February 23, 2018

Refugees or terrorists? They’ll soon be dead


They are half-a-world away and there are only seven of them, but the members of Parliament on a House of Commons human rights committee are doing whatever they can for the 3,400 refugees at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, who, the MPs believe, are in imminent danger.

There are two Canadians among the refugees. They remain at Ashraf voluntarily despite offers from Canadian consular officials to get them out of what could, within days, become a very dicey situation.

Last month, diplomats convinced nine other Canadians to leave the camp.

Today, Canadian officials will travel from Jordan to Camp Ashraf, at some risk to their own personal security, to check on conditions and on the two Canadians who refuse to leave.

The rest, though, are mostly Iranian refugees opposed to the ayatollahs who govern their homeland. Their political organization was created in the 1960s and is called the National Liberation Army of the Mujahedin e-Khalq or MeK.

During the Iran-Iraq war they were armed by Saddam Hussein and used by that dictator to kill many thousands of Iranians.

They are also alleged to have killed Kurds, at Hussein’s urging, and committed other violent acts in the name of their cause. But since 2001, those at Camp Ashraf have given up their weapons.

Nonetheless, they are, above all else, enemies of the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But Iran’s president has a new friend in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and, as soon as U.S. forces withdraws all its troops from Iraq at the end of the year, Maliki — many experts will tell you — will hand those 3,400 refugees and enemies of Ahmadinejad over to Ahmadinejad himself.

“They will face the prison and the gallows (and) the fight for democracy in Iran will take a severe blow,” Wes Martin told this small group of Canadian MPs last week. Martin is a retired U.S. marine colonel who was once the commander of Camp Ashraf while it was under U.S. control.

So why doesn’t the U.S. or its allies in the West save these 3,400 refugees?

We won’t because officially the MeK are all terrorists. Officially, we think they’re the bad guys because of those violent acts committed a generation or more ago.

Canada has designated the MeK as a terrorist organization since 2005 and just re-affirmed that status in 2010. The U.S. has had them on the list since 1997.

Because MeK is on the list, banks and financial institutions are required to freeze its assets. Listing also prohibits all persons in Canada, as well as Canadians abroad, from knowingly dealing with this entity and its assets.

Martin — whose other job in Iraq was being in charge of all anti-terrorism operations for the entire U.S. military — thinks we’ve got it backwards.

“I cannot say with enough emphasis that the MeK is not a terrorist organization,” Martin told MPs. “As a matter of fact, I found just the opposite when I was commander of Camp Ashraf, and they were my allies.”

Scott Reid, the Conservative MP who chairs this human rights committee, and all his MP colleagues had trouble Tuesday squaring Martin’s assessment with evaluations provided to them by Canadian bureaucrats who had never visited Ashraf.

“They’re just people,” he told his committee Tuesday. “They’re probably going to be dead people pretty soon. That’s our worry.”