Albania Accession TO EU – Open Letter to the Negotiators

Albania Accession TO EU – Open Letter to the Negotiators

Albania Accession TO EU - Open Letter to the NegotiatorsAnne Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, July 17 2020:… MEK leader Maryam Rajavi boasts that she can organize a Zoom conference from Albania on July 17th to link up paid pundits she would normally invite to her annual rally – a cut price event. On July 16th families from every province in Iran linked up by Zoom to talk and asked ‘if Rajavi is so afraid that we will come to the camp with bombs, why can’t she allow our loved ones to make supervised Zoom calls with us from afar?’ Albania Accession TO EU – Open Letter to the Negotiators

A Step Further Than Saddam Hussein! Albania Accession TO EUA Step Further Than Saddam Hussein!

Albania Accession TO EU – Open Letter to the Negotiators

Albania Accession TO EU - Open Letter to the Negotiators

Open Letter to the Negotiators for Albania’s Accession to the EU

by  Anne Khodabandeh 

News that, in spite of the difficulties thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission accession talks are going ahead is welcome. Albania, in particular, has many serious issues to address if it is to make progress and the country will benefit from pressure to meet EU expectations on combatting crime and corruption as well as instituting judicial and political reforms.

The recent arrest of 5 senior officials of Albania’s Regional Border and Migration Directorate on charges of people smuggling and illegal assistance to cross the borders, after an investigation into illegal trafficking and abuse of migrant documentation, illustrates the depth of Albania’s problems. Coordination with the CIA in these arrests by Director General of the State Police, Ardi Veliu also reminds us that one of Albania’s difficulties has been to emerge in any meaningful way from under the control of the US as a NATO state.

These arrests have inadvertently exposed another significant, but easily ignored aspect to US influence – the presence of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK, MKO, Rajavi cult), an Iranian terrorist group which operates as a mind control cult. The MEK in Albania is protected by the Trump administration and claims CIA links. Albania’s government has allowed the MEK unprecedented freedom; freedom that former benefactor Saddam Hussein never granted. Indeed, the tolerance of and collusion with the MEK’s maverick, often criminal behaviour acts like a litmus test for how corrupt various Albanian institutions are.

In the case of the police arrests, several former members of the MEK who live in Tirana said they were surprised and relieved because “These five are the same police who have been harassing us, refusing to give us residence permits and denying our basic rights. They have arrested one of us and detained him without charge for almost a year. The police have been doing this on behalf of MEK leaders.” What this exposes is that the MEK enjoys undue influence with the police services, and that MEK members do not have any legal status in the country; no ID papers, work permits or travel documents. They are not refugees, they are stateless and unaccountable people who live outside the law.

Since arriving in Albania in 2016, the MEK presence has been at best problematic – the MEK has interfered in the internal and external affairs of the country – and at worst poses a serious security risk. An examination of MEK behaviour reveals profound corruption in every institution of Albania.

The following sample of the range of MEK activities in Albania displays a pattern not of simple disregard for the laws and norms of the host community, but a deliberate exploitation of weaknesses in every aspect of the Albanian state from local to national level.

The MEK:

  • Persuaded deputy Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Dr Elona Gjebrea to support Maryam Rajavi even though MEK modern slavery is clear for all to see.
  • Diverted drinking water [in English] from a tourist area for their camp.
  • Taken precedence for the supply of electricity to their camp over local residents.
  • Angered locals by burying one of their dead in an already overcrowded cemetery.
  • Evaded the post mortem examination of a member who died in suspicious circumstances [in English].
  • Had media interviews removed after Anne Khodabandeh revealed the MEK was recruiting Albanian youth.
  • Falsely accused two Iranian academics of being terrorists and used this as evidence to have diplomatic staff from the Iranian embassy expelled after MEK labelled them terrorists.
  • Established an extrajudicial, extraterritorial camp to keep members in a state of modern slavery.
  • Used slaves to run a troll farm against the national interests of Albania.
  • Interfered in media freedoms to have favourable articles published and critical articles suppressed.
  • Denied access and physically assaulted western journalists who came to report on the activities in the closed camp in Manez.
  • Paid politicians and personalities to attend their meetings and promote their anti-Iran agenda using Albania as a platform to call for violent regime change against Iran [in English].

In response to revelations of its activities, the MEK accuses critics of being “agents of Iran’s intelligence services” – cult jargon intended to frighten the members and call into question the integrity of the critics and distract attention from MEK illegal activities.

