I was just informed of someone even more insane and dangerous than Wahid Azal! But the parallels between them are striking. Both came from Iran and both settled in Australia. Both have acted like cult leaders at one time or another.
Man Haron Monis (born Mohammed Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi; 19 May 1964 – 16 December 2014) was an Iranian-born refugee and Australian citizen who took hostages in a siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café at Martin Place, Sydney on 15 December 2014, lasting for 17 hours, until the early hours of the following morning. The siege resulted in the death of Monis and two hostages.
While Monis had a warrant out for his arrest in Iran, he sought political asylum in Australia in 1996, which was granted in 2001. Monis variously promoted himself as an Iranian intelligence official, a political activist, a spiritual healer and expert in black magic, an outlaw bikie and a Muslim cleric. He told a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with schizophrenia that he had to change his name for “security reasons,” variously calling himself “Michael Hayson Mavros”, “Sheikh Haron”, and “Ayatollah Mohammed Manteghi Boroujerdi”.
Monis ran a “spiritual healing” business, telling some women that they needed to submit to sexual molestation to receive treatment. In 2014, Monis was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, as well as over 40 counts of sexual assault. At the time of his death, he had recently converted from Shia Islam to Sunni Islam, and attended Islamist rallies promoting conspiracy theories about Australian security agencies. While on bail, and facing a likely lengthy imprisonment, he declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Monis was born in Borujerd, Iran on 19 May 1964. He published a book of poetry, Inside and Out or Daroon va Boroon (Persian: درون و برون), in 1996 in Iran. It did not sell well, which disappointed Monis. In the 1990s, Monis ran a company called Salhani Amal (Persian: صالحان عمل), which he used to buy discounted tyres from the Iranian government and re-sell them on the black market. He also ran a charity scam to avoid paying tax.
n 2001, using the pseudonym Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi, he claimed in an interview with ABC Radio National’s The Religion Report that he had been involved with the Iranian ministry of intelligence and security, and that his criticism of the regime and secret information he possessed had resulted in his persecution as well as the detention of his wife and children. During an ABC Radio interview, he claimed that his family’s detention was a result of views the Iranian government believed to be “dangerously liberal”. David Ruteledge, the journalist who interviewed him, described this as “a little bit dramatic.”
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency states that he was “under prosecution by the Interpol” and Iran provided information to the Australian government about his criminal record, mental and spiritual status. Despite this, he was granted asylum in Australia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham publicly questioned the decisions made by the Australian government after several discussions in which Monis’s criminal status in Iran was made “completely clear”.
From 1997 to 2000, Monis held a security guard licence, which would have let him carry a pistol between March and June 1997.
In November 2000, he chained himself to a pole at Parliament House, Sydney, and went on a one-day hunger strike to draw attention to his cause.
He began to sexually assault women while passing himself off as a spiritual healer named ‘Marcus’ in the early 2000s.
On 16 September 2002, Monis changed his name to Michael Hayson Mavros. While he was known as Mavros, he seemed to be ’embracing a secular life’.
He gained Australian citizenship in 2004.
On 21 September 2006, he changed his name to Man Haron Monis.
In 2003, Monis dated Amanda Morsy for about six months, telling her he was Romanian, giving her gold necklaces and driving her to dates in a Mercedes, convertible Peugeot and a Jeep. Monis was unable to be contacted after 8 pm, claiming he was busy with his “spiritual consultation” business. Morsy described him as “secretive”, “very reserved” and “formal” and wanting to “fit in”. He broke the relationship off after her family expresses reservations about his personality.
In 2003, Monis married a woman who was a client of his black magic business, though always kept his blinds closed, and told people at a Sydney mosque that he had a wife in Iran.
In 2010, the family of Amirah Droudis reported Monis to the National Security Hotline because they found his behaviour strange. He was secretive with the family and always refused to have his photo taken even at Christmas. He gave them the appearance of having money and being “very generous” but vague about where he worked. They described him as “rarely forthcoming with any direct or detailed answers.”
Social worker Sylvia Martin talked with Monis during a meeting with his former wife in 2012. She described Monis as prone to “grandiosity” and a “hero in his own story” describing him as “capable of narcissism and also capable of manipulation.” His ex-wife said that Monis had “intimidated, duped and emotionally manipulated her” and that around 2007 he “became more strict” and told her to wear a veil, and restricted her from “singing and dancing” allegedly telling her “I’m doing it for Islam … I want to be a martyr”.
In 2010 Monis was involuntarily hospitalised at Canterbury Hospital after displaying bizarre and erratic behaviour in a parking lot in Ashfield. A psychiatrist who assessed Monis said she believed he had chronic schizophrenia and needed to be on anti-psychotic medication. Monis stated that he had been forced to close his spiritual business, was $20,000 in debt, and had to change his name for “security reasons.” Monis was treated by two different psychiatrists who didn’t know about the other and he was giving them different information. He was described as “quite guarded and reluctant to disclose too much information” and refused to give his phone number and home address. He was concerned that “ASIO and police were following him… and that some people could read his mind,” according to a psychologist who grew up in Iran, who diagnosed him with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He avoided buying medication for mental illness with his Medicare card to conceal his use of medication from authorities.
Monis, together with Amirah Droudis, undertook a campaign protesting against the presence of Australian troops in Afghanistan, by writing letters to the families of soldiers killed there, in which he called the soldiers murderers, and urged the soldiers’ families to petition the government to remove its troops from Afghanistan. According to Justice Dyson Heydon of the High Court, the letters compared “the (deceased soldier) son to a pig and to a dirty animal. It calls the son’s body ‘contaminated’. It refers to it as ‘the dirty body of a pig’. It describes Hitler as not inferior to the son in moral merit”. Monis was arrested on charges of “using a postal or similar service to menace, harass or cause offence”. Droudis received a 2-year good-behaviour bond for “assisting Monis in sending the letters”. She appealed the sentence, but on 12 March 2015 Droudis dropped her appeal.
Monis ran a “spiritual healing” business and promoted himself as a clairvoyant an expert in “astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic” services. The business has been described as a front for sexual advances on vulnerable women, who were told that they could only receive treatment if they were undressed and massaged on the breasts and genitals. With some women, he threatened black magic curses if they did not submit to sex with him.
On 14 March 2014, Monis was arrested and charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a young woman who went to his consultancy in Wentworthville, New South Wales, for “spiritual healing”, after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper. Seven months later, on 13 October 2014, a further 40 charges were added, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault, allegedly committed against six more women who had visited his business.
Monis claimed to have converted from Shia Islam to Sunni Islam. An announcement on his now-suspended website, posted a week before the Sydney siege, stated: “I used to be a Rafidi, but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah.” “Rafidi“, which means “one who rejects” in Arabic, “is typically used by Sunnis to denigrate Shias as non-Muslim.” Monis also used his website to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State whose ‘main enemies’ are the Shi’a.
On the morning of 15 December 2014, Monis took hostage employees and customers at the Lindt chocolate café in Martin Place, Sydney, across from a Seven Network television studio. Hostages were made to hold up a Black Standard with the shahādah (Islamic statement of faith) written in white Arabic text.
Neighbouring buildings, including government offices and financial institutions, and Martin Place railway station, were evacuated and locked down. Some hostages managed to escape. The event lasted over 16 hours when hostages made a run for the exit with Monis firing missing all hostages. Monis then took Tori Johnston (the cafe manager) at gunpoint forcing him to kneel before firing a fatal shot into Johnston’s head. Police tactical officers then decided to storm the café resulting in a shootout between Monis and police in the early hours of the following morning and Monis was confirmed by police to have died in the ensuing confrontation. Two of the hostages also died, several others were wounded, and a police officer suffered minor injuries.
No one claimed Monis’s body when it was released by the NSW Coroner, and he was subsequently buried in an undisclosed NSW location at state expense.
In 2016, Monis was listed under mentally disturbed individuals who have launched recent violent attacks justified with Islamist ideas or slogans. Other examples include the perpetrator of the 2016 Munich knife attack and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the perpetrator of the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa. According to psychologists and psychiatrists who study radicalisation, jihad propaganda and calls to kill the infidels can push mentally ill individuals to act, even in the absence of direct or personal contact with Islamists.
One can dismiss Wahid Azal as merely a bizarre crank, but it appears they dismissed that guy too and look what happened!