Press release – 18.02.2019
DER SPIEGEL published an article on February 16, 2019, titled “Prisoners of the Rebellion,” containing a wealth of shameless lies and allegations defaming the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). This article is a blatant betrayal of responsible journalism, misleading rather than enlightening, defaming rather than doing justice to the truth. Grossly violating professional principles, its authors aid and abet the terrorist and religious dictatorship ruling Iran, paving the way for Iran’s mullahs to legitimize and pursue terror and bloodshed against the MEK on the European soil. In 2018, the regime’s intelligence service used European countries, from France to Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Austria and Albania, to plot terror on the MEK, Europeans, and Americans by its spies and terrorists.
Amnesty International declared 2018 the “Year of Shame” for the Iranian regime, denouncing the 7,000 politically motivated arrests that occurred in Iran last year as well as condemning its ongoing crimes against humanity. The deference and adulation displayed by DER SPIEGEL to Iran’s regime of injustice, teetering on the verge of collapse in the face of the Iranian people’s uprising, emanates from an appeasement mentality that puts commercial interests above universal human rights and values, and will not be forgotten by Iranians.
The correspondence that the Representative Office of the NCRI in Germany has had with DER SPIEGEL in the past ten months (May 2018 to February 2019) and in which it has answered allegations presented by the magazine with accompanying documentation, will be a thick book. There is no doubt that DER SPIEGEL has massively violated its neutrality and objectiveness obligation. Our documents show that those responsible for the latest article have deliberately lined up a plethora of crude lies against the Iranian Resistance. Indeed, “Claas Relotius” has found a worthy successor to this work in DER SPIEGEL. By publishing the said correspondence, we are appealing to all freedom lovers and advocates of freedom of speech in Germany to make their own judgment. Before we go into the chronology and the background of this collection of lies presented in DER SPIEGEL, we consider three comments necessary:
First, the timing of the article points to its vile goals. According to a letter from the deputy foreign editor in DER SPIEGEL, Mr. Mathieu von Rohr, the article was to be published on November 24 last year. Publication was “postponed” to a more opportune time for the Iranian regime and its appeasement partners. The Middle East conference in Warsaw and the Iranian opposition’s demonstration on the occasion enraged the Iranian regime, making this “remedy” opportune. The unprecedented and enthusiastic reception of DER SPIEGEL’s article by Iranian state media best illustrates this mutual need. The official Iranian news agency IRNA reports under the headline “Shocking tale of DER SPIEGEL on psycho-torturers of MEK members in a camp in Albania”. Mehr, the news agency of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), headlines: “Mujahedin train cutting throats three times a week in Albania”. Headline in FARS News Agency, belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC): “Members of the organization are practicing massacres”. Title in Mizan news agency, belonging to the criminal justice apparatus of the mullahs: “MEK in Albania trains cutting throats with a knife, gouging eyes with bare fingers and tearing mouths open”. The website of the supporters of “Velayat” (of the religious leader) has the following lead: “DER SPIEGEL’s shocking report on the brutality of the MEK”. Hundreds of other government media published the translation of the article into Persian under similar titles.
Second, this article primarily targeted members of the PMOI living in Albania, whose extermination in Iraq was an avowed goal of the Iranian regime, but who were able to leave Iraq safely in an organized manner, through a successful initiative by the Resistance. As you can see from the chronology documented below, the deputy foreign editor of DER SPIEGEL informed us on November 14 that the weekly intended to publish an article, so we invited them to visit the PMOI residence in Albania, but received no answer. It is shameful that here, in the absence of legal representation, without any hearing, based on medieval methods of wrongful accusation practiced by the mullahs ruling Iran, a public trial is being carried out in absentia with a death sentence issued. This is a stain on democracy and the free press in the 21st century.
The Iranian regime has already sentenced all 2,500 PMOI members now in Albania to death in absentia and they are targets of the regime’s terrorism. DER SPIEGEL’s article, however, has taken its cue from the mullahs, by condemning these people with the dirtiest allegations in absentia. This is nothing less than a fatwa to kill and assassinate them. Is this DER SPIEGEL or the Iranian so-called Revolutionary Court?
