Iranian hunger strikers ready to die in support of raided refugee camp

10 09 2009

Mark Tran, Wednesday 9 September 2009 18.03 BST

Iranian hunger strikersProtesters shouts slogans outside the U.S. Embassy as they call on the U.S. government to take action to protect Iranians in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Photograph: Akira Suemori/AP

Iranian exiles on hunger strike outside the US embassy in London today called on America and Britain to break their silence over an Iraqi attack on a refugee camp that left 11 people dead and 450 others injured.

The 12 protesters who have set up a makeshift camp in Grosvenor Square, London, have been consuming only water and tea for the past 44 days.

Zohreh Moalemi, 47, a mother of two, said: “I will carry on until the end.”

Iraqi forces raided Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, in July where 3,500 members of an Iranian dissident group, Mujahideen-e-Khalq, have lived for over two decades.

Human rights groups have condemned the attack as a violation of the Geneva convention provision on “protected persons”. Hunger strikes have been taking place in the camp and capitals around the world following the attack.

The protesters are demanding both US forces protection and UN monitoring for the camp, and the release of 36 refugees still being held by Iraqi forces. One hunger striker in London has suffered a heart attack and others are suffering from internal bleeding and loss of vision.

Graphic video footage of the July attack shows Iraqi troops beating unarmed civilians with wooden planks, bulldozers destroying the perimeter fence and military vehicles driving at camp residents.

Legal groups have accused the Iraqi government of violating undertakings to the US that Ashraf would be protected following the transfer of security to Iraq at the beginning of the year.

The hunger strikers outside the US embassy in London say they have chosen their location partly in protest at the lack of action from US troops who were in and outside the camp, filming the event but failing to intervene when Iraqi forces raided the area.

“My children are worried about me,” said Moalemi. “We have no proteins left in our bodies, we’re losing all our muscles, it’s very hard to walk and my kidneys are failing. But we have to stop this regime in Iran before it gets stronger and becomes a threat to the whole world with a nuclear bomb.”



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