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How Amin GolMaryami Escaped Mojahedin-e-Khalq’s Hell

From child smuggling, brainwashing, ideological revolution, successful lobbying of Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) in EU and US, to children who were never found...Amin GolMaryami's story.

The cover of Zeit magazine number 44/2021, published on October 27, 2022, was entirely devoted to the image of an Iranian man. But it was not this picture that caused the Mojahedin organization to file a lawsuit against this German publication through its lawyers just a few days after its publication. What made Mojahedin take urgent legal action was a story whose hero’s face was printed on the cover of the German weekly newspaper. A story that started from Abadan. A hero who was mostly a toy of fate that others had set for him. It takes the reader from Ashraf camp with mother’s tears to the old houses in Cologne and the politicians and people who determine the fate of others and brings him back to Iraq and Saddam and Ashraf and the Americans and Masoud Rajavi with that round and fat face. You should read the story of Amin GolMaryami, how he broke the “spell of the Forty Thieves Cave of Baghdad” and was saved. Amin’s story should be read, because its greatest author is destiny. Amin’s story should be read because the Mojahedin were afraid of publishing his story and tried their best to prevent it. But they failed.

The story of Amin and Mojahedin should be read as Luisa Hommerich wrote it after a year of research. “It was the hardest, most nerve-wracking and most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my career,” the author wrote after winning a German journalism award for the investigation.

Let’s read the story of Amin GolMaryami as it was published in 44/2021 issue of Zeit titled “Finally, Free“.

We are going to walk. Amin GolMaryami is a man with black and curly hair who likes to wear Nike sneakers. On our first meeting, on October 2020, in the neighborhood of student parties in Neustadt Cologne, Zülpicher Street, he came wearing Nikes too. The 35-year-old man has had various jobs so far. Currently, he works as a nurse for the disabled.

He speaks German without an accent. But sometimes he uses words from his mother tongue, Farsi. These words are not difficult to translate. It is more difficult to try to explain them: “human diamond” for example. This is one of the ideological key words of the same organization that took Amin hostage as a child. Explaining this term, GolMaryami says: “Behind this word lies the idea that every person has a hidden diamond in his being, which is, of course, impure and blunt. No one is to blame but himself and his desires – and also his family. All these must be rejected. It is only through total devotion to a “leader” that one attains “purity”. Other witnesses who have dealt with this ideology explain this term in the same way.

According to GolMaryami, the organization that affected his life and destroyed it to some extent is “Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK)”. An organization consisting of Iranians in exile who want to overthrow the mullahs’ regime in their homeland. Like many other Islamist groups, they named themselves “Mojahedin” – Jihadist fighters; Those who fight for religious causes. Fascinated by Marxist economics, the founders of this organization in the 1960s wanted to connect Islam to the “class struggle”.

Today, the People’s Mojahedin presents itself as a supporter of women’s rights, human rights and freedom. It has thousands of members and supporters in countries around the world, including in Germany. Many work for the “National Council of Resistance of Iran,” the organization’s political wing. Its main base in Europe is located around Paris. In Germany, the headquarters of the organization is located in Berlin. The Mojahedin’s lobbying is so successful that even the representatives of the German Bundestag support the “Resistance Council” and push it as a “democratic alternative” to the current Iranian regime.

Maybe they don’t know, or they don’t want to know what kind of suffering people like Amin GolMaryami have endured at the hand of Mojahedin organization (MEK), according to his testimony.

According to Zeit magazine’s research, the People’s Mojahedin has smuggled at least 40 children and teenagers who came to Cologne, Germany without their parents as refugees, to Iraq since the mid-90s. According to the testimony of eight of those who left the organization, many of these children and teenagers received military training in Iraq and became Mojahedin soldiers and lived in an isolated environment from the outside world for years.

