By Ghassem Bahrami, Camp Liberty

Camp Liberty

Various pains don’t let me have a decent night’s sleep. Last night I had another nightmare. It has been nearly a year now that I have endured such conditions in Camp Liberty. It was five years ago when that horrific event happened and it comes back to haunt me again and again. I was the driver of a minibus and I took around my refugee friends across Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the 25-year home of 3,000 Iranian refugees opposing the mullahs’ regime. July 28, 2009 was a hot summer day in Iraq and from the very beginning I felt fire was pouring down from the sky. However, the beauty of the tree-lined roads in Camp Ashraf had overshadowed everything. I was preparing the vehicle for the residents when I heard the bad news: Maliki government forces had attacked Ashraf!!? I was taking a number of passengers when I saw a number of passengers streak by with their sirens running. With the utmost unbelief and curiosity after I took the passengers to their destination I thought it would be better to go to entrance gate.

Near that area I saw very shocking scenes that caught me off guard. A large number of injured residents with their hands and heads broken, or even unconscious, were on the ground with blood spilling from their bodies. A bit further away were Iraqi forces with blades, clubs and even axes, backed by a number of armed forces on HUMVEEs, attacking defenseless empty-handed residents. I stopped near a number of the injured residents and quickly with the help of two my friends I took them to a clinic in Ashraf. After taking the first wounded person into the minibus I went again to get another one, being my friend and colleague, Asghar Yaghoub Pour. He was severely bleeding and all of a sudden my eyes fell on an armed Iraqi security guard standing 20 meters away that was aiming his weapon at me. I was scared and this question came to my mind: is he targeting me? I threw myself to the ground but it was too late, and while I was falling I felt my stomach getting on fire and then I no longer realized anything. When I regained consciousness I saw that I was hit in the stomach with bullet and taken to the Ashraf clinic. I asked about my friend Asghar and they said he was in a very bad shaped. He later died due to the graveness of his wounds. I blamed myself a lot, saying to myself if I had taken him to the hospital earlier he would have survived and would not be 11th resident that died on day. From then on, to this very day, I still awake at nights with nightmares.

Three years later and after a number of attacks and massacres by Iraqi forces against Ashraf residents, against my personal will and only because I trusted the United Nations and pledges made by the US State Department I accepted to come to Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport. In the utmost disbelief when I reached Liberty the same individuals who had shot me back in Ashraf are now the managers of camp. However, the problem I had was not just this. I am suffering from anomalies in both legs and my bones are swayed. In Ashraf since all the paths were asphalt and I had vehicles at my disposal; so there was no problem in commuting. But here in Liberty from the very first day I was suffering from serious pains in the leg since there are a very limited number of vehicles and all the paths are gravel and uneven. Right now I cannot walk anywhere because of the pains. Finally I went to the physician who said I have to undergo surgery for both of my knees. I had received appointments on numerous occasions to undergo surgery in Baghdad but each time when I was leaving the camp the same Iraqi forces that had ordered to open fire on us are now in Liberty and prevented me from going to a hospital. This process took more than a year and each time they did not allow me go. Here, Iraqi security forces stationed in the camp – and not the physicians – are the ones that make the decisions for the patients and decide when they can go to hospitals. It has been five years since we refugees are under a medical siege and they are not allowing us receive medical treatment even at our own expense! The last time when I sought to exit the camp to go to a hospital as usual the security forces asked me what illness do I have that I want to go to a hospital? I explained to him and afterwards he said we are not going to that hospital!? And you must get out of the ambulance!!

While it is our basic right to have access to physicians and treatment, it is very unfortunate that this injustice and violation of our universal rights are taking place under UN watch and monitoring. There is no prospect for me to receive treatment for my leg. Additionally this is yet another nightmare that adds up and I know without treatment I may actually lose my leg.

I think to myself why this much pressure on us defenseless refugees, even for medical reasons, which is very hideous. With what humane emotions are they willing to continue this for more than 5 years now? I immediately got my answer. Does fundamentalism have any human feelings? Hatred and blind abhorrence are two main and fundamental elements of this utterly vicious way of thought and unfortunately in today’s world people are suffering from this way of thought in many ways, with the mullahs’ being the first founders of it in Iran. Unfortunately the West, and especially the U.S., who are responsible for protecting the well-being of each and every one of us in Liberty, turn their backs on these facts due to political interests.

For me these pains are the cost of my nations’ freedom and my country Iran from the grasps of religious fundamentalists. Many of my friends have lost their lives in the fight against religious fundamentalism. History says, “Freedom will never be presented in a silver plate to any nation without a price!” and today if freedom, the highest accomplishment of mankind, is being threatened by extremists and fundamentalists, then it is the duty of all freedom lovers to not allow their fate be decided by radical fundamentalists.