Iran-Iraq: MEP Ana Gomes, Savior of Scavengers?

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“The poor herd is enslaved and surrounded by a rocky mountain and there is no way through for them in sight. The Coyotes are planning a swift massacre of the herd and the watchful eye of the bystander is thinking of how balanced the herd is and how well they are breeding. In no time the bystander has already decided that the herd is no more than a wild bunch of animals which may be a threat to themselves if let alone and also to landscape. In the mean time, the scavengers start tearing the little ones one by one….”

This is not a Natural History Monthly article.

Ana Maria Gomes
Ana Maria Gomes, Portuguese MEP

The opening paragraph is a tragic parallel depicting a controversial debate which took place in European Parliament on 24 April last. The situation arose when several EP groups put to vote a resolution to prevent the possibility of a Humanitarian Catastrophe involving 3500 activists enchained in Camp Ashraf- Iraq, by the pro- Iranian Movafaghal Robaee under direct orders of Tehrans’ religious Leader Khamenei.

It has been months since the fate of the threatened 3500 opposition members to Iranian regime in Iraq had been reported in news media as a Humanitarian crisis to be prevented.

Amnesty International, the ICRC, UNHCR, UNAMI, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and over 2,000 European Parliamentarians have all made their positions very clear in support of the rights of Ashraf residents.

The issue is unanimously favored worldwide with some exceptions: Ms. Ana Maria Gomes of Portugal, a socialist member of the EU.

While in an international campaign, Euro-MPs were trying to establish a logical solution for the safekeeping of the 3500 opposition members in Camp Ashraf, Ms. Gomes alone played judge, jury and witness to arbitrarily condemn the residents to a fate with no guarantee.

Mrs.Gomes made repeated inflammatory and dangerous statements which could have amounted to breach of International Humanitarian Law. Her fictitious argument was far beyond the mandate of an impartial, justice seeking MEP and unfortunately paved the way for a humanitarian catastrophe.

Impartial and Lawful Or Peremptory?

“Ana Maria Gomes; Mr President, some in this Chamber want to present the People’s Mujahedin (PMOI) as heroes or a true alternative to the Iranian regime. They are neither.”*

Would this opening tenet by the Honorable representative, resemble anything but a prejudgment soaked with poisoned verbal rhetoric deliberated with instant urge to eradicate a problem in due process?

Of course Mrs. Gomes, being a clever politician, and having worked much with her Iranian counterparts (3), had no illusions as to what may happen to the victims. Mrs. Gomes refurnished the facade of her support for the mullahs in beautifully politicized words to neutralize her rivals and said; “This resolution is not about the Iranian regime, which has been repressing its people, mismanaging the country and destabilizing the Middle East for decades. Anyone who presents a vote for the PSE and Green amendments, which aim to balance the tone of this resolution, as a vote for the Iranian regime, is either arguing in bad faith or has simply run out of arguments”.

The resolution was finally passed in support for the complete implementation of IHL and IL and Conventions with relation to Ashraf residents (4)

Facts and Fiction

The lies the mullahs have repeated in the past 20 years are echoed in Ms Gomes’ bold statement in the session. She takes the word of a regime which uses terror at home and sponsors it abroad.

The following is a distinction between fictions mandated by the Iranian terror machine and established facts:

FICTION; Ms.Gomes “In my trips to Iraq, I have heard Kurdish, Sunni, Shia, Christian, Turkman leaders and others complain about the role of the People’s Mujahedin as a tool of Saddam Hussein in the 1988 Anfar campaign, which culminated in massacres such as Halabja.”

FACT; The fact is that PMOI played absolutely no role in the suppression of Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in 1991 in Iraq. Months before the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War, in fact, the Mojahedin evacuated all of its bases in the Kurdish areas in the north and in the south of Iraq, relocating instead in the central region, near the Iran-Iraq frontier. The purpose was to avoid involvement in internal Iraqi affairs. 5

In a 1999 letter to a court in the Netherlands, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq (later Iraq’s Foreign Minister)) wrote, “(We) can confirm that the Mujahedeen were not involved in suppressing the Kurdish people neither during the uprising nor in its aftermath. We have not come across any evidence to suggest that the Mujahedeen have exercised any hostility towards the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.” 6

In 1995, International Educational Development, a non-governmental organization with consultative status with the United Nations, refuted the charges about the PMOI’s role in the crackdown on the Kurdish uprising, noting that they were part of a well-orchestrated misinformation campaign by the Iranian regime to discredit the PMOI. “From our independent investigation and discussion with parties involved, we find these allegations false,” wrote International Educational Development, a non-governmental organization with consultative status with the United Nations, on August 22, 1995. 7

And in a statement on December 2, 2006, a senior official of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan announced unequivocally that the “PMOI has never acted against the Kurdish people in Iraq, and has not been involved in any suppressive action against them. The rumors spread by the Ministry of Intelligence of Iran are all false and a conspiracy.”

FICTION; Ms. Gomes; “We must understand the reluctance of the Iraqi Government to let Camp Ashraf continue to be a nuisance to their good neighbourly relations (2) with Iran. For Iraqis, Iran cannot be wished away. It is there. It is a powerful neighbour. It is true that the People’s Mujahedin are no longer on the terrorist list, but they are still an opaque cult which brutalises those of its members who wish to defect.”

