MEK Reaction To Families (Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020 )

MEK Reaction To Families (Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020 )

MEK Reaction To Families  (Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020 )Iran Interlink, May 15 2020:… Eighty percent of this week’s MEK Farsi output has been dedicated to attacking the families and their petition addressed to Albanian PM Edi Rama asking for help to contact their loved ones in the MEK camp. The other twenty percent has been the usual; repeating what the Saudis and Americans say with gross exaggeration. Many Farsi commentators have been surprised that this has been such an important issue for the MEK. Some have questioned why MEK has even wheeled out some of their veteran members like Mohammad Mohaddessin to come to their TV to talk and to answer supporters’ questions. Ironically, Mohaddesssin couldn’t explain why for decades the MEK has not allowed families meet with their relatives. ( MEK Reaction To Families ) Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020

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MEK Reaction To Families

Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020

MEK Reaction To Families  (Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – May 15, 2020 )++ Usually during the month of Ramazan, Maryam Rajavi likes to ‘entertain’ in ways that amplify her contrived public persona. This year due to the lockdown in Albania, she cannot go out or bring people to her headquarters. Instead she’s taken to writing. Several people have commented on this writing. Ali Shirzad from Norway says: “Among your multiple complaints against Iran you say that Iran has been burying chickens without killing them first and that this doesn’t match with the spirit of Ramezan. May I remind you that last week a rejected member of your MEK had staged a picket outside the Interior ministry of Albania asking for food because, after over twenty years working for you without payment, you had cut the money you are obliged to pay him in Albania under agreement with the government there. For the whole of last week, you brought all your money, power and backers to attack this person saying, ‘how dare you ask for food’. Never mind about chickens, what are you actually doing and talking about during Ramezan?”

++ Eighty percent of this week’s MEK Farsi output has been dedicated to attacking the families and their petition addressed to Albanian PM Edi Rama asking for help to contact their loved ones in the MEK camp. The other twenty percent has been the usual; repeating what the Saudis and Americans say with gross exaggeration. Many Farsi commentators have been surprised that this has been such an important issue for the MEK. Some have questioned why MEK has even wheeled out some of their veteran members like Mohammad Mohaddessin to come to their TV to talk and to answer supporters’ questions. Ironically, Mohaddesssin couldn’t explain why for decades the MEK has not allowed families meet with their relatives. Indeed, he clearly revealed in this programme that he is personally affected by this issue and is ‘gone’ – what the MEK call ‘borideh’. Ebrahim Khodabandeh, CEO of Nejat, wrote a note on this issue. In it he explains “we have news from inside the camp that the hostages are really happy that there is support for them from outside. The MEK’s counter-attack to suppress any hopes of the members is to declare that ‘nothing will happen, there will not be any meetings with families’. However, we also have news from inside the camp saying that even if this doesn’t happen, these families putting pressure on the Albanian government for our human rights results in the pressure on us inside lifting as MEK don’t want anyone to rebel or leave. A few members were brought to the TV to swear at their own families. One was the mother of Amir Vafa Yaghmai, who was clearly reading from a prepared statement as she swore against her own son. Amir had recently made a video pleading with MEK to allow him to visit his mother in the camp. Some of the families welcomed these theatrics because at least ‘we now know that these people are still alive. The fact that MEK is forced to bring them out for us to see is welcome’.”

In English:

++ Nejat Society has translated some of the messages and statements made by families with loved ones trapped inside the MEK cult. Their pleas all contain the same question ‘why’. Why are you not able to contact us? Why does MEK ban contact with family members? One mother says, “It is hard to believe that you are under such a control that you are not able to contact your parents. What a life do you have? Are you living under slavery? As far as we know, you have no free will to choose for your life. I wonder if your voice will be heard. I don’t think so. You are stuck in a foreign country with no plan for your future, but your father and me will not be disappointed. We are still waiting for you with our arms open.”

++ Anne Khodabandeh in The Iranian writes that the coronavirus crisis presents a unique opportunity for Albanian PM Edi Rama to take control of MEK activities in his country. Pointing out that the MEK operate in extrajudicial terms from an extraterritorial garrison, there is no accountability or access for Albanian officials, whether health officials or security officials. Khodabandeh points out that denying families visas to travel to Albania to find their loved ones “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.” Stuck between the conflicting demands of the Trump administration and the European Union, Rama should address the MEK issue. The article concludes: “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?”

++ In an interview with Balkans Post, investigative journalist Gjergji Thanasi, who lives in Durres county near the MEK camp, reveals some of the MEK’s activities, pointing out the differences between the ranks: Before the outbreak some of the rank and file inmates were allowed to go to Tirana… to do some shopping, to pay respects to the graves of dead MEK members, to see a doctor etc. They traveled in groups consisting of minimum 3 persons. The commanders were allowed to visit Tirana and other towns more freely. The rank and file inmates used to go to Tirana using public transport, while the commanders used private cars… The commanders used a couple of motorbikes to travel to the center of the small town of Manez or to reach the nearby highway linking Tirana to Durres… Up to the end of 2017 the rank and file inmates every couple of months were allowed to have a half day pleasure trip by bus… to different Albanian towns like Durres, Berat… to Kruja… etc. The rank and file inmates were allowed to have an ice cream, to drink tea at local cafes, to buy things at local shops during such pleasure trips.
“After the outbreak no rank and file members are allowed to go to Tirana, but for medical emergencies. The commanders continue to visit Tirana including the luxurious Tirana Hotel at Skanderbeg Square.”
Thanasi goes on to say, “the rules, regulations and Albanian law cease to exert power at the front gate of the camp. The degree of the extraterritoriality the camp enjoys vis-a-vis Albanian law comes close to that of the Camp in Guantanamo Bay vis-a-vis Cuban law.” He goes on to criticise the official response to MEK during the coronavirus outbreak: “The Health Ministry or its directorates in Durres has nothing to do with the camp. I defy the Health Ministry to make public even one document issued by the ministry or its local directorates regarding Camp Ashraf 3 during outbreak. This camp with its over 2,000 inmates simply does not exist for our Health Ministry. I defy the ministry to produce a scrap of paper to prove that Albanian doctors has inspected the camp even one time!”
Asked what he makes of the MEK’s allegation that he is an Iranian spy, Thanasi answered: “I love my country and I consider the MEK a security threat to my country… I have chosen to do my bit for my country regarding the MEK threat to Albania and Albanians… I am proud of myself as what I continue to do is not simply journalism. It is patriotism, too!”

MEK Reaction To Families

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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 

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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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