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How I Was Interrogated By The New York Times


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Mohammad Shafaei

April 15, 2020

o you tell your sexual thoughts to your commander?” “Do you tell your secrets to your commander?” “Do you think an authoritarian organization such as the MEK can bring democracy to Iran?” “One of your friends has already told us he confesses his sexual thoughts to his commanders. Do you?”

Don’t be mistaken. This is not an episode of “Law & Order.” They are actual questions a New York Times correspondent, Patrick Kingsley, posed to me in January when he visited Ashraf-3, northwest of Tirana, the Albanian capital, where thousands of members of the Iranian opposition have been residing since 2016, following attempts by Tehran to wipe us out when we lived in Iraq. 

I couldn’t help but find the Times’ approach an eerie reminder of the methods of the regime’s interrogators. When they arrested two of my friends, they tortured them to get information about other resistance members. They told one of them that his friend had already given all his information, so he too should give information about the others.


The paper has consistently denigrated the viability of a democratic opposition, even following mass protests that shook the regime to its core. But its antipathy for the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy has blinded it and put it squarely on the wrong side of history. My experience with the Times and the resulting article are only the latest skirmish in a bigger war the Times is fighting against the current U.S. administration’s Iran policy in which my life and my cause are only fodder.

Indeed, by promoting the false notion that there is no viable alternative to the regime, and by demonizing the MEK, it attempts to undermine President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on the mullahs. At best this is willful blindness to the realities on the ground in Iran. At worst it is an egregious and hurtful kind of censorship, a distortion of truth to satisfy a political agenda in which millions of lives hang in the balance. 

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