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ASHRAF MONITOR

Volume 1, Issue 43

News about the Humanitarian Crisis for Camp Ashraf Residents

Thursday, October 15, 2009

 

In this Issue:

 


"Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.”

Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

 

“In no circumstances shall a protected person be transferred to a country where he or she may have reason to fear persecution for his or her political opinions or religious beliefs.”

Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

 

Specter of forced repatriation
Iranian dissidents still need our protection
The Washington Times
October 13, 2009
By Allan Gerson

Death no longer stalks the White House gates. The hunger strike of more than two dozen Iranian-Americans (as part of a vigil of hundreds of concerned people) came to a close Thursday with the news that 36 Iranian dissidents forcibly taken by Iraqi forces had been allowed to return - most in emaciated condition - to their enclave at Camp Ashraf, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

For more than 70 days, the hunger strike and vigil continued with the demand for the release of the hostages and protection for the 3,400 members of Iran's main opposition group, the mujahedeen (MEK), stationed at Camp Ashraf.

But it would be a mistake of enormous proportions to believe that the problem of Camp Ashraf and the specter of forced repatriation of its members to Iran or forced displacement inside Iraq (where the dissidents would be exposed to terrorist attacks by Tehran's operatives) are no longer a matter of grave humanitarian and national security concern. We should not be lulled into a false sense of safety that the problem has gone away.

At stake are the lives thousands of MEK members who are dedicated to the overthrow of Iran's mullah regime and its replacement by a democratic pluralistic government.

On July 28 and 29, Iraqi forces - undoubtedly heeding the call of Iran, which wants nothing as much as the eradication of the camp and the repatriation of its residents to Iran - forcibly entered the enclave. The operation against the unarmed and defenseless residents left 11 dead, hundreds wounded and 36 arrested.

The State Department maintains that sovereignty over all of Iraq, including Camp Ashraf, belongs to the government of Iraq and brushes off serious concern by pointing out that in any event, the MEK remains on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

But Iraqi sovereignty does not entitle neglect of the U.S. promise to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. This concerns a solemn pledge made by U.S. forces early in 2004, when they entered the enclave and signed written agreements stipulating that the residents would be granted protected-persons status under the Geneva Conventions until their final disposition.

The MEK terrorist designation, as concerns Americans, revolves around its purported role in the death of six American service members and military contractors 35 years ago.

As corroborated by former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk, the designation in 1997 came about largely as a result of President Clinton's efforts to induce Iran's then-president, Mohammed Khatami, to adopt a more moderate posture. (It didn't work.)

In this context, it appeared on an internal State Department determination, which held that terrorism against our foes (even if directed against judges issuing death sentences without recourse to legal process) should be of as much concern to the United States as terrorism directed against American citizens.

The highest court in the United Kingdom recently overturned the terrorist designation in Britain as totally without merit. A similar conclusion was reached by the European Union. Interestingly enough, when the MEK filed a petition for revocation of its designation in July 2008, the State Department's top counterterrorism official, Gen. Dell L. Dailey, recommended that the petition be granted.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, overruled him - ostensibly because of the department's zeal not to allow anything to undercut its efforts to negotiate directly with Tehran.

Having been involved as an attorney for the PanAm 103 families in their quest to hold Libya accountable for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, I had dealt with the conditions for removal of Libya from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Clear criteria for designation of an organization as a terrorist entity, and its corollary - clear criteria for de-designation - are essential if we are to remain a country of laws rather than one where diplomatic whim controls despite severe legal consequences. Yet, in dealing with MEK designation, the State Department refuses to specify applicable criteria. Such a posture degrades the terrorist designation to a mere political tool.

Clearly, neither Iraqi sovereignty nor the unwarranted U.S. terrorist designation can justify turning a blind eye to the fate of 3,400 people at Camp Ashraf who have dedicated their lives to ending the mullah regime in Tehran.

This is not only a matter of grave humanitarian concern, but also one that bears serious implications for U.S. national security interests. What lesson, after all, would Iran draw if we were to allow repatriation of the residents of Camp Ashraf?

What lesson would the world draw if it witnessed the U.S. government's inability to curry any influence with Iraq, a country in which we have invested so much of our resources and human treasure?

What is to be done? I recommend that two steps be taken immediately:

1.) President Obama or a high-level envoy needs to forcefully tell Iraq's leadership that the U.S. government will not countenance repatriation of the residents of Camp Ashraf or their forcible displacement within Iraq. The only safe place for them is Ashraf. Muted State Department assurances cannot suffice. In any event, no European or other nation seems prepared to welcome the residents of Camp Ashraf to its own shores.

