The disturbing images of Iranians being threatened and beaten and killed has become all too common these days on all the online media. When I see baton-wielding men in uniform beating civilians, wherever they are from, I am disheartened. When I see that the victims are from my own country, I see in their faces my sister, my mother, my aunts and uncles and grandparents, and I am sickened.
On July 28, 2009, Iraqi forces stormed Camp Ashraf, the compound of the Mujahideen Khalq Organization since 1986. Seven members of the organization were killed, and the number of those injured is still unclear, but likely very high. Dozens of members have been taken into custody for questioning. The headquarters that houses some 3400 Iranian men, women, and children, had been under the protection of the U.S. government until January of this year, when their care was turned over to the newly empowered government of Iraq.
I am not a member of the Mujahideen Khalq Organization. I have never worked with them nor have I had contact with their organization. My ideology is quite different from theirs, in fact. However, I am an Iranian. More than that, I am a human being, and it is my strongest believe that we cannot watch these acts of violence without reacting.
In the post-election protests in Iran, many who are part of the reformist movement have been arrested. Some have been released, but many are still behind bars. A decade ago there were reformists inside the student movement who didn’t believe in our group’s philosophy. When they saw us being imprisoned and forced to give televised speeches under duress, though they had newspapers and a greater level of support within the government, many of them kept quiet. Some of them even called us Western-backed anarchists. Today some of these same people are suffering at the hands of the Islamic Republic because of their activities in the wake of the Iranian elections. For close to two months now, along with other members of our group, I have watched and though we have our differences, I support them. I do not wish them ill, and I pledge to do whatever I can to help them in their current struggle. I say this, not as something extraordinary on my part, but because it is my belief. We must support one another against dictatorship.
Concerns for the safety of the Mujahideen who live in the compound has been at the forefront of human rights groups, and even the Bush administration considered taking their group off the terrorism watch list before leaving office. Had Bush’s people taken them off the list, this would have at least given Iranians living in Camp Ashraf some kind of hope of finding refuge in another country in the Middle East or Europe. At the end of the day, true to form, Condi Rice opted to leave things status quo, and residents of Camp Ashraf in their current vulnerable state. At the moment their plight hasn’t been addressed by the current U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
My point here is simple. We may not all agree with one another, but as human beings we must stand up when injustice is staring us in the face. The members of the Mujahideen Khalq Organization who live in Camp Ashraf have an ideology that is not in line with my own, yet if they are returned to Iran, as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has hinted, they will come to a very violent end.
Historically, the Islamic Republic of Iran has always demonstrated a strong vengeance toward the Mujahideen. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the 1988 killing of political prisoners, sanctioned by Khomeini himself. Estimates range anywhere between 8000 to as many as 30,000 political prisoners who were executed in five months.
The current fate of the residents of Camp Ashraf is still unknown. Time is running out for them, and their only hope outside of being returned to Iran is finding countries willing to grant members political asylum. From where we sit, our best bet is to lend our support via our writing, our spoken word, our protest, and our media contacts. We cannot sit by and let the men and women inside Camp Ashraf become yet another statistic–another unfortunate outcome for another group of Iranian people.