Camp Ashraf Protests:30 Days and Beyond

3 09 2009

by Sukanya Borthakur

On 26th August i was at the US embassy for my visa appointment and saw the camps and make shift beds of 13/14 Iranian Men and Women outside the embassy on hunger strike in protest of the Camp Ashraf killings that occurred in Iraq last month. I am surprised that there has been absolutely no televised coverage of this event by the british media considering that some of the protesters have marked the 30th day of the hunger strike.

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Protest outside US Embassy London

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Paramedics on site

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Camps of protesters

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If you have passed through Grosvenor Square, Marble Arch in London

during the last thirty days  you must have  definitely noticed the camps  and make shift beds of 13 Iranian Men and Women  outside the US embassy who have decided to go on hunger strike in protest of the mass killings that occurred in camp Ashraf in Iraq last month.

The camp is known to have housed nearly 3600 Iranian dissidents since 1985 who mostly belong to the Iranian opposition group- People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, which was initially sheltered by the United States. The residents of Camp Ashraf  were promised complete security under the 4th Geneva convention which granted the residents ‘the protected person’ status. However,  following the hand over of security responsibilities from the US forces to the Iraqi police, the camp was raided on July 28th by Iraqi officials killing 12, injuring 500 and 36 were abducted. It has been alleged by all protesters  that the raid was carried out in alliance with the Iranian Government.

On 26th August some of the protesters marked the 30th day of the Hunger Strike protest but they are yet to receive a response from the US government. What is alarming is that there has been no televised coverage of this protest whatsoever in the UK. Besides some scant attention paid by the BBC and the Guradian which only resulted in the story  finding a few words article space in their websites, it appeared that these protests were not news worthy for any other  media organizations.

One of the protesters, Fatemah Khezri   said she was absolutely horrified by the response, or lack of it, from most  media institutions-  “’ I called, BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CHANNEL4,  they all said that they had direct orders not to interfere. Sky promised that they would send a reporter the next day but when nobody turned up we called them again and they said there were more important news going on in Afghanistan that they needed to cover and they didnt have any reporters to send,'” ,said Fatemah. She claimed that their demands were simple and that they had the legal right to seek those demands which is that the US forces retake the security in Camp Ashraf and that the iraqi police forces responsible for the brutal raid are brought to justice in the international court. They have also demanded the release of the 36 hostages who have been detained by the Iraqi forces in some unknown location.

Yaqoub Doughfaroush, age 54, who has been on hunger strike for the past thirty days  sarcastically congratulated the British media for their excellent censorship skills. He and others on the hunger strike aree adamant that if the United States do not respond to their demands they would be prepared to die. However, he continually expressed his disgust  at the British media for choosing to ignore the protest and the issue altogether.

Sixty years old Reza Hosseini who has been protesting for the past twenty six  days confirms that each one of the protesters are ready to die without food but they are not giving up their demands. Reza had suffered the loss of his two brothers who were executed under the current Iranian regime and his two sisters were in prison for 5 years before they took refuge in Ashraf.’ “None of the residents of Ashraf camp were armed. I am a human being. I feel pain. I dont feel peace. We are ready to die each and every one of us. This right which is ours because we don’t want very much . It is the reponsibility of the US to take security back from Iraqi officials under Article 45,146 and 147 of the fourth Geneva Convention”..’

With Dr. Hoda Hosseini and a assisting nurse on the protest site everyday ensuring that the protesters at least take fluids, it is only surprising that it hasn’t caught the attention of the media in UK. Dr. Hoda Hosseini whose father is one of the protesters has spoken about the number of times she has sent out requests and pleas to press offices to cover the issue but the response has mostly been negative.

“’This country, this is democracy where television channels have all the air time to cover Jade Goody’s rise and fall and Gordon Brown paying his deepest regrets on her death…..but they have no time to cater to those iranians that have accepted British citizenship and swore to abide by the laws of the Queen’s  land . Why are our demands treated as if we are second class British citizens,’ Fatemah complains.


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