December 18, 2017

EU asks Iraq to let observers into Iranian exile camp after deaths


Brussels – The European Union on Saturday asked the Iraqi government to let international observers into a compound belonging to an Iranian opposition group, a day after clashes with Iraqi forces left several people dead.

The EU has continuously and repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to refrain from the use of violence and to respect the human rights of the camp’s residents,’ the bloc’s top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement.

Camp Ashraf, located in the northern province of Diyala, is home to the People’s Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI), an organization founded in 1965 to oppose the government of the shah. In 1981, it started an armed campaign against Iran’s new Islamic government.

In the mid-1980s, Iraq’s then-president, Saddam Hussein, allocated it a military base near the border with Iran.

Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US military disarmed the group and was responsible for protecting it in the face of sectarian violence throughout Iraq. In the summer of 2008, that responsibility was handed over to the Iraqi army.

There have been tensions between the two sides since.

Iraqi security sources said that three PMOI members were killed in Friday’s clashes, while the group put the death toll at 25, including six women.

Ashton said the EU was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the reports and insisted that ‘force is not the answer.’

‘The EU … calls on all the parties to show restraint and find a peaceful and sustainable solution to the situation,’ she added.