NewsSpecial WireMurder, kidnapping of Iranian refugees in Iraq raise alarm

Murder, kidnapping of Iranian refugees in Iraq raise alarm

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Iran Focus: London, Aug. 26 – The cold-blooded murder of three Iranian Kurds in a refugee camp west of the Iraqi capital and the abduction of two Iranian dissidents in recent days have led to speculations that the new hard-line government in Tehran is taking advantage of the worsening security situation in Iraq to liquidate its opponents who have taken refuge in the neighbouring country. Iran Focus

London, Aug. 26 – The cold-blooded murder of three Iranian Kurds in a refugee camp west of the Iraqi capital and the abduction of two Iranian dissidents in recent days have led to speculations that the new hard-line government in Tehran is taking advantage of the worsening security situation in Iraq to liquidate its opponents who have taken refuge in the neighbouring country.

Iranians in Al-Tash camp near the city of Ramadi reported this week that three Kurdish refugees from Iran living in the camp were gunned down by unidentified assailants. Their families’ repeated pleas to the Iraqi authorities have not led to any investigation into the murders, camp residents said.

On Tuesday, gunmen entered the camp and abducted Adel Rassoul Maref, an Iranian Kurd, in broad daylight. There has been no word on his fate since the abduction.

On Friday, August 19, eight gunmen raided the home of Galavij Mohammad, a refugee from Iranian Kurdistan living in Al-Tash. He was taken away at gunpoint, together with his daughter, Zana. Their bullet-riddled bodies were discovered by camp residents about two kilometres away.

On Thursday, August 4, two Iranian dissidents from the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) opposition group were abducted by gunmen in Iraqi Interior Ministry police uniform and patrol cars.

“There is clearly a pattern in this”, said Ahmed Shaikhli, a political scientist and university lecturer in the Iraqi capital, in a telephone interview. “For two years since the U.S. invasion, there were no major attacks on Iranian refugees in Iraq. Now we are seeing a significant number of abductions and killings. The obvious question is, why now?”

Analysts believe the new violence against Iranian dissidents in war-torn Iraq reflects a fresh assessment by Tehran’s hard-line leaders of the situation in their neighbouring state.

“Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have loyal protégés in powerful positions in some of the ministries and para-military organisations in Iraq”, said Tim Hawkins, a political analyst who covers Iraqi developments from his base in Kuwait. “What deterred the Iranians from a more violent approach in the past was their fear of possible American reprisals. Now, the Iranian leadership thinks it has a window of opportunity to act against its opponents in Iraq, because the Americans are deeply entangled in their own problems”.

The Islamic government’s officials have consistently demanded that Iranian dissidents in Iraq, particularly some 4,000 members of the MeK living under U.S. guard in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, be handed over to Tehran or expelled from Iraq. In a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Iran’s top diplomat in Baghdad again raised the issue, according to the official Iranian press.

Marc Henzelin, a prominent Geneva lawyer and a recognised expert on the law of armed conflict, said the coalition forces in Iraq have a duty, under international law, to protect Iranian dissidents and refugees in that country, as they fall under international safeguards offered by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“The law is quite clear on this: these persons must be protected against violence, abduction, and forced expulsion, including being sent back to Iran, where they would face severe consequences”, Henzelin, who is a professor of international humanitarian law at Geneva University, said.

Ahmed Shaikhli thinks Iraqi political figures must not accommodate what he calls Iran’s “unacceptable demands”, including actions against Iranian refugees in Iraq. He warns that Iraqi politicians who are perceived as serving Iran’s interests risk doing badly in the next elections in December.

“There is a deep sense of resentment among ordinary Iraqis about those who are doing Iran’s bidding”, Shaikhli said. “Most Iraqis want a democratic, secular, and decent government that would defend Iraq’s national interests, not Iran’s. You will see this resentment translate into votes in the next elections”.

For now, at least, the dangers facing Iranian dissidents and political refugees in Iraq are worrying both the Multi-national Force in Iraq (MNF-I) and international organisations. The U.S.-led MNF-I strongly condemned the abduction of two MeK members earlier this month and said it was working with the Iraqi authorities to find the missing men.

“MNF-I units have checked with numerous police and Ministry of Interior units and stations, and have notified the MNF-I hostage working group”, the multinational force said in a press release.

The Geneva-based office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross have also conveyed their concern over the abduction to Iraqi and coalition authorities, according to the victims’ families.

As the world watches the chilling scenes of mindless violence in Iraq, families and friends of murdered Iranian refugees in that country mourn their loss in silence.

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