Senior British and American lawmakers and officials on Monday criticised the Obama administration for turning a blind eye to attacks by Iraq on members of the Iranian opposition PMOI (MEK) living in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, and urged the State Department to remove the group from its list of foreign terrorist organisations. The announcement was made at a conference in the House of Commons where speakers represented a majority of MPs and over 250 members of the House of Lords.
Governor Howard Dean, Chair of the Democratic Party in the US (2005-09), said: “With the behaviour we see at Camp Ashraf we see we have helped to install an Iraqi government which is a puppet of Iran. There is a humanitarian catastrophe that is developing in Camp Ashraf. There are 3,400 unarmed civilians who have pledged unarmed resistance. We cannot afford to have the blood of 3,400 civilians on our hands. Far more ominous is the presence of Iraqi troops in Ashraf. The US could compel Prime Minister Nuri Maliki to remove his troops from Ashraf immediately. We will be judged by humanity if we don’t do something about that”.
“Ashraf is part of a government-in-exile which is headed by Madam Maryam Rajavi. We should recognise the government-in-exile headed by Madam Rajavi. … It is an outrage that the MEK (PMOI) remains on the terrorist list in the US. There is no legitimacy in this”, Governor Dean said.
Patrick Kennedy, Congressman (1995-2011) and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, said: “We demand the kind of dignity for the people of Camp Ashraf as we would demand for our own family members. … I have heard people say that the MEK are terrorists. I recall history and when Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist. Today he is the father of a new South Africa. Tomorrow Madam Rajavi will be the mother of a free Iran”.
Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, Chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, said: “It is now urgently imperative that the UN acts to stop what is heading for an organised humanitarian outrage at Camp Ashraf. There have been repeated attacks, injuries and deaths inflicted by Iraqi security forces and Iranian agents against the defenceless residents. On the night of 2nd April around 30 BMP armoured personnel carriers and Humvees entered the camp in violation of international laws and the Geneva Conventions. Ashraf is not a military zone, and its residents are supposed to be protected under guarantees of their safety and security given – and knowingly and regularly breached – by Iraq”.
“We have heard tonight that Iraqi forces are planning to attack Ashraf from its northern fence to carry out a new bloodbath. This is an unlawful outrage. The only way to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe is for UNAMI, with the help of US forces to secure the withdrawal of Iraqi armed forces from inside the camp. We look to the UN to establish a permanent monitoring team at Camp Ashraf, guarded by a team of the US military, to prevent attacks on the residents similar to that of July 2009 and January 2011. The US and UN must act now”, Lord Corbett said.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead, former Chairman of the Labour Party, said: “Camp Ashraf is seen by the Iranian people as the symbol of perseverance for the cause of democracy. Ashraf is the source of inspiration, particularly to the women and youth in Iran. It offers Iranians a symbol for the future of Iran. Since February 2010, Iranian intelligence agents supported by Iraqi forces have been psychologically torturing residents with 240 powerful loudspeakers. The occupation of parts of the camp over the weekend by Iraqi armed forces with armoured BMP personnel carriers and Humvees violates international law and the Geneva Conventions”.
In a message to the conference, Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, said: “The correct response to the new circumstances should lead to an entirely different policy: standing up to the mullahs and confronting head on the dangers they pose to the people of Iran, the region and the rest of the world. That decisiveness, however, does not translate into military intervention. Rather, firmness means recognising the Iranian people’s Resistance. … All that is needed is for the West to unshackle the Iranian Resistance. The terrorist label against the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI) is one such impediment. This discredited designation, which the US Federal Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. has also rejected, must be revoked. The United States must no longer block the path to change in Iran for the benefit of the mullahs. Another impediment is the siege on, as well as the assaults and pressures against, Camp Ashraf. In this regard, too, the US must refrain from violating international law and reassume the protection of Ashraf consistent with its commitments”.
David Amess MP pointed out that without democratic change in Iran, the movements for democratic change in other parts of the Middle East risk being usurped by a fundamentalist agenda mirroring Iran. “In the uprising in Iran in 2011, the people demanded complete regime change. They were not asking for reform from within the regime. The PMOI is the only organised movement calling for a fundamental change in Iran. The regime is most afraid of the PMOI because it is organised and is seen by Iranian people and many in the region as an anti-fundamentalist group. The terrorist label on the PMOI has been a major obstacle to change in Iran.
Brian Binley MP pointed out that the PMOI was de-proscribed in the UK and EU after the British and EU courts reviewed all evidence, including all classified evidence, much of which had been provided by the US authorities and found no evidence upon which the PMOI could continue to be blacklisted. There is no credible evidence to maintain the blacklisting of the PMOI in the US, and the group must be removed and recognised as the viable opposition to the Iranian regime, he said.
Others panellists included: Rt. Hon. Baroness Boothroyd, Speaker of the House of Commons (1992-2000); Rt. Hon. Lord Waddington QC, former Home Secretary; Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation (2001-11); Baroness Turner of Camden, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords; Baroness Blood; Baroness Harris of Richmond, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords; Lord King of West Bromwich, former Mayor; Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords; Rt. Hon. Lord Mayhew of Twysden, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Attorney General; Roger Williams MP; Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC; Rt. Rev. Bishop of Bath and Wells; Steve McCabe MP, former Government Whip; Lord Hughes of Woodside; and Dowlat Nowrouzi, UK representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
4 April 2011