Olsi Jazexhi, Daily Sabah, November 15 2017:… What Rajavi and MEK does in Albania is exactly what many Salafists were doing in 2013 and 2014. The Salafists were calling for the violent overthrow of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and replacing his regime with their caliphate. Imam Genci Balla, one of the Salafist imams who was calling for the fight against Syria in 2013 has been jailed by the Court of Serious Crimes and condemned to 17 years in prison …
Double standards in Albania’s fight against terrorism
On Nov. 7, Albania’s High Criminal Court changed the sentences of two Muslim Albanians from prison to house arrest. The detainees, Xhezair Fishti and Medat Hasani, who are Salafists, were arrested in November 2016 by Albanian counter-terrorism units on suspicion of planning an attack on the Israeli national football team, which was scheduled to play Albania on Nov. 12, 2016.
These Salafists were two of some 150 Muslims who the Albanian police detained that month. Albanian authorities, who generally regard Muslims with suspicion, conducted mass arrests and closed the borders with Kosovo and Macedonia. They did this so that Muslim Albanian fans could not attend the football match between Albania and Israel and shout anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans.
However, out of the 150 people who were detained, four were singled out as terrorist suspects and accused of plotting to attack the Israeli team. This counterterrorism operation was coordinated along with the Kosovar police, which, for its part, arrested another 19 Muslims with the same excuse. Now a year later, Albania’s High Criminal Court has not been able to find any incriminating evidence for the arrests and therefore was forced to free them from jail and instead hold them under house arrest.
It seems that the detention by the Albanian authorities of four Muslim Albanians in 2016 was made based on false Israeli media claims, since now, a year later, no charge has been proven against the detainees.
Since 2014, the government of Albania has been very aggressive in arresting Sunni Muslims and surveilling their mosques and civil society organizations as part of its policies for “fighting terrorism”. Pressured by the American administration and U.S. Embassy in Tirana, the Albanian government has changed many of its laws, arrested and jailed dozens of Muslims and imams who “sympathize” with Daesh, confiscated properties belonging to terrorist suspects and with the help of the U.S. administration has put pressure on Muslims in Albania to cooperate and spy on other Muslims and imams who are seen as “potential terrorist supporters”. In its fight against terrorism, the Albanian government has been helped a lot by Turkey, which has extradited Daesh suspects to Albania when the government asked for their extradition.
However, while the Albanian government has been more than zealous in appeasing the Americans during their fight against terrorism and cracking down on Daesh sympathizers, it has not shown the same zeal for fighting other terrorist organizations that presently operate or have members hiding in the country.
Two foreign governments have accused Albania of hosting members of two terrorist organizations in the country. The first is Turkey, which has asked Albania to detain Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members and close their organizations in the country. The second is Iran, which has asked Albania to not host and at least to curb the activities of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian terrorist organization that advocates the violent overthrow of the current government of Iran.
FETÖ and the MEK are terrorist groups as much as Daesh is. These terrorist organizations seek to overthrow the governments of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran by means of violence and terrorism. Albanian Criminal Code Articles 231 and 265 condemn the participation, incitement, recruitment, organizing, leading and training in terrorism and calls for the overthrow of regimes in other countries. Daesh, FETÖ and the MEK do or have done these things during the past years against many governments in the Muslim world. However, while the governments of Turkey and Iran have demanded that Albania help them in their fight against terrorism, Albanian authorities have continuously failed to stick to their laws and fight terrorism impartially and without bias.
Even though the Turkish Embassy in Tirana and many Turkish authorities have continuously asked the Albanian government to crack down on FETÖ and detain terrorists who abetted the coup of July 15, 2016, Albanian authorities have neglected their duties. The latest example of this double standard was on Oct. 7, 2017, when Albanian border police detained Muhammed Aydoğmuş, a FETÖ suspect whom Turkey had placed on Interpol’s wanted list. Aydoğmuş, who was detained while trying to exit Albania with falsified documents after being found to be a FETÖ member, was released and not detained as both Albanian and Turkish law demands.
Apart from his crimes in Turkey, Aydoğmuş had committed two crimes according to Albanian Penal Code Articles 189 and 297, which carry a jail sentence from three to seven years for people who falsify documents and try to illegally cross the border. However, Aydoğmuş got special treatment from Albanian authorities. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a number of Western officials asked Albania to release the FETÖ suspect with the excuse that his arrest was political. The Albanian government and its courts have so far refused requests by the Turkish Embassy in Tirana for his extradition and he is not even being held in detention for his crimes in Albania, as any other person might be.The double standards that Albania displays in its fight against terrorism can be seen even in the case of MEK that Albania hosted on the request of the U.S. after 2013. This organization, which was relocated in its entirety from Iraq to Albania in 2016, now has several camps in Tirana. They run different operations against Iran from these camps and the leader, Maryam Rajavi, and the commanders continuously call for the violent overthrow of the government of Iran. Prominent U.S. senators and officials, including John McCain and John Bolton, have visited Albania over the past months and together with Rajavi and a number of Albanian politicians such as Pandeli Majko and Fatmir Mediu have called for war against Iran.
What Rajavi and MEK does in Albania is exactly what many Salafists were doing in 2013 and 2014. The Salafists were calling for the violent overthrow of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and replacing his regime with their caliphate. Imam Genci Balla, one of the Salafist imams who was calling for the fight against Syria in 2013 has been jailed by the Court of Serious Crimes and condemned to 17 years in prison. He was arrested in 2014 and charged under Articles 231 and 265 of the Albanian Criminal Code. He and many of his friends were charged with inciting terrorism and for calls to take part in military action in a foreign country.
Many Salafist Muslims who followed Balla ask in their Facebook postings why their imam is in jail but the Iranian MEK, which makes the same calls as Balla did in the past, are never charged, but instead honored by American and Albanian politicians. Other people ask why Albania does not extradite FETÖ suspects to Turkey in the same way that Turkey extradited Daesh suspects to Albania in 2013.
The release of Aydoğmuş, who was caught breaking the law, and the detention on false charges of Fishti and Hasani by Albanian authorities shows that Albania has different standards in its fight against terrorism. If one happens to be an Albanian Salafist Muslim, the chances are that they can very easily be jailed on false charges and mere suspicion of being a terrorist, but if one is a FETÖ or the MEK member and are caught breaking the law or even making open calls for a terrorist war against Turkey or Iran, the Albanian precedent shows that they will not face justice for terrorist-related activities. It seems that for as long as U.S. foreign policy is hostile to the country in which one wants to wage their terrorism, Albania will obey and not punish them if they engage in terrorist activities.
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton) exposing Maryam Rajavi’s MEK activities in Albania
Ne dokumentarin me poshte al Jazeera tregon historine e terrorit te muxhahedineve iraniane. Menyrat e manipulimit dhe rekrutimit qe ata i kane bere qytetareve iraniane, masakrat kunder kurdeve dhe abuzimin me anetaret e tyre. Kjo eshte organizata qe Shqiperia strehon qe prej vitit 2013. Emisioni Kulti i Kameleonit eshte prodhuar ne vitin 2007.
IMPAKT 97: Jihad 2.0? What are the Iranian Jihadis (MKO, Rajavi cult) doing in Albania? (part 1)
IMPAKT 97: Jihad 2.0? What are the Iranian Jihadis (MKO, Rajavi cult) doing in Albania? (part 2)
Does Albania have an America problem?
Belen Fernandez, Middle East Eye, August 22 2017:… German citizen Khaled el-Masri, was flown to Albania when the CIA apparently didn’t know what else to do with him after having wrongfully abducted him from Macedonia to Afghanistan. el-Masri was “sodomised” and otherwise subjected to “torture” by CIA agents, according to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Albania has also been referred to as a “dumping ground” for victims …
Does Albania have an America problem?
A willing rendition partner, a ‘dumping ground’ for Guantanamo Bay detainees, and now sending troops to fight IS in Iraq… What won’t Albania do for the US?
Among the more eccentric features of the Albanian landscape these days are an estimated 700,000 concrete bunkers scattered throughout the country’s farms, mountains, beaches, and city centres – an enduring testament to Albania’s Cold War history of self-imposed isolation under Stalinist ruler Enver Hoxha, who in addition to detecting ubiquitous enemies also banned religion and private cars.
After the fall of communism in the early 90s, certain of Albania’s international enemies were quickly rehabilitated – hence the current existence of a George W Bush Street in the capital of Tirana, a George W Bush statue in the village of Fushe-Kruje, and a (perhaps prematurely erected) Hillary Clinton statue in Sarande.
In his book Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe, Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch, describes the scene awaiting the convoy of visiting US Secretary of State James Baker in 1991: “[A]n ecstatic mob engulfed the cars, hoping to glimpse the guest from the West. Men threw flowers, kissed the windshields, and tried to carry Baker’s limousine into town.”
