Speakers to the meeting were: Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance; André Glucksmann, author and a member of New France Philosophers; Andrew Card, President Bush Chief of Staff (2001-2006); Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor (2003-2011) and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Mitchell Reiss, U.S. State Department Head of Strategy Development (2003 – 2005); Alan Dershowitz, one of the most prominent advocates of individual rights and the most well-known criminal lawyer in the world; Geoffrey Robertson QC, prominent British jurist and former appeal judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone; Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Prime Minister of Algeria; Patrick Kennedy, U.S. Congressman (1995-2011); Senator Ingrid Betancourt, Columbian presidential candidate; General David Phillips, U.S. Military Police Commander (2008-2011); Jean-François Le Garrett, Mayor of Paris 1st District; Aude de Thuin, the founder of Women’s Forum for Economics; Cynthia Fleury, West contemporary philosopher.
Below is speech by General Phillips:
Madame Rajavi, distinguished guests, most importantly the family members of those who were injured at Camp Ashraf or those who are still at Camp Ashraf, it’s an honor for me to be here today. I was a solider for over three decades. And a little over ten years ago I first learned of the existence of a group of Iranians dedicated towards democracy in Iran. I researched this group. Little did I know that in very short time I would be personally involved with this group, their leaders, and their plight.
But first, I have suffered at the hands of terrorists. I was the director of security for the Army at the Pentagon on 9/11, September 11th. Shortly thereafter I deployed as the senior military policeman responsible for many missions in Iraq, the first being rebuilding the Iraqi police, the detention of the senior leaders of the former regime, and what I consider most importantly the safety and security for the over 3,000 members of the MEK at Camp Ashraf.
Yes, protected persons at Camp Ashraf. I was there when they voluntarily disarmed. I was there when they consolidated at Camp Ashraf. I saw what remained of their other facilities after they were looted and destroyed. I was there when each and every person of the MEK was biometrically identified, vetted, screened and individually interviewed. Did we find any terrorists or criminals or undesirables among the several thousand men and women? No. Each was thoroughly investigated and not one was identified as having any linkage to criminal acts. A few had unpaid parking tickets. That might seem a little humorous, but I use that to show how thoroughly we investigated each member of the MEK. I really had to step back and wonder as a commander, why are they identified as terrorists? I tried, I tried very hard to find some credible allegation, some overt or covert crime, criminal acts, anything as to why this group was labeled in so despairing a way. I could not. My soldiers asked me, “Sir, they support democracy, freedom, and especially equal rights for women.” I did not have an answer for my soldiers.
And it wasn’t rhetoric. I witnessed firsthand equal rights in action at Camp Ashraf. I spent a significant amount of time living and working at Camp Ashraf. I have the pleasure to know almost every senior leader of the MEK at Ashraf, and a significant number of their junior members. After the vetting process was completed I brought the message back to Madame Parsai, then commander, now I refer to her as Madame Zohreh, Mr. Davari and many of the other leaders that they were now classified as protected persons under the Geneva Convention and I was personally charged with their safety and security, a mission which I took very seriously and to this day take very seriously. Yes, even now, though I’m no longer responsible directly for the safety and security at Camp Ashraf, I still feel morally responsible.
As far back as 2003 everything we asked of the MEK they complied with. Everything. And we established procedures so they could self-sustain, so that they could go and purchase some of the logistics they needed. But most importantly, in order to allow visitors, especially their family members, to come see them. Did some of the members of the MEK want to leave during my tenure? Yes, of course. Small numbers. A few just up and left. Others, they were turned over to my forces and we housed them until we could find a disposition be established for where they would go. There were vague allegations of torture and people being held against their will by the MEK. This is wrong. I had open and unrestricted access to every area on Camp Ashraf, and I took advantage of that. I staged independent, unannounced inspections and never, ever discovered any indication of torture, or any one being kept against their will. And I tried to prove those allegations. But the only thing I was ever able to prove without a doubt was that the allegations were false. Some of the members of the MEK who wanted to leave were actually driven to the gates of my operational base and dropped off. Were there any issues between my units, my forces, and the MEK at Ashraf? Of course. But they were few and far between, and they were all resolved by simple discussions, and understanding between each other.
I spent well over a year working to receive definitive guidance as to a way ahead at Camp Ashraf. I brought many senior leaders of the coalition forces to Ashraf. To give a generalization, they were all stunned that we were keeping them in such limbo. I left Iraq frustrated after that tour, and a year later when I returned I saw that there had not been a change. There was still no definitive guidance. During that tour I was charged with rapidly rebuilding the Iraqi police, and simultaneously I was General Petraeus’s subject matter expert on all police and security operations including the security at Camp Ashraf.
What is the resolution? What happens next? We continue to press. The over 3,400 persons at Camp Ashraf were given a promise of protection following a very thorough vetting process—and I know this for a fact because I’m the one that went and saw Madame Parsai and brought forth the promise. I feel so strongly about that promise that even now I would return to Ashraf and act as an intermediary between the MEK and the Iraqis who I know many of their senior leaders. And I feel so safe with the supposed terrorists that I would take my own daughter with me. She is a vocal supporter of human rights and rights for women. And you know she’s excited to go.
Because I fear that unless we have some type of intermediary, some type of initiative rapidly another tragedy will occur. We’ve seen members of this organization viciously attacked in the recent past. And in a few weeks if this deadline is not postponed we could see it again. Close Camp Ashraf. That sounds quite ominous to me, especially for the people there. When you hear others talk about the MEK and the people of Camp Ashraf, who they are or who they are not, ask do they really have knowledge? Have they been to Ashraf? Do they know these people or anything on what’s taking place within that 36 square kilometer facility? Or are they just reiterating a lot of rhetoric?
I know the people of Camp Ashraf. I’ve been there. I’ve lived there. And they trusted us when we promised our safety and security way back in 2004. There are a few places in the world where I won’t let my guard down. Camp Ashraf is not one of those places. I fear that Camp Ashraf may become one of those places, though, very rapidly. And violence could be wrought upon unarmed—I know they’re unarmed, I was there when they gave their arms up—men and women, young and old. A cry must come out loud and clear that we will not stand for violence against the protected persons of Camp Ashraf. This deadline must be postponed. Evil thrives in darkness, so let’s shed some light on Camp Ashraf. I tried to find a terrorist at Ashraf and I could not. I tried to find torture at Camp Ashraf and I could not. I tried to find people held against their will at Camp Ashraf. I could not. I only hope the world is listening. Thank you, Madame Rajavi for this humbling yet daunting opportunity to address this august group. Thank you.