By Fabian Mahmoudi
Baroness Muriel Turner of Camden who was deputy speaker of the British House of Lords until 2008 and is a ranking member of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom on the situation of the Iranian resistance and its members in Camp Ashraf said:
“The vexing problem of Iran is the most difficult, complex, and arguably over the next several years the most consequential regional security issue the world faces today. In search of a durable solution for the Iranian crisis and Tehran’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons, the mullahs’ enemy within (the resistance known as the MEK) should and could play an integral part.
“Camp Ashraf, just north of Baghdad, has been home to 3,400 men and women, members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (the main Iranian opposition movement) for almost 26 years. In recent years, they have been under permanent siege, surrounded by gun-toting Iraqi guards, barbed wire, and loud speakers for their psychological torture that remind them periodically just how precarious their situation is.
“On two occasions, at behest of the clerical regime in Iran, Iraqi troops raided Camp Ashraf with murderous intent and with weapons supplied by the U.S.military. Nearly 50 unarmed civilians have been killed: some shot, others run over by army vehicles. Hundreds have been injured. In December 2011, they were facing a deadline imposed by Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister and close ally of the Iranian regime. Given that these people are members of the PMOI, you can imagine what fate Maliki had in store for them. They would not have even been granted the right to die alongside the people they loved.
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“The deadline was pushed back, but it has only been replaced by another, equally ugly fate. How brutally ironic it is that this new concentration camp bears the name “Liberty.” The 3,400 residents will be housed in what can only be described as veal crates, in an area not much more than half-a-kilometer-square. Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, has admitted to Ashraf residents that they will still be denied medical facilities. There will be no way to care for the disabled and nowhere to tend to the injured.There isn’t even any drinking water.
“They were denied to take their belongings that they worked with hard labour to gain in the past 20 years; vehicles and other property that they have worked hard for over the 30 years in Ashraf will have to be abandoned.”
“Once inside Camp Liberty, the 13-foot-high walls will close in on them, and they will no doubt be forgotten. They will have no way of contacting U.N. observers other than by telephone, which the Iraqis will disconnect as they please. They are to be fingerprinted upon arrival, as if they were prisoners of war. One report said Iraqi guards, perhaps even the same guards who killed their friends and relatives, will be based inside the camp.
“All of this has been ignored and in a way sanctioned by the U.N. Assistant Mission in Iraq, which seems to have abandoned its role of protector of the underdog. The latest official U.N. declaration (is) that Camp Liberty is fit for a purpose.”
“The Iranian propaganda machine, coupled by its International cohorts, are insisting that “the possible peaceful and effective situation has been established, and it is the MEK Leadership who is hampering efforts to resolve the humanitarian situation and thus instigating violence.”
“This is what the Resistance has been repeating throughout the dialogue with the UN officials.”
Everyone is aware that the Iranian Resistance and the residents of Ashraf have thus far exhibited utmost flexibility to advance the peaceful solution. They have agreed to sacrifice many of their rights in addition to foregoing their right to reside in Iraq (where they have been for the past 25 years) as well as willing to leave the city which they have built on their own. But their explicit request, which is to receive the minimum assurances at the new camp to ensure the safety and dignity of these freedom fighters (especially the women) is an imperative which must be responded to.
The baroness repeatedly called for a fair relocation of the group members:
“There should not be a police station within the camp parameters. The private sphere and property rights of Ashraf residents should be respected. And their freedom of movement should be recognized. Or at least sufficient space should be provided to them so that they can prepare the circumstances appropriately with the least and minimum requirements.
“Nevertheless, 400 residents of Ashraf have upon my request accepted (agreed) to be transferred to the new camp, Camp Liberty, with their vehicles and belongings as a sign of good will. But they have emphasized that unless the minimum assurances are given, none of the others will go to Liberty.
“You are aware that the United Nations and the Iraqi government signed a Memorandum of Understanding on December 25 without the knowledge and participation of the representatives of Asharf residents.”
