by Massoud and Anne Khodabandeh
In 2017, John Bolton promised the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—wrongly, it turned out—that they would be celebrating in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution’s 40th anniversary in February 2019. This July, at the MEK’s five-day conference in Albania, keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani still insisted the MEK is a “government in exile” and claimed the MEK is “a group that should make us comfortable having regime change”.
For context, promoting a group which is universally despised by Iranians inside and outside the country as traitors already stretches credulity. There is no evidence that Iranians are calling for severe sanctions against themselves. Nor are they calling for regime change. The MEK’s only audience in this respect are a warmongering cabal of Americans, Saudis, Israelis, and British, who like to hear what they want to hear. The rest of the world just isn’t that comfortable with this bizarre, terrorist cult.
Lately, even Europe has distanced itself from lending succour to the group. The MEK no longer has free access to the European Parliament where its activists would harass the MEPs and their staff. This year the MEK was barred from holding its annual Villepinte rally in France and was also banned from rallying by Germany. As a result of this, MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has decamped from Paris to Albania and the MEK announced that Albania is the group’s new headquarters.
The move from Iraq to Albania ought to have allowed unprecedented access to Western journalists keen to investigate the honey pot around which the anti-Iran cabal buzz with excitement. They were soon disappointed, as the MEK built a de facto extra-territorial enclave in Manëz and posted armed guards to keep out unwanted attention. But although the group were physically hidden from view, they were very exposed through their cyber activities.
Although it had been known for some time that the MEK operates a click farm from Albania, it was Murteza Hussain in The Intercept who revealed how the MEK uses fake social media accounts to curate a false narrative about Iran to influence US policy. The Heshmat Alavi scandal focused media attention on what is really happening inside the MEK behind the slickly marketed brand image that Giuliani so admires. This endeavour to scrutinise the MEK has been aided by a series of photographs which were leaked from inside the MEK’s camp in Albania and published in Iran. The photos are very revealing, but in ways that the MEK probably didn’t intend or realise when they were taken. Since the MEK so zealously hides its inner world from public scrutiny, these photos offer us an unguarded glimpse into the operational and organisational life of the cult.
The fact that the photos were taken at all is significant. At first glance they could be showing a session for seniors at the local library or community centre. But we see the women are wearing military uniforms and the men are all wearing similar shirts. Some are wearing ties. This is something the MEK don’t ever do unless in a public facing role. This indicates the images have been deliberately staged for a particular external audience. Certainly they were not meant for internal consumption, but neither is this for the wider public or else they would be on the MEK’s own websites. Based on information about the MEK already in the public domain, we can assume these photos were commissioned by Maryam Rajavi as a marketing ploy to ‘sell’ the MEK brand to financiers and backers.
There is clearly a deliberate effort to show that the MEK are “professional” workers in this computer room. Everyone is posed looking intently at a screen. Nobody is “off duty” in the pictures; yawning, stretching, drinking coffee, the normal activities of any workers. There is no evidence of relaxed, friendly chat between co-workers, everyone looks very serious. There are no cups of coffee or snacks on the desks. No pictures of family, husbands, wives, children, pets even. No plants or flowers. In spite of the rows of desks being squashed together closely, everyone looks very isolated.
There might be nothing wrong with that. After all, employers want to see their workers busy. But organisational photographs are also about marketing a brand, which includes marketing the core values of an entity. A group which claims, as the MEK does, that it is funded by public donations to struggle for democracy and human rights would surely want to create an image in the mind of the public about transparency, effectiveness, and positivity. By way of contrast, see how Human Rights Watch advertises its work culture. Even a quick Google image search on ‘call center worker’ reveals pictures of relaxed and smiling workers rather than people who look like battery hens. This is not the image any normal company or government office would use to promote their workplace.
In the MEK’s advertising photos the workers are gender segregated. Men sit in one room, women in another. The women all wear hijab. There is no pluralism here. The use of garden chairs and workers using glasses unsuited to screen work reveals that this management doesn’t care at all about the safety, comfort or wellbeing of the workers. They are using a mixture of outdated monitors and laptops. The cables are frayed and tangled.
