• Support a Democratic, Secular, Republic and Non-Nuclear Iran

Iranians hunger strikes in Camp Liberty & Europe, North America, Australia enters 4th week


  • Iranians hunger strikes in Camp Liberty & Europe, North America, Australia enters 4th week

    On Saturday, September 21, the hunger strike of PMOI members in Camp Liberty that started on September 1 after the massacre and mass execution of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Camp Ashraf, finished its third week.

    Currently, hunger strikes by freedom-loving Iranians in cities of Geneva, Berlin, London and Ottawa continue. Iranians in many other cities around the world, including Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Northern California, Oakland (United States), Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto (Canada), Paris (France), Stockholm, Gothenburg, Boras (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), The Hague (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark), Vienna (Austria), Brussels (Belgium), Melbourne, Sidney, Canberra (Australia), and Bucharest (Romania) staged sit-ins and protests to voice their support for PMOI members in Camp Liberty and their demands.

    Many of those on hunger strike whose immediate demand is the expeditious release and return of the hostages are in dire physical conditions. Hunger strikers are also demanding deployment of UN Blue Helmet forces in Camp Liberty and providing imperatives security provisions to the camp (such as 17,500 T-walls, protective vests and helmets), and establishment of an international fact-finding committee to probe the human catastrophe of September 1 and bring its perpetrators to justice.

    The 52 martyrs of crime against humanity in Ashraf and the seven hostages have all been under protection by the 4th Geneva Convention and as stipulated by the High Commissioner for Refugees are ‘people of concern’ with all of them having been promised protection. Hunger strikers stipulated that this tragedy need not have happened if U.S. and UN had abided by their guarantees for residents’ safety and security.

    They expressed their abhorrence that United States and United Nations have not taken any effective measures to save the seven hostages who are in danger of extradition to the religious fascism ruling Iran at any moment from the claws of Maliki’s assassins. They reiterated that until liberation of hostages and realizing security at Camp Liberty through deployment of UN Blue Helmet forces, they shall continue with their hunger strike.

  • Archbishop Tutu calls for the immediate release of seven Iranian dissidents taken hostage in Camp Ashraf

    The world community must hold the Iraqi government accountable for these heinous crimes

    I strongly condemn the mass executions of innocent residents of Camp Ashraf on September 1,

    2013. It is particularly disheartening to hear that many of them were handcuffed or injured when they were killed. The world community must hold the Iraqi government accountable for these heinous crimes, as these were refugees designated as such by the UN and therefore deserving the protection of the Iraqi government.

    Surely the extrajudicial killings of 52 civilians and the taking seven as hostage is a crime against humanity.

    I express my deep condolences to the families of the victims. I also join those who have voiced concerns over the fate of the seven hostages (six women and one man), taken from Ashraf. The Government of Iraq must immediately produce and release them. Under no circumstances should the government of Iraq turn them over to the Iranian authorities, as we know that they

    will face torture and execution there.

    They are all protected persons and asylum seekers and thus enjoy protection under international law. The international community must take the steps necessary to ensure their release.

    I call on those who promised the people of Ashraf their protection, namely the UN, UNHCR and the US Government to take full responsibility for the safety of the residents in Camp Liberty until they are resettled outside Iraq.

  • Condemn the chemical attack by Assad’s dictatorship and mullahs’ regime

    The chemical attack in Damascus outskirts on the morning of Wednesday, August 21 and the massacre of 1300 innocent civilians, especially women and children must be condemned in the strongest terms.

    The increasing number of victims of this horrifying war crime and the heartbreaking scenes of the huge number of small children who have died has hurt the conscious of today’s humanity. International community’s silence and inaction regarding previous chemical attacks by the Syrian government encouraged its unparalleled attack of Wednesday morning.

    Ahmed al-Jerba, leader of Syrian opposition, told al-Hayat daily on August 18: “The real rulers of Syria are commanders of the revolutionary guards. Revolutionary guards are fighting us in the streets of Damascus and Ghassem Solaymani commands the military operations. Iraqi militias are dispatched to fight in Syria by Iran’s orders. Maliki sends fundamentalist and extremist fighters to Syria and allows airplanes carrying Iranian weapons to pass through Iraqi airspace. It is with the assistance of Iranian regime that Hosis have come from Yemen and Hassan Nasrollah admits that he is Velayat-e faqih’s soldier and kills the Syrian people. Assad’s army has been defeated. Today, we are facing an army commanded by the Iranian regime that has imposed on us an all out war with advanced weapons.”

