IRANIAN DISSIDENTS CURRENTLY RESIDE IN ALBANIA.
ARE WOMEN WHO HAVE COURAGEOUSLY DEFIED THE HEART OF THE IRANIAN REGIME’S IDEOLOGY OF MISOGYNY.
The Case of Camp Liberty
In September 2016, the last group of Iranian dissidents living in Camp Liberty, near Baghdad International Airport, were relocated to Tirana, the Albanian capital, with the help of the U.S. Foundation for Liberty and Human Rights.
The 2,400 Iranian dissidents currently living in Albania had initially gone to Iraq after being persecuted by the Iranian regime for many years. Nearly one third of the population is comprised of people who have experienced detention and imprisonment in Iran, accompanied by episodes of unspeakable torture and ill treatment by the regime. About 1,000 are women. Before moving to Camp Liberty, these dissidents lived in Camp Ashraf, a modern mini city they had built with their own resources and ingenuity. They were protected by the United States military until 2009 as the United States had designated them “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention. After the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq in January 2009, their protection was handed over to the pro-Tehran Shiite government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Acting at the behest of the Iranian regime, Iraqi security forces and pro-Tehran militias launched deadly attacks against the residents in camps Ashraf and Liberty at least seven times, leaving more than 140 residents killed and 1,400 wounded, many suffering serious injuries. Additionally, over two dozen died due to a crippling medical siege imposed on the camps.
Facing popular protests and growing international isolation, the Iranian regime was intent on eliminating these refugees, who gradually fled the brutal regime of Iran, which has killed an estimated 120,000 opponents since 1979. Many of the residents have been educated in institutions of higher education in Europe and America. They hope to peacefully free their homeland from the tyranny of a ruthless theocracy. The dissidents represent the only hope for a free Iran that respects human rights and women’s rights. They need our help more than ever.
How and why did the dissidents end up in Camp Liberty?
The residents are civilians and under the protections of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In September 2011, the UN High Commission for Refugees declared the residents as “asylum-seekers” and “persons of concern,” who are entitled to international protections. In July 2009, April 2011, September 2013, June 2013, December 2013, and October 2015, these unarmed and unprotected residents were attacked by Iraqi security forces and were also targets of missile attacks by pro-Iranian Iraqi terrorist groups. More than 140 were killed and over 1,400 were wounded in these attacks.
The relocation outside Iraq
A major effort was undertaken by the family members and friends of the residents in Europe and the United States to draw attention to their plight and to urge European countries to accept them as refugees. After an intense four-year endeavor, and under the threat of missile attacks and armed assaults, a number of European countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Finland accepted about 1,000 of them. The 2,400 who remained behind endured enormous hardship, a medical siege and four missile attacks by pro-Iranian Shia militias from 2012 until 2016.
Former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry urged the Albanian government to accept the remaining residents. After a year-long-process, the remaining 2,400 were relocated to Tirana, with the last group departing on September 9, 2016.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) assisted with the relocation on the condition that the residents and their friends and families accept all the ensuing costs, including medical care, food and shelter, legal matters, and education, among other things.
Since Albania is not a rich country, it is not in a position to provide meaningful assistance to these refugees, at least 1,000 of whom are suffering from serious illnesses, physical disabilities and other ailments. At least 250 are in queue for urgent surgery. Regrettably, 12 have already died after relocating to Albania.
As such, the USFLHR has given priority to help these refugees meet their medical needs and to provide them with shelter and food as well as securing their legal status.
The USFLHR has relied on the tireless efforts of volunteers who have donated their time to reach out to interested individuals and groups for funding. This has enabled the Foundation to provide a remarkable 98 percent of all contributions to help these refugees and others in need of assistance.