A glimpse at the history of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization and its last garrison, Ashraf, in Iraq which was handed over to the Iraqi government in late 2013.
Ashraf Garrison Ashraf Garrison was not just a site for Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization known as the MKO, rather an objective per se. The military complex which is located in Iraq’s Diyala province was an isolated area to disseminate the organization’s ideology and unveil its strategy of armed combat. It was a present from Saddam Hussein to MKO’s leader Massoud Rajavi. After the fall of the dictator, the garrison was evicted by the Iraqi government. Some of Ashraf’s residents fled the organization and the remaining members were temporarily relocated to a transit Camp.
The MKO started its armed combat two years after the establishment of Islamic Republic in Iran; the strategy left behind more than twelve thousand victims. When Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein was in power, the terrorist acts of Mujahedin were mainly devised, baked up and organized by Ashraf garrison.
Saddam Hussein was the main supporter of Mujahedin during two turbulent years of Iraq’s war against Iran. In order to achieve his objectives. the MKO leader Massoud Rajavi officially handed over control of all forces under his hegemony to Saddam Hussein in 1995
The MKO was fully supported by Saddam in its activities including spying on Iran and the use of mortar attacks in the Iranian cities. It eventually made Rajavi forces to Saddam’s private army. Lieutenant General Haboush: How mayn had we allotted for the MKO? An Iraqi Officer: Five Million barrels a year. Lieutenant General Haboush: Five Million barrels? Lieutenant General Haboush: Write a letter to Saddam Hussein that Masoud Rajavi has asked for more.
A large camp with an area of 51 square kilometers rested 80 kilometers from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, named after Massoud Rajavi’s ex-wife Ashraf. The garrison was among tens of sites offered to Rajavi by Saddam.
The Woman speaks about the Headquarters and another person
Here used to be called the army headquarters. The term is ridiculous but in Ashraf Camp, the building that has five rooms, belonged to the Army’s Chief Of Staff. Generally speaking, the organization could be divided into military section and staff section. The staff section dealt with logistics, materiel, transportation, communication and staff members. One person was in charge of this section. He was called the Army’s Chief Of Staff. There were about ten to twelve headquarters here that later on became a branch. Not everyone was allowed to come here. Some members of the leadership council and high-ranking officials came here to hold secret meetings, make decisions and so on. After the Iraq War, that is to say, after 2003 Mozhgan Parsaee and Seddigheh Husseinian were located here. They used to hold meetings with comrades here. Everyone had to be frisked before being allowed into the building.
Rajavi had the intention of building up his fancied empire in Ashraf garrison.
The Act we passed must be obeyed. So must the decision we made. Are you allowed to say no? You say that you notify us of it and it’s obligatory for us to obey. The only answer I can give is that I beg you not to issue this order. So if I’m not mistaken, you don’t say no to our demand, if you like. Because it’s your order. And you accept it. On average, as we calculated in the city, we were hit ten times to hit once.
To experience his miniature size empire, he equipped the garrison with some facilities such as meeting venues, military classes, prisons, cemeteries, hospitals and sports clubs.
It was a palace and fortress, so to speak. In fact, it was just one of many Masoud and Maryam Rajavi’s residences. I don’t think you can find such a lush green place in anywhere else in Iraq. There are many gardens here that used to be more beautiful. After all, it’s about one year that they haven’t been looked after. Rajavi had never thought that the Camp would be the last residence for him and his forces.
Every Mujahed’s blood and breath belong to the leadership. Their blood belongs to Masoud Rajavi and their breath belongs to Maryam Rajavi. It means that everyone has to sacrifice themselves on the Rajavis’ demand. By breath, it was meant that everyone had to give a blow-by-blow account of their everyday life and see no gap between them and the leadership. It was a basic ideological principle.
In this ideological system, what we believe firmly in is that an individual can change. The crux of the matter is how we can get connected to there?
