• by at 5.56pm on 5th December 2013

    The following was written for ASHCAM by Majid Mohades, a former Ashraf City resident who now lives in Camp Liberty.

    As you read these lines, several hundreds of people in Camp Liberty, a former US base in Iraq that is now home to nearly three thousand Iranian dissidents, are well into the fourth month of their hunger strike.

    After nearly one hundred days, their health conditions have reached critical levels, and some have sustained irreversible damage to their internal organs. Some might not even make it to the end of next week. Yet they unequivocally insist on continuing their hunger strike until their demands are met.

    What are their demands? They are calling on the United States and the United Nations to break their silence and secure the release of seven of their comrades – six women and a man – who were abducted by Iraqi forces on September 1st and are still in the custody of the Iraqi government, confined to its secret prisons in Baghdad.

    Recently, in an “Urgent Action” notice issued on November 19th, Amnesty International also urged the Iraqi government to release the seven abducted persons in its custody.

    Why did the protesters choose to bring attention to their plight by going on hunger strike? To answer that question, a little history is required.

    The Iranian dissidents at Camp Liberty were formerly residents of Ashraf City in Diyala province. In 2003, after the US invaded Iraq, the US government pledged to protect the residents of Ashraf. But in 2009, the US handed over the security of the city to the Iraqi forces and left the residents at the mercy of the Iranian regime’s allies.

    A few months later, the Iraqi forces stormed the city and murdered 11 defenceless residents. On that day, the US forces stood by and took photographs while the residents were brutally beaten and fired upon.

    Less than two years later, in 2011, Iraqi soldiers attacked Ashraf for a second time, this time killing 36. The US government condemned the massacre, but without taking any action to protect the residents from further attacks.

    As 2011 came to a close, the US and UN urged the residents of Ashraf to move to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, where they would be spared from further bloodshed and quickly transferred to third countries. Yet, when two missile attacks on Camp Liberty claimed the lives of 10 residents, the US and UN did nothing to mitigate the threat to the lives of the residents.

    Simultaneous with the relocation to Camp Liberty, it was agreed between the US, UN, the Iraqi government and the residents themselves that one hundred of their number would remain in Ashraf to negotiate the sale of the residents’ property. Familiar guarantees about the safety and security of those individuals were given.

    But a year went by, and the Iraqi government had not allowed the residents to sell one dollar’s worth of their property, causing obstructions and persecuting the residents every step of the way. The US and UN were silent all the while.

    Then, on the dawn of September 1st, the residents were attacked for a fifth time. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Special Forces broke into Ashraf, brutally murdered 52 of the city’s residents and abducted seven others.

    Maliki claimed that his government had not taken part in the attack, and that the hostages were not in Iraq. The Iranian Resistance provided numerous documents, eyewitness testimonies and other evidence debunking these lies and proving that the hostages are still in the hands of the Iraqi government. But again, the reaction of the US and UN left much to be desired.

    The US outrageously decided to give credence to Maliki’s lies, and declared that there was no evidence to suggest Iraqi forces conducted the September 1st massacre. Consequently, no action was taken to release the hostages.

    The residents of Camp Liberty, betrayed for the fifth time, had totally lost faith in the word of the US government. Thus, hundreds decided to go on hunger strike as a last resort to have their voices heard and change the situation, to let the world know that the seven hostages must be freed.

    They hold the US and UN responsible for whatever fate befalls the hostages and any of the hunger strikers.

    In solidarity with Camp Liberty residents, similar hunger strikes were launched by Iranians in Canada, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Australia, and most recently in Italy. Their lives are in danger, yet they are determined to continue.

    They have one message: “The US and UN did not protect the residents of Ashraf and Liberty. Maybe our sacrifice will.”

  • Trending Central, 15 November 2013

    I am writing this from an Iraqi detention centre that, ironically, was once named “Camp Liberty”.

    There are roughly 3,000 others here with me. We were evicted from our homes in Ashraf City in eastern Iraq last year, and this prison is where we live now.

    Read the rest here.

  • Humanitarian Intervention Centre, 22 October 2013

    As a singer, I’ve been performing for the Iranian Resistance for more than a decade. I have been interested in the arts ever since my childhood, and when I joined the Resistance, my singing skills became my way of contributing to the struggle for freedom and democracy in my country, Iran. I’m proud to have attended so many concerts and ceremonies in Ashraf City to sing about the suffering of my people and the fight for freedom.

    Read the rest here.

  • Trending Central, 28 September 2013

    How would you feel if your father had been killed, and you knew that, at this very moment, your mother is under the most brutal torture imaginable, and that the people in a position to stop it are keeping their eyes closed and their mouths shut?

    For me, this is the reality.

    Read the rest here.

  • Cranmer’s Blog, 19 September 2013

    My name is Nima Habashi, one of the residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq, and I would like to share with you the profound pain that I am suffering.

    As you all know, on 1 September 2013, during their latest attack against the 100 defenceless residents of Ashraf City, the Iraqi forces savagely murdered 52 people and abducted seven others. My brother, Naser, was one of the victims.

    Read the rest here.

  • by at 12.18pm on 2nd September 2013

    Cranmer’s Blog, 2 September 2013

    Camp Ashraf in Iraq was once home to more than 3,000 exiled Iranian members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), opposed to Iran’s clerical regime. The population had fallen over recent years to about 100. They now number around 50, following a massacre by the Iraqi Army. According to reports, many of the unarmed dead appear to have been summarily executed. Another report says seven of their number have been taken hostage.

    His Grace wrote about the Camp a few years ago. That story carried a warning; this one does, too.

    Jacob Campbell, Co-Chairman of ASHCAM – a student-founded group to defend the human rights of the men and women of Ashraf City – wrote to His Grace:

    “At midnight on Saturday (local time), the Iraqi Army attacked Ashraf City in the Diyala province of Iraq while the residents slept. Ashraf was home to just 100 Iranian refugees (formerly more than 3,000, before the rest were forcibly relocated to the Camp Liberty detention centre last year). The assault continued through the night until 7am, when the armed forces withdrew. The death toll was climbing steadily throughout yesterday, and currently stands at 52 – more than half the population of the city, including six women. Another six women were abducted, and their whereabouts is not known. Photographs of the victims show that many of them were handcuffed and summarily executed by gunshot to the head at point blank range. According to sources, some of the executioners could be heard speaking in Farsi. This suggests that there were elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force operating amongst the Iraqi regular forces during the attack. Large areas of Ashraf are reported to have been set ablaze.”

    “This is more than a massacre,” he said. “It’s an extermination.”

    Read the rest here.

  • Arutz Sheva, 1 September 2013

    Reports are mounting of a “massacre” by the Iraqi military against a group of Iranian dissidents who have been living in the country since the 1980s.

    At least 44 Iranian opposition members are believed to have been killed in “Ashraf City,” also known as Camp Ashraf, after the refugee camp was stormed by Iraqi security forces Sunday.

    Many of the dead appeared to have been summarily executed.

    Arutz Sheva has seen pictures from the scene which appear to show the bodies of at least four detainees lying with their hands bound after apparently being shot at point blank range.

    The attack comes less than a week after residents accused the Iraqi government of cutting off water and electricity to the camp, a charge the Iraqi government denied.

    Ashraf City was built in 1986 by members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), Iran’s main opposition movement, who fled across the border to Iraq to escape persecution by the Islamic regime. After the Iraq War, US forces took control of Ashraf City, reaching an agreement with the PMOI whereby they would give up their weapons in return for “protected persons” status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They were also subsequently recognized as “asylum seekers” by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

    In 2009, however, US forces withdrew and left control of the city to the Iraqi government. Since then, Ashraf City has been attacked by Iraqi forces on two occasions; killing 11 in 2009, and 36 in 2011. Iranian-backed terrorist groups have also attacked the camp in the past.

    This latest attack would be the third and largest massacre at Ashraf City committed by Iraqi security forces.

    Since the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s secular Sunni regime, the country’s once-marginalized Shia majority has risen to prominence, mending ties with the Arab state’s former enemies in Tehran, and forging a close, if sometimes uneasy relationship with the Islamic Republic.

    The Iraqi government, following pressure from the Iranian regime, has repeatedly pledged to shut down Ashraf City and to expel the PMOI from Iraq by any means necessary.

    In 2012, Ashraf City was home to more than 3,000 Iranian refugees living in Iraq. Today, only 100 remain. The rest have been forcibly relocated to Camp Liberty, a disused American military base roughly 80 times smaller than Ashraf and surrounded by 12ft-high concrete walls, barbed wire, armed guards, searchlights, surveillance cameras and eavesdropping devices.

    Curtis Sinclair, Co-Chairman of the Ashraf Campaign (ASHCAM) condemned the Iraqi government for caving under Iranian pressure to commit an ”obscene abuse of power.”

    “We’re hearing details of unarmed refugees being bound, gagged and machine-gunned at close quarters; of anti-tank weapons being used on people’s homes; of a massacre supervised by police chiefs and army commanders,” claimed Sinclair.

    “Not since the days of Saddam [Hussein] have we seen this kind of blatant and obscene abuse of power by an Iraqi leader. Last night’s attack just goes to show the lengths to which [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-]Maliki will go to assist… [Iranian Supreme Leader] Ali Khameini in [his] quest to stamp out the presence of Iranian dissidents in Iraq.”

    The Iraqi government is denying reports of a military operation, but independent witnesses in the surrounding areas have reported the sounds of explosions, and the Iraqi army has confirmed mortar fire in the area.

  • by at 12.10pm on 2nd September 2013

    Times of Israel, 1 September 2013

    The Iraqi Army today launched a major assault on a small group of unarmed Iranian dissidents living in the east of the country, killing forty-four and wounding many more. Nearly half of the residents at Camp Ashraf in Diyala province are now confirmed dead, with many more in a critical condition. The dead are members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the largest party in Iran’s democratic parliament in exile.

    Read the rest here.

  • The following is a personal account of the February 9th Camp Liberty massacre, by Majid Mohades, age 29.

    Living at Camp Liberty in Iraq, I never imagined that I would wake to the sounds of explosions.

    But that was exactly what jerked me awake on the dawn of February 9. A loud and terrifying noise shook the very foundations of the trailer in which I slept. I sat up, blinking repeatedly and trying to adjust my vision to the early morning gloom.

    It can’t be, I told myself. This is a safe haven, remember? It must just have been a bad dream. But then I heard a commotion and realised that others had been woken as well. I had the ominous feeling that something awful was about to happen.

    A second explosion sounded, led by a whistling noise that could only belong to a rocket. This one was all too real. I wasn’t imagining things.

    “Get out the trailer!” somebody yelled. “We’re under attack! Take cover!”

    But where to go? I acted on impulse and ran from the trailer. The rough gravel that coated the ground dug into the soles of my feet, but I barely noticed the pain. Only one thing occupied my mind: there was nowhere to go.

    The next explosion sounded even closer than the previous one, and I could actually hear the impact of shrapnel as it tore through the flimsy walls of the trailers. My mind was racing. I had to do something, so I dropped to the ground. With all the bunkers already jam-packed, it was the only option I had.

    This wasn’t my first experience of a terrorist attack. Ashraf City, where all of us had lived before being uprooted and sent to Camp Liberty, had been attacked by the Iranian regime’s henchmen many times, bombed by airplanes and even targeted by long range missiles on several occasions. Yet because of Ashraf’s vastness and its solid facilities, never have such assaults resulted in serious damage. In contrast, the only means of protection that Liberty provides are small concrete bunkers at one per twenty to thirty people.

    Never before had I felt this vulnerable. Another explosion accentuated that very point.

    My mind flashed back to a few months earlier, before the relocation of the sixth group of Ashraf City residents to Camp Liberty, when Martin Kobler, then Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), had visited Ashraf to coerce the residents into leaving their homes. I had personally met him at the time, and I still remembered him berating the city’s residents for failing to cooperate with the authorities overseeing the eviction.

    “Your lives are at risk in Ashraf,” he had argued, urging us to move to Liberty as soon as possible, where he promised we would be safe and would have no reason to fear for our lives. The next blast reminded me of how absurd that notion was.

    Someone tapped me on the shoulder.

    “There’s room in one of the bunkers,” he said.

