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European Parliament – Struan Stevenson Press release : ASHRAF AGONY

Press release- 1 September 2013  
Struan Stevenson, MEP 
President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq 

The predictable consequence of the West’s failure to take action in Syria manifested itself last night in the brutal massacre of unarmed civilians in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. Around midnight on Saturday 31st August, several battalions of the Iraqi military and special SWAT forces, acting on orders directly from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, stormed the camp under cover of darkness. Anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were fired into the sleeping quarters of the refugee camp and the fleeing residents were then machine-gunned. So far, 44 deaths and dozens of severe injuries have been reported. At least 5 residents, including one woman, were handcuffed and then summarily executed by being shot in the back of the head. Injured and other surviving residents have been kidnapped. The systematic massacre continued into Sunday 1st September for many hours and despite repeated pleas for the UN or US to intervene, there has been complete silence and inactivity from both. 

This most recent massacre at Ashraf was as avoidable as it was predictable. Many members of parliament, congressmen, senators and leading judicial and military figures in Europe and America have warned for months that a massacre was imminent. One hundred civilian residents had remained in Ashraf following the involuntary re-settlement of over 3,000 refugees to a tiny corner of a former US army base called Camp Liberty, near Baghdad Airport.  

The refugees, including many women, are Iranian dissidents, hated by the fascist mullah-regime in Tehran. They were encouraged to leave Ashraf, their home for more than 30 years, on a pledge from the UN and US that they would be quickly re-settled to safe third countries. They have now been incarcerated in appalling conditions described by one UN Working Group as ‘prison-like’ for more than 2 years, while only a handful of residents have been successfully re-settled. 

Meanwhile, under the agreement of the UN and US, 100 residents 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 an attempt to oust the remaining residents and loot their belongings.

Late last week, 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 have now forfeited their lives. 
Having achieved their objectives in Ashraf while the West continues to bicker and dither over the crisis in Syria, we can now expect similar pre-emptive action against the 3,000 residents of Camp Liberty. Despite being under the supposed protection of the UN, these refugees have twice suffered vicious mortar attacks leading to over 10 deaths. Secretary Kerry had also stressed that the Iranian regime is behind these attacks.  
As Ban Ki Moon, Ashton and Obama wring their hands in feeble impotence, the killing of the innocent will continue apace. Tehran and Baghdad are both supporters of the brutal Assad regime in Syria and they must be rubbing their hands together in glee that the West can simply ignore the gassing of over 1400 people in Damascus and the scorching of school children with napalm in Aleppo. What perfect cover for their own vicious assault on Ashraf. To ignore this criminal and barbaric attack on Ashraf will 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 will follow unless we hold al-Maliki and his Iranian sponsors to account now. 
Struan Stevenson, MEP 
President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq 
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