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On Friday, February 17, 2012, as a goodwill gesture, 400 Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq since 1986, many with families and relatives in the United States, began their relocation from Camp Ashraf, their home of 25 years, to Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad international airport, even though minimum guarantees for their safety and security have not been provided by the Iraqi Government or the United Nations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has formally recognized the residents of Ashraf as “asylum seekers” and “persons of concern,” which entitles them to fundamental protections and security based on humanitarian standards.
Nevertheless, the Iraqi Government, with the tacit approval of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Martin Kobler, has relocated our loved ones to Camp Liberty which, contrary to its name, is, by all indications, more like a prison than a transitional facility for “asylum seekers”.
The Iraqi-imposed inhumane and humiliating conditions under which 400 residents were inspected and then transferred to Camp Liberty, as well as the atrociously sub-humane living conditions of the camp amply reveal the nefarious intentions of the Iraqi Government.
Equally appalling is the fact that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which is expected to be playing a humanitarian role, has increasingly acted to accommodate the Iraqi Government in exerting pressure against the residents.
Not surprising, emboldened by the UNAMI chief’s repeatedly one-sided actions and positions to the detriment of Ashraf residents, the Iraqi Government has heightened it’s blatant and repeated violations of the residents’ human rights and the December 25 Memorandum of Understating.
The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR), representing thousands of Iranian-Americans whose loved-ones reside in Camp Ashraf, urges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to uphold the United States’ long-standing moral and legal obligations to ensure safety and security of the residents of Ashraf, particularly those 400 who are now at the mercy of Iraqi Government in Camp Liberty.
Specifically, Secretary Clinton, in line with her assurances provided on February 15, should ensure that the Iraqi Government removes its draconian restrictions on the 400 Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, guarantee the withdrawal of the Iraqi police from inside the camp and the freedom of movement of the residents – as stipulated by the UNHCR, as well as the unhindered access of the residents to their lawyers and their families.
Absent these guarantees, the stage would be set by the Iraqi Government to seriously jeopardize the safety and security of our loved ones in Camp Liberty. USCCAR urges the United States to address the serious concerns regarding this camp, otherwise, the relocation of the rest of Ashraf residents will be rendered moot.
A stellar roster of former senior US officials and a bi-partisan group of members of US Congress have declared their readiness to visit Camp Liberty and confirm its suitability to accommodate the Iranian asylum seekers. Such a visit and unfettered access of journalists to the camp and its residents will help to assuage the widespread anxiety of US families of the residents over their safety. To this end, Secretary Clinton should use her good offices to facilitate such a visit.
Camp Ashraf is home to 3,400 members of Iran’s principal opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) and their families, who were recognized by the United States as “Protected Persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 2004.