Speak up for the people of Iran

By Rt. Hon. Baroness Betty Boothroyd 17 February 2011
The Hill – For many years the Iranian regime has been the world’s most infamous abuser of human rights.  Already we have heard in the early part of this year more than 90 people have been executed.  The lives of innocent people are being put at risk, and human life is being ruthlessly violated.

When we analyze the individuals who are targeted, we find them to be those of the Iranian opposition and relatives of Iranian dissidents based at Camp Ashraf, Iraq. In the eyes of the regime, the crime of those executed and attacked is their determination to seek the basic freedoms and democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of association. They are the simple demands of the Iranian people who in the last 18 months have protested in Iranian towns, and these are the values that Camp Ashraf residents were paying and stand with them in their demands. 

What is happening at Ashraf is unacceptable. The Iraqi authorities have directly attacked residents, some have been murdered, some have been injured, others have been illegally detained and tortured.  Sick patients have been denied hospitalisation, and medical practitioners have been denied access to the sick. The constant use of loudspeakers by Iranian agents surrounding the camp threatening to kill amounts to psychological torture. 

Many people will recall, as I do that, when we were very young, we were old enough to be aware of the grim realities of harassment and persecution, intimidation and murder perpetrated on the continent of Europe by the Nazi regime, who sought to destroy people simply because they did not like them.  It has to stop. 

Frequently, of course, fine words come from Western leaders but words are not enough.  All countries and institutions that uphold civilised values must press upon Iraq to cease its warfare against Ashraf.

In a recent Parliamentary exchange between Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and the minister of foreign affairs in the House of Lords, the minister acknowledged that the United Nations is not ready to return to the full monitoring situation of the Camp, but he did say in those Parliamentary exchanges that the United Kingdom government was planning another meeting with Iraqi officials, and there is no doubt that those of us who can will put on all pressure. We must continue to put pressure on this issue of the meeting between our officials and the Iraqis in talks about Ashraf. 

Early next month the Spanish courts will have before them some of the officials of the Iraqi government, charging them with violations of human rights at Camp Ashraf. We must be alert to what will take place in Spain, and watch carefully to see if other members of the European Union take the position of the Spanish authorities.

I want to give a message to the people of Iran and as we are nearing International Women’s Day, I single out the female population inside and outside Camp Ashraf. I speak directly to them and I say to them I was born of a poor family and humble background.

Of course, in my country we didn’t have the infamous regime to tackle, as you have but those like me were able to flourish because our forebears fought for a society where democracy, equality the rule of law and freedom from fear existed. You in your country will not have experienced one iota of that degree of freedom, but have no doubt, you will do so as will your children and as will your grandchildren.

Continue your courageous fight. You are playing an integral role in protesting against the horrendous regime. We in this country and throughout the world know of your activities, and I salute your great courage and determination in the face of organised regression by hired yobs and by Iraqi forces. With Mrs. Maryam Rajavi leading your people and your Parliament in exile, you and your men folk can change, and for our part, we will do as what we can to support you in the real and viable means of bringing democratic change to Iran.

The Right Honorable Baroness Betty Boothroyd was the Speaker of the U.K.’s House of Commons from 1992-2000.

Note: At a major symposium on 14 February in Westminster, top former US national security officials and a majority of backbench UK Parliamentarians called on the United States government to lift the terrorist designation of the main Iranian opposition group, People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI / MeK), and to protect its members in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.

An Early Day Motion (no. 1143 [http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=42151&SESSION=905]), signed by a majority of backbench MPs, was unveiled urging the US to “follow the UK in de-listing the PMOI and provide the necessary protection for the residents of Camp Ashraf” and the UN to “station a monitoring team at Ashraf”. 

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