Iran Interlink Weekly Digest – 201

++ This week saw the anniversary of the 1981 assassination of Prime Minister Mohammad-Javad Bahonar and President Mohammad Ali Rajai by the MEK in Iran. Iran calls it ‘the day of fighting terrorism’. One of the events to mark this assassination was held in the old parliament building in Tehran. The event was titled ‘Terrorism – from Mojahedin to Daesh’. A statement from the Head of Parliament was read out as he could not attend. In his speech, the Deputy Head of Parliament said, “it is a sad joke that after sending the MEK and Daesh to commit acts of terrorism in Iran over three decades, ironically ‘they’ still accuse us of supporting terrorism”.

++ A gathering of Nejat Society members was held in Yazd this week. The invited speakers were Ebrahim Khodabandeh, Zahra Mir Bagheri and Abbas Mohammadpour. The explained in some detail to the families what is happening with the MEK and the ex-members in Tirana and how Nejat is talking with the government of Albania to arrange family meetings and help those who have separated from the MEK.

++ In Albania, Gazeta Impakt YouTube channel broadcast an hour and a half interview with Ehsan Bidi and Manuchehr Abdi. Both are ex-members there. They detailed how they were treated before coming to Albania and now by the MEK. Their main complaint concerns their current situation in Tirana. They are coming under pressure from the MEK and its backers in the Albanian government to stop them speaking out and exposing the realities of the MEK. This has reached the point that because of speaking out about the MEK, the UNHCR, the interior ministry of Albania and the refugee camps have thrown them out into the streets and cut their social benefits. When they went on hunger strike outside the UNHCR office they were threatened by staff there with ‘disappearance’ or prison. They complain that “the Pentagon and the CIA have brought their fight with Iran to Albania, but in this war, they are sacrificing people who don’t want to be terrorists”.

++ Other reports from Albania indicate that Maryam Rajavi has started a new round of oath taking, this time getting members to sign up to stay with the MEK until the end of the Trump administration. Rajavi tells them that ‘President Trump will go to war with Iran and we will go back to Iran’. Commentators ridicule this saying even Trump himself is not clear whether he’ll reach end of his term as President.

++ Other reports from Albania say that MEK members are trying to sneak into internet cafés and talk with their families. In response, the MEK has increased its surveillance tactics. On top of the previous system of only being allowed to go out in groups and compulsory reporting on each other, the MEK has now created a dedicated group of people just to follow those who have to go out for any reason. For example, for medical reasons. This group must clandestinely follow, take photos and report the activities of any MEK member outside the base.

++ Today it was reported that the MEK leaders have gathered all the disaffected members who still receive their weekly UN refugee allowance from them on condition of compliance with various restrictions – do not contact your family, do not contact other ex-members, do not talk about the MEK with anyone. These people have been told that after this month they will no longer receive their UNHCR financial allowance from the MEK. When they complained, insisting that they had abided by the rules, the MEK told them ‘the UNHCR informed us that the lease for the building we are using has ended and it must be evacuated’. The disaffected members objected ‘what’s that to do with us, we don’t live in that building’. The MEK answer was that ‘if we suffer you must too’. The UNHCR ironically still pays its money to the MEK organisation not individual refugees. Farsi commentary says, ‘this is what Saddam would do – pay per head of members as a lump sum to Massoud Rajavi’.

++ A government source in Albania has informed Iran-Interlink that the MEK is pushing hard for permission to move the members to a camp in an isolated town at the edge of Albania, 300 miles from the capital.  This is to avoid any interference from any external body but mostly to make it extremely difficult for the MEK families to go there. The government has refused this saying it is not acceptable.

++ Sahar site was down for three days last week. Sahar explained why this happened. It appears that some MEK lobbyists in America had approached the service provider in the US claiming that the Sahar website belongs to the intelligence ministry of Iran and that hosting it is against the sanctions regime and threatening that legal action will be taken. In addition, several lawyers have written to the service provider saying the same thing. According to Sahar’s investigations, a considerable amount of money has been spent on this. Sahar has contacted the service provider with documents to show who is behind Sahar. The provider thereby discovered that they had been set up and have apologised to Sahar and reinstated the site. Khodabandeh posted on Facebook – if you can’t deal with a few ex members and some families even outside the country, what is that ‘we will overthrow the regime’ slogan all about?

In English:

++ Sahar Family Foundation met with some officials in the Albanian ministry of internal affairs whose department is responsible for monitoring and looking after around 240 separated MEK members. One official gave a wide-ranging account of what is happening, in particular mentioning the MEK’s “hostile attitude towards the families trying to visit their loved ones inside the group” and said the government is aware that the MEK leaders are “trying to establish a government like system similar to what they practiced in Iraq, which is not acceptable”.

++ Habilian Association which represents victims of MEK terrorism inside Iran reported on a speech by former MEK member Ebrahim Khodabandeh to scholars of Astan Qods Razavi Endowment in Mashhad. Khodabandeh said the main focus of MEK international activity was to stoke ‘Iranophobia’. He talked about the criminal record of the group. He concluded by describing Iran’s attitude toward the MEK and its members. “…Do a research in a country like the U.S. and see what the sentence of high treason is. The Islamic Republic has shown the maximum mercy to an enemy group. I know more than 700 MEK members like myself who are freely living their lives. Many journalists who encountered us were surprised and wondered if it is possible.”

++ Mazda Parsi in Nejat Society calls the MEK ‘Masters of Propaganda’. He says, “There is a big mistake often made by certain American politicians: They allegedly are concerned about freedom of Iranian people but fail to understand the nature of a group which, in public, says good things about freedom and democracy but, actually it is committed to violence, human rights abuse and cult-like practices… The MEK are ‘masters of propaganda’. Many of its supporters are unaware of its dark history and also what is going on inside the group now.”

++ Tehran Times and Mehr News, Tehran, both ran pieces about the MEK assassination of President Mohammad Ali Rajaei and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar in 1981.

++ Nejat Society published an open letter written by families of MEK members trapped in Albania to the UNHCR and the Albanian interior ministry. The families again raise the issue of family visits not being a crime and asking for help to allow MEK members to benefit from their international and financial rights so that they can make informed decisions about their futures.

 September 01, 2017

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