Women Refugees Rally to Stop Inhuman Siege in Camp Liberty

Iraq: Alarm Bells Sounded to Save the Lives of Thousands of Iranian Refugees

On the doorsteps of International Human Rights Day thousands of Iranian refugees in Iraq, one third of which are women, are now placed in inhumane conditions and facing terrorist attacks from the air and the ground by the Iraqi forces associated to the Iranian regime. They are Iranian dissidents who in 2012 were transferred against their will from their 26-year long home in Camp Ashraf, located 90 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to a deserted former U.S. military camp named “Liberty,” all under a joint agreement signed between the United Nations, the US government and former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Yesterday as I was walking in the empty rocky street that passes through the camp, I saw a number of women gathered in the cold and lifting placards, holding a picket line adjacent to their leveled trailers that were destroyed in the most recent rocket barrage against the camp that took place only weeks before the horrific terrorist attack in Paris.

While the U.S. and U.N. had signed agreements with the camp residents guaranteeing their safety and security until their final disposition, these terms are breached time and again and many have lost their lives as a result.

Women in a picket line in Camp Liberty.
Women in a Camp Liberty picket line.

Forty days ago in a terrorist attack carried out by Iraqi groups associated to the Iranian regime that have infiltrated into the current government of Iraq targeted and attacked the camp with 80 enhanced rockets made in Iran. This bloody attack left 24 residents killed and many wounded. A large number of the extremely vulnerable paper-thin trailers in which the residents live in were destroyed in the rocket attack. This was the fourth such attack against these residents, and each time many of them have lost their lives.

A woman holds a sign that says Provide protection to the residents and lift the siege on Camp Liberty.
A woman holds a sign that says Provide protection to the residents and lift the siege on Camp Liberty.

Terrorist attacks and rocket barrages are not the only elements threatening the lives of these defenseless refugees. Worse than that is the inhumane and comprehensive blockade imposed by the Iraqi forces, continuing even after the bloody rocket attack. Fuel, foods, medical needs, logistical necessities and are just some of the necessities that are periodically blocked to the camp. These women today in their rally were protesting these very pressures.

“Wherever in the world where there is an incident or a catastrophe, everyone tries to provide help to the victims and survivors of that incident,” says Shahabe, one of the younger women. “This is a natural reaction by any human being. However, everything is completely different here and ever since we were targeted in the latest rocket attack the delivery of our most basic daily needs, which we purchase at our expense, were cut off. This is the Iranian regime’s policy that is imposed on us by their Iraqi elements in the camp management team. Therefore, these elements must be immediately removed from their posts or else I may not be alive after the next attack.”

Camp Liberty women hold photos of those killed by the rocket attack.
Camp Liberty women hold photos of those killed by the rocket attack.

Shahabe’s mother was abducted two years ago by Iraqi forces in coordination with the same elements that are managing Camp Liberty today. There is still no news of her whereabouts.

“We have no security or protection in this camp, and the U.S. and U.N. that are legally and morally responsible for our safety and security and transferred us to this camp must guarantee our protection,” said another young woman.

“It has been 40 days that we have been under the pressure of Iraqi forces whose hands are drenched in the blood of our friends and loved ones. However, there are no measures taken to lift this siege. The Iraqi management of this camp must be changed or else the massacre will continue,” said another woman who took part in the rally.

Recently 170 Members of the European Parliament issued a very strong statement condemning the terrorist attacks staged by forces linked to the Iranian regime against these refugees in Camp Liberty. The MEPs emphasized in their statement:

“These Iranian opposition members were moved in 2012 from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty which is being controlled by Iraq’s national security advisor Faleh Fayyadh who was appointed during Maliki’s government and is known for his close ties to Iran. He, along with other officers who run the camp, have all had active roles in previous massacres.”

The MEPs ended their statement with a call saying:

“We urge the EU High Representative, the Member states, United States, Iraq and United Nations the following:

  1. Ensure the health and safety of the residents and the supply of security requirements such as necessary amount of protective T-walls and sand bags etc. We urge the international coalition to put Camp Liberty under its aerial protection.
  2. Remove the person responsible for Camp Liberty’s management, Faleh Fayyadh, and replace him and his men with impartial individuals. The transfer of Iranian agents to Camp Liberty’s gates under any circumstances must be avoided.
  3. Remove the complete siege of the camp and allow the residents the freedom of movement and free access to medical services and lawyers.
  4. The Iraqi government must recognize the residents’ rights of ownership and allow them to sell their property in Ashraf or compensate them financially so they can accelerate the process of resettlement.
  5. The United Nations must launch an investigation into the 29 October attack and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

Representatives of the American people in Congress, along with their colleagues across the Atlantic, have time and again expressed their concerns about the conditions of Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty. However, to this day there have been no serious measures by the governments of these representatives. It is high time for alarm bells to be finally sounded.

Obama signed an Amendment to Protect Camp Liberty Residents, but nothing has happened.

Shahriar Kia

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.