Sarajavo-style siege at refugee camp in Iraq

David Amess MP

894386051 300x191 Sarajavo style siege at refugee camp in IraqWho remembers the siege of Sarajevo? Today’s world leaders might have forgotten the early 1990s and the four-year encirclement of the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Serbian forces.

Known as one of the longest sieges in modern warfare, it was also a bloodbath – thousands of lives were lost, many of them women and children. For Europe, Sarajevo was a humiliation because the massacre occurred at the heart of what some claimed was the most civilised continent on earth. The European Community was incapable of coming together to prevent the extermination of innocent Europeans.

A new Sarajevo is in the making today, and the question must be asked again: will the European Union stand by and watch? At Camp Ashraf in Iraq, 3,400 residents are encircled. Loud speakers have been placed around the town’s perimeter as part of a campaign of psychological intimidation. They blast out insults and threats in the early hours of the morning. The aggressors, Iraqi forces, are taking orders from the Iranian regime. They want Camp Ashraf cleared out and shut down because the residents are members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the main Iranian opposition group.

No-one is allowed out of the Camp to receive medical attention. Foreign observers, including Euro MPs, US congressmen and journalists, are not allowed to enter. In the latest sign that the siege is tightening, Ashraf’s fuel supplies have been cut off. There have been no gasoline deliveries for almost a year, and very little diesel fuel and kerosene. Now that temperatures are dropping, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered an end to deliveries of coal and wood.

Discomfort is sadly not the only hardship Camp Ashraf has had to endure.  In April this year Iraqi troops stormed the town and opened fire on anyone who tried to resist. Some 36 residents died, including eight women. More than 300 were wounded. “What happened on the 8th of April is deplorable,” European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton told the European Parliament. “We need a strong united EU response,” she said. Iraq “has a duty to protect the human rights of Ashraf residents”.

The EU has increased diplomatic pressure on the Iraqi regime in recent months.  Some 180 Euro MPs signed a joint declaration in October warning that “the lives of 3,400 Iranian dissidents, including 1000 women, in Camp Ashraf, Iraq are in danger.” If Iraq was allowed to impose its December 31 closure deadline there could be a “large-scale massacre”, they warned. The precedents are not good. Another nine residents were killed in a separate attack in 2009. Dozens have been held and tortured.

The EU prides itself on its common, shared values, such as opposition to the death penalty. It actively exports these values to other nations. If Europe is serious in its desire to become a heavy-hitting diplomatic force it must show determination and oblige the Iraqi Government to abandon its year-end deadline. Europe must also respond to calls for Ashraf residents to be treated as asylum-seekers and resettled in countries where their lives are no longer at risk.

Europe is to a large extent in the driving seat. The US promised to protect Ashraf residents, but this promise did nothing to prevent the killings. And US troops are withdrawing from Iraq at the end of the year. What new atrocities can we expect when they are gone?

EU should weigh on the government of Iraq to revoke the deadline and UN monitors should be placed there so the United National High Commission for Refugees could do its work and be able to transfer the residents to third countries.

Camp Ashraf is of course a small piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Tension between Iran, the US and its allies over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme is rising once again. But Europe must not lose sight of the fact that this is essentially a humanitarian crisis. Camp Ashraf is caught in the crossfire. Its inhabitants made their homes there 25 years ago. Europe has the opportunity to prevent a bloodbath. This must not go down in the history books as the Sarajevo of the Middle East.

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  • Iran e

    Reading the comments here, it clearly shows who the
    ‘brainwashed” people are! Through the years, the barbaric regime of Iran have
    lied to people, and it is no surprise that they would spread the
    biggest lies about their main opposition group, the people who would stood completely defenceless in front of their enemy in order to fight for freedom
    and justice! It’s just very sad that so many people fall for these lies and
    keep repeating the same bogus claims about the MEK. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt some
    people to do more research and identify facts from propaganda before commenting
    here. In which International court or by whom have the MEK been found as
    terrorists or murderers? None! They are only in the FTO list because the USA
    still believes that by doing so, they can somehow try to have sweet relations
    with Iran. How can “terrorists” be given “protected persons status” under the 4th
    Geneva Convention?? How can “terrorists” give up all their weapons
    VOLUNTARILY??? And these were weapons, which were used for self-defence against
    the violent regime of Iran only! So please, do some research before coming here
    and repeating the mullahs’ words! The Mullahs lie about anything to keep
    themselves in power, they even tried to make people believe that the killing of
    Neda Agha-Soltan during the 2009 uprising was done by the MEK group! As
    Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels said, If you tell a lie big enough and
    keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it!!!! Seriously, some common sense wouldn’t kill
    anyone. I’m ashamed that my country is being run by a bunch of uneducated,
    barbaric, power worshiping dictators who have no mercy on anyone that stands in
    their way! And let me just say, by attacking Mr Ammes, nothing will change! He
    is just one of the many who believe in doing the right thing! Your hateful
    comments will NOT change anything, it will NOT make anyone WITH intelligence to
    start thinking that the claims being made about the MEK are true and it will
    NOT make the mullahs any more popular! The real terrorists are those who murder
    innocent men and women in the name of “Islam”, rape women and children, steal
    the country’s wealth in six figure amounts, massacre a group of defenceless
    people in another country just because they stand against injustice and support
    terrorism all over the world!


  • Guest

    Mission Accomplished !!!

  • Credite_Posteri

    I think that it is sufficient that the courts in Europe and UK clear them of all charges you are rewriting from Fars News. There is nothing legal about this current Iraqi Government, they actually lose the election but refused to go and hold on to power by killing and terrorizations, and also with the assistance of the Iranian government. 

    The sad thing about you is that you do not even understand what the implications of your saying are, but I guess that is what happens when you blurt out the chants of the Iranian regime. If the Iraqi Government is claiming that it is a sovereign and democratic country, it follows also responsibility, which is that you must respect the rights of refugees and protected persons in your territory according to international laws and conventions. You cannot act like a savage following your brutish instinct. 

    But I know that these are totally strange for the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq and their followers elsewhere. For the is the law of jungle, killing, harassing, name calling that is the way to conduct.

  • Credite_Posteri

    Some here seems to cheer on a possible massacre and mass killing by calling the authors for names and mark him with baseless accusations. It is just sad that a possible mass killing of innocent people on behest of the mullahs’ regime is cheered on by some here.
    I hoped that the Iranian regime at least would not have this kind of support. But unfortunately some have decided to use their democratic privileges in this way.

    This is just sad.

    UN should protect Ashraf as it is their obligations to do so according to international laws, conventions and resolutions, end of story.

    As for the Iranian regime and its followers and heelers, they will only dream of annihilate the Iranian resistance. The countdown of their fall has begun, and the clock is ticking.

  • Masoud Ahmadi

    Good article by a conscientious public servant who cares about our world today and in the future. Islamic fundamentalism, rooted in Iran, is spreading like a virus all over the word. Ashraf is the laboratory producing the anti-virus. It mus be protected for all those who love peace and justice. 

  • sksaeid

    Well done David. Thanks for your enlightening piece drawing
    a very sharp contrast of what inaction in Sarajavo took such a tragic toll of
    thousands of people. The conscience people of the world should not let the repeat
    of that tragedy to take place in Ashraf. It is quite obvious that some also put
    comments at the behest the criminal mullahs for their living. Simply ignore them.
    They behave and act like their masters in Iran.

  • Noushin

    Thanks Mr. Amess. You’ve shown that humanity still lives. Save Ashraf.

  • esteghlalvatan

    You can continue your nonsensical caricature and twisting of comments expressed, but you will not be allowed to be instrument for further oppression of members of PMOI or prevent Iran from the inevitable spring of freedom to dawn.  The message for your masters in Tehran is that the last word will be said by Iranians not any of Mullahs’ agents in their comfortable but  indecorous existent in UK or anywhere else.     

  • jamak

    thank you David and we must not let this human rights violation will happen and I am sure other good human being in the world will not let this happen. 

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