PARIS, April 27, 2011 (AFP) – Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel on Wednesday denounced the “tragedy” at Ashraf, a camp home to the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) recently attacked by the Iraqi army, and pledged to do everything he could to help these Iranian dissidents.
The American writer was attending a conference in Port-Marly, near Paris, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI, which includes the PMOI as its main component) to “break the silence” about Ashraf. Also present were U.S. General James Jones, Wesley Clark and former French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt.
“I made a vow after the [Second World] war: that wherever a human being is persecuted, I will never remain silent,” said Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of Nazi camps.
“I do not compare tragedies, certainly not that of the Second World War, but Ashraf is a tragedy,” he stressed, expressing surprise that he had only “recently” heard about the existence of Camp Ashraf.
Camp Ashraf, located 80 km north of Baghdad, is home to some 3,500 PMOI members, who are fierce opponents of the Iranian regime. On 8 April, an attack by the Iraqi army against the camp killed 34 people and wounded dozens more.
The camp had been allocated in the 1980s by Saddam Hussein to the PMOI who fought the Iranian regime during the Iran-Iraq war.
The opponents were disarmed in 2003 by U.S. forces after the fall of the Iraqi president. In early 2009, the United States transferred the control of the camp to Iraqi security forces, whose leaders maintain amicable relations with Tehran.
Elie Wiesel asked Gen. James Jones, national security adviser for U.S. President Barack Obama until 2010: “General Jones, did you know about Ashraf? You should have.”
“I promise you, now that I know, I’ll do whatever I can to help these people. This cannot continue,” concluded the Nobel Peace Prize winner, as chants of “thank you” by hundreds of PMOI supporters filled the conference room.
General Jones had previously denounced the attack “clearly planned and organized by the Iraqi government.” He called on the United States to revise its policy by removing the PMOI from the list of terrorist organizations (which the EU already did in 2009) and to ensure that such an attack against Ashraf “never occurs again.”
The President-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, once again denounced the attack against Ashraf as a “crime against humanity,” about which the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “will have to answer before an international tribunal.”
She said that Iraqi forces were still occupying parts of the camp, preventing the burial of the victims “for 20 days.” She called on the Special Representative of the UN in Iraq to make an “urgent visit to Ashraf” to ensure the protection of civilians.
Mrs. Rajavi reiterated demands for the troops to leave (Ashraf), and for the lifting of the siege against the camp, “especially the medical blockade” that deprives many wounded of medical care.