Amin GolMaryami is one of them. He says that he was in Iraq for 12 years unintentionally, in the notorious Ashraf Camp, the main headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin-e-Khalq during those years. Amin is ready to publish his story in the media, using his real name – as the first teenager from the city of Cologne: “I want everyone to know what the People’s Mojahedin did to me and what a dangerous group this organization is.”

“National Council of Resistance of Iran” was faced with these accusations by Zeit magazine. The council did not want to react to the accusations itself. It sent a message through a law office: “Information about the People’s Mojahedin-e-Khalq organization is mainly controlled by Iran’s secret services.” But still, the council reacted on its website: Children like Amin GolMaryami only “were returned to their parents” in those days, and “as adults”. According to the council, minors have never been used militarily.

Amin GolMaryami describes his story: He was born in Abadan, a city in the southwest of Iran, in 1985 – in hiding. His parents were fighters of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq at that time. Together with other opposition groups, they overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979. But the Mullah/Islamic regime that came to power did not share them in the government and persecuted them. Mojahedin also started carrying out terrorist attacks against regime officials and fled into exile; Mostly to Iraq. The People’s Mojahedin Organization was on the list of terrorist organizations in Europe until 2009. Nowadays, however, it appears with a more moderate facade. Security circles see this organization as a kind of closed group with cult-like characteristics.

Amin GolMaryami’s Childhood

Amin says, he was a few months old when he fled from Iran to Iraq along with his parents and his two older brothers, like thousands of other members of the organization. From there, they fought against their own country in the Iran-Iraq war. Amin’s father was killed in one of the operations in this war; Like thousands of other members of the organization.

By the mid-1980s, the organization had become more of a cult, according to Arvand Ebrahimian, an American historian and Iran expert: a “personality cult in its most extreme form” emerged around the leader of the organization, Masoud Rajavi. As is customary in other sects, the critics were branded as “traitors, parasites, bloodthirsty, impure and street scum”. According to the Rand think tank, which advises the US armed forces, people’s social ties should be destroyed, another typical cult manipulation technique.

People’s Mojahedin-e-Khalq regularly rejects such accusations as “propaganda campaign of the regime.”

When the United States in coalition with other countries attacked Iraq in 1991 in the Persian Gulf War, the People’s Mojahedin-e-Khalq  took advantage of the wave of refugees and sent hundreds of children abroad. Today, the organization claims that it did this to protect the lives of children from bombings. But people who have left the organization testify: The reason for this was to destroy family structures and strengthen the fighting spirit of the members. Amin and his two brothers, Hanif and Alireza, were among these refugee children.

Constant Spell of the Organization

There are not many memories of the trip left for Amin GolMaryami. “My mother stood in front of the bus for a long time. She was crying and waving. It was raining in Germany at the time.” He and almost 150 other children came to Cologne. Amin was accommodated in a house in “Meschenich” neighborhood. He remembers an old two-unit house. The children in that house were under the care of the members and trusted people of the Mojahedin organization as orphaned refugee children. 10 people slept in one room. GolMaryami says: “I missed my mother terribly.” Some children were beaten. Many were given little food.

Amin went to school. He learned German very soon. Most of the kids were older than him and went to Martin Luther King Middle School in the Cologne-Weiden neighborhood. One of the teachers in those years remembers: “They were good and studious children.” But a kind of “fanaticism” could also be seen in them. Some of them worshiped the leader of the organization, Masoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam “like God”. This teacher informed the police. But nothing happened.

The Juvenile Department had noticed the children’s behavior as well. Klaus-Peter Völlmecke, now 64 years old and then-head of the department responsible for Iranian children, says: “I took care of the children.” When Klaus and his colleagues followed the situation of the people who were entrusted with the guardianship of the children, suddenly there were “prominent German supporters”. People’s Mojahedin had hired a group of lawyers from “Annemarie Lütkes” law office.