Third, the article is a politically motivated hit piece against the PMOI. It tramples on all claims of “fact checking” and objectivity. The editor-in-chief of DER SPIEGEL had apologized for the journal’s transgressions in the case of Claas Relotius in a letter on December 20, 2018:
“He [Claas Relotius] committed fraud and we allowed ourselves to be defrauded: the top editors, the section editors and the fact checkers. We were always proud of our system, which includes numerous safeguards ensuring that stories are read by many different people. Our fact checkers examine each story closely on the search for errors. Now we know that the system is flawed.”
Today, however, Der Spiegel has again failed to conduct proper fact checking and guard its objectivity in a much more serious way, endangering the lives of thousands of PMOI members who are already marked for death by a vicious regime. Der Spiegel never submitted many of these false claims to the Iranian Resistance for comment; they have not even undergone a simple online review, which cannot be coincidental.
Chronology and background of the creation of a categorically false article in DER SPIEGEL
1- SPIEGEL Online raised a series of false allegations against the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance in an article by Hasnain Kazim on May 11, 2018, entitled “People’s Mujahedeen in Iran: America’s New Friends.” The writer claimed that this movement “had no support back home,” was in the past seen as “Marxist, Stalinist” and some “dropouts” have accused it of being “sect-like.”
2- The Representative Office of the NCRI in Germany challenged the slander and wrote: “The question left unanswered is: If, as stated in the article, the People’s Mojahedin really have no support among the population, if they are such a sect-like and insignificant force, why did they become the main concern of the regime? Why are they the primary target of oppression in Iran? Why does the regime require other states to restrict the PMOI? Finally, why is the PMOI according to the German Bureau of Protection of the Constitution the main target of disinformation of the Iranian secret service even in Germany“? Despite repeated inquiries of the NCRI Representative Office in Germany to DER SPIEGEL, the journal did not publish one sentence of our reply.
3- On Sunday, September 30, 2018, DER SPIEGEL reporter Luisa Hommerich appeared at the residence of Iranian refugees/dissidents – members of the PMOI – in Albania without a prior appointment and asked for an interview with Mr. Farid Tutunchi, one of the legal representatives of the residents. In order to gain confidence, she said that she was in contact with Mr. Javad Dabiran from the NCRI office in Germany. She said that she had traveled to Albania to report on Syrian refugees and had taken the opportunity to visit the residence of the Iranian dissidents. She stated that she intended to leave Albania on October 2. It was clear that the residents could not allow entry to an unknown individual without proper introduction or prior notice.
4- Inquiries quickly revealed that Luisa Hommerich was by no means an ordinary journalist. It became clear that she had spent a long time in Iran and had extensive contacts with the Iranian regime’s repressive and security agencies while in the country. It turned out that she was a rare occurrence of a foreign student in Tehran during 2016 and 2017 and had stayed in the country during January 2018. Common sense says that the PMOI, the main target of the regime’s terror apparatus, cannot trust a person with such a questionable history. It is a well-known fact that the regime spends money stolen from the impoverished Iranian nation to lure and corrupt foreign partners in its plots against the opposition. Per Sandberg, Norway’s Fisheries Minister; Monica Witt, a US Air Force counter-intelligence officer; Abdul Hamid S, a German-Afghan military advisor, to name a few. These spies have been exposed one after another in this or that country. Developments have shown that the PMOI’s hesitation and caution towards Luisa Hommerich was well founded.
5- Subsequent research showed that the planned visit to “Syrian refugees” in Albania was a ruse and that Ms. Hommerich traveled to Albania with a premeditated plan to plot her lies against the PMOI. On October 1, she met with a number of Iranians in Albania recruited by the Iranian intelligence service, and whose cooperation with Iranian intelligence had previously been uncovered and published in detail. People like Ehsan Bidi, Hassan Heyrani and Manochehr Abdi, whose past history can be reviewed in the following sources:
6- On the afternoon of October 2, Albanian security guards at the residence of PMOI members in Albania stopped Ms. Hommerich whilst she was secretly approaching the private grounds from another side and she had to leave.
7- On October 12, 2018, in a letter to DER SPIEGEL’s editors-in-chief, Steffen Klusmann, Barbara Hans and Ullrich Fichtner, the Representative Office of the NCRI in Germany pointed to “the unprofessional and questionable behavior” of their reporter Hommerich, which “could lead to the exploitation of DER SPIEGEL by the religious fascism ruling Iran against the Iranian opposition.” Presenting details and recalling DER Spiegel-online’s article of May 11, 2018, the NCRI representative office asked the editors-in-chief “not to allow Der Spiegel to be used once again by the Iranian regime and its notorious agents as a mouthpiece against the people and resistance of Iran.”