    A day prior to this barbaric massacre, head of Iranian regime’s Friday prayers Reza Taghavi said: “Today, it is [Khamenei] who leads southern Lebanon, has made proud Gaza with his leadership, and has made Syria resistant in confronting Takfiris… people of Egypt have no Velay-e faqih and leader and hence these massacres are happening in their country.”

    Previously, Mullah Ammar Ta’eb, a close associate of Khamenei, had said on 14 February 2013: “Syria is Iran’s thirty-fifth province.” And Rouhani, mullahs’ new president, described the Syrian government as the legitimate representative of Syrian people. In his meeting with the Syrian Prime Minister on August 4 he said: “No power in the world can harm our relations with the Syrian government.”

  • We must force Iraq to end the inhumane siege

    The Iraqi forces stationed at Camp Ashraf have cut-off the supply of water and electricity to Iranians living in Camp Ashraf since August 10. They have also preventing the delivery of food supplies and daily necessities.

    According to orders by the Iraqi Prime Ministry’s Office, Camp Ashraf’s electricity must be completely cut-off and not a drop of water should be pumped into Camp Ashraf.

    (Read more about the Iraqi Prime Minister actions against Camp Ashraf in “The Untold Story of Camp Ashraf” by Tahar Boumedra http://www.amazon.com/United-Nations-Human-Rights-Iraq/dp/1909740640)

    The water and electricity cut-off in the hottest season in Iraq, where temperatures in the shade reach around 50 degree Celsius, is a criminal measure that will lead to the loss of human life.

    The supply of diesel fuel to Ashraf has also been cut off for 14 months, the supply of kerosene for 19 months and gasoline for 19 months.

    The Iraqi Prime Ministry committee tasked with suppression of Ashraf residents has also transferred Heidar Azzab Mashi – a criminal Iraqi Army officer – from Camp Liberty to Camp Ashraf for the continued suppression of the residents.

    Mashi already has been summoned by the Spanish National Court for his role in two massacres in Camp Ashraf.

    A number of agents of the Iranian regime’s Quds Force and its embassy in Baghdad are also present in Camp Ashraf to help Mashi supervise the cutting-off of the water and electricity and prevent the delivery of food supplies.

    According to the order by the Iraqi Prime Ministry, Iraqi officials who face questions by international organizations on Camp Ashraf’s water and electricity outages must insist that all of the Iraqi people are facing power outages that are also causing the water to be cut off.

    The Iraqi Government aim through this criminal measure is to force the 100 Camp Ashraf residents to give in so that they seize and plunder the residents’ property and carry out another massacre. These 100 residents have remained in Ashraf under an August 17, 2012, quadripartite agreement between the US Government, the Iraqi Government, the UN and the residents in order to secure the property of Ashraf and Liberty residents.

    Based on the aforementioned agreement, on September 6, 2012, and an official letter from the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, the 100 residents will remain in Camp Ashraf until all of their property in Ashraf is sold.

    The US Secretary of State’s Special Advisor on Ashraf stressed that the stay of these individuals at Ashraf has no time limitation (Agence France Presse, 3 October 2012). However, the Iraqi Government has to this date not permitted the sale of even a single item of the residents’ property.

    Cutting off the water, electricity and food of refugees who are recognized as ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity under any definition and its perpetrators must be brought to justice and be punished.

    The US Government and the UN has commitments towards the safety and security of the Ashraf residents and urgent action needs to be taken to end this siege by reconnecting the water and electricity and lifting all of the obstacles to entry of food.

  • The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

    Roll Call – July 31, 2013

    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    These words, written more than a century ago, have a modern application in the history of the West’s impressions of the theocratic government of Iran.

    Dating back to the Carter administration, not long after Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Shah, the U.S. and other Western governments have been looking for “moderates” in Tehran with whom to negotiate.

    There was Hashemi Rafsanjani, then Mohammad Khatami, then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and now Hassan Rouhani — but looming over them all has been the all-powerful Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Different names, different personalities, different styles — but one thing in common: They are ultimately subservient to the wishes of the supreme leader.

    Yet the West continues to seek a silver lining in the cloud that has covered Iran for decades. American and European negotiators keep looking for “moderates” to discuss issues ranging from nuclear weapons to sanctions to Iraq, with much more in between. And while the seemingly unending search continues, Iran keeps its nuclear program moving full speed ahead.

