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ASHRAF MONITOR

Volume 1, Issue 44

News about the Humanitarian Crisis for Camp Ashraf Residents

Wednesday, October 28, 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

 

Top UN envoy concerned over conditions in Camp Ashraf
UN News Center
October 26, 2009

26 October 2009 – The top United Nations envoy to Iraq has expressed his concerns over the humanitarian situation in a camp north of Baghdad, housing thousands of Iranian dissidents.

Some 3,400 members of the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq, live in Camp Ashraf in Iraq’s Diyala province.

During talks with diplomats the Iraqi capital, Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, confirmed the commitment of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to monitor the situation in the camp on a daily basis.

Earlier this month, UN human rights officials welcomed the Government’s decision to release 36 members of the PMOI who had been detained since July when security personnel used force to take control of the camp where they had been staying.

In a two-day operation in late July, Iraqi security personnel took control of Camp Ashraf. Eleven people were killed and dozens more were wounded in that operation.

In recent years, both the mission and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have been exploring how to reach a resolution consistent with Iraq’s legitimate sovereignty and international law.

“The UN continues to advocate that Camp Ashraf residents be protected from forcible deportation, expulsion or repatriation contrary to the non-refoulement principle,” according to a UNAMI press release issued today...  Read More

 

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Account of attack in Iraq
Camp was a U.S.-guaranteed refuge
By Jamshid Karegarfar

The Washington Times
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jamshid Karegarfar is a manufacturing technology engineer, with expertise in safety. He was educated at Kentucky's Murray State University and became a resident of Camp Ashraf in Iraq 20 years ago.

ASHRAF, Iraq - How long can one live without food and water? It's a question that I never considered until it became more than an answer on a TV quiz program. It was a very personal matter of life and death.

Two-and-a-half months ago, I was living the day-to-day peaceful life of a resident of Camp Ashraf in Iraq. It's a place you probably never heard of. It's about 60 miles north of Baghdad and is home to some 3,500 Iranian dissidents - exiles like me who want nothing better than to return to Iran when it is free of the mullahs who oppress the people, preach hatred and export terrorism.

After I left Iran in search of freedom, I lived in California, Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee for some time. Then, 20 years ago, I became a resident of Ashraf, along with others who support the People's Mojaheedin of Iran (PMOI), the principal Iranian opposition movement and dream of returning home one day.

Since the American-led invasion of Iraq, we lived - unarmed and in peace - under the protection of U.S. forces and the Geneva Conventions. But since the United States agreed to withdraw its forces from Iraq, we've been at the mercy of Baghdad, which is more and more becoming good buddies with Tehran.

The situation came to a head July 28, when some 2,000 Iraqi forces stormed Ashraf, and to add insult to injury, used American Humvees and weapons to do so, while the Americans stood by and watched. The attack left 11 dead and 500 injured - and the Iraqis took 36 Ashraf residents as hostages. I was one of them.

At first, we were held outside Ashraf. During the first days of captivity we were severely beaten, and went through physical and psychological torture. Some of us who were run over by Humvees and hit by bullets were in excruciating pain.

Then, we were transferred to the local prison in the city of Khalis. From there, they took us to an Iraqi military intelligence detention center and finally to the prison at al-Muthana airfield. The goal was to break us down. But we refused to give in.

In protestof the raid and being taken hostage, we went to a hunger strike and refused food for weeks, and we prayed for deliverance. We had no idea what was happening or why we were being held. And we had no idea of the support we were getting around the world.

It was only after our release that we learned of hunger strikes outside the White House and the U.S. Embassy in London, at Ashraf and other places in Europe - all in support of our cause and of justice.

Our release was ordered three times by the court in Khalis, our initial stop. Iraq's prosecutor general sent out the order for our immediate release to all the police stations throughout Iraq. Yet, the Iraqi police and the government refused to implement the order due to pressures and demands from Tehran.

Finally, after 65 days, and with hope almost gone as we were transferred to Baghdad we decided to refuse not only food, but water as well.

As the days went by - one, then two, then three - hope faded even more. But we were adamant. Some of my friends went into comas, and were taken away by Iraqi guards. We found out later that they were taken to a hospital. And then, on the 72nd day of our hunger strike - and the seventh day of dry hunger strike as we were struggling between life and death - our prayers were answered.

We were freed. We were taken to Ashraf medical center. The doctors told me that several of us probably were only hours from death.

How we survived, I'll never know. It had to be God's will - that we should live to tell our story, so that incidents like this should never happen again.

We also learned of the worldwide support we received from organizations like Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, the World Organization Against Torture, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, and countless parliamentarians, international figures, and committees around the globe. We might have owed our lives to their efforts.

But that doesn't mean Tehran will stop trying to wipe out Ashraf and its opponents anywhere it can reach them. That's why the world community must act.

To prevent a repetition of what happened to me and other Ashraf residents, the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the European Union must step in.

The U.S. government, which signed an agreement with every single Ashraf resident, must guarantee secure protection of Ashraf residents at least until the end of 2011, while U.S. forces are present in Iraq.

The United Nations should deploy a permanent monitoring team in Ashraf to prevent further violence and a repeat of the attack or forced displacement of these people. And the fundamental rights and protections of Ashraf residents under the Fourth Geneva Convention must be recognized as stipulated in the European Parliament resolution adopted last April.

This would be a fitting time for President Obama to fulfill the Nobel Peace Prize committee's faith in him by using his "bully pulpit" in the cause of peace and security for the peaceful resident of Ashraf.

I don't want anyone else to find out firsthand how long one can go without water and live... Read More

 

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Iraq: The unthinkable happened on July 28th
This eyewitness account by a victim of Iraqi brutality against defenseless Iranian dissidents in Iraq is must reading -- on both humanitarian and national interest grounds.

By Mostafa Sanaie

The Huffington Post

October 20, 2009

Mostafa Sanaie is a flight engineer. He studied in Northrop University, California. He is an expert in flight engineering of Boeing 727. He has been living in Ashraf, Iraq for the past 20 years.

Ashraf, Iraq - On October 7, as the sun came up and I sat in my little prison cell in a suburb of Baghdad, I realized this could be the last sunrise I would see.

I always loved the sun. It is particularly gorgeous this time of year in Baghdad. But I was too frail to stand up to see it. I could have asked for help as I was surrounded by 35 friends. But none of them was in a position to help.

It was the 72nd day of our hunger strike, the last seven a dry hunger strike, meaning that for the past seven days we had refused to even take water. There was a deafening silence in the room. Each minute I and my friends knew our lives were ebbing.

Though I was in an Iraqi jail, I am not Iraqi. I am Iranian who has lived in Iraq for the past 23 years. All 36 of us are Iranian dissidents. all 3,400 of us live in a place called Camp Ashraf, a self-sustained community about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It was built by my relatives and friends, all members of the opposition People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI).

Residents of Ashraf lived in peace side-by-side with their Iraqi neighbors until the 2003 invasion by the U.S. and its Coalition allies. Then, we handed over our arms to the U.S. voluntarily and signed agreements with the U.S. to remain where we were as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

We were content to remain in Ashraf, live our lives in peace and strive to achieve our goals. But, when the U.S. signed an agreement with the Malaki government in Baghdad to withdraw its forces over the next two years, the rulers in Tehran saw an opportunity to try to remove a thorn (the PMOI) from its side.

Given the tumultuous state of affairs in Iran after the rigged elections, it was more imperative for the clerical regime to destroy its arch enemies. The mullahs prevailed on their friends within the Iraqi government to move on defenseless and civilian Ashraf residents.

The unthinkable happened on July 28: Iraqi forces, trained by the U.S. and using American grenades and humvees, raided Ashraf and started using fire arms three hours after the raid. Eleven people were killed, 500 wounded, and 36 - my friends and I - were taken away.

We were severely beaten. We were severely wounded as the result of the beatings and being run over by Iraqi humvees, with some suffering broken limbs. We all staged a hunger strike to protest our illegal arrest and the physical and psychological torture during detention. Our journey to an unknown future began.

After days in a makeshift cell outside Ashraf, we were taken to a prison in the city of Khalis. The judge, after reviewing all the evidence, issued three consecutive verdicts for our immediate release. But the Iraqi government ignored them.

Instead of being released, on October 1, we were beaten in our cells and taken ultimately to al-Muthana Prison in a Baghdad suburb. That's when we decided not to take in water, even though we knew we were fighting the clock.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, Human Rights Watch, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, and hundreds of parliamentarians, Members of U.S. Congress and international figures, embarked a campaign for our release.

On that sunny morning, as my life ebbed, my mind was on all the years that had gone by. One thought kept coming back: My ultimate dream of a free and democratic Iran; this was the goal that first had taken me to Ashraf as a young man and had given me the impetus throughout this saga.

I had lost the sense of time when the door to our cell was opened. I saw more troops. What did they want on our last day? What is left to be said? They knew we would not cave in to their demands.

But they said we were released and were going back to Ashraf. Our hunger strike and the international pressures compelled Iraqis to release us. We arrived there, on the verge of death, and were taken immediately to receive urgent medical care.

Now, I am hardly back on my feet and can enjoy the beautiful sun again - and I have a story to tell. But why should anyone listen?

The reason is simple: what happened to us can happen to others unless something is done to protect the defenseless residents of Ashraf. The mullahs want them eliminated, and regrettably they have the ear of Baghdad now that the U.S. is leaving.

It is essential that a permanent UN monitoring team be deployed in Ashraf to prevent further attacks and our forced displacement as well as to ensure the safeguarding of our fundamental rights and protections under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Also, the U.S. government must keep its agreement with the people of Ashraf that U.S. forces will protect them at least until the end of 2011, when the American withdrawal is completed.

And the world must watch what happens because it will be an indicator of which way Iraq is going - further into Tehran's camp or into a new future as a true democracy in the Middle East... Read More

 

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European Parliament adopts urgent resolution on Iran
NCRI Web Site

Friday, 23 October 2009
NCRI - The European Parliament adopted an urgent resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran on Thursday in Strasbourg. The MEPs called for the release of prisoners arrested in the demonstrations that followed the June 2009 sham elections, the abolition of the death penalty and respect for press freedom.

Number of MEPs recalled the late July attack by Iraqi forces on members of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK), in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which was carried out upon the order of Khamenei, mullahs’ Supreme Leader. They called for implementation of the April 24, 2009 European Parliament resolution on the rights of Ashraf residents.

The resolution condemned “the massive and excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and possible torture to repress protest movements since Iran's controversial presidential election.”

MEPs demanded that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to see all prisoners, with no exception.

MEPs reiterated their call for abolishment of death penalty. They condemned death sentences and executions in Iran, particular those issued or carried out on juvenile delinquents or minors.

MEPs protested against “the execution in Iran, on 11 October, of minor Behnood Shojaee, who was hanged in breach of recognised international legal guarantees in this area.”

Prior to the voting, a number of MEPs from various political groups condemned the violations of human rights in Iran and criticized the EU’s appeasement policy toward the mullahs in Iran and called for imposition of economic sanctions.

Some MEPs called for immediate intervention of the United Nations and deployment of a permanent UN monitoring team in Camp Ashraf to prevent further attacks on the Camp’s residents and their forced displacement to other locations within Iraq... 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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