Almonitor, February 04 2017:…when some of his children were arrested after being accused of collaborating with the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq [MEK], Mrs. Marashi showed strength and managed the crisis from within the Abode [of the then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini].” Lahouti, a revolutionary activist, had had connections with the MEK during the time of the shah. Although he parted ways …
The most powerful woman in Iran
The late Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is seen with his wife, Effat Marashi, in a picture from 1958. (photo by Halimi Al Muntazar/Facebook)
TEHRAN, Iran — Spouses of politicians rarely take center stage on Iran’s political scene and, for the most part, remain entirely out of the public eye. Few Iranians know very much about their presidents’ wives, including their names. Effat Marashi, however, is an exception.
The wife of the late Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was born into a prominent clerical family. One year younger than her husband, she married Rafsanjani in 1959 at the age of 23, when the future two-time president of Iran was a young seminary student. Marashi would later become one of the most political and high-profile wives of an Iranian president.
Marashi wrote in her memoir, “Step by Step with the Cedar,” “I, Effat Marashi, am the wife of the devoted scholar, pious cleric, famous Iranian politician who was schooled in the discipline of the Household of the Prophet [Muhammad], a noble and honorable human being, his eminence Ayatollah Sheikh Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The dear people of Iran mostly know of me because of two incidents. The first incident was in 1979, when I played a part in protecting my husband, who was miraculously saved, from an assassination attempt. The second incident is related to the 2009 presidential elections and the unfortunate incidents that took place following those elections. Certain sentences uttered by me while I was casting my vote at the Jamaran Prayer Hall were published by the media outlets and used as an excuse by the hard-liners to attack my husband and children.”
The assassination attempt took place in September 1979, a few months after the Islamic Revolution. Members of the militant group Furqan, at the time engaged in a series of attacks on revolutionary leaders, entered Rafsanjani’s home and tried to shoot him. Marashi confronted the gunmen and jumped in front of her husband, resulting in the bullets hitting his abdomen instead of his head. Her confrontation with the attackers, which Rafsanjani himself describes in his memoirs, resulted in them fleeing and Rafsanjani escaping death. Marashi’s influential role in her husband’s political life and her bravery during the attempt on his life are laid out in Rafsanjani’s memoirs, in which he also discusses their disagreements on some political issues.
Marashi’s strength as a woman in Iranian political life, albeit most influentially behind the scenes, appears to have influenced her daughters, who are as politically active as her sons Mohsen and Mehdi and have never lived in the shadow of men. Indeed, Faezeh and Fatemeh have been even more politically active than their brothers, perhaps evidence of the absence of a stridently patriarchal atmosphere in the Rafsanjani household. It would not be surprising if Marashi were the one responsible for such an environment in her home.
The comments Marashi made in connection with the controversial 2009 presidential elections, which ushered Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power for a second term, raised her profile. While casting her vote, Marashi told reporters, “If the elections are rigged, people should take to the streets.” Media outlets critical of Rafsanjani cited her comments in trying to paint the widespread post-election unrest as having been organized in advance by supporters of presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami and, of course, Rafsanjani.
A figure close to the Rafsanjani family who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said, “Mrs. Marashi is an unseen and hidden character who played a great role in Rafsanjani’s success. She is the one who kept Mr. Rafsanjani going all these years. More importantly, she is a member of the Marashi dynasty herself, a well-known Shiite clerical family.”
The source further remarked, “During the crisis concerning [the cleric Hassan] Lahouti [Eshkevari], when some of his children were arrested after being accused of collaborating with the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq [MEK], Mrs. Marashi showed strength and managed the crisis from within the Abode [of the then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini].”
Lahouti, a revolutionary activist, had had connections with the MEK during the time of the shah. Although he parted ways with the MEK, he was suspected of having maintained connections with the group through his son Vahid, who was a member and was executed in 1981 after the MEK had become a sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic. Rafsanjani’s daughters were married to Lahouti’s sons Hamid and Said, so his arrest and subsequent death, reportedly from a heart attack in Evin prison on Oct. 29, 1981, caused a crisis for the Rafsanjani family given their familial ties.
