The United States is urging members of an Iranian dissident group to comply with a U.N. and Iraqi-supported plan to move from their location at Camp Ashraf in Iraq to another location near Baghdad, Camp Hurriya, in anticipation of their relocation out of Iraq.
The group, known as the Mujahadin-e Khalq or MEK, opposes Iran’s clerical regime. The MEK was supported by the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who established them at Camp Asraf in Iraq. Currently, there are an estimated 1200 to 1400 individuals still resident at Camp Ashraf. About 2000 others have relocated to Camp Hurriya.
Earlier this month, Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, said that the relocation process appears to have stalled, and voiced concern that if it does not recommence, there may be violence.
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland urged the residents of Camp Ashraf “to resume full cooperation immediately” with the relocation plan. She also called on the Iraqi Government “to fulfill its commitments to provide for the safety, security and humanitarian treatment of the residents.”
“The peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf is achievable,” said Ms. Nuland, “but requires continued patience and practical engagement to be realized. Constructive offers must be met with a constructive spirit, and not with refusals or preconditions to engage in dialogue.”
The MEK in 1997 was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. The group insists, however, that over the past decade, it has renounced violence, and it has asked the United States to remove the organization from its list of terrorist organizations, as the European Union did in 2009.
State Department spokesperson Nuland said the United States “has made clear that cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf, the Mujahedin-e Khalq’s main paramilitary base, is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past, or is committed to leaving that past behind.”
Ms. Nuland said, “We fully support the path laid out by the United Nations for the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf along with sustainable solutions of its former residents.” She added that only “a peaceful implementation of the Iraqi government’s decision to close the Camp is acceptable, and the Iraqi government bears the responsibility for the security and humane treatment of the individuals at Camp Ashraf.”