Iranian Regime’s Apologists Jeopardize Fate of Camp Ashraf Residents

HUFFINGTON POST – By Hajar Mojtahedzadeh

Over three hundred and sixty five days have passed since the DC District Court of Appeals found that due process had been violated in the case of the MEK, ruled in their favor, and remanded the case back to the State Department with orders to re-evaluate the group’s foreign terrorist designation. Given the State Department’s failure to comply with this request by disregarding the 180 day statute-mandated decision deadline, members of Congress have decided to take matters into their own hands. On July 7th, Congressman Dana Rohrabracher, Chairman of The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing entitled “Massacre at Camp Ashraf: Implications for U.S. Policy.” Last month Mr. Rohrabracher, along with a bi-partisan delegation, went to Iraq with the intention of visiting the camp in order to conduct a personal investigation of the events that occurred on April 8th, but was barred from doing so by Prime Minister Maleki.

The hearing included a panel of four witnesses and testimony via satellite from a Camp Ashraf resident wounded during the April 8th massacre. The resident, my friend Elham Neda Zanjanipour, spoke through the television screen while sitting propped up in her bed in a small clinic in Ashraf. Elham ended her testimony in response to what would happen if the camp were to be relocated by saying, “It’s illegal… this is pretext for another crime… moving us somewhere far from the border where we are far from international spotlight is just like asking us to go to a concentration camp.”

The witnesses that day included Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Former Commander of Forward Operation Base Ashraf, Dr. Gary Morsch, Colonel Wes Martin, Former Base Commander of Camp Ashraf, and representing the State Department, Mr. Ray Takeyh, an Iranian-born scholar, former State Department official and currently a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. It is worth mentioning that of the four witnesses only Mr. Takeyh insisted on keeping the group’s name on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. What was his reason? Because they lack popular support in Iran, to which Congressman Filner bluntly replied, “so what?” Since when does being unpopular warrant a spot on the FTO? Even if such an allegation were found to be true, it’s absolutely impossible to verify in a country where free and fair elections simply don’t exist, and more importantly, one where it’s a capital crime to be a member of the MEK.

Furthermore the MEK cannot be maintained on the FTO list because it does not meet the State Department’s statutory criteria of being engaged in terrorism, which includes having the intent and capability to engage in such activity. It’s also not surprising that Takeyh, who has written extensively on why the U.S. must continue to appease and engage the mullahs including the highly unpopular President Ahmadinejad, seems to be espousing the same rhetoric as another Iranian-yet-not-so-American, in Washington, Trita Parsi.

Parsi, who is a green card carrier, is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, an organization which came under scrutiny in 2009 after Parsi was accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of the Iranian regime and violating his organization’s 501c3 status. Since then the organization has lost any and all credibility within the Iranian-American community, and has even managed to anger the Arab-American community after racist comments made by Parsi surfaced on the internet recently. With their president’s public image in shambles and NIAC’s name completely tarnished, the organization has resorted to deflecting their shame by campaigning almost exclusively against the Mojahedin-e-Khalq.

Immediately after the July 7th hearing, NIAC launched an anti-delisting campaign on their website. The”MEK-Terror” video, recently updated with out of context footage from the July 7th hearing, has been placed front and center on the group’s website. The video plays dramatic music while displaying images of the MEK’s leadership with completely fabricated quotes attributed to Massoud Rajavi, and more out of context sound bites taken from outdated interviews. In recent weeks, Parsi, along with NIAC’s Policy Director Jamal Abdi, have taken to writing the same trumped up lies against the MEK, which have been repeatedly discredited.

I’d like to end with this final disclaimer; I don’t have a personal vendetta against NIAC, Trita Parsi, or even Ray Takeyh. What I do have a problem with are misinformation campaigns aimed at turning the public’s attention away from NIAC’s own misdoings while seeking to undermine the legitimate and just efforts being taken by family members of Camp Ashraf residents, who are tirelessly advocating on behalf of their loved ones. This week Congressman Ted Poe of Texas drafted an amendment to H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 2012. The amendment, which calls on the U.S. government to take “all necessary and appropriate steps” to prevent forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to another location in Iraq, was passed unanimously. And before making the to be expected (not to mention highly offensive) assertions that these lawmakers were “bought over” by members of the Iranian-American community, NIAC and Takeyh should first consider the wealth of resources the Iranian regime has at its disposal as opposed to the Iranian-American community. Moreover, they should stop attempting to disrupt and stall the monumental campaign underway in defending the lives of our loved ones.

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