By Ali Safavi*
The corrupt and deceitful religious fascism ruling Iran, which has created a major disaster for millions of Iranians through its lies, deception, and incompetence as a result of the recent coronavirus crisis in Iran, is terrified of the wrath of the Iranian people and the eruption of a social explosion. The regime is furious about continuous revelations made by the principal opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) regarding Tehran’s criminal negligence of the spread of the virus.
The clerical regime remains historically irritated about similar MEK revelations regarding its nuclear weapons program. The activities of the MEK and its Resistance Units (small teams of organizers) inside Iran during the November 2019 and January 2020 uprisings, particularly the publication of the actual number of protesters killed by the regime (1,500) and the particulars of 755 of them, has added to the regime’s recent bout of derangement.
As usual, the ruling mullahs have no way out of the crisis, other than engaging in a reprehensible campaign of demonization the MEK, which they view as an existential threat to their illegitimate rule.
According to the regime’s officials and media accounts, the mullahs also suspect that the MEK’s revelations led to the elimination of Qassem Soleimani in January. Soleimani was the regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s terrorist mastermind in the world. The MEK had an organized and consistent campaign that exposed Soleimani’s criminal escapades in the region. It had published hundreds of investigative reports, including a list of 32,000 Iraqi proxy agents of the terrorist Qods Force, which was commanded by Soleimani, as far back as 2005. The MEK was also the premiere source of information about the manufacture, export, and tactical use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Explosive Formed Penetrators (EFPs) from Iran to Iraq under Soleimani’s watch.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the religious dictatorship in Iran has stepped up its propaganda machine against the MEK. It is using its Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) to spread lies and falsehoods against the MEK through “friendly journalists” in an attempt to soothe its pains of dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak and popular anger.
This new propaganda hit piece targets the MEK and Resistance Units who are active inside the country. In the latest episode, a “friendly journalist” regurgitates forty years of threadbare lies and fake news spewed by the Ayatollahs against the MEK and its leadership in a “friendly news outlet” (Intercept) in retaliation to the MEK’s activities that have backed the mullahs into dire straits.
This gutter piece of gossip and propaganda is paired with the recent terrorist offensive against the Taji Coalition Forces base in Iraq, on March 11. The regime’s agents, whether operating in paramilitary uniforms in Iraq or wearing investigative journalistic badges in the United States or elsewhere, are out to aid and abet the mullahs’ regime by trying to discredit the MEK and the democratic coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). At a time when the Iranian people are chanting that Khamenei and his president Hassan Rouhani are worse than the Coronavirus, these pro-regime proxies seek to deny the existence of a viable democratic alternative to this regime. They want to promote the idea that the Iranian people’s just resistance movement is worse than the regime itself, which leads to the conclusion that the US has no other option or alternative but to live with and appease the ruling regime.
Murtaza Hussain’s Ultimatum
In an email at 1:15 pm (EST) yesterday, March 11, 2020, an individual named Murtaza Hussain gave me an ultimatum: “We will be publishing a story in the coming days about the MEK and I wanted to give you and others in your organization a chance to weigh in. We would need your response by noon on Friday, March 13.” In his short email, Hussain has listed as facts a litany of totally false allegations, laced with the mullahs’ filthy and vulgar lexicon, against Mr. Massoud Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance’s Leader. This brings to mind the famous passage in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “’ Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day. ‘No, no!’ said the queen. ‘Sentence first-verdict afterward.’” Of course, the mullahs ruling Iran, whom Hussain seems to admire, have taught the Red Queen a thing or two. They carry out sentences and executions but never a fair trial.
The MEK and the Iranian Resistance have confronted a multitude of allegations manufactured by the mullahs in the course of proceedings before 30 courts in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg (The European Court of Justice), Italy and Germany. In all these proceedings, they have presented tens of thousands of documents and evidentiary material. As a result, they have been exonerated of all the false accusations made by the regime, its backers and mercenaries. In addition, 3,800 MEK members were screened and investigated by seven different US agencies for 16 months in 2003 and 2004 in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. These MEK members were vindicated of all charges.
