New U.S. approach to Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO, MEK) in Camp Ashraf overlooks the victims human rights
New U.S. approach to Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO, MEK) in Camp Ashraf overlooks the victims’ human rights
... The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc. Nine years after the fall of Saddam ...
Attitudes are slowly crystallising and shifting over what should be done about the MEK, with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey introducing a new and positive approach in U.S. dealings with the group in Iraq. But the July 4 Miami Herald article ‘Iranian dissidents in Iraq want refuge in 3rd country’ , also highlights the danger that various elements are still trying to derive their own benefits from the MEK even though the demise of Camp Ashraf has become inevitable. Of course you would need to ask those involved what they each hope to get out of such a defunct group.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, addressing only MEK leaders, has urged them to “‘dissolve’ their paramilitary organization and become refugees someplace else in Iraq”. In its turn the MEK itself has already threatened tomassacre its own membersif any external body interferes in the camp. Jeffrey added that the group "really believe that the U.N. and the United States will protect them forever." Well, they have good reason to believe that to be so.
Trita Parsi’s timely article Washington's Favorite Terroristsexposed U.S. hypocrisy in dealing with the MEK in Washington. But we may very well see a similar level of support continuing in Iraq. The obvious way this would manifest would be for the MEK to be taken (en masse) inside a U.S. military base and held there until further notice. This would protect the group from Iraqi attempts to expel them from the country, and also obviate the need for the U.N. to enter Camp Ashraf and rescue the individual residents from their enforced imprisonment by the MEK leadership.
The wholesale transfer of the residents of Camp Ashraf would truly be a human rights disaster. The sooner it is acknowledged that Rajavi is nobody’s representative but his own, the sooner the victims of the MEK will be helped.
From the hardliners in Iran who want to keep their dangerous foreign backed enemy, to the neoconservatives in the U.S. who want to keep the hatred between Iran and the west (as the neocon version of Holocaust denial, the fact that the MEK has killed so many Iranians is what feeds this hatred), to Iraqi internal factions which want to use the MEK for attacking other factions, to Europeans who still believe the MEK are a useful bargaining chip with Iran or can be used to influence the internal affairs of Iraq. All these have an interest in keeping the MEK intact. None wants the dissolution of the camp or the organisation. They all want to stop the camp being disbanded because they are using the MEK for their own various agendas.
The problem is that without taking the necessary action to access the individual residents of the camp they are essentially being left in the ownership of the Rajavis and their backers. In this respect where are the human rights organisations which should be directly involved in helping these victims? What attempts have the U.N. made to actually get inside the camp and have free access to the residents? Human Rights Watch published its ‘No Exit’ report in 2005 which was laudable, but what have they done since then? Amnesty International still prefers to think of the MEK as an entity and ignore the existence of the individuals in the camp. What has AI said about the internal problems of the residents; the daily violations and abuses of their basic human rights?
The problem is not the name of Camp Ashraf or the name MEK. The Rajavi’s cannot simply re-name, re-brand or even relocate their group for political expediency and expect the ‘members’ to continue as their slaves. To solve this problem (before the question of whether they want to work for or against anyone) the residents must be given access to the outside world, to their families, to media, communications, get paid for their work and have access to the post office, cinema, marriage registry, birth registry, police station, legal aid, courts and legal bodies of the country they are living in etc.
Nine years after the fall of Saddam and the disappearance of the cult leader it is not acceptable for a U.S. official to simply try to move the group from one part of the world to the other part without the slightest concern about the human rights of the captives there.
... Iran-Interlink representative Anne Singleton travelled to Iraq mid April at the invitation of the Baghdad based human rights NGO Baladiyeh Foundation, officials of the Government of Iraq and other NGOs involved in the Camp Ashraf problem. The Baladiyeh Foundation, headed by Mrs Ahlam al-Maliki, provides humanitarian assistance to a wide range of deprived sectors of Iraqi society arising directly from the invasion and occupation of Iraq by allied forces in 2003. Baladiyeh Foundation is concerned by the humanitarian crisis at Camp Ashraf caused by the group’s leaders who are refusing to allow access to human rights organisations to verify the wellbeing of all of the camp’s residents ...
... No one should be surprised -- not even DC's "unwitting members of Congress" -- as the FBI calls the group's supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK's disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam's brutal campaign against Iraq's Kurds and Shia; its "cult-like" behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages. And let's not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members - more than ...
In the 10 years that I have lived in Washington, I have never seen lobbyists for al-Qaeda parade through the halls of Congress. I have not seen any events on Capitol Hill organized by Hamas. And I have not seen any American politicians take campaign contributions from the Islamic Jihad.
But the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization with the blood of Americans and Iranians alike on its hands, freely does all of these things, despite being a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
And in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list -- not as a result of any change of heart -- but as a result of an unprecedented mutli-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.