However, as usual, we did not receive any response from DER SPIEGEL’s devious and overly arrogant empire. This weekly ignores that the era of modern slavery under the banner of the Holy Press is over. The Iranian Resistance consists of people who have paid the ultimate price to expose the crimes of “Ayatollah” Khomeini who claimed to hold the banner of Islam and Shi’ism, and so exposing those sitting in DER SPIEGEL’s glass castle is hardly as difficult.
8- On November 14, Mr. de Mathieu von Rohr, DER SPIEGEL’s deputy foreign editor, wrote to Mr. Dabiran for reasons of formality: “Our colleague Luisa Hommerich has been trying to reach you several times since the beginning of September – unfortunately without any particular success. Now that we want to publish the article on the PMOI, I would like to urge you to answer the following questions until noon, Tuesday, November 21st.” The respectable deputy foreign editor was in such a hurry to tinker with his alibi that he forgot to look at the calendar and realize that Tuesday was the 20th and not the 21st of November. This letter raised numerous allegations against the PMOI in the form of ten questions. Suffice it to say that even the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and its media would be ashamed to raise some of those allegations. The editor writes as a first question, “According to our research members (of the PMOI) may not use cell phones, clocks or calendars.” It seems as if the People’s Mojahedin had wrested the calendar by force from the deputy foreign editor Herr von Rohr; so as to make him mistake the dates.
9- On the same day, November 14th, the NCRI German delegation responded to the deputy foreign editor and wrote: “We have received your letter today and are preparing an answer. We will send you the answer as soon as it is ready. Then we would like to invite you to visit the residence of the Iranian refugees in Albania. However, we would like to draw your attention to the following points: To clarify each of these issues, we provide you with additional documents.” The letter was accompanied by 13 authentic documents in response to all the absurd allegations that appeared in the February 16 article. We ended the letter with the following: “We reaffirm that there are no obstacles for you to visit the location of the Iranian refugees in Albania, provided that journalistic neutrality, devoid of malevolence and plots and conspiracies of Iran’s religious dictatorship, is respected. There you could visit everything and talk to anyone you want to talk to in order to get to the facts on location and up close. We have clear red lines only for the intelligence service of the Iranian regime, the terrorist Quds brigade, and their espionage and terror networks.”
10- Subsequently, the NCRI representative replied on 18 November 2018, before the deadline in a letter of 6600 words with a large number of attachments and precise references to DER SPIEGEL’s ten questions, which reeked of medieval inquisition. In our letter, we once again invited the deputy foreign editor to visit the residence of Iranian refugees and PMOI members in Albania and added, “It is really strange that DER SPIEGEL gives credence to lies devoid of any logic and specific facts and human character of the PMOI. These are mullahs’ lies and their mercenaries’ pretentions, all previously exposed. As written to you on November 14, you can personally visit the residence of the refugees, members of the PMOI, and talk to them to see the extent to which the regime was able to deceive DER SPIEGEL with such questions.”
11- If the spirit of Relotius had not prevailed at DER SPIEGEL, the three months (from 14 November 2018 to 16 February 2019) would have been enough for the representatives of DER SPIEGEL’s empire to visit the residence of the People’s Mojahedin in Albania. However, they preferred to write, much in the tradition of Khomeini, that “Three times per week, [the Mojahedin] apparently practice slitting throats, breaking hands, jabbing out eyeballs with fingers and performing the so-called Glasgow Smile, which involves cutting cheeks from the corner of the mouth up toward the ear.” The Hamburg based Holinesses surely know the goal of their pontification: Their words are a mortal fatwa against the People’s Mojahedin. Sadly, though, they do not realize that the time for the following dictum has passed: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
12- On November 19 Mathieu von Rohr wrote to Javad Dabiran: “Thank you very much for your letter and for your answers. We will take them into account in our reporting.” Reading our reply on the website of the Foreign Affairs Committee will show how far DER SPIEGEL has considered our answers. Despite our detailed information, DER SPIEGEL’s article of February 16 states: “It was not until a confrontational e-mail with allegations from dropouts that the German spokesman of the NCRI responded and denied virtually everything.” In fact, when it comes to dirty political intrigues and shortsighted economic interests, outrageous behavior replaces shame.
