By Gholamali Narimi
Between July 17 and 20, the Iranian Resistance held a historic online conference to highlight popular demand for establishing a democratic system in place of the current theocracy in Iran. Thousands of political leaders, parliamentarians, and religious and cultural dignitaries joined the conference from throughout the world.
Participants took part in the conference from more than 30,000 individual locations spanning 100 countries. Members of the leading Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization, or MEK , gathered in their community in Albania known as Ashraf-3, were also connected to the conference.
Many speakers described this exceptional gathering as a sign that the regime’s demonization campaign against the MEK is on its way to defeat. But many also emphasized that that campaign has accelerated recently, as Iranian authorities have reacted with panic to signs of their own forthcoming overthrow.
Among the signs of that acceleration are actions by Olsi Jazexhi. In a video posted to YouTube on the 10th of July, Jazexhi, who claims to be an Albanian, interviewed my younger brother and his wife in the city of Mahshahr, in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. Jazexhi communicated his own lies about the residents of Ahsraf-3, then pushed the interviewees to insult and make criminal accusations against me and the MEK , which I am proud to be a member of.
The location of this interview was not just incidental. Khuzestan was the epicenter of the November 2019 uprising against the Iranian regime. This nationwide uprising engulfed Iran and brought the regime to the brink of overthrow. Tehran later admitted that the MEK played the key role in that uprising as well as an earlier one that began in December 2017.
Iranian armed forces brutally suppressed the November uprising by firing into crowds and killing 1,500 peaceful protesters across the country in just three days. One of the most horrifying mass killings happened in the city, Mahshahr, in which, our innocent Arab countrymen were killed by heavy machine guns. About the regime's criminal suppression, the New York Times wrote that Revolutionary Guard members surrounded, shot, and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators — principally unarmed younger males — in a marsh where they had sought refuge. Local reports indicated that over three days of unrest, the city’s death toll reached 130.
Following this brutal suppression, on January 18, 2020, the US government sanctioned the criminal commander of the Khuzestan branch of the IRGC, Hassan Shahvarpour, who killed 148 people in cold blood in Mahshahr.
Since then, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has expressed great fear and worry, continuously warning about the potential for another uprising. On July 8, Health Minister Saeed Namaki voiced similar fear, saying: "The security institutes report that the people are moving toward chaos because of poverty. This is a serious matter." He asked the government, security, and military forces as well as police to think about preparing themselves to counter another uprising. Doing so would certainly entail more brutal suppression, but also a vast demonizing campaign against the MEK, the only viable alternative to the regime.
One aspect of that campaign in Albania involves deploying local agents like Jazexhi to put pressure on the families of the MEK's members, often by taking them hostage. In this way, the regime desperately, tries to promote the idea that if its regime is being replaced by the MEK , the resulting government will be much worse, and that the best course of action for the international community is to maintain the status quo.
The excuse for Jazexhi’s interview was that the MEK does not allow visits or other contact between its members and their families. But this is another lie. A few months ago, I had a telephone call with my family, but I later found out that that call had been under surveillance by Iranian Intelligence agents.
As an Iranian who has been engaged in a hard battle with the religious dictatorship ruling Iran, and has been imprisoned and tortured for supporting the MEK , I am aware of Tehran’s tactics. After torture, prisoners are routinely forced to participate in television interviews and to endorse the regime while condemning the opposition. During my second term of imprisonment, I resolved to reject such an interview at any cost, and eventually I was able to escape the IRGC-run prison in the city of Ramhurmoz. My brother and his wife, on the other hand, surrendered and had an interview.
The International Federation for Human Rights and Justice for Iran, two human rights NGOs, recently published a report detailing how forced confessions, show trials, and defamatory programs have been used throughout the 40 years since the establishment of the regime, as tools for suppressing individuals and civil society both inside and outside Iran. The report cites broadcasts, by the regime, of false confessions from 355 individuals and defamatory content about 505 others.
But this demonizing campaign cannot obscure the fact that the mullahs’ days are numbered, and it is not likely to overcome the positive information being shared among participants in July’s online conference. Olsi Jazexhi’s role in Tehran’s propaganda machine is not just a criminal act, but degrading to humanity by any standard, but it will not save the despotic, medieval regime that is responsible for 120,000 executions of innocent people in Iran.
Defamatory interviews cannot prevent the regime’s downfall. Ultimately, they will only reinforce awareness of its shameless strategies for maintaining its hold on power, and thus inflame domestic opposition to the regime, along with international support for the democratic Resistance. Even Olsi Jazexhi himself admitted that after the great virtual conference of the MEK , the Albanian people and government were offering more support to the MEK than ever before.