The recent events in Brussels, only months after the Paris massacre, have reminded us all how fragile our very way of life is, and how vulnerable we remain to terrorist attacks even in Western capitals. Unfortunately, Iranian refugees in Iraq have endured such atrocities time and again at the hands of Shiite militia proxies loyal to Iran.
April 8thmarks the fifth anniversary of a bloody massacre staged by forces of then Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, in which hundreds defenseless Iranian refugees were gunned down in cold blood, dozens left dead and scores wounded with their bodies riddled with bullets. As leaders across the globe strive to tackle terrorism and provide peace and security for their peoples, the plight of Iranian refugees in Iraq must not be forgotten.
Enemy Number One
The regime in Iran considers these refugees, members of the main Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MeK) in Iraq, as their main enemies. Tehran is hell-bent on annihilating this population of dissidents, staging 7 series of bloody ground and rocket attacks from July 2009 to this day in Camp Ashraf, their previous home located northeast of Baghdad, and Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military camp adjacent to Baghdad International Airport where they were moved in 2012. The April 8th, 2011 massacre back in Ashraf witnessed Maliki – known for his loyalty to Tehran – dispatch over 2,500 troops, armored units and bulldozers to attack these unarmed refugees and occupy a large portion of their camp. This horrific attack was condemned by the international community, yet the West’s policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran barred any investigation into this crime. Not a single soldier, let alone a senior Iraqi or Iranian official, has been held accountable.
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani recently confirmed President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Austria was cancelled due to the fact that the PMOI/MeK had planned a major rally in Vienna. This once again proves the sheer animosity Tehran has for its opposition.
A Good Start
Despite being transferred to Camp Liberty under pledges of increased security, their new home has failed to meet this promise. The UNHCR has expressed its concerns in numerous statements and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has gone as far as describing Liberty as aprison and detention center. Iran has continued its efforts to annihilateCamp Liberty and its residents, proving how vitally important is the matter of protecting Liberty residents. During the years brave dignitaries have called for the security these Iranian refugees deserve and were promised to. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee, spearheaded a historic amendment on this matter in the U.S. defense budget bill ultimately signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade, has also submitted a draft resolution focusing on the issue of protecting Liberty residents. 170 Members of the European Parliament issued a statement on December 7th, 2015 emphasizing the difficulties Liberty residents are facing and calling for action to relieve these refugees of their peril.
All said and done, the United Nations, U.S. government and European Union bear responsibility to guarantee security and rights of Iranian refugees in Iraq. The residents have through the years signed numerous agreements with these parties, and the Iraqi government, holding them responsible for their protection in return for the step they have taken and flexibility they have generously shown in their stay in Iraq. It is high time the international community lives up to its word on protecting Liberty residents from attacks staged by Iranian surrogates in Iraq, and safeguarding these refugees’ rights according to international laws and covenants. The U.S. government back in 2004 signed an agreement recognizing all Liberty residents, back in Ashraf at the time, as “protected persons” under the 4th Geneva Convention. This status has no expiration date until the protected persons are assured a safe and secure final disposition.
As Liberty residents mourn and commemorate their fallen families and friends who lost their lives on April 8th, 2011, the international community has an obligation to provide the protection these defenseless refugees rightfully deserve. The world should not witness yet another Srebrenica or Rwanda in any scale, and Syria has taught us the lesson of how lethal inaction can be.