2.) The U.N. secretary-general needs to express the United Nation's concern and work to set up a monitoring post at Ashraf to ensure that they are protected.

These steps are in America's interest. It cannot afford to ignore the potential for atrocities against the residents of Camp Ashraf. To abandon the MEK in their hour of need, especially when they are staunch opponents of the regime in Tehran, would only serve to encourage Iran to pursue its militaristic policies at home and abroad and to dispel the trust of America's allies.

Allan Gerson, a former senior State and Justice Department official, is chairman of AG International Law in Washington and represents the MEK. He is the author of "The Price of Terror: How the Families of the Victims of the PanAm 103 Bombing Brought Libya to Justice" (HarperCollins, 2002)...  Read More

 

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Iran’s heavy hand on human rights
The Boston Globe
Saturday, October 10, 2009

By Gary Morsch

Dr. Gary Morsch is an Army Reserve colonel
AS US officials grapple with Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons, they also need to address its human rights abuses against its own people as well as the regime’s meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Soldiers don’t concern themselves with politics; we leave that to the politicians. There are times, though, when a soldier makes an exception. Like all American troops who have been deployed to Iraq, I went to serve my country and to help bring peace and democracy to the Middle East. I’m a doctor from Kansas and a colonel in the Army Reserve, and I served for a year in Ashraf, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Of all the places I’ve been in Iraq, Ashraf was probably the most peaceful. It was established 23 years ago by a group of Iranian dissidents, all members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, who want to see democracy return to their homeland. They fled Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution because they opposed the theocratic state that had been established. Thousands of their friends had been slaughtered by the ruling ayatollahs’ henchmen.

In the middle of the desert, they turned a dry wasteland into an oasis. They built schools and hospitals, shopping areas, and places for sports and recreation and concerts. Even Iranian students who had gone to America to further their education returned to Ashraf.

And the Iraqi people befriended them.

After the US-led invasion in 2003, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran turned over their weapons to coalition forces and submitted to months of investigation - to prove that they were not terrorists and only wanted to live in peace.

The more I saw, the more I began to like the people of Ashraf. They are committed to the goals of democracy and a free Iran. Indeed, I learned that it was the People’s Mujahedin that first divulged the nuclear buildup within Iran, alerting the world to the danger the mullahs in Tehran posed.

Ashraf has been protected by an agreement with the United States under the Fourth Geneva Convention. But the pending withdrawal of US troops has left the area in a kind of no-man’s land.

Iraqi forces now control their own country, which is fine for most situations. But the Iraqi leadership is growing closer to Tehran, which wants Ashraf closed and its people sent back to Iran - to an ill fate one can only imagine.

On July 28, Iraqi police and military forces stormed Ashraf at the behest of Tehran. Eleven residents were killed, 500 wounded, and 36 were held hostage for 71 days.

And where were the American protectors? From the video clips I watched, they stood by and observed, doing little to stop the carnage.

The Obama administration criticized Iraqi security forces and their brutal attitude, but this is not enough. Iraqi forces still occupy parts of Ashraf. The lives of 3,400 people who trusted the United States are on the line. Knowing of their need for medical care, I have volunteered to go and provide medical assistance to the wounded in Ashraf.

I am sad for the people of Ashraf and angered by the American inaction. It was an embarrassing moment for me as a doctor, a soldier, a humanitarian, and above all as an American.

The nation I serve made a commitment to protect these people. While I was there, I carried out that mission. The Obama administration must find a way to honor that commitment, especially now. It is obvious that the winds of change are blowing across Iran. The fundamentalist mullahs in Tehran know that they are in trouble with their own people. The president needs to act now... Read More

 

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The Iranian Resistance triumphs over the Iranian regime in Iraq
Al-Seyassah (Kuwaiti daily)

October 12, 2009

Translated from Arabic (Excerpts)
The horrific state of affairs brought on by the cronies and agents of the Iranian regime with the objective of terrifying and blackmailing the Iranian opposition (MEK) has ended with a triumph for the opposition. The Iraqi government was forced to give in to the demands and freedom-seeking voices of those calling for the release of Camp Ashraf’s detainees.

This was clearly a significant issue for the Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie. Now it appears he has lost the battle and failed to carry out his commitments to his true leader, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

The People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) recent campaign in Iraq was a true fight for freedom and they ably obtained their victory. Through it all, they brought a catastrophic defeat for the Iranian regime, which is trying to use its regional and international cards.

