These leading women have become indispensable to the Iranian opposition in its fight for regime change and democracy over the years. As a result, at each critical juncture, Iran’s leading women are seen playing an important role in the movement. On September 1, 2013, Ashraf experienced a watershed moment.
Ashraf embodied the spirit and symbol of Iran’s democratic struggle for regime change. On September 1, 2013, as the Iranian regime prepared to sit at the negotiating table in Geneva over its nuclear program, hitmen raided the unarmed, innocent, and legally protected civilians at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the 30-year headquarters of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
The assassins kidnapped 52 of Ashraf’s remaining 100 residents and murdered them in cold blood. Some were murdered with their hands tied behind their backs. Even the wounded on the clinic beds were killed by gunfire. Everyone received a shot to the head. By any standard, this is a major crime against humanity.
Thirteen women led a group of 100 people who stayed in Ashraf as part of a quadrilateral agreement between Ashraf residents, the US, the UN, and the Iraqi government to protect residents’ property after their relocation to Camp Liberty.
They were all protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention and classified as “persons of concern” with “international protection” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they had stayed in the camp based on assurances from the United Nations, the United States, and the Iraqi government. Six prominent women were killed, and another six were kidnapped and held hostage.
Prior to the Geneva talks, the Iranian regime sought to deal a crushing blow to its main existential threat, the MEK, by agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. As a result, the cowardly attack on defenseless people in Ashraf was launched to draw attention away from the regime’s flaws at a critical juncture.
We will not forget or back down until the mullahs’ religious tyranny and their agents and mercenaries in Iraq are brought to justice.
Zohreh Ghaemi, 49, was the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran’s Deputy Secretary General. On the day of the massacre, she was the commander of Camp Ashraf. She was known for her courage, self-control, and humility, as well as her tolerance and judgment. She was a prominent member of the Iranian Resistance determined to end women’s oppression.
Maryam Hosseini, 49, is a former political prisoner who now serves on the Leadership Council. She had been a part of the movement for 31 years. She was in charge of Ashraf’s protection when she was handcuffed and shot during the massacre.