FACT; the Fact is that only a week before the residents were barricaded in Camp Ashraf and deprived of outside world contact by Iraqi security forces, it was the Iranian regime Supreme leader Khamenei who had in a televised, message called the “Mujahedin, a cult and hypocrite” a threat to his regime and demanded Iraqi government to as good will gesture eradicate the camp and its residents for a “good neighborly relation”.

FICTION: Ms.Gomes; “We want to present the whole picture of human rights violations and threats in and around Camp Ashraf… Above all, we express our concern about the reported practices of mental and physical manipulation and severe human rights violations within the cult. In short, this is about the individual human rights of the people in Camp Ashraf. Let us have these people and their human rights in mind when we vote.”

FACT; It has been some moths since Ashraf residents have been individually and independently interviewed by ICRC and UNHCR representatives as a gesture to verify all repugnant, ill manifested accusations – whose source is no other than the Iranian mullahs’ propaganda machine, in order to construct an effective solution for the crisis.

On the other hand, whether some individuals might consider the PMOI (or any other political organization) to have features of a “cult” has nothing whatever to do with whether the individuals or PMOI members have the right to life on the basic values stipulated in the Basic principles of UN charter of Human rights which state the right to take refuge under situations when their lives and livelihood is at stake. Any attempt to jeopardize this under critical times of physical and psychological threat will constitute a crime against Humanity.

Not only these independent observations, but statements by senior U.S. officers who spent time in Ashraf sharply dispute charges that the People of Ashraf are being abused, brainwashed, or held against their will. Colonel (now Brig. Gen.) David Phillips commanded the 89th Military Police Brigade and, in that role, was responsible for the safety and security of the Camp for all of 2004.

Regarding charges that abuse was occurring at Ashraf, he wrote in a letter dated May 27, 2005:

I directed my subordinate units to investigate each allegation. In many cases I personally led inspection teams on unannounced visits to the [PMOI] facilities where the alleged abuses were reported to occur… Each report of torture, kidnapping and psychological deprivation turned out to be unsubstantiated… I was exceptionally impressed with the dedication of the female units. These units were professional and displayed strong support for freedom, democracy and equality for women. 8

Another United States Army officer, Lt. Col. Julie S. Norman, commanded the MP battalion at Camp Ashraf from September 2005 to August 2006. She wrote, in a letter dated August 24, 2006, that the environment in Ashraf was quite open and that “normally, PMOI members invite their families, friends and colleagues who live in Iran or foreign countries to Ashraf for visits.” She went on to describe the democratic, peaceful, and calming influence the PMOI exerted over their Iraqi environment:

The PMOI has encouraged and assisted various Iraqi groups to join the political process and dialogue with U.S. forces. This clearly indicates that the ideals of the PMOI are democracy and freedom… This action by the PMOI has helped to establish a safe and secure environment…

The PMOI has been encouraging peaceful methods in its surrounding community for the establishment of a secure and democratic Iraq and has respected the laws of Iraq. The relationship between the PMOI and inhabitants of regions surrounding Ashraf has played a positive role in providing security in the area… The Iraqis who have talked to our forces have expressed positive and sympathetic opinion about residents of Ashraf.9

Many members of parliaments in Europe, including Lord Slynn of Hadley, former judge at the European Court of Justice and a former Law Lord in Britain, who visited Ashraf on a number of occasions, report finding its residents to be an extraordinary collection of mainly middle-class, university-educated activists united by their genuine commitment to bringing democracy to their homeland.

The Friends of a Free Iran Inter-group in the European Parliament sent delegations to Ashraf four times, most recently in June 2008. Following detailed investigations, it too concluded that allegations of mistreatment of the People of Ashraf were totally unfounded.

During these visits, parliamentarians also had the opportunity to speak privately with hundreds of members of the PMOI, both male and female and, as reflected in their reports, formed the impression that PMOI members are sincerely committed to bringing about a political transformation in Iran through democratic means.

Moreover, the many rallies and gatherings of PMOI supporters around the world, in which tens of thousands of Iranians of all walks of life participate, belie the characterization of the group as in any way resembling a cult. After a 30,000-strong meeting near Paris in July 2006, The New York Times quite correctly observed that “Mrs. Rajavi has built a loyal following among middle-class Iranian immigrants across Europe.” 10

At the End there is always a Beginning: Is it right to allow” Those who serve the Scavengers” pave the way for a Humanitarian Catastrophe?

References;

5 Reuters, dispatch from Damascus, March 27, 1991

6 “U.S. Says Iraq-based Iran Opposition Aids Iraq Government,” by Jonathan Wright, Reuters, May 22, 2002

7 Implications of Humanitarian Activities for The Enjoyment of Human Rights, written statement submitted by International Educational Development, United Nations Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Forty-seventh session, Agenda item 19, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/NGO/55, August 22, 1995.

8 Col. David Phillips, Commander 89th Military Police Brigade, letter to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, May 27, 2005.

9 Col. David Phillips, Commander 89th Military Police Brigade, letter to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, May 27, 2005.

Lt. Col. Julie S. Norman, JIATF Commander, US Army, Memorandum for the Record, August 24, 2006.

10 Craig Smith, “Rally in France for Exiled Foe of Iran’s Rulers, the New York Times, July 2, 2006.

Original debate of members during 24th April EP session

Text of EP resolution on Ashraf Camp