After Rafsanjani’s sudden death last month, Marashi again became a focus of attention, with Iranian media outlets examining the role she had played in Rafsanjani’s political life. Some of her statements and personal writings were published online, mainly concerning her extreme sadness at the loss of her husband.
The Marashis, apart from being a noted clerical family, are also prominent in Iranian politics. Her brother, Hossein Marashi, served two terms as a lawmaker and is currently the spokesman for the central council of the Executives of Construction, a Reformist party.
Given Effat Marashi’s half a century of experience at Rafsanjani’s side, some analysts have speculated that she might become more active in politics in the coming years. Another source close to the Rafsanjani family who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said, however, “Mrs. Marashi is almost 82 years old, and I think it is unlikely that she has any plans to take the political stage. Also, she has always had enough courage to honestly express her own opinions. Ayatollah Hashemi was never a barrier for her [expressing herself], and thus there is no reason to think that with his death she will now have more opportunities to be politically active.”
MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, Rajavi cult) and Saudis isolated as world leaders send condolences for Rafsanjani’s death
Iran Interlink, January 10 2017:… The MEK tried on several occasions to assassinate Rafsanjani. The first attempt in 1981 came when the MEK planted a bomb at the Hezb Jomhouri headquarters resulting in the deaths of 72 leading personalities of the new Islamic Republic. Rafsanjani was targeted but hadn’t turned up that day. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi wrote an open letter to Rafsanjani from his hideout asking him to consider him and his organisation. Rafsanjani did
MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, Rajavi cult) and Saudis isolated as world leaders send condolences for Rafsanjani’s death
Hundreds of thousands of mourners flooded Tehran today as the funeral of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani took place.
World leaders from around the globe expressed their condolences. Rafsanjani was acknowledged by Western commentators to be a pragmatist and reformer who had sought closer relations with America and Europe over the years.
However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was notably silent.
Instead of expressing condolences in a dignified manner, the Saudi rulers used the national TV channel to broadcast an interview with an operative of the notorious MEK terrorist cult.
The MEK tried on several occasions to assassinate Rafsanjani. The first attempt in 1981 came when the MEK planted a bomb at the Hezb Jomhouri headquarters resulting in the deaths of 72 leading personalities of the new Islamic Republic. Rafsanjani was targeted but hadn’t turned up that day.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi wrote an open letter to Rafsanjani from his hideout asking him to consider him and his organisation. Rafsanjani did not respond directly but in an interview emphasized that the MEK could never gain legitimacy after all the years of mercenary work for Saddam and later for Mossad.
The turnout today demonstrated that the people of Iran are willing to put their differences and their criticisms aside to mourn the passing of a significant establishment figure.
In the current climate of threat from Daesh and AQ and smaller regional terrorists, Iranian people look to their government to protect from these external threats. The last thing they want is a Saudi-like Kingdom run by mad men like the Rajavis whom they have come to know inside out over the last three decades.
As world leaders acknowledge this reality, the Saudis and the MEK find themselves isolated on the wrong side of history again.
Saudi beheading – Myanmar woman screams innocence before execution
Iran: Saudi Arabia should replace illusion with intellection
Mehr News, Tehran, September 03 2016:… He added that Saudi Arabia is the only country which has to change its wrong and counterproductive approach to the region and to the world; the country should stop military attacks against the innocent and defenseless women and children in Yemen and halt non-normative acts and supporting terrorist groups in the region, especially in Syria. Islamic Republic of Iran highly regards security in the region, eradication of terrorism …
Saudi FM’s allegations against Iran false, unfounded
TEHRAN, Sep. 03 (MNA) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi in response to the latest remarks of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said “accusations and allegations of Saudi officials, especially Adel al-Jubeir against Iran’s positive and constructive role and efforts in the region is, unfortunately, extremely repetitive and unfounded.”
Iran’s advisory role in Syrian crisis and its moral and political support of innocent people in the Islamic countries who has undergone unleashed violence by terrorist-takfiri groups, are to maintain stability and security in the region and the world.