There is no indication that the workers are happy at their workstations or enjoying their work. Why would they be with the picture of their leader bearing down on them, as in all dictatorships, lest they forget why they are there and who is in charge? (The picture of a solitary Maryam Rajavi is a clear acknowledgement that her husband Massoud Rajavi is dead.)
The MEK’s cultic system means that decisions are imposed from the top down. This means that those decisions are only as intelligent as the leadership. What Rajavi doesn’t understand is that these photos show beyond any words that the MEK doesn’t share our values. The leader is selling unthinking, unquestioning, obedient slaves, people who won’t act or speak unless ordered to do so. And that would only be ordered if it were productive for the MEK, regardless of the needs or desires of the worker.
What these images portray are conditions of modern slavery. These are elderly people who are unable to escape this cult and are coerced into performing work for which they receive no recompense. They exist on cruelly basic accommodation and sustenance, whereby even asking for new underwear puts the petitioner under question about their loyalty to the leader and the cause. They cannot leave because in Albania they have nowhere to go, no identity documents or work permits, no money, and they do not speak the local language. And also because the Trump administration wants the MEK to be there.
So, when Giuliani says we should be “comfortable” with this group, right-minded people the world over can honestly and unequivocally answer, “No, we are not comfortable ignoring this harsh reality just because the MEK amplifies an anti-Iran message to the world, and no, we don’t believe the MEK have any kind of future in Iran”.
One can gauge the credibility of this cult by its friends: Bolton, Netanyahu and the Saudi sheikhs. Their current leaders can’t even admit that the founder of the cult is long dead.
Well, the fact is that US regime, and her stinking dependents, the so called “allies” can’t create and support anyone any better than MEK, as an alternative to legitimate elected government of Islamic Republic of Iran.
Poor US, has to support and present a traitor cult group that on record have assassinated AMERICAN service men, In past, financed by bone saw Saudis, and trained by Baby killers of illegitimate occupying Israeli regime, as an alternative to overthrow Iranian revolution. Is like Iranians say “Camel is dreaming of cotton seeds”
Average age of MEK is over 60. Just imagine a bunch of creaky old guys hopped-up on their Viagra and blood pressure meds running around trying to regime-change Iran. LOL
Clearly, this is not a call center responding to commercial clients. Comparison to the St. Petersburg Internet Research Agency (Russian troll farm) suggests that MeK has a far more massive operation. Who is the target? Who is paying for this? Some of the computers may be older, but this operation would burn many millions of dollars.
When Bolton, Giuliani, and Gingrich addressed MeK in July 2017 urging regime change Bolton suggested U.S. support would be coming. In August 2017 the National Review published Bolton’s “How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal” which he described as “it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement.” The key is that this plan for regime change allowed Trump to exit JCPOA without the consent of Congress. Even the 2018 Republican Congress would have rejected leaving the JCPOA unless Iran had violated the agreement and had begun to develop nuclear weapons. The CIA confirmed that Iran was fully compliant with JCPOA and Bolton’s plan to use emergency economic powers provided the only way out. The plan also included ways to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero and to crater its economy setting the stage for regime change even without authorization from the Security Council. The key was U.S. control of the global financial system.
Bolton’s plan has been remarkably successful. Even though most countries opposed the unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S. that have extraterritorial force, the interconnectedness of the global economy forced companies that do business with the U.S. to comply despite tens of billions in aggregate losses in legitimate business with Iran.
Can Bolton’s plan succeed in bringing MeK to power? The popularity of group does not measure its political power where voting is not anticipated. Giuliani’s MeK “shadow government” in Albania may hunger after power in Iran but their prospects are worse than Guaido’s aborted coup attempt in Venezuela. 50 countries had declared support for Guaido but none supported a U.S. sponsored coup. The Venezuelan military seeing the Yankee fist chose to support the existing regime. International support for MeK is slim to none existent based on how Bolton has chosen to pursue regime change in Iran. While Iran has been facing a prolonged extreme drought that has devastated its agriculture and massive demonstrations took place in 2017 and in 2018 Trump policies have solidified national support. Bolton, however, appears to have convinced Trump that Iran is on the verge of falling apart, that a war would be short, and that the people of Iran cheer for Trump.
