International Affairs Editor on Channel 4, Lindsey Hilsum mistreated, authorities are silent about the event. Minister Fatmir Xhafaj, the highest police authorities, and the British Embassy in Tirana have become aware of this incident.
An attempt was made to keep secret an incident at the Iranian Mojahedin camp in Manzas, Durrës, in which a well-known British journalist and her film crew were beaten. But Shqiptarja.com has discovered all the details of this incident.
Sources from the State Intelligence and Anti-terrorism Services, speaking on terms of anonymity, indicate that the incident occurred on August 10. The whole event was not reported in the daily communiques of criminal events by the police, although it is a scandal, and not a small one.
At the beginning of August, a British television crew for Channel 4 arrived in Albania, along with the well-known Middle East affairs journalist Lindsey Hilsum. The purpose of their visit was to investigate the lives of the Iranian Mojahedin, who have been given refuge for some years in our country, and the mystery of the newly-built, giant and fortified camp, hosting 3,000 dissidents of the Iranian regime.
Shqiptarja.com learned that on the morning of August 10, Lindsey Hilsum, accompanied by her producer Darius Bazargan, travelled in the direction of Manza, in the Durrës Region, to film the camp. They were accompanied by an Albanian translator.
As Lindsey Hilsum was standing outside the camp’s fence, at the back, trying to look inside the camp, she was pushed, and she was subjected to force by the private security guards, as well as by some Iranians.
An eyewitness told Shqiptarja.com that the attack was immediate and that the journalist was frightened. “They tried to take the camera and break it. The journalist panicked and started screaming, while young man of short stature who accompanied her was grabbed by the throat”, he said.
After a few minutes, an emergency police patrol arrived, which protected the journalist and her crew. They were escorted to the police station where they reported the incident and explained that they were doing their job [as journalists]. After giving their statements, they were released.
The entire incident has been filmed by the British film crew and will be broadcast in the next few days on Channel 4. A source aware of the content of the investigation told Shqiptarja.com that the film material provided by British television and the interviews taken show what happens inside the camp which is guarded fanatically so that nothing escapes outside the massive walls of this camp, lying on 26 hectares.
Minister Fatmir Xhafaj, the highest police authorities, and the British Embassy in Tirana have become aware of this incident.
Meanwhile, SHISH has sent Prime Minister Rama a detailed memo about the event. Shqiptarja.com sent an email to producer Darius Bazargan asking him to comment on the event to which he replied to contact his executive producers who would make a public statement later.
Albanianja.com requested a statement about this incident from the Mojahedin spokesman in the Manza camp, who claimed to believe that the TV crew was serving the interests of Iran’s regime’s secret police.
Full Reaction of MEK:
“On Friday, August 10, 2018, a television crew of three, secretly and without prior notice, filmed and photographed within the residence of members of the Mojahedin People’s Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK), refugees in Albania, from an adjacent place. Local Albanian security agents, who pointed out this suspicious and unlawful act, asked not to film and surrender the footage. But team members, who were introduced as Britons working for British TV Channel 4 TV, disregarded this request and continued their work until the Albanian police came and escorted them to the police district.
“The next day, the news of their visit to the PMOI residence and photos taken there was featured on Facebook’s site by Massoud Khodabandeh, a notorious agent of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry (MOIS), as well as on Iran’s website -Interlink that is run by MOIS. Thus, it became clear that this audio-visual team from Channel 4 is in active communication with this Iranian intelligence agent and has taken the task of preparing a program to denigrate PMOI. But when MOIS realized that the publication of the news and photos had tarnished her conspiracy against Mojahedin, she ordered that they be removed on August 12th.
“On August 10, shortly after the release of the Channel 4 filming team, a PMOI press spokesman wrote an urgent letter to the television channel editor, telling the story and threats facing Mojahedin in Albania: “We are very worried that the filmed videos will fall into the hands of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, “but he did not receive any response. He sent another letter to the editor on August 13 about the release of photographs describing the story of MOIS agent Khodabandeh, and attached two reports from a parliamentary group of the United Kingdom and the Federal Library of Congress’s Library Division about his dependence on MOIS, as well as an explanation from the editor. The letter remains unanswered.
“The claims that the reporter is beaten are completely lied. For your information, the first person claiming the reporter was beaten was Massoud Khodabandeh, the Iranian intelligence agent. So the origin of this claim is the Iranian intelligence ministry. Moreover, if the security personnel who, based on the advice of the Albanian government, are there for protection, would have done something wrong, the police would have banned them, not the reporters. Lies and gathering information about the compound of the MeK are part of preparing the ground for terrorist attacks against Iranian refugees. Similarly, in March a terror plot against their residential complex was prevented and two Iranian “reporters” were arrested.”
It is not yet known whether the Durrës police and prosecutor’s office have investigated this serious incident after receiving the testimony of the British journalist and her crew, or questioned the security guards at the camp, the protagonists in beating the English media people.
This is not an isolated incident between the Mojahedin refugee camps and international media interested in reporting on their lives. Shqiptarja.com learned that some days ago there has been another clash with an English-speaking journalist, The Guardian reporter named Arron Merat.
Profile / Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 journalist
Lindsey Hilsum is an international news editor on the prestigious British Channel 4 channel. During her career as a journalist, she has covered the world’s main conflicts over the last two decades, including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2011, she reported on the ground the riots and unrest in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. She has made numerous reports from Iran and Zimbabwe and was the Channel 4 Correspondent in China from 2006 to 2008. During the 2004 American attack on Fallujah, Iraq, she was on the front line of the attack alongside American Marines. She was the only foreign-language journalist who spoke English in Rwanda when the genocide began. Before engaging in journalism, she worked with relief missions in Latin America and Africa.
Her first book “Sand Storm: Libya at the Time of the Revolution” was published in Britain in April 2012 and May of that year in the US.
Hilsum was honored with an honorary doctorate from the English Essay University in 2004 and received awards such as television journalist of the year and was awarded medals by the Royal Geographic Society.
Three thousand opponents of the Tehran regime settled in Albania.
Since 1986, dissenters against the Iranian regime were sheltered in Ashraf camp, built by the United States on Iraqi land, on the border between Iraq and Iran. Their transfer to Albania began when the government of Berisha agreed to accommodate the first 210 Mojahedin who arrived in Tirana in May 2013. All of the Camp Ashraf residents came to Albania following an agreement between Prime Minister Rama and former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016. The Iranian People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK) is a movement that acts to overthrow the current regime in Iran.
The 3,000 Iranian Mojahedin who came to Albania previously lived in rented flats, but are now accommodated in the Manzas area, some kilometers from the city of Durres. It is understood that money for the land purchase and construction of new housing within the camp is funded by the community of Iranian dissidents living mainly in Europe. The new housing is surrounded by a security perimeter to avoid any potential risk. The protection of Iranian dissidents coming to Albania is guaranteed by intelligence agents. Meanwhile, the camp is guarded by private guards.
“We will stay in Manza until the end of the dictatorial regime in Iran. Our dream is to go back to our families in a free Iran”, one of them said off-camera for Report TV.
By Muhammad Veliu, Arsen Rusta,Shqiptarja.com, Translated by Iran Interlink