A recent article published by the UK’s Sunday Times Magazine in which the author, Matthew Campbell recalled his experiences visiting the Albanian compound, Ashraf-3, that is home to thousands of exiled members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
On that, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported said, “In his piece, Campbell did not disregard the MEK’s detractors out of hand, but he did not take their input for granted, as some have done in the past.”
During his visit, Campbell visited a café owned by Hassan Heyrani, a defector who has featured in many anti-MEK articles in Western media. According to The Times article, before Heyrani’s departure from Ashraf-3, he was suspected of being a MEK infiltrator on behalf of the Iranian regime.
The NCRI said, “This fact provides vital context for his allegations against the organization, which are identical to certain aspects of the propaganda narrative that Tehran has been peddling about the MEK for many years.”
The circumstances of Heyrani’s new role as a private business owner question his credibility, as in his interview with Campbell, he claimed that the financing for his café came from an ‘NGO in Iran’.
The NCRI said, “It is a notably vague explanation for a steady flow of foreign capital, and it does nothing to counter the fact that the NGO in question is actually a front for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.”
In his article, Campbell not only referenced other criticisms of the MEK but also discussed other pieces of information that cast a lot of doubt upon the criticisms and accusations.
Campbell spoke of the dealings that the United States military previously had at the MEK’s former exiled headquarters in Iraq, and no evidence had been found for the accusations made against the resistance organization.
The NCRI said, “The MEK has long attempted, with inconsistent success, to make international media aware of the sheer volume of propaganda being directed against it by Iranian authorities.”
Iranian intelligence operatives often recruit people before or soon after they have cut ties with the MEK in order to coat their propaganda with even the smallest hint of credibility, therefore assisting with the global spread of these exaggerated accusations.
The NCRI said, “Tehran has long since made a habit of using this phenomenon to fuel a feedback loop of propaganda.”
Iranian state media also have a habit of referencing reports from Western media organizations of ‘former members’ of the MEK, to make out that the claims regarding the MEK are objective. However, the majority of the accusations are easily traced back to the regime’s own networks of propaganda.
At the end of his article, Campbell wrote, “After a heavily chaperoned tour of the Albanian site and meetings with its single-minded militants, I am left with the view that they are animated by nothing more sinister than revulsion for the Iranian regime and the torment it has inflicted on them and their families.”
The NCRI said, “No doubt many other journalists would arrive at a similar conclusion if only they availed themselves of the opportunity to speak directly with long-suffering opposition group coordinating protests inside Iran and advocating for regime change that leads to a secular, democratic system of government in its homeland.”