Nejat Society, December 03 2018:… Since the relocation of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization in Albania and defections from the group, more revelations were made. Gholam Reza Shekari who left the group in 2017 recounted his traumatic experience of torture in the MKO’s jail in an interview with Spiegel. Shokri said that they had closed their eyes and took him to a clandestine jail. “They insulted me calling me spy of the Mullah’s regime,” he recounts …
Traumatic Stories Of Torture In The MKO (MEK Rajavi Cult) During The 1990s
When in May 2005 the Human Rights Watch reported on the huge violations of human rights inside the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ The Cult of Rajavi), the subtitle “Security Clearance” discussed the conditions in which human rights abuses took place in the group’s camps. “During late 1994 and early 1995, many members of the MKO were arrested by the organization’s operatives inside their camps in Iraq,” the report reads. “They were interrogated and accused of spying for the Iranian government. They were released in mid-1995 after being forced to sign false confessions and stating their loyalty to the leaders.”
The authors of the HRW’s report “NO EXIT”, interviewed five former members of the group Farhad Javaheri-Yar, Ali Ghashghavi, Alireza Mirasgari, Akbar Akbari, and Abbas Sadeghinejad. “According to their testimonies—detailed in the next section—the purpose of these arrests was to intimidate dissidents and obtain false confessions from them stating that they were agents of Iranian government. This period was known as the “security clearance”.”
Human rights abuses carried out by MKO leaders against dissident members ranged from prolonged incommunicado and solitary confinement to beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution, and torture that in two cases led to death.
Based on NO EXIT report, the severe cases of torture ended with the death of at least two people Parviz Ahmadi and Ghorban Ali Torabi. However, after the report was published in 2005, a lot of testimonies and memoirs of defectors were published confirming the HRW’s report and in many cases, numerous facts on the human rights abuses in the MKO were added to those that were stated in the report.
Since the relocation of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization in Albania and the increased defection from the group, more revelations were made on the “Security Clearance” in 1994 and 1995. Gholam Reza Shekari who left the group in 2017 recounted his traumatic experience of torture in the MKO’s jail in an interview with Spiegel.
Shekari spent 27 years of his life in the cult-like MKO. He was only 20 years old and willing to find a good job in Europe when he was recruited by the MKO in Iraq. The MKO agents promised to help him get the European visa only if he stayed in their camp for a few months.
As soon as he entered the organization, they confiscated his ID documents and never gave him back.” whenever I asked for my ID, they would say that they had no idea where it was.”
Thus, Shekari had no way out of the MKO camp but he frequently used to ask the leaders when he could leave the cult. This question was considered a sin by the leaders. Departure from the MKO was forbidden and showing your willingness for leaving the group would be faced with suppression, imprisonment and torture. So he was imprisoned in solitary confinement.
Shekari said that they had closed their eyes and took him to a clandestine jail. “They insulted me calling me spy of the Mullah’s regime,” he recounts. “They beat me in my legs so badly that I could not walk; they were bleeding. They tied my hands with hand coughs for a week. After a week my hands had no sense; I put the fire of a cigarette on them but I didn’t feel it burn. Then they forced me to stand up for one more week. Each time that I fell down out of fatigue, they would beat me so hard that I had to stand up again.”
Shekari recalled that after a week his legs were bruised and turned black. Blood did not circulate to his head so he fainted. He showed the scars on his legs to the interviewer.
He was under torture for 45 days. Finally Massoud Rajavi called on the tortured members and threatened them that if they expose what has happened to them and if they intend to leave the group they would be handed over to Iraqi authorities under the regime of Saddam Hussein. This meant that more torture or death would be waiting for them.
Thus, Shekari stayed in the MKO for another 23 years until September 21st , 2016 that the group leaders finally let him leave.
Western Journalists Disclose Severe Human Rights Abuses In The MEK
Nejat Society, November 21 2018:… Merat suggests that the MKO’s allegations about defectors are false because “the testimony of these recent defectors follows earlier reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which reported former members witnessed “beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution and torture that in two cases led to death”.”  The guardian correspondent lists …
Western Journalists Disclose Severe Human Rights Abuses In The MEK
By Nejat Bloggers Last updated Nov 19, 2018
Just by searching the word “MEK” you can find unbiased articles and videos from independent journalists who investigated the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ the Cult of Rajavi) and revealed its true nature. The most recent one was published by former CIA agent Paul Pillar on the National Interest. 
Paul Pillar wrote this one following the publication of a 6,600-word article titled “Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK” in the Guardian by Arron Merat, on November 9th. Merat is a former Iran correspondent of the Economist and as Pillar describes him “an experienced Iran-watcher”. 
Among a lot of different details that Merat presents about the MKO, aspects of human rights abuses that is committed by the group leaders are prevalent and undeniable. He begins with the story of a girl imprisoned in the MKO, Somayeh Mohammadi whose parents Mostafa and Mahboubeh have been striving to visit her without the supervision of the MKO authorities, for over 20 years.
However, human rights violation against the MKO members is not restricted to those who are taken as hostages inside the group’s base in Tirana. Defectors of the group are not enjoying the basic human rights of refugees.
Arron Merat states that after the relocation of the group in Albania the group bought up land in Albania and built a new base. “But the move from Iraq to the relative safety of Albania has precipitated a wave of defections,” He writes. “Those with means have fled the country to the EU and the US, but around 120 recent MEK escapees remain in Tirana with no right to work or emigrate. I spoke to about a dozen defectors, half of whom are still in Albania, who said that MEK commanders systematically abused members to silence dissent and prevent defections – using torture, solitary confinement, the confiscation of assets and the segregation of families to maintain control over members. In response to these allegations, an MEK spokesperson said: “The individuals who are described as ‘former members’ were being used as part of a demonisation campaign against the MEK.” 
Merat suggests that the MKO’s allegations about defectors are false because “the testimony of these recent defectors follows earlier reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which reported former members witnessed “beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution and torture that in two cases led to death”.” 
The guardian correspondent lists cases of human rights abuses that have been committed by the MKO leaders naming individuals who personally had the authentic experience of being abused by the leaders. The detailed accounts of numerous aspects of human rights violations inside the MKO included self-confession sessions, physical and mental torture, sexual abuse of female members by Massoud Rajavi, Forced divoce, forced hysterectomy surgeries that made women barren and solitary confinement. Manouchehr Abdi, Batoul Soltani, Zahra Moini and Fereshteh Hedayati are some of former members that Arron Merat quotes their testimonies in his article.
After bringing enough evidence on the abusive system of the cult-like MKO, Merat gets back to Somayeh and her grieving parents. He cites that the Mohammadis‘ lawyer has revealed the fact that the Albanian police are influenced by the misinformation campaign of the MKO. “Politics is interfering in the judicial system,” the lawyer told Merat. “When I went to the police station to register their complaint the police officers actually ran away. They are scared of losing their jobs.” 
He then recounts the violent behavior of the MKO agents against Mostafa and Mahboubeh. “The MEK has not taken kindly to the presence of the Mohammadis in Albania,” he states. “They accuse Mostafa – and any former member who has spoken out against the MEK – of being a paid agent of the “mullah regime”. On 27 July, Mostafa was hospitalised following an assault by four senior members of the MEK, which was captured on video by his wife. The attackers, who shouted “Terrorist!” at Mohammadi, were briefly detained by Albanian police. But, after a phalanx of MEK members arrived at the police station, the men were promptly released.” 
And about the so-called TV interview with Somayeh in which she accused her father of being an Iranian intelligence agent, Merat writes, “A nervous-looking Somayeh recently gave a video interview inside the MEK base saying that she wishes to remain a member of the group.” 
Paul Pillar completes Merat’s article by comparing the cult leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi to notorious cult leaders like Jim Jones and Shoko Asahara. “Families have been broken up, married couples told to divorce, and women threatened with punishment if they did not “marry” Massoud and endure his sexual abuse,” Pillar asserts. “Stomach-turning details continue to emerge from the MEK’s current location in Albania, including stories of forced hysterectomies and would-be escapees subjected to solitary confinement. The former head of Albanian military intelligence says that MEK members live in the group’s current compound as “hostages” amid “extraordinary psychological violence and threats of murder.” 
As we observer, accounts on suppression and violence inside the MKO camps are not few but conscientious people should take serious action to stop these horrible violence.
 Pillar, Paul, The MEK and the Bankrupt U.S. Policy on Iran, the National Interest, November 13th, 2018.
 Merat, Arron, Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK, The Guardian, November 9th, 2018.
 Pillar, Paul, The MEK and the Bankrupt U.S. Policy on Iran, the National Interest, November 13th, 2018.
Albanian Goverment Turns Blind Eye to Human Rights Abuse in MEK Camp
Exit, Explaining Albania, November 10 2018:… A recent report from The Guardian has uncovered systematic human rights abuse in the Albanian camp of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a former Iranian terrorist organization exiled from Iraq to Albania. As Exit has reported over the last years, multiple high-ranking US politicians have visited the MEK in Albania, as US administration’s interest in overturning the Iranian regime have grown …
Albanian Goverment Turns Blind Eye to Human Rights Abuse in MEK Camp
[T]he move from Iraq to the relative safety of Albania has precipitated a wave of defections. Those with means have fled the country to the EU and the US, but around 120 recent MEK escapees remain in Tirana with no right to work or emigrate. I spoke to about a dozen defectors, half of whom are still in Albania, who said that MEK commanders systematically abused members to silence dissent and prevent defections – using torture, solitary confinement, the confiscation of assets and the segregation of families to maintain control over members. […]
The testimony of these recent defectors follows earlier reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which reported former members witnessed “beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution and torture that in two cases led to death.”
The MEK camp appearsto fall “beyond the jurisdiction of the Albanian police”:
Ylli Zyla, who served as head of Albanian military intelligence from 2008 to 2012, accused the MEK of violating Albanian law. “Members of this organisation live in Albania as hostages,” he told me. Its camp, he said, was beyond the jurisdiction of Albanian police and “extraordinary psychological violence and threats of murder” took place inside.
The Albanian government, meanwhile, turns a blind eye to the human rights abuses on its territory, hoping that hosting the MEK will give them leverage over the US government:
Olsi Jazexhi, a professor of history at the University of Durres critical of the government’s decision to accept the MEK fighters, says that Albanian politicians hoped the deal would lead the US to turn a blind eye to their own corruption. “The MEK is a card which gives them leverage with the United States,” he said. “They think that by taking the MEK, the Americans will leave their business alone.”
Full protection of human rights is one of the five key conditions for opening EU accession negotiations. It seems that, once again, the Albanian government fails to honor its obligations in that regard.
he fortified headquarters of Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, NCRI, …) in Albania
Giovanni Glacalone, Cliocchidella Guerra, Rome, Italy, October 28 2018:… The well-known Albanian investigative journalist Gjergj Thanasi was among the first to notice the presence of Manez and had shown the dynamics of the Eyes of War last February: “The Council of the Territorial Organization (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) is responsible for issuing permits for the construction of public works and private buildings …
Link to the source (Italian)
(Google Translation with Iran Interlink editing)
The fortified headquarters of Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, NCRI, …) in Albania
Last February, the occhidella guerra reported the transfer of 3,500 mujahideen to Albania. The Mek was previously kept at a base near Baghdad (Liberty Camp). Among other things, it referred to their new headquarters being constructed in Manez, near Durre. Today there are further evidence that confirm this project and much more. But let’s go in order.
What is the Mek
The Mek or Mojahedin Khalq Organisation of Iran is an organization which was born in 1963 in Iran with the aim of opposing the Western influence in the country and fighting the regime of the Shah. In 1979 the Mek participated in the revolution led by Khomeini but the ideology, a crossroads of Marxism, feminism and Islamism, clashed with that of the Ayatollahs.
In 1981 the Mek moved to Paris where Massoud Rajavi (The leader) founded his headquarters and five years later moved to Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, from where he supported and joined the war of Saddam Hussein against Iran. MEK also engaged in the repression of the Kurds on behalf of Saddam. In 2003 the Mek was disarmed by the Americans and moved to Camp Liberty. The Mek continued to play a role in the political and diplomatic activities against Teheran and continues to do so today.
Previously, the organization was blacklisted not only by Iran and Iraq, but also by the European Union, Britain, the US and Canada, only to be “cleared” between 2008 and 2012. A New York Times article by September 21, 2012 illustrated how the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had decided to clear the Mek , making it remove from the “black list” to be able to then put it away from the reach of Teheran, in a country willing to welcome them, in this Albania. The goal is more than evident: use the Mek to support a regime change in Tehran. But why in Albania? What is a “pledge” to pay for entry into Europe and NATO?
Today it is Maryam Rajavi who leads the Mek after the mysterious disappearance of her husband Massoud that coincides with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some sources speak of a possible death while others say that the former leader is in hiding to escape the agents of Tehran.
Political support at the international level
The Mek has received support from various international political figures including former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Emma Bonino as vice-president of the Senate in June 2012. The New York Times noted that several members of Congress had become staunch supporters of the movement that, if once Marxist-Islamist, then changed its mind by transforming its own struggle and becoming the main organized movement against the Iranian theocracy.
According to the New York newspaper, among the supporters of the Mek there would be R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss, former directors of the CIA; Louis J. Freeh, former director of the FBI; Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush; Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and national security advisor, General James L. Jones, operating under the Obama administration.
In the last year there have been several positions in favor of Mek by members of the national and international political scene. In mid-September an official delegation of the Italian Radical Party and the “Hands off Cain” association visited the mujahidin headquarters in Albania. The delegation included Elisabetta Zamparutti, Sergio D’Elia, Rita Bernardini, Mattia Moro, Maria Antonietta and Luca Coscioni; Albanian sources claim that the members of the Mek would provide an account of the violations of human rights implemented by the regime in Tehran.
Last June 30, it was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Monti government, Giulio Terzi, who spoke at a meeting of the Mek where, in front of thousands of anti-Tehran protesters, he announced his “unconditional support to the Mek”, defining his militants “freedom fighters” and saying that “a large part of Italian society is convinced that being on your side means being on the right side of history”. The whole speech was published on the Mek website and can be viewedhere.
