The Balkans Post has conducted an interview with Dr. Olsi Jazexhi, a Canadian-Albanian historian who is specialized in the history of Islam, nationalism and religious reformation in Southeastern Europe. We discussed the latest developments in Albania and the MEK’s presence in the country.
The following is the full transcript of the interview:
BP: Dear Dr. Olsi Jazexhi. On June 30, 2019 Albania had municipal elections. These elections were boycotted by the opposition and the president. The ruling Socialist Party of Albania ran alone in this elections and Albania is looking more like North Korea rather than a European Democracy. What is going on with Albania?
OJ: Hello readers of Balkanpost.
The political situation of Albania has become very frightening in the last years. The Socialist Party of Albania which is headed by Prime Minister Edi Rama, a close friend of Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy and George Soros is turning Albania into a one-party state like in the days of Enver Hoxha. Edi Rama, whose family belonged to communist nomenklatura has reinvented himself as a new autocrat of Albania. For this he has the backing of the Trump administration and top U.S. officials who do not care what goes on in Albania as long as the Rama government hosts the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and other extremist organizations in the country.
However, while during the era of communism, Albania was a social welfare and an independent state, nowadays the Socialist Party of Albania which Edi Rama leads is turning Albania into a frightening authoritarian state. Since his coming to power in 2013 the Rama government has destroyed many social welfare institutions of the country, the healthcare, universities, schools and other state institution. He has cut social support for the needy and has forced thousands of Albanians to pay for their healthcare like never before. He is mass-privatizing and selling state assets and people are suffering as a result of his attack on basic welfare institutions of the country. The best beaches and lands of Albania are being sold to oligarchs and the government is forcefully stealing private properties of many individuals.
By ending state subsidies for the poor, jailing Albanians who cannot afford to pay their electricity bill, stealing agricultural and touristic lands for the oligarchs, not providing jobs for the workers and mass taxing businesses and farmers many Albanians have been forced to leave the country and find jobs elsewhere. Many others have ended up as drug dealers – since this is the only way how the poor can feed their families in impoverished Albania. The Albanian government and its American backers do not care for the welfare of the Albanians and the economic situation is becoming similar to that of many nations in South America.
On the other hand, major drug and criminal gangs have sided with Rama’s government which has helped them to privatize and steal major state assets for their businesses. The municipality of Tirana is the most important state institution which is accused in the media of siding with these criminal gangs. The municipality is headed by Erion Veliaj, an ex-evangelical preacher whose rise to power came thanks to the support of the U.S. Department of State and Soros Foundation. Erion Veliaj is destroying the green spaces of Tirana by building unending towers in every park and garden that he finds. Many businessmen complain about the high level of bribe that his men take from the constructors for granting them building permits. However the justice system which is controlled by the Americans and the Socialist Party does nothing against the mass corruption and electoral fraud that the Socialists do in the country.
BP: What is the ideology of Edi Rama’s government? He claims to be a Socialist but he is siding with the Capitalist mafia. On the other hand Albania is a Muslim majority country. Do Muslims have anything to say in what is going on in the country?
OJ: Even though Edi Rama’s family comes from a Christian Orthodox background, Rama has converted himself into a Catholic. Many of his government ministers, advisers and other apparatchiks are either fundamentalist Catholics or Evangelical Christians. Muslims who are the majority have no power. They are discriminated by the Rama government and the Americans who closely monitor the Muslim community and its mosques in the country. The Muslim Community of Albania which is the ‘Church of Islam’ in the country is under the Fethullah Gulen Network’s control and their American supervisors.
Political power in Albania is at the hand of criminal and fundamentalist groups. The ideology of Edi Rama’s government can be described as American style capitalism mixed with evangelical ideology. The mayor of Tirana, Erion Velija and the head of Tirana’s municipality council Tony Gogu are both protestant preachers – like you have Mike Pence in the United States. They worship Israel and American imperialism.
Rama’s government is accused by many Albanian and international media of grave corruption and racketeering scandals. Major European media like the Bild newspaper in Germany have published many wiretappings from Albanian prosecutors’ office which show how Edi Rama’s Socialist Party steals and blackmails the Albanians to win the elections. However, the Americans who have taken control of Albania’s judicial system do not ‘encourage’ Albanian prosecutors to turn Albania into a normal functioning democracy and establish a real democratic system in the country.
They like Albania to stay as it is. A corrupt mafia-like state ruled by an autocratic ruler who is an obedient ally of the United States. Albania is turning into a second Porto Rico or Haiti.
