Massacre in Camp Ashraf
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF DISTURBING SCENES WHICH MAY CAUSE DISTRESSCamp Ashraf in Iraq was once home to more than 3,000 exiled Iranian members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), opposed to Iran's clerical regime. The population had fallen over recent years to about 100. They now number around 50, following a massacre by the Iraqi Army. According to reports, many of the unarmed dead appear to have been summarily executed. Another report says seven of their number have been taken hostage.
His Grace wrote about the Camp a few years ago. That story carried a warning; this one does, too.
Jacob Campbell, Co-Chairman of ASHCAM - a student-founded group to defend the human rights of the men and women of Ashraf City - wrote to His Grace:
"At midnight on Saturday (local time), the Iraqi Army attacked Ashraf City in the Diyala province of Iraq while the residents slept. Ashraf was home to just 100 Iranian refugees (formerly more than 3,000, before the rest were forcibly relocated to the Camp Liberty detention centre last year). The assault continued through the night until 7am, when the armed forces withdrew. The death toll was climbing steadily throughout yesterday, and currently stands at 52 - more than half the population of the city, including six women. Another six women were abducted, and their whereabouts is not known. Photographs of the victims show that many of them were handcuffed and summarily executed by gunshot to the head at point blank range. According to sources, some of the executioners could be heard speaking in Farsi. This suggests that there were elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force operating amongst the Iraqi regular forces during the attack. Large areas of Ashraf are reported to have been set ablaze."
"This is more than a massacre," he said. "It's an extermination."
Curtis Sinclair, fellow ASHCAM Co-Chairman, writes in the Times of Israel: "UN inspectors are currently being prevented from entering Camp Ashraf to determine what has happened. Perhaps most shockingly however – considering the deadliness of the massacre – is the denial by the Iraqi government that any such action by the Iraqi Army has occurred at all. State-owned Al-Iraqiya TV has, since 12:40PM local time, been issuing reports claiming that no such attack has happened in what seems to be an attempt to cover up the slaughter."
The Iraqi government, particularly PM Nouri al-Maliki, has repeatedly pledged to liquidate Ashraf City since control of the area was handed over to Iraq by US forces in 2009. This is the third massacre to have taken place at Ashraf since then. It is suspected that Maliki was ordered to carry out this latest attack by Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force. Soleimani is, according to Iraq's former national security minister, 'the most powerful man in Iraq, without question'.
ASHCAM's Honorary President is Struan Stevenson MEP, and their Patrons include David Amess MP, Lord Alton of Liverpool, the Archbishop of Wales, the Bishop of Leicester and the Bishop of Sodor & Man. His Grace joins with them today to highlight this appalling slaughter.
Funny, isn't it, how 'we must act' in Syria against the monster Assad, but we are content to 'stand by and do nothing' in Iraq, which we helped to liberate from the tyrant Saddam.