In the two years following the Iranian regime’s ascension to power during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, members of the regime’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) faced much persecution and harassment from the mullahs, sparking their departure from Iran in 1981 to set up a new base for the group in France.
Just five years later, the group returned to the Middle East to build and settle in Iraq’s Diyala province, close to the Iranian border. Camp Ashraf, as it was named, grew over the following two decades from a small settlement on a barren piece of land into a modern mini-city.
During the Iran-Iraq war in 2003, the camp fell under the protection of the United States Army for the next 5 years, until an agreement between the US and Iraq was made on January 1, 2009, and the protection over the camp was passed onto the Iraqi government. A decision that was to have disastrous consequences.
In 2009 and 2011, two deadly attacks were launched on Camp Ashraf under the orders of Iraq’s then-Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was heavily affiliated with the Iranian regime. 47 defenseless residents ultimately lost their lives during the attacks, and almost 1,000 others were wounded.
The MEK said, “In 2012, at the behest of Tehran, al-Maliki demanded the closure of Camp Ashraf. Ultimately, through a quadripartite agreement, brokered by the United Nations and the United States, MEK members began to relocate to Camp Liberty, a former US base near Baghdad International Airport in 2012.”
While the majority of the residents relocated as ordered, some 100 residents remained at Camp Ashraf to protect the MEK’s properties, vehicles and other equipment. However, attacks continued to rain on Ashraf, as well as Camp Liberty, a total of seven times over the next few years. In an ambush at Camp Ashraf in September 2013, 52 MEK members were shot at close range by Iraq’s Interior Ministry Special Forces. In total, 141 MEK members were killed, and more than 1,300 were wounded during the attacks at both camps.
Fighting for survival during exile in Iraq, the MEK were unable to defend themselves and fight back against the attacks. In 2016, the international community stepped in to assist the members and finally relocate them to safety in Europe. The majority ended up in Albania where they set up Ashraf-3, the group’s new home, where they remain to this day.
Finally, they are in a position where they can fight back against the Iranian regime and their propaganda. Over the past 5 years, they have been able to mobilize a new generation of Iranians and introduce them to the organization and the ideals they stand for. As a result, Iranian youths are racing to join the ranks of the MEK in their droves.
The state-run Fars news agency published an article on January 22, discussing the regime’s failure in spreading their propaganda. They wrote, “Winning because of the ‘dominant narrative’ is interpreted as victory without war. A war waged with the ability to produce content and narrative and the power of the media, and it is natural that in the age of media and the Internet, the dominant narrative determines who is the ultimate winner of a battlefield.”
They later expressed their anger at the regime’s attempts to change the narrative of the crimes that the officials have committed over the course of the regime’s rule. They are completely sidestepping their own faults and misdeeds, and instead trying to pin the blame on other people.
The MEK said, “The grievances of the regime via this media did not end here, but what this does show is that the regime is the main loser especially in three fields of cyberwar and propaganda, legal and human rights issues, making it clear that the truth has now reached Iran’s society and the regime propaganda has become worthless.”