January 24, 2018

U.S. must step up to help exiled Iranians in Iraq’s Camp Ashraf

Detroit Free Press
June 17, 2011

After the death of Bin Laden, the world is again focusing on the Arab spring with even more vigor, because the message of Arab Spring is opposite to that of Bin Laden — freedom, democracy, and secular Islam.

When Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi began to fire on his own people, the United Nations stepped in — as it should have — with air strikes to protect civilians and stem the brutal attacks.

In Iraq, there is a similar situation, and perhaps even worse. Many Iraqi citizens have been gunned down in Baghdad and other cities because they called Maliki “a liar,” and wanted a better living condition for the country.

Iraqi forces, at the behest of, and with the assistance of the Iranian regime, have fired on guests in the country — unarmed defenseless men, women and children. The only way to describe this action is as a human rights crime.

The scene of the this horrific act is Camp Ashraf, a mini-city north of Baghdad that has been a peaceful home for two decades to exiles from Iran’s mullahs’ — 3,400 men, women and children who are members of Iran’s principal opposition movement, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK).  But Ashraf no longer is peaceful.

On April 8, Iraqi forces invaded the camp and mercilessly slaughtered 35 residents of Ashraf, including eight women, and wounded hundreds more.

The onslaught infuriated members of Congress. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the Secretary of State, expressing concern about the deadly raid, which described as “extremely troubling” and “directly contradict(ing) the Government of Iraq’s commitment to protect Camp Ashraf residents according to our agreement with them and in accord with its international obligations.”

Equally encouraging was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who said, “United Nations confirmation of the scope of last week’s tragedy at Camp Ashraf is deeply disturbing and the Iraqi military action is simply unacceptable.” He then suggested steps that need to be taken, “the Iraqis must stop the bleeding and refrain from any further military action against Camp Ashraf.” Senator Kerry added, “the investigation must hold accountable the responsible parties and ensure that there will be no sequel to these horrific events.”

Kerry described the current situation at Camp Ashraf as “untenable,” and concluded, “The United States must redouble efforts with all the relevant parties — including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Mujahedin-e Khalq itself — to seek a peaceful and durable solution, and to find permanent homes for the residents of Camp Ashraf.”

Particularly disturbing is that Maliki is doing the bidding of Tehran, which sees the MEK as a major threat, and for good reason.

The MEK wants to bring democracy to Iran, something that is far from the minds of the mullahs. Indeed, they are terrified of anyone who supports a democratic Iran, which is why they not only are masterminding the action at Camp Ashraf but are fighting demonstrations in the streets of Iran’s cities and having public hangings of dissidents.

It is heartening that the world, including senior American officials from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, as well as French and European politicians, has called for an immediate end to Iraqi occupation of the camp forces and ensuring the protection of its residents by the United States and the United Nations.

The U.S., EU and UN should intervene quickly to protect Ashraf from the assaulting Iraqi forces from Ashraf, and as dozens of senior officials of Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations have recently said, the U.S. should remove the MEK from the terrorist list so it can be able to work for a free Iran in full throttle. In his letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Levin requested that the State Department “accelerate its review of the Mujahadeen-Khalq’s designation.”

The terrorist designation was meant to curry favor with the ruling Ayatollahs in Iran to alter their outlaw behavior; that policy has badly failed.

The Ashraf situation has once again demonstrated who the terrorists are – and it’s not the MEK. To the contrary, as Andy Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush said, “the MEK is the example that others can follow in the entire region of the Middle East.” That example is a free Iran, which is crucial for a democratic, secular, and non-belligerent region.

Mike Khodadost is the president of the Iranian-American Cultural Society of Michigan.