BAGHDAD (AFP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross has helped with the voluntary repatriation of 260 members of Iran’s main armed opposition, the People’s Mujahedeen, over five years, the ICRC said on Monday.
ICRC spokeswoman Dibeh Fakhr told reporters the 260 had been repatriated between the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and April 2008, after having asked to return to Iran. Two more Mujahedeen members have since also returned home.
“The committee has helped 260 members of the Mujahedeen Khalq (People’s Mujahedeen) to return to Iran, and we actually managed to take them back to their country,” she said.
The Mujahedeen, which seeks to overthrow Iran’s Islamic regime, is branded a terrorist organisation by the United States, while the European Union only removed it from its blacklist earlier this year.
It was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah, but was sidelined by the rival clerical regime which took power in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The group’s largest base in exile is in Ashraf, north of Baghdad. It was set up in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was in power and at war with Iran as a base to operate against the Iranian government.
It is home to 3,500 Mujahedeen supporters and their families.
“Our role is purely humanitarian, and we have visited them to check their situation in the (Ashraf) camp,” the ICRC spokeswoman said. “During the visit, some of them expressed their desire to return to Iran.”
Since April 2008, the ICRC helped two more members of the Mujahedeen return to Iran around a week ago, said Patrick Yusef, who heads the ICRC in Iraq’s central provinces.
In March, Iraq’s National Security Advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie said the Mujahedeen members who were based in the Ashraf camp should leave, describing them as “foreign terrorists”.
But the Mujahedeen said a forcible transfer would be illegal and that its supporters in the camp would never leave.