Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times, February 16 2019:… Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, in a posting on his Twitter account, quickly drew a link between the Warsaw meeting and the deadly bus attack.“Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that #WarsawCircus begins?” he wrote. “Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots? US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results.”
(Suicide Bombing in Iran, celbrating in Wasaw Poland. Maryam Rajavi, MEK)
TEHRAN — A suicide bomber killed at least 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and wounded 13 on a bus in a restive region of southeast Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media reported. It was among the deadliest attacks in Iran in years.
The Revolutionary Guards, an elite Iranian paramilitary force, quickly blamed the United States for the assault, which came during the week that Iran’s leaders have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the American-backed shah in 1979.
The Revolutionary Guards did not explain precisely how the Americans could have been involved in the attack. But Iranian officials suggested it was more than coincidental that it happened as the Trump administration was hosting an anti-Iran-themed meeting in Poland that included delegations from Iran’s regional adversaries, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Dispatches by the official Islamic Republic News Agency and the Fars News Agency said the victims had been traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash near the Pakistan border, a haven for militant separatist groups and drug smugglers.
There were conflicting accounts of the casualties, which often happens in Iran immediately after calamities. Fars initially reported that at least 20 people had died, then updated the death toll to at least 41 — suggesting that everyone on the bus had been killed. Without explanation, Fars later adjusted the toll to 27 dead and 13 wounded, consistent with what the Revolutionary Guards and other news services were saying.
Fars said a bomber driving a car full of explosives on a highway had detonated it near the bus, and a video posted on the agency’s website showed what it said were the charred remains of the bus.
On the social messaging app Telegram, a militant Sunni extremist group called Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials did not confirm that the group was involved. Jaish al-Adl, which means Army of Justice, has links to Al Qaeda and has operated in southeast Iran for years.
A statement issued by the Revolutionary Guards said the bus had been “carrying the warriors of Islam soldiers who were returning from the region to their cities after completing their border mission.”
While the United States and Israel have accused Iran of fomenting terrorism in the Middle East, Iran itself has also been the target of terrorist attacks since the Islamic Revolution.
Last September, gunmen killed at least 25 people and wounded 60 in an assault on a military parade in Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran, where Arab separatists are active. The victims were a mix of Revolutionary Guards members and civilian onlookers.
Less than two years ago, armed assailants, some disguised as women, stormed the Parliament building and the tomb of Iran’s revolutionary founder, in coordinated assaults that left at least 12 people dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, boasting that the attacks were its first ever against Iran, where the Shiite Muslim majority is loathed by the Islamic State’s Sunni extremist ideologues.
A southeastern Iranian province, Sistan and Baluchistan, is home to several extremist Sunni groups such as Jaish al-Adl that have committed sporadic bombings, assassinations and other attacks on Iranian security forces and officials.
Iranian leaders have often accused the United States and its key Middle East allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, of supporting armed opposition groups inside Iran with money, intelligence and weapons. Representatives of at least one Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or M.E.K., which has advocated regime change in Iran and was once considered a terrorist organization by the United States, were present at the Warsaw meeting.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, in a posting on his Twitter account, quickly drew a link between the Warsaw meeting and the deadly bus attack.
“Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that #WarsawCircus begins?” he wrote. “Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots? US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results.”
A well-known Iranian hard-line politician, Hamid Reza Taraghi, also drew a connection between the attack and Iran’s most outspoken adversaries, including Maryam Rajavi, a leader-in-exile of the M.E.K. who sent a video message of support to the group’s “Free Iran” opposition rally in Warsaw.
Mr. Taraghi said “dozens of terrorist plots” intended to be carried out on Monday, when Iran officially celebrated the Islamic Revolution anniversary, had been foiled by Iranian intelligence services.
The bus bombing was “not a big deal militarily, but this suicidal attack in the border area is a cowardly act,” Mr. Taraghi said. “For sure Saudi Arabia, America and MEK must be blamed.”
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the whereabouts of Maryam Rajavi, a leader-in-exile of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, or M.E.K. She sent a video message of support to the group’s rally in Warsaw. She was not at the rally.
MEK and other fake oppositions discrediting Iran’s authentic opposition
Hamid Debashi, Aljazeera, February 11 2019:… The atrocities of the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years have created an expatriate opposition equally atrocious in its treacherous powermongering. The People’s Mojahedin Organisation (MEK), the monarchists, and their various incarnations have come together collectively to form and discredit the Iranian political opposition. These organisations are now actively collaborating with the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia towards “regime change” in Iran, which would mean massive calamity for millions of Iranians.
The Iranian revolution was the last grand illusion of the 20th century.
A soldier stands guard in front of a picture of Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Khomeini during the anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, February 1, 2016 [File: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]
I can close my eyes and hear the chants: “Marg bar fascism! Marg bar fascism!” It was a fine summer day in July 1979. I was a graduate student at the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I had just returned toIran for the summer break, and my homeland was in the frenzied grips of an historic revolution.
“Death to fascism! Death to fascism!” That is all we could scream, a crowd of a few thousand gathered at the football field of Tehran University to rally against the Islamists trying to claim the revolution for themselves. We were an eclectic crowd – some were leftists, some were not; more than half of us were women, some scarfed, many not; some men wore beards, many not – but we all had one thing in common: We could all recite the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad and Ahmad Shamlou faster than we could any verse of the Quran. And we too had a claim on this revolution.
Islamist thugs were disrupting the rally, cutting the wires of loudspeakers, diving into the crowd with knives and brass knuckles, punching, kicking, cursing. They were organised, determined, fearless, violent. They knew what they were doing. We did not know what to do.
We were mostly students, inexperienced in street fights, many of us from poor or middle-class families, some from the provinces. The Persian accents of our attackers, without an exception, were from southern Tehran – nasal, colloquial, limited in vocabulary, vile, violent. They were particularly nasty with the young unveiled woman among us.
They succeeded. They disrupted our rally. The cries of “Death to fascism!” eventually died out.
The end of total revolution
Today the ruling regime in Iran is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the successful establishment of the Islamic Republic on the ruins of a collective dream for a free and open Iran whose tragic death Iranians at large have been mourning for the last four decades.
The Iranian revolution of 1977-1979, which swiftly degenerated into the formation of Shia mullahcracy thinly camouflaged as an Islamic Republic, was the last grand illusion of the 20th century.It came on the heels of two other total revolutions – the Russian revolutionof 1917 and the Chinese revolution of 1949 – which inspired a number of other popular uprisings, including the Cuban revolution of 1953, the Algerian revolution of 1954 and others.
These three total revolutions – the Russian, the Chinese, and the Iranian – were all of the same significance as the American revolution of 1775 and the French revolution of 1789 in scale and universal significance.
The Iranian revolution of 1977-1979, to be emphatically distinguished from the Islamism of the Islamic Republic which became its exclusive beneficiary, gave a particularly universal expression of the mixed blessings and paradoxical perils of postcolonial revolutionary zeal. After these events, the postcolonial world was cured and delivered from any and all ideological delusions of a total revolution.
As evidenced in the Green Movement of 2009 and the Arab uprisings of 2010-2011, both the language and the inspirations of revolutionary momentums of the 21st century have been of an entirely different character and disposition. The Islamic Republic put the myth of “the West” the measure of truth or falsehood at the epicentre of regional and global politics. The Green Movement and the Arab Spring decentred and dismantled it.
By the time of these uprisings, we had already learned how to shift our focus away from the illegitimate state and seek democratic sovereignty in the nation. There were no delusions about the totality of their outcome.
Today, the Islamic Republic in Iran, Israel in Palestine, the ruling Saudi clan in the Arabian Peninsula, the military government in Egypt and the murderous Asad regime in Syria are made of identical cloth – illegitimate state apparatus violently suppressing the democratic will of nations they rule in and out of their postcolonial borders. But the civilising power of these nations has withstood not only the tyranny and brutality of these regimes but also the onslaught of their byproducts – armed groups like ISIL.
The larger geopolitics of the region
The charismatic terror of Ayatollah Khomeini during the decade of his reign from 1979 to 1989 did not subside with his death. Neither his successor, nor the institution of theocratic reign he crafted commands anything near his personal power, but his takeover of the revolution determined the course of the history he left behind.
Today Iranians face towering enemies on their historic path to freedom – the ruling theocracy and its militant apparatus, the diaspora opposition and their entirely discredited politics, the regional Saudi-Zionist alliance and above all the lunacy that is the United States under President Donald Trump.
Iranians, with their vast and expansive political culture, will overcome them all as they walk towards a future only they can write for themselves. The standoff between the daily realities of a normative life in Iran and the treacheries of this congested front of animus coming their wayis historically bent towards the defeat of the enemies of the commonweal of national sovereignty.
The Iranian revolution of 1977-1979 succeeded in liberating an entire nation from the calamities of an authoritarian monarchy, but the Islamic Republic devoured it, established a brutal theocracy, and in the process delivered Iranians from any and all delusions about regime legitimacy.
In the making of the catastrophic Islamic Republic, however, the US, the Soviet Union, and their regional agents were all implicated.
The Iranian revolution was initially widely popular in the region until the US and its allies enabled and encouraged Saddam Hussein to start a war against Iran that lasted eight brutal years and killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides. As the war fuelled Iranian-Arab rivalry, this helped Khomeini define the popular rebellion as “Shia-inspired”, turning the worldly and cosmopolitan character of the Iranian revolution into a xenophobic and religious one, from which he benefitted immensely.
The December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan allowed the newly formed clerical regime to start expanding its network of proxies in its immediate neighbourhood and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon paved the way for the creation of Hezbollah, which solidified its extraterritorial outreach.
Over the next few decades, the domestic affairs of Iran became increasingly overshadowed by the dissolution of the ruling Islamic Republic into the geopolitics of the region and its rivalrieswith the Saudi-Zionist axis. In 2009 the Green Movement was the last chance for a democratic substitution and the altering of the course of the post-revolutionary Iran, but the ruling clerical and paramilitary forces viciously crashed that hope.
The Islamic Republic and its nemesis
The atrocities of the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years have created an expatriate opposition equally atrocious in its treacherous powermongering. The People’s Mojahedin Organisation (MEK), the monarchists, and their various incarnations have come together collectively to form and discredit the Iranian political opposition. These organisations are now actively collaborating with the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia towards “regime change” in Iran, which would mean massive calamity for millions of Iranians.
Victorious in the midst of all this is the common sense and the collective purpose of Iranians themselves and their past experiences gathered from the failed monarchy, the fanatical Islamism that followed it, and the quagmire of regional geopolitics into which their ruling regime is increasingly drawn and lost.
Today the fate of the Islamic Republic can be summed up in the characters of two women, both of them named Masoumeh. One is Masoumeh Ebtekar and the other Masoumeh Alinejad. Masoumeh Ebtekar was one of the Iranian hostage takers during the 1979-1981 American hostage crisis and is currently vice president of Iran for Women and Family Affairs. To this day she benefits from her role in this criminal act, which Khomeini used as a smokescreen to brutally eliminate all legitimate rivals to his autocratic rule.