    The West keeps looking. The mullahs keep building and they continue to export terrorism around the world, supporting the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, while gaining more influence in Iraq than the United States has.

    In Iran, a “moderate” is one who grudgingly receives the approval of the Supreme Leader’s Guardian Council, and is moderate only to the extent that he is less extreme than the few others the Council permitted on the ballot. Is being less extreme than Ahmadinejad a sign of moderation? That would be a strange definition.

    Perhaps the greatest danger from Iran is its growing influence in Iraq. The U.S. took Iraq’s (and Saddam Hussein’s) side when those two nations warred for eight years in the 1980s, shortly after the anti-Shah revolution in Iran.

    When the Iran-Iraq war ended, there was no real victor. But 20 years later, after the U.S. overthrow of Saddam and installation of a new government in Baghdad, it seems clear that Iran has indeed won that war with a large assist from blundering American foreign policy.

    The Nouri al-Maliki government appears subservient to Iran, to the detriment of Iraqis who seek democracy and to the Iranian refugees who had been protected by the U.S. until the withdrawal of the troops in 2011. Particularly at risk are the 3,200 dissidents who had lived peacefully at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad for a quarter century. At the end of 2011, they agreed to be relocated to Camp Liberty, closer to the capital, supposedly to be processed by the U.N. refugee agency for transfer to third countries. This relocation was mandated by the U.N. and the U.S.

    Sadly the UN and the U.S. have looked the other way as these refugees have been housed in sub-human conditions and denied basic rights. Very few have been resettled.

    Worse, they have been subjected to three violent armed attacks in little over a year, either by or at the behest of the mullahs in Tehran, resulting in 10 deaths and 170 wounded. The latest took place in June of this year.


  • Tehran’s winning streak

     By Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr.   

    The Hill – As the Middle East teems with masses yearning for relief from authoritarian rule, economic hardship and censored communications, Iran should be a prime candidate for popular unrest. The economy is hurting from sanctions, the people live under harsh restrictions and most Iranians are too young to remember the widespread support Ayatollah Khomeini and the fundamentalist clerics rode to power when the 1979 revolution drove the ailing Shah into exile.

    Yet the Arab spring has not produced a Persian spring, and in Washington talk of war and regime change have quieted.

    Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his aides must be marveling at their recent run of good luck. The June 14 presidential elections could have triggered internal dissent as in 2009, when fraud was widely suspected in the vote reelecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At that time, the world witnessed street protests brutally put down by the police. Not wanting to repeat that spectacle, the regime announced in January of this year its intent to “engineer” the results of this year’s election.

    Defiance of the supreme leader’s wishes was on display as powerful former President Hashemi Rafsanjani registered his candidacy 10 minutes before the deadline and the term-limited Ahmadinejad accompanied his own preferred successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, into the registration office. Iran’s Guardian Council disqualified Rafsanjani and Mashaei along with 676 other registered presidential candidates. Only eight were permitted to run, prompting expectations of a low popular turnout and possible protests.

    Yet at the eleventh hour a groundswell of support arose for Hassan Rouhani — the only cleric among those allowed to run — characterized by Western journalists as a “moderate” and potential reformer. The polls opened, and no less than 70 percent of Iran’s eligible voters were said to have turned out. Just over 50 percent of their votes, the threshold to avoid a runoff round, were said to have been cast for Rouhani, making him the outright winner.

    The Obama administration, having said little before the election, congratulated Iranians on their vote. The Western press reported a moderate reformer had been elected by a majority with a heavy popular turnout. The smiling faces of election revelers adorned newspapers and broadcasts worldwide. Unlike 2009, this time there were no reported protests, no police, no blood and no serious international criticism.

    At the same time, the regime managed to strike a blow against exiled Iranians advocating popular sovereignty in Iran. Within hours of the election, an Iranian-supported militia called Iraqi Hezbollah fired rockets into Baghdad’s Camp Liberty, a small trailer park under tight Iraqi military control, killing two and wounding several other defenseless residents awaiting refugee processing by the U.N. It was the second deadly attack on Camp Liberty residents this year. The story barely made the press.

    These 3,100 men and women, promised protection by the U.S. in 2004, are being denied concrete barriers and personal protective gear by Iraqi authorities. The ability to attack political adversaries with impunity and trample on an American promise with no significant reaction from the U.S. government and press, invites further attacks.

    Washington’s indifference here encourages Iran’s efforts to prop up Syria’s regime with special forces and weaponry, foment sectarian violence in Yemen with arms and cash, and target Israel’s population with a growing arsenal of rockets and missiles supplied to Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Three decades of fundamentalist rule in Iran defying norms of state behavior have spawned an array of dangers afflicting the American ideal of a stable and secure Middle East. The administration has no easy options and other priorities. But time is not on its side; once Rouhani takes office, the U.S. must have a clear notion of how to pursue security in the region even while the focus of defense planning pivots to Asia. Issue one is the nuclear negotiation with Tehran.

    What will induce Tehran to accept a verifiable arrangement that forestalls an unstoppable Persian-Arab-Israeli nuclear arms race? Lifting sanctions is the obvious quid pro quo, and a clean sanctions-for-nuclear deal — assuming a weapons program could be reliably averted — would be a good outcome for both sides. But what if Iran’s leaders want more than a lifting of sanctions? Over the years what they have coveted above all is American acceptance of the 1979 revolution, meaning an explicit renunciation of regime change as a policy goal.

    And why should they not seek a formal assurance? It is clear that the U.S. is not seriously objecting either to Iran’s current destabilizing regional activities or its internal abuse of dissident citizens. Perhaps the administration would be prepared to let bygones be bygones, forgoing any accountability for the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy and hostage-holding; the bombings of 241 U.S. Marines, 58 French forces and two U.S. Embassy facilities in Lebanon in the 1980s; the deadly bombings in the 1990s of the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia, where 19 U.S. airmen died; and other major crimes that for many years now have made Iran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

    President Obama’s problem is that he is negotiating with a party that sees no reason to halt its nuclear program, can manage the impact of economic sanctions that hurt the poor more than the elites, and faces no adverse consequences for undermining pro-Western allies in the region while brutalizing citizens who oppose the clerics’ permanent claim to power.

    While the regime’s judges, jailers, gunrunners, media censors, intelligence agents, paramilitary forces and nuclear engineers march on with their projects, all variously aimed at keeping the regional contagion of political change away from their doorstep, Washington appears to be resting its hopes on ever-tighter sanctions and a moderate new Iranian president to resolve these threats to regional peace and U.S. security. We will know soon whether these hopes are justified.

    Bloomfield Jr. served both Presidents Bush in the Defense and State departments, is a former assistant secretary of State and U.S. Special Envoy and current chairman of the Stimson Center. He is the author of a new book on U.S. policy toward Iran’s exiled resistance.


  • RIDGE: The friends left in the shadow of war

    America has an obligation to save its friends in Iran

    Washington Times – July 17, 2013: The Iranian regime’s war against the United States — and it is very much a war — has largely been fought by proxies for more than two decades. The U.S. government considers Iran the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism.

    Beginning just after the Iranian revolution in 1979, the regime began funding and directing terrorist groups such as Hezbollah to attack Americans, our interests and our allies. It has used SyriaIraq and Lebanon, among other places, as recruitment markets and alternative battlegrounds in an attempt to weaken the United States and indirectly bleed out American resolve and resources.

    Thousands have died, including hundreds of our Marines in Lebanon and troops in Iraq and AfghanistanIran continues to sponsor far-flung operations against the United States, including a recent plot to kill a Saudi diplomat in Washington.

    America has, in turn, found its own allies in this ongoing shadow war. One of them is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which for more than three decades has struggled to unseat the mullahs in favor of establishing democracy and restoring Iran’s status among peaceful, civilized nations. Organized among student intellectuals initially to oppose the shah’s dictatorship, the group has been an implacable foe of the regime under the ayatollahs. Driven out of Iran and ensconced in an Iraqi outpost since the early 1980s, the group disarmed after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 and has since provided vital intelligence to the United States on Iran’s activities in Iraq, as well as on Tehran’s nuclear program. They dedicated themselves publicly to a “secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran.”

    The MEK has paid dearly for its opposition to the Iranian regime. Tens of thousands of its supporters were sent to the gallows by the ayatollahs. Their unarmed base in Iraq — a self-styled city known as Camp Ashraf — was ambushed twice by Iraqi forces at the behest of Iran, killing and wounding hundreds. In 2012, they were moved to a temporary location in Iraq, a former U.S. Army base known as Camp Liberty, where they have already been lethally attacked this year by rocket fire.