BP: In recent years, Albania has become a European hub for the promotion of MEK propaganda. What’s your take on this? How do you see the relations between the MEK and European countries? And why did Albania choose to become a country that hosts such a terrorist organization?
OJ: As I have stated before, Albania is a country which according to our president Ilir Meta is run by major criminal organizations and foreign embassies. Our municipal elections of 30 June 2019 which were boycotted by the opposition and declared non-valid by the president – but were forcefully organized by the socialists, have shown to all the Albanians that democracy and rule of law has died in Albania. Prime Minister Edi Rama has become like the dictator of Tunisia, Ben Ali. The Americans and the British who cry for democracy and human rights for Hong Kong, Russia, China, Syria, Turkey and Iran, and who export democracy via B-2 Bombers to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya do not complain about the mono-party elections of Albania in 2019, the mass-arrest of Albanian politicians, protestors and journalists by the Rama government. If what is happening in Albania were to happen in Turkey, Russia or Iran, the BBC, CNN and other western medias would have protested endlessly and have asked for foreign intervention to bring democracy in those countries.
The Americans do not care for democracy in Albania. The only interest that they have with Albania is to use it for any illegal activity that the United States does in Europe and in the Middle East. The MEK which contrary to Albanian and European laws runs a paramilitary camp in Albania is totally protected by the Albanian government and its ministers like Pandeli Majko. The MEK has created a state within a state in Albania like Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda created in Afghanistan in the era of Mullah Omar. Albanian police, courts, prosecutors etc. have no power over the MEK. If any state body will ever dare to challenge what the MEK is doing – they will face the wrath of the Americans. By hosting the MEK and supporting its illegal activities the Americans have turned Albania into a kind of a European Guantanamo Bay.
The European Union and many European neighbors of Albania – the Italians, the Greeks, the French and the Germans who are not happy with what is going on with the MEK – do not dare to speak about it. As we have seen with the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe is no longer independent. Many European states do not enjoy freedom and independence in their foreign relations like France enjoyed during the era of Charles de Gaulle, or those that Russia, China and Iran enjoy nowadays.
BP: The Trump administration officials openly support the MEK as a “democratic alternative” to the current Iranian political system. Why is the White House supporting a group that does not have a social base among Iranians?
OJ: The Trump administration is supporting the MEK because they hate the democratic and independent system of Iran. They hate Iran because Iran supports Palestine and does not abandon the Palestinians, and because it has not allowed itself to become a dictatorial regime like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
While the MEK is a ruthless totalitarian cult, which keeps as slaves thousands of its soldiers and its democratic credentials are similar to those of Khmer Rougue in Cambodia, the Americans portray it as the “democratic alternative” to Iran’s democratically elected government. If you ask in private any Albanian politicians – including those who attend the MEK meetings with Maryam Rajavi – as to how much democratic MEK is, they will laugh. The most enthusiastic supporters of the MEK will tell you in private “we know that they are terrorists. But America has told us to support them and we do it.”
Those who consider the MEK a “democratic alternative” to Iran’s democratically elected government should also proclaim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Muhamed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as champions of democracy in the world.
BP: Backed by U.S. warmongers, Israelis and Saudis, the MEK’s aim is regime change in Iran. What’s your analysis on the role of these countries against the Islamic Republic, especially through their support for the MEK?
OJ: Well, from what we have seen in Albania, the MEK is a puppet terrorist organization which has no power to challenge the military might of Iran. The MEK is a paper tiger which is waved by the Americans and the Israelis to harass the Iranian society. Its 4000+ terrorist members that Albania hosts are not a serious challenge for the Islamic Republic of Iran in military terms. The jihadis of the MEK are mostly old, broken and abandoned by their families. They reside in Manza Camp which is a prison like paramilitary camp where most MEK soldiers are not allowed to go out, marry and live a free life. Many MEK soldiers suffer from cancer and other diseases. They live in fear for the crimes they have committed in the past. If they go out of Albania they have no place to hide. Turkey, Russia, China, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran etc. all consider them to be terrorists and they will end up in jail. The Americans do not give them asylum in the United States. For this reason they are “condemned” to live with Maryam Rajavi and the cult – because this is the only way they can feed themselves and find protection. The Americans, the British, the Israelis etc. will not take them into their countries. They are stateless desperate terrorist like the DAESH terrorists who hide in the deserts of Syria. The only difference between the MEK and DAESH is that the MEK are “our good terrorists” while DAESH are “not useful terrorists” anymore.