If al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization were holding fundraisers in DC, lobbying Congress, or holding press conferences at the National Press Club, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement would be all over it.
Not so with the MEK. There, law enforcement seems nowhere to be found. In fact, a prominent spokesperson for the MEK terrorist group was hired by Fox News in the mid-2000s to serve as their on-air terrorist analyst. Go figure.
Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.
But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.
No one should be surprised -- not even DC's "unwitting members of Congress" -- as the FBI calls the group's supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK's disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam's brutal campaign against Iraq's Kurds and Shia; its "cult-like" behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.
And let's not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members - more than 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes, according to a RAND Corporation study.
But even if the MEK could be believed, the reality is that they are currently on the terrorist list and, as a result, they must be subject to U.S. terrorism laws. Simply put, the laws must be enforced -- without exception.
The State Department's review of their terrorism status, which is due to be completed by August of this year, must be conducted without the essentially illegal pressure tactics the MEK currently is employing through lobbyists, lawmakers and hired former officials.
If the group is taken off the list, not as a result of an objective review, but by virtue of their lobbying prowess, several repercussions can be envisioned.
First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are advocating using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.
As one former State Department official put it, the "paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror."
Much like Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the permanent leader of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, seeks to return from decades of exile as the anointed President of Iran. And freed of the terrorist designation, there is little reason to believe the MEK won't turn its lobbying apparatus -- which puts Chalabi's to shame -- to obtain U.S. funding and to promote war with Iran. In fact, some members of Congress already refer to the MEK as the "real Green movement." Even more shocking is that top former U.S. officials have called on the U.S. to recognize Rajavi as the rightful President of Iran.
Second, de-listing the MEK would spell disaster for the Iranian pro-democracy movement. According to prominent Green movement figures Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri:
If you recognize the necessity of a non-violent campaign against the Iranian regime, the last thing you want is to have the US government support and fund one of the most violent and undemocratic Iranian organizations -- and, to make matters worse, to do so in the name of the Iranian Green movement.
Third, de-listing will put the rising Iranian-American community in a state of shock. In the last decade, an impressive civic awakening has occurred in this successful but previously politically silent community, with dozens of new groups being formed with the aim of contributing to the American democracy and providing the Iranian Americans in the U.S. with a voice. A U.S. funded and supported MEK will ensure a return to the pre-1997 era. Back then, in the eyes of most U.S. lawmakers, the voice of Maryam Rajavi was the voice of the entire Iranian-American community.
Now, by buying off officials to pry open the floodgates of U.S. financial and political support, Rajavi and her small but vocal minority threaten to simultaneously drown out the voices of the rest of the Iranian-American community, co-opt the voice of Iran's true opposition, and carry the U.S. down the path of war yet again.
Iran’s internal opposition succumbs to a dose of poisoned soup
Washington backed Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, NCRI, Rajavi cult) kills the Green Movement
... Sadly, no one could have been in any doubt, including – perhaps especially - the MEK’s backers, that people would disappear from the streets once terrorists backed by foreign powers were thrown into the pot. And it is not only in Iran but in demonstrations held in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington that this phenomenon shows itself. The destruction of Iran’s internal opposition, the so-called Green Movement’ simply cannot be all blamed on the IRI. It should be clear that those who greedily and imprudently contribute the fatal ingredients to the mix are more than any culpable of poisoning the Ash ...
Today, March 2, Iran’s Majles issued its report on the 14 February demonstrations. Its reading had been delayed in order to assess the outcome of yesterday’s demonstration which had been called by the opposition.
The result was disappointing for the organisers. Not many people turned out. And this poor turnout has now unfortunately given a clear indication that after one year during which the IRI has manoeuvred to separate Mousavi and Karoubi from their support base among people inside Iran, the time has now come to deal with them. The report from Majles makes it clear what the next steps will be.
But the poor turnout cannot be attributed to a lack of will on the part of the opposition as many, many ordinary Iranians are known still to strongly oppose their government. Neither can the poor turnout be laid exclusively at the door of the IRI which, contrary to predictions, did not strike with disproportionate force; unpleasant as the use of tear gas and beatings are for demonstrators anywhere in the world.
Instead it is probable that Iran’s internal opposition is being slowly murdered with a dish of poisoned Ash prepared with a fatal mix of ingredients; the pot provided by the hardliners in Iran and the fire provided by Israel, the chickpeas and beans provided by the neoconservatives, the herbs provided by American foreign policy and the salt and pepper of the dish was the addition over the last few months by warmongers and regime change pundits who liberally sprinkled ‘support for terrorism’ into the dish. This added seasoning was of course the overt American and Israeli support for the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq working against the interests of the Iranian people.