    Despite promises of protection given by the United States in exchange for the group disarming and surrendering its weapons of self-defense, the U.S. has ignored its members’ perilous plight. They remain refugees — hunted by the mullahs, abandoned by United Nations peacekeepers and ignored by the United States, which has forgotten its promises — awaiting their fate.

    Even the most hardened practitioners of realpolitik would not condone the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude the United States has shown toward the MEK. Our goal in Iran is much more than counterterrorism or nuclear roll-back. It is, inexorably, regime change. Some of the democratic forces that have helped topple despots across the Middle East in recent years are brewing in Iran, and a day will come when one of the world’s most violent and repressive regimes finally collapses.

    A brilliant new book by a former U.S. policy official and arms negotiator, Lincoln Bloomfield Jr., looks at how the United States has by design and default kept a committed regime opponent and potential democratic ally in Iran sidelined, and is keeping Tehran’s day of reckoning at bay.

    In “The Mujahedin-e Khalq: Shackled by a Twisted History,” Mr. Bloomfield brings the MEK out of the shadows, revealing a lazy consensus among members of the Washington establishment that the MEK weren’t a “legitimate” opposition group worth defending. It also lays bare a dangerous game of kick-the-can by Democratic and Republican administrations alike, who delayed and deferred a decision to repatriate the exiles to safe havens outside Iraq, resulting in dozens of needless deaths.

    There is an interesting double play in the title of Mr. Bloomfield’s book. The “twisted” history of the group will be taken by some as a reference to the widespread perception of the MEK as a “cult,” but it is the history and narrative of the group itself that has been twisted beyond recognition, mostly by Iranian state propaganda, including use of intelligence agents in the West actively spreading the “cult” label against them. During the Clinton administration, the group was placed on the U.S. State Department’s list of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” at the behest of Tehran. Despite not meeting any of the congressionally mandated criteria for what constitutes a terrorist group, the MEK languished on the list for nearly 15 years, drained of support and aid and suffering as an unsympathetic target for Iranian assassins. The listing was a major blow to the democracy movement in Iran and a shameful disservice to the group’s intentions, capabilities and sacrifices.

    Branded terrorists and cultists by regime propaganda, the MEK members have been massacred, isolated and dehumanized during their long Iraqi encampment. Sadly, the U.S. media bought the Iranian regime’s pretext lock, stock and barrel, ignoring the dissidents’ plight in their desert redoubt even as they provided the United States with the precise whereabouts of previously unknown Iranian nuclear activities.

    In September 2012, the group was at last removed from the foreign terrorism list after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rebuked the secretary of state for an “egregious delay” in making a decision that had been a slam dunk factually and legally. But 3,200 of its members continue to languish in prisonlike conditions inside Iraq, where they remain in mortal peril. Mr. Bloomfield argues that it is not too late for the United States to redeem itself and acknowledge its legal obligations as well as the contributions of the MEK by bringing them to safety. The Obama administration should delay not a moment longer.

    Tom Ridge was the first secretary of homeland security and is a former governor of Pennsylvania.


  • Protective Measures Are Necessary to Ensure the Safety and Security of the Population of Camp Ashraf

    Roll Call – July 16, 2013: The United States is again party to a good news–bad news event in the Middle East. For years, freedom-loving people around the world worked together under the courageous leadership of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, using every tool at their disposal, to get the wrongful designation of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) as a terrorist group removed.

    Finally, the “good guys” won, empowering the most powerful group outside Iran in favor of disposing of the current Iranian leadership and providing the freedom-loving people of Iran a chance for democracy. Unfortunately, the bad news is that there has been little time to celebrate that monumental victory because a potentially catastrophic event is unfolding at this moment!

    Regrettably, our victory is far less sweet than it might have otherwise been, because the U.S. requirement for delisting the MEK involved the residents voluntary moving from Ashraf to Liberty. Our U.S. State Department, which orchestrated the move under the guise of the United Nations, quickly accepted the Iraqi name of Hurriya vice Liberty when it recognized that the place did not approximate any form of the word liberty. But, with both U.S. and the UN assurances for their safety, some 3,100 residents made that move to Camp Liberty in January of last year.