Even respected and well-known Albanian citizens are not exempt from the MEK’s unchecked defamation and intimidation campaign. Albanian journalist Gjergji Thanasi is still seeking justice against leading member MEK Behzad Safari as court hearing after court hearing is postponed after spurious excuses are raised. Civil rights activist and historian Olsi Jazexhi and lawyer Migena Bala have been threatened with violence by MEK for investigating and criticizing the cult.

What is to be done?

Clearly, if the European Union is to welcome Albania as a member state something must be done to root out the MEK’s influence in that country. In the past two years, member states of the European Union have severely curtailed MEK activities in Europe. The MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has been obliged to quit France and set up her new headquarters in Albania. There can be no doubt that the EU will not tolerate the group re-entering by default should Albania finally join the union. If Albania does issue them with ID papers, these ‘refugees’ will have direct access to everywhere in the EU following accession.

Iranian MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk

It is time to dismantle the group.

In 2003 when Saddam Hussein was removed from power, families of MEK members who had not seen their loved ones for two decades made the perilous journey to Camp Ashraf to make contact. These families joined together as an NGO called Nejat Society (Rescue Society) and Sahar Family Foundation was created to help disaffected members in Iraq. Since then they have helped hundreds of individuals who left the MEK to reunite with their families, de-radicalise and return to normal life. In that time, the MEK has transferred from Iraq to Albania, but still in 2020, many, many members remain trapped, incommunicado without knowledge of how they can be helped.

Back in August 2017, an official from the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tirana met with representatives of these families and pledged to help. Visiting Tirana, Iran Interlink representative Anne Khodabandeh explained how important families are to helping de-radicalise MEK members after they leave the group, and offering them support in returning to normal life.

Since then MEK have waged a campaign to demonize families of MEK members who travelled, or want to travel, to Albania to make contact with their long estranged loved ones, labelling them terrorists and accusing them of wanting to kill their relatives, ensuring they cannot obtain visas.

Families’ petition Albania’s PM

In May this year, a petition by the families addressed to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama reached over eleven thousand signatures. There is a lot of sympathy for the plight of these families, many of whom are elderly and are desperate to be reconciled with their loved ones before it is too late. The petition urges Albania’s prime minister to allow the families to contact their loved ones in the MEK camp. Tens of families added personal appeals and wrote individual letters. Still Rama has not responded.

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi boasts that she can organize a Zoom conference from Albania on July 17th to link up paid pundits she would normally invite to her annual rally – a cut price event. On July 16th families from every province in Iran linked up by Zoom to talk and asked ‘if Rajavi is so afraid that we will come to the camp with bombs, why can’t she allow our loved ones to make supervised Zoom calls with us from afar?’

گردهمایی سراسری انجمن نجات در 26 تیرماه 1399 برگزار گردید

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi boasts that she can organize a Zoom conference from Albania on July 17th to link up paid pundits she would normally invite to her annual rally – a cut price event. On July 16th families from every province in Iran linked up by Zoom to talk and asked ‘if Rajavi is so afraid that we will come to the camp with bombs, why can’t she allow our loved ones to make supervised Zoom calls with us from afar?’

Albania Accession TO EU - Open Letter to the Negotiators

If the European Union is serious about allowing Albania to accede to the union, the negotiators on all sides must take this issue seriously. The coronavirus pandemic offers a strange but real opportunity to treat this as a humanitarian issue rather than a political or terrorism problem. The MEK can be dismantled, the members rescued, their families are ready to help. Edi Rama should be supported in taking this courageous and defining step to secure the future of his country.

To:

Olivér Várhelyi – European Commissioner Neighbourhood and Enlargement

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera – Director of the Western Balkans at the European Commission

Isabel Santos – EP Standing Rapporteur on Albania

Zef Mazi – Albania’s chief negotiator for EU integration

David McAllister – Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee EUP

By Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh

Link to the source 

Albania Accession TO EU – Open Letter to the Negotiators

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Also read:
https://iran-interlink.org/wordpress/mek-families-petition-addressing-albanian-pm-a-unique-opportunity-to-take-control/

MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PM , A Unique Opportunity To Take Control

MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PMAnne Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, May 12 2020:… petition addressed to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has reached over ten thousand signatures. The petition was created by estranged families who need help to contact their loved ones trapped in the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) cult’s closed camp ‘Ashraf 3’ in Albania. The families are demanding that PM Rama ensures they get this contact. Now with the global coronavirus pandemic affecting Albania as elsewhere, they are even more urgently concerned to have news about the fate of their loved ones.  MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PM , A Unique Opportunity To Take Control 

Anne Khodabandeh : MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PMFamilies Write to Albanian PM Adviser Endri Fuga

MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PM , A Unique Opportunity To Take Control

Coronavirus gives Albanian PM Edi Rama unique opportunity to control MEK

by Anne Khodabandeh

Anne Khodabandeh : MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PM

petition addressed to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has reached over ten thousand signatures. The petition was created by estranged families who need help to contact their loved ones trapped in the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) cult’s closed camp ‘Ashraf 3’ in Albania. The families are demanding that PM Rama ensures they get this contact. Now with the global coronavirus pandemic affecting Albania as elsewhere, they are even more urgently concerned to have news about the fate of their loved ones.

The families have tried for decades to find ways to have news of their relatives – including taking the dangerous journey to the gates of MEK’s Camp Ashraf in Iraq after the 2003 defeat of Saddam Hussein. The MEK’s policy of forced divorce and separation of families has meant this has not been possible. It was hoped that the move to the more open western country Albania might give the families a better chance to visit their loved ones. Unfortunately, after 2016, the Trump administration allowed the MEK to corral the ordinary members back inside a closed and isolated camp in Manez, Durres county, where they are kept incommunicado.

In addition to the Trump administration’s support for the MEK, the government of Albania also capitulated to the MEK leaders’ demands, turning a blind eye to the conditions of modern slavery which characterise this group. Indeed, although they are said to be refugees, neither the government of Albania nor the UNHCR take any responsibility for the MEK members. Ex-members appealing for help are told by the UNHCR and the Interior Ministry that their existence in Albania is governed by an agreement that allows the MEK to take charge of all the people transferred from Iraq; they are entirely reliant on support from the MEK itself. This suits leader Maryam Rajavi very well. It is imperative for her to exert total control over the members since she has re-purposed her former combatants in Iraq to keyboard warriors in Albania where the MEK now runs a notorious click farm. Rajavi does whatever she can to prevent the members from leaving, no matter their state of health or willingness to work.

In the petition, the families – the elderly parents, siblings, cousins and children of the members – have appealed to Edi Rama to be granted visas to travel to Albania to search for their loved ones. These have so far been refused. But preventing the members from having contact with their families is just one element in a panoply of tactics designed to prevent defections. The MEK members have been denied the identity papers, travel documents and work permits which would enable them to live independently. This means that those who have managed to leave the MEK cannot work, cannot get a driving license and cannot even open a bank account to allow their families to transfer funds to cover their basic sustenance. These conditions of forced dependence are all part of a deliberate scheme to close every possible door to help from outside the MEK.

Anne Khodabandeh : MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PMMunicipal workers in Manez, Durres county | Photo credit: Gjergji Thanasi from Manez, Albania

But the blatant human rights and justice implications of hosting a slave camp on its territory that has been largely swept under the carpet by corrupt politicians and media in Albania, has now become an urgent matter because of the coronavirus pandemic. The MEK members did not choose to live in Albania but were brought en masse under an agreement between the MEK, U.S., Albania and the UNHCR. Once in Albania they were herded into the camp and kept isolation there. In Albania, there is a refusal at government and local level to acknowledge them as individual people and grant them rights – they are dealt with only as a group.

According to investigative journalist Gjergji Thanasi, who reports from Durres county where MEK is based, and where the worst of the coronavirus outbreak has been recorded, the Albanian Ministry of Health “deals with Camp Ashraf 3 as if it does not exist. There is not a single line in the Durres Municipality health officials’ paperwork written about the camp and its residents. No Albanian health official has ever entered the camp.” The group is therefore inaccessible and unaccountable. This means that no matter how hard epidemiologists may be working to trace the contacts of positive cases throughout the country, the MEK will not submit to allow Health Ministry staff inside the camp to test or treat the individuals there. Based on its past behaviour, the MEK is also unlikely to register deaths inside the camp as COVID-19 related as this would itself force the involvement of the local health authorities. This makes the group an unsafe entity for the general citizenship of Albania and in particular the residents of Manez and the greater Durres county, the epicentre for the virus in that country.

This is a thorny issue for PM Rama. On one hand he must kowtow to the demands of the Trump administration which continues to support the MEK. President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo have been happy to use MEK disinformation and propaganda emanating from the troll farm in Camp Ashraf to boost their anti-Iran agendas. On the other hand, Albania’s aspirations to join the European Union are hampered in part by the MEK presence there.  The EU’s tolerance of the MEK ran out in 2018 when an alleged bomb plot brought the MEK’s conflict with Iran to the heart of Europe, forcing France, Belgium, Denmark and Germany to look afresh at the security implications of allowing the MEK a free rein in their countries. As a result, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi was obliged to relocate to a new headquarters in Albania, and MEK activities in the EU were severely curtailed, particularly public demonstrations and gatherings. As long as the MEK remain in Albania, the EU will not accept them returning through the back door by allowing Albania to join the union.

In a strange way then, the pandemic offers an opportunity for PM Rama to address this issue once and for all. To deal with the MEK not as a political or terrorist problem but instead as a social problem. The petition of the families points to an obvious solution to this problem: allow the families of MEK members to make contact with them and help them individually. But this relies on the acknowledgement of government that MEK poses a threat to Albanian society, along with the willingness to deal decisively with them. This is possible. But will PM Rama have the courage and wisdom to take this opportunity?

Link to the source

MEK Families Petition Addressing Albanian PM , A Unique Opportunity To Take Control

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MEK In Albania Hijacks America’s Iran Policy

MEK In Albania Hijacks America's Iran PolicyAnne Khodabandeh (Singleton) , Iranian.com, March 01 2020:… From its first arrival in Albania in 2013, the MEK continued its antagonistic anti-Iran political activities. In 2017, the Trump administration overturned plans to de-radicalize the MEK members. Instead, the MEK built an extra-territorial garrison to house the enslaved members so they wouldn’t escape. Emboldened, the MEK was able to coerce the Albanian government into pushing back against Iran through its embassy in Tirana. Following the Soleimani assassination two more Iranian diplomats were expelled from Albania and rapid response police were deployed to protect the MEK camp as though it were a diplomatic facility and not a refugee camp. Prime Minister Edi Rama was forced to admit that although Albania had accepted to host the MEK as a humanitarian gesture, the group now poses a national security issue for his country. MEK In Albania Hijacks America’s Iran Policy 

anne_Khodabandeh_Singleton_Tirana_1Open Minds – Explaining Radicalisation for Prevent and Channel

MEK In Albania Hijacks America’s Iran Policy

America’s Iran Policy Backed Into a Corner By MEK in Albania

MEK In Albania Hijacks America's Iran Policy

by 

Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton)

Anne Khodabandeh

Since well before President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, the U.S. and Iran have been in a de facto state of non-military warfare with sanctions, economic sabotage, cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns and social media attacks the weapons of choice. Both countries have exploited conflict in the region, especially after the rise of ISIS, to extend their military presence and reach.

While some in the U.S. have pressed for war with Iran at all costs, the U.S.’s lack of response to Iran’s attack on its bases in Iraq following the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani exposed a real problem. It is an open secret among military and security analysts that war with Iran is not an option; neither the U.S. nor Israel can pursue war with Iran without facing mutual destruction.

It is an open secret among military and security analysts that war with Iran is not an option

Others on the anti-Iran front have pushed for regime change. But this long-term push to manufacture or engineer the collapse of the ruling system and replace it with a conformist government has also failed to bring about any result.

Since 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has straddled these agendas but has failed to make progress on either. Rather than act as the diplomatic face of the American government, Pompeo leaned on his CIA skillset in the belief that covert and insidious activities by proxy activists can be used to influence, manipulate, manufacture and divert the course of action around Iran. Now, as a result of these policy failures and errors of judgement, the U.S. is losing ground and influence in the Middle East and beyond so that America’s front line with Iran has retreated trench by trench from military containment to a petty propaganda war fought in Albania.

MEK In Albania Hijacks America's Iran Policy

Why Albania?

Albania, of course, is now home to the Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK). For 40 years, since its exile from Iran — first to Iraq then to Albania — the MEK has promised to be the agent of regime change, either through war or insurgency. And, in spite of having no evidence of its efficacy, for 40 years anti-Iran elements in the west, particularly neoconservatives, have supported the group and its agenda to the almost total exclusion of other genuine opposition groups and movements.

