As the clerical regime in Iran is facing the most challenging crisis of its life and is fighting for its survival, in a desperate bid to tarnish the image of the democratic opposition, it is resorting to spreading of more disinformation about the main Iranian opposition movement People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK) and the coalition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The Iranian people’s uprising at the beginning of January 2018 heralded a new era in Iran both for the ruling regime and the resistance. The MEK resistance units played a significant role in organizing, fomenting, and directing the uprising’s demands for regime change. The regime’s Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei publicly blamed the MEK for its key role.
Another nationwide uprising emerged spontaneously in November 2019, with additional protests across multiple provinces the following January. In both uprisings, the youth repeated MEK’s “regime change” slogans and again, MEK resistance units played a key role in spreading the protests across the country.
Now, the regime’s officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, are warning that the regime’s prior repression of dissent and its ongoing mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to still more intense public protests in the months ahead. As part of these warnings, Khamenei and others have singled out the MEK, for its pivotal role in the uprisings and the main threat to their existence.
That recognition seems, however, to be aggressively challenged by Iranian intelligence operatives and lobbyists in Western policy circles and international media. The associated campaign of demonization has been carried out over the years, with the regime’s high point arguably coming in the form of the MEK’s false designation as a terrorist group in the United States and Europe. However, that designation was ultimately challenged in court, leading to the group’s conclusive exoneration and its removal from all relevant lists by 2012.
Nevertheless, false allegations continue to linger on, thanks to funding and manipulation by the regime, on the false grounds that this is an isolated non-representative group with allegations going as far as calling the MEK a sectarian movement
This happened most recently in the Hamburg Regional Court, following a challenge to the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung over an article that had been published on May 13. The judgment, in that case, identified three specific claims whose inclusion in the article constituted violations of basic journalistic standards. The judgment also indicated that FAZ could face financial penalties of up to 250,000 euros for each of the offending claims, which are to be removed from online archives of the article and withheld from any subsequent publication.
The proposed penalty and the general ruling are the same as those handed down in March 2019 against Der Spiegel, in connection with another legal challenge from the NCRI in the same region. Both FAZ and Der Speigel conveyed allegations that the MEK had carried out torture of its own members at its compound in Albania.
The legal challenges to FAZ, Der Spiegel, and other outlets have helped to clarify the source of such fake news. Among the evidence presented to the courts were documents that established the connections between Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and some of the sources cited in defamatory articles.
The MOIS has a long history of presenting its operatives and affiliates as former members of the MEK and thereby seeming to substantiate allegations of torture, terrorist training, and abusive control over the organization’s members by its leadership. This deployment of misleading sources reportedly goes hand-in-hand with the recruitment of “friendly journalists,” a phenomenon that every time Iranian officials face a significant impasse, deploy them to demonize its main opposition in the Western media.
This is the impasse the regime has been facing since January 2018, at the latest. On the one hand, with continuous domestic unrest, and activities of MEK resistance units all across Iran, and more international isolation of the regime, the regime’s highest authorities blame the MEK as the source of their problems, while on the other hand their lobbyists abroad claim it is nonrepresentative, insignificant, sectarian, etc.
The German court rulings are among indexes that show the mullahs need a change of tone toward the Resistance, especially with more unrest insight because of the grim social and economic situation.