The Ashraf Saga

31 08 2009


Monday, August 31 7:28 am EST

The cracks are widening.  The pieces are falling through.  The people are holding on for dear life, trying their best to regroup – to speak to a world where so many are suffering.  Journalists have been barred.  Only a few brave individuals with camera phones were able to record the brutality of the Iraqi Security forces. And then there is the grassroots movement.  In Europe, activists and demonstrators are getting sparse attention.

Ashraf Camp has close to 3500 Iranian dissidents – the remnants of a democratic movement that had helped topple the regime – all of whom are “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Conventions.  No matter – realpolitik rears its ugly head.

Exposed, the Ashraf residents are left to the devices of an Iraqi government that has since bowed to the intransigent Iranian despots – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei.  Revenge is in order and these people are easy prey.

Last month Iraqi Security forces stormed the camps.  The refugees were defenseless but stood their ground at a cost of 11 dead and several hundred wounded – some severely.

I write this again because I have since been forwarded a mail from an Ashraf camp resident.  A young man close to thirty.  His name is Hassan – his last name will not be revealed.  But he had this to say:

Dear Mr. Nikolaj Nielsen,

My name is…………and I’m one of the residents living in Ashraf. My friends and I decided to write you this letter and thank you in regards of your report about camp Ashraf. I’ve been following up on your work and I truly appreciate your effort towards human rights. I believe that the only way such barbaric massacres can be stopped is by reporters such as your self who choose to reveal the truth to the world, regardless of any personal or political interests that they may or may not have. As you may be aware, the foreign media is prohibited to enter camp Ashraf and no reporters are allowed in. due to the bonds of the Iranian regime and the Iraqi government, the residents of Ashraf (who form the democratic opposition to the clerical regime in Iran) face the danger of another raid which will certainly end with more unarmed civilians beaten, ran over and shot to death. We, the residents of Ashraf rely on the public opinion to ensure our safety and security. Your commitment to the international human rights means a great deal to us and I am very grateful of your support.

Dr Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament, has since sent an open letter  to all Members of the European Parliament.  In it he describes Ashraf Camp as a humanitarian disaster and is urging the European Council to  find ways to protect these civilians.

Ultimately, the responsibility belongs to the United States who left the refugees to a pitiful fate in January.  It was only a matter of time.  To add insult to the festering wound of international diplomacy and hypocrisy, Nouri al-Maliki sent in his hatchet wielding forces into the camps on the very same day that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on official visit.

At the very least, the US can drop these people from their anachronistic terror list.  Europe did – based on reason and good will – not spurious idealistic convictions that have done little to advance US diplomacy before Obama took center stage. Shame.


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