Civil protests in Iran often ends with the arrest of some MEK-affiliated insurgents who have committed acts of violence in the scenes of peaceful protests. In recent protests in Iran that was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a number of arrested ones turned out to have been manipulated by the troll farm of the Mujahedin Khalq. The insurgents were arrested under the accusation of spreading propaganda to incite riots and providing incendiary material to demonstrators, following orders from members of the group in Camp Ashraf 3, Manza, Albania.
The MEK’s online manipulation operation runs in the Persian-language social networks. Mohammad Atabay who defected the MEK last month was one of the soldiers of the MEK’s cyber army. He recounts his experience of working on social media to recruit insurgents. The recruited insurgents would be those who eventually set government or religious buildings, banks and traffic lights on fire, in Iran.
According to Atabay, the MEK’s on-line manipulation agents have a detailed instruction to hunt their young victims in social media. They have fake IDs, usually as young as their victims. “I was always 30 years old in the social media,” says Atabay who is 55 right now and worked in the MEK troll farm from 2016 until summer of 2022.
The MEK recruiter on the Internet never reveals that he is a member of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. He knows that the group is widely detested in Iran. Instead, he tries to text him in private offering sympathy to him for his problems inside Iran. He keeps on socializing until he wins the victim’s trust.
“The next step is sending a news of MEK-led activities in Iran, published in the MEK’s TV channel,” Atabay explains. “This phase was significant because you could find out the person would say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
Based on testimonies of this recently defected member of the Cult of Rajavi, most people did not know the MEK and its TV. “Very few people would welcome the MEK-made video,” he says. “The majority of people would say ‘no’ after they came to know who the MEK are.”
During his six years of working in the MEK’s troll farm, Atabay could only win the trust of one person who was “naive” enough to get in to the trap of the MEK. The next phases of the recruitment process are managed by the commanders who have been previously aware of what was going on each and every PC of the rank and file working in the on-line army.
Atabay recalls that the recruited person would be asked to hang the photos of the MEK leaders in the streets of the cities in Iran, take a video and send it to the recruiter in exchange for a small amount of money. These manipulated insurgents would be charged with higher fees if they set a building or the pictures of Iranian authorities on fire.
As a former soldier of the MEK’s cyber army, Hamid Atabay asks Iranian youth and teenagers to be careful about the group fraudulent recruiters in social media. He addresses the Iranian protesters: “I recognize your right to protest but I warn you about the threat of the Cult of Rajavi. The MEK is never a patriot entity. Rajavi does not belong to Iran.”