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A Humanitarian Success Story in Albania

A Humanitarian Success Story in Albania

In safety at last: Iranian dissidents present

their new settlement near Tirana

as a result of a successful resistance

The Board and Advisory Council of the German Solidarity Committee for a Free Iran (DSFI), led by Mrs. Rita Süssmuth, former President of the German Bundestag, travelled to Tirana from 21 to 23 October 2018 to visit the members of the Iranian People’s Modjahedin (MEK) living in Albania.

Mrs. Rita Süssmuth spoke to the exiled Iranians and said: “Their joy of life testifies to a culture and optimism that many people have lost. … I admire you deeply, because you repeatedly rebuild from rubble.”

The visit, conferences and meetings with senior Albanian politicians were attended by: Martin Patzelt, Member of the Human Rights Committee of the Bundestag of the CDU, Otto Bernhardt, former Parliamentary State Secretary and Member of the Board of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Hille Gosejacob-Rolf, Managing Director of the DSFI and Christian Zimmermann, Member of the Board of the DSFI as well as Member of the Board of Human Rights NGOs and Editor of the Human Rights Newsletter “Spotlight Menschenrechte” (Spotlight on Human Rights). The delegation was accompanied by Thomas Nord, member of the Bundestag Committee for EU Affairs of the parliamentary group Die Linke.

It must not be forgotten that the approximately 3,500 Iranian dissidents who once resided in Iraq have had a long struggle for their freedom behind them and have had to pay a high price for it: over 160 dead and almost 1,000, some of them seriously injured, in the last eight years. This movement began with the resistance against the Shah and continued its struggle – which involved heavy losses – for a free and democratic republic against the rule of the mullahs and the fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship in the last 40 years in Iran.

The DSFI has accompanied this stony path over the last 13 years and tried to alleviate it in a humanitarian way. Under the political conditions after the withdrawal of the American armed forces from Iraq, the security of the refugees from Iran deteriorated to such an extent that an evacuation from the already extremely dangerous camp “Liberty” became unavoidable. The assumption of the security responsibilities by the Iraqi government of president Maliki and the head of UNAMI, Martin Kobler, developed into a deadly trap. This life-threatening crisis could be solved with the help of worldwide supporters, American politicians from the Senate and House of Representatives, the UNHCR and the prudent representatives of the MEK on the ground and in Paris. The last step was taken because the government and all parties in Albania were very cooperative and helpful.
This willingness to accept the MEK has on the one hand a tradition in the historical helpfulness of the Albanian people. On the other hand, the appreciation of European values for security through solidarity as a NATO member and the desire for early EU membership also play an important role in this decision. This was made clear to the delegation time and again in the many discussions with Albanian leaders.

Visit to the new settlement

On 21 October, the delegation visited for five hours the new housing estate of MEK. On their arrival they were warmly welcomed by a large number of members of the Mojahedin of the people. They reported about the successful resettlement from Iraq to Albania and the measures for the construction of the new settlement. The Iranians emphasized that the costs of the move, daily life and medical care will be borne by the MEK. They receive great help from many supporters and donors from all over the world. The Iranians are very thankful for this.

Discussion with the doctors at the clinic of the settlement

The delegation visited the settlement, housing compex, wood workshops, gyms, football, volleyball and basketball courts. and spoke with the people, especially women and young members. They also visited young people who were interested in music, visual arts, the production of video clips and satirical programmes, as well as historical documentation. The delegation then visited the medical centre. Surgeons, dentists and many MEK employees as well as experts from other countries work there.


 Visit of a department with computer workstations and to a wood workshop

 In the evening, the delegation took part in a meeting of MEK members for personal discussions. Particular attention was given to the prejudices and reproaches that are being made to the whole group by some European governments and the press. They include allegations such as that there was no freedom of movement, no opportunities for visits and even forced scenarios. All these attempts at stigmatisation, including in the press, are completely unfounded. Not all MEK members live in the settlement, everyone can move and settle freely in Albania. Family visits are encouraged and happen often. Some members of the MEK have ended the freedom fight for personal reasons. Transitional arrangements of a financial nature are also made and no pressure is exerted, but help is provided to begin a new life. Unfortunately, no one from the group evacuated from Baghdad can leave Albania because they have no exit documents and are subjected to residential obligation.

A representative of the residents described this open exchange as a special sign of recognition. The MEK members want to pay tribute to the efforts their German friends have made in order to lead the humanitarian enterprise of the resettlement of the MEK from Iraq to European countries, including Albania, to success. The new safe life in the new settlement (“Ashraf 3”) was not only a personal benefit, but an encouragement to continue and improve the non-violent resistance undiminished, especially in view of what is happening in Iran. The many contacts in the homeland give both sides of the resistance the strength to achieve the democratic change in Iran.


Otto Bernhardt said: “You have made a long journey, but the remaining way to your destination will be short. The goal is to liberate Iran; we must reach that goal together.”