Lütkes was the head of the parliamentary fraction of the Green Party in Cologne. Later, she became the Minister of Justice in Schleswig-Holstein. Her husband, Christoph Meertens, says that lawyers from his wife’s law firm represented the children in their asylum process. He, who is also a lawyer, has accepted the guardianship of about 60 children. Amin GolMaryami was one of them. Today, Meertens says that he used to visit the children every day at the beginning and later once every 14 days. In addition, in 1993, this couple together with “Kerstin Müller”, the state head of the Green Party at the time and later the head of the party’s fraction in the Bundestag, founded a charity: “Association for Helping Iranian Refugee Children”. The association was designated as the recipient of government aid by the Juvenile Administration. Since then, it was the association that was in contact with the department about issues related to children. Klaus Peter Völlmecke from the Juvenile Department says that members of the People’s Mojahedin accompanied Meertens everywhere and tried to advance their own interests. “They were asking for financial aid for the kids and wanted maximum influence over them.” These women affiliated with the organization strongly insisted that the children must be under the supervision of the organization cadre or its supporters. After very difficult discussions and negotiations, it was finally agreed that next to each Iranian supervisor, there should also be a German educational supervisor. This way, it was possible for teenagers to free themselves from the grip of the organization. From 1994 onwards, the children were gradually transferred to other residences. Amin GolMaryami was accommodated in a more equipped and better house in Cologne-Marienburg neighborhood. But they still lived as a group in houses where all Iranian children were. GolMaryami says: “We always remained in the enchanted circle of the organization.”

Despite all these, leaving that house in “Cologne-Meschenich” was a turning point in Amin’s life. Amin had flourished due to the presence of the German educational officer. The children had enough food, new clothes and even bicycles. Night trips, camps and gatherings around fire were planned and carried out. Once, Amin spent the night at one of his German friends’ house and was surprised to see that his friend’s parents kiss their child before going to sleep and say good night. “That’s when I realized, my life is completely different.”

Once a year, he received a letter from his mother from Iraq: “I hope you are well”, it was always in the letters. There was not much emotion in the letters. The few times he had spoken to his mother on the phone, she had asked him, “How’s school going?” He says that it took him a long time to realize that his mother was most likely being tapped by the organization when she called. Zeit magazine also asked Amin’s mother about the truth of her son’s statements. Without going into details, she called her son’s words “lies”.

When Amin GolMaryami grew a little older, he would stand in front of the mirror and sing “Eminem” rap, save his pocket money to buy Adidas shoes and pants and Nike jackets. He relied on his two brothers, especially Hanif, his eldest brother who was mischievous and many were scared of him at the time. “He made me feel safe.”

Amin GolMaryami’s Youth

He was 12 or 13 years old when he happened to see a girl on the bus one day. They studied together in the same primary school. The girl was the child of one of the Mojahedin members. He still talks fondly about this moment: the first kiss. The girl’s name was “Alan”. Later, he saw her once again, in a place he did not expect.

Since the mid-90s, as some of these children’s teachers remember today, the “children of the Mojahedin” were disappearing in Cologne all of a sudden. Suddenly, their chairs in classrooms were empty; Children 14, 15, 16 years old. One of the former teachers says he informed the Cologne Juvenile Office as well as Christoph Meertens, their legal guardian.

Amin GolMaryami says his brother Hanif also disappeared in 1999. Hanif was 18 years old. To say goodbye to his brothers, Amin and Alireza, he made a date with them in a secret place: Westfriedhof Cologne cemetery. “I am going to Iraq,” Hanif told them. His destination in Iraq was the main headquarters of the Mojahedin organization, a military base. The cadre of the organization had promised him that he would see his mother there. Amin explains that he was very shocked and cried by this news. Who supports him now?

Today, if you talk to Hanif GolMaryami about that time – Hanif lives in Canada today – he would say, he was heartbroken and missed the sympathy and hugs of his mother at the time. The cadre had assured him if he did not like Iraq, he could return to Germany after a few weeks. He had believed them. “This was the biggest mistake of my life.” In a statement published in German in 2014 by the National Council of Resistance, the organization writes about itself: Every person who went to their camp was an adult and joined the council voluntarily.

