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Iran exiles demand UN guarantee safety in Iraq

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United Nations must guarantee the safety of 3,000 Iranian opposition members in Iraq who have come under armed attack there, their leader said Thursday.

Maryam Radjavi, head of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, told a meeting organised by human rights campaigners at the UN's Geneva offices that the world body had failed in its duty to her group.

"If the United Nations had fulfilled its obligations, this could have been avoided," Radjavi said, referring to a February 9 mortar and rocket attack which claimed seven lives and wounded dozens.

Radjavi said she had sent a string of letters to the UN's envoy in Iraq, Martin Kobler, warning him repeatedly that the Mujahedeen were under threat.

The group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and took up arms against Iran's clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the monarch.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave the group a save haven, but he was overthrown in a US-led invasion in 2003, and the group has since then faced antipathy from pro-Iranian elements in Iraq.

Under a 2011 UN-brokered deal, the Mujahedeen were moved from their longstanding base at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border to another site named Camp Liberty.

The goal of the transfer to Camp Liberty was to pave the way for the Mujahedeen to leave Iraq outright, with a view to resettling them in the United States and Europe.

"The only option is for all the residents to be transferred to the United States," said Radjavi.

"Otherwise, they should be returned to Ashraf until they can settle in a thrid country."

The Mujahedeen argue that Camp Ashraf is safer for them because the site is larger and has concrete buildings, while those at Camp Liberty are wooden.

The Mujahedeen's past attacks on Westerners saw them added to terror lists.

But they say they have now laid down their arms and are working to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran by peaceful means.

Britain struck the group off its terror list in June 2008, followed by the European Union in 2009 and the United States last September.

Struan Stevenson, a Scottish lawmaker responsible for the European Parliament's relations with Iraq, was in Geneva with Radjavi.

He expressed outrage that the UN's Human Rights Council, currently in session in Geneva, had been addressed by Iran's deputy foreign minister Akhonzadeh Basti.

"He was part of the team that assassinated Kazem Radjavi," he claimed, referring to the April 1990 slaying near Geneva of the brother of the Mujahedeen's founder.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/iran-exiles-demand-un-guarantee-safety-iraq