Through the eyes of a witness

By Ali Shiraz, witness and survivor of the September 1massacre in Camp Ashraf

I was one of the hundred Ashraf residents who had stayed in the camp based on a quadripartite agreement between the United Nations, United States, Iraq and the camp’s residents; we were there to safeguard our remaining possessions there until they were sold.

On September 1, I witnessed one of the most vicious crimes ever committed. The brutality was beyond human imagination. I wanted to describe my experience and I’m confident time will eventually reveal and confirm the truth. I am ready to stand and testify before any independent court of law. That day, my camera was my third eye at the scene, though some pictures were taken hurriedly and became blurred.

On September 1st, 2013, at 4:45 am, as dawn was breaking and a pleasant cool breeze was blowing, I was looking forth to a warm and sunny day.  I was at the camp’s main gate – the Lion’s Gate – along with three of my friends. We were in a small building. At about fifty meters from us, to the west, there was an Iraqi SWAT post.

At around 4:45am, I noticed a vehicle circulating in the area. It was a white land cruiser with black splashguards belonging to the commander of the rapid deployment police brigade that was supposedly in charge of Camp Ashraf’s protection. He usually entered through the Lion’s Gate during daytime and checked on his troops in a guard-post on the camp’s western perimeter before leaving. His trip to the camp at that time was out of the norm, and we became suspicious about his intentions.

He went to the guard-post and back three times between 4:45 and 5:05, and he was moving faster than his usual speed. The vehicle carried three passengers on each trip, and even though the windows were tinted, we could still see the silhouettes of the three passengers when it came close. Every time, the vehicle disappeared behind the berm next to the mentioned guard-post, and came back empty. I could not see behind the berm and was wondering what was happening. Everything hinted at a conspiracy.

Another fact that related these series of suspicious events regarded a soldier that was usually on guard duty at about fifty meters from our location. He would normally stand watch until 6 am, but this time he left at about 4. This worried us more.

At about 5:10, as I was extremely worried and was closely observing my surroundings, I noticed some men approaching the Lion’s Gate. They were wearing military vests and white caps, and had covered their faces with black masks. They were armed with silenced AK47s, and they were sneaking their way from the guard-post to the Lion’s Gate. They were silent and tried to enter the camp inconspicuously.

I had no doubt they intended to kill us all. So I immediately informed the others. Meanwhile, I saw them climb over the berms. Two of us jumped into a car and decided to go to the camp’s mosque to alarm the others. I turned on the Nissan and waited for my friend Akbar who was trying to shoot more films with his camera.

At this point, the attackers reached to the north of Ashraf’s main road and took note of our presence. One of them yelled at us, “Don’t move!” and came toward us. We hid ourselves behind the small trees which were between us and the main road. They could not see us while we rushed to our car. A few seconds later they reached our previous location and started searching for us, but by that time we had moved some 100 to 150 meters away from them. One of them kneeled and aimed his weapon at us, but we got away. We reached the mosque at 5:25. There we stumbled upon the bodies of two of our friends Amir Hossein Afzal Nia and Amir Nazari. Thus we realized that the assassins had entered from across the road in front of the mosque as well.

We could hear weapons firing when we got to the storage area. At the north of the mosque we were informed that the attackers had entered the compound. We waited there for about half an hour later, until we were told the attacking forces had left from the east of the mosque.

We rushed to the point that the mass murder had taken place. Some of the camp’s residents were shot by pistols while their hands were cuffed behind their backs. They had bullet wounds in their heads and chests. We then went to the clinic where the wounded had been taken. We were shocked to see all the wounded killed. The number of people who had been shot in the head or upper body summed up to 52.

On the afternoon of the same day, a local UNAMI representative came to Ashraf. He took pictures from the victims and made a report from this appalling crime. The next day, the deputy Special Representative of Secretary General and a UNAMI representative visited the camp to take pictures and assemble a report.

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