February 25, 2018

Refugee camp in Iraq under siege by Iraqi government


By Brian Booker

Baghdad – Camp Liberty, a camp for de facto refugee members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, has come under siege as the Iraqi government has denied the entry of food, septic tanks, and other vital supplies.

The Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, is an Iranian opposition group that has been engaged in a long and bitter struggle with the Iranian cleric government. Over 2,000 members of the MEK now reside in Iraq at Camp Liberty.

For the third consecutive day, Iraqi forces are all but laying siege to Camp Liberty, denying the camp access to vital supplies. With electricity cut off, temperatures are soaring to 120 degrees (F) in the hot summer sun, while a humanitarian crisis builds as the camp’s sewage systems are overburdened.

Pressure is now mounting for the United States and United Nations to do something. Having disarmed several years ago, the MEK have no means to defend themselves, and the Iraqi government is an unreliable guaranteer of security, at best.

Mrs. Robab Baraie, the President of the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents pleaded with the US government to do something:

“We expect Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately intervene and press the Iraqi Government to end its inhumane siege of Camp Liberty, undertaken at the behest of the Iranian regime. This criminal blockade on fuel, food and other critical life support needs has adversely affected thousands of defenseless Iranian refugees, whom the U.S. Government committed itself in writing to protect, but has failed to do so at every turn.”


A Complicated History
Before the fall of the Shah and during the revolution the MEK was one of the most prominent revolutionary groups in Iran. Following the revolution, however, religious hard liners cracked down on the group and seized control of the government. Tens of thousands of MEK supporters are believed to have been killed by cleric-linked forces.

Following the purge, many MEK members fled into exile and eventually ended up in Iraq, where the MEK established Camp Ashraf. When the United States invaded Iraq for the second time in 2003, the MEK disarmed and left Camp Ashraf for Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

As part of the agreement to disarm and leave behind Camp Ashraf, the United States was supposed to guarantee the safety of those MEK members still residing in the country. For several years the camp was under the command and watch of the US military, but as the war in Iraq wound down, responsibility for the camp was handed off to local Iraqi forces.

Giving Iraq control of the camp, however, was like giving a fox the key to the hen house. The Shia-dominated government of Iraq is closely allied with the Iranian government, which still considers the MEK to be a terrorist organization. Almost certainly, the Iranian government is pressuring the Iraqi government to crack down on the MEK and Camp Liberty.