By Nazar Karim Beigi, Camp Liberty
Ilam, with its sky-high mountains and fountains, is one of the most beautiful but at the same time poorest cities in western Iran. Though my country enjoys great fields of oil and gas resources but my family like many others had to resort to hard work to cope with poverty. I always asked myself, “why poverty!?” My friends and I struggled to earn a full meal, and going to school instead of laboring in the hot brickyards was a fancy for us.
In a cool breeze of a Friday afternoon I accompanied my friends to the only soccer stadium of the city to play as usual. We entered the stadium. In the middle of the playground’s lawn the sight of few armed men and two black-veiled armed women from IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) caught my attention.
I looked with more precision and then I realized a woman wrapped in a white piece of cloth had been forced into a dug hole in a standing position. Her face could be seen, sad and startled she was weeping slowly. A cold sweat covered my body head to toe. I looked with more precision. There was a young woman, her face was tear-stricken and she was absently staring at the horizon as if she wasn’t hearing the yelling. I stood there motionless gazing at the scene until the cries of “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is great) startled me. All of a sudden there were stones being hurled toward the poor young woman.
Her face had paled and her mouth had gone dry. Strands of black hair were sprouting from beneath the white shroud. Stones continued to rain down at her. The white shroud slowly turned crimson and the trapped, feeble body was jerking every which way. I couldn’t bear watching anymore.
One of guards walked up to her, holding a big stone in his hand, and smashed it on her head. Slowly, the torn, the body wrapped inside the now-torn, red-white cloth bended toward the bloodied lawn.
I was feeling very bad, and I started getting out of the stadium but my legs couldn’t bear my weight and shoulders were sagging. I felt a heavy pain in my heart as if it was going to burst out of my chest. My mind didn’t work anymore and I couldn’t concentrate on anything since the after-images of scenes I had witnessed didn’t leave me.
I couldn’t eat anything for a long time. During days that followed, instead of going to work, I ran away onto the mountains adjacent to the city and sat there all alone, crying loudly. I didn’t want to sleep for fear of the nightmares that would find me.
Witnessing this scene altered the path of my life into a risky one. Poverty, torture, execution, stoning and so on in streets of my city were not issues that I as a human being could pass by apathetically. I tried to do something, but soon I realized I could not do much alone since the brutal and savage punishments had been legalized in the Constitution of the medieval regime. Therefore the regime must vanish entirely with all its rules and regulations. This was the point that put me en route for camp Ashraf, where thousands of freedom lovers devoted their lives for freedom, democracy, equality and banishment of execution and torture. Realizing these values became my dream.
25 years ago I and my best friend called Saied were living in camp Ashraf as political refugees opposing the Iranian regime. We promised to each other to free our people at any cost and the motive made us energetic and cooperative in difficulties. When the US invaded Iraq it pledged solemnly to protect the residents of camp Ashraf in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, but on the contrary the security of Ashraf was delivered to the Iraqi government quite illegally at 2009. We objected and warned the US administration that this breach of its commitment would lead us to a very hazardous condition since the Iranian subordinate militias in Iraq have infiltrated most Iraqi governmental bureaus and security administrations. But unfortunately, no one listened to our ratiocinations; subsequently, we were target of several bloody attacks. At the second major attack on 8 April 2011 by Iraqi security forces during which an Iraqi officer aimed directly his gun and shot at us like preys, a bullet pierced through Saied’s heart. He was standing next to me. I made every effort to save him but it was in vain. Overwhelmed by his death, I thought that if I could ever do anything without him?! Since we were barehanded in front of those forces, I saw myself on a two way road; either to accept and surrender to savageries like stoning in Iran or to continue the fight to have my dreams realized. Along with my friends we stood shoulder to shoulder, resisted and stopped the Iraqi security forces. But during 5 times major attacks nearly 120 of us were martyred and 1,300 more were seriously injured. The scene of Saied’s martyrdom taught me that for the sake of freedom one must stand even empty-handed.
The pressure increased by massacre threats and at the same time tightening the siege that included logistics and food supplies and medical services and etc.
But for me to see my goals realized was more important than life itself. I was resolute to stand more. At last the UN and the US Department of State proposed to us (the residents of Ashraf) to move to camp Liberty as Temporary Transit Location (TTL), with the theory, “a little bit farther, a little bit more secure.” We were promised that camp Liberty would enjoy the same standards of living as any other TTL camp.
I was transferred with the first group of people from Ashraf to Liberty and in the bus I had an instinctive sense of anxiety. Where were they taking us? What would happen? I recalled Saied and the promise we made to each other and … I whispered that the stoning and executions must be stopped in Iran. These thoughts diminished my anxiety. At dark of that midnight I entered camp Liberty. In the morning after I noticed an Iraqi police armored vehicle with a machinegun at top of it aiming at the trailer I was lodged in. I was so disturbed about it. Again, we were betrayed. I objected if this place is a refugee camp or a shooting yard, or even a prison, that they surrounded us by armed armored vehicles?
By now it has been three years from that night. The one and only anti-thesis to the Islamic fundamentalism has been enchained. Four times missile attacks by militia forces subordinates of Iran’s regime collaborating with the Iraqi security forces resulted with the death of 14 of the camp’s residents.
To the real meaning of the word, camp Liberty is worse than a prison, since prisoners can have lawyers and see families, but I am deprived of these very basic rights and still I am not permitted to refer to physician or purchase goods from the market and so on. They prevent the entry of basic goods, gas and many other things into Liberty. In the blistering heat of the Iraq’s summer how is it ever possible to rest in ragged metal trailers without electricity since the camp’s is not connected to the national power grid and the siege on fuel turns the power generators in the camp useless; the flow of water depends on electricity too and is rationed. For fear of nightly missile attacks on the camp I have to sleep out of the trailer on the ground (if I could go to sleep at all) to avoid injury or death. I look at the stars anticipating when the next missile would come! Watching stars in the sky, I sometimes travel into my old bitter memories and am reminded of my friends, the stadium of the Ilam city and the harrowing scene of poor young woman stoned to death (by the hands of the founders of Islamic fundamentalism and how the world today and the middle east doubly suffer from this phenomenon.) I imagine how beautiful the world would be without it; the sky is dotted with countless stars and every star resembles one life; if it takes 100 more years and inside the tall T-walls of camp Liberty, I know it’s worth it to sacrifice my life for the freedom of my people in Iran. So I won’t give up my nice dream.
What do you think? Shouldn’t I stand further?