. It is for this reason that I applaud the approach which you have taken that the best solution is to negotiate between the two sides. And I believe you are, at present, the best person to facilitate and encourage this dialogue.
We await with interest your response to our letter to you of August 9th which invited you to facilitate discussion and debate between the Mojahedin and its critics outside Iran as a start to this process.
Anne Singleton (Khodabandeh)