The Iranians, even those who do not like the present government, hate the MEK and will never humiliate themselves to associate with a lunatic cult like the MEK. The U.S. claim that the MEK represents a democratic alternative to the present Iranian government is a ludicrous claim, which only a lunatic who might see Ku Klus Klan (KKK) as the democratic alternative to the present U.S. government might believe. The MEK’s paid supporters like Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, etc. do not even themselves believe in this idiocy. However, they need to prop up the myth of the MEK as a viable militant opposition against the government of Iran for their geopolitical reasons. The Americans have offered to Iran to hand the MEK back to Iran, if Iran would agree not to support Palestine. But Iranians have refused and for this reason they are stuck in Albania.
Through the scarecrow of the MEK, the Americans and their supporters milk the Saudis and Emiratis and convince the Wahhabi despots of the Middle East to continue to side with them and Israel against Iran and Palestine. If the MEK did not exits, the Americans and Israelis would have to invent one, like they did with DAESH and al-Nusra in Syria.
The only danger that the MEK currently represents for Iran is its espionage, propaganda and fake news against Iran. The MEK can also carry limited terrorist actions against Iran.
However Iran, Russia, China and the Europeans have so far shown that they do not take the MEK seriously.
BP: How is the response of the Albanian public towards MEK?
OJ: Well, our media in Albania do not dare to speak much about the MEK. In the past years the MEK has attacked many foreign and Albanian journalists and media by accusing them as “agents of Iran” when they exposed the slave-like conditions of their members. The MEK has complained to the Americans against these journalists and media and they have achieved some kind of success in destroying the freedom of the press in the country. In 2019, the Albanian media has censored much of its news about them – and have instead adapted the American jargon – by describing them as “the democratic opposition” of Iran. In 2018 our media investigated their abuses of their members, but now they do not do that anymore.
In private every Albanian hates the MEK and every journalist knows who they are. Even Sokol Balla a pro-MEK apologetic journalist whose TV has supported the illegal activities of the MEK and refuses to make an open debate about the MEK – because he does not want to upset the Americans, have asked “how the MEK members can live in isolation like they do” and abandon a civilian way of life. If you go on Facebook and many social forums you will see the outrage that the Albanians have with the MEK’s presence in Albania. They ask for their deportation. Even those whom the MEK pays or those who attend their meetings – in private accept that they are lunatics and dangerous but they do not dare to say that in public.
In the recent days when many artists and intellectuals are protesting in Tirana against the Edi Rama government – who is destroying the Italian built national theater of Tirana – some protestors who are upset with the American support for the autocratic regime of Edi Rama are using irony to protest the sad reality of their country. The Trump administration that describes the MEK as “the democratic alternative to the current Iranian political system” is helping Albania to slide toward authoritarianism.
A few days ago, one protestor against the Edi Rama government and the mayor of Tirana made an ironic poster towards the U.S. Embassy in Albania. In the poster he is telling to the Americans:
USA Embassy! Destroy the theater. Do anything you want.
Only the Mojaheedens should not be harassed!
This picture which talks more than 1000 words shows the desperate situation and the negative impact towards democracy that the MEK’s presence is creating in Albania. The Americans are supporting the Edi Rama government which is turning Albania into a one-party system. They are supporting the authoritarian policies and erosion of democracy because their major interest with Albania at present is the preservation of the MEK. They are supporting the destruction of the environment and the cultural heritage by the mayor of Tirana. The only thing that they are asking from the Albanian government is: Protect the MEK and do anything against your people and democracy.
The European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe etc. who must intervene and speak against the authoritarian regime of Edi Rama – like the cry wolf they do against Turkey and Iran – are keeping mum. The civil society of Albania feels abandoned. They are witnessing the destruction of the environment and democracy, while the Americans are using their country as a MEK terrorist base “to bring democracy” to Iran.
Many Albanians would like to ask the Americans: why do you want to export democracy in Iran, when you are supporting an authoritarian regime in our country? However, many Albanians have now understood that the democratic system that the Americans would like to install in Iran will look like the regime of Edi Rama or the cult of Maryam Rajavi. A “democracy” like the democracy of the time of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi when the U.S. Embassy was determining the fate of the Iranian nation.
Olsi Jazexhi is a Canadian-Albanian historian who is specialized in the history of Islam, nationalism and religious reformation in Southeastern Europe. His interest covers nationalism, radicalism, religious and ethnic identities in the Balkans.