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Open Letter to Ashton on hostages in Camp Ashraf

Dear Mrs Ashton,
Anne Singleton, Middle East Strategy Consultants
It is interesting and entirely predictable that at the same time you replied to Iran that the six major powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – are willing to meet within weeks if Iran is prepared to "engage seriously in meaningful discussions" over concerns about its nuclear programme, we have seen a flurry of activity by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to skew perceptions of the issue with misinformation and self-aggrandising propaganda.

Paid MEK activists held yet another demonstration in front of the White House on Saturday with the irrelevant demand that the US government remove the MEK from its terrorism list. In Brussels Maryam Rajavi, wife of the MEK’s leader, was given a platform to promote terrorism in the European Parliament. Conflating the totally irrelevant issue of Camp Ashraf in Iraq with the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear programme and the MEK’s terrorist listing in the US, she was given a platform to verbally attack and insult Iraqis and their elected government from a parliamentary building.

The MEK is certainly highly proficient in advertising itself as a tool for anti-Iran elements to use and it is unfortunate that Europe’s corridors of power are being so casually exploited to promote Washington’s favourite terrorists. The intended signal is that Europe will brandish a stick to open negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issue. Does the European Commission represent European interests in this respect or do you represent the agenda of only the extreme right wings of USA and Israeli politics?

But as much as we believe this is against your interests, these are political issues and we do not wish to take any position in this respect. Our first and foremost concern is that you do not allow the issue of Camp Ashraf and its sick and aging population to be used as a political football for everyone to kick around for their own game.

It has been reported that Mrs Rajavi conveyed her thanks to you for taking the side of the MEK against the government of Iraq. If this is true it is highly unfortunate that your office has been manipulated to look as though you are taking a position of backing the head of a terrorist cult instead of the victims.

Mrs Rajavi like her fugitive husband Massoud Rajavi does not represent the individuals trapped inside Camp Ashraf. The Rajavis do not represent anybody’s interests but their own.
The Government of Iraq has frequently advised representatives of the European Union not to use the MEK to push their agendas in Iraq, to the point of issuing written and verbal complaints against interference in the internal affairs of their country, including their elections, and have warned against using elements of terrorism to push their agendas. However, these political issues must be addressed in another arena by other parties. We are specifically interested that you have now taken responsibility for dealing with Camp Ashraf.

As you are aware, around 3400 Iranian individuals remain trapped in a dangerous, destructive mind control cult, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, by its leader Massoud Rajavi inside Camp Ashraf in Diayla province of Iraq.

Since the MEK was confined to and protected in the camp by the US military in 2003, Rajavi has resisted all efforts to allow any external agencies to free these individuals in a peaceful and humane manner. Rajavi is holding the residents as hostages to guarantee his safe future, to avoid prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him by the government of Iraq and the international community.

You are also aware that since February 2009, many of the families of these hostages have taken turns to stay just outside the camp in an effort to find and meet their loved ones and to prevent the MEK from further harming them. Now, as a new contingent of families from Gilan province in Iran have arrived at the camp, we are writing to you on behalf of the families of the captives of the MEK and its Western backers in Washington, London and Brussels. (Such ordinary Iranians find themselves voiceless in Western political and media circles due to the virulently anti-Iranian attitude which prevails in these circles.) They wish first and foremost to remind you that they are part of the solution, not the problem.

You have demonstrated your particular interest in this issue by appointing Mr Jean De Ruyt, a former Belgian ambassador to the EU, as your advisor on Camp Ashraf. He will no doubt be investigating and examining whatever approaches are available to resolve the situation. By situation I refer to the standoff between the constitutional and legal demand of the elected government of the sovereign nation of Iraq, and the illegal and irrational demands of a cult leader as the hostage taker who represents nobody but his own interests and who is prepared to kill others to this end.

The government of Iraq demands that the MEK leave Iraq before the end of the year, certainly before American troops are withdrawn. For this reason, there is an urgent need to find an effective solution. On two occasions, August 2009 and April 2011, when Iraqi security forces have attempted to enter the camp to impose the rule of law on the camp, Massoud Rajavi ordered his special forces, his fedayeen, to force the brainwashed residents to confront these efforts with a suicidal resistance which led to the deaths and injuries of many rank and file members as well as injuries to Iraqi security forces. Iraq is working hard to avoid a similar confrontation in future and is expecting cooperation from the international community in this respect. Soon after the second of these incidents I visited the camp and interviewed the responsible authorities and gathered enough evidence which is available for any party who would like to know. Since 2008 three reports have described the situation of the camp and two books have been written on the subject.

Mr Jean De Ruyt, who will liaise with EU states and organizations including the United Nations, says that a peaceful and realistic solution and the security and safety of residents are his priority. For this reason the families are very optimistic now that you have taken over responsibility from the Americans. With the appointment of this advisor the families now believe your office has a mandate to help Iraq, the UN and ICRC to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

The families are asking that you coordinate with the Iraqi authorities to help them to protect their relatives when the leaders are finally forced to open the gate of the camp and allow external agencies in. This is the first step before the UNHCR can take the residents out of the garrison and interview them individually without MEK minders present. It is at this time of maximum confrontation that they fear Massoud Rajavi will order the deaths of the residents.

Once the gates of the camp are finally opened safely, the residents will of course be able to access the facts and information which have been denied them for decades about their true situation and the possibilities for their future. Whatever their choices, their families are on hand to offer them protection and support. Of course, not all the families can be in Iraq at the same time, but all are willing to travel there to help their loved ones when their individual circumstances demand.

The MEK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Iraq based on its activities in their country against their citizens – the MEK has killed 25,000 Iraqi civilians over two decades. In contrast, the EU does not regard the MEK as a terrorist entity. This should make it possible for residents of Camp Ashraf – in addition to those who already have citizen or residency rights – to be brought to Europe as refugees under the auspices of the UNHCR. (Due to the peculiarities of American law, delisting the MEK in the USA would play no part whatsoever in helping the people in Camp Ashraf.)

Considering that the US military has deliberately helped the MEK to keep the gates closed and the residents trapped inside, the opportunity now exists for you to act as a go-between for the US and MEK and thus ensure that the camp is opened up at the earliest opportunity so that work can start to relocate the hostages. Certainly the government of Iraq is happy to help facilitate this outcome on the understanding that if this process is not begun by the end of the year, the international community has obliged them to take unilateral decisions regarding the camp and its residents.

Above all else, the families outside have travelled from far and wide to rescue their loved ones and are more than happy to ensure a swift and peaceful outcome. There can be no possible objection or obstacles to helping them.
Anne Singleton
(Author of Saddam’s Private Army, 2003 and co-author of The Life of Camp Ashraf, 2011)

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