Stockholm| Increased security to show Children of Camp Ashraf documentary

“The children from Camp Ashraf” is a documentary about four people of Iranian origin who were sent to Sweden as children in the 90s. Their families belonged to the militant, religious and Iranian resistance movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which is politically far left and has been described as sectarian. Until 2009, the group was labeled as terrorist by the EU.
Camp Ashraf, mentioned in the film’s title, was a military camp in the desert of Iraq. The film depicts how the children lived and grew up there, until the camp was bombed and 1,000 minors were displaced. The parents remained in the military camp to continue fighting, while the children in the film were placed with mujahedin members in Sweden. One of the participants later returned as a child soldier to Camp Ashraf.

“I thought the story was very interesting. It is about the children of former young idealists who create a resistance movement out of fighting spirit, but end up sacrificing their own children for a top-run and sectarian organization. Ultimately, the kids want answers, but they’ll never get them because the parents are locked up in a military base”, says Sara Moein, the film’s director.

In connection with the documentary “The Children from Camp Ashraf” shown during the Gothenburg Film Festival in January, members of MEK held a demonstration at Götaplatsen where they protested the film. In a speech, it was claimed that it is the Iranian regime had produced the film with the aim of harming the movement.

Hanif Bali came to Sweden as one of the unaccompanied children in the 90s and participates in “The Children from Camp Ashraf”.
Photo: Iga Mikler

“It was strange to see people demonstrating against a film they had never seen,” says Sara Moein. “This was the first time the film was shown, no one outside the film crew had seen it. But I was prepared for this to happen, because this is how the mujahedin react to all scrutiny.”

Gothenburg’s film festival brought in security guards who were on site during the screenings. According to Mirja Wester, CEO of the Gothenburg Film Festival, the festival had a dialogue with the filmmakers before the premiere to increase security:

“In consultation with them, we decided to have increased staffing at the screenings in case something should arise that would be inconvenient for them. We had security guards because we didn’t know if anyone wanted to interrupt the performances.”
According to Mirja Wester, it was still relatively calm during the four screenings of the film during the festival.
– Our report from the security guard was that it was not a particularly threatening position, but rather expressions of opinion from the stands after one of the screenings. It may happen that the filmmakers have a different picture of what they experienced afterwards.

A video recording shows people who claim to be connected to the MEK acting aggressively and loudly in the movie theater after one of the screenings in Gothenburg. They scream that the film is full of “lies”.

Sara Moein has directed the film “The Children of Camp Ashraf”, which caused reactions.
Photo: Håkan Elofsson

“It is not a story where words stand against words. That they used child soldiers is proven, and they are still violating international laws by doing so. There is also much evidence that hundreds of children have been placed in foster care on false grounds,” says Sara Moein.

She describes the life depicted in the film as “a piece of migration history”:
“They are perhaps the first wave of Swedish child soldiers who go abroad and it is a contemporary, unspoken, big Swedish scandal.”

Gothenburg’s film festival has had talks with Tempo documentary film festival ahead of the screenings in Stockholm. Ida Thorén, festival director of Tempo, says they have increased security for the next two screenings, with extra staff on site:
“We have planned it more carefully and it is well thought out. But we have not received any particular indications that it would be needed. But the documentary engages and there will be a lot of people there, so we want to be well prepared,” she says.

Ida Thorén also mentions that Tempo has received emails from people who want to share their experiences because of the film’s theme, but that everything was done in a pleasant tone.

Sara Moein, who worked on the film for seven years, says she is looking forward to showing “The Children from Camp Ashraf” in Stockholm:
“The festivals have both done a good job. It takes a lot of work and energy to talk about security, but Tempo has taken security measures. I feel quite safe. Tempo does not waver in any way, the film is allowed to be shown and given the space it deserves.”

“The Children of Camp Ashraf”

Will be Screened at Tempo Documentary Film Festival on Wednesday and Thursday.
Directed by Sara Moein, produced by Linda Mutawi. Executive producers: Gellert Tamas, Kristina Åberg, Tarik Saleh.
Depicts the lives of four people. The common denominator is that they came to Sweden as unaccompanied refugees during the 90s and that their families belonged to the Iranian political resistance movement People’s Mujahedin.

Two of the participants in the film are the politician Hanif Bali and the writer and activist Atefeh Sebdani.
The film is nominated for the Tempo documentary prize.

Lämna en kommentar / Av hufvudstadsbladet / 5 mars 2024

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