With the Iran nuclear agreement concluded, the world will logically turn its attention to potential cheating and misconduct by Tehran. But western countries, and especially the U.S., must also end their silence over the abysmal human rights violations by the regime both inside Iran and in the region, Iranian human rights activists Nasrin Kafi wrote on Monday in The Hill.
Ms. Kafi, an RN in Utilization Management at Nashville General Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote:
The American administration has been widely criticized for failing to negotiate the release of American hostages held in Iran. They include an American pastor, a former Marine and a journalist. Washington claimed that this was a separate issue from the nuclear deal. But what’s the excuse now?
And for me, as someone who has been directly affected by the repressive and misogynist nature of the Iranian regime, the issue is even more personal.
For months, nearly 2,500 Iranian political refugees residing in Camp Liberty, Iraq, including my own mother Pouran, whom I have not seen for years, have been subjected to frequent blockades. The Iraqi government, acting at the behest of post-nuclear deal emboldened Tehran, has on many occasions prevented the entry of food, fuel and other vital resources.
Back in 2004, residents of Camp Liberty, members of Iran’s main opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), were formally recognized as “Protected Persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They were also recognized as “asylum seekers” by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2011.
For years, I have been living with the constant fear for the safety of my mother. Since 2009, when U.S. forces turned over the protection of the residents to the Iraqi government, several deadly attacks have occurred against the residents at the behest of Tehran, in which 116 unarmed residents were barbarically murdered by Iraqi security forces and pro-Iran Iraqi militia groups.
In 2011, at least 36 residents were killed and hundreds wounded in a deadly attack that was described by then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, as a “massacre.” In September 2013, Iraqi security forces murdered execution-style fifty-two more residents.
That is why the Senate Armed Services Committee convened a hearing to address this matter earlier this month. “The U.S. government and military made a commitment to protect thousands of people who surrendered their weapons and came under our protection as a result. Clearly this commitment has not been sustained,” Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) emphasized.
Camp Liberty residents have been fighting for freedom and democracy in Iran for the past 36 years. For decades, Tehran’s mullahs have seen them as an existential threat. The residents, a third of whom are women, are a source of inspiration to Iranian youth and women yearning for a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Iran.
During the Senate hearing, former Obama administration National Security Advisor General James Jones called it America’s “chief duty” to “find the legal means and the moral courage to fully aid a group of people who have cooperated with us, who have helped us and protected us, and who we promised to protect and who remain in mortal danger.”
Former Senator Joe Lieberman added, “These people are our friends. They have quite literally provided extraordinarily important intelligence to American forces in Iraq during the period after the overthrow of Saddam; they have been the source of some of the most credible information that we did not have from our own intelligence about the Iranian nuclear program. And they believe in freedom.”
I am grateful that my senator, Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), has spoken in favor of the Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Liberty, emphasizing, “When do not follow through with our commitments… it does harm the people we have made commitments to.” His Committee subsequently adopted a resolution, calling on the administration to uphold its commitments to these refugees.
But because the recent nuclear deal may have emboldened the Iranian regime to move more quickly and decisively to annihilate its opponents both inside Iran and also exiled in neighboring Iraq, more needs to be done on the part of the administration, and it needs to be done quickly.
The U.S. has a special moral and legal obligation to the residents to protect their lives. The Secretary of State should take immediate action to press Baghdad to end its Tehran-inspired inhumane siege of Camp Liberty.
The Secretary should specifically intervene to press Baghdad to ensure that the residents are properly protected and that they are not subjected to similar blockades in the future, otherwise, the Iraqi Government should not expect to receive the American aid it has received at the taxpayers’ expense.