Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is ultimately responsible for the grim statistics among Camp Ashraf's 3500 unarmed Iranian refugees in recent days: twelve murdered, 500 wounded, 36 taken to Baghdad's prisons.
On July 28, following a seven-month harassment of Ashraf (which is located an hour's drive from Baghdad in the desert), al-Maliki's government launched an unprovoked attack on the defenceless residents. This initiative complied with the wish of Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and ignored the views of the many Iraqis who want Iraq to be a sovereign country and to conform to international standards.
To understand the brutality, watch a youtube video on what happened to the unarmed Amir Kheiri and others on July 28th at the hands of unifomed Iraqis wielding clubs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEnts5u8lyA.
The video shows them savagely attacking the refugees--many at Ashraf since the mid-1980s. The scene is eerily similar to how the Revolutionary Guard treats Iranian protesters. The men and women in Ashraf have been recognized as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention since 2004. In international law, the United States remains responsible to ensure the protection of the camp residents under the convention.
As is often the case, Shakespeare probably best described what is happening at Ashraf in essence centuries ago in a line from Macbeth: “Each new morn, new widows cry, new orphans howl, new sorrows strike Heaven in the face”
Direct appeals to Iraqi forces by the camp residents to allow medical aid from outside for the wounded were rejected. Similar appeals to American soldiers, who presumably thought their recent policy of leaving security in Iraq's cities to Iraqis also applied to a longstanding refugee settlement in the desert, were denied. Three of the wounded, including Mr. Kheiri, died of their head injuries.
It is worth noting here that the United States embassy statement on Transfer of Security Responsibility for Camp Ashraf of December 28, 2008, said, `The Government of Iraq has provided the US Government written assurances of humane treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraq's Constitution, laws and international obligations.'
To denounce Nuri al-Maliki’s crimes against humanity and demand the United States take action, the US families of Ashraf residents began an open-ended hunger strike outside the White House on July 29th. Here in Ottawa, ten persons are continuing their own hunger strikes.
Goals of hunger strikers
The hunger strikers in both capitals are seeking:
- Withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Ashraf, an end to the assault and the release of those detained.
- The immediate intervention of the American government to ensure that Ashraf residents are protected by the US military and that those ordering and carrying out the carnage at Ashraf be brought to justice.
- Both the Canadian and American governments to summon the respective Iraqi ambassadors immediately to provide an explanation.
- The U.S. military to medevac all the injured who need levels of care not available at Ashraf.
- Commanders of the Iraqi police and army units that conducted the raid to be relieved of their commands until there is a full and proper investigation.
- The Ashraf residents' international lawyers, who have been prevented from visiting the camp during the past seven months, must be given access.
- Dispatch of an international delegation consisting of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq and a representative of the UN Secretary General to assess the extent of damage and injury to the residents.