Iraqi army chief reiterates refugee status of Ashraf residents

Iraq’s top army officer said that Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf, Iraq, are political refugees and must be protected as long as they remain in Iraq.

In an interview with the Voice of America, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, the Iraqi Joint Forces Chief of Staff, said the residents of Ashraf, members of the main Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), are viewed as refugees and accordingly enjoy refugee rights.

When asked if he confirms reports that armed Iraqi forces are involved in committing atrocities against the unarmed residents of Camp Ashraf, located in Diyala province, whose situation is monitored by international agencies, Gen Zebari responded, “Iraqi armed forces are absolutely not permitted to commit abuses against unarmed civilians.”

The residents of Ashraf “are refugees under any conditions and as long as they remain in the camp, they will enjoy refugee rights, even though in some instances they choose to ignore Iraqi government regulations” he said.

“I have not come across any reports of abuses perpetrated against the residents of Camp Ashraf by the Iraqi Army. They must be protected as long as they remain [Iraq’s] guests.”

The interview came as political agreements being to take shape in the course of the formation of a new government in Baghdad.

When asked about US Vice President’s comments about the Iranian regime’s waning influence in Iraq, Gen Zebari said, “I believe that the Iraqi people have realized that they must resolve their problems without the involvement of foreign countries. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Turks in Iraq all reject foreign intervention.”

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