The Iranian democratic opposition are Albania’s true friends

The challenge facing today’s democratic societies is the confrontation between their freedoms and independence and the many threats posed by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. In the past three decades we have continuously witnessed the Iranian regime intervening in the domestic affairs of Islamic countries to create major rifts amongst various religions by provoking ethnic and racial conflicts.

The Iranian regime cunningly knows how to assert its influence in neighbouring countries in the Middle East and further afield by surreptitiously gaining control over key government assets and state capacities until its presence becomes indispensible. In southern Lebanon and Iraq, under the pretext of supporting the region’s deprived communities and spreading the word about Islam, Tehran launched various campaigns to build schools, mosques and clinics. They hold Quran classes and publish cultural books aimed at propagating fundamentalist ideals. Through such measures the mullahs have been able to deceive the less well-educated portion of those societies, resulting in the formation of terrorist and sectarian groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries, carrying out horrendous crimes against innocent Sunnis, Christians and other minorities. 

In addition to the Middle East, Tehran has in recent years expanded its efforts in the Balkans, focusing mainly on Albania, establishing cultural institutions to spread its fundamentalist ideology. However it has failed due to the rich ethos of the Albanian people and their deep-rooted hatred of all forms of dictatorship borne out of years of oppression under the Communists. 

Tehran’s efforts in Albania include establishing the Sa’adi College to spread its fundamentalist culture. This institution is supervised by the cultural office of the Iranian embassy in Tirana, directed by a mullah by the name of Ahadollah Gholizadeh. Two organizations run directly by the Iranian regime, the Islamic Culture and Communications Organization and the al-Mustafa Society, which both fall under the control of the office of the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, run the propaganda campaign in Albania, using assets channelled to Albania under the guise of diplomatic activities. 

Abdul-Ali Asgari, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and Mohammad Akhgari, deputy chair of IRIB international affairs, launched a new news network dubbed Pars Today on July 5th of this year, currently chaired by Behruz Ghazalpash. Pars Today began its activities by launching Parrena, an Albanian-language website. Its goal is to spread misinformation against members of the Iranian democratic opposition following their recent transfer from Iraq to Albania. In this way Tehran publishes numerous attacks on the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), in their new website. It is run by a certain Amir Eshkurti, who recently flew to Tehran with an Albanian state news and radio delegation.

A well known member of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry from the UK, Massoud Khodabandeh, recently conducted an interview attacking the PMOI with the Impact website, which was published in Albanian. ‘Press Today’ immediately republished the story. Khodabandeh’s anti-PMOI activities in Europe have been disclosed in recent years in fully-detailed reports in the British Parliament and the Pentagon.

The identity of dozens of the Iranian regime’s intelligence agents in other countries have also been unveiled, along with their activities. Many of them work as “Iranian experts”. They have been ordered to focus attacks and surveillance activities on Iranian opposition members in Albania.

The friendly coexistence between Albania and the Iranian opposition members began 3½ years ago. Around 3,000 PMOI members, consisting of the brightest and most highly educated intellectuals and academics had lived as refugees in Iraq for nearly three decades. They were the targets of dozens of bloody attacks staged by Iranian sponsored terrorists in Iraq, with many killed and wounded. In September this year all of them were finally able to leave Iraq, with the widespread support of the international community and great humanitarian efforts by the United Nations and the United States.

These refugees are also spread across other European countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Norway and Belgium. In a highly significant humanitarian move the Albanian government accepted a large group of PMOI refugees, earning the widespread appreciation of senior American and European officials in the process.

“We responded to a call for cooperation and humanity considering that the lives of these human beings were in danger. They are individuals facing serious threats in their home country,”said Albanian Interior Minister Samir Taheri in an interview with the Khathemrini daily in Greece on October 31st. “They are neither terrorists nor fundamentalists. They are people whose lives are in danger in their own land.”

As the former President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, I was fully informed of Tehran’s constant efforts to demonise the PMOI in Iraq and Europe. I am well aware of the regime’s activities and on-going misinformation campaign against its main democratic opposition movement.  Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism and fundamentalism across the globe. We need to expose the true nature of the Iranian regime and distance its reach from all Albanian institutions and media outlets. Such an effort will prevent Tehran from pursuing its conspiracies and implementing its terror blueprints in Albania.