Similar enthusiasm was on display for the visit to the Muslim-majority nation of the aforementioned Bush in 2007, when, as Abrahams notes, the Albanian post office also “issued a set of commemorative stamps”.
I myself can safely report that Albania is the only country out of the 60-plus I have visited where my admission to being American has elicited the word “fantastic” in response. During my stay this summer in a small coastal town in south Albania, a town resident found it necessary to set off 4 July fireworks.
Of course, the US has got more than just a stamp collection out of the arrangement. International affection is, after all, meaningless unless it can be exploited for politico-economic gain.
Quid pro quo
For starters, as part of its newfound 90s alliance, the Albanian government not only demonstrated considerable hospitality vis-a-vis US drones before the era of drone obsession had even commenced but also participated in US extraordinary rendition schemes before renditions were really A Thing.
Of course, rendition became even more exciting following the launch of the war on terror – a bandwagon onto which Albania leapt and rode as far as Iraq and Afghanistan.
On one occasion in 2004, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, Khaled el-Masri, was flown to Albania when the CIA apparently didn’t know what else to do with him after having wrongfully abducted him from Macedonia to Afghanistan. During his intercontinental trajectory, el-Masri was “sodomised” and otherwise subjected to “torture” by CIA agents, according to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
Albania has also been referred to as a “dumping ground” for victims released from America’s favourite offshore penal colony, Guantanamo Bay.
As for global combat zones more proximate to Albania, we mustn’t forget a certain military campaign of 1998-99 that later enabled Telegraph headlines like this one: “Bill Clinton unveils statue of himself in Kosovo.”
Even the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, who had advocated the US “pulverising” Serbia back to the year 1389, backtracked months later to hint that the war chronology might not have been exactly as advertised by the US & Co: “NATO bombed, and Mr Milosevic began ruthlessly killing and evicting Kosovar Albanians.”
Among NATO’s impressive wartime feats, incidentally, was the accidental bombing of Hoxha-era bunkers inside Albania, which were apparently mistaken for Serb positions.
In his Modern Albania, Abrahams discusses Washington’s use over the years of the Balkan territory to “house spy planes, to base troops, and to exert a moderate influence on ethnic Albanians in neighbouring Kosovo and Macedonia”.
Which brings us to the perennial question of how a country that so often bombs civilians to smithereens can preach moderation. The only plausible answer, it seems, is that superpowers are immune to logic – but not, as it turns out, to blowback.
Now, in an age in which the US is conveniently both fuelling and fighting terror, a programme by the name of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is being forced down the world’s throat as a means of distracting from the fact that much of what the US itself does is extremely violent.
Unveiled during the rule of Barack Obama, the upshot of CVE is that Muslims are susceptible to radicalisation for reasons having nothing to do either with US wars on them or with other related activities such as the annual US inundation of Israel with billions of dollars to make Palestinian life a living hell.
Albania, naturally, has not been spared the CVE epidemic; last October, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) helped stage a conference on the subject in the city of Elbasan.
The following month, Albanian police claimed to have thwarted an Islamic State (IS) attack on Israel’s national football team, in Albania for a World Cup qualifying match. The mastermind was said to be Kosovo native Lavdrim Muhaxheri, described in The Independent as “the self-proclaimed ‘commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq’”, who was then killed this June in a US coalition air strike on Syria – an event the coalition finally confirmed in August.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, reports surfaced that Albania would be redeploying troops to Iraq to assist in the fight against IS – thereby participating in yet more global non-solutions Made in USA.
The world’s destiny
But what, in the end, is the point of examining the intersections between US foreign policy and an obscure nation generally regarded as irrelevant to world affairs?
The goal is certainly not to augment sensational coverage of the Balkans as a dangerously overlooked “hotbed” of Islamic radicalism – the terror hub on our doorstep, as it were – or to suggest that Albanian history pre-US-love-affair has no bearing on present dynamics and that everything is perfectly black and white.
Rather, the point is to draw attention to the destructive ways in which power reverberates across the earth – where, it bears emphasising, the vast majority of countries happen to be in the same boat as Albania in terms of perceived earthly irrelevance.
Recounting Bush’s 2007 descent upon Albania, Abrahams quotes the reaction of Edi Rama, then the mayor of Tirana and now the country’s prime minister: “The US is something that is really crucial for the destiny of the world.”
Unfortunately, destiny has now entailed the bestowal of honorary citizenship on none other than Donald Trump by the mayor of a town outside Tirana. Let’s just hope there’s enough space for all of us in those bunkers.
– Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Albanians look at a statue of former US president George W Bush unveiled in downtown Fushe-Kruje (AFP)
MEK’s Maryam Rajavi blackmails Albania to become the new ‘Saddam regime’ for them.
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!) …
MEK’s Maryam Rajavi blackmails Albania to become the new ‘Saddam regime’ for them.
The forced relocation of the MEK organisation from Iraq to Albania resulted in drastic changes within the group. No longer forced to endure the extremes of heat and cold in Baghdad, living alongside ordinary family neighbours for the first time in two decades and the loss of their leader Massoud Rajavi have all profoundly affected the members. They now have the ‘luxury’ to think and their changed environment and circumstances have led them to challenge the leadership.
Defections started almost immediately and the MEK is now in the grip of a crisis of disaffection. The problem was exacerbated when Sahar Family Foundation moved its operation from Baghdad to Tirana. Sahar was created to offer support and help to families of MEK members who were trying to get in touch with their estranged loved ones in the MEK while they were based in Iraq. The MEK leaders regard families and familial relations as “poison” and have tried every way possible to prevent these families contacting their loved ones in the group.
Now that Sahar has begun its work in Albania, the new MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has panicked. Sahar began by reminding the UNHCR and Albanian authorities of the international laws governing refugees, in particular UN human rights conventions and articles, and how the MEK rejects these norms.
Maryam Rajavi reacted by shooting herself in the foot. https://www.mojahedin.org/news/197420
Maryam’s counter campaign is based on the tactics used by Massoud Rajavi in Iraq – blackmail and coercion – but it is too little and too late and has lost its potency.
Soon after Sahar started its campaign to inform Albanian authorities of the MEK’s illegal and scandalous behaviours, Rajavi announced that three disaffected individuals, Hadi Sanikhani, Gholamreza Shokri and Sarfaraz Rahimi, had made contact with their families in Iran and declared them therefore to be ‘agents of the regime’. For this reason, she said, “we will cut their refugee allowances from now”. The MEK then said that the only way for their UNHCR money to be restored was for these individuals (and others) to write whatever the MEK dictates. In Saddam’s prisons the MEK also used such coercive tactics to force compliance and silence.
The three individuals went to the UNHCR office and explained what had happened. The UNHCR advised them to go the MEK’s HQ and talk to them. There they were threatened and attacked by MEK operatives. Two of them have since published their account of the events, but Sarfaraz Rahimi has given in and accepted to write for them. He writes what they dictate against the other two – who are understandably complaining about having no food or money in Tirana – condemning them as agents of the Iranian regime.
Rajavi then publishes these letters of Rahimi 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!)
This combination of letters (forced confessions alongside Americans letters to the Albanian PM claiming Iran is operating against the MEK in Albania under the guise of cultural centres, etc) had two aims. One was to warn dissidents inside the MEK what will happen if they leave or disobey orders. The other aim was to get the Albanian government to back the MEK and replicate the role played by Saddam Hussein in the group’s survival by punishing dissent, only this time in Albania.
Reactions were not as Rajavi wanted or anticipated. Inside the MEK and among ex-members there has been outrage. It seems to everyone that after three decades of unpaid work for the MEK and Saddam Hussein, the day someone leaves they instantly confess, in their own writing, to being an agent of the Iranian regime. There are only two possibilities: the organisation is lying and takes forced confessions, or the organisation is a training ground for agents of the regime.
Others complain that although the Americans have the right to recruit people as mercenaries, they do not have the right not to pay them and force them to be gladiators in Albania.
Albanians themselves see this MEK presence as yet further evidence that America is using their country for any and every form of corruption and illegal activity. Albania is still notorious as a centre for narcotics, arms smuggling and people trafficking in spite of efforts to clean up the country so it can join the EU. Albanians complain that their country is reportedly being used to smuggle US arms to Syria and other places for so-called ‘moderate’ rebels, that NATO uses Albania to conduct activities it can’t perform in the US or EU and that the CIA and the Pentagon have turned Albania into an extra-judicial base for nefarious activities. And now John Bolton and Senator John McCain alongside others use Albania as a springboard to pursue unclear political agendas which may include training terrorists and providing land and logistic for groups which are to be deployed in other countries.
Along with dumping nuclear waste and Guantanamo Bay prisoners, Albania now has had the MEK dumped on it. Instead of getting advice and support to de-radicalise these fanatics the government is being blackmailed and corrupted into performing the same role as Saddam Hussein undertook to protect and deploy the MEK.