In the organization, we couldn’t move freely. Little by little I began to hear slogans like “Iran-Rajavi”, “Rajavi-Iran”, and “salute to Rajavi”. This personality cult was against the principles of the organization. In a political party, the leader changes through elections. We noticed that they wanted to set a lifetime leader. We smelled a rat. But they didn’t allow us to leave the organization. We had got entangled in the organization’s web. In the training courses, the MKO members are taught that they have to sacrifice themselves for their ideological leader. The isolated Ashraf Garrison was a haven for such trainings.
When I cannot believe in a person nearby and communicate with him, how can I communicate with He who I cannot see and is different from me in nature? How? Every day, you had to write down for an hour what would cross your mind during the past 24 hours. You had to say which ones were wrong. You were not supposed to give your opinion on those thoughts, to be either accepted or rejected. That was not so. You were supposed to write down your negative thoughts and then reproach yourself for them. You had to write the correct thoughts as well and say what thoughts were correct. You would expect others to insult and criticize you for thoughts that had crossed your mind.
After collapse of Saddam Hussein, the families who thought their children had fallen into the trap of Rajavi’s sectarian ideology, took the opportunity to go to Baghdad and be informed of the status of their children after several years.
I’m a mother. I want my child. I want my daughter. Parvaneh Rabiee Abbasi is my daughter. She has been here for 20 years. 20 years! While the families were calling for the release of their captives behind the walls of Ashraf, they were faced with the harsh and unexpected reaction of Mujahedin who machined-gunned them and called them traitors. This action proved to the families that their children had been brainwashed into thinking according to MKO’s sectarian ideology.
(Reconstruction of the escape by jumping over the barbed wires and meetings of the released people with their families.)
Resistance of the families helped 400 members of Mujahedin escape and rejoin their relatives by jumping over the barbed wires that surrounded the garrison.
I tried to escape a few times but they had taken tough measures to restrict travelling. Once, I managed to escape but was arrested halfway from there and taken back to the garrison.
A decade after the collapse of Iraq’s Ba'ath Party, Ashraf Garrison was evicted upon the order of the new administration. Subsequently, in September 2013, the Camp’s last occupants were relocated to a transit location before leaving Iraq.
I’m happy that there is no such a thing as Ashraf camp. I no longer regret wasting 24 years of my life. Now the last garrison of the MKO has changed into an abandoned place where is frequented by more than two thousand people who had been previously caught in the trap of Mujahedin’s ideology. They tell their stories with the aim of healing the wounds inflicted on their bodies and souls. There are two central buildings here in Ashraf Camp. One was staff building on the left-hand side. The building on the right-hand side was the ideological training headquarters. After meetings and speeches, they forced people in the whole Ashraf Camp to repeat those speeches and discussions during several sessions. Everyone was required to spend their evenings in repeated training sessions. They used to give us Rajavis’ photos three or four times a year. Everyone had to have a number of the Rajavis’ photos at their offices or on their desks. Everyone had to have a photo album full of the Rajavis’ pictures. But they weren’t allowed to take a picture of themselves. The organization spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on these photos. But if we asked for a pair of trainers or shirt it would take us a few months. It’s a checkbook. We were not allowed to come here. No one was allowed in except Masoud Rajavi’s own devotees. No one knew what was going on here except some individuals like Mozhgan Parsaee and those who were his second wives, so to speak. No one else was allowed in at all. As you may have noticed, the building has an entrance gate. No one knew what was happening inside the building. We knew he had made a six-meter bulwark around here to block the view from outside. As we passed the place we knew it was 49 and that it was a hideout but we didn’t know that Rajavi himself had done these things. We were curious to know what he was doing here. But to tell the truth, none of his men saw this place except a few. A safe hideout tens of meters underground was to secure the MKO leader and people close to him. This is while even the heads of the garrison had no information on this hiding place before the eviction.
It’s about three flights of stairs down to the basement. The door is electrical. It opens and closes using electricity. The wall is about 80 centimeter to one meter in width. That was the first door. This is the second door. The doors are all electrical and insulated against chemical bombs. This is the third door. In this ten-meter place, there are eight doors to prevent chemical substances from permeating.
To prevent possible harm to the MKO leader, the equipments of the hideout were made resistant to sever vibrations.
