Thursday, April 21, 2011

storming the Ashraf refugee camp - The ''better'' Iraq, after the US occupation

Camp Ashraf or Ashraf City is situated northeast of the Iraqi town of Khalis, about 120 kilometers west of the Iranian border and 60 kilometers north of Baghdad, and is the seat of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (an Iranian opposition group) in Iraq. The city of Ashraf was named in commemoration of Ashraf Rajavi, a famous political prisoner at the time of the Shah. Camp Ashraf is currently an Iranian refugee camp in Iraq. On January 1, 2009 its control was formally transferred from the U.S. military to the Iraqi government. The Camp has been attacked several times the last being on April 8, 2011 when Iraqi security forces stormed the camp and killed as many as 31 and wounded 320 residents and also on 17 October 2010 on the eve of Maliki's visit to Tehran.

UN Secretary General in his quarterly report to the Security Council of 14 May 2010 pursuant to Resolution 1883, Ban Ki-moon, stressed the rights of residents of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, for protection against arbitrary displacement in Iraq or forced extradition to Iran.

Transition to Iraqi control

On January 1, 2009 the U.S. officially transferred control of Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government. According to a press release from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. would maintain a military presence at the camp and the Iraqi government would ensure that all residents were treated according to Iraqi law. A State Department spokesman said the Government of Iraq had promised both humane treatment of people at Camp Ashraf and that none would be relocated to a country where they would have "a well-founded fear of persecution".

Clashes with Iraqi Forces

In late July 2009 conflict erupted when Iraqi forces attempted to enter the camp to establish a police station without the consent of the MEK. Accounts of the conflict differed. Residents claimed that Iraqi forces used violence, including gunfire, water cannons and batons, killing eleven people and injuring about 400. Videos taken by Ashraf residents show these scenes. Iraqi authorities denied using violent methods, but said unarmed residents used stones, knives and sharp tools to protect themselves and to fight security forces that tried to enter the camp. Journalists were excluded from the area.
Video has surfaced purportedly showing Iraqi forces trying to repeatedly run down residents with vehicles.Amnesty International in its March 1 report regarding human rights situation in Iraq wrote, "On 28 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, home to about 3,500 Iranian refugees and detained 36 residents. The 36 were subsequently reported to have been tortured, including by being beaten with batons and guns. Several people needed medical treatment for their injuries.' 'The Iraqi government has continued to threaten Iranian refugees living in Camp Ashraf with forcible removal from the camp. On 28 July Iraqi security forces raided and took over the camp, in Diyala Governorate, which houses some 3400 members or supporters of the People’s Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group."
In its report of 27 April 2010, various aspects of violation of human rights in Iraq entitled as “Iraq, Civilians under Fire”, Amnesty International revealed and condemned violation of Ashraf residents’ rights by Iraqi government on July 28 and 29, 2009. 
On December 26, 2010, Iraqi forces made another assault on the residents of the camp injuring dozens and forcing them out of the hospital of the camp.
On January 7, 2011, a number of Iraqi agents hired by Iranian embassy in Baghdad attacked the camp resulting in 176 wounded. Iraqi forces prevented the wounded, 91 of whom were women, to go to the hospital for treatment.Brutal assault on camp Ashraf
On April 8, 2011, Iraqi security forces in bulldozers and Humvees stormed Camp Ashraf. 34 residents were killed and scores wounded in what RFERL called "circumstances that are not clear. MKO says camp residents were killed by Iraqi forces. The Iraqi government, however, says it believes about 30 people were shot dead by guards at the camp." However according to Amnesty International video clips of the April 8 clashes uploaded to YouTube by the MKO "appear to show Iraqi soldiers indiscriminately firing into the crowds and using vehicles to try and run others down.

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