Why is US Urging Iranian Dissident To Move Into
Why is the US Urging Iranian Dissident To Move Into A Concentration Camp Called “Liberty”?
By Tarsem King (Lord King of West Bromwich)
Another chapter is being written in the ongoing crisis facing Iranian refugees in Iraq. The residents of Camp Ashraf have been at the centre of a political firestorm between the government of Iraq, Iran, the United States and the UN. Facing pressure from the Iranian government, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki moved to close Camp Ashraf and move the inhabitants to camp 'Liberty' near Baghdad. The fate of the residents now hinges on the capacity of the United States and UN to ensure that they receive fair treatment under international humanitarian standards, a mission which up until now has been a failure.
Residents of Ashraf were hesitant to move to Liberty initially, citing concerns about the adequacy of the facilities.  However, after assurances by the UN and the US Secretary of State and subsequent to pleadings of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the leader of Iranian Resistance, in an effort to defuse tensions and show their willingness to cooperate, five groups of Ashraf residents were transferred to Liberty starting in February 2012. Currently, there are 2000 residents in Liberty, and nearly 1300 remain In Ashraf. However the remaining residents of Ashraf have vowed to stay where they are until their demands for minimum requirements are met, including requests for accommodation for the disabled, proper water and sewage facilities, as well as adequate electricity. With the recent threat of the Iraqi government to “force out” the residents of Ashraf, the situation has reached a head.
Up until 2009 the United States had protected the residents of Ashraf, following an agreement made in writing with each resident in 2003 guaranteeing their security in exchange for voluntary disarmament. However, once the camp was handed over to Iraq in 2009 the US sought to wash its hands of any responsibility. Since 2009, 49 residents of Ashraf have been killed and hundreds wounded due to violent raids by the Iraqi forces at the behest of Iran. Documentary evidence, including leaked cables following the attacks demonstrate not only that Iraq was taking orders from Iran in regards to its treatment of the dissidents, but that the United States turned a blind eye to the massacre.
To make matters more difficult, the State Department has repeatedly stated that the fate of the PMOI’s (Peoples Mojahedin of Iran) petition to be removed from terror list would hinge on their cooperation in leaving Camp Ashraf. This pressure tactic in essence leaves the Ashraf residents with no real alternative; move to Liberty and accept the humiliating conditions there, or continually be labelled as terrorists; a fair ground to be slaughtered. The linkage is also a clear departure from the statutory criteria which the Secretary of State is mandated to use when evaluating the PMOI’s status as a terrorist organization. The DC Appeals Court, has ordered the Secretary of State to make a decision on the designation by October 1 or the Court will revoke the designation.
The UN has also proved dangerously ineffective at protecting the rights of camp residents. Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Iraq, the supposed mediator between the UN and Ashraf residents has continuously undermined the trust of Ashraf residents, with dubious statements praising the Iraqi government, and suspicious actions, including a recent trip to Iran in which the topic of Ashraf was allegedly discussed. A recent report published by the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers the situation of residents in Liberty in violation of international law, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Recently, in a Congressional meeting in Washington, California Congressman Dan Rohrabacher referred to Camp Liberty as a concentration camp. One need look no further than the encyclopaedic definition of “concentration camp” to see the striking truth: “a place which a government uses to keep people who are either against that government or who it thinks are too dangerous to remain free. Sometimes these are called internment camps, where a large number of people are put in prison without a trial”
For those remaining in Ashraf the stark choice appears to be between the threat of death in Ashraf, or imprisonment in the concentration camp ironically called “Liberty”.
It is time for the U.S. to fulfil its commitments and ensure that the minimum humanitarian needs of the residents are provided in camp Liberty. This will allow the transfer process to resume. The dissidents have done their fair share of the agreement, it is time for the US and Iraq to do theirs. The US should press Iraq to respect the rights of the residents instead of pressurising the residents to ditch their rights.
King of West Bromwich is a ranking member of the British
Parliamentary Committee for Iran