Insider news & Analysis in Iran

by Mahmood Hakamian 

Last week, we told you about the tragic fate of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iraq. At the end of the last instalment, the MEK had been granted protected person status under the Fourth Geneva Convention and were under the protection of the US army until America withdrew from Iraq in 2009.

 What happened next?

The responsibility for the unarmed MEK members in Iraq was transferred from the US to the Iraqi government, but the MEK (and various legal experts and NGOs) opposed this and believed that they would be in danger if the US left them under Iraqi control. Their reasoning was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was working on behalf of the Iranian Regime, who were keeping him in power.

The US dismissed this because they had written assurances from the Iraqi government that the MEK would be treated in accordance with Iraq’s Constitution, laws, and international obligations. However, it turned out that the MEK was right.

Since the US left, 116 MEK members were killed by Iraqi forces and over 1,300 injured.

Despite the violations of human rights, international law, and the 2004 agreement between the US and the MEK, there has been no independent investigation of these crimes and no one was brought to justice.

 What did the Iraqi forces do?

Before the violence began, the Iraqi government began to cut the MEK off from the outside world.

They banned all visits to the MEK by NGOs, diplomats, and parliamentarians, whilst increasing ‘security’ around the camp to make sure that Iraq could control who came and went.

Then, they banned deliveries of essentials (food, fuel, water, medical supplies), everyday items (light bulbs, paper), and repair equipment for the MEK’s infrastructure in Ashraf.

Following that, they subjected the MEK to intimidation by placing 300 loudspeakers around the camp to blared threats and insults at all times of the day.

Tahar Boumedra, former Chief of the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), monitored the MEK camp from 2009-2012.

He said: “The fundamental rights of these exiles [the MEK] – humane living conditions, access to justice, humanitarian necessities including medical services for the ill and wounded, and freedom from threats of physical harm – have been repeatedly denied by the Iraqi government at the direction of the Prime Minister’s office.”

Then, the Iraqi forces launched three massive violent assaults against the MEK.

In July 2009, mere weeks after the US withdrew, the Iraqi forces attacked the MEK, murdering 13 people and wounding many more.

In April 2011, the Iraqi forces attempted to enter Ashraf without permission and were met with a human barricade. The Iraqi forces attacked with sound and smoke grenades and tear gas, opened fire on the crowds, drove HUMVEEs into the crowds, and even sent snipers after those who filmed it. That day, 36 MEK members were killed and 318 wounded.

In September 2013, 52 MEK members were killed by armed men in protective gear. According to a UN report, some victims even had their hands tied behind their backs.

In response to this, the international community sent in Special Representative for Iraq and the Head of UNAMI, Martin Kobler, but rather than advocate for the rights of the MEK and hold the Iraqi government to task, Kobler arranged that the MEK be moved to Camp Liberty on a temporary basis. He failed to enshrine protections for them in the agreement and as a result this is not the end of the MEK’s troubles in Iran.

The final piece, charting the MEK’s relocation to Camp Liberty and eventually to freedom in Europe, will be available tomorrow.

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