Solving the Ashraf crisis

111899486 300x182 Solving the Ashraf crisisOn the 8th of April a vicious massacre took place in Camp Ashraf, Northern Iraq, home for the past 20 years to more than 3400 Iranian dissidents. Under relentless pressure from the Iranian government, the Iraqi military sent 5 Divisions of heavily armed troops with tanks and armoured vehicles to mow down unarmed men and women in a brutal assault that shocked the civilised world.

As Head of the European Parliament’s official Delegation to Iraq, I led a small team of Euro MPs to Baghdad days after the massacre to express our horror and outrage to President Talabani and many senior Government ministers. We requested permission to visit Ashraf, to see for ourselves the aftermath of the tragedy, but our request was firmly rebuffed by Foreign Minister Zebari.

I remain deeply concerned that another bloody attack could take place at any time, leading to a Srebrenica-style annihilation of the unarmed refugees in the camp. It was clear from our discussions in Baghdad that an urgent solution had to be found to the Ashraf crisis. The UN Secretary General’s representative in Iraq asked me to make contact with the leadership of the Ashraf refugees at their headquarters in Paris, to explore possible avenues for a long-term resolution. On my return to the EU from Iraq I travelled immediately to Paris and spent 5 hours in intense discussion with the leadership of the Iranian opposition. Together, we thrashed out a plan that provides the only viable alternative to violence and further bloodshed.

The plan requires the active involvement of the UN, the US and the EU. It recognises the Iraqi government’s right of sovereignty over their own territory. But it also recognises the rights of the 3400 unarmed residents of Ashraf to protection under the 4th Geneva Convention. The plan lays the groundwork for negotiations involving the Iraqi Government and sets out a proposal to re-settle all of the refugees to the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and the 27 EU Member States, depending on where they have previous associations, connections or family contacts.

But I have made it clear in all discussions with the Iraqi Government that we are not willing to enter into any negotiations with them unless four key pre-conditions are met. Firstly, the military forces must be withdrawn from Camp Ashraf. Secondly, the siege of the camp which has gone on uninterrupted for more than two years, involving hundreds of loudspeakers blaring high decibel threats and propaganda 24 hours a day, plus interruptions to vital medical, energy and water supplies, must immediately stop. Thirdly, there must be an independent inquiry into the massacre of 8th April with the perpetrators identified and brought to justice. And fourthly, those critically injured during the 8th April attack must be given immediate access to proper hospital care. In other words, the Iraqi government must restore an environment as near to normality as possible in Ashraf, before negotiations can begin on the long-term resolution to this crisis.

Only if these conditions are met will we have confidence that the Iraqi authorities really do intend to bring this situation to a positive conclusion. But during this period of transition the UN will have to take control over the safety and security of the camp, ensuring the residents receive all necessary living and medical supplies. At the same time a committee will be set up to take the plan forward, consisting of key individuals from the EU, US, UN and Arab League as well as members of Iraq’s government and parliament, Camp Ashraf residents and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Baroness Ashton and the EU Foreign Affairs Council, together with the US President and the UN Secretary General, must now back this solution and throw their weight behind it in order to ensure that the lives of 3,400 Iranians are saved and Iraq moves along a path upon which respect for human rights and the rule of law is prevalent, in a land which has been mired in violence for too long.

Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro MP from Scotland. He is President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq and led a team to the country on a five day visit (25-30 April)

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  • Masoud Ahmadi

    Today Baroness Ashton in European Parliament condemned again strongly the savage attack on Ashraf on April 8. She too, praised Mr Stevenson for his valuable input and tireless efforts to protect the residents of Ashraf.

    Ashraf is now, thanks to barbarity and stupidity of the Iranian mullahs and their proxies in Iraq, a symbol for all who care about human rights and basic freedoms since they have laid their lives in front line for all of us to learn what is happening in Iraq, contrary to the perceptions the American Government and their European allies, the UK government for instance, are portraying of a so called “democracy” brought about in Iraq with so many British and American lives lost for it.

    The whole world should rise up and hail the brave Ashrafis for their selfless sacrifices. It would be an honor for Europe to welcome these heroes and heroines on their soil.

  • Masoud Ahmadi

    You may be right rponting about the initial motive. It is not however the issue here. The issue is that this barbarity happened in Iraq against Camp Ashraf while 50,000 American soldiers were standing idly by and watching.

  • john

    This is an excellent piece by Mr. Stevenson who has so courageously stood up to those mass murderers in Iraq and Tehran, i.e: Nuri al-Maliki and Ali Khamenei. What happend in camp Ashraf was a horrific crime against humanity and the Prime Minister of Iraq should be brought to justice for committing this slaughter at the behest of the Iranian Mullahs.

  • Hoda12

    Zebari and Maliki know they will be prosecuted for war crimes- no wonder they didnt meet the Euro MP visiting Iraq. Mr Stevenson makes his points clearly and strongly. The residents of Ashraf require firm action and not words, and Catherine Ashton has a lead role to play in protecting the residents and in helping them reach safety if that is what is to happen to the residents of Ashraf ie if they leave the camp. The Iraqi government must expect an enquiry and a trial in order to achieve justice after these atrocious attacks that amount to war crimes against unarmed refugees. A concrete and achievable solution that has been reached and agreed upon by all relevant parties must be enforced and realised. Carry on the work you are doing Mr Stevenson, God knows how many in the West want to ignore those murdered and suffering in Camp Ashraf- you thankfully and in an understated manner, have not let this happen. #ashraf

  • Zelko Mustac

    Agreed well done Mr Stevenson. At last someone who is willing to stand up for the victims of war crimes, even when the perpetrators are the Iraqui democratically elected government and their Iranian backers.

  • Britishsoldiers

    That was a wonderfull article. The attack was an absoloute disgrace and clearly showed maliki’s close relationship with the mullahs in Iran.

    I also blame the US for allowing this to go ahead they knew full well Iran was putting pressure on Maliki to carry out this massacre but they did nothing.

  • Britonsalltheway

    I’ve read at
    that the NATO administration want to bail out. Is this true? Because i agrre with General Bucknall’s comments (
    ). NATO troops should not leave before a stable government can sustain and endure the battle with the Talibans. Otherwise, our troops sucrificied for nothing all these years. Please read the article and comment. Thank you

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