HUFFINGTON POST – Hossein Abedini November 25, 2011
On Friday 18 November, the Government of Iraq (GoI) orchestrated in coordination with the Iranian regime’s embassy in Iraq a despicable show outside Camp Ashraf, home to 3400 Iranian opposition members, portrayed as a “massive demonstration” by Iraqi citizens calling for the expulsion of Ashraf residents from Iraq.
However, after three weeks of preparation and lots of fanfare for the event, the ridiculous spectacle by the agents of the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and the terrorist Qods Force in Iraq that enjoyed the full support of the GoI and the Fifth Division of the Iraqi Army turned into an unprecedented defeat.
The purpose of this ridiculous spectacle was to fabricate a popular support for the announced deadline by the GoI to close Camp Ashraf at the end of this year by any means necessary.
This is while the UNHCR (UN organ for refugees) issued a statement on 13 September 2011 declaring, “Camp residents who have submitted requests are accordingly now formally asylum-seekers under international law whose claims require adjudication. International law requires that they must be able to benefit from basic protection of their security and well-being”.
Amnesty International (1. and 2.), the UNHCR, the World Organization Against Torture, the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) amongst many other international voices have all urged the Iraqi authorities to postpone the announced deadline for the closure of Camp Ashraf (31 December 2011) to provide sufficient time and appropriate conditions for the UNHCR to consider, on an individual basis, all requests for refugee status filed by the residents of the Camp.
The calls for a humanitarian solution were also echoed by 94 leading Iraqi luminaries including state leaders, MPs and party officials calling for a humane solution for camp Ashraf and condemn the use of violence against its residents.
Faced with a mounting domestic and international pressure to respect the rights of Ashraf residents, the GoI tries to confuse the international opinion in order to revoke a passive stand against its malicious plans to close Camp Ashraf by fabricating and spreading misinformation about the reality of the situation and the status of Camp Ashraf residents.
The announced deadline by the Nouri al-Maliki’s government is in reality the implementation of a bilateral agreement between Iraq and the Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamene, whose existence were reported by the AFP on 28 February 2009, one month after that the Iraqi authorities were handed over the security responsibility of the camp from the U.S. Forces in Iraq.
A letter from Iraqi Embassy in Brussels dated 15 November to the protocol section of the European Parliament lays out the GoI’s arbitrary position and its insidious and false interpretation of the Camp Ashraf residents’ status. The letter indicated that “the government of Iraq is committed to its decision to close Camp Ashraf by the end of 2011,” and that “the Iraqi government was left with no choice but to evacuate the Camp based on principle of sovereignty, and transfer its residents to other camps in Iraq”.
In fact, in an earlier meeting with the U.S. officials in Baghdad on March 23, 2009, Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki provided the plan to displace Ashraf residents inside Iraq (Guardian, December 15, 2010).
Struan Stevenson, MEP and the President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, called the letter for “the Iraqi Government’s Declaration of War on the UN and Death Warrant for Ashraf Residents highlighting the US, EU and UN’s Grave Responsibility to Prevent a Humanitarian Catastrophe in Ashraf”, in his press release on 18 November 2011.
The Rt. Hon. The Lord Archer of Sandwell QC, Former UK Solicitor-General and the President of the International Parliamentary Campaign in Defence of Ashraf alongside Rt. Hon. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, Former Lord Advocate for Scotland and Co-President of the International Parliamentary Campaign in Defence of Ashraf called, in a letter, on EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and all EU member states, in particular the British Government, to strongly condemn the content of the letter [from Iraqi Embassy in Brussels] and al-Maliki’s intention to carry out the Iranian regime’s dirty work of annihilating its main opposition force. They also call on Baroness Ashton to take up a more direct role in the issue and to work with relevant international bodies to make sure that the UNHCR is given enough time and facilities to carry out the required adjudication process.
The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom (BPCIF) said in a statement that “clearly, the Iraqi Prime Minister, intent on serving his masters in Tehran, is resorting to lies and ridiculous accusations that the Iranian regime’s intelligence services have been distributing for decades against members of the Iranian opposition PMOI in order to justify a planned massacre at Ashraf at the end of this year”. The BPCIF statement added, “the document [letter] deliberately ignores the extensive efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the European Union, and others who have been working to reach a peaceful resolution to the Ashraf issue involving the resettlement of its residents in third countries. These efforts have been repeatedly blocked by the Iraqi Government”.
