Senate Briefing Warns of Humanitarian Tragedy in Camp Liberty, Iraq, and Urges Immediate Improvement in Conditions Imposed on Iranian Dissidents before Further Relocation to Liberty
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri:
In a briefing at the historic Senate Kennedy Caucus room, senior former U.S. military commanders and Administration officials called for immediate improvement in inhumane conditions at Camp Liberty, Iraq, where 2,000 Iranian dissidents reside after relocating from Camp Ashraf, their home for 26 years.
The Iranian dissidents are members of the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK).
Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman General James E. Cartwright (ret.); former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; former Governor of Pennsylvania; DNC Chairman Ed Rendell; former Deputy Commander of United States European Command Gen. Charles “Chuck” F. Wald (ret.); former State Department Spokesman Phillip J. Crowley; former commandant of the Army Military Police School, commander of all police operations in Iraq, including the protection of Camp Ashraf Brig. Gen. David Phillips (ret.); and former commander of Camp Ashraf Col. Wesley Martin (ret.) spoke at the briefing, which was moderated by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
“For the remaining 1,200 residents of Camp Ashraf, you are not obligated to go to Camp Liberty until the United States and the United Nations keep their word to protect, meet their obligations,” Mr. Kennedy said, underscoring that “the residents of Camp Ashraf are not breaking their word, it’s the United States and the UN who are breaking their commitment to the people of Camp Ashraf.”
Ambassador Bolton, added, “What we have seen here, in this entire transfer process from Ashraf to Liberty, is the subordination of UNHCR to the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq. That is a fundamental violation of the principles for which UNHCR was established.”
“What we need to see here,” Bolton concluded, is “getting the United States to do the right thing and delist the MeK and take affirmative steps to begin the relocation process out of Iraq, which is the only solution that’s going to be fair and equitable to the residents of Ashraf and Liberty and their families around the world.”
Noting that the Iranian regime was poised to take advantage of the Presidential elections in the United States, General Cartwright said, “The time between now and November is a time of vulnerability. The talks that are going on with Iran to eliminate their ability to have weapons of mass destruction are basically stagnant. They are not progressing.” In reference to the situation at Camp Liberty, the retired four-star General added, “When you decide what it is you want to do, you make sure that somebody is assigned to be responsible and accountable to ensure that it happens. Having people in charge of humanitarian issues … Having somebody assigned to ensure relocation occurs is what the mission is. Who is assigned? Who is accountable? And until there is somebody in that position, we’re not serious. We need to be serious.”
“I’ve never gotten a good explanation from the State Department or anybody representing the government of Iraq or from the United Nations why, if their ultimate goal was to get the residents of Ashraf out of the country, why did they have to leave Ashraf to do that in the first place? To this day, if they stayed in Ashraf, we would have been far ahead than where we are now. We wasted all this time transitioning to Liberty. We could have been moving, we could have had people immigrating to different countries of the world already. Nobody has ever given me an explanation. Then, nobody has ever given me an explanation, about why does the Iraqi government not allow [the residents of Camp Liberty] to put up shades, or to put up paved walkways? We’re not asking them to pay the money… Why would you not let the residents bring their own water purification system and pump water out of the nearby river when it’s at no cost to them? And the residents of Ashraf and Liberty are willing to do it themselves. And I think it’s rotten. And I think it’s unfair. And I think in many ways it borders on inhumane. It makes me angry as an American and it makes me angry as a citizen of the world,” Governor Rendell said.
Highlighting the U.S. responsibility in a satisfactory resolution of this crisis, Mr. Crowley said, “The United States must become more invested in dealing with these issues and insisting on better conditions at Camp Liberty… We should continue to insist on minimal humanitarian conditions… Security, safe shelter and water are not unreasonable demands. Getting the Iraqi government to connect the camp to the Baghdad municipal water system is not an insurmountable task. If authorized, I suspect the residents of Camp Ashraf could do it by themselves.”
Crowley emphasized that the future for the MeK is “about Iran and offering the Iranian people the political alternatives and the ability to choose who will lead them in the future… what unites us all here today, is getting the residents of Ashraf out of Iraq safely and beyond Iran’s clutches so we can focus on creating conditions that enable a different kind of Iran to emerge.”
“I am one of the very few people who has lived both at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty… If you want to solve this problem, have Mr. Al-Maliki open Camp Liberty to the outside world and allow in media, international press and interested individuals. If Camp Liberty meets even basic human rights requirements, what is there to hide? Here’s a simple challenge for Mr. Al-Maliki, from someone who has spent more time battling insurgents in Iraq than he has: I challenge you, Mr. Maliki to, allow us to come over and visit Camp Liberty and, let us see for ourselves your humane conditions, General Phillips said.
Gen. Charles “Chuck” F. Wald added, “As a nation, we need to stand for what we believe in, we need to take care of friends and have communes like you … We owe it to you to help with Camp Ashraf and Liberty for that matter.”
In part of his remarks, Col. Martin said that the residents of Camps Ashraf and Liberty “Only want two things as designated by President Franklin Roosevelt, they want freedom from want and they want freedom from fear. Is that too much to ask?” He added, “We are ready to go back to Baghdad right now… we’ll do it, because we’re going to go again and fight again for democracy and fight for justice.”
As regards the status of Camp Liberty, Rendell said, “It’s not temporary transit location (TTL). It’s really a refugee camp. And, the UN should be embarrassed because it refuses to call it a refugee camp when we know that’s exactly what it is.” Crowley agreed, “The State Department calls Liberty a temporary transient facility. Two key words: Temporary, which I will interpret as a matter of months, not years. And transient, meaning people arrive and then they depart. That hasn’t happened.”
SOURCE Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri