Diplomacy and the MKO's Foreign Supporters

Interview with Ebrahim Khodabandeh on Habilian website
July 2005

Interviewer - Mr. Win Griffiths came to Iran and saw the reality of your condition at first hand; but he evaded, in a way, admitting this reality! Why does a figure such as him ignore his responsibility and resort to partiality in his judgment?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - There are various reasons for this, the clearest of which is his formal ties with the [Mojahedin] Organization. In the end, it's been 25 years that he is working with the MKO and there's a kind of formality between them.
Many MKO members (like me and others) are the people who have had relations with the people who are now in the House of Lords. These people have had contact with the MKO since they were young and were in the Labour Party and then they had become members of parliament, stood down and became Lords, but kept their contact.
There are a few such people, such as Win Griffiths, Lord Corbett, and Lord Clark; they're the products of the 1980s when a big wave was in motion against Iran (at that time it was said that every 25 minutes an Iranian is executed). These people came at that time and I saw that Labour Party formally supported the NCRI. A representative of the Labour Party came and said that they wanted to support the MKO. Anyway, this was their policy at that time.
These [people] are the products of that period of time and when they retire, no one replaces them. Most of them are concentrated in the US and the UK; in other European countries you can't find such similar conditions. This is because the MKO had strong foreign relations in the US and UK. It had people on the ground who had made friendship with parliamentarians.
There may be a thousand reasons for Win Griffiths's position; he may have formal relations with a person in the MKO.
But this is only related to a person. If you look closer, you can see that support for the MKO has become restricted and limited. At one time, a majority of the Swedish parliament supported the NCRI, when Maryam Rajavi was in Paris, but it is now finished.
After that, it was reversed and opponents of the MKO in European Parliament increased. The MKO has never been able to get good support from the parliaments in Germany and France.
It also depends on the political situation of the MPs and their record as an MP. The presence of some people, who were influential, could be decisive; but Parliament is not an important organ in the foreign policies of these countries, and so the position taken by a member of parliament is not important.
If all the MPs of the world gather and sign a petition in favour of the MKO, nothing will be changed for this organization. All of them together can't have the value of a diplomat or an expert from a Foreign Office. The professional views of such experts have always been decisive. No one, even a simple expert, in any foreign ministry, supports this organization.
Except with Saddam, the Organization couldn't establish solid relations with other states; it has not had even a simple discussion. Other nations don't count on the MKO to sit and talk to it. Instead, the MKO has always wanted a person from any foreign ministry to come and talk to them. This never came true for the MKO and then the terrorist lists showed up. First, the US list of terrorist organization and then, the UK, and then it was extended to European Parliament.
Now if you compare the words of Win Griffiths and the [Terrorism] Act [2000] passed by the UK parliament which introduced the MKO as a terrorist organization; they're not comparable. I mean the words of Griffiths are not decisive.

Interviewer - Your explanations about the diplomacy of the organization and that where it is going and its propaganda positions have been very useful. But when we address Mr. Win Griffiths as a human being, he has taken a position against your case; how should we evaluate this?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - We should remember that Mr. Griffiths is retired [as an MP] and he would be dealing with the supporters of the MKO. If I were him, I'd work cautiously because the members of the MKO are present there in the UK and I would meet them again; in the end, one should think that he had 20 years of relationship and he needs more caution than people like Teddy Taylor who has no formal relation with the MKO or Emma Nicholson who has always taken position against the MKO.
I mean this position taking depends on personal characteristics; it can't be analyzed politically.

Interviewer - Another point was that the MKO put pressure on Homa Khodabandeh and tried to convince her that she should protest and set herself on fire. Mitra Bagheri had said this, 20 days before organized self-immolations in France; before Marzieh Babakhani and Sedighe Mojaveri in Paris and Neda Hassani in the UK set themselves on fire; of course, the total number of self-immolations was 16 out of which 2 deaths were reported.
But the organization claims that it was not organized by the MKO.
I want to establish a link between what the MKO had said to Homa and the events in France. Can we say that what happened in France was a move by the members themselves?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - I can't believe that even a move is performed by itself in the MKO; I mean if someone can do something in the MKO by himself, then the MKO is not the organization that I know.
If someone wants to drink water, it is done under the supervision of the organization. In most of the cases we couldn't decide and waited for the organization to give us commands. We couldn't even decide on the simplest affairs of all human beings.
It is possible that an official of the MKO has not directly ordered someone to execute the orders, but there are special methods to force the members indirectly to do something; the MKO is master at such methods.
For instance, in the meetings they didn't tell us to attack a person, but they prepared the situation so that all the people in that meeting attacked a person who did not have similar ideas. In that system, ordering members is easy.
If it was something spontaneous, the people who were closer to the center of the MKO (Maryam Rajavi) should have been more affected; but why didn't the veterans come to the scene and why were the younger members involved; why was it limited and why wasn't it wider?
My daughter told met that someone had called her and said that 'if she was really my daughter, she'd set herself on fire'. When they can say such things to my daughter, consider the things they may have said after Maryam was arrested.
They may have said that if something like this happens, we would do so and so; well, there are a number who are influenced and would do the same…
Let me tell you something; if the MKO didn't want these events to happen it had the ability to prevent them although the members had become very excited.