Even the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, in 2018 expressed himself at least on a couple of occasions in favour of the Mek with statements like: “The Iranian people have had enough of this regime that will be overthrown … We have no doubt that the Mek coalition can cope with this regime “.
And again: “The mullahs have to leave, the ayatollahs have to leave and must be replaced by a democratic government that Mrs. Rajavi represents”, as reported by the Guardian.
In short, yet another attempt to overthrow the government to export “democracy”, a film already seen and revised.
Last September 26, the Albanian journalist Kastriot Myftaraj, during the television program “Ju flet Moska“, had criticized the recent invocations to the uprising in Iran by the leader of the Mek, Maryam Rajavi, bringing up the article 221 of the Albanian penal code that punishes incitement to insurrection with penalties ranging from 15 years upwards.
Article 265 b / c of the Albanian penal code which prohibits involvement in military operations and violent actions in foreign countries should also be taken into consideration.
The Manez headquarters
Numerous international sources have documented the presence of a large complex near the Albanian village of Manez, which serves as the main base for the Mek, a complex that has already been inhabited even though it is still being completed. Several local reporters have witnessed the presence of private armed guards outside the complex, a barrier and further unarmed guards inside.
The well-known Albanian investigative journalist Gjergj Thanasi was among the first to notice the presence of Manez and had shown the dynamics of the Eyes of War last February:
“The Council of the Territorial Organization (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) is responsible for issuing permits for the construction of public works and private buildings (factories, hotels, schools, roads, etc.). This Council had published a list of permits issued for a series of works and among them there was one against an NGO called F.A.R.A. The permit was dated 16 October 2017 and indicated the authorization for “a residential complex and services for the Iranian community in Albania”. At that point I investigated this F.A.R.A that, strangely and contrary to the Albanian law, was not registered with the Tax Office and did not even have a VAT number, which is prohibited in Albania.
I then continued the investigation at the town planning office of the town of Durres (which I know very well having lived here for 52 years); there they showed me a written request from the F.A.R.A. in which permission was requested for the creation of a building site (fence, water connections, electricity, containers, etc.) and it emerged that the Municipality had not issued any permit. The letter of request did not have a header, there was no address or telephone number. At this point I went to Manez (in the first week of November 2017) to see what was happening and I found myself in front of a finished fence, an already installed electricity grid, and some channels under construction, for the water network. There was also a container with offices inside the fence. Around the yard there were guards and also three policemen with the uniform of the State Police “.
The site would have been located precisely between the villages of Kulles and Manez e-Vieter, with entrance on the Rruga Lalezit road and the complex there are several aerial images andfilms.
On August 10th, British journalist Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 went outside the Manez complex to document its existence and was physically attacked by some members of the Mek.
According to reports from the Albanian media, some witnesses said that security guards tried to tear and break the crew camera while some members of the Mek hit Hilsum and took their chaperone by the neck. At that point, Albanian police officers arrived on the spot and stopped the attack and accompanied the two assaulted men to the barracks.
Later, a spokesman for the Mek told the Albanian media that British journalists are in contact with the Iranian secret services and that they had not been advised of their arrival.
The case of Somaya Mohammadi and interviews with dissidents
Another case that is doing a lot of discussion in Albania is that of Mostafa Mohammadi, father of 38-year-old Somaya, who left home when he was 16 together with a militant woman from the Mek.
Mostafa explained that he had immigrated to Canada with his family in 1994 and entered the orbit of the Mek, helping them raise funds but in the meantime the organization would brainwash his sister, convincing her years later to move to Iraq, Camp Ashraf, to fight the Iranian regime. She die on the spot during military attacks or could have been executed if arrested. Years later a Mek militant would have approached his daughter Somaya, telling her that they have met her aunt (with whom the girl had a close relationship) and that she would like to show her where she had been and what she had done. So the they went off on a journey that only lasted two weeks but Somaya never returned home, cutting all contacts with her family.
Last July Mostafa Mohammadi went to Tirana to try to raise the case and get in touch with his daughter, which he said was held against her will in the Manez headquarters and accused some members of the Mek of attacking him , as reported by Shqiptarija and Gazeta Impakt who also published a video.
The Canadian, Iraqi and Albanian judiciary have however expressed themselves against Mohammadi’s accusations, declaring that the girl is voluntarily a member of the organization and being an adult, she is able to make her own decisions in autonomy and freedom.
On 25 July 2018 Somaya released an interview where he rejected the accusations made by his father, claiming to be a voluntary member of the Mek and accusing his father of collaborating with the Iranian secret services. A controversial case whose dynamics are still unclear.
The Albanian investigative program Fiks Fare managed to get in touch with three of the 200 dissidents who have fled from the MEK in Albania and interviewed them, as also reported by thePrishtina Post.
All three confirmed that the mujahideen housed in the camp are all well-trained fighters and that it is strictly forbidden to maintain contact with their families.
The first interviewed, Sadolah Seifi, explained that he was born in 1969 and that he joined Mek voluntarily at 21 for economic reasons. Seifi explained that initially the Mek speaks of freedom, but in fact it is “a frightening organization” with many agents who force their followers to do what the leader says, and it is strictly forbidden to have a family. According to Seifi the main problem of those who would like to leave the Mek is that in Albania they do not have a status, they cannot work and they do not have money to live.
The second interviewee, Ehsan Bidi, confirmed the military preparation of the mujahidin, adding that he learned a lot about weapons and their use; Bidi also claimed that the Mek at the time sent men in to Iran to place bombs and conduct terrorist acts.
The third interviewee, Manuchehr Abdi, 55 years of which 13 years with the Mek, pointed out that in Albania the organization is trying to reconstruct the same context that was present in the Iraqi base.
On military training Abdi said: “When I was part of the organization I was a member of a group that virtually connected with young people in Iran and taught them to fight, because we need to know that everyone in this organization knows how to fight to kill, we are militarily prepared we know everything about weapons “.
Regarding the family context, the interviewee made it clear that visits to his family were forbidden in Camp Ashraf and that he himself could not have contact with his daughter. A situation that is also present in Albania following agreements with the Tirana government.
What is the Mek then? A group of dissidents and persecuted by the Iranian regime? A sectarian force of opposition composed of militarily trained elements ready to overthrow the regime? A terrorist organization? (According to what was stated by Tehran). Where do the Mek funding come from?
In geopolitics it is known that an organization can be considered “terrorist” or “resistance movement” based on the interests of those who support it and have seen it with many other organizations, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hizbullah, from the PLO to the “resistance” “Syrian. What is certain is that it is difficult to combat terrorism when we cannot even find a universally shared definition of the term.