Murtaza Hussain resembles other journalists trained by the regime in their blind hostility towards the MEK (refer to the collection of lies and allegations by Hussain in the Intercept on June 9, 2019). Unfortunately, this makes him nothing more than a puppet of Iran’s ruling theocracy. As such, I do not consider his account worthy of a serious response on behalf of the Iranian Resistance, which has proudly waged a historic and blood-stained struggle for democracy against one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern history. This is a cause for which 120,000 proud Iranians have laid down their lives and it cannot be smeared by tactless innuendos and mullah clichés. Nevertheless, I would like to share the following points with the public:
1. Murtaza Hussain has a long record of whitewashing the Iranian regime’s atrocities and terrorism while sugarcoating its repressive policies at home and its belligerence abroad in tailor-made articles. For example, on May 23, 2017, when even those who had purportedly voted for Hassan Rouhani had become disillusioned with him, Hussain tweeted, “[Rouhani] revived the Green Movement that security forces have suppressed for close to a decade at great cost.” Three days earlier, he had said in another tweet, “Glad to hear the ‘populist wave’ failed to make headway in Iran, looking forward to pics of Macron, Trudeau & Rouhani hanging out at Davos.”
2. Hussain wrote another fabricated article on June 9, 2019, against an investigative journalist, Heshmat Alavi. The unsubstantiated piece, which initially provoked the short-lived suspension of Alavi’s account by Twitter, contained a plethora of lies manufactured by the religious fascism ruling Iran. These lies have been attributed to disgraced mercenaries of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who pose as former members of the MEK. It seems that those slanders and smears comprise the lion’s share of his scheduled piece. At the time, the mullahs’ regime was virulently incensed over the Iranian Resistance’s revelations about fake internet accounts set up by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the MOIS, which led to the closure of thousands of such regime accounts. The mullahs were intent on retaliating.
That particular article was used by the regime for internal consumption as well. Almost immediately after it was published, several dozen state-run media outlets translated and promoted the piece, claiming that the MEK’s revelations about the regime’s fake accounts were unfounded and that the MEK itself should be suspected of creating cyber “bots.” MOIS-affiliated Mehr News Agency wrote on June 9, 2019, that the Intercept revealed that “Heshmat Alavi, a purported human rights activist, is not a real person and is a fake persona created by the MEK.”
The next day, Ali Khamenei’s mouthpiece, the daily Kayhan wrote, “In a detailed report and based on a number of informed sources and disaffected MEK members, the Intercept revealed that Heshmat Alavi is not a real person, but rather a code word for a propaganda campaign set up by the Monafeqin (MEK) grouplet in the form of a fake Twitter and Facebook account on social media.” These articles were complemented with a tweet by Trita Parsi, the loathed talking head of Tehran’s discredited lobby inside the Beltway, called NIAC: “Amazing reporting by @MazMHussain prompted Twitter to suspend the account of ‘Heshmat’! But here’s the bad part. If there’s no media accountability, a new ‘Heshmat’ will soon be set up to spread more lies.”
In a direct negation of claims by Tehran’s lobby, 48 hours later, Twitter reinstated Heshmat Alavi’s account after it fully investigated the matter and ascertained the identity of Heshmat Alavi, whose followers later increased by several thousand. Yet, Murtaza Hussain never withdrew his false claim.
3. The allegations Murtaza Hussain has outlined in his email are of course nothing new. Since the first weeks of assuming power in 1979, the mullahs’ regime has systematically disseminated these allegations in different forms and by leveraging an assortment of tactics in the course of a huge multi-million-dollar campaign abroad. When another MOIS “friendly journalist” regurgitated a handful of similar smears in Der Spiegel in February 2019, a court in Hamburg voted to censure the magazine, forcing it to remove the said allegations.