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hook
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 of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
Trump’s MEK version of events won’t secure victory against Iran, lets ISIS off the hook
They say actions speak louder than words. Looking behind the Twitter storm which creates a smoke and mirrors effect to disguise the Trump administration’s true intents, one fact is blindingly clear; for this government, Iranians are first in the firing line.
This, of itself, is not unexpected. On the campaign trail Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran. So it was already clear he’s no fan of Iranians.
His first act as president has been to issue a direct and belligerent challenge to Iran – he included Iran in the Muslim ban and then declared that Iran is “on notice” after Iran test-fired a ballistic missile which it says is defensive. Iran is clearly in the crosshairs for Trump and his team.
And the evidence stacks up. As a barometer for any individual or even government’s aggressive approach to Iran, support for the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK aka Rajavi cult) is as accurate an indicator as any. The group has advocated violent regime change against Iran for three decades. Its supporters are in doubt that this is a rallying cry for a US-led war.
Even before taking office, revelations about potential Trump administration advisers and officials giving support to the terrorist MEK cult caused concern among foreign policy experts. After all, anti-Iran pundits can choose from literally thousands of civil groups and personalities to act as advisors and partners in challenging Iran. The MEK’s dirty past includes the anti-Imperialistinspired murder of six Americans in pre-revolution Iran which it later celebrated insongs and publications. (The family of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Turner – “We were the first victims of terror before there was ever a war on terror” – is currently seeking redress for his death.) The new president has apparently brushed aside such concerns and has chosen to surround himself with people who have advocated for the MEK.
By not denouncing the MEK Trump has done several things. One is to signal that he is at war not with Iran but with Iranians. The MEK is hated more profoundly than any of Iran’s current political leaders by Iranians inside and outside the country.
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 of Iran. Trump clearly has no intention of defeating terrorism.
But most importantly, this tolerance, even warmth, shown toward the MEK in American foreign policy circles is a message that can be read from afar and by everyone else in the world: the American war box is virtually empty. Aside from a handful of puny sanctions, bringing the MEK into the equation means that not only does the America not have a stick to wave at Iran, it appears foolish enough, befuddled by ideological zeal perhaps, to tie its fate to the most unlucky and doom-laden group there ever was.
Laughably, parasitically, the MEK has consistently tied its fate to whichever it assumed was the winning side. However, the choice of MEK sponsors no longer looks so astute. Ayatollah Khomeini quickly saw through the MEK’s smarmy overtures to share power and promptly exiled them from Iran. The next step was to ally with Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war – a feat of spectacular treachery for which no Iranian will ever forgive them. After Saddam’s fall the MEK believed that the chaos in Iraq which gave rise to the insurrection of Al Qaida in Iraq would somehow carry them forward. The MEK even flirted with support for ISIS and the Syrian Free Army hoping they would find a home in the new Caliphate. Instead, the MEK were evicted from their base and sent into deeper exile in Albania, a country with no axe to grind against Iran. Long term sponsors have included Israel – which tasked MEK operatives with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists – and the anti-Shia Saudi Arabia. Both countries are bogged down with interminable troubles of their own. And now the MEK are hoping to cosy up with the Trump administration.
The Obama administration kept the MEK at arms’ length and never entertained direct support for the group. When the government of Iraq held the US, along with the UN, responsible for removing the MEK from Iraq to a third country, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was forced to agree to remove the MEK from the US terrorism list before any third country would legally be able to accept them on their territory.
Since 2001 Trump’s predecessors have built up strong homeland defences and led counter-terrorism efforts particularly against the threat of ISIS to the US and Europe. It is now likely that this legacy will be squandered by an administration with an overriding hatred of Iran. Instead of understanding the benefit of developing strategic partnerships with countries like Iran and Iraq in the global fight against terrorism, the Trump administration would rather rain down terror on the Iranian people.
But the biggest delusion would be to believe that the MEK could be a reliable or effective partner in any sense. If Donald Trump has any insight into his own modus operandi – the erratic demands and refusal to take criticism – he will have a direct view of how the MEK operates. Aligning America’s foreign policy with the whims of a mind control cult will not secure victory over Iran. Instead, it will diminish America’s standing in the world, and it will certainly not make the world a better or safer place.
Some related documents:
Lets create another Vietnam for America(pdf).
(Mojahedin English language paper April 1980)
Letter to Imam (Khomeini) (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper April 1980)
Some questions unanswered regarding the US military invasion of Iran (pdf).
