Nontombi Tutu: I come as one who says “I am also a voice”, to say “my other country, my other home, we have a responsibility to the people of Camp Ashraf”

A number of non-governmental human rights organizations, European parliamentarians, and international lawyers met on Wednesday September 21 at the UN European Headquarters in Geneva and warned about another imminent Srebrenica-like massacre at Camp Ashraf and called for an urgent measure for protection of its residents.

The speakers to the conference were: Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament; Struan Stevenson, President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq in the European Parliament (presenter of European proposal for Ashraf crisis); Ruth N. Wedgwood , jurist; Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former prime minister of Algeria; Nontombi Tutu, human rights activist and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom;  Christiane Perregaux, co-President of the Legislative Council in Geneva; Gianfranco Fattorini, Co-Chair of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among the Peoples (MRAP); Marc Falquet, Member of Geneva Parliament; and  Daniel Neeser, pastor. The conference was presided over by Michel Joli, Secretary General of Mitterrand Foundation (France Libertés).

Below is speech by  Nontombi Tutu, human rights activist and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Thank you Chair. Thank you, Madam Rajavi. And thank you for all who are here today.

I come wearing a few different hats. And the first hat is as a South African raised under apartheid. In those days, as a young person, one of the things that I thought over and over and that my friends and family asked ourselves and one another: “when we are suffering like this, where is the rest of the world? Do they not care that our brothers and sisters are being arrested? Do they not care that our children are being killed on the streets? Do they  not care that our parents are being moved from their ancestral homes? Where is the international community?” Today, we find ourselves in the same place, where the people of Camp Ashraf are asking us the very same questions. “Where are you? Where are you as we are suffering? Where are you as we are being killed? Where are you as we are being harassed night and day? Our women being insulted through loudspeakers surrounding our camp, where is the international community to support our human rights?”

I come as a South African who grew up at a time when the apartheid government paid attention to the boogeyman, at that time, of the West, which was communism. And therefore named the act that outlawed any criticism of apartheid the Suppression Of Communism Act. By doing so, they were trying to stop those  in the west who might question the arrest of south Africans or forcing them to flee their country.

And today we know that oppressive regimes around the world know the boogeyman of today, terrorism. So that if you can label your opposition “terrorist”, the world will not ask questions of what you do to your people. And so the people of Camp Ashraf have been labeled terrorists, war criminals, even after investigations after investigations have shown that this is not true. So I come as one who says I do not want to be a part of a world community that is going to be questioned again as to “where were you when we were massacred? What did you say to stop our suffering? What did you do to protect our families?” We have the opportunity now to be those who speak up for Camp Ashraf, who apply pressure on our governments and the United Nations to protect the people of that area. I know the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN, Madam Pillay, is someone who understands the struggle against oppression, who understands the need for protection against violence. I know that she is one whose heart is in the right place. And we are here to encourage her to move not just her heart but also the actions of the High Commission to protect the people of Camp Ashraf and to send a monitoring group to ensure the safety of Camp Ashraf.

I come also wearing the hat of a citizen off both South Africa and the United States, knowing that it was the forces geared by the United States that disarmed the people of Camp Ashraf and assured them of their protection.
Subsequently, that protection, we know, was handed over to the Iraqi Government which consequently has turned into assaults.

So, I come as one who says “I am also a voice”, to say “my other country, my other home, we have a responsibility to the people of Camp Ashraf”.

And finally, I come wearing the hat of the daughter of (laughter). And that is one that I have had all my life and comes with its own costs and benefits. (laughter) Today it comes with some pride in having the opportunity to read a statement from my father to this gathering.
And I quote: “I have in the past expressed my support for the people of Camp Ashraf. They have been granted protected status by both the United Nations and the multinational force headed by the United States and Iraq.

Since responsibility for their protection has been transferred to the Iraqi military, the camp has experienced harassment by both Iranian and Iraqi forces. The attacks and harassment experienced by the residents of the camp are in fact human rights abuses that require condemnation from all freedom-loving people. Just this month, the UN High Commission for Refugees has declared its intention to consider individual applications for refugee status by residents of the camp.

“I ask the Iraqi Government and the international community to respect the integrity of this process, and to see to it that the residents of Camp Ashraf are ensured their safety and security, so that the UNHCR can fulfill its mandate in a safe and confidential location. I am Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.
September 20th, 2011, New York, New York.”

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