London, 19 June – US President Barack Obama has come under pressure from senior members of his Democratic party to protect some 2,500 Iranian dissidents affiliated with Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in Camp Liberty, Iraq, from attacks by militias loyal to Tehran.
“[We] demand that the people in Camp Liberty live in safety and security. No longer the targets of terrorist acts. No longer the victims of violence. No longer left unprotected,” said Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J), a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez was addressing the annual Iran Freedom rally held by the Iranian opposition on June 13 in Paris. His videotaped remarks were carried by the Washington Times on Thursday.
“I have called on the government of Iraq, the United Nations and the US government again and again to do more to ensure the safety of Camp Liberty residents,” said Menendez.
“The situation in Iraq at the moment is so dangerous that we are concerned that we are going from a weak Iraq to a collapsed state that will be a safe haven for violent extremists. … I have made clear to US administration officials that, no matter what, the safety and security of the MEK members at Camp Liberty must continue to be a priority.”
“This must include a willingness on the part of the United States to demonstrate leadership and accept MEK residents into our own country.”
Sen. Menendez was backed up in his call on the US administration by Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Pennsylvania, who attended the rally in person.
“I know many of you are frustrated that 2,500 of your comrades are still in prison at Camp Liberty,” Rendell said, adding that the US “promised each one of those citizens that we would protect them.”
Another former Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, told the rally: “And there are approximately 2,400 Iranian dissidents in what amounts to a prison camp near the Baghdad airport because America did not keep its promises.”
Attacks on the MEK members by Iraqi armed forces and Iranian-backed militias since 2009 have led to at least 116 deaths. The US government in 2003 promised to protect the MEK members in Iraq in return for handing over their weapons. The UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says members of the MEK in Camp Liberty are “asylum seekers” needing protection under international law.