Fiks Fare addresses the problem of 200 members who escaped from the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI aka MEK, Rajavi cult), three thousands of whom were transferred here from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq.
These Mojahedin, disillusioned with their organization, have left the camp and now live without any economic aid or social support. Without immigration status, without any ID and no income, they cannot return to their country or to the MEK camp.
With their testimony to Fiks Fare, they shed light on what is actually happening in the Mojahedin camp, which is being built in Manzë in Durres under a decision by the National Land Council.
Albania accommodated about 3,000 Iranian Mojahedin in Albania between March 2013 until September 2016, when the last 280 arrived from Camp Liberty in Iraq.
In September 2014, Prime Minister Rama met with Secretary of State John Kerry at the NATO Summit in Wales and discussed the hosting of the Mojahedin. In April 2015, this issue was revised again in Washington between Bushati and Secretary Kerry.
At the beginning of 2016, Prime Minister Rama agreed to accommodate all of the 1,970 Mojahedin still in Baghdad. This agreement was made during the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Albania in February 2016. On 10 September 2016, the UN said it had completed the transfer of all Mojahedin from Iraq to Albania. At that time, US Senator John McCain welcomed completion of the mission to transfer the Mojahedin to Albania.
In the agreement it was decided that the Iranian Mojahedin would be housed in a special camp built by the Albanian government in co-operation with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Initially, the Mojahedin were given residences in two areas of Kashar.
They were seen together for the first time in March 2017, when a super organization of three thousand members of the Iranian opposition MEK, under conditions of total secrecy, celebrated the Persian New Year, otherwise known as Nowruz, at the Palace of Congresses in Tirana.
The leader of the Iranian resistance, Maryam Rajavi, who lives in France, was engaged in this organizational activity. She stayed in Albania for several days, where she met with not only her supporters, but also with some Albanian politicians.
In October 2017, the National Land Council approved a construction permit for the special camp, which had already begun construction in Manzë in Durres. The transfer of Mojahedin to the new premises is already well underway. This camp is being built by ‘FARA’ association.
Fiks Fare approached the Court of Tirana to inquire about this association which turns out to have been registered by court decision No. 5538 on 08.02.2017.
What is the Mojahedin organisation?
The Iranian Mojahedin is an opposition movement in exile, aimed at overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is also known as MEK. The movement was founded in 1965 by a group of left-wing students and the goal was to overthrow the Shah of Iran. When the Shah fell, another clash began: between the Mojahedin and fundamentalist supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, who took power.
By the end of 1981, many of its members and supporters fled abroad and their main location of residence was France.
In 1986, the movement moved its base of operations to eastern Iraq, but the situation changed with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. US forces attacked them as targets but reached a ceasefire agreement with them and afterwards came disarmament. It was decided the MEK would be held in Camp Ashraf, the former Iraqi military base.
But after the American withdrawal from Camp Ashraf in 2011, acts of violence erupted between the MEK and Iraqi soldiers. Then later that year they were moved to Camp Liberty, outside Baghdad. Because of lack of security for the MEK, the need for their relocation from Iraq to other countries, including Albania, was born.
Testimony: MEK is an organization comprising many highly trained war-ready soldiers
The Fiks Fare show has managed to find some former members of this organization – 3 of the 200 defectors from MEK. All three respondents claim that the Mojahedin hiding in Manzë camp are warriors very well-prepared for battle.
According to them, the MEK imposes very stringent conditions on members, whereby any communication with families is strictly forbidden. Today the three live in some UNCHR-paid flats, but they will soon reach a crossroads because they do not have any identification documents, neither migrant status nor political refugee status.
Interview with Sadollah Seifi, former MEK member, who left the organization 8 months ago
I am Sadollah Seifi, I was born in Iran in 1969. I become part of the Mojahedin organization aged 21.
Why did you become part of this organization?
When I lived in Iran there were many problems in the country, especially economic problems. For this reason, I joined this organization hoping to bring a better future for my people.
How did you become acquainted with this organization?