Meanwhile, however, the presence in Albania of the Mek does nothing but further aggravate the delicate situation in the Balkans where jihadist and Islamist groups are already present. The Balkan area seems more and more a logistics and transit area in support of the war policies in the Middle East and all this at the expense of regional stability, Italy included
Il quartier generale fortificato dei mujaheddin iraniani in Albania
Lo scorso febbraio gli Occhi della Guerra avevano trattato il trasferimento in Albania di 3500 mujahideen del Mek precedentemente stazionati in una base nei pressi di Baghdad. Si era tra l’altro fatto riferimento a un vero e proprio quartier generale in costruzione a Manez, nei pressi di Durazzo; oggi emergono ulteriori elementi d’interesse che sembrano confermare il progetto ed anche molto altro, ma andiamo con ordine.
Cos’è il Mek
L’organizzazione Mek nasceva nel 1963 in Iran con l’obiettivo di opporsi all’influenza occidentale nel Paese e di combattere il regime dello Shah. Nel 1979 il Mek partecipava alla Rivoluzione guidata da Khomeini ma l’ideologia divulgata, un incrocio di marxismo, femminismo e islamismo, si scontrava con quella degli Ayatollah e veniva messo al bando.
Nel 1981 il Mek si trasferiva a Parigi dove fondava il proprio quartier generale e cinque anni dopo si spostava a Camp Ashraf, a nord di Baghdad, da dove supportava la guerra di Saddam Hussein contro l’Iran ed anche la repressione dei curdi. Nel 2003 il Mek veniva disarmato dagli americani e spostato a Camp Liberty. Il Mek ha continuato a svolgere un ruolo di primo piano nell’attività politica e diplomatica contro il regime di Teheran e continua a farlo ancora oggi.
In precedenza l’organizzazione era inserita nella lista nera non solo da Iran e Iraq, ma anche da Unione Europea, Gran Bretagna, Usa e Canada, per poi venire “sdoganata” tra il 2008 e il 2012. Un articolo del New York Times del 21 settembre 2012 illustrava come l’allora Segretario di Stato, Hillary Clinton, avesse deciso di sdoganare il Mek , facendolo togliere dalla “black list” per poterlo poi ricollocare lontano dalla portata degli agenti di Teheran, in un Paese disposto ad accoglierli, in questo caso l’Albania. L’obiettivo appare più che evidente: utilizzare il Mek per sostenere un cambio di regime a Teheran. Ma perché proprio in Albania? Che sia un “pegno” da pagare per l’ingresso in Europa e nella Nato?
Oggi è Maryam Rajavi a guidare il Mek dopo la misteriosa scomparsa del marito Massoud che coincide con l’invasione americana dell’Iraq nel 2003. Alcune fonti parlano di un possibile decesso mentre altre affermano che l’ex leader si sarebbe nascosto per sfuggire agli agenti di Teheran.
Gli appoggi politici a livello internazionale
Il Mek ha incassato il supporto di diversi esponenti politici internazionali tra cui l’ex sindaco di New York Rudolph Giuliani, l’ambasciatore americano all’Onu John Bolton ed Emma Bonino in veste di vice-presidente del Senato, nel giugno del 2012. Il New York Times faceva notare che diversi esponenti del Congresso erano divenuti convinti sostenitori del movimento che, se una volta era marxista-islamista, si è poi ricreduto trasformando la propria lotta e diventando il principale movimento organizzato contro la teocrazia iraniana.
Sempre secondo il quotidiano newyorchese, tra i sostenitori del Mek ci sarebbero R. James Woolsey e Porter J. Goss, ex direttori della Cia; Louis J. Freeh, ex direttore dell’Fbi; Tom Ridge, ex segretario della Homeland Security sotto la presidenza George W. Bush; il procuratore generale Michael B. Mukasey e il consigliere per la sicurezza nazionale, il Generale James L. Jones, operativo sotto l’amministrazione Obama.
Nell’ultimo anno sono state diverse le prese di posizione a favore del Mek da parte di esponenti del panorama politico nazionale e internazionale. A metà settembre una delegazione ufficiale del Partito Radicale Italiano e dell’associazione “Nessuno tocchi Caino” ha visitato il quartier generale dei mujahidin in Albania. La delegazione includeva Elisabetta Zamparutti, Sergio D’Elia, Rita Bernardini, Mattia Moro, Maria Antonietta e Luca Coscioni; fonti albanesi dichiarano che i membri del Mek avrebbero fornito un resoconto delle violazioni dei diritti umani messe in atto dal regime di Teheran.
Lo scorso 30 giugno era invece stato l’ex ministro degli esteri del governo Monti, Giulio Terzi, a parlare a una riunione del Mek dove, davanti a migliaia di manifestanti anti-Teheran aveva annunciato il suo “appoggio incondizionato al Mek ”, definendo i suoi militanti “combattenti per la libertà” (freedom fighters) e affermando che “un’ampia parte della società italiana è convinta che stare dalla vostra parte significa stare dalla parte giusta della storia”. Il discorso per intero veniva pubblicato dal sito del Mek e può essere visualizzato qui.
Anche l’ex sindaco di New York, Rudolph Giuliani, nel 2018 si è espresso almeno in un paio di occasioni a favore del Mek con affermazioni del tipo: “Il popolo iraniano ne ha avuto abbastanza di questo regime che sarà rovesciato…Non abbiamo alcun dubbio che la coalizione del Mek possa far fronte a questo regime”.
E ancora: “I mullah se ne devono andare, gli ayatollah se ne devono andare e devono essere rimpiazzati da un governo democratico che la signora Rajavi rappresenta”, come riportato dal Guardian.
Insomma, un ennesimo tentativo di rovesciamento di governo per esportare la “democrazia”, un film già visto e rivisto.
Lo scorso 26 settembre il giornalista albanese Kastriot Myftaraj, durante la trasmissione televisiva “Ju flet Moska”, aveva criticato le recenti invocazioni alla rivolta in Iran fatte dalla leader del Mek, Maryam Rajavi, tirando in ballo l’articolo 221 del codice penale albanese che punisce l’incitamento all’insurrezione con pene che vanno dai 15 anni in su.
Andrebbero poi presi in considerazione anche gli articoli 265 b/c del codice penale albanese che proibiscono il coinvolgimento in operazioni militari e azioni violente in Paesi esteri.
Il quartier generale di Manez
Numerose fonti internazionali hanno documentato la presenza di un grande complesso nei pressi del villaggio albanese di Manez che funge da base mondiale del Mek, complesso già abitato anche se tutt’ora in fase di completamento. Diversi reporter locali hanno testimoniato la presenza di guardie armate private all’esterno del complesso, barriera e ulteriori guardie disarmate all’interno.
Il noto giornalista investigativo albanese Gjergj Thanasi era stato tra i primi ad accorgersi della presenza di Manez e ne aveva mostrato le dinamiche agli Occhi della Guerra lo scorso febbraio:
“Il Consiglio dell’Organizzazione del Territorio (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) ha la responsabilità per l’emissione dei permessi per la costruzione di opere pubbliche e di edifici privati (fabbriche, hotel, scuole, strade ecc). Questo Consiglio aveva pubblicato un elenco dei permessi rilasciati per una serie di opere e tra queste ne figurava uno nei confronti di una ONG denominata F.A.R.A. Il permesso era del 16 ottobre 2017 e indicava l’autorizzazione per “un complesso residenziale e servizi per la comunità iraniana in Albania”. A quel punto ho indagato su questa F.A.R.A che, stranamente e contrariamente alla legge albanese, non risultava registrata presso l’Ufficio delle Imposte e non aveva neanche una partita Iva, cosa vietata in Albania.
