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Camp Ashraf 3


Camp Ashraf 3


Camp Ashraf 3 is the current headquarters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran in Manëz, Durrës County, Albania. This camp is located in an area between the capital of Albania (Tirana) and the coastal city of Durrës. In 2013, after the closure of the Camp Liberty, the members of the Mojahedin organization were transferred to European countries, mostly to Albania.

History

In 2009, the responsibility of the MEK was given to the Iraqi government by the American army. It led to American and United Nations diplomats discovering a secure place to accommodate MEK. The U.S. negotiated with some partners in Eastern Europe; Romania seemed an ideal base, but Albania responded positively to the U.S. The group was accepted by Albania, after one year. “Albanian government hoped its hospitality would curry favor with Washington, according to the foreign minister between 2013 and 2019, Ditmir Bushati.” The camp was built on some fields in a valley 15 miles west of Tirana. Camp Albani includes different sections, such as a gym, a small cafeteria, a museum about the M.E.K.’s history, and a recording studio for producing anti-regime songs and music videos for release on Iranian social media.

Albania did not grant refugee status to the residents of the camp. The United Nations provided a monthly stipend of 30,000 LEK that expired in 2018.

On 13 July 2019, the "120 Years of Struggle for Freedom Iran" conference was held at the MEK camp in Albania. Former US Senator Joe Lieberman gave speech at the conference.

Since 2013, the People's Mojahedin has held meetings and invited people like former US vice president Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The camp is a fortified base built on 34 hectares of farmland.

The camp has faced scrutiny from Albanian media and opposition parties over the terms of the 2014 deal and the MEK's alleged activities on Albanian soil. Former head of Albanian military intelligence Ylli Zyla accused the MEK of violating Albanian law.

Iran-Albania relations have been tense since Albania gave MEK members a haven.

Residents and daily life

In 2018, The Guardian reported that about 2,300 MEK members lived in the camp. In 2020, a journalist from the NYT claims to have seen only 200 people in the camp. The AP News reported in 2022 that 3000 members live in the Tirana camp of MEK, which is guarded by Albanian security forces.

In the camp of Tirana, it is forbidden to carry mobile phones, watches, or calendars as well as the situation at previous Mujahidin camps. Der Spiegel describes that they live "in a time capsule". According to Spiegel, the members try to cut throats with knives, break hands, and gouge out eyes with fingers in their weekly exercises. The Iranian government believes that MEK is in charge of the assassination of 12,000 Iranians over three decades.

On February 2020, Patrick Kingsley, the NYT journalist got an allowance to visit the camp. There was permission for him to interview some members privately, such as Somayeh Mohammadi. She said to him, “This is my choice,” “If I want to leave, I can leave.” Ali Safavi, the group’s main representative in Washington told him, we are not allowed to talk about Massoud Rajavi. He described that when I entered the camp, it was empty. I knew that 2500 members live there, but I saw just 200 members, during two days. They seemed to be separated from the rest or left the camp.

Allegation of torture

MEK has been accused of organizing torture against members who try to escape. The transfer from Iraq to Albania prepared the conditions for the flee of more members. Half of the members who decided to escape are women. They told the Guardian in 2018 that the MEK used torture, solitary confinement, confiscation of property, and keeping people away from their families to silence dissidents and prevent members from escaping. Although MEK denied such accusations, Human Rights Watch has reported threats of torture and execution, beating, and physical and verbal abuse based on the testimony of the fugitives. Two women who escaped from the MEK told the Guardian that their uteruses had been removed in Camp Ashraf on the pretext of a minor illness.

Troll farm allegations

In February 2020, 10 former members of the MEK were interviewed by The New York Times. They alleged that the Albanian headquarters of the MEK operate a troll farm to disseminate propaganda against the Iranian government. However, the MEK called them the spy of the Iranian government.

According to an interview of a former MEK member with The Guardian, the troll farm numbered 1,000 people in the Albanian camp. He went on to say that the MEK released pro-Rajavi and anti-Iran propaganda on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, and newspaper comment sections in English, Farsi, and Arabic. These allegations were denied by the MEK.

Raid by Albanian police

On June 20, 2023, the Albanian police raided the camp after an investigation by SPAK, due to allegations of "unsanctioned political activity" that went against the 2014 agreement between the Albanian government and the MEK. The raid was authorized by the Albanian judiciary due to the "violation of agreement and commitments".

In 2022, Albania suffered a cyber-attack that their government and multi-national technology companies blamed on the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The attack, believed to be in retaliation for the MEK camp, the host of the Iranian opposition in exile, pushed the government to suspend diplomatic relations with Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied being behind the attack on Albanian government websites and noted that Iran has suffered cyber-attacks from the MEK.

National Police chief Muhamet Rrumbullaku claimed that MEK leaders were uncooperative and attempted to prevent Albanian authorities from seizing electronic devices.

Reactions

U.S.: Despite previous supports of Washington to the MEK, this time the State Department didn't even provide training to them. White House stood behind and said: "We support the Government of Albania's right to investigate any potential illegal activities within its territory."

Some media and analysts tried to relate this raid to U.S.-Iran negotiations.

Aftermath

The conflict between police and the MEK left one dead and 36 other camp residents injured, MEK said; rather, the state police said that the police didn't use any deathly means and the victim was not necessarily connected to the police operation.

Muhamet Rrumbullaku, commander of the national police confirms both Mujahedeens and police officers were injured during the raid at the Ashraf 3 camp. 15 officers and 21 residents were injured, the police used pepper spray against Mojahedeen who tried to block the officers and finally, police seized 150 computers allegedly linked to prohibited political activities from 17 buildings in the camp, Fox News reported. Mujahedeen-e-Khalq representatives claim 1 person was killed in the raid.

The situation in the camp on June 21st was calm.

References


Externals links

  • A darling of US conservatives, Iran’s top opposition group may face an uncertain future , CNN
Collection James Bond 007

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Camp Ashraf 3 by Wikipedia (Historical)