(Mojahedin English Language paper June 1980)
link to one of the Mojahedin Khalq songs
advocating terror and killing Americans
(In Persian written and distributed after the Iranian Revolution)
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
, 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? From whom is she hoping to garner support?Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s …
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
Co-authored by Anne Khodabandeh
The Middle East is in turmoil. Deaths and destruction are a daily occurrence throughout the region. Families flee their homes in fear, forced into an uncertain future. No end is in sight. Yet into this calamitous scenario a slick, sophisticated terrorist recruiter’s advert has popped up which ISIS itself could learn from.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) website carries a glamorous advertising campaign for a Grand Gathering. Surrounded by glitzy pictures of flag-waving youth, the central focus of this gathering is ‘Our pledge: regime change’.
Well, we all know what that means. Don’t we? Apparently not. Because this advertising doesn’t reflect the destruction wrought in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen. Here is no promise of jihad and the caliphate. It looks very much like a carnival. Which is exactly what it is – a show. So, what is meant by the promise of regime change?
The first port of call is to understand that the NCRI is just another name for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) which was also known as the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA).
Back in 1994, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi tasked his wife Maryam to leave Iraq for America in order to regain political recognition of the Mojahedin Khalq as ‘the’ Iranian opposition which had been lost when he refused to abandon Saddam Hussein during the First Gulf war.
Refused entry to the USA as the leader of a terrorist entity Maryam instead took up residence in France as a refugee. But instead of meeting politicians to talk about how the MEK could overthrow the Iranian regime, she discovered she could simply create the illusion of support by paying both audience and speakers. She discovered a talent for dressing up, holding fancy dinner parties and talking about her cult ideology.
To create the appearance of a willing audience for her views, she recruited a rag-tag following of Iranian economic refugees who would happily turn up when paid for their services. She paid for feminists from North America, Europe and Scandinavia to visit Auvers-sur-Oise and attend dinner parties. She posed in her hijab to speak about her version of feminism to these western women; carefully spelling it out for them that they would never really understand what feminism is until they understood her husband Massoud Rajavi.
When Massoud recalled her to Iraq in 1997 she had spent a third of the total MEK budget and had no political support to show for it. She had lost around half the loyal MEK members who had defected whilst in Europe. With morale at an all-time low, Maryam was forced to retreat to Iraq with what remained of her personnel and leave the western bases in the hands of largely uneducated paid ‘supporters’.
When allied forces next invaded Iraq in 2003 Maryam Rajavi again fled to France. This time, as luck would have it, western politics was focused on curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme which it insisted was aimed at creating a nuclear weapon. The MEK’s services as propaganda experts were just what was needed, ensuring the MEK’s ostensible survival as an opposition group.
But in reality the MEK was already in terminal decline. Its fighting forces, disarmed in 2003, are currently being transferred from Iraq to Albania by the UNHCR to begin a process of de-radicalisation and reintegration back into normal society. Nobody expects veterans with an average age of sixty to wage the terrorism of thirty years ago. Disarmament also allowed American experts to investigate years of complaints about human rights and cultic abuses inside the MEK. As long as the MEK was being used to muddy the waters of the nuclear negotiations, such details could be glossed over. But since last year when agreement was reached, the MEK’s murky past can no longer be dismissed.
The main reason, of course, is that the new theme for challenging Iran in the international community is based on the country’s dismal human rights record. But Maryam Rajavi has her own well documented human rights abuse dossier to answer for. The MEK, under whatever name it is used, is simply the wrong tool to use to demonise Iran.
Beyond this, the MEK is not the popular opposition its own advertising claims it to be. The group is almost universally despised among Iranians both inside the country and in the diaspora. Not only did the MEK fight alongside Saddam Hussein’s army during the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq war, but the MEK’s anti-Iran role in the nuclear negotiations hit a nerve with most ordinary Iranians who regarded support for their country’s right to nuclear technology as an issue ofnationalism rather than politics.
Maryam Rajavi cannot get support from Iranians unless it is paid for. Nor can Maryam Rajavi deign to share a platform with any other Iranian opposition personality. So this year Maryam Rajavi will again do what she does best; pay audience and speakers alike to give the illusion of support.
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 reporting outlet – she then proposes a ten-point plan for Iran, approved this year by Italian parliamentarians. And then she promises regime change.
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? From whom is she hoping to garner support?
Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s websites are home to a bizarre mixture of anti-Shia, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, items which reflect very closely the views of neocons, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Maryam Rajavi is not promising regime change, she is advertising her services as a propaganda queen.
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