4. These days, all journalists and Iran observers have been focusing on the horrifying dimensions of the Coronavirus crisis, the death toll in Iran and the mullahs’ cover-up, which caused the exponential spread of the virus in Iran and to all countries in the region. “Iran’s reaction to coronavirus has become a danger for the world,” The Washington Post wrote in its March 3, 2020 editorial. The virus has spread to 160 cities in all 31 provinces and has left at least 3,650 deaths at the time of writing. In these circumstances, the clerical regime’s anger over the MEK’s exposure of the realities on the ground in Iran, and the MEK’s assistance to the Iranian people, is understandable. Hysteric remarks made by Hamid Baeidinejad, the regime’s ambassador to the UK, who acts as paymaster for “friendly and proxy journalists,” are quite telling. On March 6, he wrote, “Regarding the issue of Corona, the network of the Monafeqin (MEK) is dastardly and foolishly trying to put our people and the public in an intellectual deadlock.” This explains why the mullahs have tried to change the narrative by using the services of discredited characters such as Murtaza Hussain.
5. Every time they face a significant impasse, the mullahs recruit a “friendly journalist” to regurgitate MOIS propaganda against the MEK. A few years ago, an individual named Ali Gharib churned out similar smears and slanders against the MEK as part of a campaign to prevent the revocation of the MEK’s “terrorist” designation at the time. Years later, an annual report by the notorious Ploughshares Foundation showed that Gharib had received thousands of dollars to write those articles.
A former Minister of Intelligence, Ali Fallahian, who is sought by German and Swiss judiciaries for terrorism, said on July 9, 2017: “The Intelligence Ministry needs a cover to gather intelligence, whether inside or outside (Iran). We don’t send an intelligence agent to Germany or America who says, ‘I am from the Ministry of Intelligence.’ Rather, an entrepreneurial or journalistic cover is required for this.”
6. In another case, Shane Harris, at the time an investigative reporter with the Daily Beast, who now writes for the Washington Post, wrote an article on April 14, 2017, entitled, “Iran’s Spies Tried to Recruit Me.” He wrote, “An Iranian activist group, backed by the country’s intelligence service, is trying to enlist American journalists and academics in a propaganda campaign meant to criticize the United States and Israel. I speak from experience, because the group recently tried to recruit me… I looked closely at the list of conference sponsors, which includes—among various religious groups, Iran’s only broadcasting company, and a government council run by a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As in the ministry now negotiating with the U.S. over the future of Iran’s nuclear program. Also, the head of Iran’s intelligence service spoke at last year’s event…. In a series of subsequent emails, my contact (in Iran) explained if I wanted to attend the conference, ‘we will strive to facilitate it and provide you funded travel to Iran.’ The organizer also offered, in principle, to pay me, but asked me to name my price first. (I didn’t.)”
7. Murtaza Hussain’s allegations levied against the MEK, such as sexual exploitation, forced sterilization, torture and other forms of abuse, and forcible alienation from their family members are libelous and could be pursued through legal avenues and means. He attributes these allegations to former members of the MEK, whom he had referenced in his June article against Heshmat Alavi. This is a thinly veiled tactic used by the MOIS and the IRGC’s Qods Force, who present their operatives and spies as former members of the MEK to find suitors for their lies. Multiple reports by western intelligence agencies, such as the Germany Federal Office to Protect the Constitution and the Dutch Security Service, AIVD, underscore that these individuals are in fact MOIS agents, who operate under the guise of former MEK members. Germany and the Netherlands are two European countries where such activities against the MEK have been undertaken by the MOIS. A report by the Library of Congress in December 2012 about the MOIS underlined these realities as well. Extensive documents on these individuals’ connections to MOIS mercenaries have been published by the Iranian Resistance on multiple occasions. With the passage of time, these individuals continue to embellish and sensationalize their fairytales. In many instances, they have been interrogated for involvement in terrorism and espionage on behalf of the Iranian regime, and in some cases, they have been arrested and imprisoned.
In October 2019, the head of Albania’s police force revealed the existence of an international terror network backed by the IRGC’s Qods Force, which was engaged in a terrorist plot against the MEK. This network employed not only Iranian agents but also individuals from Turkey, the Balkans, and other countries. One of the terrorist Qods Force mercenaries was Alireza Naghashzadeh and Iranian national and dual citizen of Austria who identified himself as a former member of the MEK.
