A letter to Independent

Anne Singleton, 29th December 2004

Dear Sir,

Re: Tank girls: the frontline feminists by Christine Aziz, 28 December 2004

I was extremely dissapointed to see this article. For one thing it insults your Iranian readers and it insults feminists. And it insults your readers' credulity.

I cannot believe that I have to go through a list of the inaccuracies and falsities in the article because as you know they appear in almost every single paragraph. You are aware are you not that the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran is just another name for the Mojahedin-e Khalq. You know don't you that the whole 'Iranian Resistance' under whatever name they like to use, is led by one man, Massoud Rajavi, and not by a herd of women as implied in the article. Massoud Rajavi fronts his wife Maryam and these women becuase they are totally obedient to him - not because they have feminist credentials. It is very convenient for him that this also gives the illusion that women run the organisation. But this is simply not true.

Christine Aziz has become a friend of the Mojahedin. But she has never been a member, she has not seen, or she chooses not to see, the reality behind the fiction which the organisation spins.

I am surprised that The Independent chose not to check the veracity of this article with its own Iran experts. Do you not have someone on the Foreign Desk who could have advised on its accuracy. Or, perhaps, as Ms Aziz also implies in her article 'it is all about politics' and you have chosen to print this fictionalised version of the Mojahedin organisation as a goodwill gesture? Are you sure you know to whom this goodwill is aimed? Certainly it is not the MKO since Massoud Rajavi is beholden to some other supporter now that he has lost Saddam Hussein.

You know of course that the Mojahedin (or, if you like, the 'tank girls of the NLA) were mercenaries of Saddam Hussein. It is a little disingenuous of Ms Aziz to quote one of these tank girls as saying, "we were only in Iraq to overthrow the Islamic fundamentalist regime across the border in Iran" when clear and openly available evidence exists which reveals that Massoud Rajavi sent these very tank girls to attack and suppress Kurdish villagers in March 1991 when they tried to organise an uprising against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. If you doubt this, we can send evidence. Or, introduce you to a former Mojahedin and NLA member now living in the UK who refused to obey orders to use his tank to crush Kurdish villagers - that is to run over women and children and men with his tank if they got in his way. For this refusal he suffered years of punishment and persecution at the hands of the Mojahedin. However, he is fortunate he was not sent to Abu Ghraib prison as so many other dissenting members of the Mojahedin were. Perhaps Ms Aziz would like to hear from them about the reality behind the fiction spun by the Mojahedin.

Do you seriously expect your readers to believe that the reason the Mojahedin was listed as a terrorist entity by the USA, UK and EU was based on a political whim - "as a goodwill gesture towards Iran's newly elected President Mohammed Khatami" and not on hard facts about the organisation? Do you believe that?

The obvious response to most of the issues covered by the article in which the Mojahedin gets to speak is that "well they would say that wouldn't they". But where is Ms Aziz's challenge to these opinions? Where is the fair and balanced reporting. Ms Aziz talks about US General Ray Odierno of the 4th Infantry division visiting the camp to negotiate disarmament. He was also given VIP treatment (I say also because Ms Aziz would have been given the same treatment herself during her own visit). Do neither of them reflect, in a country suffering over ten years of severe sanctions, that the money and the logistics behind such luxury must have come from somewhere - did it not remind them a little of Saddam Hussein's own palaces?

I am more than happy to speak to you about the Mojahedin, the NCRI, the NLA and the Iranian Resistance and to give the hard facts behind Ms Aziz's fictionalised version.

Please do not reduce the credibility of your excellent newspaper to this level.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Singleton (author 'Saddam's Private Army', 2003)