The second anniversary of the massacre of PMOI members in Camp Ashraf

This past Tuesday marked the second anniversary of the horrifying Camp Ashraf massacre that took place in Iran. Fifty two peaceful, unarmed and defenseless Iranian revolutionaries who were all members of Iran’s main opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) were brutally slaughtered and another group of seven people including six women were abducted by the Iraqi forces at the request of the regime in Iran. The then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s military forces had executed many residents with their hands tied behind their backs, taking their lives execution style during the September 1, 2013 massacre. Wounded residents all of whom were given the status of “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention and were “guaranteed” protection by the U.S and the U.N were shot dead in the camp’s clinic. As the massacre ensued on September 1st a high official in the U.S. in Washington where it was just after midnight acknowledged in an email that the Obama administration had been alerted to the attack immediately after it had begun and was in contact with the U.S Embassy in Baghdad regarding the attack. A day after the massacre had occurred, the UN Secretary General’s deputy Special Representative for Iraq Gyorgy Busztin visited Camp Ashraf and on September 3rd the UNAMI declared “Inside the camp, the delegation witnessed 52 bodies in a makeshift morgue. All of the deceased appeared to have been shot, the majority of them in the head and the torso and several with their hands tied. The delegation also saw several damaged buildings including one that was burnt and was shown quantities of explosives.” Then on September 19th, 2013 the then European Union foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton confirmed that the hostages were being held in Baghdad and face the threat of extradition to Iran in violation of the non-refoulment principle. Amnesty International on November 19th, 2013 issued an urgent action saying “The seven Iranian exiles abducted on September 1st are now known to be held by the Iraqi forces at an unofficial detention facility in central Baghdad, They are at the risk of torture and other ill-treatment and could forcibly be returned to Iran.” Struan Stevenson a former President of the European Parliament’s Delegation of Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and current President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, has written an authoritative account of the September 1st massacre in his book called “Self Sacrifice, Life with the Iranian Mojahedin” which was published in June 2015. His account of the Camp Ashraf atrocity recounts; “Under the agreement of the UN and US, 101 residents had remained behind in Camp Ashraf to negotiate the safe disposal of their movable and fixed properties, valued at many millions of dollars. Lawyers employed by the Ashraf residents to negotiate the sale of their properties were threatened by the Iraqi regime and scared off, while Prime Minister al-Maliki, acting on the instructions of his sponsors in Tehran, cut off supplies of water, food and electricity to the camp in late August in an attempt to oust the remaining residents and loot their belongings.” “Their mission was clearly to take a few hostages and kill all of the rest. The 42 survivors were the ones who the killers could not find, which explains why General Jamil Shemeri, commander of Diyala police, who had personally taken part in this operation, hearing that there were some survivors, demanded to know how the hell they were still alive? “The systematic massacre continued into Sunday 1 September for some hours, and despite repeated pleas for the UN or US to intervene, there was complete silence and inactivity from both. While under attack, the Ashraf residents directly telephoned UNAMI, the American Embassy and the NCRI headquarters in Paris. Indeed some of the bodies found later were still clutching phones. The Second Secretary in the US Embassy in Baghdad, who was informed 30 minutes after the start of the massacre, replied that he would urgently follow this case. But it was only after 12 hours that a local UN official finally went to the scene, by which time the massacre was over. By then the Iraqi government was already denying that any of their military had entered the camp. The international media, focused on the unfolding civil war in Syria, studiously ignored this new atrocity at Ashraf and there was little or no coverage. I watched horrifying films of the atrocity taken by some of the Ashrafis. In one film, Iraqi soldiers can be seen shooting dead unarmed civilians and then, spotting the cameraman, running towards him firing their weapons. The soldiers can be seen bursting through a door where the cameraman had taken refuge and the final footage shows them raising their Kalashnikovs and firing a burst directly at the camera, which then tumbles to the ground. This brave Ashrafi died filming his own murderers. “This final massacre at Ashraf was as avoidable as it was predictable; myself and many members of parliament, congressmen, senators and leading judicial and military figures in Europe and America had warned for months that a massacre was imminent. In late August, intelligence reports from inside Iran made clear that the Mullahs saw the Syrian crisis and the West’s ineffectiveness as ideal cover for a brutal strike. Despite warnings to US Secretary of State John Kerry and others of the inevitability of an attack, no action was taken to protect the unarmed men and women in Ashraf, who subsequently forfeited their lives. “Having achieved their objectives in Ashraf while the West continued to bicker and dither over the crisis in Syria, I warned that we could now expect similar pre-emptive action against the 3,000 residents in Camp Liberty. Despite being under the supposed protection of the UN, these refugees had suffered several vicious mortar attacks leading to 10 deaths. All evidence pointed to the involvement of the Iraqi regime and their Iranian allies in these attacks. “I warned that as Ban Ki-moon, Ashton and Obama wrung their hands in feeble impotence, the killing of the innocent would continue apace. Tehran and Baghdad, both supporters of the brutal Assad regime in Syria, were rubbing their hands together in glee that the West could simply ignore the gassing with chemical weapons of over 1,400 people in Damascus and the scorching of school children with napalm in Aleppo. What perfect cover for their own vicious assault on Ashraf! I said that to ignore this criminal and barbaric attack on Ashraf would be to give the green light for a full-scale massacre at Camp Liberty. The Ashraf agony could have been avoided if the West had heeded the warnings. The liquidation of Liberty would inevitably follow unless al-Maliki and his Iranian sponsors were held to account now. ‘Maliki and his Nazi thugs must be indicted for war crimes,’ I said. ‘The West must sever all further aid to Iraq until Maliki has been arrested.’ “The case of the seven hostages has not yet been solved. Their fate remains a mystery. Despite clear evidence that showed they were being held in Baghdad by the Iraqi government immediately following the massacre, the Americans did not take the proper action to seek their release.” Despite the overwhelming brutality of the massacre and the songs of condemnation sung by the international community no UN investigation was ever conducted and no one was ever held responsible even though the identities of the culprits and the masterminds were evident. Over the past two years the Iranian resistance has repeatedly called upon the UN Secretary General and the High commissioner for Human rights to conduct an independent and comprehensive investigation into the Sept 1st massacre and brings the culprits to justice and not to allow Nuri Maliki and Ali Khamenei to cover up this great crime against humanity.