By Ramin Jafari, Camp Liberty
The weather was a blistering 50 degrees Celsius, it was 12:30 pm, and I was on my way home on Camp Liberty’s dirt and gravel roads, exhausted from the hell-hot weather. I suddenly heard a voice from the section where the ill residents were hospitalized. I looked and saw one of the nurses running toward me. He looked tired and worried at the same time. I put a hand on his shoulder and asked what was wrong?
Through gasps, he said, “A few days ago, Taghi Abassian (one of the residents) died in front of my eyes because he was denied medical treatment. Right now, there are several other cancer patients who are in a very dangerous situation. Please come to their dormitory and help me out.”
I thought that he might have mistaken me for a medic or an assistant doctor. I said, “I’m not a doctor. I think you’ve got the wrong guy.”
“No,” he insisted. “I only want you to help me with simple things.”
Together, we headed for the dormitory. On the way, he explained that the air conditioning unit had broken down, and the patients’ health conditions were fast deteriorating under the unbearable heat. It was only then that I realized why he was so upset. The air conditioner was very crucial for the patients, and given the inhumane siege imposed on Camp Liberty, our wherewithal to repair the broken devices was very limited (and sometimes impossible).
When we reached the patients’ dormitory, I realized why he was so worried. I was deeply moved when I saw my dear friend, Hadi Ta’ala (who suffers from lung cancer) coughing and breathing with difficulty. He had been waiting to go for chemotherapy to Baghdad, but Iraqi agents loyal to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had prevented him from going. I was enraged by the illegal and cruel actions. I told my friend not to worry, that I would quickly fix the air conditioner and he would feel a lot better.
In response, Hadi said something that overwhelmed me and inspired my admiration. “This is not the first time that I’m being treated this way,” he said. “They aim at forcing me to surrender. Not giving in to the sickness and keeping up my spirit is my battle and my trial. Anyone might face problems and difficulties in life. What’s important is how we face them and put them behind.”
I checked the air conditioner, all the while thinking about Hadi’s inspiring words. To my dismay, I realized that the device had a leakage and was out of gas. It was the first time that I felt helpless, that there was nothing I could do. We were out of air conditioner gas and the Iraqi forces in charge of the camp had prevented supplies from entering the camp. Yet I knew that fixing the air conditioner was vital for the health of the patients. I had to do something.
I quickly went to the refrigerators section and extracted gas from one of the refrigerators and filled the patients’ air conditioner after fixing the leakage. By then, the time was 5:00 pm. Even though I was happy for the patients, I was still enraged at the overall blockade that was placed on the camp.
As I headed toward my housing trailer in the camp, my thoughts went back to Camp Ashraf, where we previously resided before being forcibly relocated to Camp Liberty.
After Iraqi forces raided Camp Ashraf several times, we were urged to move to Camp Liberty to enjoy better security and be spared from further attacks. We were also told that there would be no blockade on Camp Liberty as there was on Ashraf. I had lived in Ashraf for more than 20 years. It was a full-featured city, which we had built with our own hands.
When I wanted to move to Liberty, as a technician, I wanted to bring my tools and equipment with me, but the Iraqi forces that inspected our belongings confiscated them and prevented me from bringing my equipment with me to Camp Liberty. They claimed that the camp already had everything we needed. In Ashraf I had a fully-featured workshop and I could take care of all sorts of problems that happened with air conditioning and refrigerating machines. In Liberty, I didn’t even have an oxygen capsule to carry out simple repairs. They had lied to me.
In Liberty, we are lacking the most basic needs for our daily lives, let alone repairs. With the inhumane logistics and medical blockade that has been imposed on us, a disaster might occur at any time.
Even though engineers have inspected the camp’s infrastructure and asserted that the situation is critical, but no measure has been taken to remedy the situation and Iraqi forces continue to impose restrictions. Needless to say that the U.S. and UN have, time and again, stipulated that they are committed to make sure that Camp Liberty would conform to humanitarian and human rights standards.
Indeed what achievement does humanity get from tormenting a cancer patient under 50 degrees Celsius heat to force him to choose between dying and surrendering? Is this anything but the outdated, criminal mindset of fundamentalism? Without a doubt, extremists and fundamentalists of any kind are heralding their own doom with their savage behavior. And indeed, those who choose to stand for freedom and democracy will go to great lengths and pay the price. This is something that will never be understood by fundamentalists and the enemies of freedom and democracy. That is why I am confident that freedom and democracy will eventually conquer the decaying ideology of extremism, and have no doubt that extremist forces will be eliminated from the course of history.
Ramin Jafari is an mechanical engineer graduated from Shiraz University who now resides in Camp Liberty