13- On November 24, the day DER SPIEGEL originally wanted to publish its article – and hence the deadline set for us – it became clear that DER SPIEGEL had shared its text with the Mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence. While the news magazine did not publish the article at the time, the “Nejat Association”, a well-known offshoot of the MOIS, published the text of an interview by Gholamreza Shekari with DER SPIEGEL in Persian. Gholamreza Shekari is the person who claims in DER SPIEGEL article of February 16 that he was imprisoned and tortured 24 years ago by the PMOI.
14- In order to obscure the huge contradiction of being tortured by the PMOI and remaining in the organization for another 24 years, the article writes that he was brainwashed during that time. Shekari, like all other residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, was interviewed several times by US officers, representatives of the UNHCR, and the International Red Cross, without the presence of other PMOI members, at least from 2003 to 2016. On those occasions, he could have just said he wanted to leave the camp, as some other residents of the camp did, and of which he was informed. Now, after being recruited by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), he recalls being tortured 24 years ago. The article published on the website of the MOIS was obviously the one written by the DER SPIEGEL reporter. This interview is part of the article published on February 16. It is interesting that this turncoat clarifies in the interview with DER SPIEGEL: “To return to my homeland I turned to the Iranian embassy.” However, DER SPIEGEL did not publish this sentence on February 16 out of shame.
15- With confidence not merited by the modern lie-dissemination agency that DER SPIEGEL is, the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) translated the above interview as a courtesy and sent it to the deputy editor-in-chief. The NCRI office wrote, “We want to inform you that the website of the ‘Nejat Association’, which is part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, published an article today of this association from Central Kermanshah (a region in western Iran) under the title ‘Interview of the German newspaper DER SPIEGEL with Gholamreza Shekari’ to demonize the PMOI. Since DER SPIEGEL has not published such an interview, this publication (by the Nejat Association) constitutes an obvious misuse of the name ‘DER SPIEGEL’.” The letter further states: “This person who is at the service of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence was already unmasked on April 26, 2017, by the Iranian Resistance, of which you can convince yourself by means of the link below and the additional information sent as an attachment. “
In addition to providing further details and evidence, the NCRI representative wrote, “Shekari admitted in the alleged interview with DER SPIEGEL that he had visited the Iranian Embassy in Albania to clarify the question of his return to Iran. This confession leaves no doubt about his cooperation with the regime. His participation in the regime’s slander campaign against PMOI is part of the deal to return to Iran.”
16- The NCRI representative in Germany wrote in another e-mail to the Deputy foreign editor on November 25, 2018: “Dear Mr. von Rohr, Following my letter of November 24, I inform you that the MOIS websites such as the YARAN-e IRAN, AAWA and IRAN-INTERLINK have cunningly cited a DER SPIEGEL interview with Gholamreza Shekari against the PMOI, which you can see this under the following links: “
17- SPIEGEL-online once again on January 23 took to a political debate in Spain claiming that the PMOI had provided financial support to the VOX party as an opportunity to attack the PMOI as a “sect” and “personality cult.” In addition, the article said that the PMOI had only limited support in Iran and that the Iranians had “not forgotten or forgiven” their (PMOI’s) previous stay in Iraq.
18- On February 1, the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran wrote to DER SPIEGEL in response to these slanders:
“What the Iranian people will not forget and will not forgive are the war crimes and other crimes committed by this regime against humanity, such as for example, the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in 1988 which recalls the extermination of Jews by the Hitler regime.” The recent article obviously prefers to forget these atrocities and forgive the fascists ruling Iran. The appeasement of the mullahs at the expense of the Iranian people and their suffering, and the blood of hundreds of thousands of tortured and executed political prisoners is truly disgusting. If the institutions of the Iranian Resistance and the PMOI had not been profoundly democratic, that resistance could have never survived in the face of the brutal onslaught of repression and terrorism, as well as the conspiracy of Western powers and their false designation of the resistance as a terrorist organization. The regime may repeat its vile defamation of the POMI with labels such as personality cult, domination, anti-democratic structure, and sect as often as it wishes, but this will not stop the downfall of this regime, a process in which the PMOI is at the forefront. The process that will lead to the demise of the mullahs has begun and is irreversible.”
The representative office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran calls on all conscientious individuals to judge this grave violation of impartiality of the press. Silence in the face of these inquisition-like methods, such as DER SPIEGEL shows, is tantamount to support for the religious fascism ruling Iran, which has so far executed 120,000 freedom-lovers.
Representation of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Germany
February 18, 2019