Albania, situated in the middle of the Balkans, harbours one of the most eccentric political leaders in Europe. But Edi Rama, Prime Minister of the country, doesn’t claim the spotlight only for his lavish dress sense. On May 13th Prime Minister Rama surprised once more by comparing the suffering of Jewish people during the Second World war to a terrorist organization known as the MEK. A comparison that isn’t only stupid, it’s also deeply offensive against the Jews who suffered under the Nazis.
For those who are not familiar with the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), allow me to give you a short history. The MEK is a terrorist organization, responsible for thousands of civilian murders in Iran and Iraq over three decades. Until 2012 MEK was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the year Hillary Clinton decided to delist them and strike a deal with Albania to take them in.
Nowadays the MEK is demanding that the US and Israel rain bombs down on the homes of their own families in Iran. They were brought to Albania because Iraq refused to tolerate the presence of American backed former Saddamists in their country. They were supposed to be de-radicalized and rehabilitated back into society once they arrived. To be completely clear, this never happened.
Instead, the Americans have insisted on re-grouping the MEK and using them as ‘regime change’ marketeers; placing Albania on the front line in the Neocon’s and Likud’s war against Iran.
Albania, which has already more than enough trouble fighting the well-known organized crime sector, is now wasting costly resources and police officers to keep this vile and dangerous group under control.
This anecdotal view comes with its own headlines. Criminals involved in drug smuggling and arms and human trafficking are still highly organized and very active. The mysterious disappearance of 60 asylum seekers has been treated by the police and SHISH as a matter of state secrecy. Albanian officials I spoke with said, off the record, there was no doubt they had been trafficked to Europe but that the government does not want Europe to be aware of this ongoing business. The fact that some of those who disappeared belonged to the Iranian Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) terrorist group only adds to what the report called a “scary event”.
In this context, Rama has a lot to answer for but has evaded the difficult questions. One of those difficult issues is the disturbing activities of the MEK in the country. Since the first arrivals in 2013 to the last group who arrived at the end of 2016, this group has caused controversy. Only recently, local residents in Manzë had enough of it and protested against their presence. Pointing not only to the MEK’s unwelcome use of their families’ cemetery to bury their dead, but also to the economical inequality between ordinary Albanian citizens and MEK members. Those members do not have pay or pensions and therefore pay no taxes but are afforded the luxury of 24-hour water and electricity supplies that locals cannot access.
When asked by Italian Radio Radicale about the MEK presence in Albania (3.30m – 5.15m), Rama’s oafish, self-satisfied reply is a shocking example of lazy, casual Anti-Semitism. He likens sheltering the MEK now to sheltering Jewish people fleeing the Nazis during WWII.
This comparison is deeply, deeply offensive to Jewish people. The history and current situation of the MEK is about as diametrically opposed to the experience of Jewish people in Nazi Europe as it is possible to imagine.
PM Rama is not only wrong – the MEK’s unchecked presence in Albania is also an affront to the citizens of that country – he reveals how un-statesmanlike he is. How incapable of showing leadership and how easily he has been ‘persuaded’ to stupidly and ignorantly follow American and Israeli foreign policy to the detriment of his own country’s national interests. If unchecked, the MEK in Albania could turn into an even bigger problem for the country, as the recent protest shows.
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton), Balkan Post
Anne Khodabandeh, is an expert in anti-terrorist activities and a long-standing activist in the field of deradicalization of extremists. She has written several articles and books on this subject, along with her husband, who is of Iranian origin.