The Iranian government chefs have proved themselves professional enough to use the ingredients to poison the soup. It’s not that people didn’t want to come out, and not that the regime had to use force; people didn’t come to the streets because they didn’t want to be associated with violent activists linked to the MEK.
Sadly, no one could have been in any doubt, including – perhaps especially - the MEK’s backers, that people would disappear from the streets once terrorists backed by foreign powers were thrown into the pot. And it is not only in Iran but in demonstrations held in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington that this phenomenon shows itself. The destruction of Iran’s internal opposition, the so-called Green Movement’ simply cannot be all blamed on the IRI. It should be clear that those who greedily and imprudently contribute the fatal ingredients to the mix are more than any culpable of poisoning the Ash.
... Today, the MKO is active in toppling both regimes ruling Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, the governments of Iran and Iraq are closely cooperating with each other. In recent months, some very influential politicians and political circles in the US have been actively supporting Mrs. Rajavi – as president – and strive to use the force at Ashraf Camp to change the Iranian regime. During the last three months alone, six important conferences were held in this regard and all six looked at this force as the agent of change in Iran... As these conferences began and progressed, it was clear that the Iranian and Iraqi regimes would not tolerate General Jones’s proposals ...
A group of prominent Iranian human rights activists and intellectuals have responded to the horrendous killings of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization members by publishing an open letter condemning the killings. The moderate and peaceful spirit of the letter is commendable and deserves support.
Harm to MKO members was feared from the day Saddam Hussein’s regime came to its end. Iranian freedom-lovers knew that in view of the nature of the new regime in Iraq the MKO would have difficulty in maintaining its camp, Ashraf Camp and organization. The new political realities would one day come bring their status to a dead-end. It was clear from many years ago that it was prudent for MKO leaders to decide to that its members should migrate to other countries.
When the US handed over Iraq’s complete sovereignty to the Iraqi government concerns amplified about the imminent catastrophe. Many Iranian organizations, including Etehade Jomhurikhahan Iran (The Union of Iranian Republicans) rightfully stressed the need for the MKO to immediately depart Iraq while also emphasizing governments to encourage the MKO to do this.
Unfortunately the leadership of the MKO spent its greatest and most effective resources on a campaign whose goal was to attain the right to remain at Ashraf Camp.
In view of the political goals and policies of the MKO today vis-à-vis the governments of Iran and Iraq, it is clear that attempts to maintain the MKO in Ashraf Camp will only lead to more violence and clashes. When the Mojahedin settled in Iraq Saddam Hossein ruled over Iraq and the war between his government and the Islamic republic of Iran was in full swing. The MKO too wanted to continue their war with the Islamic republic. Because of this, they received the full support of the Iraqi government and at the least their security was completely provided to them. Saddam’s relations with the MKO were very cordial while those with the Shiites and the Kurds were deeply inimical.
Today, the MKO is active in toppling both regimes ruling Iran and Iraq. On the other hand, the governments of Iran and Iraq are closely cooperating with each other.
In recent months, some very influential politicians and political circles in the US have been actively supporting Mrs. Rajavi – as president – and strive to use the force at Ashraf Camp to change the Iranian regime. During the last three months alone, six important conferences were held in this regard and all six looked at this force as the agent of change in Iran.
At these conferences US general James Jones, Obama administration’s former national security advisor is the key driver.
As these conferences began and progressed, it was clear that the Iranian and Iraqi regimes would not tolerate General Jones’s proposals regarding Iran. At the time I wrote a piece explaining that a new game had begun which was another source of danger for the country and the region.
The condemnation of the tragedy that took place on the morning of April 8 in Ashraf Camp is the least and simplest response that Iranian pro-democracy activists can undertake. But our responsibility goes further. We have a deep responsibility towards the 3,500 individuals who are trapped in the neo-conservatist policies of the US and Israeli dreams for Iran. The policy of staying and preparing itself for the eventual outcome pursued by the MKO cannot last. Pressure and insistence of the neo-conservatists for using this force as a pressure against the Iranian regime must end.
Before the tragedy repeats itself, now is the time to approach the MKO and its powerful international supporters and press for the organization to submit its request to the UN Secretary General to resettle the group and its members in a secure country, while at the same time condemning any killing or bloodshed by the Iraqi army and to press the Iraqi government to announce a moratorium on the MKO.
I specifically request of the MKO, General Jones, John Bolton, Mrs. Mary Robinson, and Messrs. Howard Deen and Patrick Kennedy who are the most influential supporters of keeping the MKO and recognizing it as the alternative to the Iranian regime to facilitate the departure of this group from Iraq and set a specific date for this. At the same time, the Iraqi government should provided assurance that it would not enforce its sovereignty over Ashraf Camp until the departure of the MKO.
