Camp Ashraf Residents Taken Hostage Twice By Iraqi Government

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Here is an interview with a former hostage who was abducted by Iraqi forces on the previous attack on Camp Ashraf in 2009. They are now dealing again with a similar hostage taking by the Iraqi government after 4 years. This conversation might be of interest to NewsBlaze readers.

Mir Rahim Ghoreishi was one of the 36 hostages who were abducted by the Iraqi forces during the July 2009 attack on Camp Ashraf. He went on hunger strike and spent 72 days in the custody of Iraqi forces. He was finally returned to Ashraf when he was minutes away from death. He currently resides in Camp Liberty.

Given that 72 days have passed since the September 1st massacre in Camp Ashraf by Iraqi forces, where 52 residents were murdered and seven others were taken hostage, I went to see Mir Rahim and we had a short conversation about his experience as a hostage. I can share his story with you.

Q: Mr. Ghreishi would you tell us a bit about yourself and your experience as a hostage in 2009.

I and 35 other residents of Camp Ashraf were abducted by Iraqi forces during the attack they staged on Camp Ashraf in July 2009. I was handcuffed and thoroughly beaten by the assailants before being taken away. I spent 72 days in the custody of Iraqi forces, in different prisons.

Q: During the time of your imprisonment, was there any judiciary process?

We were put on trial in a local court in the city of Khalis. Since we were involved in no crime and, on the contrary, were victims of the attack on Camp Ashraf, the court quickly gave the order to have us released. But the Prime Minister’s office intervened and decided to keep us in prison, against the court’s verdict.

Q: Please describe the conditions of the prisons to us.

At first we were taken to a small trailer that was near Camp Ashraf’s main entrance, the Lion’s Gate. Ironically, this trailer was one among many trailers and facilities that the residents of Ashraf had given to the Iraqi forces in good will.

iraqi soldier beats people in ashraf
An Iraqi soldier beats unarmed Ashraf residents. Hillary Clinton and Obama wash their hands of the protected persons.

All 36 of us were kept in this small trailer for several days, and we were left in the searing summer heat with no air-conditioning. Many of us were suffering from wounds and fractured bones, but we were denied medical treatment as well.

After a week, we were forcibly transferred to a prison in the city of Khalis, north of Baghdad, and we weren’t provided with any means of communication. Several weeks later, a group of Special Forces of the Prime Ministry’s office attacked us inside the prison and forcibly transferred us to the safe-houses in Baghdad while our hands were cuffed and our eyes were blind-folded.

We later learned that the secret prison was located in the Green Zone, in the proximity of the Prime Minister’s office and UNAMI’s office. I’m confident that the seven hostages that were abducted on September 1st are kept in the same location.

Q: How were the safe-houses like? Who was running them?

When we were taken into the safe-house, we weren’t actually allowed to see the building. Our eyes were blindfolded and there were armed guards that made sure we kept our heads down. These facilities are strictly run by the Prime Ministry’s office and their information is kept secret. The troops that guard and manage them were different form the normal police officers that we had seen in Khalis prison. They are directly affiliated with the Prime Ministry’s office.

When I later got the chance to see the structure from outside, it looked like a normal building. There was no indication that it was a prison. But the inside had been modified to turn it into a prison. The larger rooms had been split into small solitary confinement cells, with little room for movement, and there was no way to see the outside of the building. We were separated and divided into the cells, with five or six of us in each of the cells that had been meant for a single person.

Q: Did the Iraqi government intend to extradite you to Iran? If so, what prevented it from taking such a course of action?

The Iraqi government very much wanted to extradite us to Iran. This was the main motive behind the transfer to the safe houses. People that are taken to these facilities usually “disappear” and are never seen again. But the international campaign for the freedom of the 36 hostages put a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government. Also, it made the mistake of allowing delegations from the US and UN to visit us in the safe house, and they subsequently made their visit public. That was the main reason that their plot did not succeed. I guess this time the Iraqi government has learned from its previous mistakes and is doing anything it can to keep the whereabouts and conditions of the seven hostages secret.

Q: Why do you think that the US and UN have the power to free the seven hostages?

Just as I said, the visit by the UN and US delegations to the prison was one of the main factors that prevented the Iraqi government from surrendering us to Iran. They have access to these prisons and have the power to put pressure on the Iraqi government to release the hostages. Not doing so is only giving the Iraqi government a free had to do as it pleases with the hostages, and emboldens it to stage further massacres against the rest of us in Camp Liberty.

Q: You have mentioned the Iraqi government learned from its previous mistakes and is keeping the whereabouts of the hostages secret. Could you elaborate?

The silence of the US has put the lives of the seven hostages in serious peril

The international and regional outrage from the September 1 massacre has caused Maliki to become concerned about the legal and political consequences of being involved in this crime. He has also had the experience that if he admits that the hostages are in Iraq and in his custody – as was the case in the time of our abduction – there will be a lot of international pressure on him to free the hostages. Therefore, in order to satisfy the Iranian regime and to carry out their policies against the PMOI and the Iranian opposition in Camps Ashraf and Liberty, he denies everything.

And regretfully, the United States and the United Nations are inclined in believing Maliki’s falsehoods. Therefore, this time, the issue of Human Rights is entwined with intricate political matters.

The silence of the US has put the lives of the seven hostages in serious peril.

Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.