Sunday, August 21, 2016

Taking a Stand for Ashraf

by Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker /, 25 November 2008, 26 November 2008

We were assembled on the afternoon of 31 October 2008 at the United Nations Plaza on the 50th day of a vigil to draw the world’s attention to a miscarriage of justice—a violation of an agreement—a double-crossing of a partner and ally in the civilized world’s war with the barbarity that has been unleashed upon civilization by Khomeinism and those that would apply obscurantist religious law to rule society. I’m referring to the decision of the State Department and the Pentagon directing the coalition forces constituted as the Multi-National Force-Iraq to transfer authority and responsibility for the safety and defense of Camp Ashraf to the Government of Iraq—which unfortunately is currently led by Islamist allies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the leading progenitor of terrorism on a global scale today. Let me suggest that this would be the political equivalent of turning defense of the canary over to the cat.

The Daawa Party-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has indicated its alliance with the Tehran mullah government through the announcements of its spokesman, Dr. Ali Dabbagh, who has stated the desire of the current Iraqi leaders to expel the residents of Ashraf from Iraq. Tehran’s ardent desire to destroy Ashraf and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) could not be more clear, nor could the al-Maliki government’s alliance with the Iranian mullahs more blatant, because expelling the PMOI from Iraq runs counter to the declared wishes of over 50% of the Iraqi electorate which has gone on record to support the freedom of Ashraf and the PMOI.

Why is it that Iraqi citizens from all walks of life support the PMOI and Ashraf? What has caused ordinary Iraqis to risk their lives to demonstrate their support for a group of Iranian refugees living in the outskirts of Diyala Province? Why are common Iraqis risking the wrath of those currently holding the reins of power in Baghdad? Why?

I’ll tell you why! It’s because it is the PMOI of Ashraf who have worked quietly behind the scenes for the last five years to bring Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds together to oppose the fanaticism of Islamic radical extremism taught by the Iranian ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei. It is the PMOI that has taught Iraqis to reject the obscurantism of the corrupt doctrine of Valiyat-e Faqih. It is the PMOI of Ashraf that has brought Shia and Sunni, Kurd and Arab, Moslem and Christian Iraqis together to oppose the violence that the Islamist radicals have unleashed on Iraq. It is the PMOI of Ashraf that has taught rank and file Iraqis of the dangers posed by the Iranian mullah-style fundamentalist government that the Iranian regime and its Iraqi Islamist allies want to impose upon Iraq. It is the PMOI that has taught the decent folk of Iraq that a religious government is tyrannical and the enemy of democracy and human rights. It is the PMOI of Ashraf that has inspired Iraqis to stand up and reject Tehran’s takeover of Iraqi political life. No wonder that Tehran continually pressures the al-Maliki government to expel the PMOI!

But this travesty of justice will not go un-noticed. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Secretary General of the United Nations both recently have declared the need to uphold International Humanitarian Law which protects the rights of the residents of Ashraf to non-refoulement. Now we call upon the government of the United States of America to adhere strictly to the agreements it made with the PMOI in May 2003, to guarantee the safety of all Ashraf residents.  The following letter has been sent to Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice:

The Honorable Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice                          29 August 2008
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

As chairman of a coalition of religious leaders from around the country, it is my duty to inform you of our grave concern for the physical welfare of the residents of Camp Ashraf, Diyala Province, Iraq. As you are aware, the residents of Ashraf, a self-run camp, are members of the major Iranian opposition group, the PMOI. The have been resident in Iraq for over two decades. In 2003, the PMOI remained non-belligerent, and after a 16-month investigation conducted by seven U.S. agencies, the Ashraf population was granted “protected persons” status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since 2003, the residents of Ashraf have been protected by the United States Army. On many occasions, the U.S. commanders in Iraq reiterated the commitment of the Coalition to the security and rights of the protected people of Ashraf, and that the principle of non-refoulement pertains to them.

In recent months, there has been discussion of a possible transfer of the responsibility for protecting the residents of Ashraf from U.S. to Iraqi authority. Under pressure from the Iranian regime, the Iraqi government has already issued a directive to expel the residents of Ashraf and possibly to extradite them to the Islamic Republic of Iran where they would face imprisonment, torture, and execution. This action is a matter of grave concern.

The principle of non-refoulement is one which the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly reminded the relevant parties regarding the status of Ashraf’s residents. So too, based on international humanitarian law and human rights law, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees reiterated to competent Iraqi authorities and the MNF-I “to refrain from any action that could endanger the life or security of these individuals [referring to Ashraf residents], such as their forcible deportation from Iraq or their forced displacement inside Iraq.”

With the above information in mind, we ask you to assure that any agreements between the United States and the Government of Iraq guarantee the continued safety and security of Ashraf’s resident and the principle of non-refoulement, and the guarantee that prior agreements with the PMOI will be scrupulously honored.

Sincerely yours,

Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker

And now I turn to address Prime Minister Dr. Nouri Kamal al-Maliki and the Government of Iraq:

Mr. Prime Minister: We are watching you—your treatment of the residents of Ashraf and the maintenance of their Human Rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Geneva Convention and International Humanitarian Law is a test of your commitment to the ideals of a unified democratic Iraq, as a well as to the maintenance of the international standard of Human Rights and civil society. Your treatment of the Ashraf residents will determine the world’s view of the nature of your society. Have you built a just Iraqi nation, or are you simply an Arab puppet of the Tehran mullahs—a Mafioso government dressed in galabia and kaffiyeh? Does Nouri al-Maliki believe in a free Iraq, or are you helping Tehran to turn Iraq into a clone of Iran? Remember, Mr. Prime Minister: we and the world are watching!

As the Shofar—our common ancestor Ibrahim’s ram’s horn—was sounded to call the wind of freedom to blow away the Ahiram-dark clouds of intolerance from Iran and Iraq, may God cause the light of freedom to shine upon Iraq and Iran, and upon Ashraf:  Nur azadi mi-√°yad—the light of freedom is coming!  Khoda hafez, azadi emruz! Great God Almighty, freedom now!

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