They Manipulated Me

By 1998, at the latest, the Juvenile Department must have noticed the disappearance of the children. The agency had warned the children’s guardian, Christoph Meertens: Many teenagers have probably gone to Iraq. If the “Association for Helping Iranian Refugee Children” wants to continue receiving financial support in the future, it must replace all remaining Iranian personnel with German trainers. Meertens had replied to the Juvenile Department that the children voluntarily went to Iraq to their parents, and this is humanly understandable. Today, however, Meertens says that he tried hard to get the idea of traveling to Iraq out of the children’s minds, “but he had failed.” In August 2000, the Children’s Department in a very short press release wrote: “All charges are hereby dismissed and the case is closed.”

And this is how, according to Amin GolMaryami, he remained caught in the organization’s grip. Those days, he wanted a “sense of belonging”. That’s why he used to go to Mojahedin-e-Khalq  camps and gatherings. He met the future generation of the organization from all over Europe, there. The cadre of the organization claimed that their parents were “martyred”. A member of the organization asked them in one of these camps: “You must avenge their blood. Take their weapons in hand, again.” In demonstrations, children shouted: “We are all fighters of the resistance front.” GolMaryami says, he had no idea what these words mean at all. He felt proud that the cadre of the organization called him “martyr’s child”. But whether he really wanted to take revenge on someone for his father, he had never felt such a desire in himself.

Reza GolMaryami, Amin’s father. Mojahedin taking advantage of his name as “martyr!”

Once he saw his brother Hanif in a propaganda video that cadre of the organization showed him and other children. In the video, Hanif was marching in line with others in Iraq. One of the members of the organization, who was one of the founders of the “Association for Helping Iranian Refugee Children” in Cologne, constantly told Amin: “You must grow up! You must follow the same path as your brother!”

In February 2001, Amin was 15 years old when he finally went to one of his Iranian coaches and told him that he wanted to go to Iraq to his older brother. They pretended to the German coach that Amin ran away from the dormitory after having a sudden rage.

The organization’s cadre drove him to France, to its European headquarters, in a house with high concrete walls in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village northwest of Paris. There, his brother Alireza was waiting for him, who had “run away” a few weeks ago. Amin had to hand over his phone. He says, they never returned his phone to him. They woke him up in the middle of the night and took him to the airport. According to the stamp on their passports, it was mid-March 2001.

If someone asks Amin GolMaryami today, he would say the process of going to Iraq was like a train that everyone got on so that they wouldn’t feel left out: “Only you are left out, jump on quickly.” He was afraid that he would gradually lose all his family members and friends. He was afraid he would be left alone in Germany. Besides, he imagined Iraq like a big recreational camp that he had seen on vacation. He was a child and raw. He says, “I was manipulated.”

Ashraf camp, the main headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin in Iraq, was the size of a small town, 65 kilometers north of Baghdad, in the middle of the desert. Amin remembers they went there through a dirt road surrounded by eucalyptus trees. They got off in front of a bungalow. A delegation of high-ranking women of the organization welcomed them with scarves and hijabs. The children had to take off the clothes they were wearing and hand them over. In exchange for his Nike jacket, he received a uniform. The cadre also took his passport from him.

He had to make a written commitment not to have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with women. This is how he became one of the 3,800 soldiers of the Mojahedin organization at the time – he, a 15-year-old boy, who had never held a gun in his life. Amin explains that at the beginning all these things seemed like a strange dream to him. Barbed wire was stretched around the camp. Gender segregation was strictly enforced, keeping men and women separate. Even friendship between soldiers was forbidden. They had to live according to strict Shia/Islamic rules and pray three times a day. Contact with the outside world of the camp was almost completely forbidden. Listening to Eminem’s music here was beyond imagination. Access to music was limited by the organization just like television, newspaper and internet. His brothers were also in the camp, but at first he was only allowed to see Alireza. Only because they had the same military training period. In the declaration of 2014, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claims that free conditions and an atmosphere of tolerance ruled in Ashraf camp.