Given that Bolton’s wish for a coup attempt in Iran were fulfilled and a sufficient number of military officers could be bought off to join the coup, among the outcomes to consider would be a Syrian civil war scenario with millions of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries and to Europe. Such an outcome, while unlikely, is more plausible than a bloodless MeK regime change.
What if Bolton does not really expect regime change? In 2015 the NYT published Bolton’s “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”. What if Bolton’s objective is to bomb Iran and weaken its military capacity and remove it as a competitor in the Middle East power struggle? Millions would die. But that does not appear to be Bolton’s overriding concern.
The early results of Bolton’s plan for regime change in Iran suggest longer term outcomes. Where in 2010 when the Security Council adopted UNSCR1927 to impose severe sanctions on Iran because the IAEA had given notice of Iran’s violation of its Safeguard Agreement with IAEA SWIFT and U.S. capacity to control the global financial system enabled actions of rogue countries to be limited. The current misuse of this power by the U.S. is leading to the development of capabilities like INSTEX to bypass such controls lessening the capacity of the Security Council to act in future crises. The U.S. withdrawal from JCPOA without justification has also weakened the Security Council as an institution for crisis management because JCPOA is an act of the Security Council authorized by UNSCR2231. JCPOA is not an agreement between the U.S. and Iran.
If Bolton does not care about the significant increase in risks that millions may die does he in fact care about the long term impact within the U.S.? What if this Iran debacle dooms Trump’s prospects for reelection to a second term?
Why so much fuss about this group, Mr and Mrs Khodabandeh? Why? Why!?
What does it matter whether this woman’s partner is dead or not – they all were dead when in solidarity with Saddam’s criminal army equipped with chemical weapons attacked our country and murdered Iranian soldiers – at the time men, women and even youngsters from all ethnicities and backgrounds were risking their lives fighting to protect the territorial integrity of Iran!
I am no apologist for the prevalent corruptions, injustices and the corrupt political institutions we have inherited since 1979 that have betrayed all that were pledged by the Revolution, but I invite you to come to Iran and study our love for our country and our feelings towards these traitors; even many families whose loved ones belonged to this group hate this woman, her dead partner and her ‘headscarved’ delusional army because these families hold this group responsible for what happened to their loved ones in prison due to that treacherous invasion.
The writers also fail to realise that to millions of Iranians what some American or Arab policy makers might think is wholly insignificant: Iran has changed, the Revolution and the War and decades of sanctions and the British American double standards and complicity in mass murder and invasions have changed our understanding of our own history and values as of Western politics and culture.
No matter what foul plots the American propaganda apparatus, politicians, businessmen, the CIA or CIA sponsored journalists and television stations might come up with, the spirit of the 1950s is only a history and the US support for such renegades is the best evidence that the closure of the American Embassy in Tehran for 40 years has deprived the CIA of a credible information about our cultural and political reality. Even a village idiot would wonder why the CIA has been hoping to dominate Iran by desperately clinging to a group of ‘headscarf wearing’ women at the time that millions of Iranian women (and men in solidarity with the women) have for decades been protesting even risking their lives by actively and publically opposing the compulsory headscarf!
Yes, the sanity of the American, Saudi and Zionist policy makers is questionable! These politicians must have lost their marbles to think of such defeated fanatics (their women are not even allowed to shake hands with their men) – save for this loathed group’s treacherous attempts throughout the Iraq-Iran War! What these foreign conspirators including the bloated carcass of the monarchists and their ‘rallying groups’ (like ‘travelling circus’) might propagate in Albania, Washington or Jerusalem, Paris or Los Angeles is only good for their media and some foreign politicians to fill their timetables and pockets.
Honestly, what Bolton, Trump or that Saudi or Israeli might think matters the least to us: if there is any radical change in our political culture and institutions especially in our corrupt judicial system, the change has to come from within Iran by the very people who have been struggle to keep the country moving forward, by millions of educated and devoted men and women who for decades have struggled against injustice and intellectual corruption, shared the shortcomings and the inhuman impacts of the immoral foreign sanctions yet remained faithful to the spirit of our Revolution.
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