London, 19 Jul – Three former United States, European and United Nations officials with strong backgrounds in Iraq have condemned a food and fuel siege imposed since last week on several thousand Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty in Iraq.
The dissidents are all members of Iran’s main opposition group People’s Mojahedin (Mujahedin-e-Khalq, PMOI, MEK).
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Paris-based opposition coalition that includes the PMOI (MEK), announced last week that since Tuesday Iraq’s government has barred the entry of food, fuel and septic trucks to Camp Liberty. It said in a statement that the restrictions had been imposed on the orders of Iraq’s National Security Adviser Faleh Fayaz at the behest of Tehran.
Struan Stevenson, a former chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iraq from Scotland, at a press conference in the UK’s House of Commons on Thursday described the “crisis” in Camp Liberty now as “absolutely catastrophic”.
“Why is it that after two days of 50°C heat in Baghdad during Ramadan, the food supplies, fuel supplies, and medical supplies are not being allowed to enter the camp?”
“These people now without fuel have no air conditioning, their food is rotting in the heat in the trucks that have been barred from access to the camp, and their medicines in the refrigerators with no electricity are going wrong”.
Stevenson, currently President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), who has visited Iraq several times and has followed the situation closely over the years lashed out against the United Nations and said: “Why is it in a refugee camp the United Nations simply washes its hands, turns its back and walks away? They should hold their heads in shame. This is an absolute disgrace”.
PMOI (MEK) members in Camp Liberty have been recognised by the UN Refugee Agency as “refugees” and “persons of concern”.
“I am appalled that we have watched for many, many months as the siege of Camp Liberty has continued with the 2,500 registered refugees being denied proper access to medical care, to medicines, they are denied visits from friends, family members, lawyers, or Members of Parliament”, Stevenson said.
“But I want to say to the United Nations: why are they not standing up and being counted? All 2500 people in Camp Liberty are registered refugees so how is it that they are incarcerated inside security fences with guard towers with machine guns pointing in at them and not pointing out protecting them from terrorist attacks?”
The Scottish politician said he had written on Thursday to Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi “demanding that he end this blockade of Camp Liberty”, but he added: “It’s up to the United Nations to do something”.
“It is an absolute outrage, and the United Nations will be held to account for this as well as the Iraqis and Faleh Fayaz, the Iraqi puppet who’s in charge of the oppression of these people”.
In an online video conference on Friday Dr. Tahar Boumedra, a former head of the United Nations human rights office in Iraq, confirmed that Iraq’s National Security Advisor was enforcing the siege. Boumedra said he expected the situation would only get worse. “The Iranians will put more pressure on the Iraqis to persecute the Ashrafis”, he said, referring to PMOI (MEK) members who had moved in 2012 from their home for a quarter of century, Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border, to Camp Liberty, next to Baghdad International Airport, at the request of the UN.
Boumedra accused the United State and UN of turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses at the camp for not wanting to upset the Iranian government. He urged the UN to “act proactively” to force Iraq to lift the siege on Camp Liberty.
The UN should “not wait until violations take place and then make condemnations”, he said. It must “take protective action before irreparable damage is done”.
Boumedra said the US had already recognised the PMOI (MEK) members in Camp Liberty as “persons of concern” and should therefore treat the camp as a refugee camp.
He said that the lack of action by the UN is leaving Camp Liberty residents exposed to abuses and maltreatment by the Iraqi government. The UN is violating its own moral standpoint and commitments by not respecting its own mandate, he said.
Colonel Wesley Martin, a retired former Chief Protection and Antiterrorism Officer of the coalition forces in Iraq and a former US commander in charge of protection at Camp Ashraf, told the same conference on Friday that the “the recent total blockade of all supplies coming in; is wrong, is inhumane, is in total violation of all the agreements that were made between the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the United States and the residents of Camp Liberty. This is illegal. It’s not just a blockade of equipment. It’s also a blockade of fuel, food – everything that the residents need to survive is now ongoing. And it’s ironic that this blockade started the very same day that the Iranian government and the US government announced that there is an agreement reached on nuclear weapons negotiations.”
Martin pressed Baghdad to lift its blockade on Camp Liberty, and he called for US and UN monitors to be stationed permanently at the camp.
The US government, he said, had previously issued “protected persons” cards to the PMOI (MEK) members at the camp and had vowed to protect them after they voluntarily turned in all their weapons following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Since 2009, the PMOI members in Camp Ashraf, and later in Camp Liberty, have faced six deadly attacks by pro-Tehran forces, including on several occasions by Iraqi troops, resulting in 116 deaths.