Camp Liberty: What is the future?

Katrina Jorgensen, a contributor for Opportunity Lives, wrote an article that dealt with Camp Liberty and the efforts made for its residents.

She firstly highlighted that the majority of Americans, including journalists, had no idea that on 4th July this year Camp Liberty was attacked by rockets leaving 50 people injured. Despite the media not paying any attention to it, several politicians responded.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said: “Sadly, this is not the first time the residents of Camp Liberty have been the victims of horrific attacks. (…) And I remain deeply concerned about their safety. While I am pleased by the State Department’s effort to expedite the residents’ resettlement to a safe location, this latest attack demonstrates the need for the United States and Iraq to do more to ensure the security of Camp Liberty during this process.” 

Jorgensen highlighted that almost every American speaker at the recent “Free Iran” rally mentioned Camp Liberty. At the event held on 9th July, organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), more than 100,000 people turned up to support a free Iran including a bipartisan group of American politicians, generals and activists.

Former White House director of public liaison Linda Chavez said: “Let’s honor and commend the bravery and dedication of Camp Liberty residents.” Francis Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, said: “We’re not done with that work until the last person leaves Camp Liberty, we will not be stopped.”

Jorgensen pointed out that Camp Liberty is a U.S military base. Before this, the residents lived in Camp Ashraf, also a U.S. base. She explains: “Ashraf, a city and then a base, was established by the MEK in 1986, when their members fled persecution in Iran and began setting up a militarized presence in Iraq. The U.S. assumed control of the base after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The MEK relinquished its weapons in 2004 and received protected status under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Colonel Wesley Martin was the first U.S. military official to serve as base commander in 2006. While at Ashraf he developed a professional relationship with the MEK and kept in touch with the leaders when he left.

Obama eventually pulled out of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq in 2009 resulting in the camp being turned over to Iraq’s government. There were several conflicts and Iraq wanted to close the camp, so the United Nations got involved. 

Kobler, head of the United Nations’ Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) took charge in 2011. Jorgensen points out that he altered the UN’s policy toward the MEK “leaning on their designation as terrorists [and] shifted from seeking human rights assistance to a plan for relocation”. The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accepted this. 

As a result, the residents of Ashraf were forcibly removed in 2012. They resettled in Camp Liberty which is smaller than Ashraf. The UN Human Rights Council designated the MEK at both Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf “arbitrary detention”.

When the 3,400 members of MEK were moved to their temporary transit location, they fell under the care of the United National High Commissioner on Refugees. Yet instead of being there for the short-term, around 1,300 residents are still there. 

Martin believes the UN are to blame. American politicians, he claims, want to see the relocations completed. The reason for it not happening is: “The UN is a bureaucratic organization. The UN moves at the pace of a startled snail, and the other thing, in all honesty (…) there are a lot of political motivations.”

The U.S. wants the situation resolved because there are continued attacks endangering the residents. Many have already lost their lives and there are many more who are at risk.

 Martin said that the camp should be monitored by the U.S. State Department on a daily basis. 

Jorgensen said that last month’s attack and the “Free Iran” rally brought Camp Liberty back into international focus. “The UNHCR released a report congratulating itself on the relocation work done so far. But Americans, like McCain are taking more aggressive action. The senior senator from Arizona pushed a resolution, S.Con.Res.42, to the Foreign Relations committee. It passed unanimously, and now heads to the Senate for a floor vote.”

 

She adds that this kind of pressure has worked in the past. Martin said that larger groups of Iranians have been moved out in the past few weeks. 

 

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