He urged all countries in the region, taking a positive attitude and practical and constructive measures, to restore security and stability to the region and to prevent further killings of innocent people.
“Today hidden facts and the main causes of instability and insecurity has been more than ever revealed to the public, and the projection could not deceive, as in the past, the hearts and consciences of the public,” Ghasemi underlined.
He added that Saudi Arabia is the only country which has to change its wrong and counterproductive approach to the region and to the world; the country should stop military attacks against the innocent and defenseless women and children in Yemen and halt non-normative acts and supporting terrorist groups in the region, especially in Syria.
Islamic Republic of Iran highly regards security in the region, eradication of terrorism, sovereignty, unity of the Islamic countries, peace and stability and prevention of enemies’ threats, Ghasemi underlined.
Bahram Ghasemi said it is better for Saudi Arabia to make serious revisions to its approach to the region and to replace illusion with intellection.
Iran destroys 4 overseas terror groups, invites Saudi Arabia to be rational
Mehr News, Tehran, August 22 2016:… About the upcoming visit of the head of MEK, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an anti-Iran terrorist group exiled in France and Iraq, Maryam Rajavi, to Saudi Arabia, he called Saudi officials to take rational and wise measures since stability and security of the region would also benefit the Arab kingdom. In regard to Iran-UK relations, he said “one of the objectives of the Foreign Ministry is to normalize its relations with the countries that we have no problems with.” He …
TEHRAN, Aug. 22 (MNA) – Iran’s FM Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Mon. that Nojeh airbase in Hamedan is no longer in use by Russian fighter jets and the cooperation has come to an end for the time being.
Bahram Ghasemi in his first press conference as Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman discussed the issue on Iran’s providing of an airbase to Russia whence Russian fighter jets would take off to target and destroy ISIL strongholds in Syria, adding “we had signed no agreement with Russia on this cooperation and our relations are strategic. What matters the most to us and our people is security and we will spare no efforts in securing the country in whatever way possible.”
Ghasemi went on to add, “we have had an understanding with the Russian side on fighting terrorism wherein we agreed to take certain joint measures against terrorists. The Russians’ recent move took place with Moscow’s prior request and Tehran’s confirmation so that they could use our airspace to target terrorists in Syria.”
About Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, he said “no exact date has been defined yet, but we will inform the public as soon as a date for President Erdogan’s visit is decided.”
He went on to add, “talks between Iran and Turkey will continue on various levels and in all political, parliamentary, and economic dimensions. We are making efforts to expand our bilateral and regional cooperation with Turkey.”
Ghasemi further stressed that there is no insistence on Iran’s part to persuade Turkey to change its positions in regard to Syria; “we will never impose our views on others, the same way that others cannot impose their views on us. We will only declare our own positions and may reach some common grounds with other countries during negotiations.”
About the upcoming visit of the head of MEK, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an anti-Iran terrorist group exiled in France and Iraq, Maryam Rajavi, to Saudi Arabia, he called Saudi officials to take rational and wise measures since stability and security of the region would also benefit the Arab kingdom.
In regard to Iran-UK relations, he said “one of the objectives of the Foreign Ministry is to normalize its relations with the countries that we have no problems with.”
He went on to add, “embassies in Tehran and London are active at the level of Charge d’affaires, and there is the possibility to improve the relations to the level of ambassadors and we are hoping that it will happen in the future.”
He also clarified certain confusions about two cases regarding foreign diplomats in Iran. In regard to the two European diplomats that had faced some problems in one of the western provinces in the country, he said no offense has been made and that the diplomats have travelled there with prior notice and legal permit.
About the news on the arrest of Japanese ambassador, he said “I do not confirm the arrest. I am informed that a misunderstanding had taken place since the Japanese ambassador to Tehran had not been carrying his identification card and was therefore questioned.”
4 terrorist groups annihilated overseas: IRGC
TEHRAN, Aug. 22 (MNA) – Commander of IRGC’s Quds base has announced they have destroyed four anti-Iran groups of terrorists outside Iran.
