Paul Pillar, Lobe log, November 13 2018:… As cult leaders, the husband-and-wife duo of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi have resembled the likes of Jim Jones and Shoko Asahara. Families have been broken up, married couples told to divorce, and women threatened with punishment if they did not “marry” Massoud and endure his sexual abuse. (Massoud dropped out of sight after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and it is not known whether he is dead or alive …
The MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, Rajavi cult, NCRI …) And The Bankrupt U.S. Policy On Iran
by Paul R. Pillar
Among the many indicators of misdirection in the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran, one of the clearest is the fondness for the cult-cum-terrorist group known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). National Security Advisor John Bolton and Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are among the group’s most prominent cheerleaders, having been featured speakers at its rallies. They and other shills for the MEK refer to the group as if it represented what it decidedly is not: a democratic alternative to the current Iranian political system.
Journalist Arron Merat, an experienced Iran-watcher who formerly was the Economist’s Tehran correspondent, has just published a 6,600-word article about the MEK in the Guardian. The piece is well worth reading as a richly informed and up-to-date portrait that leaves no doubt about the nature of the group and the ghastly inappropriateness of using the MEK in any way as a vehicle for U.S. policy in the region.
The MEK originated as a student movement that opposed the shah of Iran and spouted an ideology that weirdly combined Islamism and Marxism. The group was virulently anti-American from the beginning. Its terrorist operations targeted American-owned businesses, and it killed six American citizens in addition to its far more numerous Iranian victims. The MEK was a major player in toppling the shah in the 1979 revolution but soon had a falling out with the new Khomeini regime—among other things, the group opposed the regime’s release of the American hostages held at the U.S. embassy. The group continued its terrorism, with the only difference being that the Islamic Republic had replaced the shah’s regime as a principal target.
With the eight-year Iran-Iraq War already underway, the MEK threw in its lot with Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator gave the group weapons, cash, and a compound called Camp Ashraf in return for its continuing attacks inside Iran as well as helping Saddam suppress his own domestic opponents. Iranians understandably viewed this phase in the MEK’s history as an unforgivable act of treason, erasing whatever support the group previously had in Iran.
Merat’s article provides details of the cult-like aspects of how the MEK has functioned, earlier at Camp Ashraf and more recently, after the group had to leave Iraq, at a compound in Albania. As cult leaders, the husband-and-wife duo of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi have resembled the likes of Jim Jones and Shoko Asahara. Families have been broken up, married couples told to divorce, and women threatened with punishment if they did not “marry” Massoud and endure his sexual abuse. (Massoud dropped out of sight after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and it is not known whether he is dead or alive. Maryam continues as the public face of the group.) Stomach-turning details continue to emerge from the MEK’s current location in Albania, including stories of forced hysterectomies and would-be escapees subjected to solitary confinement. The former head of Albanian military intelligence says that MEK members live in the group’s current compound as “hostages” amid “extraordinary psychological violence and threats of murder.”
Buying a Makeover
The MEK’s efforts over the past two decades to convey a benign public image completely at odds with this internal reality, and to pose as a force for democracy in Iran, have depended on buying the public endorsements of well-known public figures. This has required money—lots of it. Five-figure speaking fees have flowed freely. Public disclosure forms indicate that Bolton received $40,000 for a single appearance at an MEK event in Paris last year, and Merat gives an estimate of $180,000 as the total that Bolton has received for his multiple appearances on behalf of the group.
In addition to the generous big-name fees, lobbying for the MEK has included other well-financed techniques. The crowd at the Paris event, for example, was supplemented by young people bussed in from Eastern Europe who enjoyed a free weekend in Paris. The group used the same rent-a-crowd technique for a demonstration outside the State Department when the MEK was ramping up its lobbying a few years ago to be delisted as a foreign terrorist organization. Some of the participants in that event were recruited at a homeless shelter in New York. They admitted knowing very little about the MEK but appreciated the free meals they were given for attending.
Where the money is coming from is still somewhat of a mystery. But some clues point to governments that are regional rivals of Iran as the most likely source.
Two further observations flow from this surprisingly successful but wholly unjustified remaking of the MEK’s image. One concerns how some famous—and perhaps otherwise respectable people—evidently have been willing to prostitute themselves to get in on those fat speaking fees. A wide range of political figures have played the game, from Howard Dean on the left to Bolton and many others on the right. Some of the players may have had little more understanding of the MEK when they got involved than did the guys from the homeless shelter in New York. Ed Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, freely admitted that he knew little about the group when he accepted an invitation to speak at an event the MEK staged at a downtown Washington hotel. He then told his audience—in a demonstration of the self-sustaining nature of big-name endorsements—that the reputations of the other speakers at the same event persuaded him that it must be for a worthwhile cause.
Not everyone has succumbed to the monetary temptations. Tip your hat, for example, to Elliott Abrams, a card-carrying neoconservative responsible for more than his fair share of misdirection in Middle East policy, for declining an invitation to speak at an MEK event. Abrams cited the fact that the group was still on the foreign terrorist organization list at the time, but the politically and morally inexcusable nature of advocating for such a group does not depend on such a formal list.