    Now, let’s review the facts. The United States — yes, the United States, not the European Union, not the UN — at this point has made two guarantees to the MEK residents at Liberty and the 100 still at Camp Ashraf. First, in 1994, the United States guaranteed the protection of the residents when they agreed to disarm and secondly the United States promised they would be safe when they agreed to move from Camp Ashraf to the concentration camp-like facility called Camp Liberty. The U.S. also promised to work hard to ensure rapid resettlement from the hellhole known as Liberty to other countries, including the United States. The United States is clearly in breach of its agreements and international obligations, as well as written guarantees that it provided each resident in 2004 — to protect them until their final disposition.

    As an individual who fought for 38 years to protect the human rights and also provide an opportunity for freedom in such places as Vietnam, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, it pains me to see my government turn its back and to display such indifference — and most of all, to ignore its commitment and its promises. That is not the American way.

    And it’s not as if we don’t know that this is a catastrophe waiting to happen at the hands of the Iranian-controlled Maliki government in Iraq. The first rocket attack on Liberty, as we know, occurred last February and the latest occurred just a few weeks ago. But that’s not the full story. The sorry state of affairs at Liberty — lack of proper medical treatment, constant and continuous inhumane harassment at the hands of the Iraqis, preventing the delivery of foodstuffs, preventing the removal of sewage, and hundreds of other harassing techniques — showed what the Iraqi army and the Maliki government really stand for.

    Unable to win wars, it is a government and an army that excels in harassing women, children and the infirm. The United States must quit passing the buck. Note Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement issued immediately after the rocket attack: “We remain absolute. The United States remains committed to assisting the government of Iraq and UNAMI and implementing the December 25, 2011, agreement to quickly relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya outside Iraq. We must find a permanent and long-term solution that insures their safety.”


  • New president of Iran is no moderate

    By Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)

    The Hill – July 15, 2013:  Many were quick to label Rouhani a “moderate,” suggesting that now may be the time to negotiate with Iran. However, despite the sham elections and promises of change by Rouhani, the structure of the Iranian regime remains intact. The ultimate power still remains with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The only change that matters in Iran is the prospect for true democratic change.

    Rouhani is no moderate. He has long been entrenched in the regime’s political and intelligence apparatus. Behind the facade of moderation is a simple truth evident since the last so-called “moderate” Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami: While the president may put on a charm offensive to the West, the supreme leader is still driving toward nuclear weapons and using terrorism abroad to accomplish his political agenda. While this strategy may have fooled many before, we should not be so naive this go-round.

    There are very simple and straightforward ways to measure meaningful change in Iran. Standard benchmarks include freedom of speech, the treatment of political prisoners and the use of terror abroad and at home. Can Rouhani have any effect on these issues? The simple answer is no. Short of complete institutional change, none of these matters will be addressed in any meaningful way.

    The elections were essentially another tactical maneuver by Khamenei to maintain his grip on power. Whereas his mass electoral fraud in 2009 in order to secure another term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad resulted in rare popular protests, this year, increased isolation and division at home have forced him to take even more drastic steps to maintain his survival. The first of these maneuvers was the disqualification of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani from his candidacy in the elections.

    This was an act of desperation to avoid a potentially catastrophic situation at the polls. The once untouchable supreme leader now does not even have the political will to ensure conformity and discipline among his own rank and file.

    Though he wanted Iranian politician Saeed Jalili as president, Khamenei was forced to allow the election of Rouhani due to an inability to unite the candidates in his own faction, plus the fear of a widespread revolt if he engaged in blatant fraud. Such a tactic may allow him to surpass the danger of an immediate uprising but will inevitably lead to increased factional infighting down the line.

    Rouhani’s presidency may in fact serve to empower change in Iran, but not through reform or “moderation.” As the infighting escalates and dissent grows, activists in Iran may seize the opportunity to voice their desire for real and radical change, just like in 2009.

    This call for fundamental change was echoed June 22 in France, when more than 100,000 Iranians converged to remind the international community of the real desires of the Iranian people. They made a simple, yet compelling argument that the only policy option for dealing with Iran is to reject military intervention or further appeasement of this regime and to embrace democratic change.

    The Iranian delegates were joined by more than 600 political dignitaries, lawmakers and jurists representing a wide spectrum of political parties from 47 countries. 

    They urged the West to stand with the Iranian people in their quest for freedom. They stood in solidarity with those in attendance in advocating a democratic secular republic that respects civil and human rights, and ends the nuclear program. They also demanded that the international community act to ensure the protection of Iranian refugees trapped in Camp Liberty in Iraq, where two dissidents died in an attack the day after the election.