Major General Mohammad Marani made the remarks in a joint meeting with officials of anti-drug organizations from five provinces in southern and eastern Iran and asserted that “IRGC pursues security in all areas and in issues such as human trafficking, smuggling, and anti-Iran and terrorist groups which are conducted out of borders, we carry out missions overseas with necessary coordinations.”
Gen. Marani described missions in current year as successful and dubbed the fight against anti-Revolution groups trying to infiltrate through eastern borders among most important efforts.
He further elaborated on the terrorist groups which have been destroyed overseas; “one of the groups was known as ‘Furqan Vasl’ led by Amanallah Raeisi and was trying to enter the country to carry out terrorist attacks in central parts of country,” Marani said. “four members of the group were killed about two months ago and Amanallah Raeisi and other four members of the group were arrested with 150 kilograms of drugs.”
Quds base commander in southeast Iran emphasized that borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran are under vigilant protection of security forces and that Arab intelligence services, especially from Saudi Arabia, are trying to insecure eastern borders.
Nathalie Goulet: Supporting Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) waste of time and energy
Trend News, July 27 2016:… Coming to MKO’s meeting in France and participating of a former top Saudi official there, Goulet said that “we always encourage the countries in the region to establish closer relationship for more enduring regional peace. The recent gathering of exiled Iranian terrorist group in France known as MKO and presence of some Saudi figures hopefully shall not be interpreted as position of current administration of KSA” …
Nathalie Goulet: Saudis, Iran must resume dialogue; Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, Rajavi cult) a big imposture
Baku, Azerbaijan, July 25
By Dalga Khatinoglu – Trend:
Tehran and Riyadh have to make effort to bear each other and restart a dialogue, Nathalie Goulet, vice chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Senate told Trend.
Recently, the long-escalated relations between Tehran and Riyadh worsened after participating of Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi former intelligence chief, in Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization’s (MKO) annual meeting the in Le Bourget, near Paris on July 9.
MKO is considered a terrorist group by Iran because of its history of assassinations and bombings against Iranian authorities and for siding with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, which resulted in about a million casualties from the Iranian side.
“The most challenging issue is to restore trust and get rid of irrational fears or feeling of superiority between Iran and Saudi. The world security needs both KSA and Iran,” Goulet said.
Saudi Arabia’s important role in Middle East peace
Goulet said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was known as a major oil producing country in the world and stayed out of the limelight before the Gulf War.
“When Saddam Hussein targeted Saudi Arabia in retaliation to the US offensive, the Kingdom was alarmed that it needed better defensive measures. The regional events after the new millennium encouraged the Kingdom to take on a more active role in the region. The economic power of the country grew steadily and helped the Kingdom to establish itself as one of the major players in the region,” said the senator said.
She added that with the current administration in Saudi Arabia and their desire to play a more constructive role in regional peace and stability, France welcomes such efforts.
“France and the Kingdom remain good partners in fighting terrorism worldwide and are determined to uproot this global disease. Of course we do have other partners in the region, sharing the same goal and we will work hard to create a stronger and stable consensus to speed up the counter terrorism efforts,” said Goulet.
Riyad is a member of US-led coalition in fight against Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and Iran also helps Iraq and Syria to battle against this group separately.
Goulet said that France welcomes the true efforts of KSA to control financing of terrorism, however, it’s obvious that restoring peace and security in the Middle East will not come overnight.
She added that as the guardian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, KSA has to play a major role in fighting Islamic extremism.
“I had the chance and the privilege to meet HRH Muhammed Bin Salman and Foreign Minister Al Jaiber in Paris. I fully trust their will to be successful in their vision of KSA 2030. Our standards are really far from KSA’s rules and regulation. More cooperation will help a lot to achieve the goals,” she said.
Supporting MKO – waste of time and energy
Coming to MKO’s meeting in France and participating of a former top Saudi official there, Goulet said that “we always encourage the countries in the region to establish closer relationship for more enduring regional peace. The recent gathering of exiled Iranian terrorist group in France known as MKO and presence of some Saudi figures hopefully shall not be interpreted as position of current administration of KSA”.
Members of the MKO fled to Iraq in 1986, where they enjoyed the support of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and set up Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border in Diyala.
The group has carried out numerous terrorist acts against Iranian civilians and government officials. The terror organization is also known to have cooperated with Saddam in suppressing the 1991 uprisings in southern Iraq and the massacre of Iraqi Kurds in the north.
Goulet said that the MKO is a big imposture and tries to appear as a solution for a replacement of Iranian regime.
“Anyone involved in the regional policy knows that MKO has no foot print inside Iran and have in fact acted as mercenaries against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. Even if you dislike the Iranian regime, supporting the MKO will not help to get a new regime. No one in Iran will support MKO as it betrayed this country by supporting Iraq during a terrible war,” Goulet said.
She added that supporting MKO will just bring more solidarity among Iranian people and will create more misunderstanding between the two nations. “It is big waste of time and money,” she added.
Clinton-Albania deal ensures MEK (Rajavi cult) members stay as terrorists
Massoud Khodabandeh, Top Topics, April 18 2016:… This means that when people like Bidi and Rastar choose to reject membership of this terrorist group, they not only face the wrath of the MEK – which has promised to kill Bidi in particular because he is so vocal about this predicament – but they are also left destitute because the state doesn’t recognise them except as members of that terrorist group. After the UNHCR pulled the plug on its support, Bidi …
Clinton-Albania deal ensures MEK (Rajavi cult) members stay as terrorists
When is a terrorist, who is not a terrorist, still a terrorist?
The answer to this complicated riddle can be surprisingly simple: When they are forced to remain in a terrorist group because there is no safe way for them to escape.
There is an ongoing debate in Europe and North America about how defectors from terrorismshould be treated as they try to return to their homes in the West. Some say that on security grounds they should be either banned from re-entry or prosecuted and where possible imprisoned as an example to others. Others, usually practitioners who understand that deceptive recruitment is a huge factor in people’s involvement in terrorism, advocate for a more humanitarian and redemptive approach: allow these people home, albeit with severe restrictions imposed on their lives and activities, and get them to undergo re-programming.
What this debate does not address, however, is just how possible it is to actually escape a terrorist group in the first place. If you are in Raqqa, how do you step outside the group and remain safe?
In this context the fate of a handful of Iranians, stranded in Albania without any financial support or accommodation and unable to access refugee services, shines a spotlight on this aspect of the West’s approach to terrorism.
It would be easy to dismiss former MEK members Ehsan Bidi and Siavosh Rastar’s case as a local, individual problem. But when we look in more detail, it has everything to do with whether America and the West are complicit in forcing people to remain in terrorist groups because we do not see the need to help them leave at all. Certainly this is not a solution to terrorism – Plan B: get them all to leave – but a more facilitating approach toward genuine defectors could be a major factor in undermining the hold such groups have on their members.
Three years ago, Ehsan Bidi was brought to Albania along with other members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK). But Bidi was already a separated member when he arrived; it had just not been possible for him to escape them while in Iraq. As soon as he arrived he left them. Since then, he had been living on a small financial contribution from the UNHCR along with basic accommodation which they had provided. Suddenly at the end of March this year all this support ended. He and others like him were left destitute.
What Bidi and another handful of defectors didn’t know was that under the 2013 deal struck between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, the MEK members transferred to Tirana from Camp Liberty in Iraq would not be given official UN refugee status and would be dependent on Maryam Rajavi’s MEK for all their accommodation and costs while in Albania. Amazingly, neither the government of Albania nor the UNHCR has any obligation to treat them as refugees. All of these people are being transferred not as refugees but as the active members of a terrorist entity. In fact, part of the deal struck by Clinton was that the MEK would be removed from the US terrorism list specifically to allow this deal even though every active member remains radicalised to the core and capable of committing acts of terrorism.
This means that when people like Bidi and Rastar choose to reject membership of this terrorist group, they not only face the wrath of the MEK – which has promised to kill Bidi in particular because he is so vocal about this predicament – but they are also left destitute because the state doesn’t recognise them except as members of that terrorist group. After the UNHCR pulled the plug on its support, Bidi and the others were told ‘you must ask Rajavi to allow you back in the MEK or ask the Iranian embassy to send you back to Iran’. Clearly an impossible choice. It is a conundrum which was created by America and must be resolved by America.
A similar situation arose in Iraq after 2003 when the MEK were captured, disarmed and kept in Camp Ashraf. Within weeks the American army was being approached by defectors begging them for help to escape the clutches of the cult. After trying to send them back or ignore them, the army was eventually obliged, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to establish a separate Temporary Internment and Protection Facility (TIPF) within their own compound to house the defectors. This allowed many others to escape and return to their families and to civilian life.
It is necessary now for the American administration to acknowledge that it has the same obligation toward the people it transferred to Albania under Clinton’s 2013 deal. It must give them the same opportunity to leave the MEK as was granted to people while in Iraq. Safe, alternative accommodation and social support must be given to those who, on principle, reject membership of a terrorist group. It’s almost unthinkable that this isn’t happening already.But while nobody imagines that in among the chaos of war in the Middle East and the massive refugee crisis that has engulfed Western countries, there can be a TIPF or something similar for ex-terrorists, we also know that Daesh kills defectors. They do this under the principle of ownership – we own our fighters and can dispose of them as we see fit.
In this case, if we stand by and allow Daesh, like the MEK, to dictate the conditions of how a defector is treated without making any effort to facilitate their safe exit, if we cannot offer a helping hand to those who wish to redeem themselves, then we are no better than the terrorists ourselves.
Khodabandeh: It would be wrong to ignore the Mojahedin in Albania
Deutsche Welle (Albanian), March 14 2016:… The actual risk to Albania will be if the MEK is not disbanded as a group. Disbanding means that each refugee should be treated as an individual. They must be de-radicalised and then integrated back into normal society as ordinary citizens with homes and jobs and families. The MEK must not be allowed to re-organise as a quasi-military group. Clearly, Albania is not as strong as western European countries in this respect and so the process …
(Translated by Iran Interlink)
Khodabandeh: It would be wrong to ignore the Mojahedin in Albania
March 13, 2016
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton) British journalist, Director of Open Minds cultandterror.com former Mojahedin Khalq activist, says their transfer poses potential risks not only for Albania.
Deutsche Welle: Ms. Khodabandeh you are of the opinion that Albania’s agreement to take a further number of Mojahedin is associated with some risk. The international media talks about another 2,000 more Mojahedin going to Albania. What risk do they pose?
Anne Khodabandeh: There are many other NATO countries where the MEK could have gone, but only Albania agreed to accept the refugees. It would have been much better to have distributed the refugees among several countries instead of leaving Albania to take the whole burden. However, the move is very welcome since these people have to be moved somewhere for their own safety. Now they have a better chance of escaping their past and starting new lives as ordinary civilians.
The actual risk to Albania will be if the MEK is not disbanded as a group. Disbanding means that each refugee should be treated as an individual. They must be de-radicalised and then integrated back into normal society as ordinary citizens with homes and jobs and families. The MEK must not be allowed to re-organise as a quasi-military group. Clearly, Albania is not as strong as western European countries in this respect and so the process will be more difficult. But if it is done, then the country can take full credit for doing something not even the USA or the European Union could achieve.
DW: In one of your articles, you write that this is the relocation of terrorist group into Europe. Do you really think that a terrorist risk to Europe could come from Albania?
AK: It is important to remember that every member of the MEK who is relocated into Albania has been radicalised to the core. They have been undergoing terrorist training for up to thirty years in Iraq. They will not suddenly change just because the MEK name is removed from a list of terrorist groups or if they physically move to another country. They are still terrorists. Many have been highly trained by Saddam Hussein’s former Republican Guards Corps in specialist activities – from bomb making and terrorist strategies, to intelligence gathering and torture. The MEK is credited with inventing the suicide mission back in the 1970s.