This exaggerated role of the MEK in U.S. Iran policy again came to attention when Pompeo rescinded a directive to U.S. embassies barring “direct U.S. government engagement” with Iranian militant and opposition groups. It soon emerged that an MEK lobbyist Robert G. Joseph had met with Brian Hook, the U.S.’s special representative for Iran and senior adviser to Pompeo, before the assassination of Soleimani and again just afterwards. Statements by Pompeo over the past few months have echoed MEK propaganda showing his susceptibility to this influence.

…the Trump administration still clings to the delusion that the MEK has leverage or influence or power in relation to events in Iran.

This continued engagement with the MEK indicates that the Trump administration still clings to the delusion that the MEK has leverage or influence or power in relation to events in Iran. It does not. The enduring support of MEK by anti-Iran pundits defies logic. Nothing has been gained throughout the past four decades. Much has been lost that can be linked to this support. The MEK promises regime change but cannot even come close to delivering.

MEK Capabilities

One reason for this failure — that those who exploit the group are unwilling to acknowledge — is the total absence of support for the MEK among Iranians inside and outside the country. So unpopular are the MEK in Iran that protestors in the November fuel protests, who were warned falsely by Iran’s hardline security services that the MEK were behind the violence, went home and demanded the government create safe and suitable conditions for public protest. Similarly, the students who in January this year protested their government’s response to shooting down Ukrainian Flight 752, issued a strong statement denouncing interference from outside Iran. This was clearly meant to distance their protest from the hated MEK.

The main reason the MEK has failed to perform, however, is its own structural defect. It is a cult not an opposition group. The MEK is subject only to its own internal dynamics and obeys only its own laws. It has no respect for or need to abide by or adopt external norms and values, whether legal or moral. The MEK’s aim is to stay relevant, so it pays advocates and lobbyists to have its name broadcast and published as widely as possible. But its PR image does not reflect either the real capabilities or the effectiveness of the group.

The MEK’s infamous troll farm exposed by The Intercept comes close to explaining why some in the Trump administration and beyond still cling to the hope that the MEK’s propaganda activities might finally triumph by imposing their false narrative on events. But as much as they want to utilize the MEK, they should know by now that this group cannot deliver what it promises. Nor will the MEK ever come under the purview of U.S. control.

From its first arrival in Albania in 2013, the MEK continued its antagonistic anti-Iran political activities. In 2017, the Trump administration overturned plans to de-radicalize the MEK members. Instead, the MEK built an extra-territorial garrison to house the enslaved members so they wouldn’t escape. Emboldened, the MEK was able to coerce the Albanian government into pushing back against Iran through its embassy in Tirana. Following the Soleimani assassination two more Iranian diplomats were expelled from Albania and rapid response police were deployed to protect the MEK camp as though it were a diplomatic facility and not a refugee camp. Prime Minister Edi Rama was forced to admit that although Albania had accepted to host the MEK as a humanitarian gesture, the group now poses a national security issue for his country.

European Perspective

Europe has a different view of the MEK. Since arriving in Albania, the group came under increasing scrutiny by European security and intelligence services, including the formidable services of Albania itself. Experts on the MEK had warned that the group’s maverick behavior would result in the U.S.’s front line with Iran being redrawn in Albania. European tolerance for the MEK has been stretched by events from self-immolations in 2003 to the alleged bomb plot at Villepinte in 2018, violence in the European Parliament in 2018 and interference in Spain’s elections. Last year, the MEK’s activities began to be curtailed as permission was denied for demonstrations and the annual rally at Villepinte. The MEK leader Maryam Rajavi and her acolytes have now moved their headquarters to Albania where they occupy an entire floor of the International Hotel in Skanderbeg Square in Tirana. Meanwhile, Albania’s accession to the E.U. is doomed as long as the MEK remains active in that country and the E.U. now regards the U.S. with suspicion on this issue, not amity.

In Albania the people are angry. They see their government bending to U.S. and MEK demands to the detriment of their country. Support for the MEK is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with U.S. Iran policy. Instead of striving for effective diplomacy, Pompeo oversees an actively antagonistic Iran policy that shows contempt for and alienates the very people who are needed to effect change: the ordinary citizens of friendly countries and foes alike.

By Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh

MEK In Albania Hijacks America’s Iran Policy

Link to the source

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