CYBERSPACE is a prime battleground for the information wars being fought between the Iranian resistance and the country’s clerical regime and it is an area to which both sides are devoting much time and effort.

What is described as the “uprising” in Iran, with numerous demonstrations about poverty, inflation and the economy in general, has gone largely unreported inside the country.

But from the compound at Ashraf 3 in Tirana, Albania, a group of cyber-warrior members of the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) do what they can to redress the imbalance.

Using encrypted social media channels, they broadcast to supporters in Iran video clips of the various protests recorded on phones and other mobile devices.

Ashraf 3 came into existence in 2013 with only a few hundred people, but now houses more than 2500 PMOI supporters.

Forough Moezzi, who works in the information unit, has been at the facility in Albania for around two years after joining the PMOI at Ashraf in Iraq, along with her sister.

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They stayed while their father returned to Iran which, she says, did not end well: “When he returned to Iran the regime attacked our home just because my sister and I were here, and he was tortured for more than 10 years. Although he had cancer they wanted to kill him just because his daughters supported PMOI. The regime executed my uncle when he was 23 for the same reason.

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“It’s not a refugee camp – we are a resistance movement so our lives and our work is part of the struggle against the Iranian regime. We live here together and plan the future. We want to go back to Iran – a free Iran – and I think it will be very soon because we see international sanctions and pressure on the regime. I believe freedom is very near.”

Her colleague, Sima Bagherzadeh, agrees: “There is a new generation of Iranian people who have joined PMOI.

“We didn’t leave Iran through our own choice, we left because of the pressure from the clerical regime but we want to return and make life better for our people.”

Parvin Poureghbalie, who studied in Iran in 1980, said two years of violence against dissenters and executions started soon after the revolution in 1978-9.

She said: “I was in one of the smaller cities in Iran – Kerman – we were about 180 young girls and we were arrested. From that 180 the majority were either killed or disappeared, some went to other countries and only a small number are still in Iran.

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“I feel I have a heavy responsibility for them. The people are starving and searching the garbage for food in a very rich country.

“Workers have been asking why they haven’t had their salaries for months. Just to get their salaries they have to demonstrate.

“We have taken a long and hard path but now we are sure that our return is coming closer. The time we go back to a free Iran will be very soon.”

Mohammad Shafaei says he was eight years old when the regime killed most of his family, leaving just him and his sister. His doctor father was shot for helping wounded resistance members and his brother was tortured to death in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

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“My sister and brother-in-law were shot dead when they were walking along the street. Only myself and my sister survived,” he says. “I didn’t want to live in Iran under the dictatorship so I went to study in the US and joined the PMOI over 20 years ago and went to Ashraf, Camp Liberty and now here in Albania.”

He says the “research team” works to circumvent internet censorship in Iran and allow citizens to freely access sites such as messaging apps.

Other measures include curbing “malign Iranian activity” in cyberspace by identifying fake apps or spyware. Their television channel is broadcast on Telegram, the most popular messaging app in Iran, which is used by almost half the population.

“Our focus is on Telegram and Instagram because other social media like Facebook and Twitter are banned,” says Shafaei. “What we do is provide proxies to let the people circumvent internet censorship so they can see the demonstrations and unrest in their own country. Iran uses fake applications or spyware, spreads them among users in the country to trace their connections – so we try to disclose all these activities in cyberspace.

“They have their own version of the Telegram client and they use it to collect user information and we investigate all these things and provide reports of what these apps do.”

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His colleague, Masoud Fars, was studying at UCLA at the time of the revolution and later joined the PMOI. He produces satirical works, including a reworked version of the Village People’s 70s disco hit YMCA.

“Some of the productions have been viewed by large numbers of people – one has six million viewers – these are people connecting to our programmes through virtual private networks (VPNs),” said Fars.

“The regime has tried to stop this using fake channels, but overall I would say it has not been able to because we are delivering something it is impossible for them to change and which is good for social freedoms.”