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Ashraf residents being blackmailed

By Firouz Mahvi - posted Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The US State Department has again been making irresponsible and threatening remarks against Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. In a press briefing on 6 July by two senior American diplomats, Dan Fried and Dan Benjamin, they said that the "patience of the Iraqi government is wearing thin!" Exactly the same words were repeated by the UN envoy Martin Kobler when he addressed the Security Council on 19 July. It is like giving the green light to the Iraqi government to attack Ashraf again. Already 49 refugees, including 8 women, have been killed in 2 separate attacks by Iraq in 2009 and 2011.

On July 25 the spokeswoman for the Department of State said: "The Mujahedin-e Khalq's (MEK's) cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK's main paramilitary base, continues to be a key factor in the Department's upcoming determination regarding the MEK's Foreign Terrorist Organization status".

Nearly 2000 have already moved from Ashraf to Liberty and the 1200 remaining residents in Ashraf will immediately move to Camp Liberty if humanitarian requirements are realized. Iraq, on the direct instruction of Tehran, wants to exert maximum pressure on the residents in Liberty to make them surrender and return to Iran.


Tying the delisting of the PMOI- also known as MEK- to closure of Ashraf defies the law and the court ruling. On the first of June, the US Court of Appeals ruled, that Secretary Clinton should decide about the removal of the PMOI from the blacklist by 1 October. And the court said that if she doesn't, the Court itself will remove them.

On 17 July 2012, President of the Washington based "Iran Policy Committee" (IPC) Raymond Tanter, who is a former member of the National Security Council staff stated, "IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by October 2012; the Court ignored or rejected such linkage when presented by the State Department representative in briefs and oral argument prior to the June ruling."

In addition, Tanter said, "Legal criteria for inclusion on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list are that a group must be a foreign organization; engaged in terrorist activity or retain the capability as well as intent to engage in terrorist activity; and that activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or its national security. Thus, cooperation in a relocation process is not a legal criterion for designation or continued listing."

The arbitrary term "the main paramilitary base" for Ashraf , is used despite the fact that the US forces disarmed PMOI and searched Ashraf inch by inch in 2003. At the time the US government, following 16 months of investigation by 9 different US agencies, recognized the status of 'Protected Persons' under the 4th Geneva Conventions for the residents.

On 11 July in a meeting in the European Parliament, Dr Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the Parliament strongly criticized the "blackmailing" methods of the State Department "They link the relocation of Ashraf residents to liberty as a condition for other political moves that in fact should not be linked to this, because every issue has its own space of validity. So the PMOI should be delisted in United States because this is what the Department of State must do and this is what the court in Washington has ruled. So this is one thing. And the relocation is a different thing. So we should not link the two links, because if we link the two things it can sound like Blackmail!"

On 25 July, another prominent European lawmaker, Struan Stevenson, President of the Iraq Delegation in the European Parliament, referred to a recent report by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which he described as "deeply shocking and an indictment of the Iraqi Government and its treatment of the 2000 refugees in Camp Liberty near Baghdad. The report notes that the residents were subjected to humiliating searches, headcounts and long delays when they transferred from their former home in Ashraf. They were denied personal belongings such as wheelchairs and medicines. They are now being held in appalling conditions with inadequate water, sewage facilities or electricity generation. They are denied the right to leave Camp Liberty, despite their recognised international status as asylum seekers and refugees. Lawyers and politicians have been denied access to Liberty. The UN Working Group describes Camp Liberty as a prison in all but name, which is in direct contradiction to the assurances we have received in the European Parliament from Martin Kobler and Dan Fried, who have gone out of their way to support the Iraqi Government and criticise the Iranian residents in Ashraf and Liberty. "


The best way to prevent another attack is to press the government of Iraq to meet its international obligations and to stop obstructions in provisioning minimum humanitarian needs of the residents. The residents of Ashraf have said that they will completely go to Liberty as soon as these minimums are met.

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About the Author

Firouz Mahvi is a member of the Iranian Opposition. He has a Bsc in Applied Mathematics from University of Wales. Dedicated to a Free Iran, he joined the Iranian democratic opposition in early 80s and has been active mainly on EU Affairs.

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