By Ebrahim Seyyedi
I remember how in the mid-summer season of 2012, following attacks and raids carried out by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s special forces against Camp Ashraf (former home to around 3,000 Iranian refugees in Iraq) at the behest of the Iranian regime, lead to the vicious massacre of 36 of these refugees and hundreds of others being injured. Of course, all of the camp residents were recognized as ‘protected persons’ by the United States. Following this horrific crime, a quadrilateral agreement signed by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, US and the Iraqi governments, along with the residents’ representative, all Ashraf residents – who had lived in our traditional home in Ashraf for 25 years – relocated to Camp Liberty in Baghdad based on our trust in the United Nations as the highest international organization safeguarding human rights and international laws, and also the United States, who had both assumed responsibility regarding our safety and security. We were promised this camp would be a safe and temporary location for our resettlement to third countries to be safe from deadly attacks. However, it didn’t take long that in the winter of 2012, in the early morning hours of February 9th when we were asleep, all of a sudden and out of nowhere came a horrific missile attack resulting in 8 of our dearest friends losing their lives and dozens of other injured and wounded.
Following UN inaction, in the spring of 2012 just when we were taking a noon nap in Camp Liberty, we were once again the target of a missile attack where again 2 residents were killed and dozens of others left injured and wounded. And yes, again, despite our constant protests and strong condemnations by the US State Department and human rights organizations, no judicial follow up was seen from the U,S and the policy of ‘neglect’ and ‘silence’ continued. It then became crystal clear for us that Camp Liberty is not a ‘safe location’ and not a ‘temporary transit site to resettle in third countries’, which then UN SRSG Martin Kobler had promised.
And for the third time, yes third time in late 2013 and just one day after Christmas, while eating dinner and watching TV showing the New Year festivities across Western countries, missiles slammed into Camp Liberty again leaving 4 residents killed and dozens of others injured, wounded and maimed. However, in spite of this vicious and inhumane crime, a very much hated medicine-food blockade, and even restrictions on medical services, was imposed on us. Such measures have been ongoing for 5 years and are intensified from time to time in the most hideous manner possible; a horrific and inhumane example is one that has continued for nearly a month. The Iraqi government has been preventing the delivery of fuel for power generators (while all the camp’s infrastructures depend on this electricity), medicine for terminal patients and food stuffs are of course part of the policy of crackdown against us in Liberty. Despite our continuous protests and requests, there has yet to be any serious and practical action aimed at lifting this cruel blockade. This cruel and hated measure reminds me of remarks made by President Obama’s first national security advisor General James Jones’ in an interview with CNN describing Camp Liberty as “worse than Guantanamo Bay”. The result of this deliberate violation of pledges, which US officials and the UN SRSG are not willing to acknowledge, is that a humanitarian catastrophe is taking place under their very eyes.
Right now, the responsibility of the UN and US government – morally and legally – is to lift the 5-year long inhumane siege imposed against Iranian refugees by Maliki’s fallen government, have the rights of Iranian refugees recognized under international law and Camp Liberty be placed under complete UNHCR control as a refugee camp. This is the only solution to prevent yet another massacre and catastrophe in Camp Liberty and against the lives of each and every one of us.
Ebrahim Seyyedi is a former political prisoner in Iran