If Murtaza Hussain respected the minimum threshold of journalistic integrity and honesty, he would have sent me the names of those he said he was quoting in his piece, and without hesitation, I would have provided him with documents and information about their backgrounds.
8. Having failed to physically eliminate the MEK despite more than 120,000 executions and acts of terrorism, the regime has for years disseminated lies in the hopes of discrediting the MEK politically, lies that are now being rehashed by Murtaza Hussain. The truth, however, is that MEK members are highly educated and have consciously and voluntarily chosen to sacrifice their personal lives to establish democracy and human rights in Iran. Like many other revolutionaries in history, who have acted as vanguards for freedom and liberty, MEK supporters are willing to pay the requisite price because they cannot continue with business as usual while their fellow compatriots are being imprisoned, tortured and executed. They voluntarily and proudly dedicate their own lives so that their people and future generations can enjoy life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Depriving themselves of the many rewards that life has to offer in order to liberate their nation from the oppression of religious fascism is a source of honor and pride, and cannot be tarnished by the amateurish slanders of “forcible divorce,” “sterilization,” and “sexual exploitation” spread by the mullahs and parroted by others. The ultimate judge and jury will be the Iranian people. and that would suffice for the MEK.
Those who seek the truth can easily discover that the allegations parroted by Murtaza Hussain were first concocted by the clerical regime. For example, the Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, wrote eight years ago on November 14, 2012, that the “MEK, in a horrific inhuman scenario, implemented a plan to sterilize women during the years of residency in Camp Ashraf in order to eliminate any maternal affection or the possible return of women to the conditions before.” The same day, the state-run Mashreq News wrote: “More than 150 [MEK] women were undergoing sterilization surgery.” And years later, Murtaza Hussain is rehashing this preposterous lie, without the slightest credibility, while also packaging it as breaking news. (For reference, see the statement by the International Committee in Search of Justice here).
In December 1996, Douglas Jehl, at the time a veteran New York Times Middle East correspondent, visited the MEK’s primary residence in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, and spoke with several MEK members. He then wrote: “Since 1991, the married couples among them have put their marriages on ice: their children have been sent abroad, and those who once lived as husbands and wives now live chastely as brothers and sisters.”
It is evident that the allegations by Murtaza Hussain and the Intercept have been borrowed from the Iranian regime’s arsenal, and they are of the same DNA of accusations that the regime’s founder Khomeini levied against the MEK after February 1979. Every time his thugs attacked MEK offices in various Iranian cities, the regime claimed to have found sexual paraphernalia. That was 41 years ago.
9. The vulgar slanders against the Iranian Resistance and Mr. Massoud Rajavi have been part and parcel of the mullahs’ 41-year-old propaganda machine. In the first presidential election in Iran in January 1980, while the Iranian people overwhelmingly embraced Mr. Rajavi’s candidacy, the criminal mullahs attacked MEK offices in Qom, Tehran, and other cities, and hurled the same lies and slanders against Mr. Rajavi that Murtaza Hussain is repeating today. The truth is that a steady trademark of the regime’s policies and actions in the past four decades has been to target its antithesis and existential threat, namely the MEK, the Iranian Resistance and primarily its leadership.
Of course, these days the regime has even more reason to engage in such hysteria against the Iranian Resistance’s leadership. The messages of Mr. Rajavi that have been broadcast to Iran in recent months, particularly those regarding the November uprising, Qassem Soleimani’s elimination, the criminal downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet, the January uprising, and now the Coronavirus disaster, are simply intolerable for the regime. All this brings hope to the Iranian people of a day not too far away when this regime will be overthrown, its medieval despotism will be ended, and the sun of liberty will finally dawn on Iran. This is the reason for the recent antics of the religious fascism and its deranged propaganda attacks through the use of its various proxies.
I remind those who use the guise of “journalists” to implement the tasks that the ruling religious dictatorship has given them that Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
*Ali Safavi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)