RNA - The Times’ Patrick Kingsley described his observations from a recent visit as well as discrepancies between what he was told by a few members at the camp and confessions of former members living independently in Albania in an article on Sunday.
‘Odd, telling moments’
“[M]ost residents were off limits,” and interviews were allowed only “with several members,” Kingsley wrote.
The correspondent cited “several odd and telling moments when secrets were tightly held.”
The members would turn coy when asked about where their nominal ringleader, Massoud Rajavi, who disappeared in 2003, was. Senior MKO figures “stumbled” after being faced with the question.
Rajavi’s wife, Maryam, now runs the terrorist organization. The duo’s radical ideology is considered to have informed its activities since the 1980s, when the group developed what has been essentially a cult of personality.
Kingsley described the Tirana facility as “oddly empty,” despite the group’s claim that it houses around 2,500 members.
“We saw no more than 200,” he wrote, adding, “The others seemed to have been sequestered away — or to have left the group altogether.”
He also recounted details from interviews with 10 former members who lived outside the camp in Albania. They unanimously confessed to “being brainwashed into a life of celibacy,” Kingsley wrote.
“Inside the group, they (the former members) said romantic relationships and sexual thoughts were banned, contact with family highly restricted, and friendships discouraged,” the correspondent reported. “All recounted being forced to participate in self-criticism rituals, whereby members would confess to their commanders any sexual or disloyal thoughts they had.”
“Little by little, you are broken,” said Abdulrahman Mohammadian, a former member.
The MKO has conducted many assassinations and bombings against Iranian officials and civilians since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It notoriously sided with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war on Iran.
Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the Islamic Revolution, about 12,000 died in MKO’s acts of terror.
The terrorist outfit was on the US’s list of terrorist organizations until 2012.
The Times said crossing out its name took “intensive lobbying by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.” It also quoted Ditmir Bushati, a former Albanian foreign minister, as saying that Tirana offered it a safe haven in an attempt o “curry favor with” Washington.
MKO throws lavish conferences every year in the French capital, with certain American, Western, and Saudi Arabian officials attending as guests of honor. These include former US national security advisor John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and former Saudi Arabian spy chief Prince Turki al-Faisal.
Kingsley said the group’s members operated computer suites inside the camp — a “troll farm” — attempting to tarnish the image of the Islamic Republic.
The former members described the troll farm as a place where “junior members use multiple accounts on Facebook and Twitter, typing messages that criticize the Iranian government, lionize the MKO leadership, and promote its paid lobbyists.”
According to Press TV, Mohammadian said when Giuliani and Bolton made public speeches in recent years, members were ordered “to take a particular line and tweet it 10 times from different accounts.”
Kingsley also recounted visiting “a recording studio” during the tour, where musicians composed anti-Iran songs and music videos for release on social media.
Capt. Matthew Woodside, a former naval reservist who oversaw American policy at the Iraqi camp between 2004 and 2005, told Kingsley, “I find that organization absolutely repulsive… I am astounded that they’re in Albania.”