The Guardian has published a lengthy article by Arron Merat on the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), and it details the group’s ongoing abuses and crimes at its new base in Albania. This is what John Bolton’s favorite “opposition” group does to its own members:
I spoke to about a dozen defectors, half of whom are still in Albania, who said that MEK commanders systematically abused members to silence dissent and prevent defections – using torture, solitary confinement, the confiscation of assets and the segregation of families to maintain control over members. In response to these allegations, an MEK spokesperson said: “The individuals who are described as ‘former members’ were being used as part of a demonisation campaign against the MEK.”
The testimony of these recent defectors follows earlier reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which reported former members witnessed “beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution and torture that in two cases led to death”.
It should be obvious that a group that abuses its own members so cruelly is unfit to hold political power over anyone. It is a disgrace that so many prominent American and European officials and politicians have aligned themselves with such a despicable organization, and it shows how willing many Iran hawks are to overlook the group’s horrific record because it gives them a convenient ally in their pursuit of regime change.
The MEK was removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations six years ago, but that wasn’t because the government believed they had given up on using violence to achieve their goals:
Daniel Benjamin, who was then the head of counter-terrorism at the state department, told me that the US decided to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organisations not because it believed it had abandoned violence, but to “avoid them all getting killed” if it remained in Iraq [bold mine-DL]. After the MEK was no longer designated a terrorist group, the US was able to convince Albania to accept the 2,700 remaining members – who were brought to Tirana on a series of charter flights between 2014 and 2016.
The Obama administration’s concerns about the safety of the members were understandable, but the de-listing decision was clearly a mistake as many of us said at the time. Unfortunately, that decision has made it easier for a truly awful group to operate and buy more American support.
The cult was heavily dependent on Saddam Hussein during the first decades of their exile, but in recent years they have found a new patron that shares their hostility to Iran:
“The money definitely comes from Saudis,” says Ervand Abrahamian, a professor at the City University of New York and author of the definitive academic work on the group’s history, The Iranian Mojahedin. “There is no one else who could be subsidising them with this level of finance.”
It is not surprising that the MEK would have to rely on money from Iran’s regional rivals. The group has no support inside Iran and virtually none among Iranians in the diaspora, and so it makes sense that they would have to turn once again to a government that would presumably like to use them to harm Iran. Iranians understandably regard them as traitors for their role in the Iran-Iraq war and in their subsequent attacks on their former country. It is remarkable that a group that served as Saddam Hussein’s henchmen for decades could be so quickly and easily rehabilitated. The article recounts the MEK’s role as internal enforcers for Saddam Hussein’s regime, which used them to suppress the uprisings following the Gulf War:
Karwan Jamal Tahir, the Kurdistan regional government’s high representative in London, was a fighter for the Kurdish peshmerga in 1991. He told me that he remembers how the MEK arrived in the town of Kalar, about 93 miles (150km) south-east of Kirkuk, just after Saddam had lost control of the north of Iraq after the first Gulf war. “They came in Saddam’s tanks,” he said. “We thought they were returning peshmerga because the tanks were covered with portraits of Kurdish leaders … but they opened fire on the town … It was a big atrocity.”
An organization with a record of committing atrocities is clearly not one that should ever be entrusted with power in the future, but this hasn’t stopped Bolton, Giuliani, and many others from cheering for them and treating them as if they were Iran’s government-in-waiting. Whatever else it may claim to be, the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) is still a deranged totalitarian cult steeped in the blood of many innocent people. The Western politicians and officials that lend legitimacy to this group have discredited themselves on all matters relating to Iran.
By Daniel Larison