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Report: Iraqi Forces 'Massacre' Iranian Dissidents

Iranian opposition and human rights groups accuse Iraqi government of colluding with Tehran to wipe out opposition to Islamic Republic.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 9/1/2013, 4:21 PM

Iraqi security forces prevent families from visiting relatives in Camp Ashraf, Iraq
Iraqi security forces prevent families from visiting relatives in Camp Ashraf, Iraq
Reuters

Reports are mounting of a "massacre" by the Iraqi military against a group of Iranian dissidents who have been living in the country since the 1980s.

At least 44 Iranian opposition members are believed to have been killed in "Ashraf City," also known as Camp Ashraf, after the refugee camp was stormed by Iraqi security forces Sunday.

Many of the dead appeared to have been summarily executed.

Arutz Sheva has seen pictures from the scene which appear to show the bodies of at least four detainees lying with their hands bound after apparently being shot at point blank range.

The attack comes less than a week after residents accused the Iraqi government of cutting off water and electricity to the camp, a charge the Iraqi government denied.

Ashraf City was built in 1986 by members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), Iran's main opposition movement, who fled across the border to Iraq to escape persecution by the Islamic regime. After the Iraq War, US forces took control of Ashraf City, reaching an agreement with the PMOI whereby they would give up their weapons in return for "protected persons" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They were also subsequently recognized as "asylum seekers" by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

In 2009, however, US forces withdrew and left control of the city to the Iraqi government. Since then, Ashraf City has been attacked by Iraqi forces on two occasions; killing 11 in 2009, and 36 in 2011. Iranian-backed terrorist groups have also attacked the camp in the past.

This latest attack would be the third and largest massacre at Ashraf City committed by Iraqi security forces.

Since the ouster of Saddam Hussein's secular Sunni regime, the country's once-marginalized Shia majority has risen to prominence, mending ties with the Arab state's former enemies in Tehran, and forging a close, if sometimes uneasy relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The Iraqi government, following pressure from the Iranian regime, has repeatedly pledged to shut down Ashraf City and to expel the PMOI from Iraq by any means necessary.

In 2012, Ashraf City was home to more than 3,000 Iranian refugees living in Iraq. Today, only 100 remain. The rest have been forcibly relocated to Camp Liberty, a disused American military base roughly 80 times smaller than Ashraf and surrounded by 12ft-high concrete walls, barbed wire, armed guards, searchlights, surveillance cameras and eavesdropping devices.

Curtis Sinclair, Co-Chairman of the Ashraf Campaign (ASHCAM) condemned the Iraqi government for caving under Iranian pressure to commit an "obscene abuse of power."

"We’re hearing details of unarmed refugees being bound, gagged and machine-gunned at close quarters; of anti-tank weapons being used on people’s homes; of a massacre supervised by police chiefs and army commanders," claimed Sinclair.

"Not since the days of Saddam [Hussein] have we seen this kind of blatant and obscene abuse of power by an Iraqi leader. Last night’s attack just goes to show the lengths to which [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-]Maliki will go to assist... [Iranian Supreme Leader] Ali Khameini in [his] quest to stamp out the presence of Iranian dissidents in Iraq."

The Iraqi government is denying reports of a military operation, but independent witnesses in the surrounding areas have reported the sounds of explosions, and the Iraqi army has confirmed mortar fire in the area.