Amin says, honestly, I wanted to leave immediately, but Alireza convinced me to wait a little. And he agreed to everything: waking up at 4 in the morning, morning parade, shooting training, and later driving a tank.

After 2 weeks, he was allowed to see his mother, who also lived in the camp, for the first time. His mother did not come alone. She came with an aunt and several other women. The mother hugged him and his brother and cried. But after this meeting, his mother became very cold and distanced herself from them. The women who came with her listened and controlled all the words like guards. Later, he found out that the Mojahedin organization forces its members to spy on each other.

From now on, he was allowed to see his mother only once a year. A secret meeting was impossible. His need to feel secure and motherly love was never satisfied. Today, Amin says that later he felt hatred and disgust towards his mother instead of love. Hatred, because his mother had given him away when he was just a child.

Amin GolMaryami, May 2022: Another visit, the third time. Sitting in his kitchen in Cologne – bare walls, chairs from thrift shop. He becomes sad when he hears about his mother. He says he still feels the effects of never having a normal family. After his return to Germany, he was restless for a long time. He spent many nights partying and having fun, he would go to work in the morning without sleep and smoked hashish to relax. He had palpitations and anxiety disorder. After a panic attack, he started psychotherapy. He says it was there that for the first time he was able to organize the events that had happened to him in his mind.

In Ashraf Camp, the organization’s cadre tried to make the soldiers obedient and submissive by resorting to psychological techniques. Once a day, everyone had to pour out their innermost secrets in the presence of a group and blame themselves. Were they bored of shooting practice? Had they doubted one of their superiors? Later, they had to confess to the group about their sexual thoughts—for example, they had masturbated or had a sex dream. This case is also confirmed by Rand think tank. But the organization has denied such accusations years ago.

GolMaryami says that he was resisting the brainwashing from within. He rarely told them anything about his true thoughts. He protected his mind, this way.

One day he suddenly saw Alan. The same girl who had kissed him one day on a bus in Cologne. “She was sitting on the back seat of a car. I waved at her. But she just looked at me coldly and soullessly from behind the glass.” He could not get closer to her. A few weeks after this meeting, Alan ended her life by shooting herself. Several of the separated members of the organization have confirmed the suicide. Mojahedin organization claimed to its members that Alan’s death was an accident. GolMaryami says he was deeply saddened after this incident.

No One was Looking for the Missing Children

A few weeks after his arrival, Mojahedin bases were hit by Iranian missiles. Amin says he sat next to the terrified elderly men in the shelter and heard how they were crying and shouting “I don’t want to die”. He was terrified. When they came out of the shelter after a few days, he asked to see one of his superiors. He told him: “I am not well here. I want to go back to Germany.” Answer: “We’ll think of something for you!” It was after that that they allowed him to meet his mother out of the schedule. His mother was trying to encourage him to stay in the camp: fear is normal. We are freedom fighters. These things are part of the path we have chosen… Today, in response to her son’s claims, Amin’s mother is not ready to say anything.

After this request, the organization cadre put all possible works on him, assigned him more duties, kept him awake until late at night, criticized Amin in order to break his will. Mojahedin presents a different picture of Ashraf Camp on their website. Quoting a senior American officer, it’s written he has never “seen a man or woman who was kept in the organization against his/her will”.

GolMaryami says, he was thinking of Alan all the time. And of Germany: “I missed the rain, green meadows and forests, walking the sidewalks of Cologne.” He missed the New Year celebration, Nutella, McDonald’s, doner kebab, cinema, metro and bus rides. And Eminem. In the camp, he secretly would cry under the shower. Amin says, gradually and after years, he learned to strengthen himself from within and to not attract attention.

