Camp Ashraf Relocation Woes

Camp Ashraf is finally coming to an end. It has served as home for the past twenty-five years for over three thousand members of the terrorist cult, the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO/MEK). United Nations Assistance Mission representative, Ambassador Martin Kobler as well as the Camp Ashraf Relocation Woes Iraqi government officially signed the Memorandum of Understanding, which is, in essence, an evacuation notice. [1]

Iraq has agreed to a UN hosted mediation that the camp is to close within six months, which is beyond the previous deadline of December 31st 2011. Leaders of the Ashraf wanted to remain at the camp and avoid resettlement, but were unable to permanently obtain their request. What they got was a delay. [2]

Following the mediation, four hundred residents of Ashraf reluctantly agreed to resettle after seeking guidance from the Paris-based cult leader, Maryam Rajavi. They will relocate to Camp Liberty, a former American military base near Baghdad International Airport. Rajavi called this decision as “a sign of goodwill” but she made no mention of when the other residents would go. [3]

In Washington DC a special briefing by Ambassador Daniel Freid took place on December 29th 2011. Freid remarked that “the residents of Camp Ashraf will be moved from Camp Ashraf to former Camp Liberty, which used to be a U.S. military facility and is located near the Baghdad Airport. UNHCR is – will begin immediately to process these people for refugee status. At the same time, those wishing to return voluntarily to Iran as, by the way , several hundred from Ashraf have already done, will be able to do so.” [4]

Due to concerns over the possibility of group pressure on the individuals in Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Fried was asked whether the interview process is private and without an MKO superior watching. He replied, “I would say that the UN and other international organizations are well aware of the potential problems of group think or group pressure, and they are very well aware of the many reports about the atmosphere at Camp Ashraf and the character of that place.” [5]

The signed agreement seems to have provided the opportunity for Ashraf residents to release themselves from a three-decade long imprisonment in a cult of personality around the husband and wife co-leaders, Maryam and Massoud Rajavi. As Camp Ashraf is dissolved, it gives hostages of the cult an opportunity to break away from the group and return to their families.

Daniel Larison of  theamericanconservative.com suggests that Rajavi leadership is keeping some members in the camp to use as a bargaining chip in their effort to manipulate American opinion. Basically the Rajavi’s are lobbying the US government to change the official status of the Mojahedin Khalq—from a terrorist designated organization to a regular organization. According to the US State Department , currently their official status remains a “terrorist organization.” [6]

The MKO’s well-documented lobbying and propaganda blitz sets in motion a one-sided uproar about the “humanitarian crisis” at Camp Ashraf. Paid advocates of the MKO expect the US administration to delist the group and “regularly exploit the misinformation of the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf, wrap themselves in the mantle of humanitarianism and confuse the very different issue of the inhabitants’ safe departure from Iraq and the status of the MEK.” [7]

As Ashraf comes to dissolve, non-cult relatives of cult members, and many in the international community fear there is a risk of mass suicide—death and martyrdom have been an integral part of the cult’s ideology. Maryam Rajavi responded to this concern by announcing in her so-called "sign of goodwill” that 400 of the 3200 residents of the camp are ready to move.
What is daunting is that despite the move of 400 residents, very few, if any members of the cult have stepped out of the camp for years. Maryam Rajavi on the other hand lives a luxurious and free life in France (Massoud, her co-leader husband is not so lucky, as he has been in hiding or disappeared since the arrest, and subsequent release by French police of Maryam, in 2003.

Scott Peterson of The Christian Science Monitor suggests that “with the complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq this week, options for the MEK have narrowed." [8]
Furthermore, according to Joby Warrick of The Washington Post, "US and UN officials have been scrambling to resolve the fate of the estimated 3400 residents of Camp Ashraf, but officials say the MEK and its backers have complicated matters by insisting on US protection.” [9]

Warrick reports from State Department talks that “the possibility that American troops would be ordered back into Iraq to guard the dissidents is remote, at best.” On the condition of anonymity, Warrick reports that an official in the State Department flat out said, “It’s not going to happen" [10]

Larison optimistically views residents’ relocation a “good outcome” but not for “the group leadership and its friends in the west.”[11] Once Ashraf residents are resettled at Camp Liberty, they can apply for immigration to third countries under UN observation. Strategically, Camp Ashraf was in a geographical position near the Iranian border, and it enabled Ashraf leaders to take advantage of the location—sending Western sponsored spies into Iran from the camp.

By Mazda Parsi

References:
[1]BBC, Iraq and UN sign Iranian Camp Ashraf exile deal, December 26, 2011
[2] Reuters, Iraq extends deadline for closing Iranian Camp, December 21, 2011
[3]Charton Angela, Iranian exiles ready to leave Iraq Camp, Associated Press, December20, 2011
[4]US department of State, Briefing on the situation at camp Ashraf, December 29, 2011
[5]ibid
[6]Larison, Daniel, Camp Ashraf deal undermines Western pro-MEK advocacy, The American Conservative, December 26, 2011
[7] ibid
[8]Peterson, Scott, with deadline looming to close MEK’s Camp Ashraf in Iraq, what next? Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2011
[9]Warrick Joby, Iraq agrees to UN-brokered deal on fate of Iranian exiles, The Washington Post, December 25, 2011
[10]ibid
[11]Larison, Daniel Camp Ashraf undermined Western pro-MEK advocacy, The American Conservative, December 26, 2011

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