Mohsen Ansari, an Iranian political dissident, member of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and resident of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, was suffering from multiple sclerosis for more than 8 years.
During the period that US forces protected Camp Ashraf, his condition was under control and he was well. But since January 2009, when US transferred the protection of Ashraf to hostile Iraqi forces – under heavy influence of the Iranian regime – not only Mohsen but all other patients at Ashraf’s medical clinic were denied vital medical care and had to face inhuman and intolerable pressures on a daily basis.
Camp Ashraf, home to 3400 Iranian dissidents 60 miles north of Baghdad, has been denied food, fuel, medical assistance and specialist doctors during a two-and-half-year inhuman siege. Even deliberate water-shortages have been instigated by the Iraqi “protection” force, which under Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s orders have been using all means to make life “unbearable” for the residents. This is to return the favor to Tehran for supporting Maliki’s bid for power. On top of all these pressures, more than 300 loudspeakers are installed around the Camp, blaring round-the-clock profanities and threats against the residents. Unfortunately, the seriously ill patients, like Mohsen Ansari, suffer the most.
Although the Iraqi authorities knew that Mohsen needed urgent treatment and medicine, but they denied him medical assistance every time he asked, in a deliberate attempt to make him suffer. In his last months, Mohsen was paralyzed in both legs and hardly able to talk. But when you looked in his eyes you could see a resolute man who after 30 years of defying the tyranny in Iran was struggling even at the hospital bed against the dictatorship that had once locked him up and tortured him as a political prisoner in Iran.
The Iraqi authorities, on instructions from Iranian embassy personnel in Bagdad, had offered patients like Mohsen medical treatment in exchange for recanting their beliefs and turning against the MEK – the main Iranian opposition group that people in Ashraf belong to. If Mohsen had accepted to speak against the MEK he could stay alive and receive treatments they said. But in a shocking TV interview in March (watch the clip on YouTube) he bravely affirmed that he will rather die than accept the Iranian regime’s pressures. Finally, on August 18, 2011 he tragically passed away in Camp Ashraf.
Following his death, the President of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, Struan Stevenson, issued a statement expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to Mr Ansari’s family and friends.
“The continuing psychological torture applied to the residents of Ashraf from hundreds of loudspeakers blaring endless threats and propaganda 24 hours a day around the camp’s perimeter, must have made the final hours of Mr Ansari unbearable. The restrictions of access to the camp for medical supplies, fuel, food and even water, are a crime against humanity” Stevenson stressed.
Mohsen Ansari is just one example of the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf who live under threat of death from the Iranian regime and their proxies in Iraq. His brave resistance puts the lie to Iranian regime propaganda machine on Internet these days claiming that Ashraf residents are held in the Camp against their will. Mohsen could stay alive, if he had forsaken his lifelong struggle and chosen to turn against the MEK, but he didn’t.
Stevenson added: “But rest assured, his death will not be in vain. His opposition to injustice and political oppression stands as a monument to the victory of good over evil.”
Perhaps Mohsen would still be alive if the US forces hadn’t abandoned the residents who had been given protected persons status under the 4th Geneva Convention by the United States in exchange for their voluntary consolidation and disarmament in 2003. Mohsen might still be alive if the MEK wasn’t wrongly put on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) as a political gesture to Iran’s dictatorship. And Mohsen might still be alive if one of the EU countries had accepted him as he previously had refugee status from France, but they didn’t because of the FTO list. The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that no third countries would accept to give entry to Ashraf residents due to the US FTO listing.
Like Mohsen Ansari, there are many others in Camp Ashraf, suffering from unbearable pain and very serious illnesses. But as long as the MEK is designated as an FTO in the US and as long as the US government does not stand up to its legal, moral and humanitarian obligations, more innocent people could lose their lives.
Time is running out and the US seems to hold the key to save the lives of the 3,400 innocent, unarmed civilians with Secretary Clinton delisting the MEK and paving the way to a humanitarian resolution of the crisis in Camp Ashraf. The US can close its eyes or it can help by doing the right thing. Fortunately, this doesn’t involve any military or financial support and none has been requested.
Soon, one of these days, Secretary Clinton is about to announce her decision in response to a Federal Appeals Court ruling last year that recommended the unjust terror label on the MEK to be removed. Let’s hope that when she makes her choice she contemplates on the lives that depend on her decision. A correct decision, as recommended by the court, is crucial to prevent further tragic loss of life among the innocent and defenseless residents of Camp Ashraf.
This article originally appeared in Huffington Post on August 22, 2011