Interviewer - When Mr. Griffiths came to Iran, you asked Ms. Elahe Azimfar to come to Iran and meet with you in person and you guaranteed her return. Would you repeat this again? Would you ask her or any other MKO representative to come to Iran?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - Sure; I'm assured that I can guarantee this. I'm sure about it due to the things I've see here. It's not restricted to one case. One can see many things, courts, revolutionary courts, judges, interrogators, intelligence ministry; prison guards…the families, people in the streets. All this can't be a big theater.
My analysis is that right now, Ms. Elahe Azimfar can come to Iran. She can go around and see everyone and then she can return to the UK!
Who benefits from this? If you look at it very carefully, you'll see that the only loser is the MKO. It is the MKO which should answer these questions: where's the torture, where's the execution, why was x not tortured, why was y not executed? This is one of the first results of such a visit to Iran.
Win Griffiths came to Iran and returned; he can say what he wants. That he came to Iran after 25 years of enmity with the Islamic Republic and supporting MKO, that he was welcomed like a guest, he went everywhere he wanted and talked to everyone he liked, and then he returned, that is enough.
He can say nothing; anyone who witnesses this must ask himself "Where are all those claims?" I mean there's a contradiction.
Once we see a person like Emma Nicholson, who came here to say "don't execute these people". She didn't ask for anything in return. She was not given money. My brother asked him and she came to Iran and asked Iran not to execute us. And then we see how the MKO treats her.
What has she done that the MKO insults her? What has she said that the MKO is so angry? So, the only loser out of visits to Iran is the MKO and no one else.
That's why the MKO tries to isolate those who talk about Iran and who go to the Iranian embassy. It wants to create a situation in which no one thinks of returning to Iran. A situation in which members think they have committed a betrayal; they can do anything but they must never approach Iran.
I know that the Iranian government has a good insight into the MKO and knows that if someone is separate from the MKO for 10 days, then that person won't be the same again. Iran is always open to such people.
This is not like Europe. The punishment for armed robbery here is death, but how is that [Iran] pardons MKO members, even those who have participated in operations? Because they know that if a person leaves the MKO, and the 'Current Operation'" [brainwashing] sessions are stopped, that person can be reconstructed and sent back into society. It means that these persons have not been terrorists and criminals but they have been in a situation that has forced them to be so.
Experience shows that those who survived their own [terrorist] operations in Iran, made a 180 turnabout during a short time. Unfortunately, some of them committed suicide or were killed during the operation.
This turnabout can't be achieved through torture, or mental pressure since they were ready for torture and mental pressure. The thing they were not ready for was seeing reality. That's why they were told to swallow cyanide capsule.
I'm sure that if someone like Ms. Elahe Azimfar comes to Iran, she would be warmly received and then she can return freely. Then she can return and say that she was tortured here.
She can say whatever she wants, it's not important. But the only loser will be the MKO and the MKO won't allow such a thing to happen.

Interviewer - It was announced on behalf of Mr. Griffiths that he is carrying a message of peace for Iranian officials and whether it is possible for the government to stop its enmity toward the MKO and issue a pardon or not. Do you think it was a personal request or was it something which had been coordinated by the MKO?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - No, I think it was personal. As far as the system in Iran is concerned it has no problem. What would they want to do if they return to the country? Would they hold the 'current operation' sessions in a stadium?
The system's behavior with us shows that it doesn't consider the MKO to be a serious threat.
Win Griffiths said that he was personally opposed to armed struggle. He said that he didn't accept that MKO has performed military operations.

Interviewer - Of course, he later withdrew these words.

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - Anyway, this was what he told us. He said that he wanted to create understanding. But I don’t believe that the organization will abandon its principles. Mr. Griffiths should know that MKO's basis is that the regime should be toppled. Well, first of all, it should withdraw from this position and then there is room for other discussions.
For instance, first I say that I seek your death! Now I want to sit and talk to you. It's impossible because I have not left any room for discussion.
So, this was something personal. He said that he had something like the model of South Africa in his mind. But the cases are not similar at all.

Interviewer - Mr. Griffiths and two of his friends had formed an ad hoc parliamentary committee to save you, "The Committee for the freedom of Ebrahim Khodabandeh and Jamil Bassam"! But as the MKO's propaganda decreased, this committee was shut down (although if its purpose was humanitarian it should have continued its activities until achieving a clear result). Now the question is, whether these committees and other similar movements are created at the request of MPs or at the request of the MKO?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - All the activities by these MPs are planned by the MKO. MPs are very busy. Iran may be at the bottom of their agenda. They are so busy that they can't enter into such cases. They only let their names be used by such committees- which are usually fixed and are run by a few who have old relations with the MKO.
These committees don't have formal or legal aspects. They're not influential at all. They're more propagandistic and help the MKO in its propaganda programs.

Interviewer -  You mean they have internal applications in the MKO?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - Yes, they're used to recruit and keep members. For example, consider the committee which had been formed for us. It was not for our freedom. It had propaganda use, up to a point? Up to where? Up to when Baroness Emma Nicholson came and visited us. Then my daughter came and visited me. And later, Griffiths came and then the time for using this committee was expired.
One of the things that was explained here for Mr. Griffiths here was our case and the accusations against us. The UNCR also said that we should be returned to Syrian and that the extradition was illegal because we had UK citizenship. But they couldn't charge Iran because we had threatened Iran's security and Iran had the right to receive us wherever we had been arrested.
For instance, a number of people were arrested by the US in Afghanistan. They were taken to Guantanamo Bay. The US says these people were threats to its security. It was explained to Win Griffiths that there were clear charges against us.
It was explained for him that we should go on trial court because we had been arrested and charged.
Anyway, such committees have temporary applications; to fill newspapers and show activities and ….
They show these to attract new members and keep some people busy.

Interviewer -  You mean Mr. Griffiths has accepted Iran's reasoning on judicial issues?

Ebrahim Khodabandeh - Yes, he had a meeting with Mr. Javad Larijani about us. They explained our case to him and said that they are ready to explain it for anyone who has criticisms of the judicial process in this regard.
These are mostly political noises, there's no legal discussion in them. They lack diplomatic and legal value. They're only for propaganda.

Interviewer -  Thank-you.