As co-chair of the NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and being
on the international pro-bono legal team for Camp Ashraf, I offer some
words about an urgent situation. Ashraf in Iraq holds about 1100 women
and more than 2000 male long term refugees from Iran, including about
eleven who are Canadian citizens.
All are supporters or members of the PMOI/MEK (People's Mujahedeen of
Iran), which is unfortunately still on the terrorist organization list
for Canada. In contrast, all member nations of the EU removed it from
their lists last year, following fully seven court decisions in Europe
saying it cannot be considered a terrorist organization. Is it not
both disrespectful of the rule of law and bad security policy to
continue to accommodate the regime in Tehran by listing the largest
opposition group in Iran?
On July 1st, the US military presence at Ashraf will end when its
base, the FOB Grizzly, is transferred to Iraqi forces. The American
government asserts that the protected person status for Ashraf
residents ended in June 2004, but has continued to treat them as such
to the end of 2008. Claiming the US will continue to monitor the
situation closely to ensure that the government of Iraq abides by its
assurances and obligations to protect the residents, it admits that
the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, known as UNAMI, will relocate its
observing mission from Ashraf to Baghdad following the base closure.
If UNAMI considers its situation unsafe once American soldiers leave,
one can imagine how grave the risk would be for Ashraf residents.
All these steps seem likely to offer a green light for prime minister
Nour al-Maliki, who is strongly under the influence of Tehran, for his
next attack on Ashraf soon and/or if he forms a new government. On
July 28 and 29, 2009, eleven unarmed residents were killed by Iraqi
police, many were injured and 36 were taken hostage for 72 days under
Under the Geneva Convention, if a successor party receiving protected
persons does not abide by its obligations, the previous one must
correct the situation or take back the protection. During the past 18
months, the al-Maliki government has made it abundantly clear that it
does not recognize any rights of residents. According to resolution
1883 of the UN Security Council, U.S. forces are responsible for the
security of UNAMI. Ashraf residents are declared targets of the
Iranian regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the terrorist Qods
force and the Iranian regime's Ministry of Intelligence and Security
Since this issue is so 'time sensitive', I'd urge you as journalists
to watch this situation carefully until the next Iraqi government,
hopefully a stable and independent one, takes office so that UNAMI's
monitoring team would not be forced to leave Ashraf prematurely.
Presumably, it would be preferable politically to have an
international force replace American soldiers at Ashraf. Time is
critical for either option.