Last Tuesday on 26th of July, a very interesting meeting titled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The View from Congress” was held at the US House of Representatives. A bi-partisan panel of U.S. Congress and senior former public and national security officials expressed their views about the US obligations to protect the people in Camp Ashraf, and prospects of a democratic change in Iran.
Camp Ashraf is home to 3,400 internationally protected persons, Iranian dissidents of the PMOI/MEK, the largest and most organized group opposed to the mullah’s dictatorship. Their goal is to establish democracy and freedom Iran, something that the mullahs strongly dislike.
Few months ago in April, Camp Ashraf, just inside Iraq and near the Iranian border, was very brutally attacked by Iraqi forces purportedly stationed there to protect the residents. 36 unarmed residents were killed, including 8 women, and over 300 were wounded most of them by direct gunshots. This was the last of a series of deadly attacks against Ashraf directed by the Iraqi PM Maleki in recent years who have established a very cozy relationship with the Iranian regime of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, much to the detriment of the free world.
Iran has long wanted to destroy Ashraf with all its residents. But the reason why Iraq – a country liberated by the United States – to the surprise of many is able to play the cards of the mullahs and be so cruel to these unarmed refugees, is that the US State Department, just like Iranian regime, has designated the MEK an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization). The reason for that? To appease the dictators in Tehran!
The panel at the Capitol Hill, was formed by The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), joined by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former US Senator; and Professor
Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.
At the meeting Judge Poe said: “It’s time to delist the MEK because as long as the MEK is designated as an FTO it will be harder to preserve freedom for those people in Camp Ashraf and Mr. Maliki and his government and the Iranian government both use that designation by the United States as a reason to oppress those residents. We don’t need to continue to allow them to have that reason”. Mr Poe was part of a Congressional delegation who visited Iraq in June to investigate the crimes committed at Ashraf. But Mr Maliki whom they had a 2-hour-long meeting with barred the delegation from visiting Ashraf. “Apparently because those in the Camp were going to tell us the truth”, Mr Poe concluded at the meeting.
In Washington, a lobby group affiliated to the Iranian government called National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), headed by Trita Parsi, has started a massive demonization campaign to convince the State Department that the MEK should remain on the FTO list.
Mr. John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service with 28 in CIA said at the meeting: “Much of this so-called lobby is orchestrated by the MOIS through provisions on misleading, actually completely erroneous information disinformation… disinformation campaigns basically are feeble attempt to convince the United States and its organizations, the State Department, even Congress, as well as the international observers that the MEK should remain on the foreign terrorist organizations”
One of the absurd labels attributed to the MEK by the regime lobbies is that it has an Islamic-Marxit ideology! Now how can you mix Marxism which rejects the existence of God with Islam which is entirely based on faith in God? On this issue Senator Torricelli said at the meeting: “The MEK is not a Marxist organization! It simply is not. You can say it. You can keep writing it. You can repeat it all day long, but it is not Marxist. Ms. Rajavi in her speech in Rome laid out the platform and the charter of the organization. It believes in free enterprise and human rights, denuclearization, peaceful relations in its neighborhood, a democratic multi-party system.
You may not want to hear it, but with the lack of any other evidence just denying it may be your case, but it makes you look more ridiculous than right.” He continued: “What is it the people of Camp Ashraf want? What are they demands? You know what, they want to live! They’ve been attacked twice. People are losing their lives. And if the problem is not solved there’s a very real chance by the end of this year many more are going to lose their lives because policy is being dictated from Tehran, not Washington, and not Baghdad. It is a real problem.”
The individuals in Camp Ashraf are in a very difficult time, because the Iraqi government has said that they want to close the camp by the end of this year. Like thousands of others who have relatives in the Camp I am worried about the destiny of my family. Imagine for a second that you have to wait to see your parents get massacred in a few months…
I am very happy to see that there is so much support in the Congress and so many noble human beings that are speaking the truth. But I am still confused of why the US State Department is waiting so long and does not delist the MEK from the FTO list? Because as Senator Torricelli said, the time is running and the destiny of people in Ashraf is in the hand of the US State Department. I am not a Senator or a congressman or former government official.
I am just a 22 year old Iranian, with my whole family in Ashraf. They left all they had for the cause of freedom in Iran. For me this is not just about playing with words or politics, it is about people’s lives. I do not want to see my family massacred by the Iraqi forces at the end of this year and that all depends on the decision of Secretary Clinton.
A petition campaign to urge Secretary Clinton to delist the MEK has just started on internet. I ask you all to please add your names to this.
At the end, I just want to add this: Thank you, US Members of Congress and Senators and former US officials for your brave and noble support for freedom and democracy. You have shown that our cause is your cause too and when there is a place in this world that is threatened by the forces of evil you and the American people will stand with us for freedom and human rights because America’s security is bonded to a guarantee of security, human rights, and freedom for the people of the rest of this planet. The Iranian people have risen for democracy and freedom, as have all the peoples of the region. Please don’t let them down.