HUFFINGTON POST – Naghmeh Rajabi Human Rights Activist
On Tuesday 1 November 2011, there was an urgent press conference at UK’s Houses of Parliament.
The press conference was attended by a large number of the Iranian and non-Iranian community and chaired by David Amess, the Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of South end West.
The key speakers were Mr Mark Williams from the Liberal Democrat party, Mr Steve McCabe from the Labour party; and Lord Dholakia deputy President of the Liberal Democrat party in the House of Lords. Amongst the speakers, was also Mr Hossein Abedini, a member of the Parliament in exile of the Iranian resistance (NCRI) who also belongs to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Mr Abedini is a victim and one of the few survivors of Iran’s acts of terrorism.
The press conference was brought together in order to discuss the recent serious developments on Camp Ashraf’s situation. Camp Ashraf is home to 3400 Iranian dissidents who are also members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), Iran’s main opposition group. They have taken refuge from the Iranian regime and are living in Iraq for over two decades. During this period, they have been fighting to bring democracy and freedom to Iran and enlighten the world to the crimes of this terrorist regime.
However, for the residents of Camp Ashraf, it has been far from a ‘normal life’ as the mullahs have made every attempt to destroy the camp and ‘get rid’ of the residents.
After the overthrowing of the former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the U.S. forces disarmed the Iranian dissidents in 2003 and promised to provide all of them with protection.
They were also given ‘protected persons’ status under the 4th Geneva Convention. However, two years ago, following plans of U.S. forces’ withdrawal from Iraq, control of the camp was handed over to the Iraqi government. Ever since, the camp has been under two separate attacks, which resulted in killing nearly 50 innocent people and injuring hundreds.
Due to the recent and intense spotlight that the international community have put on the Iranian regime, the mullahs’ fear of being overthrown has increased significantly. They are now the focus of major world leaders, especially in relation to the issue of their nuclear weapon capacity. On the other hand, their relationship with their Arab neighbours are looking worse than ever, following the recent plans of Iran’s terror plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC.
In addition, after the Arab spring, Iran is swiftly losing control in the Middle East region and is unable to help dictators such as the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in brutally suppressing the Syrian people and acts of terrorism in different parts of the world. From a very different angle, there is more and more news of economic and political corruption coming to the surface inside of Iran and more tension and division between the Supreme Leader and his followers, and Ahmadinejad and his friends.
When considering all these factors, one can clearly recognise and feel how terrified the mullahs must be. Their desperation to do whatever it takes in order to stay in power is quite obvious. Do they learn from history or the fall of great dictators and try to become better leaders for their people and country? Absolutely not! They continue to suppress the Iranian people while making every effort to destroy their main opposition group at Camp Ashraf.
At the Parliamentary press conference, we were shown a number of video clips, which was recorded by the residents of the Camp despite all kinds of restrictions. The footage clearly showed a very large number of military vehicles and convoys approaching and entering the camp in a noisy and aggressive manner, as to declare their presence and intimidate the residents further. This was following a trip of the Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi to Iraq.
In addition, we were shown how the number of loud speakers placed around the camp by the Iraqi forces to psychologically torture the residents day and night, has increased from the 300 that it previously was. Furthermore, we could see that the same technical equipments and devices which were used in Iran’s 2009 uprising to disrupt and disconnect all kinds of communication to and from the outside world, was put in place around the camp. This, in itself, is a very serious threat to the lives of the residents, as it is absolutely crucial for them to communicate with the outside world and give words out of an attack. Without communication and by being away from the media’s eyes, the Iraqi forces and Iranian regime have more of an opportunity to carry out a third massacre in Ashraf and it leaves the Ashrafis defenceless to face the barbarity of the Iraqi regime.
All of these are clear acts of coercion and strongly indicates that another attack is on its way if the international community and responsible bodies stand back and do nothing. What is being asked in favour of the residents’ protection is very simple, absolutely lawful and within the international humanitarian law. Mr Abedini explained in his speech, that there are a number of steps, which are required for the protection of the 3400 men and women at Camp Ashraf, these are the following:
1. The U.S., EU and the UN to force Iraq to withdraw its deadline from closure of the Camp by the end of 2011. This deadline is unrealistic due to the large number of the residents and the implications of having them all re-settled in third democratic countries.
2. The UN Secretary General and the Office of the High Commissionaire for Human Rights to station a permanent monitoring team in Ashraf to provide and guarantee the residents’ protection until the complete re-settlement of all residents.
3. The UN Secretary General, the U.S. government and the European governments including the UK government as the main partner in the coalition war against Iraq, to make possible the establishment of a UN peace keeping force and United Nations’ blue helmets to protect the residents until all of the residents have been re-settled in third democratic countries.
4. The UNHCR to re-affirm the residents’ legal status as political refugees.
In his speech, Lord Dholakia added, that we were prepared to establish democratic values and pay the price of it by going to war with Iraq. We were also prepared to bomb Libya for the sake of establishing the rights of the people to survive. Surely, it is not asking too much that the people of Ashraf require the same protection from the international community! Moreover, Steve McCabe wholeheartedly pointed out, that by standing aside and doing nothing, we are dishonouring the British soldiers who lost their lives in the Iraq war, and fought to bring freedom and democracy for the people living in that country.
The time for talking on this subject is over. We are facing a major humanitarian disaster. If nothing is done to prevent another attack, a far worst catastrophe should be expected, and the people of Iran who are a nation holding their breath for a democratic change, will hold those capable of doing something about this situation, completely responsible, for the murder of their brothers and sisters at Camp Ashraf.