On January 31, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative announced the readiness of Liberty, the new camp, for the transfer of the residents. However, it then emerged that neither the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) nor the World Health Organization has confirmed that the camp meets human rights and humanitarian standards. In addition, only one seventh of the new camp is ready. At the same time, the Iraqi government has repeatedly violated the terms of the MOU, seeking to convert Liberty into a prison. In fact, they want to impose homelessness and forcible displacement on the residents of Asharf.
“And in a statement issued on February 1, the UNHCR announced that the Iraqi government has, over the past five months, obstructed the start of the process of reconfirming the refugee status of people at Ashraf, thereby causing the process to be delayed. This is while previously they claimed that it is me and the residents themselves who are impeding the work of the UNHCR” said the Baroness.
Bearing in mind the statements by the Leader of the NCRI (a woman), if good and fair intentions were involved and no plots as employed during “Iran gate” or the “first Ashraf massacre when US troops pulled out just before the massacre”, then why is it that Camp lawyers are not allowed to visit their clients? Why is it that they cannot visit Liberty only to inspect the situation within the standards of UN protocols for refugees? Why is it that their communication is not ensured once they get to the camp, and why is it that not only are the Iraqi butchers who killed them in the last two incursions stationed in the camp but 3 meter concrete walls are installed to turn the camp into a concentration camp?
150,000 lawyers and jurists in Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East have explicitly demanded that the UNHCR to act on its request regarding the voluntary nature of any relocation as well as the freedom of movement within the new camp. But so far, the UN has failed to give any written insurance. Is this not a repletion of the massacres in Srebrenica and Uganda?
So far, by asking 400 activists, victims of the brutal clerical regime, to go into a possible trap or an unexpected threat with no freedom of communication and no belongings of their own is the utmost gesture of goodwill that can possibly be expected from any resistance leader.
The AP has reported:
“Lugging clothes, tables, and whatever else they were allowed to bring, roughly 400 members of an Iranian exile group reluctantly moved Saturday from their camp in northwestern Iraq to a deserted military base outside the capital, in what they called a show of good faith that they eventually will be allowed to leave the country peacefully.
“Members had not left Ashraf for years and did not want to leave their home — a miniature city with parks and a university — for an abandoned military base.
“Iraqi soldiers searched the exiles for almost an entire day before they left Ashraf, and they were searched again Saturday before they were allowed into Liberty.
“This process is a humiliating and degrading treatment,” said Bahzad Saffari, 50, a camp resident since 2003 who was among the first group of exiles to go. “We are very frustrated and have been going through this harassment for more than 24 hours now. The camp looks horrible — it is totally different from the photos that were provided to us.”
“He said exiles were barred from bringing some of their heirlooms, including photographs, microwave ovens, satellite dishes for Internet access, and, in one case, a pair of therapeutic socks. None of the exiles — three-quarters of them male, including a 70-year-old man — wanted to go but agreed to be among the first tranche when Ashraf’s leaders asked for volunteers, Saffari said.
‘In December, the group’s Paris-based head, Maryam Rajavi, agreed to move 400 residents to Camp Liberty in a show of goodwill as the U.N. tries to broker a compromise between the two sides. The Ashraf residents fear that it will be a cramped “prison” where they will be barred from moving around and lack clean water, security, and free medical services.
“An Associated Press photographer allowed Friday into one of the areas of Camp Liberty where the exiles will live described it as surrounded by concrete blast barriers to protect about. 140 temporary buildings will each house nine people. There is a refrigerator and an air conditioner in each building as well as portable bathrooms and a dining hall on the compound that will be guarded by Iraqi army soldiers.”
Al-Maliki’s loyalty to the one power that has provided it with mercenaries and the Badr brigade to suppress discontent in its own territory, win a fraudulent election, and stay in power through the use of the Iranian trained Qods force is understanding,
The question is, is the U.N.’s chief envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, with all the expertise he has collected in past “trades,” an experienced person to deal with a deceptive, cunning religious fascism which has conned the world three times over its nuclear acquisition?
After all, the lives of those who have lived to save others and are members of a resistance to such a fascist tyranny now lie in his hands and “EXPERTISE” if he is clever enough to admit that his real counterpart in this settlement is not Mr. Maliki, but the old devil himself; Iranian medieval fascists ruling Iran (for now at least).
Freelance journalist and anchor