Iraqi authorities announced last Thursday that they will forcibly relocate about 3,400 members of the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) from Camp Ashraf where they have lived since the mid 1980’s. Reports about where residents will be relocated are conflicting.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reportedly announced that Camp Ashraf’s residents will be moved to the southern province of Muthanna. On Monday, the Iraqi government announced that the PMOI will be moved to a hotel in Baghdad. Other reports said that they would be moved to a desert detention camp, Neqrat al-Salman, near Basra.
Residents of Camp Ashraf, also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), were given until Tuesday to leave or else face forced removal and relocation elsewhere in Iraq. But on Tuesday, Iraqi military officials gave journalists a tour of the camp, and assured them that all relocation is voluntary.
But the Washington Post reported Brig. Gen. Basel Hamad of the Iraqi army saying yesterday that “today is the day we start moving things out. We will not allow any foreigners to establish their own laws on Iraqi soil.”
Many residents have already vowed to stay, despite the high likelihood of violent consequences.
Amnesty International fears that forced removals of the residents of Camp Ashraf would put them at risk of arbitrary arrest, torture or other forms of ill-treatment, and unlawful killing. Since mid-2008 the Iraqi government has repeatedly indicated that it wanted to close Camp Ashraf.
In late July, Iraqi security forces stormed the camp and at least nine residents were killed and many more injured. Another 36 who had been detained were reported to have been tortured and beaten. They were released on October 7th in poor health after maintaining a hunger strike throughout their period of detention.
Earlier this year, the Iraqi military blockaded the camp, preventing Camp Ashraf residents from receiving food and water supplies.
No investigations are known to have been carried out by the Iraqi authorities into their alleged torture and other ill-treatment or into allegations that Iraqi security forces used excessive, lethal force when taking control of Camp Ashraf last July.
This post was contributed by Shatha Almutawa, Iraq country specialist.