Calling Camp Ashraf as Ashraf city is one of the self-fabricated terms of MKO and investigating its semantic, geographical, social, and political aspects is necessary. Ashraf is the military camp of Mojahedin that has surrendered to a superior power by force and still has the parameters and indices of a military camp like putting on military uniform, running morning rituals, military discipline and tens of other instances of practices exercised in most military camps. The fact is that calling Camp Ashraf a city is so irrelevant and ridiculous that in the report about Camp Ashraf written by Manoochehr Hezarkhani, a member of NCRI, he looses his control and is strongly impressed after finding some parameters like the existence of marketplace and a graveyard therein and writes:
I consider the entrance of business to Ashraf as a sign of “urbanization” in this military camp.
Or he refers to another sign of urbanization of Camp Ashraf as follows:
Graveyard is another structure of this (unfortunately) developing city that is not newly built and its establishment goes back to the post Kuwait war period as the monument of those Mojaheds who were martyred in the riots of that time and their body was not found. Until then, Mojahedin buried their martyrs in Karbala yet since then they bury them in this cemetery. The great, pleasant, and orderly graveyard that I saw in this trip is in fact one of the most interesting scenes of this city and as it was said one of the places that all newcomers visit first. The regular line of glittery tombs decorated with flowers, the photo of martyrs of Ashraf as well as the light and mournful music played therein leaves no visitor indifferent.
Let alone the fact that any gathering even comprised of few families needs a place as cemetery and if it is an index of urbanization, any gathering of any size and characteristics is a city if it has a graveyard and the presence or absence of graveyard is the index of urbanization in social and political classifications. Surprisingly enough, Mr. Hezarkhani pays his most attention to the structure of the graveyard of Ashraf and describes it compared to other places. The reason may be that Mojahedin value the dead more than any other issue and the stylish and orderly graveyard therein acts as a motivation for others to die to receive the greatest respect. Likewise, it can be concluded that Mr. Hezarkhani himself has no basis for his statements and there are other objectives behind his report.
Evidently, the best resource and reference for finding if Ashraf can be called a city is the existing encyclopedias and dictionaries. Surprisingly enough, in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Camp Ashraf has been considered a city whereas various sociological, geographical, and political definitions given of city in the same encyclopedia and classification of its indices imply that Camp Ashraf lacks many parameters to be called a city. However, in Wikipedia there are some contradictions too where the residents of Ashraf are quoted calling it “Ashraf city or Camp Ashraf” considering its military nature. Such fabricated definition is much owed to Mojahedin lobbies and payments rather than geographical facts to legally refer to an area not even as a village or town but city!
It seems that according to the dualistic viewpoint of Mojahedin consisting of Marxist as well as religious outlook toward all phenomena and issues, the definitions given by Marx and Engle on city are more relevant here since they define city materialistically. Marx defines an urbanized society based on some characteristics and features: A city is the place of centralization of population, production means, resources, demands and needs wherein social working division is made.
It seems that population is the sole commonality found between the definition of a city and Camp Ashraf. However, according to a conventional rule, 3500 residents are not enough to be considered a population. Moreover, according to geographical and sociological definitions, a city has to have at least 50000 hectare width and 50000 residents. In this regard, geographers consider a city as an artificial landscape of streets, buildings, facilities, and structures that make an urban life possible. Moreover, historians define city based on its history and antiquity. Economists refer to city as a place where the livelihood of the most residents is not based on agriculture and demographers take the population of an area as the main factor of its urbanization. These are the classic factors for distinguishing between a city and other geographical divisions. The factors of modern urbanization like designation, body, ideals, and activities are to be added to the above factors. Intelligentsias consider an urbanized structure as a complex and organized design consisting of three main factors of body, ideals, and activity that is changing constantly. Some others define city as the result of removing the earth from life and replacing it with thinking.
Now, taking these factors into consideration, it is very difficult to find the traces of facilities and parameters of a city in Camp Ashraf. The extent to which these definitions and characteristics are accepted by Mr. Hezarkhani depends on the extent to which he has relied on them in his report. For example, if he refers to the index of marketing for proving the urbanization of Camp Ashraf, it means that he takes classic definition of a city into consideration and fails to exempt Camp Ashraf of those definitions. He has to either confirm the standard definitions on city or give a definition other than that of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and theorists. Referring to a marketplace and bank (that are symbolic), and also a standard football field like that of European countries, mosque, hospital, etc , it seems that he recognizes the classic definitions of city and urbanization. The content of these symbols and their true nature is another issue to be discussed.