About 5 months after he arrived at the camp, a special “ideological sminar” was held, which lasted for several weeks, from morning to night. The leader, Masoud Rajavi, a uniformed man with a round and fat face, personally attended the meetings. The topics of the seminar were things that Amin GolMaryami did not understand. But he was curious to know, who is the man who managed to gather a small army around him. Rajavi would warn: Sex and the desire to go to Europe will lead the organization to the abyss of destruction. Whoever escapes will end up in Saddam’s Abu Ghraib torture chamber. The organization denied similar reports years ago with phrases such as “fabricated scenarios” and “ridiculous”.

Amin remembers that after these words of Massoud Rajavi, many mojaheds jumped up in anger and shouted: “Who wants to go? We will put him down.” Some started criticizing themselves. Later, these people were labeled as “spies” and “traitors”. Some people also spat on these people and beat them up. According to the reports of “Human Rights Watch”, some who wanted to leave the Ashraf camp, actually ended up at Abu Ghraib. Some were tortured in the Mojahedin Organization prison, which of course the organization has denied these cases.

One of the last meetings of this series of ideological seminars was September 11, 2001, when Al-Qaeda terrorist organization targeted the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. In that meeting, one of the high-ranking members of the Mojahedin happily shouted: “Two horns of imperialism have collapsed.”

During the years of his stay in Ashraf, Amin GolMaryami kept hoping that someone from Germany would come and save him from this nightmare. But no one ever looked for him. It can be said with certainty that neither his guardian nor any of his coaches followed his situation in Iraq. It goes without saying that it was the “German State Crime Agency” that put the Mojahedin organization under the microscope. In December 2001, agents of the agency searched 25 houses and centers belonging to Mojahedin. including the office of the “Association for Helping Iranian Refugee Children” in Cologne. The suspicion was “fraud by receiving government financial aid under the pretext of helping orphan children” – in fact, the same Iranian children who had come to Cologne. An arrest warrant was issued for the member of Mojahedin Organization who had encouraged GolMaryami to join the armed struggle on the charge of “forming a terrorist group”. But he had fled to Iraq before he was arrested. The criminal investigation was later stopped. However, due to other violations, a number of members of the Mojahedin organization were convicted. In May 2002, the European Council of Foreign Ministers put the Mojahedin organization on its terror list. Two months later, in July of the same year, the Cologne Juvenile Administration canceled its cooperation with the “Association for Helping Iranian Refugee Children”. No one else was looking for the missing children, anymore!

But then suddenly something happened that completely changed the image of the Mojahedin organization and probably extended Amin GolMaryami’s stay in Ashraf camp for several years. In August 2002, the spokesperson for the American branch of the “National Council of Resistance of Iran” surprisingly presented documents in a press conference to prove that Iran is secretly working on a nuclear program. According to many, this press conference was still a source of credit for the Mojahedin organization. In 2006, “The New Yorker” revealed that Mossad, Israel’s secret service, had given this information to the Resistance Council.

Amin explains that when the United States armed forces entered Iraq in 2003, the organization sent him to the border of Iran. He stayed there for several weeks in trenches. The order was for him and his comrades to attack Iran as soon as there was an opportunity. Fortunately for him, such an opportunity never presented itself. Finally, American forces disarmed the People’s Mojahedin in Ashraf Camp.

When American soldiers questioned Amin GolMaryami, he said he wanted to return to Germany. They suggested that he be sent to a camp for those separated from the organization. But there was almost no way to go to Europe from there. When he asked the soldiers to make a phone call to a teacher in Germany, they laughed at him. “They thought to themselves, why isn’t he calling from the camp?” In Camp, however, the organization still prevented any contact with the outside world.

Meanwhile, the organization in Europe was busy exploiting its successful lobbying. Since early 2004, a group of members of the European Parliament called “Friends of Free Iran” invited Maryam Rajavi to Strasbourg several times; She took over the leadership of the organization after her husband suddenly disappeared in 2003. And since 2005, German politicians in a group called “German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran” started supporting the Mojahedin organization. “Rita Süssmuth” from the Christian Democratic Party of Germany sits on the advisory board of this group. She refuses to answer our questions. Süssmuth, however, had stated in the past, our goal is to support women’s rights, freedom and democracy.

Since 2009, GolMaryami says that life in the camp had become more dangerous for him. US has entrusted the responsibility of securing Ashraf Camp to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government also wanted to expel Iran’s enemies from the country. Security forces attacked Ashraf Camp. Several people were killed. Since 2012, the United Nations has transferred the People’s Mojahedin from Ashraf to a camp near Baghdad Airport. All the people who were inside Ashraf were interviewed one by one. When it was Amin GolMaryami’s turn, he was finally able to make a phone call. In his own words: The first contact with the outside world after all these years. He called a number in Cologne that he got from another camper. Unfortunately, one of the organization supporters was sitting on the other side of the line. His superiors in the camp immediately realized that Amin had done something forbidden. They interrogated him for hours. They said: “Such work can only be done by a spy.”

February, 2013. Militants affiliated with the Islamic Republic targeted the temporary camp of the Mojahedin Organization with their rocket attacks. 8 people were killed, among them people from the military unit where Amin was. GolMaryami could no longer sleep or eat properly: “I looked like an old man”.

Maybe in the end what saved him was a pack of cigarettes. A female employee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who regularly visited the camp, played a role, too. Today, she remembers Amin GolMaryami very well. Many of the Mojahedins would come to her with fear and whispered something in her ear.

“Our water pipe is broken,” Amin told the commissary employee. Mojahedin cadre had warned many times that no one has the right to talk about personal issues with the UN Commissioner employees. “Please help me,” Amin whispered. The employee quickly noticed and asked: “These walls here, stay where they are?” – “Yes, they stay”, Amin replied and whispered to the employee again: “There is a pack of cigarettes in my pocket. There is a letter in it. Please let’s see each other when nobody sees us.”

The next day, the employee went to Amin. She still kept the letter that Amin put in the cigarette packet that day. The letter contains a desperate request for a conversation: “I hope you understand the urgency of such appointment since I feel like being under enormous pressure regarding my future.” GolMaryami says today: “This woman saved my life.” However, the commissariat staff told him that he could not return to Cologne. They gave him another offer. They allowed more than 200 members of the Mojahedin organization to go to Albania. 3 weeks later, in May 2013, the UN Commissioner took them to the airport. Amin explains that he and his two brothers were on a plane with 5 or 6 children who were brought from Cologne to Ashraf. On the plane, they clinked wine glasses: “For freedom!” Amin GolMaryami was 28 years old now.

His luck, Mojahedin in Tirana were standing in line before him. Thousands more followed them later. In Tirana, however, the Mojahedin were under the supervision of public opinion more than in Iraq. According to GolMaryami, the cadre members could no longer control their everything and every move like Ashraf Camp. He and his brothers initially lived in a refugee camp. Then Amin and Hanif stayed for a while in a hotel room paid for by the United Nations Commissioner. But here too, the roads to Germany were closed. His Germany visa was canceled. He bought a cheap phone and created a profile for himself on Facebook and sent friend requests to users he knew since childhood. A woman from the Netherlands answered his request. She was two years older than Amin. He knew her from one of the camps they used to go to when in school. In this article, we call this woman “Sarah”.

Sarah says she has turned from a serious supporter to a separated member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization. She called GolMaryami. Soon, they were talking on Skype every day. In July 2013, Sarah went to Albania. They met each other in vicinity of the hotel where Sarah was staying. Once they meet, they hugged each other, none of them wanted to leave the other, they stayed in each other’s arms for 10 minutes.

