To true believers, the ones who are waging a hunger strike to protest her detention in a French jail, Maryam Rajavi is the smiling face of Iran's future, the woman destined to overthrow its clerical leaders and become president of a free and democratic country. \nTo detractors, she is a dangerous cult figure who, with her husband, Massoud Rajavi, has led a terrorist movement that sold out to Iran's enemy, Iraq, and accepted former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's sponsorship. They say the Rajavis brainwash followers, forcing them to abandon spouses and children, and imprison or kill those who resist. \nWhat is not in dispute is that the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen, the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group the Rajavis lead, has been designated a terrorist organization by both the US State Department and the 15-country EU. Now, in an unintended consequence of the US-led war against Iraq, the US and France are struggling to figure out just who these people are and what to do with them. \nThe collapse of Saddam's government has left the fate of thousands of Iraq-based Mujahedeen followers, including heavily armed troops, in US hands. A major French crackdown nearly two weeks ago against the group's local headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise and sites outside of Paris was aimed at preventing the organization from moving the center of its global operations from Iraq to France. \n"We could no longer tolerate an organization that was expanding its terrorist operations and we feared that it could start organizing and planning attacks from French soil," said Pierre de Bousquet, the director of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance, France's counterintelligence service, in an interview. \nSince last fall, he said, French intelligence noticed the arrival of an increasing number of Mujahedeen members and, after the US invasion of Iraq, of many of its soldiers. The group had rented a former paint factory in the town of Saint Ouen l'Aumone, which he said it was transforming into a communications center with a television studio and satellite dishes. French intelligence officials reported that the Mujahedeen planned to attack embassies and other Iranian interests in Europe and assassinate 25 former Mujahedeen members. \n"This is by no means a political movement, a democratic movement," de Bousquet said. "It was not preparing the restoration of democracy in Iran. They are complete fanatics, a fanatical sect with a total absence of democracy, and a cult of personality." \nWhat makes the Mujahedeen difficult to decipher is that it has at least two aspects. One operates a highly regimented operation from inside Iraq with its own army, dress code, calendar, rituals, printing presses, military training camps, clinics and what it calls "re-education camps." \nThe other has offices in capitals around the world under the group's political arm, the National Council of Resistance, staffed by sophisticated, multilingual representatives in suits and ties. In a contradiction in US policy, the State Department lists the group's political arm as part of the Mujahedeen's terrorist network, but it is allowed to function openly in the US and is even registered with the Justice Department as a lobbying organization. \nSince the arrest in France last week of more than 150 Mujahedeen members, most of whom have since been released, the Auvers-Sur-Oise headquarters has become a place of pilgrimage and public relations. In the town where Vincent van Gogh lived and is buried, hundreds of Mujahedeen followers, including dozens of men on hunger strike, have camped out. French anti-riot police patrol the area with walkie-talkies. Huge banners bearing Rajavi's portrait have been hung. \nDanielle Mitterrand, the widow of the late French president Francois Mitterrand, has paid a visit in a show of support. The mayor of Auvers-Sur-Oise has lent them a soccer field to use as a campsite. \nShahin Gobadi, a Mujahedeen spokesman based in Washington, distributed letters from around the world criticizing France's decision to detain Rajavi and 10 of her followers on suspicion of terrorism. Several were signed by US lawmakers. \n"The arrests serve the interests of the terrorist dictatorship ruling Iran," said a June 19 letter from US Representative William Lacy Clay, calling for the immediate release of Rajavi. US Representative Edolphus Towns, sent an almost identically worded letter the same day. \nBut for those who have studied the organization -- and to some former members -- it is far from being a political movement with popular support inside Iran. It has gone through several ideological shifts since its founding in opposition to the Iranian monarchy in the 1960s -- moving from anti-imperialism to a blend of Islam and Marxism to egalitarian Socialism to a vague philosophy that talks of democracy, freedom and equal rights for women.
* The highly regimented group uses mind-control techniques on its members.
* The group's political wing, the National Council of Resistance, lobbies governments.
* France believes that Paris was to be used as a European base to launch terror attacks.
* Its leader and 10 supporters were arrested in a raid in Paris earlier this month.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”