Interview with Anne Singleton, author of Saddam's Private Army
By Ahmad Kanafani of Dunia Al Arab magazine
1- Will you please introduce yourself and give a brief comment on your own life story, the experiences you have had with “Mojahedin Khalgh Organisation (MKO)”, the objectives you are now pursuing and the book written by you on this cult (MKO)?
1. I am an English woman who met some Iranian students while at university in the UK. Through them I became interested in activities in support of the Mojahedin about a year before the 1979 revolution in Iran. After the revolution of course the Mojahedin became very active and so I was able to attend meetings and demonstrations in London throughout the 1980s and was treated as a close friend of the organization so that I was invited to dinner in their bases etc.
I finished my studies (BA Hons English Language and Literature) and after doing various jobs, began work as a computer programmer for a well-known British financial company. At the same time I was learning a lot about the Mojahedin's cause, the situation in Iran and how the MKO were dedicating their lives to struggle for freedom in Iran. This was an attractive cause for me since I had a strong interest in human rights and justice. The MKO members were all very professional and dedicated in their work.
I took advantage of opportunities to visit their bases, not only in London, but also in Sweden, Paris, Germany and the USA. On two occasions I travelled to Iraq to see their military capacity at first hand. Once was to attend their military parade in October 1991. They held the parade to show foreign journalists that after the Gulf war the MKO military capacity had not been weakened and that they were 'independent' of the situation in Iraq. However, on my second visit to their camp in Jalula, it was clear to even a casual observer that everything they had done was achieved through the Iraqis, from equipment to training.
After many years of close observation of the MKOs internal operations, it also became clear that their claims to support democracy, human rights and women's rights were not borne out in reality. The internal structure was completely based on Massoud Rajavi's leadership and no other views or ideas were allowed to be spoken of. Even when it was clear that Rajavi had committed a grave error of judgement, such as the 1988 Forouq-e Javidan operation which resulted in tens of hundreds of deaths and even more injuries, nobody was allowed to criticise his leadership. Even after the Gulf war when Human Rights Watch exposed the MKOs involvement in suppressing Kurdish and Shiite rebellions in Iraq, nobody inside the organization was allowed to speak about these events and only denied them. By 1990 Rajavi had so completely brainwashed his members that he was able to demand anything of them, including forced divorces and separation of parents and children. At the same time, he continued to claim that the organisation was Islamic!
At the same time, in Europe where I saw them lobbying parliamentarians on a pro-democracy and pro-women's rights platform, I became increasingly concerned about the difference in what they said to the outside world and what they practiced inside their own world. They believe that they are superior to the rest of humanity and that to join them is a privilige which can only be earned by sacrificing everything (body, mind, heart etc) to Massoud Rajavi. Not one person in the organisation has any idea of what democracy or even individual rights means in fact.
In the end I can say that they completely lost touch with Iran, especially after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and their struggle and became more and more inward looking; unable to change with outer circumstances and reality. I began to see that their activities in the West were actually based on deceit and fraud rather than on any real belief in their words. They developed fairly sophisticated tricks to con people out of money and political support, forging signatures and documents etc. It was at this point, in 1996 that I decided I had had enough of trying to justify to myself the obvious wrongs they were committing and the lies they were telling. I began to meet with and speak to former members - one of whom became my husband - and their stories opened my eyes to things which I hadn't dreamed were possible while I was still supporting the MKO.
It was these stories which prompted me to try to expose the MKO as a dangerous cult and to let the world, in particular those in parliaments and human rights campaigners, know about the deceit and lies the MKO uses to maintain their position. I hope my book also serves as a warning that the MKO are trained to sacrifice their lives for Massoud Rajavi and that this poses a significant threat to the West where these people may become suicide bombers. Indeed we saw recently the self-immolations of members. These were not spontaneous and were performed as part of their organisational duties for their leaders. They also show that the MKO do not believe in the rule of law (Maryam Rajavi was arrested legally and will be tried legally in France) or in democracy (there are many other ways to protest than to terrorise the French government by self-immolations).
My book is an attempt to weigh in against the MKO's massive and relentless propaganda machine which they have used to promote themselves in Western circles, and for the truth about the MKO and the Rajavis to find a voice.
2- Following the capture of Ms. Maryam Rajavi and the discovery of some documents, the French police called MKO a terrorist and horrible cult. What is your comment on this affair?
2. The MKO is a cult there is no doubt about that. All former members recognise this. My book points to the five characteristics of cults. The MKO uses sophisticated but easily recognised techniques of psychological manipulation on the members to control their minds. In the end, members submit to believing everything that Rajavi tells them to believe. If he says the sky is black they will believe this and campaign to make the rest of the world believe it too. However, Rajavi really does tell them he is their link with God (he has indicated that he is 'like' the 12th Imam of Shiite Islam, the Imam Zaman). But what is more important for the French is that the members have been trained to die and to kill for Rajavi. They have already done this in various ways. The most obvious are the terrorist attacks in Iran. Less obvious is the work they have performed directly for Saddam Hussein over the years. More subtle have been the continuous physical attacks on other Iranian opposition members in the West over the past twenty years. I have no doubt that this will be extended to non-Iranians and also escalated to murders where possible. After all, this is what the MKOs soldiers have been trained for by Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Guard.
3- The French police has announced that MKO had plotted to terrorise its ex-dissident members in Europe and America. What have you provided as counter-terrorism acts? And what is your analysis in this regard?
3. As above. I should add that anybody who has ever spoken out against the MKO, whether former member or not, has been labelled as 'working for Iran's Intelligence Ministry'. Putting aside the ludicrousness of such a claim, and even by conceding that some of the MKOs critics possibly are working for the regime, what is important is not the motives or agenda of all the MKOs critics, but whether their criticisms are true or not! The MKO have been able for years to convince Western governments not to listen to any of their critics by such tactics. Where this has failed, the MKO themselves have gone and beaten people up - Dr Ali Reza Nourizadeh of Kayhan is an example - in order to silence them. But threatening and intimidating critics does not prove that the MKO have not committed numerous kinds of crime and broken every moral boundary that every existed in their pursuit of power.
4- There has been close links between MKO and Saddam Hosein as well as the terrorist and illegal acts committed by this organisation in Europe. Do you have any comments on the ex-regime in Iraq regarding this organisation?
4. It was clear to me from my close association with the MKOs internal command and operations that they were receiving all their funding and operational support in Iraq from the Iraqi government. This was not 'denied' or 'confirmed' but it was obviously so, you would have to be blind to ignore it. This was later verified by Vafiq Samerai, Iraq's former Military Intelligence officer, who spoke of the millions of dollars Saddam paid to the MKO. The MKO's military parade in 1990 was performed using Iraqi tanks. There are many instances which clearly expose the relationship. In my view, Saddam Hussein paid for and used the MKO as mercenaries - to the extent of sending MKO dissidents to his own Abu Ghraib political prison.