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Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – 276

COVID Infects MEK Camp Ashraf 3

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++ The trial of Asadollah Assadi is underway in Brussels. The Austrian based Iranian diplomat was arrested in Germany and accused of passing a bomb to an Iranian couple who planned to attack an MEK rally in Paris in 2018. During the trial the MEK have tried their utmost to make themselves relevant. MEK representatives were not allowed inside the court room. Instead, they sent three high level, highly paid lawyers from France alongside Farzin Hashemi as Maryam Rajavi’s representative to stand outside court and give interviews etc. On the back of this the MEK placed paid articles in French and Belgian media. Maryam Rajavi, of course, is not allowed in the European Union. The MEK’s desperate efforts to make the trial about them has exposed their real role in the plot. The more they put themselves forward, the more it shows as a false flag operation. The sponsors of the plot did their job in 2018 to meddle in relations between Iran and Europe to prevent rapprochement. The MEK were paid at the time but are apparently now trying to get more out of this, even though their actions are against the interests of Israel. This is being done while the MEK were obviously involved in the assassination of Iran’s nuclear expert Dr Fakhrizadeh as the Farsi speaking part of the equation. This puts Albania in a difficult position as hosts to the MEK.

++ This week marks the Day of Students in Iran. This goes back to the time of the Shah when on the 16th Azar, the Shah’s troops killed three students during an anti-Shah, anti-imperialist demonstration. Today the MEK – famously anti-imperialist at that time – are still trying to celebrate the Day of Students and its anti-American martyrs, completely oblivious to the contradiction with their newly pro-American position. Commentators point out the irony. The MEK are now pro-American but can’t give up the past. They can’t let go of either position to the point that Maryam Rajavi presented the MEK’s book of anti-imperialist martyrs to Senator John McCain. It couldn’t get more ridiculous than this.

In English:

++ Reports reveal that ten MEK members have died of COVID-19 in Albania since the first week of November. This indicates an outbreak of the coronavirus in Camp Ashraf 3. In 2016, as they were given refuge on humanitarian grounds, the Albanian government gave assurances that the MEK would receive full medical care. Since then, the MEK leaders have imprisoned the members in the closed camp and do not allow Albanian authorities to enter. From the start of the pandemic, the MEK have refused to allow local health officials into the camp to help; there are no licenced medical staff in the camp. It is unclear how the virus was introduced into the camp, but leading members have used their Laissez-passer documents to move around Albania without hindrance, crossing road blocks with impunity. This week two of the MEK’s Albanian lawyers failed to attend court in a libel case against Behzad Saffari, brought by journalist Gjergji Thanasi, saying they have contracted COVID-19. This could be coincidental, but it has also been reported that the defendant Behzad Safari has also gone missing and has not been seen recently. Whether the virus could have been transmitted either way, from lawyers to the camp or the camp to the lawyers, it is clear from the number of deaths in Camp Ashraf 3 that there are many others suffering the illness.

++ After being ousted from Iraq and now the EU, the MEK could hope that they are safe in Albania. However, as the presidency of the US shifts in the next weeks, questions are being asked as to what the new Biden administration’s foreign policy will be and how this might affect the MEK. In an interview with Jacobin Magazine, Daniel Benaim – senior fellow at American Progress, researcher for US policy in the Middle East and visiting lecturer at New York University – gave his analysis of the pivotal topics of Biden’s foreign policy. In regard to the JCPOA, Benaim said, “My friends and I are of the view that a reduction in US support for MEK could be absorbing to Tehran. Albanian officials in bilateral meetings have expressed their concerns over the group’s illegal activities in human, drug, and arms trafficking. The Settlement of MEK in Albania and the coast of Adriatic Sea, along the European border is not necessary for a long period of time, and the group’s relocation to Ethiopia or Red Sea coasts such as Eritrea should be considered.” This raised two opposing views among observers. One view says ‘good riddance’ from Europe and let Saudi Arabia and the UAE use them in the conflict with Yemen. The other view comes from the families of enslaved, disappeared MEK members who would be further out of reach and again put in danger of death in a conflict not of their choosing.

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