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Why Iran’s regime tries—and fails—to demonize MEK members in Ashraf 3, Albania

Ashraf 3, home of MEK members in Albania
Ashraf 3, home of MEK members in Albania

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, June 29, 2020—A court in Hamburg ordered on June 25, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) to immediately remove false allegations raised against the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). In its May 13 article “The Devil Should Be Living in Tirana” referred to Ashraf 3 is home to around 3,000 MEK members located near Tirana, the capital of Albania the FAZ mentioned allegations such as “torture” and a “ban on visiting relatives” imposed on MEK members. But the court ruling read: “Even if these claims were stated as alleged, it is not evident that its principles were adhered to.”

The lawsuit contested three false allegations published by FAZ and ordered to pay a fine of up to €250,000 to be determined by the court for each case of the offenses against MEK members in Albania and to bear the cost of these court hearings. If this amount cannot be secured, a detention order of up to a maximum of six months (for each item in place of the maximum fine of 250,000 Euros, for a total of a maximum of two years) will be issued.

Tehran’s network of “friendly journalists”

This is not the first time that the Iranian regime has used the western press to publishes false allegations against the Iranian Resistance, especially the members of MEK in Albania, to consolidate its rule in Iran.  

Previously, in an article entitled "Prisoners of Rebellion" published on 16 February 2019, the weekly magazine Der Spiegel spread a wealth of lies and false allegations about the MEK members in Ashraf 3. But again, it turned out that the allegations were baseless and uncalled for. On March 21, a Hamburg court confirmed that the Iranian Resistance has been harmed and declared that Der Spiegel is prohibited from "publishing and/or allowing the publication of" allegations of torture in the MEK settlement in Albania. "The applicant (National Council of Resistance of Iran NCRI) has substantiated the false nature [of these allegations] and if Der Spiegel’s statements were to be classified as suspicions, they would also be prohibited. The principles of admissible reporting of suspicions was obviously not respected."

On April 1, 2019 the legal advisor for the MEK in Albania called on the editor in chief of the Norwegian Dagens Naeringsliv not to allow its newspaper and journalist to become unwantedly tools of the mullahs’ regimes to enhance its objectives and prepare the grounds for assassinations of the Iranian refugees in Albania.

In 2018, after weeks of dirty campaign against the MEK by agents and mercenaries of the clerical regime operating under the guise of reporters from Britain’s Channel 4 and Al-Jazeera English, the regime’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, and the regime's Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, unveiled that the threatening tactics around the residence of the People’s Mojahedin in Albania (disclosed in the statements of the NCRI Security Committee on August 16 and September 2) and the smear campaigns of Channel 4 (September 6) and Al-Jazeera English (September 16) were "ordered" by the mullahs’ regime.

The state-run ISNA news agency, on September 16, 2018 quoted the regime's Ambassador to London, Baeidinejad as saying: "Shortly after Dr. Zarif referred to the bitter reality of the existence of a massive network of fake tweet production and replication, the UK’s Channel 4 and Al-Jazeera broadcasted documentary programs that revealed the hidden face of this bitter reality."

Earlier, the MEK in letters dated August 10 and August 13 to Channel 4 and in a letter dated August 22, 2018 to Al-Jazeera English exposed the dirty scenarios that had been dictated to the journalist network with friendly ties to the Iranian regime. In the letter, the MEK provided details and documents and the names of paid agents of the Iranian regime used in these programs. Furthermore, former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian admitted in a television interview on July 9, 2017: "To gather information, the Ministry of Intelligence needs a cover, whether inside or outside the country. We do not send an intelligence officer to Germany or the United States to say that I am from the Ministry of Intelligence. A business or journalism cover is needed."

On February 20, 2020 the New York Times refrained from publishing a letter to its editor from Ali Safavi, an official of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI in response to Times’ Feb 16 article Highly Secretive Iranian Rebels Are Holed Up in Albania. They Gave Us a Tour, which conveyed a spurious, distorted and biased narrative about Iran’s main opposition movement and MEK members in Albania. The article was written by journalist Patrick Kingsley, who had spent nine hours at Ashraf 3, visited anywhere he wanted, and spoke privately with anyone he wanted but claimed in his article that “that journalists are rarely allowed in Ashraf-3.”

These baseless claims were made while in less than two years, dozens of journalists from international and local Albanian media such as The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, Reuters, AFP photo, Belgium’s VRT, Scotland’s National, Euro News, CD Media, Vision Plus, and Top Channel etc. had visited Ashraf 3 before Kingsley.

Mohammad Shafaei, an MEK member in Ashraf 3 who spoke to the Times reporter described Kingsley’s methods as “an eerie reminder of the methods of the regime’s interrogators.” Shafaei has lost six of his family members, all of them tortured and executed by the brutal regime of Iran.

What is the regime’s aim?

The mullahs’ regime historically considers the MEK as the main threat to its rule. The MEK has been the only movement that has consistently called for regime change in Iran and the establishment of a free and democratic state.

In four decades of its rule, the regime has failed to physically annihilate the MEK in the course of over 120,000 executions and waves of terrorism. Therefore it has resorted for over two decades to disinformation campaigns and spreading lies in order to mislead the public opinion on Iran’s democratic alternative. Today, these efforts are focused on Ashraf 3, the headquarters of MEK members in Albania.

Many senior officials of the Mullahs regime, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, talk daily about the MEK and the danger the organization poses to the ruling regime, warning about the its role in leading nationwide protests such as December 2017 and November 2019 by the Iranian people. They hope that by defaming the MEK and casting doubt on its values, they will be able to extend their own rule. But the reality they can’t deny is that Ashraf 3, as the bastion of hope and freedom in Iran, is growing stronger every day and inspiring many youth and freedom lovers in Iran to stand up for their rights against the brutal regime that has hijacked their sovereignty for more than four decades.