Since the beginning of this year, Iran has hanged 490 prisoners, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in that country.
Under the current government, Iran is one of a very small number of nations which carries out public hangings and executes minors and those whose political or religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, do not conform to what the state thinks is right. The regime still stones women to death and uses the worst methods of torture on prisoners.
One of the biggest crimes that this regime has committed is the mass killing of 120,000 members and supporters of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which is dedicated to replacing the current regime with a democratic alternative.
Amongst those murdered are two of my own aunts. Afsaneh Rajabi, 22 years old, was executed by a firing squad in Tehran on 7 April 1983. She had escaped prison once, where she had faced horrific torture, and went underground. Some time later, an individual close to her was arrested and tortured into disclosing Afsaneh’s location. She was re-arrested and detained in Qasr and Evin prisons before being executed.
Zahra Rajabi was assassinated in Turkey by the Iranian regime.
My other aunt, Zahra Rajabi, 39, was assassinated on 20 February 1996 in Istanbul by a hit squad sent from Tehran and commanded by the mullahs’ consular secretary in that city. Zahra was a senior member of the PMOI and had arrived in Turkey a few days earlier to attend to the problems of Iranian refugees in that country.
A more recent crime against humanity, carried out by the Iranian regime, is the instructions they have given to destroy a refugee camp which has been home to 3,400 Iranian dissidents for over two decades. These residents took refuge in Iraq in order to escape the danger of getting killed by the Iranian regime.
Camp Ashraf’s residents are members of the PMOI. They have in the past two years come under bloody attack from an Iraqi regime acting on the orders of the Iranian government. In two separate attacks, the latest of which was in April this year, 47 innocent men and women were murdered by Iraqi forces firing on unarmed residents. Shots were aimed directly at the head and vital organs to ensure maximum death toll.
These crimes against Camp Ashraf residents took place despite the fact that all 3,400 members were given ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention at the time when US forces invaded Iraq. The US had promised to protect each individual from the Iranian regime.
The residents are today under 24/7 psychological torture through the use of 300 loud-speakers, which have been placed all around the camp by the Iranian regime. Through the speakers, they shout out abusive, humiliating and degrading words targeted mostly at the camp’s 1,000 female residents. One can only imagine the impact of such an intense and sickening method of mental torture on the residents.
Additionally, on numerous occasions, the Iraqi authorities have mentioned the plan to close the camp down ‘by all means’ by the end of 2011 and relocating the residents to another location within Iraq. This plan is the precursor for a further massacre.
This bloodbath in Camp Ashraf is a crime against humanity and cannot be ignored by the United Nations or the international community. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has taken an important step in recognizing the residents as asylum seekers, while the EU has added its support for finding a solution to this humanitarian crisis by appointing a special representative for Camp Ashraf. The international community must now support and facilitate a permanent UN presence at the camp until such time as the UNHCR has dealt with the refugee applications of the residents. Granting the residents status as asylum seekers will be futile if they are left in the hands of an Iraqi regime intent on their murder.
Fail to act and another massacre will ensue. This time the number of deaths will undoubtedly be in the hundreds. The international community must act now.