Meanwhile, Masoumeh Alinejad is also reaping benefits from her public political decisions. She made her name more palatable to an American tongue by calling herself Masih Alinejad (Masih is Persian and Arabic for messiah) after she ran away from her homeland and worked her way up to the top of the American mediascape. Under the false flag of bourgeois feminism, she has become a useful servant at the service of the US imperial machine, happily posing for photos with US secretary of war and propaganda, Mike Pompeo.
These two Masoumehs represents the cruelties of two opposing regimes: the ruling Islamic Republic on one side and the US and those trying to topple it on the other. One is a fanatical and myopic zealot, the other – a vulgar and loutish career opportunist. They personify nothing but the banalities of two identical evils. In between, stand millions of Iranian women and men in fateful charge of their personal, public, and national dignity, who still remember how it all began 40 years ago.
Soon after that summer day in 1979, the Islamists took over the Tehran University football field and turned it into a makeshift mosque in which they brought masses of their supporters and institutionalised the Friday prayer propaganda to denounce their enemies and steal the revolution all to themselves.
They won. We lost. But 40 years later something even more important happened: Our dreams of a different and better world have been implanted into the collective consciousness of a big-hearted, forgiving, and triumphant people. The Islamist won that battle but lost the war for the hearts and minds of a nation with a memory that far exceeds the limited imagination of a gang of degenerate octogenarian clerics on the verge of senility.
The fate of the Islamic Republic is now threatened by the whims of a juvenile delinquent like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), a war criminal like Benjamin Netanyahu, and a lunatic like Donald Trump. The dreams of the Iranian revolution that the Islamic Republic usurped and betrayed remain alive and well in the hearts and minds of a brave nation which is triumph over its own cruel history.
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
Ty Joplin, Albawaba, November 18 2018:… Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members. He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside …
The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh
By Ty Joplin
Before Massoud Khodabandeh settled into his life as a consultant living quietly in the middle of England, he was directing the intelligence operations of a group that’s been labelled as a terrorist cult.
The group is called the Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK), and Khodabandeh had, for decades, witnessed its changing of faces: from radical student group opposed to the rule of the Shah in Iran, to anti-Ayatollah guerrilla group, to pro-Saddam militia, to what it is now, an inward-looking and reclusive group with no clear identity beyond its obedience to its leader, Maryam Rajavi.
Massoud Khodabandeh left the group and granted Al Bawaba an exclusive interview, where he documents his smuggling of radio equipment into Iran, his spying on Iranian leaders and MEK defectors and his eventual departure from the group.
Khodabandeh details to Al Bawaba his founding of an MEK cell in London and his imprisonment for participating in a sit-in of the Iranian embassy during the 1979 Iran revolution. After that, he began operating covertly in Europe, traversing the continent with secret funding and passports, looking over all of the MEK’s cells working in Europe at the time, slowing becoming one of its most senior and trusted members.
After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the MEK’s falling out with the Iranian regime, Khodabandeh began smuggling radio equipment into Iran via Baghdad, taking powerful radio technology into a secluded station in the mountains of Iranian Kurdistan and surviving attacks by Iranian forces in the process.
As well as helping the MEK cement an international presence, Khodabandeh also remembers helping the MEK’s former leader, Massoud Rajavi, with a particular request. Rajavi asked Khodabandeh to send him dozens of books on cults and psychological manipulation; a request Khodabandeh did not hesitate to fulfill. Decades later, he learned that each book he was smuggling to Massoud was being translated into Farsi and used as a guide on how to transform the MEK into a personalist cult dedicated to serving the will of its leader, Massoud.
After leaving the group, Khodabandeh admits that he had a difficult time reintegrating into society, as he struggled to rid himself of the constraints the MEK forces upon its members.
He forbade himself from watching television, and did not know the extent of Iraq’s crimes against Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. But Khodabandeh considers himself lucky; he was able to leave the group while thousands are still trapped inside its confines, doomed to be associated with an opposition group many consider a terrorist cult.
To listen to the full conversation, click here:
Speaking in depth about my experiences with the MEK, from my days as a student up to why I left. Thanks to Ty Joplin of Albawaba for the podcast. ‘The Many Faces of the MEK, Explained By Its Former Top Spy Massoud Khodabandeh’ on #SoundCloud#nphttps://t.co/IvXGbFdqun
Open Letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama – Secure the lives of all current and former MEK members
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, November 06 2018:… Please, make sure that the MEK leadership does not lose its mind and commit horrific acts in your country. Enforce the law and impose the authority of your government over the MEK cult and reassure the European public that Albania is a responsible country. Your reply to this letter will be that you ensure the safety and security of all members and former members of MEK in Albania …
Open Letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama – Secure the lives of all current and former MEK members
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, former members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) cult, sent an open letter to Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, to show their concerns of an imminent terrorist atrocity that would take place in Albania.
Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania | CEEC-China 2018
Here is the full transcript of the letter:
Dear Prime Minister Rama,
This letter is being sent to you by Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh. We are two British citizens living in Leeds, UK. We are both former members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) cult, who now work as deradicalization experts. We follow with great concern the issue of terrorism and radicalisation in Europe, with particular attention to the MEK. We are sending this open letter because of our concerns of an imminent terrorist atrocity that would take place in Albania.
The MEK cult/organization, which your government has hosted in Albania since 2013, is running a campaign to convince the people of Albania that they have distanced from their terrorist past. Efforts to paint a softer image for the group include: taking young people to the Villepinte rally in France in June; inviting Albanian youth to a meeting titled ‘Against Execution’ (and only mentioning Iran, not Saudi Arabia and America and China as examples); contacting members of parliament and party officials to convince them that their terrorist history is not true and has been made up by Iran to demonize the group. This is particularly ridiculous, and any politician or official who believes this in spite of all the evidence to the contrary is being deliberately stupid.
If MEK have changed, why don’t they open up their camp in Manez and allow free access to their secretive camp and their members? Why are they living in paramilitary conditions, with uniforms and gender segregation like in a military garrison? The films of retired German politicians and recruited journalists visiting the camp which were designed to show MEK as ‘ordinary folk’ inadvertently exposed and boasted of these conditions. Why don’t they integrate with the local Albanian community and instead insist having their own city in Albania, their own healthcare and bakery, etc.?
More importantly, since MEK members are working, why don’t they have work permits and pay taxes as Albanian citizens must do? What are they contributing to Albania?
Albanians are waking up to the reality of having a terrorist cult in their midst. The overt behaviour which alarmed citizens of Tirana from 2013 to 2017 has now been hidden behind closed doors. But this does not make the problem go away. Indeed, it makes the group more dangerous since there is no public scrutiny.
The scandal of the Mohammadi family is still fresh in everyone’s minds. What kind of ‘revolutionary’ is the daughter of Mostafa and Mahbubeh Mohammadi, Somayeh who is apparently too afraid to tell her mother face to face not to contact her again. As you already might know, MEK did not allow her any freedom in the matter and she is still subject to constant surveillance and monitoring, she is chaperoned everywhere.
Mostafa and Mahbubeh Mohammadi
As you are aware, MEK are very vocal that they perceive their group to be the target for death and annihilation from Iran. They claim that agents of Iran’s intelligence services are around every corner and even pose as journalists! That is clearly a matter for Albania’s security and intelligence agencies. The MEK must not be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
However, on a political level it has become clear now that relocating the MEK in Albania and then not de-radicalizing the individuals has attracted the threat of political violence to Albania. No matter which side your government takes – and let us be clear, Albania cannot have good relations with the government of Iran whilst harbouring a terrorist group which is actively working for regime change against Iran, a side must be chosen – the individual members of MEK must be protected.
Your government must take very seriously any threat to the lives of individual MEK members. At this time there is credible evidence of an imminent threat from the MEK leader Maryam Rajavi against members of her own group. Events over the past year – as outlined in this article, and this – indicate that a fatal false flag operation is being planned to advance the agenda of those who wish to destroy the JCPOA and cause a rift in Europe’s relations with Iran. Since the previous alleged plots did not achieve this aim, more drastic action is called for. Experts on the MEK are of the opinion that MEK is planning to kill some of its members, or former members, in Albania, which would then be blamed on Iran. Albania, situated outside the EU and with ongoing problems with crime and corruption, is ideally placed as a scapegoat for violent activity.
The MEK has a long history of setting up scenarios which are used by Iran’s enemies. This latest series of alleged plots in Europe fits into that profile. Your government should not underestimate the capabilities of MEK for such acts. The group’s modus operandi is based on self-sacrifice for the struggle. Over the years, Maryam Rajavi (and her missing husband Massoud) have used the blood of martyrs to keep the group going. The radicalized MEK members who believe in jihad and war are motivated to continue the same path of struggle of these martyrs. Bloodshed also enables MEK to eliminate unwanted members.
The case of Malik Sharai is an example of this activity. Sharai was planning to leave MEK, but as witness to the controversial September 2013 massacre at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, MEK leaders could not allow him to speak publicly about those events.
Your government allowed MEK to evade proper investigation into that death, just as they barred Iraqi investigators from doing their job in Iraq. Malik Sharai was buried without a post mortem examination to establish the cause of death. MEK claimed there were cultural/religious reasons why the Coroner could not do his job. This is not true. No conditions exist that would prevent a full post mortem examination. MEK have thereby flouted Albanian law and regulations to prevent proper investigation into how Sharai died.
The case of Sharai is mentioned because this example must alert you to the danger that MEK members face from their own leader.
What can your government do to stop MEK from committing a terrorist act against their members?
Firstly, MEK must be brought under control. The rule of ALBANIAN law must apply to MEK as it must to every other citizen of Albania. The camp at Manez must be opened up so that proper scrutiny and regulation of MEK’s activities can be conducted by the relevant authorities; Albanian police, tax officers, healthcare providers, anti-slavery activists etc must have full access to MEK and its members. People like Somayeh Mohammadi must be set free to choose their fate.
New MEK terrorist training camp ‘Ashraf Three’, Albania
No matter from where the threat to life originates, every individual MEK member needs protection. To qualify for state protection, MEK members must be issued with identity and residency documents. They should not be left without work permits – a fact that forces many of them to remain radicalized inside MEK.
Security must come from the neutral state not from a private firm in the pay of the MEK. Police must have a presence inside the camp to impose law and order.
Although MEK state that the estranged families of MEK members want to come to Albania to kill them, we know from fifteen years’ experience that the opposite is true and that people whose families are actively campaigning to contact them have not come to harm and have often been able to leave MEK and return to normal life. Your government should issue visas to these families, so they can visit their loved ones in Albania.
