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Once you are in the MKO, you are no more self-sufficient

MKO members are taken as hostages in the headquarters of the group

The resettlement of members of the mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ the Cult of Rajavi) in Albania was accomplished in 2016 following an agreement between the US administration and the Albanian government in 2013. The relocation operation was managed by the UNHCR. [1] Therefore, members of the MKO should have been considered as the refugees under the international laws.

The U.S. assistance to the deal also included a donation of $20 million to the U.N. refugee agency to help resettle the MEK. The U.S. has also provided Albania with security and economic development assistance, to help the country build up its physical capacity to house the refugees. [2]

Cults are destructive

Based on the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees published on the UNHCR website, “Protecting refugees is the core mandate of UNHCR”. To protect refugees the UNHCR should work closely with the state that receives the refugees in its territory. [3]

“UNHCR’s main role in pursuing international protection is to ensure that states are aware of, and act on, their obligations to protect refugees and persons seeking asylum, ”according to the UNHCR website. “However, it is not a supranational organization and cannot be considered as a substitute for government responsibility.” [4]

Thus, in case of the MKO members, the Albanian government is supposed to have certain duties and the UNHCR is expected to ensure that the government is aware of its responsibility and acts properly to fulfill the rights of the MKO’s rank and file while they are required to respect the laws and regulations of the Albanian government in return. [5]

Under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Countries should ensure that refugees benefit from economic and social rights, at least to the same degree as other foreign residents of the country of asylum. The bottom line is that members of the Cult of Rajavi (the MKO) do not benefit from economic and social rights in Albanian territory because they do not enjoy a normal life on their own free will. MKO members are taken as hostages in the headquarters of the group.

“A refugee has the right to safe asylum,” reads the Convention. ”However, international protection comprises more than physical safety. Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including freedom of thought, of movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.” [6]

“Freedom” is a precious gift which allows men to believe and live any way he chooses but it is unheard of in destructive cults such as the MKO. Meanwhile the UNHCR’s assistance “may include financial grants, food, tools and shelter and basic infrastructure such as schools and clinics. With projects such as income-generating activities and skill training programs, UNHCR makes every effort to ensure that refugees become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.”

Based on testimonies of defectors of the MKO in Tirana, the above mentioned facilities are limited to very basic needs such as food and shelter. The MKO’s rank and file have no access to the income-generating activities and skill training programs because they have to be dependent to the cult.

Once a person is stuck in a cult, he or she has to be totally dependent on the leader of the cult. Self-sufficiency is pointless to a cult member. In order to impose more isolation on their rank and file the MKO leaders took their recent action to relocate them to a remote headquarters in north of Tirana. The new base is surrounded by high walls and barbed wire to prevent the members from escaping.

The UNHCR and the Albanian government are highly responsible about the threat of 2500 radicalized cult members who are trained as robots in the Cult of Rajavi. They are potential ISIS-like forces that may turn back to trouble their housing society unless the MKO members are not considered as refugees under international laws. A Huffington Post article by Massoud Khodabandeh clarifies the vague status of the MKO hostages in Albania:

“A report by an Albanian lawyer (acting for MEK members who managed to separate from the group) after meeting with the UNHCR in Tirana reveals that under a secret agreement struck between the Americans, the government of Albania and the MEK leader, the UNHCR supervised the transfer of approximately 3,000 MEK from Iraq to Albania not as refugees but on a ‘humanitarian basis’. In other words, they have no official status in the country.

“According to this agreement, all the expenses for the MEK members are to be doled out by the MEK itself. This means that members are totally dependent on the MEK leadership for their subsistence. Those who have expressed their desire to separate from the group, for whatever reason, must continue to obey MEK rules and restrictions, they must accept MEK imposed conditions so that they are given accommodation and food.” [7]

This unfounded status of some thousand members of a fringe cult may give Albania a slap in the face. This is what Ebi   Spahiu of Balkanalysis is concerned about. “Given Albania’s continued struggles with endemic corruption and organized crime, and the slow emergence of religious radicalization as a regional security threat, sectarian rifts may add to the list of challenges facing Albania’s political standing,” he writes. “One point of controversy that has already occurred domestically is that the agreement itself is very vague; there has thus been plenty of criticism domestically over a perceived lack of transparency on the terms agreed between Albania and the US.” [8]

Mazda Parsi


[1] Dockins, Pamela, US Praises Albania for MEK Resettlement, VOA, February 14th, 2016

[2 ] ibid

[3] UNHCR website, Protecting Refugees: questions and answers, February 1st, 2002

[3] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] Khodabendeh, Massoud, Albania’s Modern Slavery Problem Alienates Europe, Huffington Post, November 20th, 2017

[8] Spahiu, Ebi, The Iranian MEK in Albania: Implications and Possible Future Sectarian Divisions, Balkanalysis, January 29, 2017

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