Sarah explains today: “At the time, we were both a mess. Shared memories, shared history. And Amin was so lost.” Both say they fell in love instantly. GolMaryami, however, says that all this intimacy and closeness was hard to bear for him in the beginning. When Sarah was staying with him for a few weeks, they had frequent arguments. “But without her,” says Amin, “I would not have survived, mentally.” GolMaryami managed to escape to Germany with Sarah’s help in October 2014. Amin cried when he saw the tower of the Cologne Cathedral from the highway.

After Amin returned to Germany, he and Sarah lived together for 3 years. The couple say there is a deep friendship between them. GolMaryami’s asylum application was accepted in 2015. He finished high school and got his diploma. The city of Cologne has not accepted his citizenship request for now. Because he hasn’t lived in Germany long enough.

The GolMaryami brothers also succeeded in leaving the organization in Albania, Hanif says; He and Alireza both live in Canada. Amin says that he doesn’t have much contact with them anymore. Life in Ashraf made them strangers to each other. Hanif says on the phone that he still feels guilty that he ruined his two brothers by going to Iraq.

Most of the group of 40 children who were trafficked from Cologne to Iraq have evidently separated from the organization. Many of them live in Cologne again. But at least 10 of those children are still in the Mojahedin organization somewhere in the world. Some have been killed during attacks in Iraq.

Amin GolMaryami’s mother, who is now 60 years old, has remained in the organization and in Albania, according to her son. The country accepted the most people from the organization. The organization built a new camp near Tirana. Those who separated from Mojahedin say the use of cult-like methods of the organization continues there. The Mojahedin organization, however, denies it.

Amin says he has forgiven his mother. Mojahedin Organization has “brainwashed” her. The last time he was allowed to see his mother was in 2019, in a restaurant in Tirana. When he offered his mother help to break away from the organization, she got very angry and shouted: “Only traitors and agents of the regime say such things.” Amin no longer has any hope of saving his mother. Amin’s mother does not want to say anything about this, either.

August 2021, Cologne. Fifth meeting with Amin GolMaryami. He is 36 years old. As if he has been released. He described everything. And he has also taken preventive measures for the possibility of Mojahedin attack. Because it is very likely that the organization will try to pressure him after publishing this article. One of the common methods of this organization is destroying people’s character and name on the Internet. As a precaution, Amin has also hired a lawyer. He’s gotten a new house and moved there with his girlfriend who is now pregnant. In addition, he has changed his job. He now works for the municipality of Cologne, removing graffiti from the walls of houses. This work can be interpreted as he is now trying to rebuild what others have destroyed. But GolMaryami himself says he does this because he feels like it. Out on the streets of Cologne he feels free.

Behind This Story:

All the details of GolMaryami’s report have been checked and verified as much as possible, using archives and interviews with classmates, former teachers, as well as diplomats and people from security circles. In addition to Amin, the author of this article was able to interview 7 other witnesses who were also smuggled from Cologne to Iraq when they were a child.

Update, February 3, 2023: Since November 2021, the “Association of the National Council of Resistance of Iran-Germany” took legal action against several parts of this article and requested a temporary ban order. Most of the parts attacked by the Council of Resistance were found to be legally free by the Hamburg State Court, and the request for a ban order was also rejected by the court. In the case of 3 parts of the material that had a marginal role in the story, the court ruled to ban their publication. The publication of another half-sentence was also banned by the General Court of the State of Hamburg. After Zeit magazine objected the rulings by the state court and took the case to the state general court for review, the “National Council of Resistance” was given a deadline by the Hamburg court to “file the main complaint” to answer expert questions and resolve the issues in the courtroom. But the “National Council of Resistance” lawyers did not appear at the January 2023 court session. Thus, the state court issued a judgment in absentia and canceled the preliminary ban. The original text, as written and published, is now authorized for publication. The NCRI bears the costs of all proceedings.

In April 2022, the research of the author of this article about the People’s Mojahedin Organization won the first journalistic award “Der lange Atem” (long breath) from the Berlin-Brandenburg Journalists’ Union. This award is to honor those journalists who stand against all the obstacles and complete their research.

Translation of this post by Sahar.

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