In a statement on 24 November 152 cross party MPs and Peers condemned the Iraqi government’s intention to forcefully close Camp Ashraf (home to Iranian dissidents for over 25 years) at the end of this year. They warn about the massacre of 3,400 residents including 1000 women in the camp. So far, Iraqi forces, under the command of Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki, have killed 47 of these defenceless and unarmed refugees and injured hundreds of others in two deadly assaults at the behest of the Iranian regime.
Mrs Maryam Rajavi, the president elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement by NCRI on 20 November 2011 that, “Relocating residents of Ashraf inside Iraq, is a Crime against Humanity and is a prelude to a grand massacre that has been devised by the Iranian theocratic fascist rulers and the government of Iraq. Forcible relocation of Ashraf residents is tantamount to sending them to their deaths and that is something they will never give in to. As it was tested in the massacre of thirty thousand political prisoners in 1988, the regime in crisis would not accept anything but massacre of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). Currently the bloody annihilation of the Ashraf residents is pursued under pretext of relocation”.
AFP quoted some of Mrs Maryam Rajavi’s remarks in an article titled “Exiled Iran opposition warns of ‘massacre’ if Iraq camp shut” on Sunday, 20 November.
All of the concerns mentioned above are legitimate. The history has shown that the GoI cannot be trusted in any way when it comes to its given promises to treat the residents of Camp Ashraf humanely and according to international law.
The GoI has long tried to deceive the international community and different UN agencies by providing such “assurances” that all have proven to be futile and only empty words. Just to give an example, the American Embassy in Iraq received assurance from Maliki that there would be “no violence”, six hours prior to the assault on 8 April 2011.
Given the facts on the ground and the alarming development during the past years, it is time for US, EU and UN to step in and adopt measures to secure the protection of Ashraf residents with UN blue helmet forces. The UN Security Council can and should facilitate and guarantee the stationing of UN observers in Camp Ashraf on permanent basis until the transfer of the last person to a third country.
As stipulated by prominent international jurists, United States and the United Nations bear the responsibility to protect the residents of Ashraf and this is a legal obligation. Silence and inaction vis-à-vis a forcible relocation of Ashraf residents pave the way for another great crime against humanity, which is predictable, and any cooperation with regards to their forced relocation is complicity in the crime.
The UNHCR should therefore publicly demand that Iraq start to cooperate with the UN body and allow immediate interviewing of Ashraf residents.
UN Secretary General, the US government, EU foreign policy chief, EU member states’ governments should add their voice to the many international calls and pressure the GoI to extend the December 31 deadline to prevent a massacre and facilitate a peaceful solution that is in every ones interest.
The clock is ticking for the residents of Ashraf. They are running out of time, as there is one month left of the deadline. It is time for the leaders of the International Community to back up their publicly announced concerns about the situation of Camp Ashraf by firm and tangible actions to secure UN presence in the camp.
On July 06, 2011, the Time reported in an article “Court Says the Dutch Are to Blame for Srebrenica Deaths” that an appeals court in the Hague placed the blame [for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre] squarely on the Dutch government’s shoulders.
BBC wrote on 5 July 2011, that the court [in the Hague] said in its ruling, “The Dutchbat [the Dutch peacekeepers] had been witness to multiple incidents in which the Bosnian Serbs mistreated or killed male refugees outside the compound. The Dutch therefore knew that… the men were at great risk if they were to leave the compound”.
Similarly, leaders of the International Community and the democratic governments cannot wave away their responsibility, as there are enough evidence, warning-signs and reports about a looming massacre in Camp Ashraf.
Today they must show political courage to prevent a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe in Camp Ashraf at the end of 2011 resulting in more than 3000 deaths as the International Community have repeatedly said never again and promised to prevent genocide and mass killing to take place no matter the part of the world.
If they fail to act, they risk being implicit in the crimes of the GoI on behest of the mullahs’ regime in Iran.
Hossein Abedini Member of Parliament in exile of Iranian Resistance