Disruption, Not Democracy
The other observation is that, although the shills have taken their fees to the bank, the fact that a group as loathsome as the MEK figures so prominently in the administration’s policy on Iran demonstrates the bankruptcy of that policy. If the MEK is in the game, the game is not about democracy, human rights, or doing right by ordinary Iranians. Bolton and at least some of the others who have touted the group are smart enough to realize that and to understand the true nature of the group. They are interested not in democracy but in the capability for sabotage, destruction, and assassination in Iran—a capability that the MEK still has despite its claims to have forsaken violence.
Fostering that capability may serve the objectives of regional rivals who do their ownsabotage, destruction, and assassination aimed at Iran and welcome the augmentation of their capabilities for mayhem that the MEK offers. It certainly does not serve the interests of the United States. It instead increases instability in and thus around Iran, strengthens the market for hardline views in Iran, and besmirches the reputation of the United States through associating itself with the MEK. If the MEK represents what American leaders mean when they talk about democracy, then the vast majority of Iranians want nothing to do with it.
The fortified headquarters of Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, NCRI, …) in Albania
Giovanni Glacalone, Cliocchidella Guerra, Rome, Italy, October 28 2018:… The well-known Albanian investigative journalist Gjergj Thanasi was among the first to notice the presence of Manez and had shown the dynamics of the Eyes of War last February: “The Council of the Territorial Organization (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) is responsible for issuing permits for the construction of public works and private buildings …
Link to the source (Italian)
(Google Translation with Iran Interlink editing)
The fortified headquarters of Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, NCRI, …) in Albania
Last February, the occhidella guerra reported the transfer of 3,500 mujahideen to Albania. The Mek was previously kept at a base near Baghdad (Liberty Camp). Among other things, it referred to their new headquarters being constructed in Manez, near Durre. Today there are further evidence that confirm this project and much more. But let’s go in order.
What is the Mek
The Mek or Mojahedin Khalq Organisation of Iran is an organization which was born in 1963 in Iran with the aim of opposing the Western influence in the country and fighting the regime of the Shah. In 1979 the Mek participated in the revolution led by Khomeini but the ideology, a crossroads of Marxism, feminism and Islamism, clashed with that of the Ayatollahs.
In 1981 the Mek moved to Paris where Massoud Rajavi (The leader) founded his headquarters and five years later moved to Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, from where he supported and joined the war of Saddam Hussein against Iran. MEK also engaged in the repression of the Kurds on behalf of Saddam. In 2003 the Mek was disarmed by the Americans and moved to Camp Liberty. The Mek continued to play a role in the political and diplomatic activities against Teheran and continues to do so today.
Previously, the organization was blacklisted not only by Iran and Iraq, but also by the European Union, Britain, the US and Canada, only to be “cleared” between 2008 and 2012. A New York Times article by September 21, 2012 illustrated how the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had decided to clear the Mek , making it remove from the “black list” to be able to then put it away from the reach of Teheran, in a country willing to welcome them, in this Albania. The goal is more than evident: use the Mek to support a regime change in Tehran. But why in Albania? What is a “pledge” to pay for entry into Europe and NATO?
Today it is Maryam Rajavi who leads the Mek after the mysterious disappearance of her husband Massoud that coincides with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some sources speak of a possible death while others say that the former leader is in hiding to escape the agents of Tehran.
Political support at the international level
The Mek has received support from various international political figures including former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Emma Bonino as vice-president of the Senate in June 2012. The New York Times noted that several members of Congress had become staunch supporters of the movement that, if once Marxist-Islamist, then changed its mind by transforming its own struggle and becoming the main organized movement against the Iranian theocracy.
According to the New York newspaper, among the supporters of the Mek there would be R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss, former directors of the CIA; Louis J. Freeh, former director of the FBI; Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush; Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and national security advisor, General James L. Jones, operating under the Obama administration.
In the last year there have been several positions in favor of Mek by members of the national and international political scene. In mid-September an official delegation of the Italian Radical Party and the “Hands off Cain” association visited the mujahidin headquarters in Albania. The delegation included Elisabetta Zamparutti, Sergio D’Elia, Rita Bernardini, Mattia Moro, Maria Antonietta and Luca Coscioni; Albanian sources claim that the members of the Mek would provide an account of the violations of human rights implemented by the regime in Tehran.
Last June 30, it was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Monti government, Giulio Terzi, who spoke at a meeting of the Mek where, in front of thousands of anti-Tehran protesters, he announced his “unconditional support to the Mek”, defining his militants “freedom fighters” and saying that “a large part of Italian society is convinced that being on your side means being on the right side of history”. The whole speech was published on the Mek website and can be viewedhere.
Even the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, in 2018 expressed himself at least on a couple of occasions in favour of the Mek with statements like: “The Iranian people have had enough of this regime that will be overthrown … We have no doubt that the Mek coalition can cope with this regime “.
And again: “The mullahs have to leave, the ayatollahs have to leave and must be replaced by a democratic government that Mrs. Rajavi represents”, as reported by the Guardian.
In short, yet another attempt to overthrow the government to export “democracy”, a film already seen and revised.
Last September 26, the Albanian journalist Kastriot Myftaraj, during the television program “Ju flet Moska“, had criticized the recent invocations to the uprising in Iran by the leader of the Mek, Maryam Rajavi, bringing up the article 221 of the Albanian penal code that punishes incitement to insurrection with penalties ranging from 15 years upwards.
Article 265 b / c of the Albanian penal code which prohibits involvement in military operations and violent actions in foreign countries should also be taken into consideration.
The Manez headquarters
Numerous international sources have documented the presence of a large complex near the Albanian village of Manez, which serves as the main base for the Mek, a complex that has already been inhabited even though it is still being completed. Several local reporters have witnessed the presence of private armed guards outside the complex, a barrier and further unarmed guards inside.
The well-known Albanian investigative journalist Gjergj Thanasi was among the first to notice the presence of Manez and had shown the dynamics of the Eyes of War last February:
“The Council of the Territorial Organization (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) is responsible for issuing permits for the construction of public works and private buildings (factories, hotels, schools, roads, etc.). This Council had published a list of permits issued for a series of works and among them there was one against an NGO called F.A.R.A. The permit was dated 16 October 2017 and indicated the authorization for “a residential complex and services for the Iranian community in Albania”. At that point I investigated this F.A.R.A that, strangely and contrary to the Albanian law, was not registered with the Tax Office and did not even have a VAT number, which is prohibited in Albania.
I then continued the investigation at the town planning office of the town of Durres (which I know very well having lived here for 52 years); there they showed me a written request from the F.A.R.A. in which permission was requested for the creation of a building site (fence, water connections, electricity, containers, etc.) and it emerged that the Municipality had not issued any permit. The letter of request did not have a header, there was no address or telephone number. At this point I went to Manez (in the first week of November 2017) to see what was happening and I found myself in front of a finished fence, an already installed electricity grid, and some channels under construction, for the water network. There was also a container with offices inside the fence. Around the yard there were guards and also three policemen with the uniform of the State Police “.
The site would have been located precisely between the villages of Kulles and Manez e-Vieter, with entrance on the Rruga Lalezit road and the complex there are several aerial images andfilms.
On August 10th, British journalist Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 went outside the Manez complex to document its existence and was physically attacked by some members of the Mek.
According to reports from the Albanian media, some witnesses said that security guards tried to tear and break the crew camera while some members of the Mek hit Hilsum and took their chaperone by the neck. At that point, Albanian police officers arrived on the spot and stopped the attack and accompanied the two assaulted men to the barracks.
Later, a spokesman for the Mek told the Albanian media that British journalists are in contact with the Iranian secret services and that they had not been advised of their arrival.
The case of Somaya Mohammadi and interviews with dissidents
Another case that is doing a lot of discussion in Albania is that of Mostafa Mohammadi, father of 38-year-old Somaya, who left home when he was 16 together with a militant woman from the Mek.
Mostafa explained that he had immigrated to Canada with his family in 1994 and entered the orbit of the Mek, helping them raise funds but in the meantime the organization would brainwash his sister, convincing her years later to move to Iraq, Camp Ashraf, to fight the Iranian regime. She die on the spot during military attacks or could have been executed if arrested. Years later a Mek militant would have approached his daughter Somaya, telling her that they have met her aunt (with whom the girl had a close relationship) and that she would like to show her where she had been and what she had done. So the they went off on a journey that only lasted two weeks but Somaya never returned home, cutting all contacts with her family.
Last July Mostafa Mohammadi went to Tirana to try to raise the case and get in touch with his daughter, which he said was held against her will in the Manez headquarters and accused some members of the Mek of attacking him , as reported by Shqiptarija and Gazeta Impakt who also published a video.
The Canadian, Iraqi and Albanian judiciary have however expressed themselves against Mohammadi’s accusations, declaring that the girl is voluntarily a member of the organization and being an adult, she is able to make her own decisions in autonomy and freedom.
On 25 July 2018 Somaya released an interview where he rejected the accusations made by his father, claiming to be a voluntary member of the Mek and accusing his father of collaborating with the Iranian secret services. A controversial case whose dynamics are still unclear.
The Albanian investigative program Fiks Fare managed to get in touch with three of the 200 dissidents who have fled from the MEK in Albania and interviewed them, as also reported by thePrishtina Post.
All three confirmed that the mujahideen housed in the camp are all well-trained fighters and that it is strictly forbidden to maintain contact with their families.
The first interviewed, Sadolah Seifi, explained that he was born in 1969 and that he joined Mek voluntarily at 21 for economic reasons. Seifi explained that initially the Mek speaks of freedom, but in fact it is “a frightening organization” with many agents who force their followers to do what the leader says, and it is strictly forbidden to have a family. According to Seifi the main problem of those who would like to leave the Mek is that in Albania they do not have a status, they cannot work and they do not have money to live.
The second interviewee, Ehsan Bidi, confirmed the military preparation of the mujahidin, adding that he learned a lot about weapons and their use; Bidi also claimed that the Mek at the time sent men in to Iran to place bombs and conduct terrorist acts.
The third interviewee, Manuchehr Abdi, 55 years of which 13 years with the Mek, pointed out that in Albania the organization is trying to reconstruct the same context that was present in the Iraqi base.
On military training Abdi said: “When I was part of the organization I was a member of a group that virtually connected with young people in Iran and taught them to fight, because we need to know that everyone in this organization knows how to fight to kill, we are militarily prepared we know everything about weapons “.
Regarding the family context, the interviewee made it clear that visits to his family were forbidden in Camp Ashraf and that he himself could not have contact with his daughter. A situation that is also present in Albania following agreements with the Tirana government.
What is the Mek then? A group of dissidents and persecuted by the Iranian regime? A sectarian force of opposition composed of militarily trained elements ready to overthrow the regime? A terrorist organization? (According to what was stated by Tehran). Where do the Mek funding come from?
In geopolitics it is known that an organization can be considered “terrorist” or “resistance movement” based on the interests of those who support it and have seen it with many other organizations, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hizbullah, from the PLO to the “resistance” “Syrian. What is certain is that it is difficult to combat terrorism when we cannot even find a universally shared definition of the term.
Meanwhile, however, the presence in Albania of the Mek does nothing but further aggravate the delicate situation in the Balkans where jihadist and Islamist groups are already present. The Balkan area seems more and more a logistics and transit area in support of the war policies in the Middle East and all this at the expense of regional stability, Italy included
Il quartier generale fortificato dei mujaheddin iraniani in Albania
Lo scorso febbraio gli Occhi della Guerra avevano trattato il trasferimento in Albania di 3500 mujahideen del Mek precedentemente stazionati in una base nei pressi di Baghdad. Si era tra l’altro fatto riferimento a un vero e proprio quartier generale in costruzione a Manez, nei pressi di Durazzo; oggi emergono ulteriori elementi d’interesse che sembrano confermare il progetto ed anche molto altro, ma andiamo con ordine.
Cos’è il Mek
L’organizzazione Mek nasceva nel 1963 in Iran con l’obiettivo di opporsi all’influenza occidentale nel Paese e di combattere il regime dello Shah. Nel 1979 il Mek partecipava alla Rivoluzione guidata da Khomeini ma l’ideologia divulgata, un incrocio di marxismo, femminismo e islamismo, si scontrava con quella degli Ayatollah e veniva messo al bando.
Nel 1981 il Mek si trasferiva a Parigi dove fondava il proprio quartier generale e cinque anni dopo si spostava a Camp Ashraf, a nord di Baghdad, da dove supportava la guerra di Saddam Hussein contro l’Iran ed anche la repressione dei curdi. Nel 2003 il Mek veniva disarmato dagli americani e spostato a Camp Liberty. Il Mek ha continuato a svolgere un ruolo di primo piano nell’attività politica e diplomatica contro il regime di Teheran e continua a farlo ancora oggi.
In precedenza l’organizzazione era inserita nella lista nera non solo da Iran e Iraq, ma anche da Unione Europea, Gran Bretagna, Usa e Canada, per poi venire “sdoganata” tra il 2008 e il 2012. Un articolo del New York Times del 21 settembre 2012 illustrava come l’allora Segretario di Stato, Hillary Clinton, avesse deciso di sdoganare il Mek , facendolo togliere dalla “black list” per poterlo poi ricollocare lontano dalla portata degli agenti di Teheran, in un Paese disposto ad accoglierli, in questo caso l’Albania. L’obiettivo appare più che evidente: utilizzare il Mek per sostenere un cambio di regime a Teheran. Ma perché proprio in Albania? Che sia un “pegno” da pagare per l’ingresso in Europa e nella Nato?
Oggi è Maryam Rajavi a guidare il Mek dopo la misteriosa scomparsa del marito Massoud che coincide con l’invasione americana dell’Iraq nel 2003. Alcune fonti parlano di un possibile decesso mentre altre affermano che l’ex leader si sarebbe nascosto per sfuggire agli agenti di Teheran.
Gli appoggi politici a livello internazionale
Il Mek ha incassato il supporto di diversi esponenti politici internazionali tra cui l’ex sindaco di New York Rudolph Giuliani, l’ambasciatore americano all’Onu John Bolton ed Emma Bonino in veste di vice-presidente del Senato, nel giugno del 2012. Il New York Times faceva notare che diversi esponenti del Congresso erano divenuti convinti sostenitori del movimento che, se una volta era marxista-islamista, si è poi ricreduto trasformando la propria lotta e diventando il principale movimento organizzato contro la teocrazia iraniana.
Sempre secondo il quotidiano newyorchese, tra i sostenitori del Mek ci sarebbero R. James Woolsey e Porter J. Goss, ex direttori della Cia; Louis J. Freeh, ex direttore dell’Fbi; Tom Ridge, ex segretario della Homeland Security sotto la presidenza George W. Bush; il procuratore generale Michael B. Mukasey e il consigliere per la sicurezza nazionale, il Generale James L. Jones, operativo sotto l’amministrazione Obama.
Nell’ultimo anno sono state diverse le prese di posizione a favore del Mek da parte di esponenti del panorama politico nazionale e internazionale. A metà settembre una delegazione ufficiale del Partito Radicale Italiano e dell’associazione “Nessuno tocchi Caino” ha visitato il quartier generale dei mujahidin in Albania. La delegazione includeva Elisabetta Zamparutti, Sergio D’Elia, Rita Bernardini, Mattia Moro, Maria Antonietta e Luca Coscioni; fonti albanesi dichiarano che i membri del Mek avrebbero fornito un resoconto delle violazioni dei diritti umani messe in atto dal regime di Teheran.
Lo scorso 30 giugno era invece stato l’ex ministro degli esteri del governo Monti, Giulio Terzi, a parlare a una riunione del Mek dove, davanti a migliaia di manifestanti anti-Teheran aveva annunciato il suo “appoggio incondizionato al Mek ”, definendo i suoi militanti “combattenti per la libertà” (freedom fighters) e affermando che “un’ampia parte della società italiana è convinta che stare dalla vostra parte significa stare dalla parte giusta della storia”. Il discorso per intero veniva pubblicato dal sito del Mek e può essere visualizzato qui.
Anche l’ex sindaco di New York, Rudolph Giuliani, nel 2018 si è espresso almeno in un paio di occasioni a favore del Mek con affermazioni del tipo: “Il popolo iraniano ne ha avuto abbastanza di questo regime che sarà rovesciato…Non abbiamo alcun dubbio che la coalizione del Mek possa far fronte a questo regime”.
E ancora: “I mullah se ne devono andare, gli ayatollah se ne devono andare e devono essere rimpiazzati da un governo democratico che la signora Rajavi rappresenta”, come riportato dal Guardian.
Insomma, un ennesimo tentativo di rovesciamento di governo per esportare la “democrazia”, un film già visto e rivisto.
Lo scorso 26 settembre il giornalista albanese Kastriot Myftaraj, durante la trasmissione televisiva “Ju flet Moska”, aveva criticato le recenti invocazioni alla rivolta in Iran fatte dalla leader del Mek, Maryam Rajavi, tirando in ballo l’articolo 221 del codice penale albanese che punisce l’incitamento all’insurrezione con pene che vanno dai 15 anni in su.
Andrebbero poi presi in considerazione anche gli articoli 265 b/c del codice penale albanese che proibiscono il coinvolgimento in operazioni militari e azioni violente in Paesi esteri.
Il quartier generale di Manez
Numerose fonti internazionali hanno documentato la presenza di un grande complesso nei pressi del villaggio albanese di Manez che funge da base mondiale del Mek, complesso già abitato anche se tutt’ora in fase di completamento. Diversi reporter locali hanno testimoniato la presenza di guardie armate private all’esterno del complesso, barriera e ulteriori guardie disarmate all’interno.
Il noto giornalista investigativo albanese Gjergj Thanasi era stato tra i primi ad accorgersi della presenza di Manez e ne aveva mostrato le dinamiche agli Occhi della Guerra lo scorso febbraio:
“Il Consiglio dell’Organizzazione del Territorio (Keshilli i Rregullimit te Territorit) ha la responsabilità per l’emissione dei permessi per la costruzione di opere pubbliche e di edifici privati (fabbriche, hotel, scuole, strade ecc). Questo Consiglio aveva pubblicato un elenco dei permessi rilasciati per una serie di opere e tra queste ne figurava uno nei confronti di una ONG denominata F.A.R.A. Il permesso era del 16 ottobre 2017 e indicava l’autorizzazione per “un complesso residenziale e servizi per la comunità iraniana in Albania”. A quel punto ho indagato su questa F.A.R.A che, stranamente e contrariamente alla legge albanese, non risultava registrata presso l’Ufficio delle Imposte e non aveva neanche una partita Iva, cosa vietata in Albania.
Ho allora proseguito l’indagine presso l’ufficio urbanistico del comune di Durazzo (che conosco molto bene avendo vissuto qui per 52 anni); là mi mostravano una richiesta scritta della F.A.R.A. nella quale veniva chiesto il permesso per la creazione di un cantiere (recinto, collegamenti d’acqua, elettricità, container ecc.) ed emergeva che il Municipio non aveva rilasciato alcun permesso. La lettera di richiesta non aveva un’intestazione, non era presente alcun indirizzo o recapito telefonico. A questo punto mi sono recato a Manez (nella prima settimana di novembre 2017) per vedere cosa stava succedendo e mi sono trovato davanti a un recinto finito, a una rete elettrica già installata, e a dei canali in costruzione, per la rete idrica. C’era anche un container con degli uffici all’interno della recinzione. Intorno al cantiere c’erano guardie e anche tre agenti con la divisa della Polizia di Stato”.
Il sito sarebbe stato localizzato precisamente tra i villaggi di Kulles e Manez e-Vieter, con ingresso sulla strada Rruga Lalezit e del complesso esistono diverse immagini aeree e filmati.
Lo scorso 10 agosto la giornalista britannica Lindsey Hilsum di Channel 4 si era recata all’esterno del complesso di Manez per documentarne l’esistenza e veniva fisicamente aggredita da alcuni membri del Mek.
Secondo quanto riportato dai media albanesi, alcuni testimoni hanno dichiarato che le guardie di sicurezza hanno cercato di strappare e rompere la videocamera della troupe mentre alcuni membri del Mek hanno colpito la Hilsum e preso per il collo il suo accompagnatore. A quel punto sono giunti sul posto degli agenti della polizia albanese che hanno fermato l’aggressione e hanno accompagnato in caserma i due aggrediti.
In seguito un portavoce del Mek ha dichiarato ai media albanesi che i giornalisti britannici sono in contatto con i servizi segreti iraniani e che non erano stati avvisati del loro arrivo.
Il caso di Somaya Mohammadi e le interviste ai dissidenti
Un altro caso che sta facendo molto discutere in Albania è quello di Mostafa Mohammadi, padre della 38enne Somaya, andatasene da casa quando ne aveva 16 assieme a una donna militante del Mek.
Mostafa spiegava di essere immigrato in Canada con la famiglia nel 1994 e di essere entrato nell’orbita del Mek, aiutandoli a raccogliere fondi ma nel frattempo l’organizzazione avrebbe fatto il lavaggio del cervello a sua sorella, convincendola anni dopo a trasferirsi in Iraq, precisamente a Camp Ashraf, per combattere il regime iraniano e sarebbe morta in loco, forse giustiziata. Anni dopo una militante del Mek avrebbe avvicinato la figlia Somaya, dicendole che aveva conosciuto sua zia (con cui la ragazzina aveva uno stretto legame) e che le avrebbe fatto piacere mostrarle dove era stata e cosa aveva fatto. Le due sono così partite per un viaggio che doveva durare soltanto due settimane ma Somaya non ha fatto più rientro a casa, interrompendo tutti i contatti con la propria famiglia.
Lo scorso luglio Mostafa Mohammadi si è recato a Tirana per cercare di sollevare il caso ed entrare in contatto con sua figlia, a suo dire trattenuta contro la propria volontà all’interno del quartier generale di Manez ed ha accusato alcuni membri del Mek di averlo aggredito, come riportato da Shqiptarija e Gazeta Impakt che ha anche pubblicato un filmato.
La magistratura canadese, quella irachena e quella albanese si sono però espresse contro le accuse di Mohammadi, dichiarando che la ragazza è volontariamente membro dell’organizzazione ed essendo maggiorenne è in grado di prendere le proprie decisioni in autonomia e libertà.
Il 25 luglio 2018 Somaya rilasciava un’intervista dove rigettava le accuse lanciate da suo padre, affermando di essere volontariamente membro del Mek e accusando suo padre di collaborare con i servizi segreti iraniani. Un caso controverso le cui dinamiche sono ancora poco chiare.
Il programma investigativo albanese Fiks Fare è invece riuscito a mettersi in contatto con tre dei circa 200 dissidenti fuggiti dal MEK e ad intervistarli, come riportato anche dal Prishtina Post.
Tutti e tre hanno confermato che i mujahideen ospitati nel campo sono tutti combattenti ben preparati alla guerriglia e che è severamente vietato mantenere contatti con le proprie famiglie.
Il primo intervistato, Sadala Sefi, ha spiegato di essere nato nel 1969 e di essere entrato a far parte del Mek volontariamente a 21 anni per motivi economici. Sefi spiegava che inizialmente il Mek parla di libertà, ma nei fatti è “un’organizzazione spaventosa” con tanti agenti che obbligano i propri adepti a fare quello che dice il leader ed è severamente vietato avere una famiglia. Secondo Sefi il problema principale di chi vorrebbe uscire dal Mek è che in Albania non hanno uno status, non possono lavorare e non hanno soldi per vivere.
Il secondo intervistato, Hasan Bidi, ha confermato la preparazione militare dei mujahidin, aggiungendo di aver imparato molto su armi e loro utilizzo; Bidi ha inoltre affermato che il Mek a suo tempo infiltrava uomini in Iran per piazzare bombe e condurre assalti.
Il terzo intervistato, Manucer Habdi, 55 anni di cui 13 nel Mek, ha puntualizzato che in Albania l’organizzazione sta cercando di ricostruire il medesimo contesto che era presente nella base irachena.
Sulla preparazione militare Habdi ha affermato: “Quando facevo parte dell’organizzazione ero membro di un gruppo che virtualmente si collegava con giovani in Iran e insegnava loro a combattere, perché bisogna sapere che tutti in questa organizzazione sanno come combattere per uccidere, siamo preparati militarmente, sappiamo tutto sulle armi”.
Per quanto riguarda l’ambito familiare, l’intervistato ha reso noto che a Camp Ashraf erano proibite le visite dei familiari e che egli stesso non ha potuto avere contatti con sua figlia. Una situazione che è presente anche in Albania in seguito ad accordi presi con il governo di Tirana.
Cos’è dunque il Mek? Un gruppo di dissidenti e perseguitati dal regime iraniano? Una forza di opposizione settaria composta da elementi militarmente addestrati e pronti a rovesciare il regime? Un’organizzazione terroristica? (Secondo quanto affermato da Teheran). Da dove arrivano poi i finanziamenti al Mek?
In geopolitica è noto come un’organizzazione possa essere considerata “terroristica” o “movimento di resistenza” in base agli interessi di chi la cataloga e lo si è visto con tante altre organizzazioni, dai Fratelli Musulmani a Hizbullah, dall’Olp alla “resistenza” siriana. Certo è che risulta difficile combattere il terrorismo quando non si riesce neanche a trovare una definizione universalmente condivisa del termine.
Intanto però la presenza in Albania del Mek non fa altro che aggravare ulteriormente la delicatissima situazione nei Balcani dove sono già presenti in forze gruppi jihadisti e islamisti. L’area balcanica sembra sempre più una zona logistica e di transito in supporto alle politiche di guerra in Medio Oriente e tutto ciò a discapito della stabilità regionale, Italia inclusa
False Flag Op In Albania Would Drive A Wedge Between The EU And Iran
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, August 31 2018:… The question for America’s anti-Iran pundits currently is how to engineer distance between Europe and Iran. One way would be if it could be demonstrated that Iranian terrorism has reached Europe itself, a theme that Pompeo himself addresses at virtually every Iran-related opportunity. While rational observers recognise that any such activity would …
False Flag Op In Albania Would Drive A Wedge Between The EU And Iran
16 MEK graves in the public cemetery in Tirana, Albaniam in 2018 (Anne Khodabandeh)
President Trump’s floundering Iran policy was firmed up earlier this month when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new ‘Iran Action Group’. According to Pompeo, “The Iran Action Group will be responsible [for] directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and will report directly to me.”
As the name indicates, action rather than diplomacy now tops the State Department’s agenda toward Iran. Action that will surely include increased sanctions, economic warfare, cyber warfare, inciting protest, and very possibly support for terrorist groups. Not a new repertoire. But Iran has proven remarkably vigilant and resilient in withstanding all these pressures, fending off various terrorist groups on its borders, some cities, and even an attack on the Majlis (parliament). More recently, attempts to subverteconomic protests in the country have come to nothing. Other means are called for.
As America pressures the European Union to line up behind its sanctions regime and end trade with Iran, there are indications that this could open another front for confronting Iran. The question for America’s anti-Iran pundits currently is how to engineer distance between Europe and Iran. One way would be if it could be demonstrated that Iranian terrorism has reached Europe itself, a theme that Pompeo himself addresses at virtually every Iran-related opportunity.
While rational observers recognise that any such activity would be political suicide for Iran, we are clearly not living in rational times. There are signs that the groundwork for a covert false-flag operation have been in place for some time that would blame Iran for an atrocity conducted outside its borders.
Such a possibility was hinted at in June when an Iranian diplomat was arrested in Germany over an alleged bomb plot on the eve of President Rouhani’s visit. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted “how convenient.” Iran claimed that the Belgian couple found to be behind the fake plot were Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) activists. The target for the bombing was the MEK rally in Paris which would then presumably be blamed on Iran. How convenient indeed.
That the MEK is named in this way is no surprise. While other terrorist groups have been contained by Iran, MEK has proven tenacious, due in main to the support it receives from Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. This is also due to its cult conditions which enslave and brainwash its members. But the fact that MEK is now based in Albania, far away from Iran’s border, might have doomed the group to obscurity if MEK’s violent regime change agenda didn’t so closely coincide with the desires of hawks in the Trump administration.
Trump, deliberately or unwittingly, has surrounded himself with MEK supporters. John Bolton, National Security Advisor, is a long-time MEK advocate and Rudy Giuliani, currently tackling Trump’s legal problems, has regularly spoken at MEK rallies. Now with former CIA man Pompeo as Secretary of State and taking a hard-line regime-change stance in all but words, all that all that remains is for an action plan to be put in place.
It could be that this is already taking shape in Albania where the MEK has deliberately curated a false narrative through its own websites that Iran is sending agents to attack and kill its members. This narrative is then repeated as established fact by political supporters and paid advocates.
In July, Pompeo repeated ‘news’ of the alleged bomb plot and also referenced the MEK-manufactured allegation that two retired Iranian journalists had been sent by Iran to conduct terrorism against them in Albania. It was MEK itself that falsely tipped off policeto arrest the two innocent men. Building on this, Raymond Tanter, part of a cabal of mostly ex-CIA and former military officials who advocate for MEK, inserted this false information into a long article promoting the group MEK as bringers of peace and democracy to Iran. Nothing could be further from the truth.
MEK has a long history of covert as well as overt activities aimed at regime change against Iran. Over the years, when events were blamed on Iran, MEK often insinuated itself in various ways—as it did, for instance, in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. After extensive investigation, the primary testimonyimplicating Iran’s leadership came from four high-ranking intelligence officers from MEK—specifically, Hadi Roshan Ravan, the chief witness who not coincidentally also served as the head of MEK intelligence. In 2013, Israel arrested a Swedish Iranian man, Ali Mansouri, who “confessed” to be spying for Iran in Tel Aviv. He turned out to be an MEK member. MEK’s role in publicizing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program and alleged complicity with Israel in the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists is widely known. Whether or not MEK was directly involved in many of such activities or not, its propagandizing role is indisputable.
Since arriving in Albania between 2013 and 2016, MEK has already shown itself to be aggressive, criminal, and dangerous. Recently a scandal erupted after a British Channel 4 film crew, headed by prominent journalist Lindsey Hilsum, was assaulted by MEK operatives while filming outside the MEK’s closed camp in Manez, Albania. A few days later, Aaron Merat, a journalist with The Guardian, was also subjected to an assault by MEK operatives during his investigations. MEK accused them of being “agents of the Iranian regime.”
This news, shocking as it is, did not find an audience outside Albania. So far, so local. But it demonstrated the ease and impunity with which MEK uses violence when the outside world encroaches on its secrecy. Albanians were even more shocked that their security services tried to hide these events.
Interestingly the group’s self-portrayal of victimhood largely serves its own internal dynamics. MEK moved 2000+ members to a closed camp in Manez to prevent more members leaving the group. MEK leaders claim that Iran has sent various intelligence agents to Albania plot against them and kill them and the camp is their only protection. While this serves to frighten its own members and stiffen their thirty-year resolve to continue their struggle, it also fits the kind of false narrative that leads to the kind of false-flag operations that could be blamed on Iran.
Former CIA Director Pompeo’s Iran Action Group is a sub-group in the State Department answering only to him. This also favors the kind of covert operation with which the MEK is only too willing and able to engage. Worryingly, the attacks on foreign journalists could serve to escalate and accelerate secret plans already in place for a false-flag operation in Albania which would be blamed on Iran. The first victims would be MEK members. The next targets could be Albanian. And this time, in order to convince Europe that Iran is a dangerous sponsor of terrorism, people would die.
The MEK: a group looking to overthrow the Iranian regime (aka Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, Rajavi cult)
Strait Talk, TRT World, October 10 2018:… The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May – and last month, levelled threats against Tehran at the UN General Assembly. But caught between all this is a group based in Albania with a mission to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK, previously in Iraq, now operates out of a military compound near the capital Tirana …
The MEK: a group looking to overthrow the Iranian regime
US-Iran relations haven’t been this tense in years. The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May – and last month, levelled threats against Tehran at the UN General Assembly. But caught between all this is a group based in Albania with a mission to overthrow the Iranian government. The MEK, previously in Iraq, now operates out of a military compound near the capital Tirana. Our Courtney Kealy went there to get a glimpse.
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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
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
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.
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?”
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.
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 …
15 Sep 2018 08:09 GMT
“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 …
Albanian Police Report says Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, MKO, Rajavi cult) Kill Their Own Members
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.
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 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.
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
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, November 04 2018:… The logical conclusion would be the creation of a false flag operation involving an attack on MEK members in Albania (outside the European Union so that it cannot be thwarted or investigated) which leaves some dead, and which can be blamed on Iran. Rajavi would be happy to fulfil this order since this would fill the bank of the “blood of martyrs” as she calls …
Ty Joplin, Albawaba, October 06 2018:… The MEK, more than being a terrorist cult, militia or pro-democratic freedom fighters, seems to be a brutal tool of realpolitik, a blunt instrument to be used by the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf to antagonize their geopolitical rival, Iran.To understand the this, Al Bawaba spoke with Massoud Khodabandeh, who was one of the groups most senior leaders for decades, before …
Whitney Webb, Mint Press, September 23 2018:… In an interview with Jordan-based news outlet Albawaba News, former MEK head of security Massoud Khodabandeh detailed the covert means through which the Saudis helped fund the group, including regional smuggling networks and black market transactions. According to Khodabandeh, gold and other valuable commodities, such as Rolex watches, were shipped from Saudi Arabia …
Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh, Balkans Post, September 22 2018:… But, back in Albania if the Al Jazeera interviewer had asked ‘how much money does an MEK member make for spending all day, every day as an internet troll?’ The answer would be “nothing”. MEK does not pay its members anything. It never has and never will. This is because it operates as a cult to which members belong rather than are employed by …
Sputnick and Press TV, September 19 2018:… Massoud Khodabandeh explained that 3 tons of solid gold, a minimum of four suitcases of customized Rolex watches and fabric that had been used to cover the Muslim holy site of Kaaba in Mecca were among the commodities shipped from Saudi Arabia to MEK operatives in Baghdad as …
Albawaba, Ty Joplin, September 18 2018:… In 1989, a year before Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, Khodabandeh and the MEK’s leader at the time, Massoud Rajavi, went to Saudi with an escort by Iraq’s secret police. “Rajavi was to perform pilgrimage as well as other things. At the time for our return to Iraq, we were presented with two suitcases each, presents from King Abdullah, then crown prince …
Ty Joplin, Albawaba, September 16 2018:…MEK were lifted out of Iraq and into a new base in Tirana, Albania. Now that the average age of the MEK’s members is around 55 or 60, “it is fair to say the members have nowhere to go but to stay,” and watch the organization slowly fade away, Khodabandeh said. “The only alternative for them is suicide. Especially the ones who have joined following an idea.” …
Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh, Lobe Log, August 31 2018:… The question for America’s anti-Iran pundits currently is how to engineer distance between Europe and Iran. One way would be if it could be demonstrated that Iranian terrorism has reached Europe itself, a theme that Pompeo himself addresses at virtually every Iran-related opportunity. While rational observers recognise that any such activity would …
LAPSI, Tirana, Albania, August 19 2018:… A crew from Channel 4, consisting of journalist Lindsey Hilsum, producer Darius Bazarghan and their companion, Albanian-Dutch Vincent Triest, were attacked by a group of Mojahedin and their private guards in Manez while filming from outside the camp facilities. The crew of English journalists, sent by Channel 4 TV, was attacked outside the camp’s fence …
Massoud Khodabandeh, Iranian.com, August 09 2018:… Afamily drama playing out in Albania has caught the attention of media and public opinion. But this is no ordinary drama. It is the story of Iranian born Mostafa and Mahboubeh Mohammadi, who are Canadian citizens and their twenty-one-year struggle to rescue their daughter from a dangerous terrorist cult. In 1997, Somayeh and …
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Balkans Post, July 31 2018:… The MEK is described as a destructive cult because it poses the greatest threat to its own members. Many hundreds have been killed and continue to be killed by the leaders. The latest example came only weeks ago with the unexplained death of MEK member Malek Sharaii. Sharaii’s family in Iran say that he had wanted to leave MEK but had incriminating …