Iran is striving to find a foothold in Europe, especially in the Balkans because of its thorny history tinged with political and sectarian conflicts in which Tehran has invested, in order to expand its ideological influence. But Kosovo is trying to free itself from the consequences of the Iranian expansion on its soil.
On October 1, the Kosovar specialist prosecutor announced that some citizens were transferred to trial on accusations of supporting the Iranian regime and calling for terrorist acts in the country after they wrote on social media calling for revenge for the United States killing Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in early January.
The prosecution accused a citizen named Ikballe Berisha Huduti of asking the Iranian and Shiite community to gather in the streets to condemn the US drone attack that had targeted Soleimani’s car in Baghdad.
The responsible Kosovar authorities noted that the main suspect in the case, Huduti, was known to the security authorities, as she was previously investigated in 2015 when police raided community organizations supported financially and ideologically by Iran as part of a campaign launched by the state to combat religious extremism. The authorities added that Huduti is a representation of Iranian attempts to win over some citizens as agents inside the country.
Kosovo has only recently caught up with the expansion of Iranian influence on its soil, as this recent incident was nothing but a new escalation in the country’s debate about the government’s efforts to undermine Tehran. In July 2019, Kosovar President Hashim Thaçi announced that his country had ratified the European Union’s terrorist list, including all individuals and institutions named within, the most important of which is Hezbollah.
This was considered an evolution in the relations between the two parties, as Kosovo had been Iran’s entrance to the Balkans during the 1990s, which witnessed the wars of secession from the Federation of Yugoslavia and the attempts during this war to dye political battles with a religious color in order to facilitate the transfer of militants to the country.
Tehran penetrates Kosovo
In such an atmosphere, Tehran has been active by sponsoring camps to train extremists who were sent from Afghanistan and other areas to lead wars on other fronts. Iran thus easily created a fertile environment for the growth of extremist currents, which impeded Kosovo’s integration into the Eurozone and caused its economy to collapse.
After the state was able to secede from Serbia and achieve independence in 2008, Iran has been embracing the Shiite community inside Kosovo to co-opt them in order to achieve the mullahs’ interests. Tehran established cultural centers, including the Quran Foundation in 2002, and then it was keen to support these Shiite centers with lecturers and professors who studied at Iranian hawza seminaries. It also sponsored the Ibn Sina Institute, which is active in the field of Persian literary research, as well as the Ahle Beyt Institute and the NISA charity, all of which were raided by the Kosovar authorities in efforts to prevent the mullahs’ influence in the country.
The Kosovo Express reported in July 2016 that some Shiite organizations in the country belong to elements linked to political power in Iran, most prominently Huduti, whom the authorities recently prosecuted because of the confusion she caused national security and her incitement to retaliate against US interests in response to the killing of Soleimani. Security reports from the authorities indicate that Huduti has had many meetings with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The recent developments concerning the Huduti trial, in addition to the previous steps such as confirming that Hezbollah is a terrorist group, come within the framework of the current Kosovar administration’s political will to free itself from subservience to the Iranian regime and to escape from Tehran’s grip on research and religious institutions in order to try to join the European Union, or at least to follow its directions.
In this context, the director of the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Jassim Mohamad, pointed out in a previous statement to the Reference that Iran is seeking, through its espionage and cultural arms, to penetrate European societies, which poses a broad threat to European values that call for democracy and political pluralism and not extremist sectarian rule.
Mohamad added that the European authorities are active in stopping the spy and cybersecurity networks working for Iran in efforts to weaken Tehran’s influence.
Source » theportal-center