Home > Iran > I am not an “Ashrafi”

I am not an “Ashrafi”

“Ashrafi” is what former Congressman Patrick Kennedy called himself in a show of support for the Iranian MEK holed up at camp Ashraf in Iraq— echoing his uncle JFK’s famous uttering of “Ich bin ein Berliner” and, to venture a guess, perhaps hoping for some of the golden president’s prestige by association.

The MEK movement, a Marxist-Islamic throwback to the 1970s with a cult structure, uses its deep pockets to pay a speaking fee to public figures or make contributions to their campaigns. It can then parade these officials at rallies in front of large audiences composed of both MEK members and groups paid for attending. In Paris, a few months ago, several thousand Polish students were present. Interviewed by French media, they said they had no idea what the MEK was but had paid $6 each for a three-day trip to Paris, everything included. According to a Washington Post article today [“Iranian dissidents gather high-profile support” by Alice Fordham] last Friday’s audience outside the State Department included the members of a church whose pastor encouraged them to attend. One said he did not know the name of the organization holding the rally or the country it is from, but “We need to go out and let our voices be heard.”  [sic]

Many of the politicians and public figures involved probably don’t know much more about MEK than this participant. As the State Department is looking into a request for delisting the MEK from terrorist status, the group is speeding up its PR efforts and is making headway as the democratic alternative to the theocracy in power in Iran.

The Washington Post article, though recognizing that the movement has no support in Iran, attributes to it a following among the diaspora. It doesn’t say that the “diaspora” supporting the MEK is entirely made up of the cult’s own members who undergo severe and well-documented brainwashing in order to be allowed to join and, in proper cult fashion, are then not allowed to leave. Many of those who have managed to escape despite dire consequences to themselves and their families tell stories of quasi enslavement and harsh retribution, including torture, for the least transgression. Their stories are similar to those told by former members of any cult. The New York Times (see Elizabeth Rubin’s remarkable article of August 13, “An Iranian Cult and Its American Friends”), the Huffington Post and other reliable media regularly denounce the group. Others, such as the Washington Post, still need convincing. The MEK is not democratic, it is not an alternative to the mullahs. Responsible in the  1970s for terrorist actions, including several that cost American lives in Iran, the proto-Marxist movement then joined forces with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s burgeoning Islamic Republic. Because it was well-organized, had rigid structures and dealt harshly with members who didn’t toe the line, it became the foremost executioner of the rabid ayatollah’s cleansing program.  During the first year of the revolution, it was responsible for conducting mass executions in Iranian jails. I know–my father was one of those sent to the death squad after a cursory “trial” by the Islamic tribunal.

Then, the group’s leader, Massoud Rajavi, who had been jailed in the Shah’s time and amnestied through the Soviet leadership’s direct intervention, became greedy and thought that his contribution to the Islamic Revolution deserved a bigger slice of the cake. When power sharing was refused him, he realized that riling the ayatollah was no joke and fled, first to France and then to Iraq. In return for being given asylum by Saddam Hussein, he provided the Iraqi leader with intelligence which allowed Saddam to attack Iran and drag both countries into a bloody eight-year war with hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides. In the meantime, in the logic of revolutions, MEK followers in Iran were slaughtered.

I would not presume to give advice to President Obama or to Secretary of State Clinton. I would only respectfully point out that Andrew Young’s description of Khomeini as a “saint” in the months following the overthrow of the Shah should give pause to American politicians now endorsing the MEK without quite knowing what they’re stepping into.

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