News : Iranian opposition

19 Dead as Iraqi Forces Interfere with Iranian Refugee Medical Care in Camp Liberty

Nineteen individuals in a Baghdad refugee encampment have died in a three month period from treatable illnesses and injuries, according to information released by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The deaths are reportedly the result of a “medical siege” organized by Iraqi forces against the Camp Liberty community, which houses about 3,000 Iranian exiles, most of which have inhabited Iraq for some thirty years, since being driving out of their home country by the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The latest victim of this siege died on April 28. Mohammad Babaii, a member of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, suffered cardiac arrest but was denied transfer to a hospital by Iraqi forces surrounding Camp Liberty. With no medical facilities present inside the camp, nothing could be done to save him unless the medical blockade was lifted.

As of May 4, that blockade still has not been lifted, prompting the NCRI to release a statement calling upon the United States and the United Nations to adopt measures pressuring the Iraqi government to grant Camp Liberty residents access to medical services elsewhere in Baghdad, and to allow them to install much-needed medical equipment inside the makeshift community.

Most of the members of that community have only inhabited it for approximately the last two years, despite having lived in Iraq for decades. Prior to that, the entire community had been located in eastern Iraq, at a self-made community called Camp Ashraf, which had its own infrastructure and municipal services. The community was shuttered following a December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the government of Iraq.

Although this agreement allowed for 100 residents to remain behind to settle property issues, Iraqi forces reportedly attacked the camp on September 1 of last year, killing half of them and bringing an abrupt end to the relocation of the community. The latest NCRI statement on the situation in Camp Liberty asks that international organizations oversee the transfer of left-behind equipment from the original community to its temporary refugee encampment at Camp Liberty.

In absence of this transfer, sick and injured Camp Liberty residents are left with no recourse but to queue up on the roads leading out of the camp in hopes that Baghdad authorities will allow them to visit proper medical facilities elsewhere in the city. On May 3, the NCRI statement reports, an ambulance crowded with such patients attempted to reach the hospital but was stopped at the community’s gates by Iraqi forces, who delayed the trip for ninety minutes without explanation.

Patients eventually were permitted to leave, but the delay has reportedly had serious consequences. Mohammad Qoli Ehsani, a Camp Liberty resident who suffers from an acute heart condition, was unable to have the results of a CT scan shown to a specialist. As a result, he is now in critical condition.

In another instance, a member of the same convoy of patients was accompanied by Iraqi forces, who prevented him from speaking through an interpreter to his physician. In light of occurrences like these, the NCRI continues to urge the UN and human rights NGOs to keep watch over the situation, for fear that more lives will be lost as a result of this interference on the rights of refugees by Iraqi forces.