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Dissident Iranians Live In Limbo In Iraq

Iraq: We treat Mojahedin Khalq have no status

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Iraq: We treat Mojahedin Khalq have no statusAn old Middle East aphorism says "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." With the United States and Iran at odds, it should mean warm relations between the United States and the opponents of Tehran.

But a group of 3,400 Iranian dissidents, currently living north of Baghdad, has posed a dilemma for the U.S. government.

They were given U.S. military protection in 2003 after the American-led invasion of Iraq, but now the Iraqi government wants them out. The trouble is that they don’t want to leave.

The Mujahedeen-e Khalq organization, known as MEK, was part of the alliance that overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979. But it quickly ran afoul of the Islamic revolution. The organization moved to Iraq in the 1980s. Since then, the dissidents have lived as refugees at Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad.

Refuge in Iraq came at a price, though. Saddam Hussein put them to work against their own country during the Iran-Iraq war. And he had other jobs for them, as well.
Ali al-Zuhairi, an Iraqi tribal sheik in the town of Khalis, near Camp Ashraf, recalls bitterly how the MEK helped Saddam put down the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings in 1991. Zuhairi claims the MEK killed rebel Iraqis and left their bodies in the street. He calls them "terrorists."

Officially, the U.S. government agrees, and designates the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization. But on the ground in Iraq, the U.S. treats the group differently, says Mohammad al-Shemari, another resident of Khalis.

Quil Lawrence, National Public Radio

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