The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) is continuing with its mission of demonizing the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in an aim to undercut the organization’s domestic and international support.
This is a series looking into the MOIS’s hate campaign and how they are spreading false rumors about the MEK to discredit them. The previous articles looked at the MOIS and its activities, and their methods of propaganda. This one will focus on the agents the MOIS have recruited to assist them in spreading their falsehoods.
These ‘disinformation agents’ that the MOIS recruited came from opposite ends of the spectrum. Some had purposely infiltrated the MEK to gain insider information before leaving, while others were former members of the MEK who either departed of their own accord or were expelled from the organization. Those who were expelled were then pressured into joining the Intelligence agency through bribery and coercion, with their family members being threatened with jail time if the former MEK members refuse to cooperate. This was confirmed in a report by the German Interior Ministry who stated, “The Iranian intelligence service is trying to recruit active or former members of the opposition groups.”
The recruitment process of the MOIS came to light when Jamshid Tafrishi, a former MOIS agent who defected and made his experiences public. He had pretended to be an opponent of the Iranian regime, all the while he was completing assignments on behalf of the MOIS. His activities involved distributing false information to foreign governments and the media and giving lectures on the ‘imprisonment, torture, and harassment of former MEK members.’
Tafrishi claimed that the MEK was hiding a number of weapons of mass destruction on behalf of Saddam Hussein and alleged that the resistance organization helped Iraq with the Kurdish revolt in 1991.
He often claimed to be a senior officer of the MEK but in fact, was never a member of the organization. He had been briefly a member of the National Liberation Army but left after citing personal problems. He was recruited by the MOIS in Turkey after traveling there via Baghdad and worked for them for almost a decade. He defected from the service in 2000 after becoming disillusioned with their operations and, a year later, confessed to the US Court of Appeals that he had been working as an agent for the MOIS.
In the affidavit he submitted to the court, he stated: “From 1995 to 1999, I received a total of $72,000 from the Intelligence Ministry as payment for my work on their behalf.”
Speaking of the projects that the MOIS were focused on in order to continue to discredit the MEK, Tafrishi said that he and other agents were tasked with alleging human rights abuses against the MEK internationally.
While Tafrishi wasn’t actually a member of the MEK, there are many people recruited by the MOIS who were found to have been former members of resistance units. These people include Anne Singleton, Massoud Khodabandeh, Hossein Sabhani, Ali Ghashghavi, Karim Haqqi Moni, Javad Firouzmand, Nowrouz-Ali Rezvani, and Jahangir Shadanlou.