Ho allora proseguito l’indagine presso l’ufficio urbanistico del comune di Durazzo (che conosco molto bene avendo vissuto qui per 52 anni); là mi mostravano una richiesta scritta della F.A.R.A. nella quale veniva chiesto il permesso per la creazione di un cantiere (recinto, collegamenti d’acqua, elettricità, container ecc.) ed emergeva che il Municipio non aveva rilasciato alcun permesso. La lettera di richiesta non aveva un’intestazione, non era presente alcun indirizzo o recapito telefonico. A questo punto mi sono recato a Manez (nella prima settimana di novembre 2017) per vedere cosa stava succedendo e mi sono trovato davanti a un recinto finito, a una rete elettrica già installata, e a dei canali in costruzione, per la rete idrica. C’era anche un container con degli uffici all’interno della recinzione. Intorno al cantiere c’erano guardie e anche tre agenti con la divisa della Polizia di Stato”.
Il sito sarebbe stato localizzato precisamente tra i villaggi di Kulles e Manez e-Vieter, con ingresso sulla strada Rruga Lalezit e del complesso esistono diverse immagini aeree e filmati.
Lo scorso 10 agosto la giornalista britannica Lindsey Hilsum di Channel 4 si era recata all’esterno del complesso di Manez per documentarne l’esistenza e veniva fisicamente aggredita da alcuni membri del Mek.
Secondo quanto riportato dai media albanesi, alcuni testimoni hanno dichiarato che le guardie di sicurezza hanno cercato di strappare e rompere la videocamera della troupe mentre alcuni membri del Mek hanno colpito la Hilsum e preso per il collo il suo accompagnatore. A quel punto sono giunti sul posto degli agenti della polizia albanese che hanno fermato l’aggressione e hanno accompagnato in caserma i due aggrediti.
In seguito un portavoce del Mek ha dichiarato ai media albanesi che i giornalisti britannici sono in contatto con i servizi segreti iraniani e che non erano stati avvisati del loro arrivo.
Il caso di Somaya Mohammadi e le interviste ai dissidenti
Un altro caso che sta facendo molto discutere in Albania è quello di Mostafa Mohammadi, padre della 38enne Somaya, andatasene da casa quando ne aveva 16 assieme a una donna militante del Mek.
Mostafa spiegava di essere immigrato in Canada con la famiglia nel 1994 e di essere entrato nell’orbita del Mek, aiutandoli a raccogliere fondi ma nel frattempo l’organizzazione avrebbe fatto il lavaggio del cervello a sua sorella, convincendola anni dopo a trasferirsi in Iraq, precisamente a Camp Ashraf, per combattere il regime iraniano e sarebbe morta in loco, forse giustiziata. Anni dopo una militante del Mek avrebbe avvicinato la figlia Somaya, dicendole che aveva conosciuto sua zia (con cui la ragazzina aveva uno stretto legame) e che le avrebbe fatto piacere mostrarle dove era stata e cosa aveva fatto. Le due sono così partite per un viaggio che doveva durare soltanto due settimane ma Somaya non ha fatto più rientro a casa, interrompendo tutti i contatti con la propria famiglia.
Lo scorso luglio Mostafa Mohammadi si è recato a Tirana per cercare di sollevare il caso ed entrare in contatto con sua figlia, a suo dire trattenuta contro la propria volontà all’interno del quartier generale di Manez ed ha accusato alcuni membri del Mek di averlo aggredito, come riportato da Shqiptarija e Gazeta Impakt che ha anche pubblicato un filmato.
La magistratura canadese, quella irachena e quella albanese si sono però espresse contro le accuse di Mohammadi, dichiarando che la ragazza è volontariamente membro dell’organizzazione ed essendo maggiorenne è in grado di prendere le proprie decisioni in autonomia e libertà.
Il 25 luglio 2018 Somaya rilasciava un’intervista dove rigettava le accuse lanciate da suo padre, affermando di essere volontariamente membro del Mek e accusando suo padre di collaborare con i servizi segreti iraniani. Un caso controverso le cui dinamiche sono ancora poco chiare.
Il programma investigativo albanese Fiks Fare è invece riuscito a mettersi in contatto con tre dei circa 200 dissidenti fuggiti dal MEK e ad intervistarli, come riportato anche dal Prishtina Post.
Tutti e tre hanno confermato che i mujahideen ospitati nel campo sono tutti combattenti ben preparati alla guerriglia e che è severamente vietato mantenere contatti con le proprie famiglie.
Il primo intervistato, Sadala Sefi, ha spiegato di essere nato nel 1969 e di essere entrato a far parte del Mek volontariamente a 21 anni per motivi economici. Sefi spiegava che inizialmente il Mek parla di libertà, ma nei fatti è “un’organizzazione spaventosa” con tanti agenti che obbligano i propri adepti a fare quello che dice il leader ed è severamente vietato avere una famiglia. Secondo Sefi il problema principale di chi vorrebbe uscire dal Mek è che in Albania non hanno uno status, non possono lavorare e non hanno soldi per vivere.
Il secondo intervistato, Hasan Bidi, ha confermato la preparazione militare dei mujahidin, aggiungendo di aver imparato molto su armi e loro utilizzo; Bidi ha inoltre affermato che il Mek a suo tempo infiltrava uomini in Iran per piazzare bombe e condurre assalti.
Il terzo intervistato, Manucer Habdi, 55 anni di cui 13 nel Mek, ha puntualizzato che in Albania l’organizzazione sta cercando di ricostruire il medesimo contesto che era presente nella base irachena.
Sulla preparazione militare Habdi ha affermato: “Quando facevo parte dell’organizzazione ero membro di un gruppo che virtualmente si collegava con giovani in Iran e insegnava loro a combattere, perché bisogna sapere che tutti in questa organizzazione sanno come combattere per uccidere, siamo preparati militarmente, sappiamo tutto sulle armi”.
Per quanto riguarda l’ambito familiare, l’intervistato ha reso noto che a Camp Ashraf erano proibite le visite dei familiari e che egli stesso non ha potuto avere contatti con sua figlia. Una situazione che è presente anche in Albania in seguito ad accordi presi con il governo di Tirana.
Cos’è dunque il Mek? Un gruppo di dissidenti e perseguitati dal regime iraniano? Una forza di opposizione settaria composta da elementi militarmente addestrati e pronti a rovesciare il regime? Un’organizzazione terroristica? (Secondo quanto affermato da Teheran). Da dove arrivano poi i finanziamenti al Mek?
In geopolitica è noto come un’organizzazione possa essere considerata “terroristica” o “movimento di resistenza” in base agli interessi di chi la cataloga e lo si è visto con tante altre organizzazioni, dai Fratelli Musulmani a Hizbullah, dall’Olp alla “resistenza” siriana. Certo è che risulta difficile combattere il terrorismo quando non si riesce neanche a trovare una definizione universalmente condivisa del termine.