“The light shining in your eyes and your joy of life give me courage. They show your faith in the purpose you are pursuing,” said Rita Süssmuth. She repeated, “You are more alive today than you were in Camp Ashraf and Liberty. Continue your struggle!”

MEP Martin Patzelt said: “I have always asked myself: How can people fight for decades for freedom and democracy without losing their courage? Today my question was answered – here in your new settlement “Ashraf 3″. You could all lead a good life in any place in the world, opposing the regime, but you have chosen a different path: the common struggle; that is important. I wish you and all of us victory on this way.”

Christian Zimmermann said: “I consider myself an Ashrafi. At the moment there is talk in Germany and all over Europe about what the alternative to the Mullahs is. To this, I say, “If anyone wants to know the alternative, come to this settlement.”

Ms. Hille Gosejacob-Rolf presented the MEK women with several table decorations representing the flag of Iran and praised the avant-garde role of the MEK women.

Afterwards Rita Süssmuth, together with other members of the delegation, presented the MEK representative with a large picture of the German Reichstag to emphasize the importance and common appreciation of parliamentarism.

Meeting with Albanian politicians

But the visit to Tirana was also marked by important talks with Albanian politicians. The German delegation met, among others, Deputy Prime Minister Senida Mesi, Minister Pandeli Majko, President of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, former Prime Minister and historical statesman of Albania Sali Berisha, leader of the opposition and leader of the Democratic Party of Albania Lulzim Basha, as well as the leader of the socialist faction Taulant Balla. The Albanian politicians underlined the success of the resettlement and – in terms of the acceptance that the MEK now enjoys – the complete agreement of all groups in parliament.

Members of the delegation meet with president of Parliament Ruci (above) and Ms. Vicepresident Mesi (3.rd from the left)


They expressed their concern at the activities of the Iranian regime’s secret services in Albania. They emphasized their determination to counter the actions of the Ministry of Intelligence and the regime’s agents in Albania. This met with broad support from the German delegation, which itself attested to a significant increase in the number of secret service actions, even in Germany and Europe, including the planning of an assassination attempt against the MEK and its supporters. Minister Majko and opposition leader Basha underlined that the Tehran regime is busy spreading negative propaganda against the MEK by using the press as an instrument.

On Monday evening the German delegation together with MEK responsibles, representatives of the Albanian parliament and te civil society organized a larger meeting under the title “Solidarity with the Iranian resistance / enlightenment about Islamic fundamentalism and the way the Iranian regime promotes terrorism in Europe and especially in the Balkan countries”. The meeting took place at the Hotel Tirana International. A large number of personalities committed to political rights and human rights as well as Albanian friends of the Iranian resistance were invited. The Albanian press reported extensively on the conference, which left no doubt about the support of the MEK.


Rita Süssmuth referred to the visit of the German delegation to the settlement “Ashraf 3” and said: “The progress of the MEK surprised us; it would not have been possible without the constructive cooperation of the government and the citizens of Albania”. She went on: “They – the MEK – kept to their financial autonomy; they themselves bore all the costs, namely the construction costs. They are democrats, volunteers, alive and active, deeply opposed to the dictatorship and committed to the cause of freedom”. Martin Patzelt said: “The situation in Iran is undergoing a profound change; we are seeing a change in attitudes towards the regime. Europe has supported the nuclear agreement with the regime, but the regime’s internal and international crisis, its destructive policies and its support of terrorism make it difficult for Europe to continue to support it. The acts of terrorism committed by the regime in Europe are the source of a serious crisis in its relations with our continent”.

Otto Bernhardt called for the expulsion of the official and informal agents of the regime’s secret services. He said that the German police had arrested a terrorist diplomat of Iran; he had recently been extradited to Belgium to appear before a court there. The Iranian regime had tried to prevent his expulsion. Another diplomat of the Iranian regime was expelled from France, as were two of his diplomats from the Netherlands. France has imposed a sanction on the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. Europe has decided to restrict the activities of the regime’s secret services. If they are allowed to operate freely in the heart of Europe, Europe’s security will be jeopardised.

Bernhardt continued: “DSFI is convinced that it is important for Albania to prevent Iranian secret agents from entering the country. We are informed that the Iranian secret service ministry is working very actively against the Iranian resistance here in Albania, and we understand very well why the regime continues its propaganda. A regime overwhelmed by the crisis and whose future is very much in question is trying to discredit and attack this resistance – the most important alternative to it. Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi is a proven advocate of democracy. We must do all we can to ensure that this resistance is recognised in Europe. Her ten-point plan for Iran’s future is fully in line with our values.”

At these meetings, Bundestag member Patzelt spoke out in favour of the MEK – as the group of Iranian freedom fighters working for democracy and human rights. He called for an end to the religious dictatorship in Iran.

November 2018

Otto Bernhardt, DSFI Chairman (former State Secretary, Member of the Board of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation)

Martin Patzelt, MdB, DSFI board member

Christian Zimmermann, Editor of the Human Rights Newsletter “Spotlight Menschenrechte”, DSFI Board Member