The Iranian opposition is the one and only force that has the initiative, especially because it has active networks inside Iran. Despite the rising threats posed by the Iranian regime’s apparatus of death and suppression, the MEK is able to mobilize the Iranian people and trigger changes... Read More

 

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YouTube: 36 Abducted Camp Ashraf Residents Released on the Brink of Death, Triumphantly Return to Ashraf
YouTube.com

October 9, 2009
On October 7, 2009, on the seventy-second day of their hunger strike and seventh day of dry hunger strike, 36 PMOI hunger strikers who had been taken hostage in Iraq returned triumphantly to Camp Ashraf. A number of them had already gone into coma and were taken to hospital by prison guards. Upon their arrival, they were immediately rushed to Ashraf medical center to be treated due to their critical condition and the injuries suffered from gunshots and beatings during the July 28 and 29 attacks. Most of them were on the verge of death. Watch the scenes of their arrival at Camp Ashraf on YouTube.com.

 

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ICLW warns against mullahs’ plots to displace and massacre Ashraf residents, calls for international intervention
ICLW Press Release
Thursday, October 8, 2009

Formation of the International Committee of Lawyers in support of 1,000 Women in Ashraf was announced Thursday in a press conference in Paris. The conference warned against imminent threats to Camp Ashraf residents, particularly plans for their displacement as a prelude to massacre them. They reiterated that in any forcible displacement, the prime victims will be women.

The lawyers call for immediate intervention of the European Union, the United States and the United Nations to guarantee the rights of Ashraf residents, particularly women, in accordance with Geneva conventions and to prevent their displacement as a ploy to pave the way for a humanitarian catastrophe…

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, in a message to the conference said that the attack on Camp Ashraf was planned and coordinated by the clerical regime in Iran. Nationwide uprisings in the past three months have deeply shaken and destabilized the regime, thus, it desperately needs to suppress its opposition. The assailant forces are still inside the camp and they have the motive to repeat the attack.

She warned that the forces in their attacks on the residents of Ashraf repeatedly threatened women with rape. The fate of 36 Ashraf residents taken hostage by force is extremely alarming. The attackers abducted them in Ashraf by force and tortured them. This happened to them while they were recognized as Protected Persons. Although they were released on Wednesday after 72 days of hunger strike, but recurrence of this kind of criminal forcible displacement must not be allowed, Mrs. Rajavi stressed... Read More

 

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About Humanitarian Crisis for Iranian Dissidents and their Families in Camp Ashraf

More than 3,400 members of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) and their families, among them nearly 1,000 Muslim women, reside in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  The PMOI was the source of ground breaking revelation in the United States in 2002 about Iran’s two until-then secret nuclear sites at Natanz and Arak.

 

On July 28-29, 2009, Iraqi forces ordered directly by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acting at the behest of Iran rulers, carried out a violent, unprovoked raid on Camp Ashraf, killing 11 residents, wounding 500, and abducting 36.

 

The brutal raid on Ashraf was a blatant violation of the solemn commitment Iraq had given to the United States that it would provide "humane treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraq’s Constitution, laws, and international obligations."

The assault took place while U.S. service members on the scene were observing the situation closely. Regrettably they took no action to prevent the premeditated violence despite direct appeals by Ashraf residents at the outset and during the attack.

 

International Humanitarian Law Obligate U.S. to Provide Continued Protection for Camp Ashraf Residents in Iraq
On July 2, 2004, the  United States formally recognized members of the PMOI in Camp Ashraf as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

 

Both the U.S. and Iraq are parties to all four 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifies that:

“Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs […]”.

Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifies that:

“In no circumstances shall a protected person be transferred to a country where he or she may have reason to fear persecution for his or her political opinions or religious beliefs.“

 

United States had legal and moral obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect these Iranian exiles.
 

 

About the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents:

The U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) was established in December of 2003 by families and relatives of residents of Camp Ashraf. The purpose of the Committee is to ensure the safety and security of those Iranians and others living in Camp Ashraf. The Committee will defend the proposition that the protections of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as of other treaties and customary international law, must be applied to the Iranians in Iraq. For more information please visit: www.usccar.org

 

About Ashraf Monitor

Ashraf Monitor newsletter is a compilation of  news and commentaries about the developing humanitarian crisis for nearly 3,500 members of Iran's main opposition, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Camp Ashraf, Iraq.  Ashraf Monitor is compiled and distributed by the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR).

 


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U.S. COMMITTEE FOR CAMP ASHRAF RESIDENTS

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Web: www.USCCAR.org
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