DIALA / Aswat al-Iraq: A big demonstration has taken place in the al-Khalis suburb demanding to deport the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) from Iraq, the suburb’s Mayor, Uday al-Khadran, said on Monday.
PMOI media spokesperson, Mahdi Aqbaee, accused the Diala province’s police commander of arranging the demonstration, but the commander denied these accusations.
Last week, Iraqi forces engaged with PMOI fighters at the organization’s headquarters in Camp Ashraf in al-Khalis suburb (15 km north of Baaquba city). Two policemen were killed and 66 others were injured, while 12 of the organization’s elements were killed and 400 others were wounded.
“Thousands of the suburb’s residents participated in the demonstration,” Mayor al-Khadran told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
“The demonstrators want to deport the PMOI from Iraq due to the organization’s interference in the Iraqi issue,” he said.
The PMOI, also known by the abbreviations MKO and MEK, is a militant socialist organization that advocates the overthrow of Iran’s current government. Founded in 1965, the PMOI was originally devoted to armed struggle against the Shah of Iran, capitalism and Western imperialism.
“The organization’s members committed acts of aggression against Iraqi forces inside Camp Ashraf,” al-Khadran said.
“Diala residents do not want the PMOI to stay in Camp Ashraf,” he said.
The organization officially renounced violence in 2001 and today it is the main organization in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an “umbrella coalition” parliament-in-exile that claims to be dedicated to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran.
For his part, Aqbaee said, “The Diala police commander, General Abdulhussein al-Shemmary ordered a number of his forces to arrange the demonstration.”
“This measure is illegal,” Aqbaee said.
After more than 20 years of living in Camp Ashraf in the Iraqi province of Diala, near the borders with Iran, the PMOI announced that it is ready to leave Iraq, setting five conditions they said the Iranian government has to fulfill.
He said that the organization members, when they arrive in Iran, are to have immunity against arrests and torture and enjoy the right to express their views and that the Iranian government should issue an official commitment in this regard addressed to the United Nations (UN), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the two governments of the United States and Iraq.
He also said those four sides should certify the commitment, and the UN and ICRC should be responsible for activating this agreement inside Iran.
According to Aqbaee, the conditions should allow PMOI members to sell their property in Iraq, while those who do not want to return to Iran should have the right to seek asylum in a third country.
The PMOI has had thousands of its members for many years in bases in Iraq, but they were disarmed in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and are said to have adhered to a ceasefire. Its armed wing is, or was, called the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA).
The former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein dedicated Camp Ashraf in Diala province, northeast of Baghdad, to host the PMOI members since the 1980s.
Although being designated as a “terrorist” group, the organization has been under U.S. protection.
After the security agreement between Iraq and the United States government was signed, the Iraqi government took the responsibility of providing security to Camp Ashraf residents.
For his part, General al-Shemmary denied the accusations that the demonstration was staged by his forces, stressing that there was no military presence in the demonstration.
“The PMOI operatives were behind the death of two policemen and the injury of 66 others,” al-Shemmary said.
“The damage reached Camp Ashraf itself, which is considered an Iraqi government property,” he said.
Baaquba, the capital city of Diala province, lies 57 km northeast of Baghdad.