Former MEK members petition the UNHCR in Albania
Finally, we urge you to increase the vigilance of Albanian security services around the MEK members in Albania, including former members. We have strong indications that a false flag operation against MEK might be planned in your country by a foreign government, which will use this incident against the European Union and its relations with Iran. In order to avoid this, your government must do its utmost to save the lives of MEK members from their leadership, which as in the past, is willing to kill some of its members for its survival agenda. A terrorist act against MEK members by a foreign country on Albanian soil will be a major incident and an embarrassment for your government and the European governments which do not want to see something like this take place in your country.
Please, make sure that the MEK leadership does not lose its mind and commit horrific acts in your country. Enforce the law and impose the authority of your government over the MEK cult and reassure the European public that Albania is a responsible country.
Your reply to this letter will be that you ensure the safety and security of all members and former members of MEK in Albania.
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. Khodabandeh co-authored the book ‘The Life of Camp Ashraf – Victims of Many Masters’ with his wife Anne Singleton.
Anne Khodabandeh, is an expert in anti-terrorist activities and a long-standing activist in the field of deradicalization of extremists. She has written several articles and books on this subject, along with her husband, who is of Iranian origin.
Letër e hapur Kryeministrit Edi Rama – siguro jetën e të gjithë anëtarëve dhe dezertorëve të MEK-ut
I dashur Kryeministër Rama,
Këtë letër po ta shkuajmë ne, Massoud dhe Anne Khodabandeh. Ne jemi dy qytetarë britanik që jetojmë në Leeds, Britaninë e Madhe. Jemi ish-anëtarë të kultit të Moxhahedinëve Iranianë (MEK), që tanimë punojnë si ekspertë në fushën e deradikalizimit. Ne ndjekim me shqetësim të madh çështjen e radikalizmit dhe terrorizmit në Evropë, duke i kështuar vëmendje të posaçme MEK-ut. Këtë letër të hapur po ua dërgojmë, pasi jemi të shqetësuar mbi një sulm terrorist i cili mund të ndërmerret në Shqipërisë.
Organizata okulte e MEK-ut, të cilën qeveria juaj strehon që prej vitit 2013, ka ndërmarrë një fushatë nëpërmjet të cilës kërkon ti bindë shqiptarët që ajo është distancuar nga e kaluara e saj terroriste. Pjesë e kësaj përpjekje për përmirësim imazhi janë: dërgimi i shqiptarëve në takimin e Villepinte në Francë në qershor; ftesa e të rinjve shqiptarë në takime sikur ai që u bë “kundër ekzekutimeve” (ku u përmend vetëm Irani, por jo Arabia Saudite, Amerika dhe Kina si shembuj vendesh ku njerëzit dënohen me vdekje); kontaktet që MEK bënë me deputetët e parlamentit dhe zyrtarë partiakë në Shqipëri ku ata mundohen ti bindin ata që historia terroriste e MEK-ut nuk është e vërtetë por është sajuar nga Irani për të baltosur grupin. Kjo e fundit në veçanti është një gjë shumë e ulët, dhe nëse ka politikanë apo zyrtarë shqiptarë që beson këtë rrenë duke injoruar malin me fakte që ekziston, do të thotë që dikush të pranoj të luaj rrolin e idiotit.
Nëse MEK-u sikur ai pretendon, ka ndryshuar, ne pyesim: pse ata nuk e hapin kampin e tyre në MANËZ dhe të lejojnë publikun që të hyjë dhe shohë kampin e tyre sekret dhe anëtarët që ata kanë? Pse anëtarët e MEK-ut vazhdojnë të jetojnë në kushte paramilitariste, me uniforma ku burrat ndahen nga gratë sikur të jenë në një garnizon ushtarak? Filmimi që përpara disa ditësh disa gazetarë të paguar dhe disa politikanë pensionistë gjermanë bënë ndërsa vizituan kampin, ku kërkohej që MEK-sat të tregohen si “njerëz normalë” në fakt tregoi kushtet ku ata jetojnë. Përse muxhahedinët nuk integrohen me komunitetet vendase në Shqipëri, por këmbëngulin që të kenë qytetin e tyre, punishten e tyre, dhe qendrat e tyre shëndetësore etj?
Për më tepër, anëtarët e MEK-ut që punojnë, përse nuk kanë leje pune dhe pse nuk paguajnë taksa sikur qytetarët shqiptarë? Çfarë kontributi po i japin ata shoqërisë shqiptare?
Shqiptarët e kanë kuptuar tashmë që në mesin e tyre qëndron një kult terrorist. Sjellja e tyre e cila alarmoi qytetarët shqiptarë ndërmjet viteve 2013 dhe 2017 tanimë është fshehur në dyert e mbyllura të kampit. Por kjo nuk e zgjidh problemin e tyre. Por në të kundërt, e bën grupin më të rrezikshëm pasi tanimë publiku nuk sheh më se çfarë ata bëjnë.
Skandali i familjes Mohammadi është akoma i freskët në mendjet e qytetarëve. Çfarë ‘revolucionare’ është vajza e Mostafa dhe Mahbubeh Mohammadit, Sommaya e cila sikur edhe është parë ka frikë të takojë mamanë e saj dhe ti thotë në sy që nuk do ta takoj? Sikur edhe ju mund ta dini, MEK-u nuk e la atë të dalë nga kampi dhe ajo vazhdon të mbahet nën survejim nga moxhahedinët, të cilët e shoqërojnë kudo e ngado.
Sikur edhe ju mund ta dini, MEK-u pretendon natë e ditë që grupi i tyre rrezikohet për tu goditur nga Irani. Ata pretendojnë se agjentët e shërbimeve iraniane janë kudo dhe shfaqen edhe si gazetarë! Kuptohet që këtë gjë e vendosin organet e sigurisë shqiptare dhe jo MEK-u. Por shqetësimi ynë është që MEK-u nuk duhet të lejohet që të sillet si polic në Shqipëri.
Sikur edhe ju mund ta keni kuptuar, sjellja e MEK-ut në Shqipëri dhe mos deradikalizimi i tyre ka rritur nivelin e dhunës politike në Shqipëri. Pa marrë parasysh se në cilën anë qeveria juaj qendron – le ta themi hapur, Shqipëria nuk mban dot relata të mira qeverinë e Iranit ndërsa strehon në vend një organizatë terroriste e cila në mënyrë aktive punon që të ndryshoj regjimin në Iran, dhe këtu ju duhet ta ndani mendjen – dhe anëtarët e MEK-ut duhet të mbrohen.
Qeveria juaj duhet të trajtojë me seriozitet çdo kërcënim që i vjen individëve të MEK-ut. Në momentin që ne po u shkruajmë këtë letër, ekzistojnë fakte të mjaftueshme që të bëjnë të besosh për një kërcënim real që ekziston nga udhëheqësja e MEK-ut Maryam Rajavi kundër anëtarëve të organizatës së saj. Në vitin e kaluar – sikur është treguar në këtë shkrim, dhe këtë – MEK-u po planifikon të ndërmarrë një operacion të rremë terrorist [false flag operation] në bashkëpunim me grupe të cilat duan që të shkatërrojnë Marrëveshjen Nukleare të Iranit me Fuqitë Botërore të njohur si JCPOA duke shkaktuar kështu një konflikt ndërmjet Evropës dhe Iranit. Pasi deklaratat bombastike të mëparshme ndaj Iranit nuk janë marrë në konsideratë nga Fuqitë e Evropës të cilat vazhdojnë të mbështesin Marrëveshjen Nukleare me Iranin, tanimë po kërkohet që të ndërmerret një akt edhe më ekstrem. Ekspertët e MEK-ut besojnë që MEK-u po planifikon të vrasë disa nga anëtarët e vetë në Shqipëri, dhe kjo vrasje më pas do ti faturohet Iranit. Shqipëria e cila qëndron jashtë Bashkimit Evropian dhe ka probleme me krimin dhe korrupsionin, është vendi më i përshtatshëm për të kryer një krim të këtillë.
MEK-u ka një histori të gjatë krijimi të skenarëve që më pas përdoren nga armiqtë e Iranit. Pretendimet më të fundme të komploteve terroriste në Evropë i ngjajnë skenarëve të mëhershëm. Dhe për këtë arsye qeveria juaj nuk duhet të nënvleftësojë aftësitë e MEK-ut për të krijuar një incident të këtillë. Mënyra e operimit të grupit bazohet në vetëflijimin për luftën. Në vitet e kaluara, Marjam Rajavi (dhe burri i saj i zhdukur Masudi) kanë përdorur gjakun e martirëve për të motivuar grupin. Anëtarët e radikalizuar të MEK-ut që besojnë në xhihadin dhe luftën kanë mjaft indoktrinim që të martirizohen për luftën e tyre. Vrasjet janë një prej mjeteve që MEK-u përdor për të zhdukur anëtarët e padëshiruar.
Rasti i Malik Sharait është një shembull i asaj që MEK-u mund të bëj. Sharai planifikonte të largohej nga MEK-u, por duke qenë dëshmimtar i masakrës kontraversiale të shtatorit 2013 në Kampin Ashraf në Irak, komanda e MEK-ut nuk mund ta lejonte që të dëshmonte në publik për ato që ndodhën atëherë.
Fatkeqësisht qeveria juaj e lejoi MEK-un që të mos lejoj një hetim të duhur mbi këtë vdekje, në të njëjtën mënyrë sikur MEK-u i ndali edhe hetuesit në Irak që bënin punën e tyre. Malik Sharai u varros pa iu bërë një autopsi për të hetuar shkaqet e vdekjes. MEK-u e evitoi autopsinë me justifikimin se mjeku ligjor nuk mund ta kryente detyrën e tij për shkaqe kulturore / fetare. Por kjo nuk është e vërtetë. Ekzaminimi mjekësor nuk ndalohet dot për asnjëfarë arsyeje. Në këtë mënyrë MEK-u arriti ti shpëtojë ligjit shqiptar dhe rregullave duke i shpëtuar një hetimi të drejtë mbi arsyet e vdekjes së Sharait.
Ua përmendim rastin e Sharait pasi shembulli i tij duhet të shërbejë si shembull për të kuptuar rrezikun që i kanoset anëtarëve të MEK-ut nga udhëheqësja e tyre.
Çfarë duhet të bëj qeveria juaj që të ndaloj MEK-un nga kryerja e akteve terroriste kundër anëtarëve të tyre?
E para, MEK-u duhet vënë nën kontroll. Sundimi i ligjit shqiptar duhet të implementohen mbi MEK-un ashtu sikur edhe mbi çdo qytetar tjetër të Shqipërisë. Kampi i Manzës duhet të hapet kështu që aktivitetet e MEK-ut të mbikqyren nga autoritetet vendore; policia shqiptare, zyra e taksave, organet shëndetësore, aktivistët për të drejtat e njeriut etj duhet të kenë akses të plotë në kampin e MEK-ut dhe anëtarët e tij. Anëtarë sikur Somayeh Mohammadi duhet të lejohen që të vendosin vetë për fatin e tyre.