They have a radio and spread propaganda in Iran. I heard on the radio that they had some bases in other countries such as Turkey and that they were preparing to fight against Iran. I connected with this base in Turkey and went there.
When you were part of the MEK, what happened inside?
In the early days when I was there, they talked about freeing the people, about freedom. But then I realized that everything was a lie.
Why do you think they were lies?
Because they are a frightening organization, they have a lot of agents who force you to do what they want. And you have to do what they say. I went there of my own free will, but they forced me to do what they said.
Did you receive ideological lessons and what was said to you?
We were constantly undergoing ideological teaching. ‘You should not create a family. You do not have a family. You must do what the leader of your organization says’.
When you came here to Tirana, how long did you stay in the organization and when did you leave?
I’ve been here for 8 months and it’s been three months since I left the organization.
Why did you decide to leave the organization?
Because they told us only lies, and when we were in Iraq I was not able to leave. It was just like a prison there.
Is Manzë similar to Camp Ashraf?
From what others have told me it is like in Ashraf. When I came here I thought here is my chance for freedom and I was gone from there.
With what money do you live here?
During these three months some friends have helped me live and my family sent me money.
Your friends are with the Mojahedin?
No, they have left the organization.
You do not get the [MEK] money?
No, they have never given me any since they accused me of having links with other defectors and they have called me a traitor.
Where you live now?
The UNHCR pays for the house where I live and gives me a food package per month. Here there is no future for us, all is darkness. The MEK, the Albanian government, UNHCR and the US government brought us here on the basis of an agreement, but we have no status. We do not have residence permits, the right to work. I’ve been to many of your country’s organizations, but no one helped me because they told me you have no status here and we do not accept refugees here. I do not know what I can do here …
Are there many who left this organization?
As far as I know, there are about 200 people who have left. If you are part of this organization, they impose some rules to keep people inside. Here in Albania, the rules changed so they cannot force people as they did in Iraq. But there are some rules that make it difficult for people to leave. One is this situation, that if you leave you do not have money to live, since you have no status here, you cannot work. So, the situation is such that people find it difficult to escape.
Do you fear for the future? What are you going to do here? You have no documents and have no status.
I want to leave this place, but I cannot get any documents to escape. Here I have no future. Your Government, the Interior Ministry, does not give us any opportunity for me to stay here. When I’m in the street, the police can stop me and ask, ‘who you are?’ During these three months, I tried to get a residency permit, but your government tells us that they lost our documents. While only a few days ago they said they were going to create our documents to give us residential citizenship, but we have not received anything so far. Our demands are at least to allow our families to come here to help us.
Interview with Ehsan Bidi, former member of the MEK
There was war between Iran and Iraq. The MEK gave information about Iran to the Iraqi government and the government of Saudi Arabia. They are paid by them. They worked for Saddam Hussein’s intelligence and Saudi Arabia.
Do you have family, wife, children?
No, I do not. It was not my choice but because this organization is a sect (cult). When you are their victim you cannot have a wife, you cannot have children, you have to be alone.
Why did you make this sacrifice?
It was not my choice and it was not my sacrifice because they forced me to choose between life and death. If I wanted to be alive I had to give up everything, it was not my choice. During all these 15 years I was a victim. I was not allowed to have contact with my family and call them. Everything was forbidden to us.
At what age did you join this organization and why did you become part of it?
At age 24. I was a long-time sympathizer in Iran. When I realized that they were lying to me and that they were terrorists, I didn’t want any further connection to them. I left and started working as a mechanic in a private business. They sent some sympathizers to visit me who told me that ‘the government is asking after you, many of your friends are in prison. You have to leave the country immediately because the Iranian government will kill or imprison you’. I left, not for myself but for my family and I went with this organization. After I left Iran I went to Turkey; I did not have a passport to travel with. The organization took me in and gave me a fake document to go to Iraq.
What role did you have in this organization?
I did not give them any kind of information after I realized they were lying to me. They did not lie to me alone, but they lied to everyone. Many people were in Turkey. They came and told us you have to go back to Iraq and stay for 3 months, and then we will take you to whatever place they want in Europe. But everything was a lie because you see that everyone is now in Albania. If you go to that organization with their documents, you are as a prisoner because you have no other choice, no way to leave.
