Iran's Frantic Efforts at Eliminating Camp Liberty Dissidents

Stuck in a quagmire of internal and international crises, the Iranian regime has resorted to mounting repression both in Iran and against opposition members abroad. Losing Nouri Maliki as a strategic ally in Iraq; recent developments in Syria and the imminent downfall of Bashar Assad; the formation of an international coalition against ISIS, and the fight against extremist groups, which will eventually target the Iranian regime; all have faced the mullahs with a dead-end. In order to avoid a total collapse, the Iranian regime has put all of its efforts into destroying its democratic alternative -- the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) -- and neutralizing the potential for social uprisings in Iran.

Despite previous deadly attacks and inhumane pressure imposed by the Maliki government against PMOI/MEK members in camps Ashraf and Liberty, the mullahs ruling Tehran failed to achieve their objective, which was the dismantlement of the organized opposition force. Therefore, they have resorted to other methods, including the intensification of a logistical and medical siege against PMOI members currently residing in Camp Liberty. These Iranian dissidents, previously residing in Camp Ashraf (some 80 miles north of Baghdad) were forcibly transferred to Camp Liberty (in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport) in 2012 as the result of a joint plot by the Iranian regime and the Iraqi government. The blockade is being carried out by elements affiliated with the Iranian regime in the Iraqi government. So far, 21 residents of the camp have lost their lives for having been denied medical care.

When Nouri Maliki assumed power as Iraq’s prime minister in 2009, 3,000 PMOI members in Camp Ashraf were transferred from the U.S. government to the Iraqi government. A number of bloody attacks and an inhumane medical blockade against Iranian refugees were carried out by Maliki under orders issued by the Iranian regime.

Even following the transfer of residents to Camp Liberty in 2011, which under guarantees provided by the U.S. government and UN was supposed to provide a secure temporary transit location for these refugees, their conditions have only changed for the worse and Iraqi forces have placed them under a comprehensive logistics-medical siege. This is in addition to three missile attacks on the camp, which have claimed the lives of 14 people and left hundreds wounded.

In an unexpected report published in Iraqi-Arab press and TV networks on Monday, October 27, more than 2,000 Iraqi physicians and medical personnel signed a statement strongly condemning the inhumane medical siege imposed on the opposition PMOI stationed in Camp Liberty. The statement emphasized that the blockade against the refugees of Camp Liberty is a “blatant example of crime against humanity” and asked for its immediate removal and free access of Liberty resident to medical services.

Iraqi physicians called on the U.S. and UN for “providing medical care immediately to all the patients at Camp Liberty with giving the priority to patients with acute illnesses, such as cancer.”

The UN and U.S. have moral and legal obligations for the protection and safety of Liberty residents, all having ‘protected persons’ status under the Fourth Geneva Convention and considered ‘people of concern’ based on numerous UNHCR statements.

During the past three years, Camp Liberty has been transformed into a prison by Maliki -- extremely dependent on the Iranian regime -- with complete knowledge of the U.S. and UN.  The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has, in its May 2012 opinion, categorized the status of Camp Liberty residents as arbitrary detention, and General James Jones, former national security advisor to President Obama, called the camp worse than Guantanamo prison in an interview with CNN. 

A number of residents suffering from cancer and other terminal illnesses are being deprived of medical treatment for months now due to deliberate obstructions imposed by Iraqi security forces controlling the camp. The goal of this blockade is to break the residents’ spirit, force them to succumb to the Iranian regime, and ultimately, quit their opposition against the mullahs’ rule in Iran.

Mahmoud, a resident of Camp Liberty, is seeing his bones break due to spreading cancer and is suffering from extreme pain in this regard. However, from May 15 he has not been able to begin his treatment process. Iraqi forces have to this day cancelled his commuting to Baghdad for medical appointments six times, and prevented his commuting outside of the camp and see a doctor at a hospital.

Currently there are hundreds of patients in Camp Liberty waiting in line to go to Baghdad hospitals, a number of which are struggling with dangerous illnesses such as cancer. The Iraqi security forces controlling the camp have imposed a bottleneck system, only allowing four patients to go to one hospital each day. This is while patients, due to their various illnesses, are forced to see medical specialists in hospitals that have medical services and specialists for those very illnesses. Each day a number of the above-mentioned patients are prevented from going to the hospital and their treatment process is postponed for months.

The international community, and particularly the U.S., cannot remain indifferent on human rights violations in Iran and/or the Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty. The protest and call of Iraqi physicians and medical personnel to lift the medical siege from Liberty residents is a warning to the international community to practice correct policies in dealing with the mullahs ruling in Iran and the war against terrorism in the Middle East.

Shahriar Kia is a press spokesman for residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq, members of Iran opposition group(PMOI, also known as MEK), which advocates for a democratic, secular, nuclear-free Iran with separation of church and state and gender equality. He graduated from North Texas University. His Twitter handle is @shahriarkia