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MEK's congress in Albania - September 2017

American Reporter Visits MEK Camp in Albania

MEK's congress in Albania - September 2017

MEK members during September Congress during which they elected their secretary general.

A report published in the Washington Times on September 19th sheds light on the lives of MEK members living in Albania. Reporter L.Todd Wood researched the article while traveling in Albania. Wood was invited to visit the new MEK camp that is being built outside of Tirana while in Albania and learned about the MEK and its members. His report separates fact from fiction and explores the kinds of people who join the MEK and their reasons for doing so.

The new MEK camp, named Ashraf 3, houses around 3,200 members of the Iranian opposition movement. The group built the camp after being forced out of their old home in Iraq by a series of attacks by the Iranian-backed government.

The Iranian government is extremely fearful of the MEK, as it sees the group as an existential threat. As a result of this fear, the regime has repeatedly carried out brutal and reckless acts against the MEK in a series of failed attempts to destroy the organization and all opposition to the mullahs’ rule. In June, an Iranian diplomat was arrested for planning a foiled terrorist attack on the Iranian resistance’s Free Iran gathering in Paris. In August, two Iranian intelligence agents were arrested in the United States and charged with spying on the MEK on behalf of the Iranian regime.

According to Wood, the Iranian regime has taken its demonization campaign against the MEK all the way to Albania, employing its intelligence agents to recruit former MEK members to spread propaganda against the group in an attempt to ruin the organization’s reputation within Albania.

Wood’s visit to Ashraf 3 took place against the backdrop of the regime’s hostile attacks against the MEK, as well as the popular uprising currently taking place in Iran, which is being organized by MEK resistance units; the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions, which are exacerbating Iran’s escalating social and economic crises; and a regime that is teetering on the verge of collapse through its own corruption, incompetence, and mistreatment of its people.

Wood described his entrance to Ashraf 3 in terms of the security measures that were required to ensure the safety of camp residents. Any time he left the camp during his visit, two cars had to travel together. Local security services were employed to provide perimeter defense and to inspect all cars who entered the camp gates.

According to Wood, Ashraf 3 resembles a small city in various stages of construction. It has lodging, robust cooking facilities, assembly halls, a medical facility, and an administrative building. He said that the MEK has done a remarkable job in recreating their home in Iraq in such a short time, noting that the facilities were already very functional, if still somewhat barren.

Wood met the leaders of the camp and was immediately struck by their openness. The MEK has been the subject of a number of recent journalistic attacks by BBC Channel 4 and Al Jazeera, ending in a flyover of the camp by a drone owned by Channel 4. The false reports have left the MEK eager to set the record straight. Wood indicated that he would be willing to keep an open mind, and he received full and detailed answers to all of his questions. In some cases, additional members were brought in to provide more detail on a response. No subject was taboo during the two-day visit, and Wood left with positive feelings about the MEK and a commitment to come back and learn more about the organization.

Wood was interested in the members of Ashraf 3. He wanted to know who joined the MEK, who chose to live at Ashraf 3, and why they joined the organization. He found that most of the camp residents were older, as the children of MEK members were moved out of Iraq and sent to Europe and the U.S. over the last decade when Camp Ashraf and Liberty became the targets of missile attacks. There were, however, quite a few younger members, some of whom were part of the group of children who were evacuated from Iraq in 2009. These children grew up and joined the MEK as adults, following in their parents’ footsteps.

Wood interviewed approximately 50 MEK members during his stay at the camp, speaking to people both young and old about their experiences and what led them to join the organization. Some of the people he interviewed joined because their loved ones suffered violence at the hands of the regime. Others joined because the regime executed a loved one. Many became members because they couldn’t envision a future in Iran and chose to commit themselves to bring regime change for the generations to come.

Wood acknowledges that the MEK has been described as a cult, but he pushes back against this idea, saying instead that it is a “fanatically committed group of individuals who have given their lives for an idea: a free Iran.” He describes the members of the MEK as individuals who want a better life for their brothers and sisters in Iran. He said that this was especially prevalent amongst the young people at the camp, many of whom carried physical scars from their time at Camp Ashraf or Iran. Many of the MEK members Wood spoke to “had a deep sense of loss and pain from their dealings with the regime-murder, assault, deceit, torture. Their overriding principle was to prevent future generations of Iran from having to go through the same horrific experiences.”

Wood pointed out that the camp residents are mostly intellectuals and were very successful before joining the MEK. These are people who could have settled anywhere in the West and done well for themselves, but they chose to sacrifice everything to work toward a free Iran. Wood emphasized that everyone in the camp is singularly focused on freedom, that the idea of freedom permeates the camp itself. He spoke of the focus and determination of every member of the camp in completing their tasks. The members of Ashraf 3 have one goal—freedom—and they are determined to achieve it. Wood said that everyone he spoke to knew why they were fighting and why it was important that they do so.

Wood also referred to recent propaganda pieces published by the Iranian regime lobbies or paid agents saying: “Albania has nothing to fear from this group. I did not see any weapons or military training. They want to become good citizens of Albania and to build a life in the former communist country. In fact, it is the MEKwho has to be worried about violence. The regime has shown it will stop at nothing to destroy them. Iranian Ministry of Intelligence agents are active in Albania. They are the ones the Albanian public has to fear, not the people in the camp.”

Staff Writer

 

 

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Iranian regime attempts to extend censorship to Twitter

The Mullahs are Losing Control of the Narrative in What Could Be a Defining Moment

Iranian regime attempts to extend censorship to Twitter

The Iranian regime Foreign Minister demands Twitter, to close down opposition accounts in Tirana in a bid to silence the voice of protesters in Iran that want Regime Change in the country.

The mullahs have suffered critical defeats on several fronts in their attempt to maintain their grip on power in Iran. The domestic landscape is becoming more turbulent, and their position in power becomes more precarious with each passing day as each revelation sheds more light on the mullahs’ reign of terror.

The economic crisis has sparked unrest, leading to protestors calling for Khamenei and Rouhani’s death in the streets. Abroad, the reintroduction of sanctions is hitting the regime’s oil profits, and digital giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are closing down the regime’s fake profiles spouting pro-regime propaganda.

A Step Too Far

The closure of the mullahs’ social media accounts came after US firm, FireEye, identified a network of suspicious accounts sharing posts from Iranian state-run accounts.

After careful investigation, FireEye concluded that the Iranian regime had established an elaborate network of fake profiles which it used to spread anti-Trump messages within the US. For the US-based social media companies, this was a step too far, and it took the decision to close the fake accounts associated with the campaign.

The bulk of the Iranian regime’s activities were centered around criticizing Trump’s decision to withdraw the Iranian nuclear deal, and its subsequent decision to reimpose sanctions against Iran.

Out of Ideas

When Twitter and Facebook forced the closure of the accounts, Iranian regime Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed that the tech giants were unjustly censoring innocent Iranians. He appealed to Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, in a tweet, urging him to reinstate the accounts and investigate the main Iranian opposition group, MEK’s activists calling for regime change instead.

His tweet reads like a man without any ideas frantically trying to deflect attention from his own nefarious activities, onto his rivals. Zarif appealed to Dorsey to investigate tweets coming out of Tirana, the capital of Albania where many members of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) live in exile.

This was his latest attempt to accuse others of the crimes his regime has widely committed. In the past, he has accused Israel and Saudi Arabia, among other opposition groups, including the MEK, of being behind campaigns on social media calling for regime change in Iran.

Controlling the Narrative

Zarif’s appeal to Dorsey on Twitter while it demonstrates the weak and fragile status of the regime, which feels so vulnerable that it’s Foreign Minister has to appeal to Twitter for the closure of the opposition accounts. It also fits with the regime’s wider ambitions of controlling the narrative, both within Iran and abroad. Within Iran, the regime works tirelessly to block Iranians’ access to the wider world. A firewall is in operation, and many are forced to use VPN software to access the international media.

It also recently closed down a national newspaper after it published remarks critical of the regime. The regime accused the newspaper of insulting Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. The article cited was about gender reassignment surgery.

Outside Iran, the regime has attempted to publicly discredit opposition groups like the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). It has coordinated smear campaigns against the groups, their members, and their leader, Maryam Rajavi.

Part of this is to attack opposition groups and shore up power, but the mullahs are also anxious not to let details of their human rights abuses and crimes against humanity be revealed to the international community.

Incidents like the public flogging of journalists, the execution of political dissidents, and the massacre of MEK members in 1988 are among those that the mullahs want to keep under wraps.

The mullahs believe that by controlling the narrative, they can maintain their grip on power. But this strategy is unraveling.

The decision by Facebook and Twitter to close the regime-affiliated fake social media accounts demonstrates that the international tech community will not tolerate it. The Iranian people demonstrating in the streets calling for regime change shows that the people will not tolerate it, and the decision from Trump to reimpose sanctions against the regime shows that governments in the West will not tolerate it.

On this front, the regime is losing. But it is not going down without a fight. Following Zarif’s plea to Dorsey, Al-Jazeera, the Head of the National Iranian American Council, and New America, all released statements echoing Zarif’s talking points.

The mullahs have mobilized all the support they can muster. However, it is unlikely to be enough. The closure of its social media accounts is likely to be a defining moment in the demise of the Irian regime. The regime is losing control of the narrative and with it, it is losing control of the country.

staff Writer

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