Advancing Human Rights in Iran
Remarks by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
C0-chair of NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran
Panel Discussion of Congregation Machzikei Hadas &
One Free World International
Machzikei Hadas Congregation
3 Feb 2016
Rabbi Idan Scher, Rabbi, Congregation Machzikei Hadas
Shimon Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, Rabbi Emeritus, Machzikei Hadas Congregation
Rev. Majed El Shafie, President and Founder, One Free World International
Mr. Ardeshir Zarezadeh, Director, International Centre for Human Rights
Ms. Shabnam Assodolohai, Human Rights Activist _________________________________________________________
Friends of Iran and Iranians,
Permit me to congratulate all participants at this event.
Time is short, so I’ll focus only on the 3000 refugees from Iran now surviving in ‘Camp Liberty’ near Baghdad airport in Iraq:
Dangers in Iraq
In 2013, the 3200 residents of Camp Ashraf in the Iraqi desert moved to Camp Liberty under a four‑party agreement guaranteeing their safety. The other signatories were the United Nations, the U.S. and the Iraqi governments. They agreed to move to Liberty as a 'Temporary Transit Location'.
They were under American government protection at the Ashraf location from 2003 until 2009, when American forces left Iraq. Since then, they have been under constant harassment and periodic attacks by Iraqi soldiers acting no doubt at the behest of Iran.
Here have been four major attacks on Camps Ashraf and Liberty contrary to the Geneva Conventions on War:
- Ashraf: July 28‑29, 2009 (first attack after United States passed control of the camp to Iraq at the beginning of 2009)‑ 11 residents killed, hundreds injured, 36 taken hostage by Iraqi forces and released only after 72 days of a hunger strike in Ashraf and around the world;
- Ashraf: April 8, 2011‑36 people killed, more than 300 injured (Then Senator John Kerry and many other officials termed it a massacre)
- Ashraf: September 1, 2013 ‑ 52 residents of 100 remaining in Ashraf, who had stayed following a Memorandum of Understanding among residents, the US, UN and Iraq to protect them, were massacred execution style. Seven residents (6 women and one man) were abducted by the attackers. No news on their fate received to date.
- Liberty: October 29, 2015 – An eighty missile attack with 24 residents killed and hundreds wounded. More than 300 trailers (used as rest and sleeping places for residents) were destroyed. It was condemned around the world by officials, including by UN Secretary General Ban‑ki Moon, and many western governments. U.S. Secretary John Kerry reiterated the need for other countries to accept Liberty residents as there is no other long term solution that will guarantee their protection.
Oct 29 victims
Since 2009, an inhuman medical and logistical siege has been imposed first on Ashraf and then on Liberty. More than 27 people died due to this siege. It was not lifted after the October 29 attack, and has been intensified with Iraqi forces preventing even the clean‑up of equipment and removal of the debris created by the missile attack. In addition, the Iranian Quds Force and Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents of the Government of Iran have come to Camp Liberty's entrance, quite possibly setting the stage for another massacre.
The government of Albania has accepted 700 refugees from Camp Liberty since 2013. Other countries have accepted much smaller numbers, including Sweden, Norway and the UK. Germany has accepted approximately 100. Canada to date has accepted none. The NGO Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran would encourage Canada to do its part.
In November, 2015, Shahram Golestaneh and I visited approximately 700 of the refugees at three locations in Tirana, including a group of 15 survivors who came to Albania since the attack on October 29.
In meetings with Albanian officials, we were delighted to learn more about the positive experiences of the Albanian government and people with the refugees. Albania is more than willing to accept even more if countries like Canada pledge to accept some of the refugees so that they can make room to get them out of the harm's way.
People's Mujahadeen of Iran (PMOI)
The refugees at Camp Liberty and Tirana are members of the People's Mujahadeen of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI were part of the widespread opposition which deposed the Shah in 1979. The PMOI soon realized that the regime of Ayatollah Khomenei was even worse than that of the Shah; this led to severe repression of PMOI supporters. Thousands of PMOI were murdered by the mullahs; surviving members fled in 1981 to Paris. When the French government expelled them in 1986 following a prisoner release deal with Teheran, they relocated to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein, at war with Iran, offered refuge at what became Camp Ashraf deep in the Iraqi desert.
The Al Maliki government which took over Iraq after the American invasion in 2003 had a strong pro-Iran tilt for eight years. The US‑led forces in Iraq declared the group protected persons under the Geneva Conventions on the Law of War, and, for their own safety, collected them together in one place, Camp Ashraf, under American protection. At the time, they numbered 3,400. After the Americans forces withdrew from Iraq, the Camp Ashraf residents were under international law under the protection of the Maliki government. They became instead victims of sustained harassment, deprivation of necessities and murderous armed attacks.
The PMOI were at one time armed and attempted the overthrow of the Iranian regime, but renounced the use of force in 2001 and voluntarily gave up their arms to the Americans in 2003. The group had been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, and the European Union among others.
The U.S. Department of State explained their listing: "During the 1970s, the (PMOI) staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defence projects in Teheran". Lincoln Bloomfield writes that the MEK/PMOI today "does not consider itself to be heir to the killers" of the Americans. That splinter group on the contrary "had undertaken a bloody purge, committing violence against key members of the more Islamic faction of the MEK."
Bloomfield responds to all charges of terrorism against the PMOI/MEK in his book Mujahadeen e Khalq(MEK):Shackled by a Twisted History. The charges relate to events from many years ago. The United States, Europe and Canada have since all taken the PMOI/MEK off their list of terrorist organisations.
In the US and Europe, delisting occurred after litigation. The courts in Europe, including the United Kingdom Court of Appeal, looked behind closed doors at all the confidential material security services provided and found that no reasonable person could believe that the PMOI today or in the recent past was a terrorist organization. The Court of First Instance of the European Communities annuled the December 2007 decision of the EU Council of Ministers placing the PMOI in the list of terrorist organizations, describing the decision as "perverse", and "unreasonable", based on "manifestly insufficient" evidence. The U.S. Federal Court of Appeals has also overturned the U.S. designation because it was made unfairly.
In Canada, the delisting occurred without the need to go to court. Lawyers David Matas and Clayton Ruby sent a letter in October 2012 asking the Government of Canada to delist the organization. In December 2012, it was delisted, not because they asked, but because the history of litigation in the US and Europe undermined any justification there might earlier have been for the continued listing.
The term "mujahadeen" gives the impression that the group is Islamic fundamentalist. However, it is not and, to the mullahs in Iran, the group is not religious enough. In the exaggerated rhetoric of the mullahs, the PMOI are enemies of God. Being an enemy of God is an offence in the Iranian criminal code, punishable with death. The regime has murdered adherents of the PMOI in the thousands because of their beliefs.