"Supporting Mojahedin Khalq (MKO, MEK, NCRI ,Rajavi cult), kiss of death for Green Movement"
... First and foremost among such groups is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). But despite its obvious threat to global security, the MEK could be taken off the State Department's Terror List within the next week. If this happens, it promises to spell disaster for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and will be a devastating setback in the country's attempts to move forward... It is highly unlikely that other U.S.-designated FTOs, such as al-Qaida, would enjoy this astonishing degree of latitude in the corridors of the U.S. military, and within its executive and legislative branches ...
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Right: supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi listen to his speech at a demonstration in Tehran on Thursday June, 18, 2009
(Mohsen Kadivar, left and Ahmad Sadri, right)
As Tunisians and Egyptians work through their respective political transitions, the Iranian government increasingly detaches itself from the realities of its restive population. The longer it resists meeting public demands, the shorter its lifespan becomes.
At the same time, within the Iranian Diaspora, some have sought to usurp leadership of Iran's indigenous pro-democracy movement. This has alarmed the leaders of the Green Movement in Iran. Mir Hossein Mousavi warned against "international surfers" seeking to wield their own axe in the furnace of the Green movement in his last communiqué that was issued before he was put under house arrest on Feb. 29.
First and foremost among such groups is Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). But despite its obvious threat to global security, the MEK could be taken off the State Department's Terror List within the next week. If this happens, it promises to spell disaster for the pro-democracy movement in Iran, and will be a devastating setback in the country's attempts to move forward.
The MEK has no political base inside Iran and no genuine support on the Iranian street because it was long based in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's patronage. It lost any semblance of credibility it might have had inside Iran due to its opposition to the Shah's regime when its troops fought on behalf of Iraq toward the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Hence, it would behoove U.S. policymakers to be skeptical of the boasts of MEK lobbyists regarding the extent of this group's popularity inside Iran.
Since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003, the MEK has been depending almost entirely on the uneven enforcement of existing U.S. laws concerning designated foreign terrorist organizations. Surprisingly, the MEK military compound in Iraq enjoys de-facto "protected persons" status, and its activities at the U.S. congress have long been unchecked. It is highly unlikely that other U.S.-designated FTOs, such as al-Qaida, would enjoy this astonishing degree of latitude in the corridors of the U.S. military, and within its executive and legislative branches.
Countless first-rate analysts, scholars and human rights organizations -- including Human Rights Watch -- have determined that the MEK is an undemocratic, cultlike organization whose modus operandi vitiates its claim to be a vehicle for democratic change.
Most importantly, MEK activities in Washington could be causing irreparable damage to Iran's home-grown opposition. When post-election turbulence commenced inside Iran, the MEK quickly sought to join the frenzy of brewing opposition to the current government. The Ahmadinejad government promptly connected the Green Movement to the MEK in an effort to discredit the pro-democracy movement. Opposition leaders such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karrubi immediately pushed back. Rahnavard pointedly said, "the Green Movement is a people's movement that is alive and dynamic and holds a wall between itself and the MEK." Opposition leaders in Iran have good reason to erect and maintain such a wall. They see the MEK as an organization capitalizing on U.S.-Iran enmity to shed its terrorist designation and subsequently receive U.S. government funding -- effectively becoming the Iranian version of Ahmed Chalabi's infamous Iraqi National Congress.
As Washington policymakers seek new ways to pressure their counterparts in Tehran to yield on nuclear developments, they must refrain from actions that would harm the long-term prospects of trust and friendship between the two peoples.
Removing the MEK from the FTO at this juncture would embolden Iran's hardliners to intensify their repression and discredit the Green Movement by implying that it is somehow connected to the widely detested MEK terror group. Furthermore, supporting the MEK would provide the Iranian government with the specter of a foreign-based threat that could be exploited to heal key fractures within the system, increase the number of Iranians who would rally around the flag, and facilitate the suppression of the indigenous political opposition.
For all of its mistakes in the Middle East, the Bush administration -- even at the height of its aggressive foreign policy -- understood that delisting the MEK from the State Department's terrorist list would be a dangerous gambit. It would trigger a huge loss of U.S. soft power in Iran, damage Iran's democratic progress and help Iranian hardliners cement a long-term dictatorship. The Iranian people won't forgive or forget such cynical moves. Bitter memories associated with U.S. policies toward the Shah and Mohammad Mossadegh, the prime minister overthrown with covert American assistance in 1953, continue to linger and poison U.S.-Iran relations to this day. We urge the U.S. government to avoid committing this critical mistake at a time when the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people hang in the balance.
Mohsen Kadivar, a leading figure in the Green Movement, is visiting professor of religion at Duke University. Ahmad Sadri is professor of sociology and James P. Gorter chair of Islamic world studies at Lake Forest College.