Millions of Iraqis Oppose Forcible Expulsion of Ashraf Residents

A group of tribal sheikhs in Iraq collected over a million signatures demanding the Iraqi government refrain from forcibly expelling the Iranian dissident group People’s Mujahidin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from Diyala province, as is expected at the end of this year.

Sheikh Matlab al-Taei, head of the Iraqi Tribal Council, told AFP “we have gathered the signatures of approximately a million Iraqi citizens which include jurists, physicians, clerics who support the presence of MEK in Iraq or are against their forcible expulsion.”

Iraqi authorities have decided to close the camp before year’s end, which for the past three decades is home to Iranian dissidents in Diyala province north east of Baghdad.

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According to informed sources, the Iraqi Tribal Council has obtained the approval of approximately 2500 Iraqi sheikhs in approval of the project to collect the signatures.

Sheikh Youssef al-Aziz, chief of al-Baeeg clan, said “they are our guests, and we call on the government and all peace-loving people around the globe to find a solution for them.”

He added “we believe the Iranian dissidents have a valid status and we consider them to be our guests in Iraq and we don’t think that in a democratic country like Iraq human rights should be violated.”

Adding: “we must send them off in a graceful and fitting manner, for humanity’s sake, as they are asylum seekers and history will give credit to Iraq in this case.”

In a released statement, the Iraqi Tribal Council called on the UN Security Council to dispatch a UN contingent force to undertake their protection (MEK members) and urged the government lift its siege.”

Based on information provided Friday, by different sources, to AFP, currently, negotiations are underway to peacefully relocate camp Ashraf residents to another place in Iraq.

“This move aims at relocating members of MEK to another place inside Iraq, where the UN will be allowed to process those who enjoy multi-nationality and resettle them in their secondary country, while others will be resettled in Iran or other countries,” an Iraqi official said.

The UN insists that any repatriation should be voluntarily, since the MEK had earlier announced it would reject the plan by United States to relocate the camp’s residents to another place inside Iraq.

Haidar al-Mulla, Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Council on Human Rights, said in this regard that a large number of leaders, prominent figures and parliamentarians from different parties have urged a peaceful and international solution to the case of Ashraf residents. The spokesman from al-Iraqia bloc said “94 political figures from different coalitions, not only from al-Iraqia, have called for a peaceful and international solution to the case of Ashraf residents. They have also clearly expressed their position about the requirement to abide by universal conventions and standards of the UN in dealing with them.” He added “The residents of Ashraf should not be subject to forcible relocation inside Iraq. It should be rather acted in a way consistent to UNHCR’s measures and the solutions they work out regarding this case.” He also explained that “Obstructing this process by the Iraqi government is unacceptable. Moreover insistence to relocate Ashraf residents inside Iraq warns of another massacre.”

Al-Mulla emphasized that pressures exerted by the Iranian regime indicates the extent of interest by this regime in giving priority to closing the case of Ashraf.

The camp, located 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, is home to 3400 individuals. The Iraqi military attacked the camp in April, which lead to the death of 34 people with more than 300 wounded.

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.