Background Briefing

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IV. Human Rights Abuses in the MKO Camps

Human rights abuses carried out by MKO leaders against dissident members ranged from prolonged incommunicado and solitary confinement to beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution, and torture that in two cases led to death.

The testimonies of the former MKO members indicate that the organization used three types of detention facilities inside its camps in Iraq. The interviewees described one type as small residential units, referred to as guesthouses (mihmansara), inside the camps. The MKO members who requested to leave the organization were held in these units during much of which time they were kept incommunicado. They were not allowed to leave the premises of their unit, to meet or talk with anyone else in the camp, or to contact their relatives and friends in the outside world.

Karim Haqi, a former high ranking MKO member who served as the head of security for Masoud Rajavi, told Human Rights Watch:

I was the head of security for Masoud Rajavi in 1991. They could not believe that I wanted to separate from the organization. I was confined inside a building called Iskan together with my wife and our six month old child. Iskan was the site of a series of residential units that used to house married couples before ideological divorces were mandated. The organization had raised a tall wall around this area. Its interior perimeter was protected by barbed wire, and guards kept it under surveillance from observation towers. While we were under detention, the organization reduced our food rations, subjected us to beatings and verbal abuses and also intimidated us by making threats of executions.41

Mohammad Reza Eskandari and his wife Tahereh Eskandari, two former members of the MKO, also told Human Rights Watch of being detained inside various guest houses after requesting to leave the MKO in 1991:

The organization had taken our passports and identification documents upon our arrival in the camp. When we expressed our intention to leave, they never returned our documents. We were held in detention centers in Iskan as well as other locations. We were sent to a refugee camp outside the city of Ramadi called al-Tash. Life in al-Tash was extremely harsh, more like a process of gradual death. The MKO operatives continued to harass us even in Al-Tash. Eventually in September 1992, we received refugee status from Holland and were able to leave al-Tash.42

The second type of detention inside the MKO camps was called bangali shodan by the witnesses, referring to solitary confinement inside a small pre-fabricated trailer room (bangal). Dissident members who requested to leave the organization as well as ordinary members were detained in the bangals. Detention inside a bangal was considered a form of MKO punishment for members whom the leadership considered to have made mistakes. They were expected to reflect on their mistakes and to write self-criticism reports while in detention.

Masoud Banisadr, formerly the top diplomatic representative of the MKO in Europe and North America, wrote of his experience of being detained in a bangal when Masoud Rajavi and other high-ranking members met with him and decided he had been “corrupted:”

Afterwards my masoul [supervisor] advised me to go to a bungalow and think. I had become a bangali, which meant being put in solitary confinement, ordered to do nothing but think and write. It was an extreme kind of mental torture, and there were members who preferred to kill themselves than to suffer it.43

The third type of detention reported by the witnesses encompassed imprisonment, physical torture and interrogations inside secret prisons within the MKO camps. These prisons were primarily used for persecution of political dissidents. Their existence was unknown to most members. The witnesses who suffered under this form of detention told Human Rights Watch that they were unaware that the organization maintained such prisons until they experienced it firsthand.

One of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Mohammad Hussein Sobhani, spent eight-and-a-half years in solitary confinement, from September 1992 to January 2001, inside the MKO camps. Another witness, Javaheri-Yar, underwent five years of solitary confinement in the MKO prisons, from November 1995 to December 2000. Both were high-ranking members who intended to leave the organization but were told that, because of their extensive inside knowledge, they could not be allowed to do so. They were imprisoned and eventually transferred to the Iraqi authorities, who then held them in Abu Ghraib.

Four other witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed were detained during the “security clearances” of 1994-1995 because they were suspected by the MKO of harboring dissident views. Ali Ghasghavi, Alireza Mir Asgari, Ali Akbari, and Abbas Sadeghinejad were severely tortured, subjected to harsh interrogation techniques and forced to sign false confessions stating their links to Iranian intelligence agents.

Abbas Sadeghinejad, Ali Ghashghavi, and Alireza Mir Asgari, three former members of MKO interviewed by Human Rights Watch, witnessed the death of Parviz Ahmadi in February 1995 inside an internal MKO prison in Iraq.44 The three shared a prison cell during the security clearance arrests in February 1995. Parviz Ahmadi was a dissident member who was held in the same cell. Ali Ghashghavi told Human Rights Watch that Parviz Ahmadi was taken for interrogations on his second day of being held in the prison cell:

It was the start of Ramadan [February 1995] when the prison guards came to fetch Parviz Ahmadi. He was gone for a couple of hours. When they brought him back he was badly beaten and died soon afterwards.

Abbas Sadeghinezhad, who was also present in the cell, recalled the final moments of Parviz Ahmadi’s life:

The prison door opened, and a prisoner was thrown into the cell. He fell on his face. At first we didn’t recognize him. He was beaten up severely. We turned him around; it was Parviz Ahmadi taken for interrogations just a few hours before. Ahmadi was a unit commander. His bones were broken all over, his legs were inflamed; he was falling into a coma. We tried to help him but after only ten minutes he died as I was holding his head on my lap. The prison guard opened the door and pulled Ahmadi’s lifeless body out.45

Alireza Mir Asgari, who was also present, corroborated the circumstances of Parviz Ahmadi’s death.46 In contrast, the MKO’s publication Mojahed  of March 2, 1998, lists Parviz Ahmadi as an MKO “martyr” killed by Iranian intelligence agents.47

Abbas Sadeghinejad told Human Rights Watch that he had earlier witnessed the death of another prisoner, Ghorbanali Torabi, after Torabi was returned from an interrogation session to a prison cell that he shared with Sadeghinejad.48

[41] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Karim Haqi, February 11, 2005.

[42] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Mohammad Reza Eskandari and Tahereh Eskandari, February 1, 2005 and February 10, 2005.

[43] Banisadr, Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, p. 388.

[44] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abbas Sadeghinejad, February 14, 2005. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ali Ghashghavi, February 9, 2005 and May 6, 2005. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Alireza Mir Asgari, February 10, 2005.

[45] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abbas Sadeghinejad, February 14, 2005.

[46] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Alireza Mir Asgari, February 10, 2005.

[47] Mojahed, No. 380, March 2, 1998 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

[48] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abbas Sadeghinejad, February 14, 2005.

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