DW: What do you think Albania should do?
AK: It would be a mistake for the Albanian authorities to dismiss the MEK as a defunct force simply because many of its members are old or ailing. They may not be a fighting force but they certainly have transferable skills and experience in terrorist training and logistics. These could be very useful to other terrorist organisations. The MEK has people who are experts in money laundry, people trafficking, fraud and corruption.
The location of Albania in the far south east of Europe makes it attractive as a gateway country into Europe. Without scrupulous vigilance the MEK camp could become a staging post for other terrorist leaders and commanders as well as acting as a terrorist training base.
DW: After the Mojahedin was removed from the list of terrorist organisations they could be said to be seen as allies of the Americans as they fought against Saddam Hussein. Is this fact not sufficient to exclude the possibility that they may pose a risk?
AK: The MEK have never been considered as actual allies by any western government. These governments may have benefitted from the MEK’s violent anti-Iran activities and have turned a blind eye to the support given to the group by various interest groups, but the MEK has never had governmental support except from Saddam Hussein. He paid and trained the MEK in terrorism for regime change in Iran. Expert US and EU assessment still regards the MEK as a ‘potential’ threat to Western interests.
DW: It is said that the Mojahedin Khalq helped in the fight against terrorism, why doesn’t the government in Iraq want them in their country?
AK: The MEK, referred to as Saddam’s Private Army, was responsible for the deaths of 25,000 Iraqi citizens, particularly among Kurds in the north and Shia populations in the south. For this reason, the group has many enemies in the country and their safety cannot be guaranteed.
After Saddam’s ouster, the MEK declared itself a friend to the US army and was disarmed. Over several years, Iraq’s security forces have gathered information which shows that the MEK still poses a threat to peace and stability in the country through its active support and help for insurrection forces linked to both Al Qaida and more recently Daesh.
DW: In Albania until now, they have live peacefully. Why could they be a threat to Albania right now?
AK: It is known that the MEK leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi are planning to establish a safe haven for themselves in Albania along with the majority of the members. They want to recreate the closed society which they have used elsewhere – in Iraq, North America and Europe – that allows them to operate outside normal legal constraints. In Albania they seek to exploit the relatively weak state of the country’s governmental, security and social institutions in order to establish an extra-judicial enclave of their own.
DW: In Albania the Mojahedin Khalq live as political refugees. As such they are included in the legal framework of the country.
AK: It is not possible to be both a political refugee and a member of a terrorist organisation. At present, because the MEK has not been disbanded, each person who arrives in Albania is still a de facto member of the MEK terrorist group, regardless of the status under which they were transferred. Their refugee status is nullified as long as they are living in MEK accommodation and obeying MEK rules. The Albanian authorities must not ignore the fact that these people are victims of cultic abuse and are living in conditions of modern slavery. No ordinary member is allowed to make independent contact with the outside world. The MEK leaders claim to represent the views and wishes of the entire membership but when they arrived in Albania about 200 of them left. This is something which humanitarian organisations, both international and local, need to urgently address. The MEK must not be allowed to close the doors against the outside world and must not prevent the people transferred from Iraq from contacting their families and the outside world.
DW: You were once a Mojahedin activist. Why did you leave them?
AK: Yes, this happened [recruitment and radicalisation] when I was in university after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. I was young and naiive. They said they were fighting for human rights in Iran, but as I got deeper inside the organisation, I saw the atmosphere of fear and secrecy. I realized they were not fighting to liberate Iran from tyranny, as they claim, but only working to save the leaders. So, I left.
British expert, Anne Khodabendeh, director of the popular online platformcultsandterror.comOpen Minds, herself a former activist of the organization the Mujahedin, launched a campaign in 2001 to help the victims of the cult. In 2011 she published the book ‘The Life of Camp Ashraf’, named after the main Iraqi base of the Mojahedin Khalq. Today she works as part of the Prevent Strategy to prevent radicalization and violent extremism in Britain.