Pa marrë parasysh se nga u vjen kërcënimi, çdo individ i MEK-ut duhet të mbrohet. Në mënyrë që të gëzojnë mbrojtje të plotë ligjore, anëtarët e MEK-ut duhet të pajisen me karta identiteti dhe rezidencë. Ata nuk duhet të lihen pa leje pune – fakt i cili i detyron shumë prej tyre që të qendrojnë të radikalizuar nga MEK-u.
Siguria e muxhahedinëve duhet të vijë nga organet neutrale të shtetit dhe jo nga firma private që paguhen nga MEK-u. Policia duhet të vendoset brenda kampit të MEK-ut në mënyrë që të vendosi ligjin dhe qetësinë.
Edhe pse MEK-u pretendon se familjet e anëtarëve të MEK-ut duan të vijnë në Shqipëri për ti vrarë, ne e dimë nga eksperienca jonë pesëmbëdhjetë vjeçare se e kundërta është e vertetë. Muxhahedinët që kanë familjet e tyre që duan ti takojnë ata, nuk vijnë që ti lëndojnë por shpesh kanë qenë faktor për lirimin dhe integrimin e tyre në jetën civile. Qeveria juaj duhet të lëshojë viza për këto familje, kështu që ata të vizitojnë të afërmit e tyre në Shqipëri.
Në fund, ne u kërkojmë që të rrisni vigjilencën me organet e sigurisë përreth anëtarëve të MEK-ut në Shqipëri, duke përfshirë këtu edhe dezertorët. Kemi indikacione të forta që na bëjnë të besojmë që një plan për të kryer një operacion të rremë (false flag operation) kundër MEK-ut ndoshta është duke u planifikuar në vendin tuaj nga një qeveri e huaj, e cila kërkon ta përdori këtë incident kundër Bashkimit Evropian dhe marrëdhënieve të tij me Iranin. Në mënyrë që një gjë e këtillë të mos ndodhë, qeveria juaj duhet të marrë masat maksimale për të shpëtuar jetën e muxhahedinëve nga udhëheqja e tyre, e cila në të kaluarën, ka provuar që ka patur dëshirën për të vrarë disa prej anëtarëve të saj për të siguruar mbijetesën. Një akt terrorist kundër anëtarëve të MEK-ut nga një vend i huaj në tokën shqiptare do të jetë një incident i rëndë dhe skandal i madh për qeverinë tuaj dhe qeveritë evropiane të cilat nuk duan që një gjë e këtillë të ndodhë në vendin tuaj.
Lutemi të bëni maksimumin që udhëheqja e MEK-ut të mos humbasë logjikën që të bëjë akte të këtilla të tmerrshme në vendin tuaj. Ushtroni ligjin dhe impononi autoritetin e qeverisë mbi kultin muxhahedin dhe siguroni publikun evropian që Shqipëria është një vend i përgjegjshëm.
Përgjigja juaj më e mirë për këtë letër do të jetë siguria dhe ruajtja e të gjithë anëtarëve dhe dezertorëve të MEK-ut në Shqipëri.
MEK in Albania—Potential Implications and Security Concerns for Albania
Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, October 14 2018:… Channel 4, a well-known British news agency, recently traveled to Albania to do the same. The film crew was met by hostile private security who were guarding the highly fortified Manëz camp. Camp members physically attacked Channel 4’s camera crew (Shqiptarja.com, August 19). This was an unprecedented event that raised several questions over the camp’s …
Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Mujahedeen El-Khalq (MEK) was the subject of frequent attacks from Iranian-backed proxies, which overwhelmed their members residing in camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq. Before this, MEK, an Iranian dissident group, began living in Iraq in the early 1980s under the protection of Saddam Hussein. As a group in exile, MEK sought refuge in Iraq under the protection of Hussein, who utilized their military capacities and ties to Iran to undermine the Iranian regime. Until 2012, the MEK was identified as a terrorist organization due to its activities inside Iran and against other regional and international powers, including attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and businesses operating in Iran in the 1970s. 
Following a series of lobbying efforts by MEK leadership and supporters, the group pledged to give up their weapons and violent tactics as a means to be delisted as a designated terrorist organization.  As a consequence, in 2013, the U.S. government pleaded to a number of governments to provide refuge to the MEK members, including Romania, which was the preferred destination at the time. Albania—grateful to the United States for its support during the war in Kosovo and advocating for its bid to join NATO and the EU—was the only country that responded positively to the request. Albania initially admitted some 200 members between 2013 and 2014. The United States and Albanian governments have extended the agreement since 2013, increasing the number of asylum seekers to somewhere in the range of 500-2,000 MEK members. During the summer of 2016, Tirana received the largest contingent of about 1,900 people, an operation managed by the UNHCR (Shekulli, March 12, 2016). Part of the agreement with Washington was the development of deradicalization and rehabilitation programs to be offered to members of the group.
Now, the group is residing in the outskirts of Tirana’s capital in a highly fortified camp located in Manëz. From this camp, the group is allegedly intensifying its political activities aimed at bringing down the Iranian regime (Exit.al, March 14). With emerging threats coming from radicalization and violent extremism, due to the rise of the Islamic State and other political Islamist groups in the region, the Albanian government may not be prepared or equipped to respond to the potential implications the group’s presence in Albania may bring.
MEK Activities and Support in Albania
There are a number of opportunities MEK is exploiting in order to restart its political activities against the Iranian regime now that they are residing in Albania. Recent propaganda efforts by the group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, the widow of the founder of MEK, Massoud Rajavi, suggest that she sees herself as a key actor in fostering the opposition in Iran and subsequently bringing down the Khomeini regime (Exit.al, March 14). Much of the group’s propaganda material available online is translated in Albanian and seeks to also reach out to a local audience in their host country (Iran-interlink.org).
Moreover, the group has gathered significant support from important U.S. leaders who do not shy away from expressing their support for MEK’s potential rise as Iran’s future “democratic government” (Exit.al, June 26). This sentiment is frequently expressed on a number of occasions when important figures of the U.S. political landscape have personally visited Albania and spoken at rallies organized by MEK in Tirana (KlanTV, March 21). The most recent gatherings saw figures such as John Bolton (now U.S. National Security Advisor), Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s most trusted advisors and personal lawyer, and late U.S. Senator John McCain, among others. The three seemingly demonstrated their support for MEK to be at the center of regime change in Iran (Exit.al, June 26).
The reasons why the Trump administration is supporting the group’s political objectives are unclear. It is also unclear the level of support MEK still has among the population in Iran, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that MEK is also making some powerful friends in Tirana as well. Over the years, key leaders from the Albanian government and civil society organizations have similarly provided their support during rallies and conferences organized by MEK in Paris as well as in Albania, where its new headquarters are located. In May 2015, Albania’s former Prime Minister during the war in Kosovo and current Minister of Diaspora, Pandeli Majko attended the National Council of Resistance of Iran rally in Paris with a large delegation of parliament representatives, journalists, lawyers and some civil society representatives, reiterating Albania’s support for Iran’s resistance and promising his personal support for regime change. 
In an impassioned speech over a cheering crowd, Majko said “whether you want it or not, you have involved us in your story, in your drama, in your tragedies and we understand you very well…some years ago, an American President was in Berlin and from Berlin, this politician, this great man declared ‘Ich bin a Berliner’. And in the name of my friends and in Albania, I’ve come here to say ‘Men mujahed astam’. I have a dream to come soon to Tehran. Invited by you.”  At the time, Majko’s attendance in the Paris rally was not covered by local media.
Despite the group’s increasing political support, recent media reports and several incidents between MEK members and local communities in Albania expose their continuing secretive activities and ongoing struggles to receive legitimacy as a democratic organization. Over the years, several media agencies have been interested in documenting the lives of MEK members in Albania and their political struggles in Iran. Channel 4, a well-known British news agency, recently traveled to Albania to do the same. The film crew was met by hostile private security who were guarding the highly fortified Manëz camp. Camp members physically attacked Channel 4’s camera crew (Shqiptarja.com, August 19). This was an unprecedented event that raised several questions over the camp’s activities (Lapsi.al, August 19). The event was widely reported by local media, which was also able to obtain a threat assessment on the group by Albania’s Intelligence Agency. According to the report initially made available to Channel 4 and then to other Iranian and local media, the group remains “deeply indoctrinated” and some of their activities, including murders of their members, are similar to the ones in Iraq (The Iranian, August 2018).
Testimonies from dissidents who left the group in recent months speak of similar military trainings, indoctrination and pressure to follow the group’s ideology (Top Channel, February 13). Although in the early years some of their members who relocated to Albania sought opportunities to travel abroad and join family members in the West, some 200 members have fled the group and continue to live in Albania (Top Channel, February 13). There is no clarity of their legal status or the employment opportunities available in a country suffering from high unemployment rates. However, some advocacy initiatives—often seemingly pro-Russian and pro-Iranian—are already fostering opposition against the group. Some of this opposition is often portrayed by the MEK leadership as an operation conducted by Iran’s security agencies (Lapsi.al, August 19; Media e Lire, April 17; Nejat NGO, September 29) Moreover, integrating the rest of the members still in Manëz into Albania’s society does not seem to be in the immediate interest for the MEK.
The MEK’s presence and activities may have serious repercussions for Albania and Albanian policy-makers. Leaders in Tirana may not foresee the long-term consequences of expanding their role on foreign policy issues beyond the small Balkan nation’s traditional reach. The group remains an existential threat to the Iranian regime. Over the years, Tehran has supported significant raids via Hezbollah and other proxy organizations in Iraq to destroy the group and kill key MEK leaders. As a result, Albanian authorities should expect more involvement from Iran in its internal and regional affairs. At the moment, there are no clear signs that Iran’s presence is significant in the region. Authorities in both Kosovo and Macedonia, however, have raised alarm bells over Iranian-linked NGOs having ties to terrorism-related activities in the past (Balkan Insight, June 25, 2015). If no effective responses are undertaken, MEK’s presence and Iran’s attention towards the Western Balkans may inflame sectarian divides in smaller communities and amplify regional rifts. Sectarian division is a latent phenomenon among Albanian Muslims, but they also remain under the pressure of other forms of Islamist radicalization. This is due to the emergence of Islamic State and Turkey’s instrumentalization of political Islam, among others.
Albania continues to struggle with endemic corruption and organized crime and the emergence of religious radicalization as a regional security threat and potential sectarian rifts may add to the list of challenges facing Albania’s political landscape. As a result, the country may not be prepared to inherit a long-standing struggle between a major regional Middle Eastern power and a former terrorist organization. Especially since both may utilize Albania’s internal vulnerabilities for their own political gains.
