“Cult” is another name-calling buzz word Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) uses to vilify the People’s Mojahedin. It has increasingly resorted to the false label as other name calling descriptions have grown less effective. Rarely does a day go by in which the mullahs’ propaganda does not mention cult in the same breath as the PMOI. “Rajavi cult,” “cult bastion,” “terror cult,” and “dishonest cult” are just a few examples. (See www.moisdisinformation for additional details on Iran’s propaganda campaign against the PMOI.)
To demonize the PMOI as a cult the MOIS even set up a website dedicated to this issue.1 The MOIS hopes by repeating the false allegation over and over and over, it will eventually be viewed as the truth – the same strategy applied to the Marxist tag.
What is a Cult?
A cult, as defined in a dictionary, generally involves a relatively small number of people who share a religious extremist view of the world and live in an unconventional manner under the guidance of a domineering charismatic leader. Two cults well known because of suicides are:
Heavens Gate– The group was founded in the early 1970s by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, who claimed they were extraterrestrial beings. The cult members lived together in a large house in a gated community in San Diego. They believed Earth was about to be “recycled” and committed mass suicide in order to reach Comet Hale-Bopp, which at the time was approaching Earth and they believe was an alien space ship.
People’s Temple– Founded in 1955 by Jim Jones, its members believed a nuclear holocaust was imminent that would give rise to a socialist Eden. The group relocated to Guyana where 920 members committed mass suicide.
Numerous governments and world bodies have attempted to create directories of dangerous movements and cults without success. Developing an acceptable definition of a cult has proved impossible. Descriptions are either too subjective, too vague, and just plain unworkable.
A 1995 report by a French parliamentary commission listed 195 groups/movements as potentially dangerous. The report was severely criticized and eventually was invalidated. The same response met a 670-page Parliamentary Report by a Belgian commission in 1997, which named 189 organizations as possible dangerous cults or sects. Some groups listed, while certainly unconventional, had never been violent and objected to their inclusion in the report.
A 1997 a German Senate Committee released a report called “Cults: Risks and Side-effects: Information on Selected New Religious and World-View Espousing Movements and Psycho-Offerings.” It listed a small number of groups that were Christian, pagan, Hinduistic, life-help, occultism/satanism, and multi-level marketers.
Needless to say, none of the reports listed the PMOI.
Various entities such as the American Family Foundation, Cult Information Centre, University of California at Berkeley have published attributes they believe to be representative of a cult. Generally accepted common attributes are:
- Involve a small number of people
- Live in an isolated and often segregated community
- Have a domineering leader who claims to have mystical or superhuman powers
- Restrict the departure of members
- Use guilt to manipulate members
- – Attract members who are often imbalanced or mentally ill
None of the above attributes apply to the PMOI. The organization is not small and insular, but has members worldwide. They do not live in isolated communities. The PMOI’s Secretary General is elected every two years by the Leadership Council and approval of members.
The MEK has charismatic leaders but they do not claim to have any mystical or superhuman power. NCRI President-elect Mrs. Rajavi has received the praise of parliamentarians and dignitaries worldwide for her democratic vision and political platform.
Tens of thousands of people in the Iranian Diaspora, many of whom are well educated professionals, regularly attend PMOI events. The PMOI and NCRI coalition are, by far the largest, most active Iranian organizations, in regular contact with political parties, political officials, human rights activists, and media around the world.
No one is required to remain in the PMOI and can leave at any time. What motivates members to join the group is not guilt or manipulation, but a passionate determination to rid Iran of its brutal theocracy and replace it with a democratic government. Many members are highly educated and have given up their careers and normal family life to achieve this goal. Iran’s mullahs have executed 120,000 members and supporters of the PMOI and have failed to destroy the organization.
Former French First lady Danielle Mitterrand said describing the PMOI as a cult is “completely false.” At a press conference she said the group should be compared with other resistance movements against tyranny and dictatorships.2
No Resemblance to a Cult
Alain Vivien, a former French minister, examined the cult allegation leveled at the PMOI in a book published in France on sects. He said there is nothing in the behavior of the PMOI that would, by any stretch of the imagination, resemble a cult. In fact, the PMOI, as a democratic organization, he said, is diametrically opposite a cult.3
“The PMOI goes counter to the usual operations of sects who, as far as possible, avoid endowing themselves with a democratic status,” Vivien said.4
Vivien also dismissed the allegation that the PMOI is a cult of personality. He said the “PMOI supporters do not form any kind of visible cult around her [Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI]. She does not prophesize for their benefit alone, and does not have a Holy Office to counter any possible heresies.5 About Massoud Rajavi, Vivien said he had “never decreed by any act whatsoever the inviolable nature of his opinions. Nor has he ever published a fatwa.”6
The leaders of the PMOI enjoy a loyal following because of their leadership skills, values, and shared personal sacrifices to bring democracy to Iran.
SAVAK agents executed Massoumeh, Maryan Rajavi’s sister. Massoumeh was pregnant when she was apprehended by the mullahs’ regime, tortured, and then murdered. Massoumeh’s husband suffered the same fate.
Massoud Rajavi was imprisoned for seven years by the Shah. On February 8, 1982, Khomeini’s agents raided his house in Tehran. They killed Ashraf, his wife, and his deputy, Moussa Khiabanni. His infant child, Mostapha, was held aloft above Ashraf’s bullet-ridden body in front of television cameras by Assodollah Lejevardi, the infamous Butcher of Evin, who vowed to make a “good Hezbollahi” out of the child.
Massoud Rajavi’s brother, Professor Kazemi Rajavi, was gunned down by MOIS agents in Geneva in April 1990. Moire, Massoud’s sister, and her husband, Asghar Kazemi, were executed in 1988 during the mullahs’ massacre of political prisoners.
The personal suffering of the Rajavis is not unique. Many members of the PMOI have had their loved ones murdered by SAVAK and MOIS agents, creating a unique bond and determination to replace the tyrannical mullahs with a modern democracy.
Just as Marxist is a false moniker applied to the PMOI, so is the term cult. Both are name-calling tags used in propaganda first by SAVAK and then by the MOIS. Both descriptions are blatantly false and should not be used to describe the Mojahedin.
1) See www.moisdisinformation.com, Attack Websites, CultsandTerror.com.
2) Statement by Mrs. Danielle Mitterrand, Enemies of the Ayatollahs, Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London 2004
3) Les Sectes, by Alain Vivien, Paris, Odile Jacob, September 2003.