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A summer of protest. Is anyone listening?

An Iranian exile worries his demonstrations against Iraq fall on deaf ears.

NCRI supporters in Washington and in European capitals believe the organization should be not just de-listed but supported and strengthened. If the group is taken off the U.S. terror list, they argue, countries in Europe or the U.S. itself could let the residents of Ashraf immigrate. Nonetheless, a 2008 State Department review made no change. 

The group has reason to complain that the U.S. government treats it hypocritically. For example, thanks to its members inside Iran, PMOI was able to reveal the extent of the Iranian government's nuclear pursuits at the secret sites of Natanz and Arak in 2002. Even as it ruled out official contact with PMOI, the U.S. government welcomed the information, which was later substantiated by the International Atomic Energy Agency. When U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, they initially attacked the PMOI’s military capabilities. A ceasefire was soon reached, after which the group agreed to disarm in exchange for being given the status of “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention. The U.S. took responsibility for guarding the Ashraf compound until it handed over the responsibility to the Iraqis on Jan. 1, 2009, saying it had been given assurances the protected status would be respected. 

But the Iraqi government quickly said it wanted Ashraf cleared, moved away from the border. This is seen by many as an effort to improve relations with Tehran, which welcomed the statement. Ashraf residents fear they will be forcibly repatriated, which for many of them means certain torture or death. 

Then came the raids at the end of July, when, as the State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley described Thursday, the Iraqis tried to set up a police station inside the camp and “it was not executed well.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the time that while she remained “engaged and concerned” about the situation, “it is a matter now for the government of Iraq to resolve in accordance with its laws.” Crowley said the U.S. continues to discuss the issue with the Iraqi government and remind it of the obligation to protect the Ashraf residents.

So it’s no surprise that, after giving up their weapons to the U.S., the Iranians feel abandoned. Mehdi Nobari knows that his hunger will not protect them either, but he hopes his friends and relatives in Camp Ashraf somehow get the message about what he and others are doing. “I want them to know they are not alone,” he said.