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With deadline looming to close MEK's Camp Ashraf in Iraq, what next?

Camp Ashraf, home to militants opposed to the Iran regime who are also unpopular in Iraq, faces year-end closure. Some fear there could be violence and even suicide, but there are signs of a negotiated settlement.

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Among the American advocates are former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; former US homeland security chief Tom Ridge; former CIA directors James Woolsey, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden; and top retired generals such as Wesley Clark, Hugh Shelton, and Peter Pace.

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"This is genocide, and we will not have it!" Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a pro-MEK audience in July, about Iraqi plans to close the camp. "We will free the people of Ashraf, and we will free the people of Iran from the tyranny of the mullahs."

At the camp itself, MEK members long ago had their identity documents confiscated, and have little access to the outside world through phones, Internet, or TV. They must take part in self-criticism sessions to expel "deviant thoughts" and pledge "eternal divorce."

Free will?

A detailed 2009 report, funded by the US military and published by the RAND corporation, says that the majority at Camp Ashraf "may have been recruited through deception" and remain there "against their will.

"Love for the Rajavis was to replace love for spouses and family," the report reads. MEK members once carried cyanide tablets in case of capture, and since 2003 "the MEK frequently used the threat of suicide as a negotiating tactic or to frustrate investigations."

Mrs. Rajavi's temporary arrest by French authorities on terrorism charges in 2003 prompted a wave of self-immolations.

Recent MEK defectors from the camp interviewed by the Monitor say further dramatic acts may take place, as the deadline nears.

"It's clear to me, [Mr. Rajavi] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media," argues Shahram Heydari, who left the camp two months ago. When the April clashes took place with Iraqi troops, he claims, "I clearly saw they [MEK] were pushing people forward" into the line of fire.

Rajavi's "strategy is based on Ashraf," says Mr. Heydari. "He must have the camp to keep power."

Several defectors say they believe Rajavi is in the camp. A former member of the MEK leadership council, Maryam Sanjabi, defected 10 months ago after spending 24 years at Ashraf. She says she saw Mr. Rajavi "many times," up until four years go.

"He's there, he's alive.... His orders are being carried out there – he is the brain," says Sanjabi. Years of brainwashing to make MEK members believe Rajavi "is a god," means the leadership may calculate it "doesn't matter if one thousand people die," she says.

"If you are ordered to burn yourself, you can't resist: you burn yourself," says Sanjabi.

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