    The June 22 event highlighted hope for the democratic forces in Iran. It stood in stark contrast to the apathy and hopelessness that pervaded the elections. Policymakers would do well to remember who is really calling the shots in Tehran. As long as the supreme leader and his henchmen are in power, our best hope are those who are fighting for true, democratic change. And that’s just the way it is.

    Poe has represented Texas’s 2nd congressional district in the House of Representatives since 2005. He sits on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees and is chairman of the latter’s subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.


  • Time to take the necessary steps to secure the safety of the population of Camp Ashraf / Liberty

    By Tahar Boumedra

    The Hill – July 17, 2013 – This week the UN Security Council session will discuss the possibility of extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). It is expected on this occasion that the head of UNAMI, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Ambassador Martin Kobler will present his periodic and last report on the situation of the residents of Camp Ashraf/Liberty before he leaves Iraq for the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he will lead another UN complex mission. SRSG Kobler made it his priority to assist the Government of Iraq to close down Camp Ashraf where about 3400 Iranian exiles lived for the last 27 years and transfer them to a former U.S. Army base (Camp Liberty) at Baghdad Airport where they would be awaiting departure from Iraq. To do so, SRSG Kobler signed on December 25, 2011 a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Iraq setting conditions for their relocation and for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees to undertake their refugee status determination process as a first step for settling them outside Iraq.

    The SRSG promised the population of Camp Ashraf that their relocation to Camp Liberty is to ensure their safety and security. The UNHCR made it a condition that the RSD process takes place in a neutral and safe location outside Camp Ashraf.  While the MOU had other undeclared cynical objectives, the residents of Ashraf were lured into Camp Liberty with the false promise that the latter Camp provides safety and security and meets international standards. UNHCR promised a period of six months to deliver and start resettling the resident in third countries. I had repeatedly warned that Camp Liberty is neither safe nor secure nor meeting the applicable international humanitarian standards including the UN guidelines on the process applicable to forcible eviction. I also warned that the resettlement process will last for decades and the Government of Iraq publicly warned that they will not allow a de facto settlement in Iraq and that they will remove them by “all means.”

    My warnings went unheeded. Camp Liberty quickly proved its humanitarian and security limits. It turned into a detention center, some called it a “killing field”, with a population facing deprivations and daily harassment and a ban on all visits of actors that would bring the matter to the attention of the international community in an independent manner. NGOs, independent media, parliamentarians, including Iraqi parliamentarians, diplomats and representatives of other UN agencies separately from UNAMI are prevented from reaching the camp. The residents of Liberty are deprived of the most fundamental rights, such as access to justice and freedom of movement. Even burying the dead has proved to be a serious challenge to the Liberty residents contrary to the Islamic teaching. The daily harassments of the residents soon turned into armed attacks against them. They were showered with war missiles on February 9th,  April 28th and June 15th of this year, from a nearby location known to have a heavy presence of the Iraqi army. Eleven people were killed and scores of them were injured. UNAMI hardly condemned the attack. Instead, the SRSG called on the residents’ representatives to allow the residents more freedom to communicate. Could one enjoy freedom of communication if deprived of his/her freedom of movement, freedom to meet lawyers, NGOs, parliamentarians? What does freedom of communication mean to a population forcibly placed in a detention center without the due process of law?

    As the situation stands today, Camp Liberty residents are locked up in a detention center lacking minimum security requirements and the minimum humanitarian conditions. They stand exposed to serious and imminent danger. If nothing is done to rescue them from this situation, no doubt there will be more rocket attacks against them, there will be more loss of life and lot of pain to the residents and their families.

    Camp Liberty today is a real case where the responsibility to protect is most needed and most appropriate. It does not need any complex and costly operation. All it needs is to declare the Camp a prima facie refugee Camp and request the Government of Iraq to effectively ensure their safety, security and dignity while the UNHCR continues its effort in view of resettling them outside Iraq. The contribution of the international community to resettle this small population will go into history as an opportunity where UN member states lived up to their commitments and upheld the core values of the UN Charter. Any further attacks against this defenseless population will seriously undermine the integrity and credibility of the United Nations and its member states who took the responsibility of placing them at Camp Liberty.

    Boumedra was chief of the Human Rights Office of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Camp Ashraf affairs from 2009 until 2012.

    Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/311721-time-to-take-the-necessary-steps-to-secure-the-safety-of-the-population-of-camp-ashrafliberty#ixzz2a58JXUhc