Paolo de Donno, europeanaffairs, May 24 2020:… Secondly, since 2016 the headquarters of the People’s Mujahedin-e of Iran (MEK) has been established on Albanian soil in Manez, near Durres; Historically, this group had supported the struggle against the Shah in 1963 and then participated in the Khomeinist revolution of 1979. From an ideological point of view, it is a synthesis of Marxism, feminism and Islamism, positions that have distanced the group from the ayatollahs and brought it closer to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. It had been blacklisted by the EU, US, Canada and Britain before being delisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Obama’s first presidential term. Criminals And Terrorists In Albania
English version (Translated by Iran Interlink)
Criminals And Terrorists In Albania
Terrorism and criminal groups in Albania
Published on 17 May 2020 in SECURITY by admin
In Albania, the growth of the democratic state proceeds slowly, hampered by an economic crisis that is difficult to overcome and the security and legal problems that afflict the country. We address them in this report by Polo de donno.
SPREAD OF RADICAL ISLAMIST TERRORISM: The spread of Jihadism in the Balkans, and more particularly in Albania, cannot be framed within a generalized scheme of action but is based on specific dynamics that relate to the weakness of the state control structures of certain regional entities. As Giovanni Giacalone explains on “InsideOver”, where the state is socio-economically weak and lacking or absent in the activity of monitoring the territory, terrorist cells find fertile ground. In the case of Albania it was thought that the doctrine of state atheism, imposed by Hoxha in 1967, would discourage the formation of radical religious cells; in reality, this belief is not corroborated by the facts as is doubtful the opposite thesis, which sees the emergence of a jihadist hotbed as an equal reaction and contrary to Hoxha’s vision. More likely, Giacalone continues, these cells were indirectly fostered by the climate of religious tolerance that communist intervention fostered, within a Muslim-majority community but with a good presence of Catholics, Orthodox and Bektashi. It can be said that the climate of mutual tolerance has fostered the blurring of the priority role of religion in favor of the concept of nationhood or “albanianity”. Radical Islamism in Albania is a phenomenon of an exogenous nature, stimulated by the religious currents of the Gulf, which aim to spread Wahhabism and Salafism through cash funding of mosques or cultural centers and the indoctrination of local imams. As Giacalone explains, the Albanian Islamic community has always worked with the security forces to remove the most radical fringes; on the other hand, however, there is the problem of the most ardent hate preachers who, through the web and the unrecognized Islamic centers, spread the most radical messages of Wahabism and Salafism (messages of intolerance and malfeasance). In 2014 there was a major police operation that killed a jihadist network of ISIS recruiters led by the two Albanian imams Genci Balla and Bujar Hysa. The areas where proselytizing of these radical sectors is concentrated are included on the Albanian periphery: Elbasan, Cerrik, Kavaja, Librazhd, Pogradec, Scutari, as well as the outskirts of Tirana. As we have seen in France, in the terrible recent period of the ISIS massacres, the subjects targeted by the jihadist propaganda recruiters are young people in precarious economic and social conditions (the kind of poor individual of the Parisian banlieues). Another source of Islamist infiltration in the country is Erdogan’s Turkey, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which uses its cultural and political power; it happened, as Giacalone reports, with the construction of the largest mosque in the Balkans in Tirana (about 32,000 square meters), where the Imams give sermons identical to those of the countries of origin, with strong political as well as ideological-religious tints.