Intanto però la presenza in Albania del Mek non fa altro che aggravare ulteriormente la delicatissima situazione nei Balcani dove sono già presenti in forze gruppi jihadisti e islamisti. L’area balcanica sembra sempre più una zona logistica e di transito in supporto alle politiche di guerra in Medio Oriente e tutto ciò a discapito della stabilità regionale, Italia inclusa
The MEK: a group looking to overthrow the Iranian regime (aka Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
Strait Talk, TRT World, October 10 2018:… The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May – and last month, levelled threats against Tehran at the UN General Assembly. But caught between all this is a group based in Albania with a mission to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK, previously in Iraq, now operates out of a military compound near the capital Tirana …
The MEK: a group looking to overthrow the Iranian regime
US-Iran relations haven’t been this tense in years. The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May – and last month, levelled threats against Tehran at the UN General Assembly. But caught between all this is a group based in Albania with a mission to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK, previously in Iraq, now operates out of a military compound near the capital Tirana. Our Courtney Kealy went there to get a glimpse.
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The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
Borzou Dargahi, THE INDEPENDENT, September 28 2018:… An Iranian exile group that is a darling of Washington conservatives has set up what critics describe as “a state within a state” inside the tiny Balkan nation of Albania. From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation …
The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
In Tirana, Borzou Daragahi meets defectors of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, a controversial group which has found itself the darling of Washington
From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, commonly known by the acronym MEK, has begun handing out mysterious wads of cash, set up its own radio communications network, and launched deceptive information operations to influence debate about the Islamic Republic – its avowed enemy – say defectors of the group, relatives of members, and Albanian journalists, lawyers and a former intelligence official.
In addition, it has been accused of locking up members inside the camp against their will, an allegation that has long dogged the organisation, which is led by Iranian exile couple Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, and described by former members and Iran experts as a political cult.
“We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws,” says Olsi Yazici, an Albanian writer who is part of the legal team attempting to find out more about the group.
“They are behaving in Albania like a mafia – breaking laws, blackmailing, paying people off, beating people, threatening defectors, accusing anyone who questions them of being an Iranian agent and controlling their members in the camp through Stalinist totalitarian methods. And at the end, they claim to be democrats who will save Iran.”
The Independent reached out to several MEK spokespersons and representatives, seeking comment for the story.
As this report was being prepared, the organisation released a five and a half minute video clip that showed drone footage of what it called its “residential compound”, which appears made up of dozens of buildings, and a main entrance flanked by a pair of golden lions, a symbol of the MEK.
The video showed Albanians on construction jobs in the camp, as well as members sipping tea with Albanian neighbours, or making music in a studio, including a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws
Olsi Yazici, Albanian writer
“Terrorist, terrorist,” the men screamed at the elderly couple, their arms locked, as they sought to walk away. Canadian-Iranians Mostafa and Mahboubeh Mohammadi say they have struggled to get their daughter, Somayeh, out of the MEK for 21 years.
They haven’t spoken to her since 2004, when they travelled to central Iraq to make a desperate attempt to get her and her younger brother out of the camp the group then occupied. Once they had been sympathisers and had even raised money for the group.
“We would spread out on the streets and show pictures of Iranians the regime had killed, and say their kids are stuck in refugee camps,” recalls Mostafa Mohammadi.
But eventually the Mohammadis turned against the group, which they claimed tricked their daughter into travelling to Iraq, seized her passport, and pressed her into the organisation. Through tremendous effort involving US and Canadian diplomats, they say they managed to extract their son, who is now living in Canada, but not their daughter.
The MEK says Somayeh is in the organisation of her own free will, and has issued videos of her disowning her parents.
At least one other former member of the group in Tirana says he was able to leave the organisation once he told them he wished to part ways.
“I choose to pursue my own life,” he says, asking that his name not be published. “There was no pressure to stay.”
A lengthy statement by the group on the website of its front group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that that Mostafa Mohammadi had been in Tehran in 2008 – an allegation he denies – and called Mohammadi’s lawyer an “agent” of the Iranian intelligence services.
The five and a half minute video shows footage of Somayeh Mohammadi with a caption reading that she insists the “Iranian regime deployed her father to accuse MEK (of having) kidnapped her”.
When the Mohammadis first came to Albania to find Somayeh, they were given the runaround by authorities in Tirana, who insisted she was not in the country.
But they managed to get confirmation from a sympathetic local refugee resettlement group that she had arrived in Tirana in 2015. Just days before the confrontation with the MEK members, the Mohammadis managed to prompt a police officer to enter the camp and confirm that she was there, possibly the first time an Albanian official wielding a warrant entered the compound.
“This was a big shock for the MEK,” says Yazici, the writer. “This diminished the role of the commanders in the eyes of the members.”
The Mohammadis had heard that she made her way one day a week to a Tirana hospital, serving as a translator for MEK members seeking medical care. They waited nearby to catch a glimpse of her on 27 July. After a few hours they became discouraged, and began heading back to their hotel.
That’s when a group of four men – who later transpired to be MEK enforcers – surrounded the elderly couple and began screaming “terrorist” at them.
Police soon arrived to break up the melee. Startling the officers, the MEK enforcers continued to strike Mohammadi in front of them, screaming that the frail couple were “terrorists”.
The police rounded up the Mohammadis as well as the MEK enforcers and took everyone to a Tirana police station. MEK leaders summoned their lawyer, Margarita Kola, as well as some leaders of the group. Kola, who once worked as a counsel for the US Embassy in Tirana, claimed she was acting on behalf of the Americans.
“She said, ‘You know who I am or not?’” recalls Migena Banna, the lawyer representing the Mohammadis, who was also at the police station. “She said, ‘I am not just a lawyer, I’m a legal representative of the US embassy.’ Then the police changed their behaviour.”
Kola told The Independent that she did not work for the US embassy but declined to answer whether she had originally made the claim.
Under pressure, police let the MEK members go, but held on to the Mohammadis for eight hours. The Tirana prosecutors’ office told The Independent the case remains under investigation.
Mostafa Mohammadi went to a hospital for treatment for his bruises. By then, the video of the pack of MEK enforcers assaulting the couple had gone viral on Albanian social media. Local television stations arrived to meet the couple, and stories about the search for their daughter began to air. Albanians were outraged.
“We have so many other refugees, Syrians, Iraqis. They can do everything. They go shopping. They are out on the streets,” says Yazici. “Where are these MEK people? Why can’t we see them?”
Much of the world was worried when Donald Trump was elected US president in November 2016. The leaders of the MEK celebrated.
“It was like a wedding,” recalls Hassan Heyrani, a former member of the group’s political committee who defected this year. “It was the whole election of Trump that prompted the group to move forward with the new camp. They were so happy. They said, ‘The geopolitical engine of the region is turning.’”
The story of the 50-year-old group is bound up in the wars, uprisings, and political twists of the Middle East. It was founded by leftist students decades ago to fight against the regime of Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, carrying out assassinations of US officials in Iran who were backing him.
