For years, the ruling theocracy in Iran has used both domestic oppression and export of terrorism abroad as two methods of holding its grasp on power. To cover their tracks and justify their crimes, the mullahs also demonize their victims.
Despite an international global outcry, the Iranian regime executed wrestling champion Navid Afkari. To justify this criminal act, the regime’s state media and officials tried to portray Navid as a murderer. Recently, to intimidate the public, security forces paraded and humiliated youths in Tehran, and they justified this by calling them “thugs.” The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces gunned down 1500 protesters during the November 2019 protests, and called peaceful protesters “rioters” and “foreign agents.”
However, the regime’s systematic demonization campaign has targeted the democratic opposition, mainly the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). With over 120,000 members massacred by the regime in the course of 40 years of struggle for freedom, the MEK has also been the first target of the regime’s brutality.
To justify their crimes against the MEK, the mullahs have resorted to a systematic demonization campaign against the MEK. Many of the regime’s apologists abroad implemented the regime’s strategy of tarnishing the image of the Iranian opposition, to not only justify the regime’s crimes, but also to spread a false notion that there is no alternative to the Iranian regime.
The arrest of the regime’s diplomat-terrorist in 2018 who was attempting to bomb the opposition’s rally in Paris shocked the whole world. This so-called “diplomat,” Assadollah Assadi, had used his diplomatic cover to transfer 500 grams of TATP explosives with a commercial airliner to Europe. He then personally handed the bomb to two other operatives.
Although arrested red-handed, the regime’s diplomat-terrorist has constantly repeated the regime’s talking points against the MEK during his interrogation process. In addition to Assadi, other regime apologists use “journalistic” covers and titles to demonize the MEK. They justify the regime’s domestic oppression and terrorism abroad against the opposition members and supporters.
The regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and security (MOIS) is the leading organization in spreading disinformation about the dissidents.
During a recent webinar hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Director John Sano, former Deputy Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, said: “During my career in intelligence, working for the agency, I’ve encountered a number of MOIS operatives, and while their tactics may be somewhat outdated compared to other Intel organizations, the breadth of their coverage, the capabilities at their disposal, and the unrestricted authorities they have our unmatched, they have been able to intimidate, coerce, kidnap, and even kill opponents of the ruling moves to whom they view as their sole protector. So, one of the largest public opponents as I said, disinformation.”
John Sano, ex-CIA Clandestine Services Dep Dir: MOIS operates worldwide operates through official diplomatic channels and other covers. MOIS is a terrorist organization. MOIS & #Iran regime should be held accountable for their atrocities. https://t.co/xuF82ieCWD#DisbandIRGC
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) October 22, 2020
“They’re the ones that have spread the false rumors about not just the Iranian regimes’ objectives, but about opposition groups as well. They manipulate the media very successfully, both in terms of providing a more positive image of Iran and planting false stories in the press about opposition groups like the MEK,” Sano added.
As to the recent bombing plot, Sano said how the “MOIS tried to shift blame for their for this act on the MEK itself, saying that this was a false flag operation.”
The regime has long used its network of “friendly journalists,” some even working for internationally recognized media outlets, to pursue its demonization campaign against the MEK.
The main task of these so-called “journalists” is to spread and repeat the regime’s lies about its democratic opposition. In this regard, Sano said: “These lies are spreading not just in various blogs and social media, but have been picked up by the mainstream media, from CNN to the New York Times. They are designed to present a different face of Iran, to pick those that stand up for democracy for basic human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as torture and depicting them as subversives, as terrorists.”
The regime’s oppression of the MEK and targeting of dissidents abroad only shows the regime’s fear of the main opposition group which, according to the mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei, played a leading role during both major Iran protests in 2018 and 2019.
The regime’s officials are, as Sano said, “extremely frightened, and they see the MEK as the largest entity that represents the will of the Iranian people themselves for free and democratic Iran.”
To end the regime’s terrorism, it is imperative to take a firm action, and hold not only Assadi but the entire regime accountable for terrorism. In addition, to combat the regime’s terrorism, it is necessary to counter the mullahs’ disinformation campaign.