The organization is managing the social media profile of Heshmat Alavi, a person who had supposedly written for various right-wing media outlets.
“Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” Hassan Heyrani, former member of MEK’s political department who defected in 2018, affirmed, apparently having direct knowledge of the operation.
As of Monday, Twitter has suspended Alavi's account. Forbes has also deleted all articles pertaining to Alavi.
“They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person.”
MEK was originally an anti-west, especially anti-U.S. organization and pushed for the killing of six U.S citizens in Iran in the 1970s. While in 1979, they enthusiastically cheered the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. After the Iranian Revolution, its young leaders pushed for endorsement from the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini but were denied.
So Massoud Rajavi, its young leader, allied with the winner of the country's first presidential election, Abolhassan Banisadr, who was not an ally of Khomeini, either. Soon Banisadr and MEK became some of Khomeini's main opposition figures and had fled to Iraq and later to France.
In the neighboring country, MEK allied with Sadam Hussein to rage war against Iran.
The organization was deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union for the better part of the 1990s, but things changed after the U.S. invasion to Iraq in 2003. This is when the U.S. neoconservative strategists leading the Department of State and the intelligence agencies saw MEK as an asset rather than a liability. Put simply in words they applied the dictum of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Soon after it gained support from U.S. politicians like Rudy Giuliani and current National Security Advisor John Bolton, who now call MEK a legitimate opposition to the current Iranian government, as MEK shed its “Marxism.” After the U.S.' official withdrawal from Iraq, they built MEK a safe haven in Albania, near Tirana.
From this safe haven in Albania, MEK started spreading fake news and online campaigns against the Iranian goverment. They also created a fake persona to spread their propaganda.
“We were always active in making false news stories to spread to the foreign press and in Iran,” Reza Sadeghi, a former MEK member, explained.
Alavi’s persona is managed by three MEK members according to the former MEK operative, Heyrani.
“They were my friends. We were close friends,” Heyrani said. “We were working together.”
Alavi’s articles have been published by media houses like Forbes, The Hill, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya English, among others.
All his articles denounce the Iranian government and often suggests that it should be replaced by MEK and its leader Maryan Rajavi, wife of Massoud Rajavi.
His social media followers comprise of right-wing journalists, think tank employees and Alavi is often cited by neoconservative publications.
In fact, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018, the White House claimed that an article by Alavi was cited as the reason for this decision. Alavi wrote in Forbes that the nuclear deal has allowed Iran to increase its military budget, hence Trump’s decision to withdraw and sanction the country.
“The Mojahedin” — the Iranian name for the MEK — “wants to show to the world that their narrative has support, even from people who are not directly members of the group,” Heyrani said, adding that “they want to show that other independent people — writers and activists — support their approach and believe that freedom and democracy will come to Iran through the work of this group.