Iran Meddling in Small Muslim Countries Surfaces

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On Monday, the speaker of the Iranian foreign ministry briefly spoke of his country’s dispute with Tajikistan and said, “our efforts aim to clear the misunderstandings developed in Dushanbe with respect to Tehran.”

Eurasianet.org, which covers news of the region, reported that last week, the Tajikistan authorities order the shut down of an Iranian trade and culture center in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province. They also banned all the works of Ayatollah Khomeini and other famous Iranian clerics. Iran uses such teachings to spread its version of the Islamic Revolution. Iran has also had a very friendly relationship with, as Iranian media report, the leader of the Islamic movement of Tajikistan.

Eurasianet.org reports, “Tehran in December 2015 welcomed Tajik opposition leader Muhiddin Kabiri, who is wanted back home on trumped-up charges of fomenting a plot to topple the government, to an Islamic-themed conference. During the same visit, Kabiri met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for talks and was pictured as they exchanged warm greetings.”

Tajik authorities have long been concerned about Iran’s fundamentalist activities and fomenting sectarianism in their country. In particular, there are many confirmed reports that ISIS recruits young people in Tajikistan, and there is a strong concern that the regime’s activities in this country will create the grounds for the more active recruitment of ISIS fighters.

Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has always sought to exert its influence in countries where the situation is ripe. In this regard, besides the countries of Central Asia, one should also be very concerned about the Balkan countries. Using the experience of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran wants a strong foothold in other Balkan countries, especially Albania and Kosovo.

The Iranian semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported last month that Iran has launched a 24-hour TV network called global “Balkan network” to cover the Balkan Peninsula. Mohsen Sohani, director of Balkan network is reported by Tasnim as saying that the best way to propagate dialogue about the Islamic Revolution in the Balkan region is through TV waves and by producing attractive programs.

“There are 10 countries in the Balkan region … Our revolution has a letterhead; no matter what language, race or ethnicity, whoever is against arrogance [reference to western states] can be our viewer. Our news branch thrives on the motto of delivering the truth. We cover that aspect of news that is censored in this region …” Tasnim reported this network is currently broadcasting programs in Bosnian language and is due to launch an Albanian program too.

Iran is reportedly concentrating on Albania since summer of last year, when members of the People’s Mojahedin (MEK), the principal opposition to the Iranian regime, were welcomed by the government of Albania due to the threats they were facing in Iraq.

Iran has many similar activities in Albania as it has in Tajikistan, which in one case led to the closure of one its centers in Tajikistan as explained above. For example, apart from providing funds to various Islamic sects in Albania, Iran is controlling Sa’di College, a so-called Persian cultural school in Albania that tries to attract Albanians, teach them Farsi and organize free trips to Iran for students.

Similarly, on June 24, 2017 in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper published in London, the president of Comoros, an African nation in the Indian Ocean, said, “Iran tried to intervene in the Comoros through offices claiming to be charitable offices, but it turned out to be offices serving Tehran’s private ambitions in the region, continuing its intention to expand and expand in our country … One of the tricks of Tehran is that it was tempting the Comorian government to grant scholarships to students to study in Iran, as well as to establish and form Iranian Comoros cadres of Islam and politics, in the style and policy of Iran, by providing some assistance to win the hearts of the people. Unfortunately, Iran tried to exploit the economic situation and the need for students to study through to achieve their goals.”

History has proved that no Muslim country, particularly those with weak economies, are immune from Iran’s efforts to export its version of violent Islamic fundamentalism. The best way to defend against Iran’s aggression seems to be what President of Comoros says they did: ” … Officials in the Comoros reacted to this intervention and aggressively pursued Iran. They took the necessary measures, the most important of which was the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran and the expulsion of all the organizations, institutions and offices it had established in the country.”

Pejman Amiri is an Iranian dissident and freelance writer on Iran, who writes about news from Iran, including Iran’s efforts to export its version of violent Islamic fundamentalism. Pejman Amiri graduated from the University of Tehran.