In the cold, foggy morning of Thursday, December 17th, I went to a picket line staged by a number of protesting residents in Camp Liberty, adjacent to Baghdad International Airport and home to a few thousand Iranian opposition members. This protest rally was held exactly 47 days after the most recent rocket attack on October 29th by elements linked to the Iranian regime that left 24 residents killed and over 100 others wounded. I went a bit closer to get a look and listen to what they were saying.
The cold rainy weather and the muddy and rugged routes don’t allow many of the residents roam outside of their trailers. I could only see those who were cleaning up the debris remaining after the rocket attack with their bare hands. What was interesting and caught my eye was their high spirits and insistence on working in groups. Up to just a few days ago despite all the intense international pressures and continuous protests by the camp residents, the Iraqi government had refused to allow machinery into Liberty and prevented any renovation inside the camp. Therefore, nearly two months after the deadly rocket attack the defenseless camp residents could only rely on their collective support and bare hands to gather the widespread debris in their living grounds. The residents are forced to clean up the environment that has been imposed on them by the Iranian regime and its elements in the Iraqi government.
“After the rocket attack that left 24 residents killed, through its elements in the Iraqi government the Iranian regime is imposing these pressures and stonewalling measures regarding reconstruction efforts in the camp in order to launch a psychological war of attrition against us, and thus force us to succumb to its demands,” said one of the residents to me. While standing in the middle of the debris and destroyed trailers where he and others were working, he added “We have expressed our complaints to the international community and exposed these inhumane crimes. However, we will wait no longer. We have started rebuilding the camp because all in all this is where we have to live, and we will return everything back to normal at all costs. This is a message of our victory to the elements in the Iraqi government that are enforcing repressive measures on Liberty, and in the end acting in the interests of the fundamentalist regime in Iran.”
At the picket line a number of Liberty residents were seen standing in the cold holding different banners and images of those killed in the recent rocket attack. They had staged their protest rally in the middle of the debris and destroyed daily supplies. This very image sent a message that the international community’s inaction and silence, especially the main parties to blame for their displacement, and those who have placed the residents under ruthless rocket barrages by the Iranian regime, have not broken their backs or disappointed them or had any negative impact on their will in their struggle against fundamentalism and repression.
In response to my question about what are you protesting in this picket line today, and what are your demands, a young man stepped up and spelled out two messages and requests. He also emphasized that he was speaking on behalf of his friends.
“First of all, the comprehensive inhumane siege compelled on Liberty must be lifted, and we should be able to enjoy freedom of movement. We should be able to make contact freely with our friends and family and the outside world. Our lawyers and jurists should be able to come to Camp Liberty without Iranian regime proxies in the Iraqi government and the Liberty crackdown committee preventing them. And the meaningless and immoral prison-making campaign in Liberty must be brought to an end,” he explained.
He went on with his protest while pointing to all the debris left over from the rocket attack.
“There is no guarantee that such inhumane crimes will not be repeated, and God knows if I will be alive after the next attack to come and stand before your camera again and protest the next mass killing in Liberty. The United Nations and U.S. government must impel the Iraqi government to change the camp management team at whatever price necessary. This is my main demand. This management team has for six years now been committing crimes against us under the banner of providing our protection, and it is continuing to repress and kill us on behalf of the Iranian regime and the remnants of the previous Iraqi government, being Nouri al-Maliki,” he added.
While I was very inspired within from this picket line and the spirit of its member to continue their struggle, I had to settle with taking a few pictures and say good bye to rush off and be the voice of this sit-in and further expose the rocket attack against Camp Liberty.