Secondly, since 2016 the headquarters of the People’s Mujahedin-e of Iran (MEK) has been established on Albanian soil in Manez, near Durres; Historically, this group had supported the struggle against the Shah in 1963 and then participated in the Khomeinist revolution of 1979. From an ideological point of view, it is a synthesis of Marxism, feminism and Islamism, positions that have distanced the group from the ayatollahs and brought it closer to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. It had been blacklisted by the EU, US, Canada and Britain before being delisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Obama’s first presidential term. Seen on the American side as the bearer of democracy and freedom in Iran and on the contrary side in Tehran as a terrorist organisation, it is certainly an extremely inconvenient tenant for Albania, especially in a context of multi-ethnicity such as the Balkan one. As reported in an article by Margherita Furlan in the magazine “Antimafia 2000”, the MEK is strongly supported by the American secret services: for what objective and with what tasks? Some Albanian political sources have suggested an exchange: since “the Americans gave us Kosovo, now we have to give them something in return”. Canadian-Albanian historian Olsi Jazexhi even suggested that “America wanted to turn Albania into a safe haven for international jihadism, a second Afghanistan in the heart of Europe.” It is estimated that there are about 4400 members of the MEK in Albania, with a group of militants (according to an Al-Jazeera documentary) trained in the techniques of computer-led anti-Iran misinformation and diversion objectives. It would be a “cyber-jihad” as Furlan says, aimed at spreading false news both in Iran and in Europe in order to discredit the regime in Tehran as a possible negotiator. According to an article dated 2015, which appeared in the Huffington Post, Albania would become a sorting center for jihadists from neighboring countries, including Italy; In fact, the Salafist nuclei present in the district of Librazdhi and Elbasan for years have been offering support and hospitality to volunteers who arrived by air or sea (at the port of Durres), heading to Syria after transiting through Turkey.
FOREIGN FIGHTERS: In the field of terrorist threat analysis, the crucial problem for the Balkan country is that of so-called “foreign fighters”. As we know, the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011 has had an effect and repercussions not only on neighbouring Arab countries but also on the Balkan peninsula. In a 2019 article on “InsideOver”, Giovanni Giacalone explains how such a mobilization of Balkan foreign fighters for a distant conflict had never been seen in history; a sign of the propaganda capacity of jihadism on the peninsula. We must divide the phenomenon of fighters abroad between round-trip trips. It is estimated that Albania has mobilized about 180-200 jihadist foreign fighters, about half as many as in Kosovo; Given the figure of a population of 2,873 million, it can be argued that the country has managed the problem of terrorist flows to the outside world well. The “Country report on terrorism”, compiled by the US State Department in 2018, explains how Albania, thanks to high-level collaboration with US agencies, has achieved good results, certified by the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (Pisces) to protect Albanian borders, in addition to controls in maritime and airport nodes. If we look at the Balkan region as a whole, more than a thousand people have started out since the outbreak of the war in Syria, of whom 67% are men, 15% women and 18% children. Of these, 260 fighters have died in theatres of war, 500 are still in Syria and Iraq, and about 460 have returned to their countries of origin. The latter figure makes the western Balkan region the area with the highest number of “return” fighters. The phenomenon remained confined to Kosovo, Albania, Northern Macedonia and Bosnia, with a small group of Albanian militants still engaged in the Syrian scenario; However, the impact should not be underestimated because, as Giacalone argues, individuals returning from Syria and Iraq may have been more or less deeply involved in Isis and Al-Qaeda. For example, the wife of a jihadist may have played a negligible role compared to a husband fully involved in terrorist operations; just as we must not overlook the level of indoctrination that minors may have suffered, some of whom were even involved in the execution of prisoners.
Although Albania, more than other fellow travellers in the Balkans, seems to have contained the threat of Islamic terrorism (neglecting the Iranian group mentioned above, of which there is no well-defined profile), also through the use of US prevention systems, on the other hand it is necessary to keep under close surveillance places of worship as possible vehicles of political messages or intolerant religious radicalism and also the role of the Internet, a tool capable of making criminal information fluid, rapid and difficult to trace.
