The Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and all of us protesting
here today are increasingly alarmed about the safety of 3400 Iranian
refugees at Ashraf, Iraq.
We support the European Parliament's proposal for a long term solution
for Ashraf residents. Yet they are explicitly included in the threats
of imminent further bloodshed and more attacks by Iraqi security
forces. The Iraqi force threat against them must be removed immediately.
The UN Secretary General in his report on Iraq (July 20, 2011)
highlighted Ashraf and urged all states to find a solution that is
acceptable to all, including Ashraf residents. He also demanded that
humanitarian goods and services be provided for the residents. Iraq’s
government must lift now the unlawful and inhuman blockade of Ashraf.
Any attempt to displace Ashraf residents within Iraq would constitute
yet another humanitarian catastrophe for them. It would also be
contrary to international law and the peace-keeping role of the U.N.
To provide temporary protection until a final solution is negotiated
that is respectful of Iraq's sovereignty and international law, the
UNHCR should grant group determination of refugee status for all
Ashraf residents. David Matas and I highlighted this in our letter to
UNHCR and I am repeating that today.
The situation at Ashraf is a disaster in making. The threat of
forcible closure of the facility is real and thus the UNHCR must act
U.S.Congress hearing on July 7, 2011
Permit me to refer to some testimony given at the hearing on July 7, entitled
"Massacre at Camp Ashraf: Implications for U.S. Policy," held by the
Oversight and Investigation Sub-Committee of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee. A link to it is available in the Iran section of
The participants in the hearing included:
Ms. Neda Zanjanpour, a survivor of the massacre at Ashraf,
Col. Gary Morsch, MD, Chief medical liaison between Camp Ashraf, and
the U.S. military Colonel Wes Martin (Ret.), Former Base Commander of
A brief video clip showed scenes of the April 8th massacre at Ashraf
by the Iraqi Army operating under the direct order of prime pinister
Nouri al-Maliki. Neda's injured body is also shown in the video.
By direct satellite link to Ashraf: Ms. Neda Zanjanpour, speaking
from Ashraf medical clinic, in a stunning testimony responded to the
questions by Members of Congress. A Canadian citizen who studied at
York University, Neda went to Ashraf in 1999 at the age of 20. She
testified that she had been wounded "when an Iraqi soldier threw a
grenade at me, which exploded between my legs."
"The day before the attack, the US embassy in Baghdad told us that the
Iraqi forces were going to launch an operation. Despite our pleas to
the commander of US forces - which had been at Ashraf since April 3rd
- to stay, his unit was ordered out of the Camp at 9:20 pm on April
7th. That left us completely defenseless in the face of a massive
assault by the Iraqi forces."
She said Ambassador James Jeffrey's comments that the MEK (PMOI) should be
relocated inside Iraq amounts to "asking Ashraf residents to submit to
the demands of the Iranian regime... We will never surrender to the
Iranian regime by going to concentration camps in Iraq where we could
be murdered away from international spotlight."
The sub-committee chair Rep.Dana Rohrabacher’s opening remarks
included: "Why was a
U.S. unit deployed at Camp Ashraf ordered away just hours before the
attack? We would have liked to have asked State Department officials
these questions, but we were told no one was available to testify
today at this hearing. This stonewalling can only go so far before it
becomes a cover up... U.S. appeasement of this crime is part of the
He noted that the continued blacklisting of the MEK "is used to
justify actions like the April attack." "The United Kingdom and the
European Union have removed the MEK from their terrorist lists. We
should quit playing games and also remove the MEK from the terrorist
list before it results in another massacre," Rohrabacher added.
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX):
"If the ambassador of Iraq can hear my voice, he needs to come to
Congress. He owes this Congress an apology... He owes both an apology
to the people in Camp Ashraf, to the people of Iraq who will suffer as
well because they are diverse, and he owes an apology and explanation
to the world family, and particularly the United States of America,
for the treasure
that we lost attempting to provide democracy there."
Colonel Wes Martin (Ret.), Former Base Commander of Camp Ashraf:
"The terror and torment that is being cast upon the [MEK] and Camp
Ashraf needs to stop. I know from experience, the [MEK] is not a
terrorist organization. My recommendation in this effort is for the
People's Mojahedin to be immediately removed from the State Department
terrorist list. ..They do need protection of U.S. military forces," he
added while strongly dismissing the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad proposal to
relocate Ashraf residents inside Iraq.
Col. Martin also debunked allegations by the Iranian regime that the
residents of Ashraf were being held against their will. "One perpetual
rumor worthy of specific address concerns members of the MEK being
held against their will. I was able to validate through specific
occurrences anyone wishing to leave has that choice."
Col. Gary Morsch, MD, served as the Battalion Surgeon at Camp Ashraf and stated:
"There were no findings of any terrorist activities, disloyalty to
the mission of the US military in Iraq, illegal activities, coercion
of MEK members, hidden arms, or any evidence that the MEK were not
fulfilling their agreement with the US
Military to fully cooperate with and support the goals of the US in Iraq..."
He said Ashraf residents were highly educated and "had come to Ashraf
to voluntarily serve with the MEK to establish a free and democratic
Iran, and were now working with the US to promote democracy in Iraq."
Referring to the siege on Ashraf, he said the residents are being
denied basic security and other necessities. "It was with great
sadness," he said, "that I have now witnessed the abandonment of the
residents of Camp Ashraf by the very government that had asked me to
risk my life to defend these same people."
He said relocation of the residents within Iraq, "in my judgment,
would be a recipe for disaster."
I hope these remarks will be heard and acted upon by the UNHCR in Geneva.