The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a statement on September 16 announced that the mullahs’ regime has arrested youths, families, and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK) in various parts of the country. Arresting MEK supporters amid, simultaneous with issuing and carrying out death sentences for detained protesters, requires the international community to act immediately.
Arresting MEK supporters, particularly after a social and political development in Iran has been continuing for years. Many of the MEK supporters and other political prisoners have been executed in recent years due to the international community’s inaction. The recent execution of Navid Afkari despite international calls to halt his death sentences, shows mullahs have not changed course about human rights.
In December 2010, Amnesty International began issuing urgent action statements regarding the plight of seven Iranian prisoners. Each had been sentenced to death for having connections with the MEK. Amnesty rightly believed that at least some of these prisoners and families of the MEK members were at imminent risk of execution following the hanging of a fellow prisoner, Ali Saremi, who had been sentenced on similar grounds.
Saremi had previously been arrested on return from a visit to the MEK community in eastern Iraq known as Camp Ashraf, where his son was a resident. Saremi was released in May 2007 after serving part of a one-year sentence, but sometime thereafter the authorities evidently decided to make a stronger example out of him. He was rearrested and put on trial for “enmity against God” through the support of the MEK, then sentenced to death in December 2009. His execution the following year was carried out abruptly and with little warning.
Though Amnesty International tried to warn against follow-up executions, little attention was paid to the issue by leading world powers, and two of the other prisoners were killed the very next month, also on the grounds of having simply visited Camp Ashraf.
In 2013, Hassan Sadeghi held a memorial for his father who had died in Camp Ashraf two years earlier. This most basic gesture of respect for a parent was considered a crime by the regime’s judiciary. Therefore, both were arrested along with their two children at the memorial service. Their underage son was not released from detention for six weeks, and the parents have remained in prison ever since, serving 15-year sentences for “enmity against God.”
By any objective standard, this is unutterably cruel. But by the standards of the Iranian regime, the couple can be said to have gotten off easy. The sentence of enmity against God, which is applied indiscriminately to MEK activists and associates, has been grounds for countless death sentences. In the summer of 1988, it was used as the basis for a massacre of political prisoners which primarily targeted the MEK and left an estimated 30,000 people dead.
Ironically, though, the Iranian regime claims to also be at the head of efforts to reunite MEK members with estranged family members in their homeland. In April, an institution known as the “Nejat Association” issued a statement that said its representatives had become “widely active in 27 provinces of the country,” gathering signatures for a petition to the Albanian government, requesting visas for relatives of MEK members living in “Ashraf 3.” But the “Nejat Association” is a branch of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and took a leading role in the persecution of MEK members and their families in the past.
These so-called families actively participated in the psychological torture of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf Iraq with over 300 loudspeakers. Some of these “families” threatened the residents and said they will “pull out their tongues.” The deadly attack on Camp Ashraf on 8 April, with 36 deaths, proved that the real mission of this demonizing campaign was paving the way for a massacre.
It is simply inconceivable that the Ministry’s attitude toward such people has shifted so dramatically in so short a period of time. And there are certainly no other signs that anything has changed. Expressions of support for the MEK, either through speech or through financial donations, still results in capital punishment to this day. And any association whatsoever with that group may also result in severe punishment, even if that association is just a familial relationship that one has refused to disavow.
And it will almost certainly be used to punish anyone who comes forward as being related to a member of the MEK and seeks to claim one of the visas that the Intelligence Ministry is supposedly collecting in an effort to “rescue” estranged families.
This is not to say that those visas won’t also serve their intended purpose. But there can be little doubt that their actual intended purpose is to facilitate infiltration of Ashraf 3, MEK’s compound in Albania since their relocation from Iran, by intelligence operatives posing as residents’ relatives. This is a project that has already been underway for some time and has been exposed by itself after they expelled persons who came under suspicion of Intelligence Ministry contacts while trying to apply for residency in Albania.
These expulsions may have prevented the Iranian regime from following through on plans to launch attacks on Ashraf 3 as they had done at the Camp Ashraf in Iran. Unfortunately, though, they have not prevented international media from citing the infiltrators as “former members” of the MEK, thus advancing the regime’s longstanding effort to defame and demonize the Resistance movement in the eyes of those best suited to support it. Particularly the Iranian youth who continue to approach the MEK as the only organized force against the regime.
Meanwhile, court orders have led to the defamatory claims of so-called “former members” of the MEK and current members of the MOIS being removed from certain publications in Europe. And reputable journalists throughout the world could take this as a cue to check the sources of their own reporting on the group, instead of repeating the allegations against the MEK, coming directly from Iran.
It is vitally important that they do so because in the wake of two recent nationwide uprisings, demonizing the Iranian resistance will only pave the way for the regime to kill and arbitrary arrest MEK supporters inside Iran and other detained protesters by accusing them of having relation with the MEK. Repeating mullahs’ allegations against the MEK will prevent the very prospect of establishing a democratic system in place of Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.