Violence at Camp Ashraf in Iraq

When Susan Rice testisfied in the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, there were several dozen people in the audience wearing saying “Protect Camp Ashraf.”

They had good reason to be concerned.

Camp Ashraf is an Iranian refugee camp in Iraq. In January 2009, responsibility for security of the camp was turned over from Americans to Iraqi forces. Since then, it has experienced several violent raids by Iraqi military forces, many of which were captured in harrowing YouTube videos, like this one. At issue is the presence of an Iranian exile militant group the MEK, to which Saddam gave refuge during the Iran-Iraq war. The Iraqi government is no longer as stridently anti-Iran these days and wants to regain control of the camp.  Apparently, though, they are doing so in a very violent fashion that is in total violation of the rights of the camp residents.

In recent weeks, it would seem that Iraqi forces staged their bloodiest raid yet. At least 34 people were killed and the United Nations is rightly denouncing this violence. From the UN News Center:

The United Nations human rights chief today condemned a recent Iraqi military operation in a camp north of Baghdad that left 34 people dead and dozens injured, and called for an independent inquiry into the incident.

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said full details of what actually happened on the morning of 8 April at Camp Ashraf, which houses an Iranian exile group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran, are only beginning to emerge.

“But it now seems certain that at least 34 people were killed in Camp Ashraf, including seven or more women. Most were shot, and some appear to have been crushed to death, presumably by vehicles,” she stated in a news release.

Ms. Pillay noted that the Iraqi military was well aware of the risks attached to launching an operation like this at the camp. A similar operation by Iraqi security forces in 2009 left 11 people dead and dozens wounded at Ashraf.

“There is no possible excuse for this number of casualties,” she said, referring to the latest incident.

“There must be a full, independent and transparent inquiry, and any person found responsible for use of excessive force should be prosecuted.”

Something to monitor, for sure.