Camp Ashraf – A Humanitarian Catastrophe Looming at Iranian Refugee Camp in Iraq

Stop Fundamentalism – European Conservative MEP, Struan Stevenson, said to AFP today that 180 Members of the European Parliament from different political groups signed a statement calling for the postponement of the declared December 31 deadline by Baghdad to close Camp Ashraf, home of 3400 Iranian refugees.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in a press conference held in Baghdad today that, “Based on agreements made, members of the MEK will be expelled from Iraq at the end of 2011 and should be transferred to third countries.”  It was unclear whom Iraqi government had made this agreement with.

Zebari was holding the press conference jointly with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi who was on his last day of visit to Baghdad.

Camp Ashraf was the scene of a raid by Iraqi forces last April in which 36 residents of the camp were killed and hundreds wounded.  The assault caused an international reaction deploring the act of the Iraqi government in treating the unarmed refugee population of the camp.

The Iranian refugees at the camp say that Iraq did this at the behest of the Iranian regime that see the group to be a definite threat to its stability.  The residents form the most prominent Iranian opposition movement in exile called the Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK who strive to overthrow the theocratic dictatorship in that country.

“We have only eight weeks left to make al-Maliki see sense or I fear we will face a certain humanitarian catastrophe," Stevenson told AFP.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Washington and Brussels earlier this month to demand that the camp's closure be postponed to protect the 3,400 Iranian dissidents who have lived there for 30 years.

In their statement, the MEPs said that the closure "could be used as a pretext for a large-scale massacre."

Because the UN High Commissioner for Refugees needed more time to interview the residents to decide on their future, the MEPs said they were calling on the United States and the United Nations to force Iraq to postpone the December 31 deadline "until the transfer of all residents to third countries has been accomplished."

They also asked for UN monitors to be stationed at Ashraf "to assure and guarantee the residents' protection until they are transferred to alternative host countries."

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