CRIMINAL GROUPS: A LOOK AT THE ROUTES OF THE CRIME: As indicated in the report on crime hot spots in the Western Balkans in 2019, this region presents itself as a vital hub in the trafficking of drugs, weapons and human beings. In fact, it is located between the largest opium producer, Afghanistan, and the largest heroin market, Western Europe. It is also becoming an important point of access and exchange for cocaine, as well as a place of marijuana production (Albanian plantations). First of all, the trafficking of heroin is moving along the so-called ‘Balkan Route’, which originates in Afghanistan and, after transit through Turkey, is spread into Europe by the Balkan countries. This route then is divided into a track that goes from Albania and Montenegro to Italy and a second passage from Northern Macedonia and Serbia to Central Europe (Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Hungary). A second route is that of cocaine trafficking, which sees Albania and Montenegro as links to the criminal chain between South America and Europe. Ships usually arrive in Durres (Albania) and Bar (Montenegro), then send the goods to Kosovo and Serbia and from there trade it in Central Europe. As far as cannabis is concerned, as we have mentioned, Albania has become the largest producer in the region; The main destinations for cannabis shipments are the Italian ports of Brindisi, Bari and Otranto, while Greece and Turkey are at lower levels. Finally, with regard to synthetic drugs, the Balkans are the recipient of cargoes from the Netherlands; local production in Bosnia and Serbia is the exception. We must not forget the illegal trade in cigarettes, in which Montenegro has an absolutely important role; In fact, through the port hub of Bar, it smuggles cigarettes with official or fake marks to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the arms trade, Albania is distinguished by its trade with the Sicilian Mafia, which is the most frequent of its customers. The analysis of these “hot zones” is divided around three pillars: 1) the geographical location of the region, the transit point of such criminal trading especially through airport, port and isolated border areas; 2) the economic vulnerability of some countries makes it easy to infiltrate a poor infrastructure, characterised by very high unemployment (long-term and especially youth), emigration and consequent problems of a socio-psychological nature; 3) a weak state government, often implicated in illegal or corrupt activities, connoted by a poor territorial grip and the typical arrangement of countries not fully developed or even backward.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE MAIN ALBANIAN MAFIOSO GROUPS: From the mapping carried out in 2019 by “Antimafia Two Thousand ” emerges the accurate territorial location of the most important Albanian criminal groups. Three structured criminal organisations operate in Tirana, which has been strengthened since the fall of the Hoxha regime thanks in part to corrupt links with local politics and entrepreneurship. Some are involved in laundering the proceeds of mafia activities; others manage drug trafficking, extortion and debt collection on behalf of third parties; finally, there are those who make investments in catering and the exploitation of chromium deposits, which are particularly flourishing in Albania. Not only that, but the city is also an important back office for operations abroad, especially in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Italy and Kosovo. In Scutari there are at least four major mafias involved in the trafficking of drugs, organs, weapons and human beings. The main activity of these groups is the production and trade of cannabis, an area in which they could achieve primacy in the region in a few years’ time. This role is played by the bordering proximity with the Montenegrin groups, with which the Albanians have forged strong ties, and with the Kosovars. Durazzo, on the other hand, not only represents a decisive port issue in the dense criminal network that brings cocaine from South America to Europe, but also offers a vast landscape of criminal investments in the hotel industry, in the trade of stolen cars and also in many social and political activities. The families of the Caushi, Kakami and Gaxhai, currently at war with each other for control of the territory, have settled in Valona. Murders have been numerous in recent years precisely because of the struggle for supremacy in the international routes of the arms and narcotics trade, especially towards Spain and Italy. In Fier we see more qualitatively refined groups not so much in the type of criminal activity (extortion and drug trafficking) as in the bond that unites them, based not only on the blood but also on the community of belonging (Kosovar and Cham). To understand the excellent links of these groups, it is enough to think that in 2017 Arjan Shanaj was arrested in Greece carrying cocaine from a Colombian cartel. In Berat, the three elements present share the criminal market slices in the tourism sector, having entered into some sort of agreement between them. On the contrary, Elbasan has a strong conflict between criminal groups, certified by the high number of murders in recent times; This certifies a high degree of criminal activity in the city despite the dismantling of the So-called Mandela and Tan Kateshi. It is estimated that the two most powerful groups in Albania are involved in the trafficking of cocaine across Western Europe and the United Kingdom.
After a leopard-spot description of this type and the certainty of facing a well-established and highly integrated criminal phenomenon with the main illegal hubs from Latin America to the Far East (we also remember the so-called “Golden Triangle” of drugs between Laos, Burma and China), we can affirm the structural link between the scourge of terrorist-mafia lawlessness and the weak state presence on the territory, especially with regard to the functions of control and administration of the population. Where the crisis of the socio-economic fabric (unemployment, low income, low reliability of the public accounts of the country of reference) is settling with the lack of transparency in the procedures and with a flourishing counter-state activity of mafias and terrorists, able to offer an alternative (albeit criminal) to the poorest strata, will always find fertile ground in a black economy, made up of deception, fraud, corruption and wretched trafficking.
