WASHINGTON, October 22, 2011 (AFP) – Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday at the White House to demand that the closure of a refugee camp for Iranian exiles in Iraq be postponed, arguing that a massacre will occur when US troops leave.
Wearing yellow hats and waving banners demanding “protection for Camp Ashraf,” the demonstrators also called on US President Barack Obama to remove the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran group from a blacklist of terror groups.
“By illegally insisting on the continued listing of the PMOI, the United States has blocked the path to change in Iran while paving the way for a massacre in Ashraf,” the movement’s leader Maryam Rajavi said in a message broadcast live from Paris, where she lives in exile.
Rajavi has previously said that Iraqi forces have finished training for an assault on the camp, home for the past 30 years to 3,400 Iranian dissidents who are facing expulsion by year’s end on the orders of the Baghdad government.
On Saturday, she asked the United States, United Nations and other governments to pressure Iraq to push back the December 31 deadline for closure of the camp, and also asked that UN monitors be sent to Ashraf.
A similar demonstration took place earlier this week in Brussels.
The camp, which has become a mounting international problem, has been in the spotlight since an April raid by Iraqi security forces left 34 people dead and scores injured, triggering sharp condemnation.
The camp was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the People’s Mujahedeen and later came under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq.
The group has been on the US government terrorist list since 1997.