State Department calls on Iranian exile group to move
REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- The State Department on Tuesday called on the Mujahedin Khalq, an exiled Iranian group living in Iraq, to leave its current camp and relocate to a former U.S. Air Base near Baghdad.
More than 3,000 members of the movement live at Camp Ashraf, a complex started by the organization in 1986, but the Iraqi government officially announced plans to close it last year. Under a U.N.-backed plan, the Iranian exiles will be resettled at Camp Hurriya, formerly the U.S. base Camp Liberty. The U.N. last week determined that the base was ready to be lived in.
“It is time for the [Mujahedin Khalq] to make the decision to move out of Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya,” said Ambassador Daniel Fried, the special adviser on Camp Ashraf. “The U.S. welcomes and supports the peaceful and temporary relocation and eventual permanent resettlement of the residents of camp Ashraf.”
Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Maryam Rajavi, the group’s leader in exile, said residents of the camp were willing to move but were “demanding minimum assurances, namely a dignified and humane treatment at the new location.”
“The EU, U.S. and U.N. should actively and immediately intervene to prevent turning of Camp Liberty into a prison,” she said.
Members of the group were protected by Iraq’s late leader, Saddam Hussein, whose regime fought a war with Iran from 1980 to 1988. However, they are at odds with the current Iraqi government, which is allied with Iran. The Iraqi military raided Camp Ashraf last April; 34 residents were killed in the attack.
Fried said the Iraqi government has pledged to protect the group as it moves to Camp Hurriya. He said representatives from the Iraqi government met with leaders at Camp Ashraf on Monday and held “businesslike and productive” discussions on how to move the camp’s residents.
Once members have been relocated, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will determine if they qualify for refugee status. Fried said some might voluntary return to Iran or to third countries where they hold citizenship.
The Mujahedin Khalq was designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997. During the 1970s, the group killed six Americans in Iran and bombed the offices of U.S. corporations in the country.
The exile group has mounted a campaign in the United States to gain protection from the U.S. government and to be removed from the State Department terrorist list. Its supporters include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
-- Ian Duncan