The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
Borzou Dargahi, THE INDEPENDENT, September 28 2018:… An Iranian exile group that is a darling of Washington conservatives has set up what critics describe as “a state within a state” inside the tiny Balkan nation of Albania. From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation …
The ‘political cult’ opposing the Iranian regime which has created a state within a state in Albania
The MEK’s former facility, near Tirana (Borzou Darghahi, The Independent)
In Tirana, Borzou Daragahi meets defectors of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, a controversial group which has found itself the darling of Washington
An Iranian exile group that is a darling of Washington conservatives has set up what critics describe as “a state within a state” inside the tiny Balkan nation of Albania.
From a well-guarded 84-acre (340,000 square metres, or 34 hectares) property it has forged on a hillside in the Albanian countryside, the group – called the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, commonly known by the acronym MEK, has begun handing out mysterious wads of cash, set up its own radio communications network, and launched deceptive information operations to influence debate about the Islamic Republic – its avowed enemy – say defectors of the group, relatives of members, and Albanian journalists, lawyers and a former intelligence official.
In addition, it has been accused of locking up members inside the camp against their will, an allegation that has long dogged the organisation, which is led by Iranian exile couple Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, and described by former members and Iran experts as a political cult.
“We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws,” says Olsi Yazici, an Albanian writer who is part of the legal team attempting to find out more about the group.
“They are behaving in Albania like a mafia – breaking laws, blackmailing, paying people off, beating people, threatening defectors, accusing anyone who questions them of being an Iranian agent and controlling their members in the camp through Stalinist totalitarian methods. And at the end, they claim to be democrats who will save Iran.”
The Independent reached out to several MEK spokespersons and representatives, seeking comment for the story.
As this report was being prepared, the organisation released a five and a half minute video clip that showed drone footage of what it called its “residential compound”, which appears made up of dozens of buildings, and a main entrance flanked by a pair of golden lions, a symbol of the MEK.
The video showed Albanians on construction jobs in the camp, as well as members sipping tea with Albanian neighbours, or making music in a studio, including a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
We are supposed to be living in a free and democratic country. But they have built a state within a state that implements its own laws
Olsi Yazici, Albanian writer
“Terrorist, terrorist,” the men screamed at the elderly couple, their arms locked, as they sought to walk away. Canadian-Iranians Mostafa and Mahboubeh Mohammadi say they have struggled to get their daughter, Somayeh, out of the MEK for 21 years.
They haven’t spoken to her since 2004, when they travelled to central Iraq to make a desperate attempt to get her and her younger brother out of the camp the group then occupied. Once they had been sympathisers and had even raised money for the group.
“We would spread out on the streets and show pictures of Iranians the regime had killed, and say their kids are stuck in refugee camps,” recalls Mostafa Mohammadi.
But eventually the Mohammadis turned against the group, which they claimed tricked their daughter into travelling to Iraq, seized her passport, and pressed her into the organisation. Through tremendous effort involving US and Canadian diplomats, they say they managed to extract their son, who is now living in Canada, but not their daughter.
The MEK says Somayeh is in the organisation of her own free will, and has issued videos of her disowning her parents.
Maryam Rajavi, co-leader of the MEK, delivers a video speech during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in Manhattan, 22 September 2018 (Reuters)
At least one other former member of the group in Tirana says he was able to leave the organisation once he told them he wished to part ways.
“I choose to pursue my own life,” he says, asking that his name not be published. “There was no pressure to stay.”
A lengthy statement by the group on the website of its front group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that that Mostafa Mohammadi had been in Tehran in 2008 – an allegation he denies – and called Mohammadi’s lawyer an “agent” of the Iranian intelligence services.
The five and a half minute video shows footage of Somayeh Mohammadi with a caption reading that she insists the “Iranian regime deployed her father to accuse MEK (of having) kidnapped her”.
When the Mohammadis first came to Albania to find Somayeh, they were given the runaround by authorities in Tirana, who insisted she was not in the country.
But they managed to get confirmation from a sympathetic local refugee resettlement group that she had arrived in Tirana in 2015. Just days before the confrontation with the MEK members, the Mohammadis managed to prompt a police officer to enter the camp and confirm that she was there, possibly the first time an Albanian official wielding a warrant entered the compound.
“This was a big shock for the MEK,” says Yazici, the writer. “This diminished the role of the commanders in the eyes of the members.”
The Mohammadis had heard that she made her way one day a week to a Tirana hospital, serving as a translator for MEK members seeking medical care. They waited nearby to catch a glimpse of her on 27 July. After a few hours they became discouraged, and began heading back to their hotel.
That’s when a group of four men – who later transpired to be MEK enforcers – surrounded the elderly couple and began screaming “terrorist” at them.
Police soon arrived to break up the melee. Startling the officers, the MEK enforcers continued to strike Mohammadi in front of them, screaming that the frail couple were “terrorists”.
The police rounded up the Mohammadis as well as the MEK enforcers and took everyone to a Tirana police station. MEK leaders summoned their lawyer, Margarita Kola, as well as some leaders of the group. Kola, who once worked as a counsel for the US Embassy in Tirana, claimed she was acting on behalf of the Americans.
“She said, ‘You know who I am or not?’” recalls Migena Banna, the lawyer representing the Mohammadis, who was also at the police station. “She said, ‘I am not just a lawyer, I’m a legal representative of the US embassy.’ Then the police changed their behaviour.”
Kola told The Independent that she did not work for the US embassy but declined to answer whether she had originally made the claim.
Under pressure, police let the MEK members go, but held on to the Mohammadis for eight hours. The Tirana prosecutors’ office told The Independent the case remains under investigation.
Mostafa Mohammadi went to a hospital for treatment for his bruises. By then, the video of the pack of MEK enforcers assaulting the couple had gone viral on Albanian social media. Local television stations arrived to meet the couple, and stories about the search for their daughter began to air. Albanians were outraged.
“We have so many other refugees, Syrians, Iraqis. They can do everything. They go shopping. They are out on the streets,” says Yazici. “Where are these MEK people? Why can’t we see them?”
Retired Colonel Ylli Zyla, a former Albanian counter-terror and intelligence official, has become an MEK watcher (Borzou Daragahi/The Independent)
Much of the world was worried when Donald Trump was elected US president in November 2016. The leaders of the MEK celebrated.
“It was like a wedding,” recalls Hassan Heyrani, a former member of the group’s political committee who defected this year. “It was the whole election of Trump that prompted the group to move forward with the new camp. They were so happy. They said, ‘The geopolitical engine of the region is turning.’”
The story of the 50-year-old group is bound up in the wars, uprisings, and political twists of the Middle East. It was founded by leftist students decades ago to fight against the regime of Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, carrying out assassinations of US officials in Iran who were backing him.
It later turned against the clerics who took over in Tehran during the 1979 revolution, staging bomb attacks during the 1980s, when it was granted a camp northeast of Baghdad and joined along Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.
That move destroyed its popularity among the vast majority of Iranians. But with dozens of tanks and thousands of fighters positioned at a sprawling and inhospitable desert compound called Camp Ashraf, in a province adjacent to the Iranian border, it remained a threat to the Islamic Republic.
Its fortunes changed after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein. US forces at first bombed the group as an appendage of the Baghdad regime, pulverising many of its tanks. But Washington conservatives later began to cultivate MEK as a potential way of pressuring Tehran.
The group eventually ran afoul of Iranian-backed politicians of the new Iraqi political elite. Members were pressured to leave Camp Ashraf, which was taken over by the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade militia, and relocate to Camp Liberty, on the same compound as US forces and the Baghdad International Airport.
Under pressure by Baghdad authorities to remove the group, the US managed to convince the government of Albania to take in a couple hundred members of the group as refugees in 2013, in what was described as a humanitarian gesture.
But as they came under attack by Iranian-backed Shia militias, as well as pressure by Isis militants, the plan to move a few hundred to Albania somehow turned into bringing the entire organisation from Iraq to southeastern Europe.
Once they had fully moved to Albania, the group first took up residence in a series of empty apartment buildings scattered around the city, and continued its fade into obscurity and irrelevance.
Leaders tried in vain to keep long-isolated members – curious about the modern world, and barred from sex and dating –from drifting away. They tried to erect barriers around one apartment building, but they were promptly torn down by angry local authorities.
Canadian-Iranians Mostafa and Mahboubeh Mohammadi have tried to get their daughter, Somayeh, out of the MEK for 21 years (Borzou Daragahi/The Independent)
With Mr Trump’s election, everything changed. The MEK had spent years cultivating Washington figures such as John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani, who were forces in the new administration in Washington.
In addition, an ambitious and stridently anti-Iran Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman took the reins in Saudi Arabia, and began looking for allies in his aim to roll back and possibly topple the clerical government in Tehran.
Beginning in July 2017, just as Trump began re-imposing sanctions on Iran that Obama had lifted as part of the nuclear deal, the MEK suddenly began buying plots of land in Albania, in a rural stretch of farmland near the town of Manza, between the Albanian capital and the Adriatic Sea.
The Trump administration continues to maintain strong ties with the MEK. At the weekend, the president’s lawyer addressed a gathering of the group at a midtown Manhattan hotel, describing the MEK as an antidote to the brutality and repression of the “outlaws and murderers” in power in Tehran. “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy,” he said.
Albanian investigative journalist Gjergi Thanasi said the group paid $13m (£9.9m) to buy the first 200,000 square metres of the compound, has since bought another 140,000 square metres, and continues buying up property and racking up significant water, electricity, and internet bills.
They pay for everything with huge wads of cash, sometimes piles of local currency that they purchase through street vendors rather than banks or exchange shops, but also with “crisp hundred-dollar bills”, says Thanasi, leaving no bank trail.
“They pay bills on time,” he says. “They pay in cash. They buy small things in shops or even in malls. They always pay in cash. They do not use bank cards. They love not leaving a footprint.”
Thanasi found the group purchased 1,700 Lenovo brand computers and monitors from an Albanian firm. At first he thought it was some scam to evade import duties and resell the computers at a profit. But the MEK paid full price for the devices. They wanted the computers for the camp, and paid for them in cash. “What the hell do you need so many computers for?” he quips.
The group has a number of big-ticket expenses. It has set up a dedicated high-speed internet. It also managed to obtain official permission to set up its own antenna atop Mount Dajti, on the peaks overlooking Tirana, giving it effectively its own communications network.
A private Albanian security firm, called Argon, guard the camp and its entrances, deploying perhaps nine personnel armed with assault rifles and handguns in six-hour shifts around the clock.
It remains unclear why Albania, a small Balkan country struggling to overcome its reputation for corruption and money laundering in order to become a member of the EU, would allow such a shadowy group to operate with so little scrutiny.
“If I want to buy a car for 2,000 or 3,000 euros I have to use a bank in order to pay for the car,” says Thanasi. “I have to circulate the money through the bank and justify that this quantity comes out of my personal savings.”
