Iranian dissidents: Dozens killed in Iraq

By STEFAN NICOLA, UPI Europe Correspondent

BERLIN, April 8 (UPI) -- Germans and exiled Iranians gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin Friday to demand that the United States stop Iraqi forces from attacking members of the Iranian opposition in Ashraf, a settlement near the Iraqi-Iranian border.

"The Iraqi forces have been attacking Ashraf with tanks, grenades and guns," Javad Dabiran, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled Iranian opposition group in Europe, Friday told United Press International.


At least 31 people have been killed and around 300 injured, Dabiran said, citing latest information he had from Ashraf.

"Because of the de facto siege of Camp Ashraf, these heavily injured can't get proper medical treatment," he said. "We strongly demand that they be treated in the nearby American military hospital. If that won't happen, many more people will die. It's a massacre."


Iraqi authorities confirmed the offensive but denied that people were killed, CNN reports. They accused Ashraf residents of attacking Iraqi forces with stones.

CNN quotes the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as saying that it was "monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf." It said it was "in contact with the government of Iraq," and urged "all sides to exercise restraint."

Ashraf is home to some 3,400 members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a group of exiled opponents of the Iranian regime.

The group is classified as a terror organization by Iran and the United States for its armed struggle against the Iranian regime in the 1980s and 1990s. Its members in Camp Ashraf surrendered to U.S. forces in 2003, vowing to abstain from armed resistance.

The European Union removed the group from its terrorist list in 2009 after Britain had done so in 2008. The PMOI still lobbies to see the Iranian regime go, saying it wants a democratic Iran.

On the eve of the Iraqi offensive at Ashraf, the head of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urged Washington to step in to prevent "a humanitarian catastrophe." The NCRI is the PMOI's political arm in Europe, with NCRI officials sporting good relations with European lawmakers.


Ashraf and its citizens have long been an issue of friction between Tehran and Baghdad, with allegations of wrongdoing from both sides.

After the Iraqi military took over the protection of Camp Ashraf from U.S. troops in 2009, international aid groups came forward saying they're worried about the worsening humanitarian situation there.

In July 2009, clashes between Camp Ashraf citizens and Iraqi forces led to the deaths of 12 residents and the PMOI said it would like to see U.S. forces return to protect Ashraf.

The Iranian opposition claims the Shiite-led Iraqi government has clamped down on the camp because of political pressure from Tehran. Iranian-Iraqi relations have improved over the past years and Iran has repeatedly urged Baghdad to dismantle the camp. Its residents oppose that out of fear of being deported to Iran, where they would face torture and death. Baghdad denies it's acting on behalf of the regime in Tehran.

Last December, European lawmakers in a non-binding resolution urged the EU to pressure Washington to take the PMOI off the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The PMOI is heavily lobbying to be removed from the U.S. list and has won backing from several American lawmakers.


A U.S. appeals court in Washington last summer ordered the State Department to reconsider the terrorist labeI, saying Washington should give the group a chance to disprove claims that it continues to or retains the intent to engage in terrorist activities.

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