By Paolo de Donno
Criminals And Terrorists In Albania
MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk
Massoud Khodabandeh, Responsible Statecraft, April 25 2020:… The Albanian authorities, including the security services, do not have access to the camp. According to investigative journalist Gjergji Thanasi, who lives in Durres county near the MEK camp, the Health Ministry “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.” 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 the individuals there. Thanasi goes on to explain, “the MEK have their own doctors, nurses, and dentists. When they have seriously ill patients, they hire private ambulances to transport them to a public hospital in Tirana.” MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk
MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk
With its small population of 2.8 million people, the Republic of Albania may appear to have a more manageable task (depending, of course, on the availability of health care resources) of testing and tracking contacts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, than countries with multiple millions of citizens living in large, sprawling cities and conurbations. But as Albania extends its lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the country faces a specific problem that some other countries also face — notably South Korea — the presence of a closed and secretive cult in the midst of the population.
Since its arrival in Albania in 2016, the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), also known as the Rajavi cult after its leaders Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the group has caused problems for the authorities and citizens of their host country. Exploiting the unresolved problems of crime, corruption, and a weak state dependent on American approval, the MEK has manipulated, bribed, and intimidated its way into the political, media, and criminal elements of Alabania. According to well-known historian Olsi Jazexhi, the MEK has even perverted Albania’s foreign policy making it a hub for anti-Iran activities and creating a security nightmare for Albania’s police and security services.
Now the group poses another risk to the country — a public health risk that cannot be assessed or managed.
In 2017, both tacit support from the Trump administration, and overt support from neoconservative personalities, enabled MEK leaders to evade a planned de-radicalization program and instead build a closed secure camp in Manez — a remote town in the county of Durres — to house up to 2,000 cult members. Camp Ashraf 3 — as it is known — is guarded by private armed security personnel as well as MEK officials; only invited persons are allowed entry. Before this mass incarceration, dozens of members took advantage of the move to Albania to separate from the group. They reported terrible human rights abuses and conditions of modern slavery in the MEK. Journalists were refused entry to the camp to interview members locked up there.
For the majority of MEK members then, a lockdown may seem irrelevant since they were already in forced isolation from the outside world, but for Albania, the existence of the group in the country poses a real dilemma.
Although most cult members will not emerge in public, the group relies on regular supplies from outside, particularly food and medicine, and those who emerge to procure these supplies are part of a greater chain of contacts that stretch all the way to Italy. Not only are MEK members who move around Albania unaccountable and untraced, the MEK is notorious for trafficking its own members past national borders.
The MEK’s leading members made frequent trips to Italy in the early months of this year, exposing them to COVID-19. In this respect, it is important to acknowledge that the MEK members are not all based in the closed camp. Last year, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi was forced to leave her base in France and set up her new headquarters in Albania. Many leading members live in the capital Tirana and occupy a variety of premises — from business offices to an entire floor of the International Hotel in Skanderbeg Square in Tirana. Where are those people now? What contact did they have between Italy and the residents of Camp Ashraf 3? Durres county is the epicenter of the current coronavirus epidemic in Albania. Have MEK members inside been infected?
We don’t know and we may never know. The Albanian authorities, including the security services, do not have access to the camp. According to investigative journalist Gjergji Thanasi, who lives in Durres county near the MEK camp, the Health Ministry “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.”
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 the individuals there. Thanasi goes on to explain, “the MEK have their own doctors, nurses, and dentists. When they have seriously ill patients, they hire private ambulances to transport them to a public hospital in Tirana.”
What is deeply concerning in this crisis, however, are the messages emerging from the camp and covertly passed to those who are concerned with their welfare. Over a thousand families of these disappeared MEK members, who have been trying for two decades to gain contact with their loved ones, say these messages are alarming. They say that the MEK leaders have blocked every form of access to medical care and hospital visits have been cancelled. They also report that some people have gone missing and nobody knows where they are. Everyone inside the camp is worried about the virus and that they are getting no help. They say there is a general sense of dread about the spread of COVID-19.
