New Internationalist

Camp Ashraf under fire

As a young Iranian who has eight members of his family resident in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, I woke last Thursday morning to news of an attack on the Camp which houses over 3,400 members of the Iranian resistance, an attack which has led to the death of 34 civilians and the wounding of 350 with a further six having been taken hostage.

Minutes seemed like hours and hours like days watching footage of what I can only describe as a massacre. Unarmed civilians were being mowed down by armoured vehicles and Humvees as forces took aim and shot residents in the heart, head and neck, ensuring that each shot either led to death or serious wounding. This is a crime against humanity for which Nouri Al-Maliki must be brought before international criminal courts.

As Reporters Without Borders said in a statement, ‘The security forces are denying journalists access to the camp to hide abuses committed against civilians. Anyone trying to take photographs of the clashes is being attacked in a systematic and targeted fashion.’

However, put simply, the story of Camp Ashraf is not one of one man’s family, but that of an entire nation’s hope for change, democratic change in Iran, where people can enjoy the freedoms that I have enjoyed in my life in the UK. From a personal point of view it is the reaction of the US and UK which has disappointed me more than anything else. I expect nothing from an Iraqi leadership led by Nouri Al-Maliki, whose allegiances lie with the Iranian regime and not with his own people.

When the US-led coalition entered Iraq in 2003 I believed the future of my family and all residents was safe. Years passed and the residents were granted ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention and each and every resident was provided with a personal guarantee by the US authorities that their rights would be protected in Iraq. Shamefully, I now know that hours before last week’s attack took place US forces that were stationed inside Camp Ashraf were ordered to leave and do nothing to prevent the pending massacre of unarmed civilians.

I ask the British and US authorities a simple question: is this the Iraq for which so many of our young men and women sacrificed their lives? The entire British and US population should be appalled at the crisis now developing at Camp Ashraf. Men and women who have dedicated their lives to bringing democracy to Iran are being handed over like lambs to the slaughter to butchers in Iraq.

I personally hold the British and US governments responsible for these deaths and unless they act immediately, more innocent blood will be shed. The US are there on the ground and they must as a matter of urgency immediately take all the wounded to the US military hospital for treatment. The legal duty to protect the Camp clearly falls upon the US, who remain on the ground in Iraq; the UN, who have a presence there; and the British as a member of the US-led coalition which entered Iraq. The US and UN must immediately demand the removal of Iraqi forces from the Camp and the release of the six hostages, and further take action to reassume control over the safety and security of the Camp.

Act now and the lives of my family members may be saved, but for as long as Iraqi forces remain inside the Camp and in control of the safety and security of it I shall continue to wake every morning fearing that my family may be the next victims of Nouri Al-Maliki’s murderous regime.

Click here for more on the background to Camp Ashraf.

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