October 24, 2017

EU official proposes relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to other countries

Al Arabiya

Residents of Camp Ashraf demonstrate in front of media reporters touring in a bus, a day after their clashes with the Iraqi security forces at Camp Ashraf, an Iranian dissident camp, in Diyala province, north of Baghdad. (File Photo)

A senior European Union official has proposed that members of the Iranian opposition living in Iraq be relocated to other countries as their lives were in danger, reported Associated Press.

In emails to EU foreign ministers and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, Struan Stevenson, who is president of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iraq, warned that the crisis must be resolved “before another and perhaps even more catastrophic massacre takes place.”

The official was referring to Iraq’s Camp Ashraf, a settlement of Iranian dissidents who say they will be killed if they are returned to Iran. The camp houses followers and members of the Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK). The United States considers the MEK to be a terrorist organization. 

In statement that was issued in Luxembourg, Mr. Stevenson proposed a solution which “calls for the removal of Iraqi forces from the perimeter of the enclave, the granting of access to Camp Ashraf by journalists, lawyers, and others; an independent inquiry into the attack in April, and the moving of all residents of the camp to other countries, including in Europe, Australia and North America.”

Mr. Stevenson also wrote a letter Monday to President Barack Obama of the United States, asking for his support.

“I believe that another humanitarian catastrophe at the hands of the Iraqi forces is imminent, aided and abetted by the Iranian regime which seeks the annihilation of Ashraf and its residents as a useful distraction from their own plethora of internal and external crises,” Mr. Stevenson said.

Last week, a senior US State Department official gave details of a proposed “humanitarian” solution to the standoff. Under the plan, “3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf would be temporarily relocated within Iraq, farther from the border with Iran,” the official said.

For decades, the MEK has been opposed to the Iranian government and the group was sheltered in that camp and other locations in Iraq during former President Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Mr. Hussein used the group as part of his security apparatus and they had “a tense relationship with many Iraqis, especially Shia and Kurds,” reports AP.

“The relocation would be temporary,” the official said, “with final settlement of the inhabitants in other countries.”

The US would not be one of those countries, as it does not allow anyone associated with a terrorist organization to settle there.

“The new location would be chosen and maintained and operated by Iraq and appropriate humanitarian conditions would have to be maintained in this camp,” the official said.

In April 2011, 35 people were killed and more than 300 others wounded in a confrontation between Iraqi security forces Camp Ashraf residents. Both groups claimed they were attacked by the other and retaliated in self-defense.

(Ammar Ben Aziz, a senior editor at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: ammar.aziz@mbc.net)