niqash | Kholoud Ramzi | Baghdad | 24.08.2009At 9.30pm on 13th August 2009, 44 year-old Shaban al-Suri was the tenth person to die from injuries sustained following the Iraqi Forces invasion of Ashraf Camp on 28th July 2009.
As a protest, Abdul-Rahman Haydari, a member of the Iranian opposition People’s Mujahadin of Iran Movement, (PMOI) or Mujahedin-e-Khalq [MEK], has been on hunger strike since Al-Suri’s death. He was one of 36 members detained by Iraqi Forces following the invasion of the camp. He has since been taken to Baquba hospital by the Iraqi security forces but like the other 35 arrested, refuses to end his strike until Iraqi Forces leave Ashraf Camp.
An official Iraqi spokesman clarified that Al-Suri suffered serious wounds, nausea and spasms during the incursion of the camp and fell into a coma. On 13th August, he was taken to Balad Hospital in a helicopter and died on route.
3500 members of the People’s Mujahadin of Iran, an Islamic Socialist Opposition Organisation have lived in Ashraf Camp for 20 years. The camp has since turned into an informal city, developing its own farms and factories which have enabled people to sustain themselves and produce goods that compete with local Iraqi and Iranian products. Subsequent to the U.S. handover of security to Iraqi forces, Iraqi troops invaded Ashraf Camp on 28th July to take sovereign control of the camp.
Suleiman al-Haydari, Abdul-Rahman’s brother told Niqash: "I do not want my brother to die like the others and I do not know what to do. We do not have a place to live in other than this camp. If we go back to Iran, the Iranian regime will imprison us and we will spend the rest of our lives in dark prisons."
Asifa Imami, the sister of a PMOI member who died during the clashes with Iraqi forces told Niqash: "I found him (her brother) covered with blood; I could not do anything about it. I embraced him and started to shout. I was left alone in this world with no one to care for me and my mother.”
She added that the American army was videoing Iraqi forces storming the camp but they just stood aside. She added that: "Americans have not lived up to their promises when they said they will protect us once we if we hand them over our weapons five years ago. They did not intervene when they saw my brother Haneef being crushed under the armored cars that stormed the camp.”
The Parisien based National Council for Iranian Resistance declared on 14th August that Shaban al-Suri died from being beaten around the head and video footage of the invasion has been posted online by supporting groups: http://www.nosratashraf.com/VideoList_ar.aspx
PMOI has since also claimed that Iraqi forces have not allowed the entry of food and medical supplies to the camp, but Al al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman has denied this and said that 3 Iraqi police were also killed in the raid and 10 wounded.
Tareq Harb a well known legal expert working for the Iraqi NGO ‘Al-Saqarfa Al Kharnoonia’ told Niqash that: “there are no legal grounds which allow MEK to stay in Iraq…….its members do not have political asylum status and they do not hold passports. Thus, their presence in Iraq is illegal though Iraqi law prevents them from being repatriated.”
The legality of the invasion is clearly the fundamental dispute. PMOI’s spokesman, Muhammad Iqbal, told Niqash that they had made an agreement with the US forces five years ago that in exchange for the PMOI disarming in June 2004, the US would protect the camp members and not hand control over to the Iraqi Government.
Iqbal said in a telephone conversation with Niqash that: “The U.S. forces were aware of the Iraqi forces operation and they just stood there watching in blatant violation of the treaty.”
Adnan al-Asadi, Secretary General of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said that the Iraqi troops took over the camp according to the pact signed with the US in November 2008 and added that: “this is part of the Government’s right to impose the rule of law over the entire Iraqi land. Thus the Government is not obliged to implement any agreement reached between US troops and the opposition PMOI.”
The security pact signed between the US army and the Iraq Government in November 2008 made no mention of Ashraf Camp leaving the future of the camp unclarified.
Edited by Daniel Tetlow