On July 28-29, 2009, Iraqi forces stormed Camp Ashraf and murdered eleven defenseless residents while U.S. forces were still present at the camp and only observed the events as they unraveled. During the same attack, Iraqi forces abducted 36 of the residents.
It was only after 72 days of a hunger strike by the hostages, hundreds of Camp Ashraf residents, and Iranians across the world that the Iraqi government was forced to release the hostages, who by then were on the brink of death.
Amnesty International in its 2010 Iraq Report regarding human rights situation in Iraq wrote that the “Video footage showed Iraqi security forces deliberately driving military vehicles into crowds of protesting camp residents. The security forces also used live ammunition, apparently killing at least nine camp residents, and detained 36 others who they tortured.”
A report published on April 28, 2014 in Wisconsin State Journal entitled “State National Guard, Iraq deployment, 5 years later” said:
” One unit of [American military from Wisconsin] was forced to watch helplessly as 11 of the Iranian refugees who had been under their protection were killed by Iraqi soldiers who stormed the camp firing guns and swinging clubs. The July 2009 incident at Camp Ashraf was condemned by Amnesty International.”
“Our guys were trying to intervene to stop it and they were told they couldn’t,” said Maj. Michael Hanson, deputy director of the Service Member Support Division. The unit’s commander, Capt. Andrew Weiler, wasn’t comfortable discussing the incident or its impact on his troops, said state Guard spokesman 1st Lt. Joe Trovato.
A Fox News report on August 24, 2009, showed an American soldier “taping the attack by the security forces on the defenceless Camp Ashraf residents. Then when the residents came for help she and another soldier got in a vehicle and drive away. So that had many people at Camp Ashraf and many human rights organizations saying that the U.S. is not doing what is supposed to do in terms of protecting this community.”
The attack occurredafter the Obama administration handed over the security of the camp to Iraqi forces. The residents of the camp warned the U.S. against such a course of action.
They had premonitions that putting the Iraqi government in charge of the camp’s protection would have serious repercussions on their safety and security, for the deep ties and alliance between the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, and the Iranian regime, the archenemy of Camp Ashraf residents, was no secret to anyone.
The U.S. government dismissed their concerns and left more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents at the mercy of the Iranian regime’s greatest ally in the region, declaring that the Iraqi government had given assurances on the safety and security of the camp’s residents. A few months later, the worthlessness of those promises were proven.
Less than two years later, in April 2011, Maliki’s forces attacked Camp Ashraf for a second time, making extensive use of firearms and armored vehicles to shoot down and crush the residents. The brutal raid, which lasted several hours, left 36 dead in its wake, including 8 women. More than 350 were injured.
As 2011 came to a close, the U.S. and UN urged the residents of Ashraf to move to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, arguing they would be spared from further bloodshed and would be quickly transferred to third countries. Yet, four missile attacks on Camp Liberty claimed the lives of tens of residents and have left hundreds injured.
Simultaneous with the relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty in 2012, it was agreed between the U.S., UN, the government of Iraq, and the residents themselves that a hundred residents remain in Camp Ashraf to negotiate the sale of the residents’ property.
The U.S. and UN had given guarantees about the safety and security of those hundred individuals.
A year went by, and the Iraqi government did not allow the residents to sell a dollar’s worth of their property, causing obstructions and persecuting the residents at every step of the way. During this period, the U.S. and UN legitimized Prime Minister al-Maliki’s illegal measures against Ashraf residents through their silence and inaction.
On the dawn of September 1 2013, the hundred remaining residents of Ashraf were attacked for the third time. Nouri al-Maliki’s Special Forces broke into Ashraf with the full accord and cooperation of the forces that were supposedly in charge of the camp’s protection, destroyed the residents’ property and brutally murdered 52 of the camp’s residents. Many of the victims were shot in the head while their hands were tied behind their back.
The assailants abducted seven others, including six women on which no information has since been released.
Western governments have condemned this attack, but despite repeated international appeals for an impartial investigation into the horrible September 1 massacre, no action has been taken thus far.
Camp Liberty itself has proven to be anything but a shelter and safe-haven for refugees. The camp was targeted with missiles on four accounts, the last one being December 26 2013. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces refrain from taking measures to provide security for the camp. The threat of further attacks continues to loom over the camp.
Camp Liberty is under a total blockade by Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi government interferes and causes obstructions in every aspect of the residents’ daily lives.
Given the state of unrest in Iraq, the Iraqi government’s open hostility toward the residents of Camp Liberty, and the Iranian regime’s aspirations and continuous plots for the annihilation of opposition members, it is evident that the situation of these 3,000 refugees will only worsen in the coming months.
More humanitarian disasters will surely come to pass unless the UN and U.S. government take action to ensure the safety and security of the residents and put an end to the intensifying siege that the Iraqi government is imposing against them.