A New Beginning for Democratic Opposition

By Massoud Khodabandeh

Anti Terrorism conference, March 2005


"…Rejection of the MKO not simply as a force which has inflicted pain, but as a cult whose actions directly help the hardliners in Iran and which is trying its best to destroy any hope for a democratic future in Iran, signaled a new political stance…"

When I was asked by Iran-Paywand Association to help organize and to speak during the recent protest activities in Paris, of course I was willing to offer my help. But I had no idea what an honour participation in these actions would be for me. I had no idea at the outset that this first, modest and hastily put together series of protests would be the seed for a new political energy with which to push forward one of the demonstration slogans 'No mullahs, no Rajavi, democracy, democracy'.

I had the honor of attending the Seminar on 31st March in Paris and listening to the speeches made both by critics and also by several victims of the Mojahedin who have been successful in having their allegations of human rights abuses inflicted by Maryam Rajavi accepted for investigation and subsequent prosecution by the French judiciary. Their individual accounts were very moving. But if we look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we can see that not one single ordinary member of the Mojahedin enjoys even one of the sixteen basic human rights laid out in the document. It is this intolerable situation which makes it so important to support the French judicial case against Maryam Rajavi, and so put an end to this charade.

In addition to the Seminar's theme, 'Maryam Rajavi Accused of Violating Human Rights' it emerged that the speakers and participants also had another simple demand not only from France but from the international community. That was to ask for intervention to put an end to the horrifying situation of individuals in the Mojahedin's Camp Ashraf in Iraq who have rejected the organization, but who are still being kept against their will. Clearly as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention these people must be acceded a minimum of rights as laid out in the document - most importantly the right to have regular communication and frequent contact with their families.

The Seminar and the demonstrations which took place in a peaceable, almost joyous atmosphere in front of the French House of Representatives and other locations have been widely covered by the media. Since I had several interviews with some newspapers and the radio broadcasting Farsi section of Voice of America, I will not go into the details of each event.

Seeing the Mojahedin's victims active in these events was not a new picture for me, or for others. The reaction of the MKO came as no surprise either. What was new was that this time I witnessed in these former Mojahedin members and in other participants, a remarkable political maturity. This came across in the tolerance shown toward some supporters of the Mojahedin who had come to disrupt their meeting. Indeed, their friendly behaviour toward and their readiness to listen to the MKO supporters thoroughly embarrassed them. It was as though everyone instinctively understood them also to be victims of the Rajavis and thereby deserving of sympathy.

Another sign of this maturity was in the rejection of revenge as an aim, instead demanding justice as a means to stop the ongoing violations of human rights. Their rejection of the MKO not simply as a force which has inflicted pain, but as a cult whose actions directly help the hardliners in Iran and which is trying its best to destroy any hope for a democratic future in Iran, signaled a new political stance.

The MKO, for the past 20 years has rejected any open discussion about its behavior in Iraq and/or Europe. Instead it has tried to label all its critics as agents of Iran's Intelligence Ministry. This claim becomes hard to swallow when it is said that that over 700 ex members of the MKO and over 50 prominent members of opposition organisations outside Iran (all named in the MKO's newspapers and television programs) are working for the Intelligence Services of Iran. Personally, I cannot believe that any third world country, never mind the Islamic Republic of Iran, could ever be in such a strong position. But the ridiculous claims do not stop here. The Mojahedin claims that the regime of Iran is currently holding over 120 thousand prisoners from the "Resistance forces" and is torturing them on a daily basis. This can only be interpreted to mean that the regime has over 360 thousand torturers who are so clever that news of their whereabouts is not known to anyone. Again I must say that I believe such power to be far beyond any country anywhere.

The MKO's claims, however, become truly risible when it says that its designation as a terrorist entity by the USA, UK, France, Germany, and etc. and the investigations into the criminal activities of the cult leaders, are the result of a deal between Iran and all these countries. It is shameful, even for someone like Rajavi. To help the Iranian regime in its efforts to suppress the democratic opposition forces inside and outside Iran just to save your own neck from the laws of free countries is shameful. But again what should I expect from someone who got used to living under the protection of and as part of the regime of Saddam Hussein for the last quarter of a century?

But to return to what I was saying. What I clearly saw here in these three days of action and protest was the burgeoning of a mature political force. A dedicated, humanitarian and democratic political force. A force which has seen and has tried all other avenues and has now chosen peaceful, integrated and democratically accountable campaigning as the way forward. As the only way forward. And which believes in that to the core. There are about a thousand active ex members of the MKO outside the country and about the same number inside Iran. We are also looking forward to the release of about 700 more from the north camp of Ashraf where the disaffected members are kept under the protection of the US army. We are, altogether, say 2,700 people.

Rajavi on the other hand has been left with about 2,500 combatants in the south section of Camp Ashraf, where the true numbers of hard core believers and disaffected members will not be known until they are interviewed independently by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Rajavi managed to send a couple of hundred of his followers out of Iraq when his wife ran away from Iraq just before the start of the war. Let's say he has just over two and a half thousand people.

I think it is fair to say that the number of people who have left the organization is sufficient to describe them as a schism or branch of the organization, rather than ex members or disaffected members. Our numbers, if not greater, are certainly not fewer than the people remaining in Rajavi's cult.

In Paris this time, I clearly saw the desire, the ability and therefore the necessity for a better organized force in which the currently active personnel and the future survivors of the cult can be integrated into the kind of political force to which they all joined up in good faith so many years ago, and which was deliberately and bitterly misled and misused by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi.

After years and years, I witnessed myself, my colleagues and my friends getting back on the same path that we had all originally joined up for - independence, democracy and freedom for the people of Iran. This time, armed with the historical experience which will not allow any individual to derail the train of our collective responsibility.

Yes. After 3 decades I witnessed in this conference the same old victims burning new fuel. The same old lamps giving out new light. And a fresh motivation to achieve the release of every one of our erstwhile colleagues from the cult. We need every bit of every one of them.  We need every bit of each one of ourselves.

What will happen to Massoud Rajavi? What will happen to his wife Maryam? What will the new masters of Massoud Rajavi decide for him? What will be the outcome of Maryam Rajavi's court case? …Who cares?

We never have been and never will be after revenge or personal benefit. All we need and want at this moment are our colleagues.  We need them, and we want them badly, and we will have them freed.