This is the room in which oxygen capsules that make life possible in the underground hideout are kept. This is the emergency exit. Actually, this is one of the emergency exits. Let’s take a look at here. Since the place has been abandoned for a while it has been covered by water. Anyway, this is the way out. The building didn’t use electricity from outside. In this room, there are two brand-new 500 MW generators to produce electricity for this single building. He built here when Saddam was in power, that is, before Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. None of his men were involved in its building. When this place was being built, the roads leading to here were blocked off in order to prevent people from coming here and getting curious. We never came this way. But as we were on the road or going to Ashraf Garrison we would see lorries carrying concrete, building materials and air conditioners. We would see them but we didn’t know what the matter was. The heads of the sects don’t trust their members no matter how much trained or obedient they are. This is why Rajavi’s hideout in Iraq was built by the African workers who were regularly changed to have the least information.
If a bomb falls here it must pass through here, then through the 3-meter place downstairs to reach the main ceiling of Rajavi’s hideout. We didn’t know what was going on outside. We had seen communication advancements in movies such as the mobile phone, the Internet, and so on. But we were totally unaware of what was going on in the world. We were not in touch with our families. We didn’t know whether they were alive or dead. We couldn’t stay in the hell for life. We always tried to escape but organizational barriers, tough control and suppression made the escape difficult. Two people couldn’t talk to each other without being interrogated. Here is the main entrance to the establishment no. 9. If it’s not too far we can walk there. We can go on foot to see some places but we have to drive if we’re going to see the kitchen and the mess. Here is for those who wanted to enter or exit. In this place, they got the visa signed by the commander to exit from here. There were 150 comrades living here in these two barracks. Here is the pantry. Here is the pantry for 150 people. It’s about ten meters. It’s less than ten meters.
Here used to be a place for dressmaking. Just look at it. 27 people used to live here and there. They just slept there. This is the entrance to the mess and public meeting hall in the establishment. Here used to be a place to serve food. Just look at the place food was served for low-ranking forces and compare it with the serving place we saw yesterday. Here was for washing the dishes built just after the war. Can you see the difference? This is big enough to supply water to a city like Bagdad with a population of about eight million people. It was built to ensure that Masoud would have enough water in case water cut off. Well, for such a place like this there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen. There are thirteen water tanks just here. This is the entrance to the villa alongside the Rajavi’s building. This is the front door of the villa which is in fact located at the end of the Rajavis’ main building. This is another villa that I’m going to talk about it. This is the special entrance door for Masoud Rajavi to the big hall. Here he used to swim in. When they were evacuating from Ashraf, they had the swimming pool filled with earth. He used to remind us of those people killed. Masoud Rajavi! Maryam Rajavi! Did you really remember those killed and built such buildings?! Did they really remember them?! They used to shed crocodile tears in public meetings. They did shed crocodile tears in front of us, in front the crowd in the hall. They pretended to remember those killed with respect. Maryam Rajavi would say, “We are not worth enough to eat food if we will not avenge their deaths. If we eat food, that’s because we have sworn to take revenge”. What were all those slogans about overthrowing Iran’s government for? I think he himself was the only person who didn’t believe in those slogans. He had built so many buildings here to live for the rest of his life. He wanted to spend all his life here. I personally think – by the way, I was in his organization for 27 years - that all his talks about the overthrowing were nonsense. He just wanted to keep us for himself. He kept us here in fear for 27 years. I was here for 27 years without seeing my child. Damn them! Damn Masoud and Maryam Rajavi. The uncertain fate of Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization could be more attributed to its internal developments rather than the external forces. The Metamorphosis of a left organization to a dogmatic sect that worships weapon as the only decisive factor, led Rajavi’s strategy to a dead end. Today, the world must consider the organization as a cult. They must not recognize it at all. But instead, they negotiate with the organization for solving their problems. They have given Liberty Camp to the organization. So, the organization is able to keep its members and prevent them from leaving. We risked our lives to flee but not everyone can do so. The international community must remove the organizational barrier. With the dismantle of their last garrison in Iraq, MKO has to make do with their current unclear strategy till finding a new Saddam at the international arena to support them.