Iraq / Ashraf: risk of “humanitarian catastrophe” (MEPs)

BRUSSELS, May 25, 2011 (AFP) – European parliamentarians and several prominent Americans warned Wednesday against the risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, home to Iranian dissidents.

“The approximately 3,400 people who are in the camp, under pressure from the Iraqi army, should be allowed to European countries,” said the Spanish conservative MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras, during a symposium at the European Parliament in Brussels.

He warned against a “forced displacement” of Iranian dissidents in Iraq and their dispersion stressing that it would put their lives at risk.

“Any forced displacement in Iraq of Ashraf residents would lead to a massacre even greater than that which killed 35 people during a raid in the Iraqi army on 8 April,” he said.

General Wesley Clark, U.S. former commander of NATO forces and Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, wanted the residents of Camp Ashraf to be placed under International protection.
 
“Any forced displacement in Iraq would be a prelude to a massacre of the inhabitants of Ashraf. And I warn the international community and the United States, they would be responsible for the consequences,” said Maryam Rajavi, the president of the People’s Mojahedin, who attended the meeting.

According to Mrs. Rajavi, 42 people injured during the raid on 8 April stay “in critical condition and are still deprived of care.”

Some 3,400 people, members of the People’s Mojahedin, reside in Camp Ashraf, located 80 km north of Baghdad. The camp was decommissioned after the invasion of the United States and its allies in Iraq in 2003. The Americans then secured the camp before passing in 2010 to the Iraqis.

Outlawed in 1981 by the Islamist regime in power in Tehran, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) took refuge a few years later in Iraq, during the war against Iran.

Disarmed after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Mojahedin who remain committed opponents of the Iranian regime, have since been a subject of dispute between Baghdad and Tehran.

Baghdad wants the  camp residents to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

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