The United States has joined the United Nations in urging the residents of Iraq’s Camp Ashraf, which has been used by the Mujahedin-e-Khalq or MEK, for the past two decades, to move to new temporary quarters where they will be considered by the U.N. for refugee status and possible relocation outside Iraq.
There may be up to 3,400 residents, most of whom likely are Iranian nationals, living at Camp Ashraf. The MEK, which is opposed to the government in Tehran and has been listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., was given refuge by Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war and fought with Iraq against the Iranian regime.
After the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies, the MEK agreed to a ceasefire with coalition forces, and gave up its weapons. In 2009, the Government of Iraq assumed responsibility for the security of Camp Ashraf. The Iraqi Government has also consistently reiterated its stated goal since 2004 of resettlement for the Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.
Under a plan agreed to by the U.N. and the Iraqi government in December, the residents of Camp Ashraf will move temporarily to a new location, Camp Hurriya, formerly the U.S. military base, Camp Liberty. There, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will conduct individual Refugee Status Determination for the residents -- a step toward their resettlement in a third country.
Ambassador Daniel Fried, the U.S. State Department’s special advisor on Camp Ashraf, said in a press briefing that the time has come “for the MEK to make the decision to start the move out of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty-Hurriya from where they can begin new lives outside of Iraq. . . .Camp Ashraf is no longer a viable home for them. They have no secure future there. On the other hand,” he said, “the Government of Iraq has committed itself to the security of the people at Camp Hurriya, and is aware that the United States expects it to fulfill its responsibilities.”
Ambassador Fried also said that the United States, in cooperation with the U.N., the Iraqi government, and the relocating residents, “will continue to support the reasonable, prompt resolution of issues that may arise” when such a relocation is made. “A peaceful solution, no matter what the circumstances, is the only acceptable solution,” he said, “but it is time to move forward.”