MP demands protection for Iranian refugees – By Mark Williams – 23rd June 2011

Mark Williams MP urges the government to avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe” by supporting the international protection of Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.

The case of the Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, is one which has gained widespread attention in both Houses of Parliament due to the humanitarian situation and threat of massacre facing 3,400 unarmed and defenceless members of Iran’s main opposition group.

 Ashraf has been under a siege since US forces relinquished its protection to Iraqi forces in 2009. Unfortunately Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who owes his premiership to Iranian support, has repeatedly vowed to close the camp to suit the demands of Tehran.

The refugees, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), twice came under deadly attack from Iraqi armed forces in 2009, and most recently on 8 April this year when 36 residents were brutally shot or crushed to death with military vehicles. Hundreds of others were injured, and the most serious are still being denied proper medical treatment. All this is despite their status as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Last Saturday, I attended a major gathering in Paris which drew as many as 100,000 Iranians from across the world to call for UN protection for Ashraf residents. I was part of a cross-party delegation with David Amess MP (Con) and Lord Corbett of Castle Vale (Lab), there to announce the support of many parliamentarians for UN protection for Ashraf residents and to denounce a plan by the Iraqi government to forcibly relocate the residents to another area in Iraq.

Our call was supported in total by some 4,000 MPs from 40 countries, as well as senior former US officials such as former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who were there to offer their support for Iran’s brave democrats.

It’s time our Foreign Office also backed the call and formally requested that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) station a permanent monitoring team at Camp Ashraf, with about 20 US soldiers to protect it. That’s a small, but critically important price to pay to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Mark Williams MPis the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Ceredigion.

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