According to Thanasi, employees of Durres Municipality who engaged in disinfecting streets, squares, flea markets, and agriculture produce markets had contacted the MEK camp via the local Manez council officials offering to disinfect the camp. “We were thanked profusely before our offer was very politely turned down. The commanders at the camp insisted they had already thoroughly disinfected the camp”, Thanasi was told. The Municipal workers however added there was “no evidence this had been done.”
Outside the camp, local residents have observed the MEK’s efforts to deal with the crisis. Speaking to Thanasi, one resident said, at the camp entrance, Albanian armed security guards and MEK members have been observed wearing masks and gloves, “but those on duty at a second gate do not always use protective gear.”
It appears that in public, MEK personnel will wear the masks and gloves, but a group of MEK members who work in a small facility outside the camp fence opposite the main entrance generally do not wear protection. It could be that a shortage of PPE means the MEK has to adopt a public relations exercise to be seen to observe distancing, isolation and protective measures. More cynically, the patchy distribution of protective gear could be linked to a hierarchy of privilege.
Without official oversight, it is not known how many MEK members will contract the virus and how many will die as a result. What is known is that since arriving in Albania, dozens of MEK members have died — reportedly from old age and illness — yet their reported cause of death cannot be relied upon.
MEK leaders mostly refuse post-mortem examinations. The MEK leaders are just as unlikely to report incidences of COVID-19 infections and deaths. MEK members are especially susceptible to the ravages of this virus. Their average age is around 65, with some members in their seventies and eighties. Many members have underlying health issues, and weakness brought on by the decades of overwork and harsh living conditions endured in Iraq. Rajavi herself is so frightened of succumbing to the virus that back in March she had one of her parliamentary lobbyists raise the possibility of travelling to the UK where even as a visitor she could access world class medical facilities.
Clearly, even if the MEK does eventually allow sick members to be tested and gain access medical care, Albania is barely equipped to deal with a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus among the indigenous population. If this troublesome group consumes badly needed resources, the finger of blame will surely go to Albania’s corrupt politicians who allow this group to flout the country’s laws and national interests and pursue its own agenda. That finger of blame must as well point directly at the Trump administration too. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is happy to use MEK propaganda churned out by the troll farm in Camp Ashraf 3 by enslaved members to attack Iran and justify the continuation of extreme sanctions. What responsibility will he take for the health and wellbeing of these people and the people of Albania.
MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, August 23 2019:… So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”. Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
In 2017, John Bolton promised the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—wrongly, it turned out—that they would be celebrating in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution’s 40th anniversary in February 2019. This July, at the MEK’s five-day conference in Albania, keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani still insisted the MEK is a “government in exile” and claimed the MEK is “a group that should make us comfortable having regime change”.
For context, promoting a group which is universally despised by Iranians inside and outside the country as traitors already stretches credulity. There is no evidence that Iranians are calling for severe sanctions against themselves. Nor are they calling for regime change. The MEK’s only audience in this respect are a warmongering cabal of Americans, Saudis, Israelis, and British, who like to hear what they want to hear. The rest of the world just isn’t that comfortable with this bizarre, terrorist cult.
Lately, even Europe has distanced itself from lending succour to the group. The MEK no longer has free access to the European Parliament where its activists would harass the MEPs and their staff. This year the MEK was barred from holding its annual Villepinte rally in France and was also banned from rallying by Germany. As a result of this, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has decamped from Paris to Albania and the MEK announced that Albania is the group’s new headquarters.
The move from Iraq to Albania ought to have allowed unprecedented access to Western journalists keen to investigate the honey pot around which the anti-Iran cabal buzz with excitement. They were soon disappointed, as the MEK built a de facto extra-territorial enclave in Manëz and posted armed guards to keep out unwanted attention. But although the group were physically hidden from view, they were very exposed through their cyber activities.
Although it had been known for some time that the MEK operates a click farm from Albania, it was Murteza Hussain in The Intercept who revealed how the MEK uses fake social media accounts to curate a false narrative about Iran to influence US policy. The Heshmat Alavi scandal focused media attention on what is really happening inside the MEK behind the slickly marketed brand image that Giuliani so admires. This endeavour to scrutinise the MEK has been aided by a series of photographs which were leaked from inside the MEK’s camp in Albania and published in Iran. The photos are very revealing, but in ways that the MEK probably didn’t intend or realise when they were taken. Since the MEK so zealously hides its inner world from public scrutiny, these photos offer us an unguarded glimpse into the operational and organisational life of the cult.
The fact that the photos were taken at all is significant. At first glance they could be showing a session for seniors at the local library or community centre. But we see the women are wearing military uniforms and the men are all wearing similar shirts. Some are wearing ties. This is something the MEK don’t ever do unless in a public facing role. This indicates the images have been deliberately staged for a particular external audience. Certainly they were not meant for internal consumption, but neither is this for the wider public or else they would be on the MEK’s own websites. Based on information about the MEK already in the public domain, we can assume these photos were commissioned by Maryam Rajavi as a marketing ploy to ‘sell’ the MEK brand to financiers and backers.
There is clearly a deliberate effort to show that the MEK are “professional” workers in this computer room. Everyone is posed looking intently at a screen. Nobody is “off duty” in the pictures; yawning, stretching, drinking coffee, the normal activities of any workers. There is no evidence of relaxed, friendly chat between co-workers, everyone looks very serious. There are no cups of coffee or snacks on the desks. No pictures of family, husbands, wives, children, pets even. No plants or flowers. In spite of the rows of desks being squashed together closely, everyone looks very isolated.
There might be nothing wrong with that. After all, employers want to see their workers busy. But organisational photographs are also about marketing a brand, which includes marketing the core values of an entity. A group which claims, as the MEK does, that it is funded by public donations to struggle for democracy and human rights would surely want to create an image in the mind of the public about transparency, effectiveness, and positivity. By way of contrast, see how Human Rights Watch advertises its work culture. Even a quick Google image search on ‘call center worker’ reveals pictures of relaxed and smiling workers rather than people who look like battery hens. This is not the image any normal company or government office would use to promote their workplace.
In the MEK’s advertising photos the workers are gender segregated. Men sit in one room, women in another. The women all wear hijab. There is no pluralism here. The use of garden chairs and workers using glasses unsuited to screen work reveals that this management doesn’t care at all about the safety, comfort or wellbeing of the workers. They are using a mixture of outdated monitors and laptops. The cables are frayed and tangled.
There is no indication that the workers are happy at their workstations or enjoying their work. Why would they be with the picture of their leader bearing down on them, as in all dictatorships, lest they forget why they are there and who is in charge? (The picture of a solitary Maryam Rajavi is a clear acknowledgement that her husband Massoud Rajavi is dead.)
The MEK’s cultic system means that decisions are imposed from the top down. This means that those decisions are only as intelligent as the leadership. What Rajavi doesn’t understand is that these photos show beyond any words that the MEK doesn’t share our values. The leader is selling unthinking, unquestioning, obedient slaves, people who won’t act or speak unless ordered to do so. And that would only be ordered if it were productive for the MEK, regardless of the needs or desires of the worker.
What these images portray are conditions of modern slavery. These are elderly people who are unable to escape this cult and are coerced into performing work for which they receive no recompense. They exist on cruelly basic accommodation and sustenance, whereby even asking for new underwear puts the petitioner under question about their loyalty to the leader and the cause. They cannot leave because in Albania they have nowhere to go, no identity documents or work permits, no money, and they do not speak the local language. And also because the Trump administration wants the MEK to be there.
So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”.
Nobody Can Be “Comfortable” With Regime Change Involving MEK
MEK cult in Albania poses public health risk
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, May 03 2019:… Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests. Bolton’s False Flag Op Involving MEK
Bolton Vs. Zarif On MEK
Hillary Cinton and John Bolton
When Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to the airwaves during his visit to the UN in New York, particularly for an interview with Fox News, a frisson of surprised anticipation swept the American political polity. How was it possible that Iran, the pariah nation, not only had the audacity to enter the lion’s den, but from there to lecture the lion on its dirty behavior!
Of course, this is a spat that Iran cannot easily win. What mattered most was that Zarif did not go for the throat of the lion but instead those who are pulling its chain. In short, he accused a “B team” of actively working to wage war on his country. And he singled out National Security Advisor John Bolton for supporting the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group that believes in fomenting violent regime change in Iran.
