14 members of the Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq have moved to Albania from a camp Hurriya near Baghdad.
Reports say Mujahedeen-e-Khalq arrived in Albania Wednesday and considered to be the first of 210 set to travel to new homes in Albania.
The step is dubbed important in defusing dispute left over from the widely known Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s.
The MEK opposes Tehran’s clerical regime and it launched assassinations and bombings in Iran until renouncing violence in 2001. Several thousand of its members were given sanctuary in Iraq by dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ousted in 2003.
The U.S. government praises Albania for accepting to host the MEK members
In her press statement in WashingtonDC, Spokesperson Jen Psaki expresses its appreciation to the Government of Albania for its generous humanitarian gesture to accept 210 former Camp Hurriya residents.
She says Albania has been a strong partner of the United States in bringing peace and stability to Iraq.
In addition, the United States urges the Mujahedin-e Khalq leadership to cooperate fully with the UNHCR relocation process and to facilitate access by United Nations monitors to Camp Hurriya residents.
Ms. Psaki underlines that the relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq is vital to their safety and security.
“It is the responsibility of the MEK leadership to facilitate for the residents of Camp Hurriya free and unfettered access to UN human rights monitors.” – Ms. Psaki
The US reiterates its strong support for the efforts of UNHCR, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler.
The US also continues to emphasize that the camp and its residents must be secured in accordance with the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq, and urge all involved parties to work together effectively on this.
Reports say MEK are notorious for its support as it fought alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the 1980s Iraq-Iran war. The group fear persecution and death if they return to Iran.
Camp Ashraf residents relocated to Camp Hurriya
In August 2012, the sixth convoy of approximately 400 Ashraf residents arrived safely in Camp Hurriya, a new location prior to their eventual resettlement in third countries;
Reports say three-fourths of the residents, 2,400 persons have now arrived in Camp Hurriya.
Prior to transfer, close to 1,300 individuals were still awaiting relocation from Camp Ashraf to the transit centre.
In July 15 of the same year, the Iraqi government has transported from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya a cargo convoy of 300 additional air conditioners, several large water tanks, additional generators, and other goods to improve the residents’ quality of life at Camp Hurriya.
In July 19, the Iraqi Government transported to Camp Hurriya three specially-equipped vehicles for residents with disabilities.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq’s (MEK’s) cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s main paramilitary base, continues to be a key factor in the Department’s upcoming determination regarding the MEK’s Foreign Terrorist Organization status.
US Response to Camp Ashraf Issue
In May 2012, the United States of America addressed the challenges in the relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty.
In his remarks in Washington DC, Special Advisor on Ashraf, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ambassador Daniel Fried said the process of relocating residents to Hurriya has had challenges.
He cited that each convoy, carrying approximately 400 Ashraf residents, their personal effects, and large quantities of cargo to Hurriya, has been a significant logistical undertaking.
The Iraqi government has provided dozens of coach buses and cargo trucks and literally thousands of Iraqi security forces to provide for the convoy’s security on the road, he stated.
According to Mr. Fried, accompanying each convoy are UN human rights monitors, who also observe the screening of residents and property as each convoy loads from Camp Ashraf and provide useful, neutral reports following each convoy movement.
In addition, Mr. Fried said living conditions at Camp Hurriya have also had their challenges.
Camp Hurriya, when under U.S. control, was part of the largest coalition base in Iraq, housing thousands of American and coalition forces during military operations in Iraq.
The containerized housing units (CHUs), which the former Ashraf residents now occupy, previously housed US service personnel, he noted.
UNAMI, with active U.S. support, is working at high-levels with the Iraqi government to ensure the welfare of the residents is not compromised and to resolve issues that arise.
In February 2012, nearly 400 residents of Camp Ashraf arrived safely at Camp Hurriya.
In December 2011, the Residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq have declared readiness for relocation of the first group of Camp Ashraf residents. They were moving from Camp Ashraf, to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings.
Situated in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, Camp Ashraf housed members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran. The Iraqi Government has repeatedly stated its intention to close down the camp by 31 December and to transfer residents to another location until countries willing to accept them for resettlement are found.
The important agreement stipulates on providing temporary relocation and eventual resettlement of the more than 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
Camp Ashraf is resident to 3400 members of the PMOI, main opposition and threat to Iranian mullahs. The Camp has been attacked by the Maliki forces on several occasions. The last attack led to a bloodbath; 33 killed of direct precision shooting and US Humvees ramming residents, 325 wounded and 6 taken as hostages by Iraqi thugs.