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Cablegate: Dart Report: Iranian Refugees in Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 002300

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART REPORT: IRANIAN REFUGEES IN IRAQ

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. This is a DART report. Several thousand Iranian
refugees are being pressured to leave their homes in Iraq
and return to Iran, where some fear they will be killed,
jailed, or face other repressive measures by the Government
of Iran. Since the Coalition defeated the former Government
of Iraq, armed Iraqis in the southern part of the country
have threatened the refugees, seized their homes and
farmland, and ordered them out of Iraq. UNHCR has met with
Iranian refugee representatives and local Iraqi tribal
leaders, but there has been no noticeable reduction of
tensions between the two groups. End Summary.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. This is a DART report. The DART visited the town of
Dujaila-Al Hindia on 20 May, approximately 40 kilometers
(km) southeast of the Iraqi city of Al Kut. The town is a
baked-brick compound built in the 1980s that currently
houses approximately 450 Iranian refugee families, or about
2500 refugees, and a handful of Iraqi squatters. Some
Iranian refugees say Iraqi troops captured them during the
Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and forced them into Iraq. Some
Iraqis complain that at least a few Iranians willingly moved
to Iraq because they were given large parcels of land by the
former regime. Other Iranians at the compound are
descendants of the original refugees who settled in the
area.

3. The DART discussed the refugees' issues with an
estimated 60 Iranian sheikhs and heads of households. The
refugees acknowledged they were given a total of 17,000
dunams of land by the former regime (one dunam equals 2500
square feet) and had been cultivating the land for years
without interference, growing wheat, melons, cucumbers, and
tomatoes.

----------------------------
INTIMIDATION BY LOCAL IRAQIS
----------------------------

4. Since the defeat of the former regime, the refugees said
gangs of Iraqis, brandishing automatic weapons, rocket-
propelled grenades, pistols, and hand grenades, have
threatened them several times and told them they must leave
Iraq. One farmer said he had been told he could harvest his
wheat crop in the coming weeks but after that he would have
to leave the area. Another farmer reported that Iraqis
seized his 75 dunams of land and allowed their cattle, sheep
and goats to graze on his vegetable crops. Another farmer
said an Iraqi man and his seven brothers seized his 35
dunams of land and brought their wives and children to the
land to show them their new property.

5. Because of the threats, approximately 500 Iranians fled
their homes near Al Kut in early April and established a
makeshift camp at the heavily-mined Sharhani border crossing
point, at the Iraq-Iran border, while they waited for Iran's
permission to enter the country. The United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) negotiated the
repatriation on 22 May of 180 of the Iranian refugees from
the border post, the first such group allowed to return to
Iran in nearly one year. Hundreds of other refugees refused
to cross back into Iran after border authorities told them
their livestock would not be permitted into the country.

6. UNHCR has been working with the Iranian government to
organize the refugees' return, which was stopped by the
Iraqi government shortly before the war. Before the program
was suspended, UNHCR had assisted in the return of 1,050
Iranian refugees from Iraq.

7. The refugees in Dujaila- Al Hindia met recently with a
representative of UNHCR from Basrah to express their
concerns over the Iraqis' intimidation campaign, and they
said the UNHCR official also met with Iraqi tribal leaders.
But they said there has been no discernible decrease of
tension within the community.

8. The tense atmosphere in the Dujaila-Al Hindia community
was underscored during the DART meeting with the
collective's Iranian leaders by the appearance outside the
meeting room of an Iraqi man, armed with an AK-47 automatic
weapon, who jumped into a waiting vehicle and sped off, and
the sound of a gunshot shortly thereafter. The meeting
broke up, and two Iranian men, nervously speaking under
their breath, warned the DART that the shot was a
`provocation' and that it would be better if the DART left
the area immediately, which it did.

9. According to refugees at Dujaila-Al Hindia, ten refugees
were killed and seven injured when a missile exploded ten
days ago at an Iranian refugee encampment at the Iran-Iraq
border crossing point 90 km northeast of Al Amarah. The
encampment, with approximately 500 Iranian refugees, is in a
desert area surrounded by mines and unexploded ordnance left
over from the Iran-Iraq war.

10. Two of the refugee men at the 20 May meeting, both
farmers, traveled to Basrah and waited for three days to
meet again with the DART to seek help in securing refuge in
a country other than Iraq or Iran.

11. One of the men said he sold his wedding ring to raise
the 50,000 Iraqi dinars needed to make the roundtrip from
Dujaila-Al Hindia. He said it was a small sacrifice if it
meant that he could appeal to the DART again to urge that he
and other families be resettled in a safer country, where
their children could grow up without having to face the
repression known by their parents.

-------------------------
THREATS BY IRANIAN AGENTS
-------------------------

12. One man told the DART that after the war began on 20
March, the Iranian government sent five Iranian `agents' to
the compound. He said the men threatened the refugees and
their families, telling them that if they cooperated with
U.S. authorities or talked to any international agencies
about their situation they would be killed. He said the
`agents' have since left the compound and returned to Iran.
But he added that some refugees in Dujaila-Al Hindia
cooperate with Iranian authorities for fear they or their
families will be punished once they are repatriated. The
man asked the DART several times to keep his identity
confidential and said, "If Iran knows we met you, we won't

SIPDIS
see our families again."

13. The same man said that the majority of refugees at the
collective originally opposed the idea of going back to Iran
but changed their minds after the Iraqi threats and
intimidation.

14. The refugee said that 25 Iranian refugee families, or
approximately 150 people, living in the Dujaila collective
and in Diwaniyah continue to oppose the idea of returning
because of potential persecution by the Iranian government.
It is not a fear without foundation. He and the other
farmer who met with the DART in Basrah returned to Iran
during the 1990s, and both were jailed for more than a year,
accused of being opponents of the Iranian government.

15. He said his neighbors are pleading with him to change
the names of his three children before they are repatriated
to Iran because their names are of Arab origin and not
Shiite. He said he will refuse to do so, and will continue
to resist repatriation to Iran. He said he is so opposed
to returning to Iran that he would willingly give up his
Shiite Muslim religion and resettle in Israel if permitted
to do so.

16. Those Iranian refugees who oppose repatriation say they
hope the United States can help arrange a safe haven for
them, away from the threats and harassment they now face in
Iraq and possibly in the future, if they are returned to
Iran.

JONES

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