It later turned against the clerics who took over in Tehran during the 1979 revolution, staging bomb attacks during the 1980s, when it was granted a camp northeast of Baghdad and joined along Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.
That move destroyed its popularity among the vast majority of Iranians. But with dozens of tanks and thousands of fighters positioned at a sprawling and inhospitable desert compound called Camp Ashraf, in a province adjacent to the Iranian border, it remained a threat to the Islamic Republic.
Its fortunes changed after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein. US forces at first bombed the group as an appendage of the Baghdad regime, pulverising many of its tanks. But Washington conservatives later began to cultivate MEK as a potential way of pressuring Tehran.
The group eventually ran afoul of Iranian-backed politicians of the new Iraqi political elite. Members were pressured to leave Camp Ashraf, which was taken over by the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade militia, and relocate to Camp Liberty, on the same compound as US forces and the Baghdad International Airport.
Under pressure by Baghdad authorities to remove the group, the US managed to convince the government of Albania to take in a couple hundred members of the group as refugees in 2013, in what was described as a humanitarian gesture.
But as they came under attack by Iranian-backed Shia militias, as well as pressure by Isis militants, the plan to move a few hundred to Albania somehow turned into bringing the entire organisation from Iraq to southeastern Europe.
Once they had fully moved to Albania, the group first took up residence in a series of empty apartment buildings scattered around the city, and continued its fade into obscurity and irrelevance.
Leaders tried in vain to keep long-isolated members – curious about the modern world, and barred from sex and dating –from drifting away. They tried to erect barriers around one apartment building, but they were promptly torn down by angry local authorities.
With Mr Trump’s election, everything changed. The MEK had spent years cultivating Washington figures such as John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, who were forces in the new administration in Washington.
In addition, an ambitious and stridently anti-Iran Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman took the reins in Saudi Arabia, and began looking for allies in his aim to roll back and possibly topple the clerical government in Tehran.
Beginning in July 2017, just as Trump began re-imposing sanctions on Iran that Obama had lifted as part of the nuclear deal, the MEK suddenly began buying plots of land in Albania, in a rural stretch of farmland near the town of Manza, between the Albanian capital and the Adriatic Sea.
The Trump administration continues to maintain strong ties with the MEK. At the weekend, the president’s lawyer addressed a gathering of the group at a midtown Manhattan hotel, describing the MEK as an antidote to the brutality and repression of the “outlaws and murderers” in power in Tehran. “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy,” he said.
Albanian investigative journalist Gjergi Thanasi said the group paid $13m (£9.9m) to buy the first 200,000 square metres of the compound, has since bought another 140,000 square metres, and continues buying up property and racking up significant water, electricity, and internet bills.
They pay for everything with huge wads of cash, sometimes piles of local currency that they purchase through street vendors rather than banks or exchange shops, but also with “crisp hundred-dollar bills”, says Thanasi, leaving no bank trail.
“They pay bills on time,” he says. “They pay in cash. They buy small things in shops or even in malls. They always pay in cash. They do not use bank cards. They love not leaving a footprint.”
Thanasi found the group purchased 1,700 Lenovo brand computers and monitors from an Albanian firm. At first he thought it was some scam to evade import duties and resell the computers at a profit. But the MEK paid full price for the devices. They wanted the computers for the camp, and paid for them in cash. “What the hell do you need so many computers for?” he quips.
The group has a number of big-ticket expenses. It has set up a dedicated high-speed internet. It also managed to obtain official permission to set up its own antenna atop Mount Dajti, on the peaks overlooking Tirana, giving it effectively its own communications network.
A private Albanian security firm, called Argon, guard the camp and its entrances, deploying perhaps nine personnel armed with assault rifles and handguns in six-hour shifts around the clock.
It remains unclear why Albania, a small Balkan country struggling to overcome its reputation for corruption and money laundering in order to become a member of the EU, would allow such a shadowy group to operate with so little scrutiny.
“If I want to buy a car for 2,000 or 3,000 euros I have to use a bank in order to pay for the car,” says Thanasi. “I have to circulate the money through the bank and justify that this quantity comes out of my personal savings.”
The organisation appears to have strong connections to senior Albanian officials. Pandeli Majko, a minister in the current Albanian government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, Fatmir Mediu, a former defence minister, and Elona Gjebrea, a former deputy interior minister, were with Giuliani when he visited Tirana earlier this year for Persian New Year festivities hosted by the MEK.
Heyrani, the 38-year-old former member of the MEK’s political section, says he suspected the group’s sudden riches were coming from Saudi Arabia’s coffers, through a channel organised by Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, who over the summer, attended an MEK rally in France, along with Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, and Bolton, the White House National Security Adviser.
Heyrani says he had no evidence of Saudi support for the group other than conversations with members of its political leadership. “I said, ‘What a big camp, with so many buildings,’” Heyrani recalls. “He said, ‘Finally, Faisal laid the golden egg.’”
A spokesperson for the the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. Ali Shihabi, founder of the Riyadh-backed Arabia Foundation think tank, said that Prince Turki has denied serving as a conduit for MEK funds.
Hassan Shahbaz, 50 years old, had joined the MEK shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. But it wasn’t until he got to Tirana that he discovered that his elderly mother, two brothers, and two sisters had risked their lives to travel to Iraq in the midst of that country’s 2006 civil war to visit him. When they arrived they were turned away from the camp entrance. “They told them I wasn’t there, and turned them back,” he says today.
When he confronted MEK superiors about their action, they told him to let it go. “For now, freeze it,” he was told.
A few weeks later, during an outing with other MEK members in April, he quietly slipped away from the group, took a taxi back to Tirana and became one of the growing members of the group to defect.
“Back then when they kept us locked up, they could say it’s for our own protection, that the government of Iraq is in the pocket of Iran,” he says. “What’s the argument here?”
Sheltered inside the camp, which members nickname Ashraf 3, the organisation has recreated what critics call its cult-like structure. Members are told to spy on each other, recount their dreams, and take part in hours-long indoctrination sessions.
Defiant members are punished with days-long isolation, barred from contact with their comrades. After outings to hospitals or shops they are patted down, for fear they have tried to smuggle phones into the camp.
The camp is divided into several sections, with the northernmost end reserved exclusively for France-based Rajavi on her rare visits, and an underclass of mostly male labourers separated from the rest of the elite by fences and checkpoints at the far south of the camp.
Heyrani calls the camp a version of Animal Farm, after the book written by George Orwell about an isolated and authoritarian society. In a statement, the group said MEK members “have been been targets of the Iranian regime’s terrorism,” and needed protection. The statement said the MEK members at the camp “have always welcomed friends, dignitaries and journalists from Albania and other countries, both in their current and previous residences. But they are vigilant and experienced enough not to welcome the Iranian regime’s agents.”
Unable to draw new recruits, the organisation is aging and greying, and many of the members might choose to remain in the camp for fear of the outside world.
“They are very lost people,” says retired Colonel Ylli Zyla, a former Albanian counter-terror and intelligence official. “On average they are more than 50 years old. They are slowly, slowly dying off one by one. They don’t have any useful professional backgrounds. All of them are brainwashed.”
