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Please raise the issue of the MEK presence in Albania with them

Open Letter to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson

Ylva Johansson

On Saturday, 20 February, you are scheduled to meet the President of the Republic of Albania, Ilir Meta; Prime Minister, Edi Rama; Minister of Interior, Bledi Cuçi; and the leader of the opposition, Luzlim Basha.

Ylva Johansson

Please raise the issue of the Mojahedin- Khalq (MEK) presence in Albania with them.

In 2016, 2,901 individual MEK members were transferred to Albania from Iraq by the UNHCR. Although classified as “refugees”, they were not granted legal documentation in Albania – they do not have ID cards, work permits, travel permits, etc. This has left them dependent on the MEK leader Maryam Rajavi for their subsistence. In Albania, as in Iraq, they are held in a closed camp in conditions of modern slavery. The systematic application of coercive control means they are not able to make independent, informed decisions about their health and welfare or their economic and social activity. Even if they were, the barriers to escaping the MEK are great.
When the MEK’s irresponsible response to the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the lives of the members, their families appealed to the UN Commission on Enforced Disappearances to make contact with individual members so they could ascertain the health and welfare of their loved ones. This has not yielded results. Families are still denied contact with the MEK camp residents by the leader Maryam Rajavi. Albania’s health officials are still denied access to the camp to check on conditions there.

The MEK presence in Albania has caused controversy. The MEK modus operandi means top level politicians of all parties, as well as media leaders and police and security have been co-opted into supporting the MEK’s anti-Iran agenda as policy. The politicisation of the MEK presence in Albania has come at a high cost to the individual members, to Albanian security, to the democratic and judicial processes of the country, and to foreign policy decisions which have resulted in Albania unnecessarily becoming the front line of the conflict between the EU and Iran.

Local residents near the MEK camp have protested several times about the impunity and preferential treatment of the camp against their own interests. Electricity and water suppliers prioritise the MEK camp leaving them with intermittent supplies, human sewage from the camp has been pumped onto agricultural land, and land earmarked for the expansion of the local cemetery has been appropriated so that MEK dead are buried in preference to the residents’ relatives. The situation in untenable whereby the natural rights and interests of local Albanian citizens are subordinated to the activities and demands of a foreign political cult.

Political leaders in Albania must be held to account for this anomaly. They must answer for MEK impunity and MEK interference in the running of the country.

When you go to the Kakavia border crossing with Greece, where you will visit the Frontex-Albania joint border control operation, please be aware of the attempted illegal deportation of an Iranian refugee across that border last year at the behest of the MEK leader Maryam Rajavi.

Ehsan Bidi, who came to Albania as a refugee (not with the MEK) and has been granted the right to residency, is currently being held in detention. Ehsan Bidi is – among many other former MEK members – an outspoken critic of Maryam Rajavi. In response, she demanded his deportation. Bidi was held in detention without charge or recourse to legal representation for a year. After which the national police tried illegally dumping him at the Greek border. After the intervention of friends and lawyers, Bidi was brought back to Tirana. Only for him to be detained again ‘pending deportation’. Since there is no possibility of this ever happening, the treatment of Bidi (who, as I remind you has been granted the right to residency), can only be classed as cruel and unusual treatment under the articles of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The only possible reason for this treatment is to suit the demand of Maryam Rajavi to eliminate critics.

Political leaders in Albania should explain why and how this foreign political cult has gained such influence over Albania’s political, judicial, security and media bodies that it threatens the national interests of that country and its people. Maryam Rajavi has been expelled from France and is not able to visit any EU country. The reasons for this are based on security and political considerations. It is inconceivable that with the MEK established in Albania and infecting every element of government, the EU will accept Albania’s accession to the EU of which you are a representative.

In 2013, when Joe Biden was Vice President in the Obama administration, a deal was struck by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to de-radicalise the MEK once they arrived in Albania. Under the Trump administration this plan was shelved, allowing the MEK to regroup and continue its nefarious practices. It may be possible that your report could contain the recommendation that this programme be resumed. This would relieve Albania of the onus to act unilaterally against the MEK. It would allow Albania’s accession to move forward. It would alleviate relations between the US, EU and Iran. More than anything it would restore basic human rights to the MEK members trapped in this cult with no hope and no future.

Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton)

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