    The man helped me up and we headed straight for the bunker he had indicated. No sooner had we entered the bunker than the next rocket exploded a few feet behind us, filling the air with a thick cloud of dust and smoke. My ears started buzzing and I felt a burning pain on my left arm and head. I teetered on the edge of unconsciousness and fought hard to maintain my balance. I crouched to fight the dizziness, though there wasn’t much room for movement inside the bunker.

    My wounds were minor. Others had not been so lucky. The dim light didn’t allow for much detail, but I could make out a figure writhing on the floor and clutching at his right arm, from which his life blood was gushing out at a terrifying rate. Another was holding on to a finger that remained attached to his hand only by a thin strip of skin, the garish wound exposing flesh, sinew and bone.

    Where are you now, Martin Kobler, I thought, to see the fruit of your efforts?

    The bombardment lasted for many more minutes. We waited it out, our breaths misting and mingling in the early morning chill, all of us hoping against hope that the others had found safe refuge. I dared not contemplate how my other friends had fared.

    After what seemed like an eternity, the barrage ended and silence sunk in. By then, the man with the injured arm had lost so much blood that his moaning had died down to no more than a feeble whimper. A stretcher was brought and he was carried away. The bunker was evacuated shortly afterwards.

    Still in shock, I sat down on the lower ledge of the bunker’s sidewall, staring at the reflection of the rising sun cast into the puddle of blood that had gathered on ground. I was still trying to process the events of that fateful morning.

    A jumble of feelings swarmed inside me, but one outweighed all the others: the feeling of being betrayed. I felt betrayed by the United Nations, for breaking its promise of security and welfare. I felt betrayed by the United States, for having neglected its obligation to all of us.

    By all accounts, this incident should never have taken place. But it did. And the role of one person stood out in all of this: Martin Kobler.

    Why had he so fervently insisted that we be relocated to this camp, while there was no true guarantee that we would be protected? Why was he constantly voicing his pledge to solve the humanitarian crisis that the former residents of Ashraf City are facing, while he was visiting the Iranian regime’s ambassador in Iraq every other day? Why did he never condemn the inhumane constraints that the Iraqi government has imposed on the residents of Ashraf and Liberty?

    Truly, whose interests did Martin Kobler serve during his stint as Head of UNAMI? The United Nations’? The refugees’? The Iraqi government’s? The Iranian regime’s?

    You tell me.

  • Arutz Sheva, 9th July 2013

    More than 60 Iranians have been executed since the recent presidential elections on June 14th, opposition and human rights activists told Arutz Sheva. Activists condemned the elections themselves as a “sham”, given that the Iranian “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamenei hand-picked the list of eligible candidates.

    The number of those executed by the regime since the election now stands at 61, including 6 women and a young man who was just 15 at the time of his arrest. Executions in the cities of Ahvaz, Shahrekord and Karaj were carried out in full view of the public.

    The wave of executions appears to belie predictions by some commentators that Iran is entering into an era of moderation after the election of Hassan Rouhani, hailed as a “moderate” by much of the Western media. Other commentators have noted that Rouhani is part of the ruling regime’s inner circle – he was only allowed to run after a careful vetting process by the Supreme Leader – and dismissed his image as a ”moderate” as little more than a ruse by the regime to buy more time as it continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    Indeed, a 2006 article by The Telegraph reveals Rouhani’s penchant for manipulating Western observers, noting the key role he played in hiding Iran’s secretive nuclear program from European inspectors.

    “Twitterstorm”

    In response to the executions, human rights activists called for a “#StopDeath” Twitterstorm, which had already begun by Sunday. Those calls followed a statement by Maryam Rajavi – President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran – in which she called upon the international community to take immediate action to stop the executions, which she described as an attempt by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “prevent the appearance of  any rift after his great failure in the sham elections.”

    Jacob Campbell, Co-Chairman of the Ashraf Campaign (ASHCAM), said: “As a human rights group, ASHCAM utterly condemns the recent wave of executions in Iran.

    “But it would be a mistake to assume that this is merely a domestic issue for Iranians. The clerical regime’s apparatus of terror and repression extends well beyond Iran’s borders. This year alone, Tehran’s terrorist Qods Force has massacred 10 Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq, whose only crime was speaking out against the regime.

    “Even leaving Iran is no guarantee of escaping the wrath of the mullahs.”

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