Javad Firuzmand interviewed by Mehrdad Farahmand

Former MKO seeking refuge in western countries The military coalition under the US commandment in Iraq confirmed that some MKO members have left this organisation and their base in Iraq.  Confirmation of this news takes place after some reports were published indicating that in the past few weeks the efforts of dozens of former MKO to escape Iraq and seek refuge in western countries have failed and many of them are left hanging around in Iraq where they are in a very desperate situation.

In the past four years since Iraq was occupied by the US forces and its allies, some MKO members gradually left this organization and Camp Ashraf which is their base in Iraq.

The US army which is guarding Camp Ashraf during this period, kept the dissidents under its own protection in a camp near to this base. As the press office of coalition forces under the US command has informed the BBC, during the last four years 380 individuals of MKO have returned to Iran at their own request. But those dissidents who did not wish to return to Iran despite the efforts made by the United States did not gain the confirmation of any country for their application for refuge.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that within the last few weeks, dozens of them decided to leave the camp they were living in which was protected by the US forces and try to leave Iraq through different ways but this effort was unsuccessful for most of them and they returned to the camp protected by the US forces. Some were arrested after crossing the Turkish border and returned to Iraq, a few managed to remain in Turkey or go to Greece illegally.

The Society for Defending Immigrants and Iranians in France (ARIA) tries to help the MKO dissidents to leave Iraq and settle in another country. According to this society 208 MKO dissidents were staying in the US camp up to last month. The press office of the US forces today gives their number at 110. Javad Firuzmand, the spokesman of ARIA society who himself has left the MKO says that this number had reduced to 50 last week and the number 110 indicates that some of those who had left there have returned to the US camp.

Mr Firuzmand told the BBC that 70 of the dissidents tried to go to Turkey after they left the Americas with the aid of some smugglers, but the Turkish border police arrested them and after one month in prison and remaining in compulsory camp were handed over to the Iraqi Police. One of these people was shot and wounded by the border police and is in hospital now in the city of Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The spokesman of ARIA society says that the autonomous government of Iraqi Kurdistan is keeping the people who were handed over by the Turkish police in a temporary camp in Arbil. But some of these people tried again to cross the Turkish border. Ten of them were arrested again by the Turkish police and handed over to Iraqi police and they are now in prison in Arbil. Amongst those who managed to cross the border ten were able to reach Greece with the aid of smugglers and 15 are living covertly in Istanbul and Ankara and Van in Turkey.

According to Javad Firuzmand, the MKO dissidents who are staying in Turkey could not approach the Human Rights and Turkish organizations since if they are revealed they would be arrested and returned to Iraq. The ten who stay in Greece are also in covert situation in that country. The ARIA society spokesman added that about 15 individuals approached Jordan and there is no information about the destiny of other 8.

The BBC’s effort to contact the UNHCR to obtain information about the destiny of these MKO dissidents did not reach anywhere but enquiries are still ongoing. The ARIA society which is a human rights establishment defending Iranians has demanded help for these people and the chance to live legally in European or other free countries. During the last four years some MKO dissidents have returned to Iran – the press office of forces under US command in Iraq gives their number at 380. Javad Firuzmand, the spokesman of ARIA society says that these individuals are living and working in several Iranian cities and are freely active in the society and he himself is in contact with some of them. According to him, inside Camp Ashraf which is still run by the MKO, some 200 individuals have left the MKO too. These people are not willing to move to the American’s camp and they are kept in a separate place inside Ashraf. Mr Firuzmand says that these people also seek refuge from western countries.

Camp Ashraf was established in 1986 after MKO leader [Massoud Rajavi] moved from France to Iraq and the members of this organisation launched an armed struggle against Iran benefiting from the military facilities given by Saddam Hussein’s regime. They participated in military operations against Iran during the Iran Iraq war. This base is situated in the district of Khalis in the province of Dyala in the east of Iraq and the coalition forces under US command have given the total number of individuals living there as 3360. The United States designated the MKO as a terrorist organisation but according to international regulations and Geneva Convention, they are kept under the entity of "protected persons".

The Iranian government demands that Camp Ashraf be dismantled and all MKO members be expelled from Iraq and accuses the Americans of protecting them in order to use them against Iran.  January 26, 2008

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