The organisation appears to have strong connections to senior Albanian officials. Pandeli Majko, a minister in the current Albanian government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, Fatmir Mediu, a former defence minister, and Elona Gjebrea, a former deputy interior minister, were with Giuliani when he visited Tirana earlier this year for Persian New Year festivities hosted by the MEK.
Heyrani, the 38-year-old former member of the MEK’s political section, says he suspected the group’s sudden riches were coming from Saudi Arabia’s coffers, through a channel organised by Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, who over the summer, attended an MEK rally in France, along with Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, and Bolton, the White House National Security Adviser.
Heyrani says he had no evidence of Saudi support for the group other than conversations with members of its political leadership. “I said, ‘What a big camp, with so many buildings,’” Heyrani recalls. “He said, ‘Finally, Faisal laid the golden egg.’”
A spokesperson for the the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. Ali Shihabi, founder of the Riyadh-backed Arabia Foundation think tank, said that Prince Turki has denied serving as a conduit for MEK funds.
Hassan Shahbaz, 50 years old, had joined the MEK shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. But it wasn’t until he got to Tirana that he discovered that his elderly mother, two brothers, and two sisters had risked their lives to travel to Iraq in the midst of that country’s 2006 civil war to visit him. When they arrived they were turned away from the camp entrance. “They told them I wasn’t there, and turned them back,” he says today.
When he confronted MEK superiors about their action, they told him to let it go. “For now, freeze it,” he was told.
A few weeks later, during an outing with other MEK members in April, he quietly slipped away from the group, took a taxi back to Tirana and became one of the growing members of the group to defect.
“Back then when they kept us locked up, they could say it’s for our own protection, that the government of Iraq is in the pocket of Iran,” he says. “What’s the argument here?”
Sheltered inside the camp, which members nickname Ashraf 3, the organisation has recreated what critics call its cult-like structure. Members are told to spy on each other, recount their dreams, and take part in hours-long indoctrination sessions.
Defiant members are punished with days-long isolation, barred from contact with their comrades. After outings to hospitals or shops they are patted down, for fear they have tried to smuggle phones into the camp.
The camp is divided into several sections, with the northernmost end reserved exclusively for France-based Rajavi on her rare visits, and an underclass of mostly male labourers separated from the rest of the elite by fences and checkpoints at the far south of the camp.
Heyrani calls the camp a version of Animal Farm, after the book written by George Orwell about an isolated and authoritarian society. In a statement, the group said MEK members “have been been targets of the Iranian regime’s terrorism,” and needed protection. The statement said the MEK members at the camp “have always welcomed friends, dignitaries and journalists from Albania and other countries, both in their current and previous residences. But they are vigilant and experienced enough not to welcome the Iranian regime’s agents.”
Unable to draw new recruits, the organisation is aging and greying, and many of the members might choose to remain in the camp for fear of the outside world.
“They are very lost people,” says retired Colonel Ylli Zyla, a former Albanian counter-terror and intelligence official. “On average they are more than 50 years old. They are slowly, slowly dying off one by one. They don’t have any useful professional backgrounds. All of them are brainwashed.”
Most days, the cadres seem to be deployed on the social media battleground, in an attempt to give an illusion of the popularity the group lacks on the ground.
They spend long hours engaged in Twitter wars against supporters of the Tehran government or even Islamic Republic opponents who also publicly oppose the MEK. “We are told to attack accounts of people who are opposed to or critical of the MEK,” says Heyrani. “Or we would retweet Maryam Rajavi’s speeches.”
They were also told to pretend to take political identities other than MEK supporters. “They would tell us right now the environment is not good for us,” he recalls, in an allegation that was confirmed by other defectors. “They would say that because of the propaganda against us by the regime, it’s better to pretend we’re monarchists, or just Iranian democracy activists.”
Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the MEK, on Twitter denounced allegations that the group was running a troll factory in Albania as “preposterous”, calling it a narrative “dictated” by Iranian intelligence officers to international media. The video for the group shows a room full of computers, with members collecting video of protests inside Iran.
Zyla has become something of an expert on the group. Though he says it poses no threat to Albanian national security, he says it has begun to challenge the country’s public order. Its members have been known to harass defectors, who mill about in Tirana’s cafes, and attend weekly vocational training sessions organised by the UN. One defector said he’s been threatened six times since he left the group.
“Even the police are not allowed to go inside,” Zyla tells The Independent. “The Ministry of Interior almost has no control over the camp. Police patrols, to my knowledge, are not allowed in the MEK complex. Their camp has turned into a mysterious bunker.”
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
Aljazeera, September 16 2018:… For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory. The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana. the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition …
“Faking the online debate on Iran”(Mojahedin Khalq, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, NCRI Trolling base in Albania exposed)
For a country that has been on the wrong end of United States foreign policy for nearly four decades, it is no surprise the debate over Iran has been polarising. The US’s decision to withdrawal from the nuclear deal this year has boosted those calling for the hardest stance against the Islamic Republic.
Those pushing back against what many say is an agenda for regime change in Iran are reporting an online backlash the likes of which they have not seen before. However, the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition voices they are made out to be.
For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organised troll factory.
The Listening Post’s Will Yong investigated this story and the trail has led him, surprisingly, to Tirana, Albania.
Trita Parsi – Author, Losing an Enemy – Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy Azadeh Moaveni – Fellow, New America Marc Owen Jones – Lecturer in Middle East history, Exeter University Hassan Heyrani – Former MEK member Hassan Shahbaz – Former MEK member
Albanian Police Report says Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, Rajavi cult) Kill Their Own Members
Iran Interlink, September 13 2018:… The report acknowledges MEK’s history of killing its own members in Iraq and says police believe this will also happen in Albania. In June 2018, Albanian media reported a possible MEK assassination after one of the camp residents was reported drowned in an irrigation channel. The alarm was raised by some MEK members who gave conflicting accounts …
Following a Channel Four News report on the MEK in Albania, presented by international editor Lindsey Hilsum, there has been widespread interest in this issue in the Albanian media. In particular journalists have focused on a secret report by Albania’s National Police, which was obtained by Channel Four News. The report states that MEK in Albania poses a lethal threat to their own members if they try leave or try to leave.
In June 2018, Albanian media reported a possible MEK assassination after one of the camp residents was reported drowned in an irrigation channel. The alarm was raised by some MEK members who gave conflicting accounts of Malek Shara’i’s drowning. This indicated that they knew from the start he was dead, even though after extensive searches by expert police and navy divers, no body was found for over two weeks.
Eventually, after the scandal of his disappearance became headline news in Albania, a body was suddenly discovered. Shara’i’s family in Iran made a plea to the authorities to discover how he had died. However, MEK convinced the Coroner that a post mortem investigation would be against Iranian sacred burial traditions! MEK then took away the body. There is now a grave bearing his name in the cemetery in Tirana alongside other MEK who have died in that country. The case was closed.
Shara’i’s next of kin are his immediate family who quickly got in touch with the Albanian authorities. They informed investigators that Shara’i had been a strong swimmer and a lifeguard back in Iran. However, they were not consulted at any stage in the investigation or asked for permission for an autopsy, nor told a cause of death or asked about burial preferences.
Putting aside the possible reason that Shara’i died – former members said he had long wanted to leave but knew sensitive information which MEK wanted to keep secret – the failure of the Coroner to challenge MEK’s ridiculous assertion that a post mortem examination is against ‘their’ culture, leaves an opening now for MEK to kill and bury unwanted members with impunity. Apparently, no Albanian institution has the will or capability to resist MEK corruption.
Nevertheless, as the following reports demonstrate, Albanian citizens as well as their security forces, are seriously questioning the appropriateness of MEK’s presence in their small and vulnerable country.
Police secret report: Mojahedin pose a threat to security in Albania
7 September 2018
Mojahedin pose a danger to Albania’s security, according to the English Channel 4 public broadcaster. The television channel’s main correspondent, Lindsey Hilsum, has broadcast a report on the Mojahedin in Albania, including a secret police file of the State Police.
According to this document, signed by director general of the Albanian State Police, Ardi Veliu, Mojahedin constitute a security risk in Albania, as there are reasonable suspicions that members of the MEK group may kill members who leave or attempt to get out of the group.
Mojahedin “may have implications for internal security, as these individuals are deeply indoctrinated, have been part of military structures, have participated in fighting and acts of terror,” the secret document says.
The Mojahedin cult, otherwise known as MEK, became a terrorist group and was included in the 2012 U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Given the indoctrination of members and their activity in Iraq, State Police suspects that they may repeat their killings of members who leave the group.
“Former members of this organization have been murdered in Iraq after they have appeared publicly in opposition to the organization’s activities … following the indication of the actions and behaviors of the citizens in question who are currently separated from this organization, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that this situation is the same as happened in Iraq, which was followed by murder”, reads the document signed by Ardi Veliu.
Currently the Mojahedin have been accommodated in a large camp at Manez in Durres, where they are under continuous scrutiny by the Albanian authorities to prevent any potential danger they may have for the security of the country.
SECRET POLICE REPORT / Mojahedin ALBANIA, capable of terrorist acts, must be kept under control (documentary CHANNEL 4 NEWS)
10 September 2018
Within Albania, a giant camp is being built for the Mojahedin. Information and some video footage were collected by journalist Lindsey Hilsum, an international editor and presenter of Channel 4 News, who has come to Albania and tried to visit the camp.
She wanted to go to the headquarters of MEK, Iran’s largest opposition group, which has been established for several years in Albania. And one of Iran’s opposition’s friends, is US President Donald Trump.
John Bolton, President Trump’s advisor, spoke to members of the Iranian opposition last year in Albania and how they should take power.
Journalist Lindesy Hilsum has gone to the camp and was not allowed by private guards to enter the camp to conduct interviews.
“I do not understand why the private guards won’t allow us. We are here in Albania”, she says in the documentary, while she says she was accused by the Mojahedin as a spy in the Iranian regime.
But behind the camp’s wire fence the journalist has seen numerous machines working, highlighting the fact that the camp is expanding, though no one will speak.
Even though she has presented her journalist’s identity card, the Albanian private guards have not allowed her to do her job. “Stop the footage”, the private security guard is heard on the camera and then puts his hand on the camera to prevent the footage.
In the Iran-Iraq war, MEK fought on the side of Saddam Hussein, the journalist says, against their country. The Iranian regime at that time executed hundreds of members of the opposition, MEK. They operated from military bases in Iraq and were then classified by the US as a terrorist organization.
When the Americans removed Saddam in 2003, MEK surrendered to US troops. But they were always under attack by pro-Iranian forces. And at that moment the US has revoked MEK’s terrorist status and then dispersed the Mojahedin in four US-backed countries, one of them being Albania.
“In Tirana, I met a couple of Canadian citizens who distributed leaflets to citizens while saying that MEK is not good for their country.
They said they came to Albania to see their daughter, Somayeh, claiming she was kidnapped by MEK 20 years ago and they found her in Albania.”
“I am not against Mojahedin. I have no interest in politics. I want to see my daughter, only for 10 minutes”, says the girl’s father to the Channel4News journalist.
Somayeh Mohammadi told another reporter that her father was an Iranian spy and she would not see him. “He came to Albania to spy on our camp. He has come to Albania to tell people that Mojahedin have abducted me. But this is not true” was the girl’s assertion.
The Mojahedin in the Albanian camp are afraid that former members of the group are spying on them and want to eliminate them.
The journalist also found a former Mojahedin member who shows that life in the MEK camp is not free. He has talked willingly about the division of men and women in the camp and that they should not have any opinion about sex. “During the day, every camp member had to write about sexual thoughts and every evening we should read them in front of others and commanders”, he says.
Plan of Albanian police measures
The journalist has come across the plan of the Albanian police to maintain the Iranian opposition in Albania. The document is titled, “Action Plan for Monitoring and Preventing and Preventing Possible Crime in the Perspective of Iranian Nationals Members of the MEK Organization Hosted in Albania”.
“Currently, in the territory of the Republic of Albania, 2745 Iranian citizens have been sheltered for several years. These citizens are part of the MEK organization, otherwise known as the Iranian opposition. The arrival of Iranian asylum seekers in our country can have implications for internal security, as these individuals are deeply indoctrinated, have been part of military structures, have participated in fighting and acts of terror”, the Albanian police write.
According to the document, Mojahedin Khalq or Iran’s Mojahedin Organization, otherwise known as MEK and PMOI, is a revolutionary Marxist-Islamic group, founded in 1965.
In the secret document of the Albanian police, it is said that three Iranian nationals, separated from the camp and living in Tirana, have had their lives threatened by the MEK. And they have reported this at the police station in Tirana in February 2018.
“With regard to these situations and from the data obtained in the operative, it has been learned that: Previously in Iraq Former members of this organization have been murdered in Iraq after they have appeared publicly in opposition to the organization’s activities with the intent of damaging its cause. As can be seen above, and the statements given by Iranian citizens on the “Fiks Fare” show and the charges made to the police commissariats by these citizens, the time, the way of acting, their behavior is similar to the way in a situation of happened earlier in Iraq.
Along the way, by looking at the indications of the actions and behaviors of the concerned citizens who are currently separated from this organization, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that this situation is the same as happened in Iraq, which was followed by murder.
Assessing the importance of the above information from the state police institution, a maximum assessment of this situation should be carried out and full measures should be planned as follows:
To undertake a thorough assessment of security measures, to ensure public safety, to prevent any criminal act that may occur between members of the MEK organization and its detained persons.
Assess any information related to this situation in order to prevent possible criminal incidents.
Instruct, engage and maximize the capabilities of all state police officers to recognize and engage in the pursuit of these elements. Identification of all settlements and settlements of Iranian nationals in our country and mainly in Tirana and Durres, “reads in the secret police document of the state.
Ylli Zyla, former Chief of Information Service from 2008-2012, also spoke about this organization. “It is strictly strict and if anyone comes out of their criminal framework they are executed by their own members within themselves”, says Ylli Zyla.
Channel4 contacted MEK but was accused of spying for Iran and wanting to break the Iranian opposition. Meanwhile, the journalist shows the support of many politicians from the United States.
“Maybe, according to journalist Lindsey Hilsum, MEK is more threatened by itself than by Iran. In the camp, while they are not allowed to have children, there will be no new generation.
Outside Tirana, we found in the cemetery those who died of a disease, or even age. Everyone has died without seeing their families, and far from their homes.
RAPORTI SEKRET I POLICISË/ MUXHAHEDINËT NË SHQIPËRI, TË AFTË PËR AKTE TERRORISTE, TË MBAHEN NËN KONTROLL (DOKUMENTARI I CHANNEL4NEWS) Publikuar tek: AKTUALITET, më 13:42 10-09-2018
Brenda Shqipërisë, është duke u ndërtuar një kamp gjigand për muxhahedinët. Të dhënat dhe ato pak filmime janë marrë nga gazetarja Lindsey Hilsum, editore ndërkombëtare e Channel4News, që ka ardhur në Shqipëri dhe ka tentuar të hyjë brenda kampit.
Ka dashur te shkojë te zyrat qendrore te MEK, grupi më i madh opozitar i Iranit, që prej disa vitesh është vendosur në Shqipëri. Dhe një ndër miqtë e opozitës iraniane, është presidenti i SHBA, Donald Trump.
John Bolton, këshilltar i presidentit Trump ishte vitin e kaluar në Shqipëri, ku foli përpara anëtarëve të opozitës Iraniane dhe mënyrës sesi ata duhet të marrin pushtetin.
Gazetarja Lindesy Hilsum, ka shkuar në kamp dhe nuk është lejuar nga rojet private të hyjë brenda kampit për të kryer intervistat.
“Nuk e kuptoj pse nuk na lënë rojet private. Ne ketu jemi në Shqipëri”, thotë ajo në dokumentarin e realizuar, ndërsa thotë se është akuzuar nga muxhahedinët si një spiune e regjimit iranian.
Por gazetarja, prapa telave të kampit, ka parë makineri të shumta që punojnë, duke evidentuar faktin se kampi po zgjerohet, edhe pse askush nuk do të flasë.
Edhe pse ka prezantuar dokumentin e saj si gazetare, rojet private shqiptare nuk e kanë lënë të kryejë detyrën. “Stop filmimeve”, dëgjohet në kamera roja i sigurisë private dhe më pas vendos dorën tek kamera për të mos lejuar filmimet.
Në luftën Iran-Irak, MEK u vendos në krah të Sadam Hyseinit, thotë gazetarja, kundër vendit të tyre. Regjimi iranian në atë kohë, ekzekutoi qindra anëtarë të opozitës, MEK. Ata operonin në baza militare në Irak dhe në atë kohë ishin klasifikuar nga SHBA si organizatë terroriste.
Kur amerikanët rrëzuan Sadamin në 2003, MEK u dorëzuan te trupat amerikane. Por gjithmonë ishin nën sulmin e forcave pro-iraniane. Dhe në këtë moment, SHBA revokoi statusin e terroristëve për MEK. Dhe më pas, shpërndanë muxhahedinët në katër vende që kishin mbëshetjen e SHBA, dhe një prej tyre ishte Shqipëria.
“Në Tiranë takova një cift me shtetësi kanadeze që shpërndanin fletëpalosje për qytetarët ndërsa thoshin se MEK nuk është gjë e mirë për vendin e tyre.
Ata thanë se kanë ardhur në Shqipëri të shohin vajzën e tyre, Samaja, që pretendojnë se është rrëmbyer nga MEK, 20 vjet më parë dhe gjendet në Shqipëri.
“Nuk jam kundër muxhahedinëve. Nuk kam asnjë qëllim për këtë. Unë dua të shoh vajzën time, vetëm për 10 minuta” thotë i ati i vajzës për gazetaren e Channel4News.
Samaja Mohamedy, i tha gazetares së Channel4 se babai i saj ishte një spiun iranian dhe ajo nuk do ta shohë atë. “Ka ardhur në Shqipëri për të spiunuar kampin tonë. Ai ka ardhur në Shqipëri t’u thotë njerëzve se muxhahedinët më kanë rrëmbyer. Por kjo nuk është e vërtetë” ishte pohimi i vajzës.
Muxhahedinët në kampin shqiptar janë të frikësuar se ish komandantët janë duke i vëzhguar dhe duan t’i eleminojnë.
Gazetarja ka gjetur edhe një muxhahedin që i tregon se jeta në kampin e MEK nuk është e lirë. Ai ka treguar me vullnet të lirë ndarjen e burrave dhe grave në kamp dhe se në të, ata nuk duhet të kishin asnjë mendim as për seksin. “Gjatë ditës, çdo anëtar i kampit duhet të shkruante për mendimet seksuale dhe çdo mbrëmje duhet t’i lexonim ato përpara të tjerëve dhe komandantëve” thotë ai.
Plani i masave i policisë shqiptare
Gazetares i ka rënë në dorë plani i masave të policisë shqiptare për të ruajtur opozitën iraniane në Shqipëri. “Plan masash për monitorimin dhe mbajtjen nën kontroll dhe parandalimin e ngjarjeve të mundshme kriminale në drejtim të shtetasve iranianë pjesëtarë të organizatës MEK të strehuar në Shqipëri” është titulli i dokumentit.
“Aktualisht në territorin e RSH janë strehuar 2745 shtetas iranianë të ardhur prej disa vitesh. Këta shtetas janë pjesë e organizatës MEK e njohur ndryshe si opozita iraniane. Ardhja në vendin tonë e azilkërkuesve iranianë, mund të sjellë implikime në sigurinë e brendshme, pasi këta individë, janë të indoktrinuar thellësisht, kanë qenë pjesë e strukturave ushtarake, kanë marrë pjesë në luftime dhe në akte terrori” shkruan dokumenti i policisë shqiptare.
Sipas dokumentit, Mojahedin e Khalq ose Organizata e Muxhahedinëve të Popullit të Iranit, njohur ndryshe si MEK dhe OMPI, është një grup revolucionar marksist-islamik, i themeluar në vitin 1965.
Në dokumentin sekret të policisë shqiptare, thuhet se tre shtetas iranianë, të shkëputur nga kampi dhe që jetojnë në Tiranë, janë kërcënuar me jetë nga MEK. Dhe ata kanë denoncuar në komisariatin e policisë në Tiranë në shkurt 2018.
“Në lidhje me këto situate dhe nga të dhënat e marra në rrugë operative është mësuar se: Më parë në Irak kanë ndodhur vrasje të- ish anëtarëve të kësaj organizate të shkëputur prej saj pasi ata kanë dalë publikisht duke iu kundërvenë veprimtarisë së organizatës me qëllim dëmtimin e kauzës së saj. Nga sa shihet më lart dhe intevistimet e dhëna nga shtetasit iranianë në emisionin “Fiks Fare” si dhe kallzimet e bëra në komisariatet e policisë nga këta shtetas, koha, mënyra e të vepruarit, sjelljes së tyre është e ngjashme si mënyrë me një situatë të ndodhur më parë në Irak.
Në vijimësi, duke parë indikacionet e veprimeve dhe sjelljeve të shtetasve në fjalë të cilët aktualisht janë të shkëputur nga kjo organizatë, ka dyshime të arsyeshme se kjo situatë është e njëjtë me atë të ndodhur më parë në Irak e cila është pasuar me vrasje.
Duke vlerësuar rëndësinë e informacioneve të mësipërme nga strukturat e policisë së shtetit duhet të kryhet vlerësim maksimal për këtë situatë dhe të planifikohen masa të plota si më poshtë vijon:
Të bëhet vlerësimi i lartë i masave të sigurisë, për të garantuar sigurinë publike, parandalimin e ndonjë akti kriminal që mund të ndodhë midis anëtarëve të organizatës MEK dhe personave të shkëputur prej saj. Të vlerësohet çdo informacion lidhur me këtë situatë me qëllim parandalimin e mundshëm të ngjarjeve kriminale. Instruktim, angazhim dhe vlerësim maksimal i të gjithë punonjësve të policisë së shtetit që të njihen dhe të angazhohen në ndjekjen e këtyre elementeve. Identifikimin e të gjitha vendbanimeve dhe vendqëndrimeve të shtetasve iranianë në vendin tonë dhe kryesisht në Tiranë dhe në Durrës”, shkruhet në dokumentin sekret të policisë së shtetit. Ylli Zyla, ish shef i Shërbimit Informativ nga viti 2008-2012 ka folur gjithashtu për këtë organizatë. “Eshtë me rregulla strikte dhe nëse ndokush del nga korniza e tyre kriminale ata ekzekutohen nga vetë anëtarët e tyre brenda vetes” thotë Ylli Zyla.
Channel4 kontaktoi MEK por u akuzuan si spiunë të Iranit dhe se donte të thyente opozitën iraniane. Ndërkohë gazetarja tregon mbështetjen e shumë politikanëve nga SHBA.
“Ndoshta, konstaton gazetarja Lindsey Hilsum, MEK kërcënohet më shumë nga vetja sesa nga Irani. Në kamp, përderisa nuk lejohet që të ketë fëmijë, nuk do të ketë asnjë gjeneratë të re.
Jashtë Tiranës, ne gjetëm edhe varrezat e tyre, për ata që kanë vdekur nga ndonjë sëmundje, apo edhe mosha. Të gjithë kanë vdekur pa parë familjet e tyre, dhe shumë larg nga shtëpitë.
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
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? 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.
Massoud Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, July 23 2017:… Although the MEK are experts at intimidation and propaganda, in reality the expulsion of the MEK from Europe should be neither controversial nor unexpected. No government in Europe supports the presence of extremists in their midst and the MEK has a long history of extremist behaviour and messaging. The self-immolations in western capitals are an example of their actual behaviour …
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Open minds, July 08 2017:… Anne Khodabandeh. After twenty years in the terrorist cult Mojahedin-e Khalq, Anne (with her husband Massoud Khodabandeh) established the English language www.iran-interlink.org website in 2001 to expose the group as a cult and support former members. Anne works with families of MEK campaigning to rescue their loved ones. Anne has written extensively …
Massoud Khodabandeh,, Huffpost, June 28 2017:… Like many statements and petitions over the years which mention the MEK this looks like fake news. Anyway, it would have been much easier to pass this off as genuine if Deprez had also published the names of the 265 signatories. As parliamentarians, it is doubtful they would feel endangered by publicly announcing their views in this way. Unless, of course, they had spotted the …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffpost, June 27 2017:… Perhaps the time is finally ripe for a new appraisal of what zero tolerance means for France. The MEK’s messages promoting violent regime change should no longer be tolerated. President Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist movement has won a large majority in the French parliament giving him a strong hand to play. He already revealed himself to be a shrewd and …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, June 20 2017:… The following piece has been written by somebody I know well. He does not want his real name to be used because that would jeopardize the sensitive nature of his current work in counter terrorism in Europe – Massoud Khodabandeh… As a former member of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organization (MEK), I followed the news of terrorist attacks on Tehran with shame, guilt and anger. My shame and guilt stem …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffpost, June 02 2017:… The meeting was organised by Ana Gomes, SND (Portugal) and seconded by Marietje Schaake, ALDE (Netherlands) and Michael Gahler, Christian Democrats (Germany). Two expert speakers were invited to address the meeting: Nicola Pedde, Director Institute for Global Studies, Italy and Massoud Khodabandeh, Director Middle East Strategy Consultants, UK. …
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Huffpost, May 18 2017:… In Albania, Elona Gjebrea also has close ties to the United States on the issue of people trafficking and slavery. The US embassy in Tirana, Albania acknowledged the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report in June 2016 by saying, “The United States appreciates the close cooperation with the Government of Albania, civil society and especially National …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Top topic, May 08 2017:… Rajavi then publishes these alongside letters signed by American personalities in support of the MEK. The letters from the Americans are addressed to the Albanian Prime Minister and bear the familiar hallmark of MEK authorship. (One letter published by the MEK is signed in blue ink. We can only speculate how the MEK obtained the original letter which should have been sent directly from the Americans to the Albanian PM!) …
National Geographic, March 04 2017:… Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to …
Associated Press, February 16 2017:… The group at one point successfully infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, according to a State Department report. And a series of bombings attributed to the MEK accompanied visits by presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Iran, including one to target an American cultural center. In 1973, MEK assailants wearing motorcycle helmets shot dead U.S. Army Lt. …
Iran Interlink, February 15 2017:… The following OpEd by MEK advocate Col. Wes Martin was published first in The Hill, followed by Mojahedin Khalq’s “Iran Probe” and the “NCRI” websites. Iran Interlink has published it here as indication of how hysteria has become the new normal in American published writing. A form of madness appears to have infected US politics and now all and sundry are dancing …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, February 07 2017:… He also signals that his war is not with ISIS but with the country Iran. Donald Trump rose to victory in part on the promise to take on ISIS and defeat the group. Yet ISIS cannot be defeated except by a coalition of forces that includes Iran. The facts on the ground in Syria and Iraq demonstrate unequivocally that ISIS forces in Aleppo and Mosul have been defeated largely due to the involvement
Gazeta Impakt, Albania, Translated by Iran Interlink, January 01 2017:… According to Fatos Klosi, former director of the National Intelligence Service, the American CIA chief has warned Albania that Donald Trump will renounce support for the MEK terrorists and it will be the Albanian Government itself which must deal with internal security and must confront a group trained militarily from the time of Saddam Hussein …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, December 24 2016:… That can only happen if journalists and investigatory bodies (human rights, nuclear experts, war crimes, etc) are able to base their work on facts and not the fake and fictionalised fantasies of stooges like the MEK, which are clearly designed to misinform on these issues. The information laundry cycle is not difficult to follow – the Washington Times takes its report …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, November 12 2016:… In particular, Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton and Newt Gingrich. Putting aside their weak personalities as well as their individual neoconservative agendas, the common thread which links these names together is their decade long support for the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist organisation (also known as Saddam’s Private Army or Rajavi cult). It is certain that … .
Iran Interlink, October 30 2016:… Local observers in Tirana are reporting that the Mojahedin Khalq cultic terror group (MEK) is buying and creating several sandwich and kebab shops in the city and is using the MEK members to work in these fast-food businesses. On the surface this may look like a positive move. In an article titled ‘Albania: What would a de-radicalization program for the Mojahedin Khalq involve’, it was …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iran Interlink, October 16 2016:… In spite of American promises, no de-radicalisation programme is in place to deal with over 2500 members of the Mojahedin Khalq terrorist group who have relocated to Tirana from Iraq. The MEK has a long history of violent and criminal activity. This has not stopped now they are in Tirana. Unless the Albanian government introduces its own programme, it must accept …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington post (and Top Topic), October 09 2016:… For the local citizens, mystery surrounds their arrival and their lifestyle. Should these secretive and covert neighbours be treated with suspicion or kindness? At a local level, the first thing neighbouring families need to be aware of is that among all MEK members, sexual relations have been banned for over 25 years. This means there are no marriages or children or young people in the organisation. More troubling …
Massoud & Anne Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 14 2016:… Whether Rajavi is already dead or now killable is not known – only he can answer this – but he and his whole organisation are certainly now, body and soul, in the capable hands of the Saudi Prince. If he is still alive, Rajavi’s only role is to act as go-between to instruct his wife what she must do on behalf of the Saudis. If he is dead
Massoud Khodabandeh, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? Fro
Massoud Khodabandeh, Toptopic, July 03 2016:… So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious report
Press TV and Fars News, December 14 2019:... Iran says many of the rioters were found to have links to the notorious US-backed Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) terror group, royalists and separatists besides members of organized groups trained towards staging acts of sabotage. US leaders openly supported the rioters, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on them to send him…
Suddaf Chaudry, Middle East Eye, December 12 2019:... Gjergj Erebara, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, said the press conference - which he attended - was unusual, to say the least. “Albanian police gave no proof to substantiate its claims. They said they have discovered the “terrorist cell”, but they didn't make any arrests,” Erebara said. Hassan Heyrani,…
Tom O'connor, Newsweek, December 11 2019:... Until 2012, MEK was a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, something that represents the blurred lines that have long defined Washington's Middle East policies. In fighting ISIS, the U.S. partnered with the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group widely seen as tied to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and although Trump has adopted…
Nejat Society, December 10 2019:... In case of members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/the Cult of Rajavi), “terrorist” can simply fit the group based on its evident undisputed background of violent acts although it not listed as a terrorist organization by western states. The group leaders claim that they are “freedom fighters for people” which is…
Washington Post, December 09 2019:... The former New York mayor had robust work overseas before Trump took office. His companies, Giuliani Partners and Giuliani Security & Safety, provided security and emergency management consulting to governments in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Ukraine, among others. He gave paid speeches around the world, including to Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian resistance group operating…
Brian Freeman, News Max, December 08 2019:... As the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA formally unwinds through its sunset provisions, it will be critical to have Ambassador Bolton's expertise leading the policy discussion," Lieberman said. "The world has to rise to the challenge of confronting Iran's behavior and with the ambassador's help, UANI will continue to be a…
Iran Interlink, December 06 2019:... The point that Massoud Rajavi’s rant has only been issued in Farsi (and from Massoud Rajavi who is presumed dead and not the current leader Maryam Rajavi) shows this has been done only to shut up the dissent inside the camap rather than being about biting the hands feeding them. Ebrahim Khodabandeh of Nejat Society…
Tasnim News December 04 2019:... Dankof: All of the published reports over time indicate that the Saudi-backed terror groups are involved in (Sistan and) Balouchestan Province terrorist operations coming across the Pakistani-Iranian border. In Khuzestan Province, where unofficial reports indicate Iran has discovered a new potential deposit of oil in southwestern Iran, both groups and the nefarious Muhajedeen-e-Khalq (MEK-MKO) are…
Nora Doyle-Burr, Valley News, December 02 2019:... Giuliani referred to Ryan as “Dr.” because she holds a doctorate in health care administration from Warren National University, an online school that closed in 2009 following a failed accreditation bid. He also referred to Ryan as a “doctor” when he represented her daughter Vanessa, his personal assistant, in an insurance fraud case…
Balkans Post, Novemer 30 2019:... While Albanian citizens living in Tirana and Durres, 30 km and 15 km from the epicenter respectively, had some luck to avoid disaster, the members of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) aka National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCR) had none. Stationed only 5 km from the epicenter of the main…