Iran’s appalling human rights record has not deterred organised opposition

THE INDEPENDENT (Blog) – By Mark Williams  28 April 2012

Another tragic political execution is regrettably imminent in Tehran, where the mullahs have already murdered 120,000 members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition movement.

This time the potential victim is 44-year-old Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, who has dual Canadian-Iranian nationality.

Hamid returned to Iran from Canada in May 2008 to visit his elderly mother. He was detained on arrival on suspicion of gathering information for the MEK. He spent 18 months in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin prison in northern Tehran, with no access to his family or legal representation. In 2009, he was convicted and handed a death sentence in a kangaroo court trial that last no more than few minutes.

In a statement issued last Sunday (April 15), the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, said Canada was gravely concerned by signs that Hamid Ghassemi-Shall’s execution day was approaching. The Canadian Government called upon Iran to spare Hamid’s life.

If he is executed, he will sadly not be the first member of his family to pay the ultimate price. Hamid’s brother, Alborz, was also a political prisoner. A former commander of the Center for Expert Naval Training in the city of Rasht and an instructor at one of the Naval Forces universities, Alborz died on January 19, 2010 after spending 20 months in the mullahs’ medieval prisons. He was subjected to the most brutal forms of torture.

The mullahs show no mercy to MEK supporters, whom they consider to be “Mohareb”, or enemies of the rule of God. The Iranian regime considers itself to be the embodiment of divine rule on earth. Opposition to the regime is therefore tantamount to opposition to God’s will.

At the same time, Tehran is fearful of the MEK because the mullahs know it is a well organised resistance movement.

Its activists played a prominent role in 2009 uprising. It was the MEK that revealed the Iranian regime’s clandestine nuclear program.

For the same reason, Tehran wants to wipe out the MEK supporters who are currently split between two camps in Iraq: Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, near Baghdad. The Iraqi Government is to a large extent under Tehran’s sway. At Tehran’s request, Iraq soldiers attacked Camp Ashraf on more than one occasion, killing dozens and injuring many more. If it were not for a concerted international campaign involving both the west and the United Nations, the Iraqi Government would have wiped out Ashraf’s 3,400-strong community completely and closed the camp by the end of last year. But following sustained international pressure the Iraqis relented, deciding instead to transfer the men and women to Camp Liberty, a former US army base.

The Ashraf community agreed reluctantly to give up their home for more than 20 years after a memorandum of understanding was struck with Iraq and the United Nations. If it were not for the personal intervention of the Iranian Resistance leader Maryam Rajavi, and guarantees given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, many would have refused to go. In Ashraf, residents had built a town that offered decent living standards. In Liberty, the shoddy facilities that were hastily arranged for them lacked both drinking water and power.

The transfer between the two camps has taken place in groups; the fourth group arrived in Liberty last Monday. They were subjected to 11-and-a-half hours of degrading inspections in Ashraf and several more hours at Liberty. In all, the 100km journey took 20 hours. Three women suffered heatstroke; two needed hospital attention.

The Iraqi authorities have refused to let these unarmed, peaceful refugees take many of their personal belongings with them. Vehicles for transporting the disabled and the injured were not allowed. An agreement to transport six generators from Ashraf to Liberty was reneged upon; the Iraqis permitted only two, despite the fact that Liberty is not connected to the Iraqi power grid. The generators already installed in Camp Liberty are either worn out or have key parts missing.

These people have suffered enough. The Government of Iraq should recognize that the residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty are asylum seekers and should respect their rights under international law. Rather than a “Temporary Transition Location,” a status that deprives the residents of the most essential humanitarian standards, the United Nations should recognize Camp Liberty as a refugee camp. Western countries such as Germany should pledge to help resettle residents.

In February, at a Congressional Hearing, Secretary Clinton said that the MEK’s co-operation in moving their supporters to Camp Liberty would be a “key factor” in removing the organization from the US terror list. There is no reason for continued shackling of Iran’s organised resistance. It is a strategic blunder.

US must recognize the MEK as Iran’s legitimate opposition if it truly wants to keep all options are on the table. Without support for the MEK, the mullahs will be the only winners in this sorry tale.

Mark Williams is Liberal-Democrat Member of Parliament for Ceredigion and a member of British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom

 

 

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