How does this organization work?
We have lived armed. We are separated into groups and classes to take theoretical ideological lessons. They told us how we were better than the Iranian government.
You have an Albanian driving license, but do not have a passport?
Yes, but it is in the process. First. I will be given an identity card then the passport. This organization has made this place a prison for us. No one supports us.
What did you do in practice, who ordered you to do attacks?
The Organization. It created special groups and sent them into Iran to attack by setting off bombs.
In the organization I learned everything about weapons and how to kill people. Many of these people that you see here are not people, they are war machines.
Interview with Manouchehr Abdi, expelled by the MEK
When I was 42 I became part of this organization and I’m now 55 years old. So, I’ve been a victim of this organization for 13 consecutive years. When I was living in my country of Iran, there were many problems and the situation was not good in both the political as well as the economic sense. I had many dreams about the freedom of my country and I joined this organization. But then I realized that this organization was a big lie. They lied to us, they are a sect (cult), I could not immerse myself in it.
What did you do in the camp, did you learn to use weapons, did you have military training?
At the beginning, we did ordinary work just as all people do. During those years Iran had many problems, especially economic. The MEK organization had many cells and sympathizers in Iran and they promised many young people that if they went to Iraq and became part of it they would benefit from a lot of money.
Was it hard to escape from the MEK?
Yes, it was very difficult. Because we had no connection with the life outside. We did not know anything about it. We had no phone or internet knowledge, we had no contact with our family. I came here afterwards with this organization because it had an agreement between the government of Albania and the US government. The UNHCR brought me here and now for 8 months I’m out of the MEK and live alone.
Why did you decide to leave when you came here?
Because when I was in Iraq I tried to make contact with my daughter, but they did not allow me to. There were many families who came to Camp Ashraf to meet their family members, but this organization forced the members to reject being their children and actually attacked those families.
Is the camp in Albania the same as in Iraq?
They are creating something similar.
I asked to see my daughter, but they have made an agreement with your government not to allow our families to come and see us. So, if you are a part of this organization you cannot have any connection with your family, it is forbidden to you.
Here some groups of MEK are linked to people, with young people in Iran, via the internet, social media, and they teach them how to fight, how to kill others in Iran.
When I was part of the organization I was part of a group that virtually connected with a group of young people in Iran and taught them how to fight. Because you should know that everyone in this organization knows how to fight to kill. So, we are prepared militarily, we know everything about weapons. We teach young people in Iran through Skype. I did not need to undertake military training because before I joined the organization I had been in the Iranian army.
You do not have any status here, you are not allowed to work. On what income do you live now?
Some friends, who have also escaped from this organization, help me. Many of them receive money from the organization. I did not because they declared me an agent of Iran [because I contacted my family and they expelled me]. But others receive money based on an agreement between your government and the organization so that whoever leaves the organization, the latter pays for them to live in Albania.
Maryam Rajavi, the leader of this organization, lives in France and often comes here and holds meetings. At one of these meetings, she said those who have left the organization in Albania are traitors and they should be killed.
What will you do now?
I cannot do anything. I do not have a passport because this organization does not allow your government to give us one. I have no status. It’s just like a prison. For the past three months I have lived in an apartment paid for by the UNHCR. So, I came here to tell you about this situation. My family cannot send money because they are under economic hardship. My friends do not have the means to help me. This is not just my problem. Even the people who received the MEK money already have been contacted and told that if you leave, we will pay you for three months and then you have to sign a document to say that you agree to refund the money again and that you no longer need any money. This is the problem for all those who leave.
Why are you in Fiks Fare today?
You know that every political refugee has that status in every country in the world. We do not. We are simply residing in Albania without status. We have all been brought here with no documents or status. I have suffered a lot as a victim of this organization. Now that I have left, do I not have the right as a human being to live like everyone else. I cannot work. This is the problem for all of us.
Top Channel TV, Translated by Iran Interlink