A goaded Bolton went on Fox News to reply. But instead of answering Zarif’s accusations, Bolton merely blamed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for taking the MEK off the U.S. terrorism list in 2012. This was fantastic hubris. Bolton himself supported the MEK all the time it was on the list, attending rallies and taking speakers’ fees worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Bolton’s accusations against Clinton do not hold water. He, along with then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, started the war with Iraq partly on the pretext that Saddam Hussein supported terrorist groups, including the MEK, as an instrument of his foreign policy. Bolton was also on board with Rumsfeld when the United States unilaterally granted Protected Persons status to the MEK even while it was recognized a terrorist entity—in direct violation of international law.
With the election of President Obama in 2009, newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was left to clear up the mess Bolton and the cabal of neoconservatives created in Iraq. One of those problems was continued U.S. support for the MEK (which the United States designated a terrorist entity in 1997). With the help of a new tough negotiator in the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Clinton set about finding a peaceful resolution to the standoff between the sovereign Iraqi government and the unwanted and parasitic MEK.
Clinton searched for third countries to absorb the MEK. But the MEK, enjoying the backing of anti-Iran regime change pundits in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States (including Bolton), dug in its heels and refused to be disbanded. In the end, only the dependent NATO ally Albania agreed to take the group’s members. Clinton authorized $10 million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to transfer the MEK to Albania. She paid another $10 million for the establishment of a de-radicalization institute in Tirana to first deal with the MEK as preparation for handling returning Islamic State families. Another $10 million languishes in the account of the U.S. embassy in Tirana, money to rehabilitate the MEK members into normal society that Bolton and his cabal blocked.
All this was written into an agreement between the governments of Iraq, the United States, and Albania along with the UNHCR and the MEK. At that time this author was working as a consultant to the Iraqi government on security issues, including the safe containment and deportation of the MEK. I was relieved when the Obama administration found a safe and above all a peaceful solution to the threat posed by the MEK to the security of Iraq. I was pleased to find in this agreement specific steps toward humanizing individual MEK members and restoring them to normal life and their families.
As someone familiar with the MEK, John Bolton must then and is certainly now fully cognizant of the beneficial elements of this agreement. Yet, almost as soon as President Trump was elected, the de-radicalization project was put on hold, allowing the MEK over the next year to regroup and reactivate its anti-Iran activities. With the support of Bolton, former Senator John McCain, Rudi Giuliani, and a whole cast of minor cheerleading warmongers, the MEK has constructed a purpose-built closed training camp in Albania in which the members are kept as modern slaves to serve the MEK’s propaganda and terrorist agenda.
For all her faults, Hillary Clinton did not take money from the MEK while it was listed as a terrorist entity. And taking the group off the U.S. terrorist list, though controversial at the time due to the MEK’s own well-funded pressure campaign, was not wrong, as it enabled the UNHCR to relocate the members to the safety of a third country. Her plan to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration was a vital step toward making the Middle East and the rest of the world, including the United States, a safer place. Meanwhile, John Bolton continued to take money to promote the MEK’s warmongering agenda against American interests.
Before 2016, Iran did not have a diplomatic presence in Albania. Its embassy there dealt primarily with economic and cultural relations. But in 2018, the Albanian government of Edi Rama expelled two newly arrived Iranian diplomats at the behest of the Trump administration. John Bolton boasted about the achievement. Due to overt US support for the MEK, Iran drew its front line not in the Middle East but on the edge of the EU.
Now, with the Iranian foreign minister boldly speaking to the media inside the United States, Bolton has been reduced to deflecting rather than rebutting his accusations. Bolton’s master plan for a war against Iran has not only backfired but prompted Tehran to redraw its front line once again, this time in Washington, DC itself.
Massoud Khodabandeh is the director of Middle East Strategy Consultants and has worked long-term with the authorities in Iraq to bring about a peaceful solution to the impasse at Camp Liberty and help rescue other victims of the Mojahedin-e Khalq cult. Among other publications, he co-authored the book “The Life of Camp Ashraf: Victims of Many Masters” with his wife Anne Singleton. They also published an academic paper on the MEK’s use of the Internet.
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