Camp Liberty Must Be Recognized As Refugee Camp

Lawmakers and policy makers demand change of policy and commitment to obligations by US and UN before further relocation of dissidents from Camp Ashraf to Liberty
Washington, Dist. of Columbia (United States) (OFFICIAL WIRE) June 8, 2012 Leave a Comment
Each timethe residents and their leadership is asked to compromise their needs so that the issue is not derailed, and every time the government of Iraq doesn’t live up to their side of thebargain and the US and UN keep silence. The two institutions that I grew up believing were thehope of the world, the U.S. and the U.N., have not done the right thing for the residents of Camp Ashraf.

-Ed Rendell, 45th Governor of Pennsylvania and Chairman to the Democratic National Party during the 2000 presidential election
Several meetings have been held to discuss the fate of some 3,200 Iranian dissidents, members of Iran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), housed at Camp Ashraf and at Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military post in Iraq.
In a bipartisan conference hosted by The Global Initiative for Democracy the speakers included; former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley, Ambassador John Bolton, Rep. Judy Chu, Patrick Kennedy, Retired U.S. Army Col. And commander of Camp Ashraf Wesley Martin, former White House adviser Dick Morris, Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan and Bruce McColm, President of the Global Initiative for Democracy.
The participants argued that the remaining 1,200 Iranian dissidents housed at Camp Ashraf in Iraq are justified in refusing to be relocated to a new temporary facility called Camp Liberty until basic living conditions there improve, current and former federal officials said, calling for the U.S. government to push for those changes and improvements.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said that the U.N. and the U.S. government need to exert “far more pressure, far more leverage (on) the decision makers in Iraq” to force them to honor previous commitments to guarantee safe living conditions at Camp Ashraf.
Expressing deep concern over the horrible living conditions at Camp Liberty, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), said, “I was mortified to hear that they don’t even have the most basic facilities in Camp Liberty. It is not even in basic condition to accept all these camp residents and I say that we should not continue transferring them until Camp Liberty is in a shape to accept them… I will be there with you side-by-side every step of the way to make sure that we finally get freedom for the residents.”
The residents’ spokesperson has in many interviews clarified that the Iraqi government has breached its obligations under the nose of the UN – US observers. The ongoing listing of the MEK and the obscure silence of US observers over mistreatment and theft have been disappointing stumbling blocks in the process.
A family member of Camp Ashraf residents has written in her facebook blog:
“This is at the behest of the Iranian regime and only would satisfy their agenda.”
“All the obstacles and excuses provided by the Iraqi commanders, who have participated in the 2011 massacre in camp Ashraf and now are ‘monitoring’ the situation in liberty, are under the pretext that the camp is a “transitional” place. Residents are limited in their needs and have to check every single item they wish to use in the Camp with the Iraqi commanders. For example, the commander is said to have categorically restricted plantations only to those that will grow up to one and half meters. They want to make the situation unbearable for the residents; a new Kahrizak prison; this time on Iraqi soil and under UN-US auspices.
“It is imperative for the UN and US to announce Camp Liberty as a refugee camp in order to stop abuse.”
Camp Liberty, where 2,000 residents of Ashraf have already relocated, lacks running water, regular electricity, and has only a limited number of working air conditioners in a place where daytime high temperatures routinely reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. The residents also lack freedom of movement and access to their lawyers and family members.
Patrick Kennedy discredited UNAMI trip to Tehran in a bid to negotiate over the fate of the dissidents; “We have a humanitarian disaster and instead of the United Nations working to transfer the people of Ashraf to a safe location, we have Martin Kobler from the United Nations working to transfer people from their homes to a torture chamber in what is formerly Camp Liberty.”
Iraqi security forces continued to tighten their grip on and use violence against residents of Camp Liberty. The use of cameras to film refugees, official presence of Iranian intelligence agents adjacent to the camp and prevention of personal needs, have been among a hand-full of methods employed by the Iraqis to ensure psychological pressure on the residents.
The objective has been, as reported in the opposition television, to dissuade MEK members and camp residents from opposing the clerical regime in Tehran and dismantling of the opposition movement.
In the growing mistrust created by Tehran and compromised by US, the residents who begun the relocation as a good will gesture are now pursuing two major demands:
– The inspection of Camp Ashraf for weapons by independent inspectors in order to prevent any ply to plot arms after the residents move out.
– The recognition of camp Liberty as a refugee camp instead of a “transitional” camp.
The Obama administration procrastination of delisting the pro-democracy movement is the other side of the coin to securing MEK members in Camps Liberty and Ashraf from hostile Iraqi threats.
The irony is the State Department’s argument overlap interests with the Ayatollahs interests the most.
By taking a humanitarian crisis “hostage,” manipulating the safety and security of 3400 pro-democracy dissidents of Camp Ashraf, the State Department has landed the Obama Administration on a slippery slope; the decline of moral and ethical values.
The US State department announced earlier, that a “key factor” in making a decision on PMOI’s 2008 petition to revoke its FTO status, is “cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf.”* (1)
The MEK welcomed the change immediately; publicly announced its willingness to leave Ashraf *(2) cooperated in the transfer of 1,200 residents to Camp Liberty/Hurriya under challenging circumstances *(3) praised by State Department officials for its cooperation *(4)
The result of a legal battle entailed a definite timeline for the US Secretary of State to end the delay it has sought for over two years. On 1 June 2012, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington ordered the U.S. Secretary of State to make a decision on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) listing of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK), in less than four months from the date of the ruling or otherwise the court will remove the FTO listing of the Organization.
The United States is at a crossroads.
To be above the law would promote judicial Machiavellianism, while enchaining MEK would send a hostile message to all those defending freedom and democracy in Iran and the Middle East.
Footnotes:
1: Quoted in MEK Status on Blacklist Hinges on Iraq Camp Closure, Reuters, Feb. 29, 2012.
2: Maryam Rajavi, 400 Ashraf Residents Are Prepared to Go to Camp Liberty at First Opportunity, NCR-Iran.org (Dec. 28, 2011), http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/ashraf/11575.
3 UNHCR, Camp New Iraq (Formerly Camp Ashraf) Residents and the Determination of Their Refugee Status Claims (Mar. 28, 2012), http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/4f7417e72.pdf.
4: Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of State, Update on Camp Ashraf (Feb. 18, 2012), http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/02/184204.htm

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