Most days, the cadres seem to be deployed on the social media battleground, in an attempt to give an illusion of the popularity the group lacks on the ground.
They spend long hours engaged in Twitter wars against supporters of the Tehran government or even Islamic Republic opponents who also publicly oppose the MEK. “We are told to attack accounts of people who are opposed to or critical of the MEK,” says Heyrani. “Or we would retweet Maryam Rajavi’s speeches.”
They were also told to pretend to take political identities other than MEK supporters. “They would tell us right now the environment is not good for us,” he recalls, in an allegation that was confirmed by other defectors. “They would say that because of the propaganda against us by the regime, it’s better to pretend we’re monarchists, or just Iranian democracy activists.”
Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the MEK, on Twitter denounced allegations that the group was running a troll factory in Albania as “preposterous”, calling it a narrative “dictated” by Iranian intelligence officers to international media. The video for the group shows a room full of computers, with members collecting video of protests inside Iran.
Zyla has become something of an expert on the group. Though he says it poses no threat to Albanian national security, he says it has begun to challenge the country’s public order. Its members have been known to harass defectors, who mill about in Tirana’s cafes, and attend weekly vocational training sessions organised by the UN. One defector said he’s been threatened six times since he left the group.
“Even the police are not allowed to go inside,” Zyla tells The Independent. “The Ministry of Interior almost has no control over the camp. Police patrols, to my knowledge, are not allowed in the MEK complex. Their camp has turned into a mysterious bunker.”
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
Aljazeera, September 16 2018:… For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory. The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana. the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition …
15 Sep 2018 08:09 GMT
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
For a country that has been on the wrong end of United States foreign policy for nearly four decades, it is no surprise the debate over Iran has been polarising. The US’s decision to withdrawal from the nuclear deal this year has boosted those calling for the hardest stance against the Islamic Republic.
Those pushing back against what many say is an agenda for regime change in Iran are reporting an online backlash the likes of which they have not seen before. However, the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition voices they are made out to be.
For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory.
The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana, Albania.
Trita Parsi – Author, Losing an Enemy – Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy
Azadeh Moaveni – Fellow, New America
Marc Owen Jones – Lecturer in Middle East history, Exeter University
Hassan Heyrani – Former MEK member
Hassan Shahbaz – Former MEK member
Massoud Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, July 23 2017:… Although the MEK are experts at intimidation and propaganda, in reality the expulsion of the MEK from Europe should be neither controversial nor unexpected. No government in Europe supports the presence of extremists in their midst and the MEK has a long history of extremist behaviour and messaging. The self-immolations in western capitals are an example of their actual behaviour …
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Open minds, July 08 2017:… Anne Khodabandeh. After twenty years in the terrorist cult Mojahedin-e Khalq, Anne (with her husband Massoud Khodabandeh) established the English language www.iran-interlink.org website in 2001 to expose the group as a cult and support former members. Anne works with families of MEK campaigning to rescue their loved ones. Anne has written extensively …
Massoud Khodabandeh,, Huffpost, June 28 2017:… Like many statements and petitions over the years which mention the MEK this looks like fake news. Anyway, it would have been much easier to pass this off as genuine if Deprez had also published the names of the 265 signatories. As parliamentarians, it is doubtful they would feel endangered by publicly announcing their views in this way. Unless, of course, they had spotted the …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffpost, June 27 2017:… Perhaps the time is finally ripe for a new appraisal of what zero tolerance means for France. The MEK’s messages promoting violent regime change should no longer be tolerated. President Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist movement has won a large majority in the French parliament giving him a strong hand to play. He already revealed himself to be a shrewd and …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, June 20 2017:… The following piece has been written by somebody I know well. He does not want his real name to be used because that would jeopardize the sensitive nature of his current work in counter terrorism in Europe – Massoud Khodabandeh… As a former member of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organization (MEK), I followed the news of terrorist attacks on Tehran with shame, guilt and anger. My shame and guilt stem …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffpost, June 02 2017:… The meeting was organised by Ana Gomes, SND (Portugal) and seconded by Marietje Schaake, ALDE (Netherlands) and Michael Gahler, Christian Democrats (Germany). Two expert speakers were invited to address the meeting: Nicola Pedde, Director Institute for Global Studies, Italy and Massoud Khodabandeh, Director Middle East Strategy Consultants, UK. …
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Huffpost, May 18 2017:… In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Top topic, May 08 2017:… Rajavi then publishes these alongside letters signed by American personalities in support of the MEK. The letters from the Americans are addressed to the Albanian Prime Minister and bear the familiar hallmark of MEK authorship. (One letter published by the MEK is signed in blue ink. We can only speculate how the MEK obtained the original letter which should have been sent directly from the Americans to the Albanian PM!) …
National Geographic, March 04 2017:… Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to …
Associated Press, February 16 2017:… The group at one point successfully infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, according to a State Department report. And a series of bombings attributed to the MEK accompanied visits by presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Iran, including one to target an American cultural center. In 1973, MEK assailants wearing motorcycle helmets shot dead U.S. Army Lt. …
Iran Interlink, February 15 2017:… The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites. Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement
Gazeta Impakt, Albania, Translated by Iran Interlink, January 01 2017:… According to Fatos Klosi, former director of the National Intelligence Service, the American CIA chief has warned Albania that Donald Trump will renounce support for the MEK terrorists and it will be the Albanian Government itself which must deal with internal security and must confront a group trained militarily from the time of Saddam Hussein …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, December 24 2016:… That can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues. The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, November 12 2016:… In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation (also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult). It is certain that … .
Iran Interlink, October 30 2016:… Local observers in Tirana are reporting that the Mojahedin Khalq cultic terror group (MEK) is buying and creating several sandwich and kebab shops in the city and is using the MEK members to work in these fast-food businesses. On the surface this may look like a positive move. In an article titled ‘Albania: What would a de-radicalization program for the Mojahedin Khalq involve’, it was …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, October 16 2016:… In spite of American promises, no de-radicalisation programme is in place to deal with over 2500 members of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group who have relocated to Tirana from Iraq. The MEK has a long history of violent and criminal activity. This has not stopped now they are in Tirana. Unless the Albanian government introduces its own programme, it must accept …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington post (and Top Topic), October 09 2016:… For the local citizens, mystery surrounds their arrival and their lifestyle. Should these secretive and covert neighbours be treated with suspicion or kindness? At a local level, the first thing neighbouring families need to be aware of is that among all MEK members, sexual relations have been banned for over 25 years. This means there are no marriages or children or young people in the organisation. More troubling …
Massoud & Anne Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 14 2016:… Whether Rajavi is already dead or now killable is not known – only he can answer this – but he and his whole organisation are certainly now, body and soul, in the capable hands of the Saudi Prince. If he is still alive, Rajavi’s only role is to act as go-between to instruct his wife what she must do on behalf of the Saudis. If he is dead
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? Fro
Massoud Khodabandeh, Toptopic, July 03 2016:… So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious report