Last week, four former MEK members flew to Albania from their homes in Europe to attend the wedding of their friend. When they were denied entry at the airport, two of them boarded return flights to Britain and Austria. However, the couple from Germany remained at the airport demanding to know why they were being refused entry. Ms Batoul Soltani told journalists “We saw MEK commanders sitting in KFC in the transit hall and assumed the Albanian border officials had allowed them in to make sure no Iranians could enter the country”. Soltani went on to explain, “We asked for consular support from the German embassy. And after spending an uncomfortable night sleeping in transit, an official visited us the next day. What they told us was really surprising.”
The German diplomat explained that the Albanian border officials had refused them entry in order to protect them from being hurt or even killed by the MEK. The Albanian police admitted that they are cracking down on the MEK’s activities and this has made them extremely angry. The MEK is now facing an existential crisis and their rage has made them vicious and dangerous. Their soft targets are the former members who have spoken out against them, revealing gross human rights abuses. After being reassured that they could visit Albania again in the future, Soltani and her partner returned home to Germany.
Evidence of how severely the MEK has been restrained emerged after the Albanian police banned the MEK from holding its annual rally scheduled for 23-4 July. The MEK angrily “postponed” their rally and set about concocting a false threat to offer as an excuse. Using false information, the MEK coerced Albania’s Special Structure for Combatting Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) into detaining a handful of former MEK members and their Albanian supporters on the charge of being “agents in the service of the Iranian regime”. These former members of the MEK, survivors of modern slavery, have struggled to live in Albania under constant harassment by both the MEK and Albanian authorities. The MEK accused them of plotting to kill the MEK members at the rally. SPAK searched their properties and interrogated the detainees but could not find any reason to hold them. In spite of the MEK insisting they be kept overnight in order to keep the appearance that they were a terrorist threat, they were released the same day.
When this ploy to hide the awful truth didn’t work, the US embassy in Albania posted a Tweet warning “The U.S. government is aware of a potential threat targeting the Free Iran World Summit to be held near Durres, Albania on July 23-24, 2022.” The post went on to advise: “U.S. Citizens are urged to avoid this event; Monitor local media; Be aware of your surroundings; Keep a low profile”.
Whether the “potential threat” targeted Americans specifically or not, this served the dual purpose of giving the MEK an excuse to cancel their rally, and also demonised Iran as a potential terrorist threat. (Though implicit in this is the message that neither the Albanian police and security services nor the Americans – in a NATO country – had the power to detect and neutralise a potential threat to a closed camp in the middle of Albania.)
Ironically, the cancellation of the MEK rally attracted much greater publicity for the cult than the actual rally would have done. For this reason, the MEK leadership was initially delighted by this turn of events. The US benefitted as this fed into the narrative confected around the trials in Belgium and Sweden of Iranian government officials operating in Europe who are alleged to have committed crimes against MEK members. Demonising Iran in any way adds fuel to the efforts by the anti-Iran cohort in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to stop the US coming back to the JCPOA and to get the weak president Biden to pursue the same maximum pressure policy as Trump with even more sanctions on Iran.
It also gave the Iranians an opportunity to have a laugh as Fars News Agency made the patently ludicrous suggestion of “targeting an opposition group in Europe with ballistic missiles and drones”. This was gleefully picked up and reported by the Saudi owned, MEK propaganda channel Iran International TV as credible evidence of Iranian aggression. However, only days later the Telegram account for Iran’s IRGC announced that the real reason why the MEK rally was cancelled is that Maryam Rajavi is seriously ill, and doctors have been brought from Europe to save her. A claim that neither the MEK nor its supporters, paymasters or protectors could confirm or deny.
Neither scenario was viable, but this left the MEK fatally exposed as victims of other people’s propaganda. The MEK have now woken up to the fact that they have been played by both the US and Iran and, worse, for the first time in forty years have not been able to hold their annual rally. From mass demonstrations in every major western capital in the 1980s to the rallies contained in the Villepinte Exposition Parc in Paris, to small rallies inside the camp in Albania, the MEK have now been prevented from holding a rally at all.
This should not come as a surprise however. Several events in the past year and more indicated that Maryam Rajavi is no longer fully in control of the MEK. Last year we revealed that Maryam Rajavi was in the process of offloading responsibility for running the MEK onto her daughter and niece and some other loyal women, perhaps in an effort to take control of the MEK’s vast financial assets. Alongside this, there have also been activities which she would not have been able to instigate or monitor – from mafia collaboration to cyberwarfare. Her only role has been as a figurehead to front the MEK and market it as an anti-Iran opposition group. This was fine as long as it was needed. It no longer is. The annual rally is no longer to be tolerated.
But beyond this, the MEK has always been a maverick group, obeying no laws except its own cultic dynamics; brainwashing the members as modern slaves and living and acting outside the laws and norms of every country they have been based in, indulging in criminal and corrupting behaviours to serve their ends. For a candidate country for joining the EU, this has surely become a liability, and this is, presumably, why the group’s activities are being curtailed.
In Iraq, when the UNHCR puzzled over what to do with the MEK which refused to leave the country, a rumour circulated that ‘Plan B’ was to leave the MEK to die in their camp. It appears that this plan might be coming to fruition. Fewer than 1500 MEK members exist in the closed camp in Albania. Most of these are over 60 years old, many much older and many ailing. Every week reports of deaths and defections continue to haunt the cult. It is only a matter of time before the system collapses.
The hope now must be that the Albanian authorities take the lead in supporting the members directly. It would be nice if the Albanian authorities found a way to stage a humanitarian rescue of these redundant old folk. Even if they remain in the camp for the remainder of their lives, it would be a kindness to bring them some relief from their suffering and mistreatment – medical and dental care, nutritious food and retirement from forced work – and to allow them contact with their estranged families who have campaigned for over two decades to rescue their loved ones. Now they have outlived their usefulness they should be helped to live the remainder of their lives in freedom and ease.
By Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton)