Sep 16 2013 – While much of the international community’s attention was turned toward the atrocities in Syria, human rights violations were occurring elsewhere in the world. Take for instance the horrific attack that recently took place at Camp Ashraf in Iraq’s Diyala province.
Camp Ashraf has long been home to Iranian exiles who now find themselves on the losing end of a closer Iraqi-Iranian relationship. Earlier this month, 52 of the approximately 100 remaining Camp Ashraf residents were shot dead and seven have gone missing, presumed to have been taken hostage by the attackers.
I strongly condemn the mass executions of innocent residents of Camp Ashraf and call for the immediate release of any hostages taken during that event. It is highly likely that Iraqi security forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are responsible for the killings. Iraqi officials deny involvement and say an internal dispute is to blame.
An investigation into this terrible event is underway. It must be allowed to move forward with interference from the Iraqi government. Outside groups such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has already issued a disturbing statement “praising” the brutal murder of these exiles, need to stay out of this and let the UN investigation transpire.
Both the Iraqi and Iranian governments should be using whatever influence they may have with groups that may be holding missing persons from the camp to secure their immediate release.
It is also vital that all parties cooperate with the proposed plan to relocate the survivors at Camp Hurriya while the UN works to secure commitments from host countries to allow permanent relocation for them.
This tragic event is a perfect of example of how our responsibilities do not end even long after the military intervention is over. The US and the rest of the international community have an obligation to ensure that whoever is responsible for these murders are held accountable and that any and all hostages are immediately released.
Call on U.S. and UN for immediate release of seven Ashraf hostages
On Saturday, September 21, the hunger strike of PMOI members in Camp Liberty that started on September 1 after the massacre and mass execution of PMOI members in Ashraf, finishes its third week.
hunger strike whose immediate demand is the expeditious release and return of the hostages are in dire physical conditions. Hunger strikers are also demanding deployment of UN Blue Helmet forces in Camp Liberty and providing imperatives security provisions to the camp (such as 17,500 T-walls, protective vests and helmets), and establishment of an international fact-finding committee to probe the human catastrophe of September 1 and bring its perpetrators to justice.
They expressed their abhorrence that United States and United Nations have not taken any effective measures to save the seven hostages who are in danger of extradition to the religious fascism ruling Iran at any moment from the claws of Maliki’s assassins. They reiterated that until liberation of hostages and realizing security at Camp Liberty through deployment of UN Blue Helmet forces, they shall continue with their hunger strike.
In response to the Maliki’s statement today, denying the abduction of seven Ashraf residents, I state the following:
While several sources, including representatives of the United Nations and the UNHCR, confirmed having seen the hostages in Baghdad, and while according the Ms. Ashton’s letter, the presence of the hostages in Baghdad has been officially confirmed; Maliki, in a dirty deal with the Iranian regime, announced in his website that the hostages are not in Iraq, and that the Iraqi government has committed no act of violence in Ashraf on September 1st, the GoI is not aware of the subject and the PMOI (MEK) is preventing the investigation from taking place!
This ridiculous claim belies the evil intentions of Maliki’s government pertaining to the extradition of the hostages and the prevention of any investigation and the continuation of the massacre of PMOI members in camp Liberty. This happens while, on September 2, the Special Representative of the Secretary General himself viewed the bodies of 52 victims of a mass execution and crime against humanity – most of whom had their hands cuffed – and expressed his outrage.
I will never forget the morning of September 1, 2013, when I turned on the TV and learned that Iraqi forces had attacked camp Ashraf again. It was Sunday, 7:30am. The first thing that came to my mind was that my parents were both in Ashraf.
I had had first-hand experience with the savagery of Maliki’s forces in the two raids that they had conducted against Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011, thus I thought I knew what atrocities were to be expected in this new assault.
What I later learned, to my dismay, was far worse that what I had imagined.
A crime against humanity was taking place in Ashraf, and my parents were in the midst of it. Their memories flashed back before my eyes, from childhood to August 29, 2012, when I last saw them. My mind went back to my last encounter with my father. As we embraced and said our farewells, he assured me that he wouldn’t be far behind and would join us all in Camp Liberty as soon as he was able to sell the property. Both my parents had stayed to guard the property of the residents of Ashraf and to put them on sale to be able to pay for the many expenses that we had in Camp Liberty.
I had no reason to believe that their lives were in danger. After all, they were staying there based on an agreement we had with the United States, United Nations, and the Iraqi government, which set no limitation to the duration of their stay.
Never did I think that I wouldn’t see them again. As I was struggling to control the feeling of anguish that was welling up inside me, the television announced the names of the victims of the attack. Every person that was declared dead added to my pain, bringing back memories of countless years of having lived and worked together. Rahman, Amir, Saeed, Hassan … people who had been like brothers to me had all been murdered.
And then I heard one name that turned me cold inside: Abbas Garmabi. My father. My mind failed to process the news for a while, as if it was refusing to register my father’s death. And then a profound feeling of pain and sorrow settled in my heart. The worst had come to pass.
Later, I learned that, during the raid, the assailants had entered the camp’s clinic to wipe out any who had remained alive. Nine wounded people were savagely murdered while they lay on stretchers and beds.
My father was one of them. He was shot in the head while he had been lying down on a bed, awaiting medical treatment. His blood had trickled down the side of the bed and gathered in a puddle on the ground. I couldn’t bear watching the scene. Such brutality was unprecedented.
One question overruled all others in my mind: why weren’t the UN and United States doing anything to stop the carnage? Hadn’t they made pledges to protect the residents of Ashraf? Why were they closing their eyes to the atrocities that the Iraqi government was committing?
It wasn’t the end of it; it was later declared that the Iraqi forces had abducted seven of the camp’s residents. My mother’s name was among them. Zahra Ramezany. Could it get any worse? As I was looking at the pictures of victims of the massacre, all savagely murdered by being shot in the head and upper body, I didn’t dare contemplate on the fate of the hostages.
The only thing I know is that she is still alive and she is in the hands of the Iraqi forces. Maliki is intending to surrender the seven hostages to Iran, where they will be promptly executed by the vicious dictatorship of the mullahs.
I have decided to go on hunger strike along with other residents of camp Liberty, my only means to draw attention to the ordeal of my mother and the other hostages and to help rescue them from the clutches of the Maliki government. We demand that the Iraqi government immediately releases the seven hostages. The United States and United Nations must intervene and put pressure on the Iraqi government to release the hostages without further delay. They are responsible for the safety and security of my mother and the other hostages.
I call on all those who read this article to help me in my plight. Maliki has already murdered my father; do not let him kill my mother as well. Call for the immediate release of the hostages.
Hanif Garmabi is one of the hunger strikers in camp Liberty. He calls on UN and US and other relevant international human rights organization to put pressure on Iraqi government for the immediate release of his mother.
UA: 242/13 Index: MDE 14/016/2013 Iraq Date: 11 September 2013
Seven iranians abducted from camp ashraf
Seven Iranian exiles, members of the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), were abducted from Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, on 1 September by armed men who had attacked the Camp and killed 52 residents. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that they are in the custody of the Iraqi authorities. They are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and could be forcibly returned to Iran.
Six women, Fatemeh Tahoori, Vajihe Karbalaey (aka Vajihe Karbalaey Fatah), Mahnaz Azizi (aka Mahbobeh Lashkari), Lila Nabahat, Zahra Ramezani (aka Sedegh Ebrahimpour), Fatema Sakhie and a man, Mohammad Ratebi (aka Mohsen Nicknamei) were abducted on 1 September from Camp Ashraf, about 60km north-east of Baghdad in Diyala governorate, when the camp was raided by armed men who shot and killed 52 camp residents. All of the seven are members of the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group. Amnesty International condemns the killing of the 52 residents and has called for an independent and impartial investigation into the killings.
Eye witnesses from the Camp stated that they had seen the seven people in handcuffs, being beaten and thrown to the ground and then taken away in a white minibus. Their whereabouts remain unknown although unconfirmed reports have suggested that the seven were held in a detention facility at the former al-Muthanna airport in central Baghdad. The Iraqi government has denied responsibility for the attack although Iraqi forces have been responsible for previous attacks on the camp that resulted in dozens of resident deaths.
Please write immediately in Arabic or English or your own language:
Calling on the Iraqi authorities to immediately clarify the whereabouts and the legal status of Fatemeh Tahoori, Vajihe Karbalaey, Mahnaz Azizi, Lila Nabahat, Zahra Ramezani, Fatema Sakhie and Mohammad Ratebi;
Urging the authorities to ensure that, if held in Iraqi custody, the seven people are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and that they are released immediately unless they are charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence.
Urging them not to forcibly return the seven individuals to Iran where they would be at risk of torture and possibly execution;
Reminding the Iraqi government of its obligations under international law not to forcibly return individuals to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture.