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A Hunger For Freedom By: Mehdi Razavi
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Editor's note: Mehdi Razavi is an Iranian dissident. According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, he "is protesting the July 28 raid by Iraqi police forces on Camp Ashraf, a community of about 3,500 Iranian exiles who are opposed to the Iranian government. Eleven residents were killed when police raided the camp and 36 people were arrested." Razavi was hospitalized on Thursday on the 21st day of his hunger strike on behalf of this cause.

An Open Letter to President Obama

This is my second letter to you since July 28, 2009. In my first letter I urged you to speak out in defense of Camp Ashraf residents and prevent further atrocities by Iraqi Prime Minister, Al-Maliki. I also informed you that I am on my way to Washington DC to begin a hunger strike until United States delivers what it had promised the Iranians at Camp Ashraf. I have been camping outside of the White House, on hunger strike with 40 other people, for more than four weeks and still no word from your administration.

With the recent uprising, I have no doubt you have a team focusing on Iranian issues. I write this letter as my fellow countrymen and women are risking their lives, facing bullets and guns, to confront the regime of Mullahs at home. No doubt in your daily briefings, you have been informed about the news coming through the internet on Iran and seen the courageous Iranians taking such high risks to assert their popular will. Iranians understand that even if you want to stop Khamenie’s inhumane and despicable crackdown against the protesters, you may not be able to do so. However, when his criminal regime conducts its crimes next door in Iraq, under US’s watchful eyes and military presence, it is no longer a question of ability. This brings me back to my earlier point on Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where thousands of Iranian opposition members, the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MeK), have lived since the mid 1980’s. There have been guarantees of protection and security in signed joint agreements between US and this group. Although the security and protection responsibilities have been transferred to the Iraqis, America is still the signatory of these joint agreements with the resident of Camp Ashraf.1 Since last November, various governmental and non-governmental organizations and personalities, such as the Members of US Congress, UN Secretary General, European Parliament, Iraqi parliamentarians, the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Amnesty International, have called upon the United States to remain committed to the protection and security rights of Camp Ashraf residents.

Their call has been in direct response to Tehran’s influence in Iraqi affairs. It is no secret to anyone that the current Iraqi government is heavily influenced by Iran. I am sure you know the history of the 9th Badr Brigade, the Iraqi militias trained by the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) during Saddam’s era. The Badr Brigade was part of the nefarious Qods forces within the IRGC and has been responsible for many terrorist activities around the world. Unfortunately, they are now incorporate in to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and in coordination with Al-Maliki’s DAWA party, also an Iranian regime’s creation, they are doing the dirty work for Tehran’s regime in Iraq. 2

These are the people that our tax payers’ money and blood of 5000 American soldiers brought to power in Iraq?!

Over the past several years, thousands of Iraqis and Americans have been killed publicly and privately by these Iranian proxies in Iraq. They are hard at work to ensure Tehran’s agenda advances in Iraq and now they are on a special mission for Khamanie to destroy Camp Ashraf.

So, given all this, where do Iranian people stand? Do you think the Iranian people will believe that America has had no part in the recent attacks on Camp Ashraf, home to Iran’s most serious and viable opposition? What will all this mean to people of Iran when they see Iraq is taking orders from Tehran under the watchful eyes of Washington?

To start with, had the US-Iran history been different, perhaps such questions would not cross the minds of Iranians. Unfortunately, that is not the case because of two reasons:

  1. US’s role in the 1953 coup against the popular government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq; which led to a rather insincere apology in 1997 because it coincided with the designation of Iran’s main opposition group, the PMOI, as a terrorist organization.3 Not to mention the ruling Mullahs in Iran are from the same faction as Ayatollah Kashani, one of the key players in the 1953 coup. Dr. Mossedeq was a democratically elected and a popular leader for Iranians. The fact that this regime did not even name a street or monument after him, should have been a telling sign for the US before apologizing to the Mullahs. In short, the United States apologized to the culprits of the 1953 coup and not the Iranian people. In fact, the United States added salt to the Iranian people’s injury by bowing, once again, to the demands of the Mullahs like those in 1953, with the adding the PMOI to the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list.
  2. Keeping the PMOI on the list remains to be a sore point for the Iranian people. To date, this group has won every single legal case challenging the designation, including the case in UK and Europe which led to the removal of the group from their “perverse” blacklist.4 So, it is puzzling why the United States insists on keep this group on its FTO list. Ironically the only countries in the world who consider this group as a terrorist organization is Iran, Iraq and the United States. Iran executed 120,000 of its members and sympathizers. Iraq attacks its refugee camp at  Camp Ashraf. The United States signs agreements, provides protection from 2003-2008, and since 2009 promises the group protection and security in Iraq which turned out to be just empty words.1

So, when ask why the Iranians mistrust the United State and question its motives, I invite you to review the above two points and learn from history.

The Iranian people have been struggling for democracy and freedom for more than a century. They have paid a heavy price are not shy to express their views on those who create obstacles for them. In the recent uprising in Iran, Iranian people declared their views on Russia’s support for the Mullahs regime, you may have noticed how the protesters inside Iran are now chanting “Down with Russia.” This even indicates a major transformation in their beliefs and struggle for freedom.

The recent atrocities at Camp Ashraf remind Iranian people of the past history with the United States standing on the wrong side. Although the United States had no direct involvement in the violence and attacks that took place at Camp Ashraf four weeks ago, your silence is condoning the ISF action and Al-Maliki’s plot against the camp. You can set the record straight by strongly denouncing the Iraqi acts against Camp Ashraf and support the legal rights of its residents.5 Nevertheless, you remain responsible for their safety and protection and “humane treatment.”6 So, as the daily chants outside of the White House says “Silence is not an Option, President Obama take action.” 

President Obama, allow me to remind you that the US government signed an agreement with the people at Camp Ashraf guaranteeing their security and protection. The ink on these agreements is not dry yet and it would be inhumane and irresponsible to remain silent.

The Iranian regime is weak at home and it is facing a collapse from within because of the growing protests and deepening divisions among its leadership. There is nothing that anyone can do to help this regime survive the current crisis at home. In consideration of principle of human rights, preventing crimes against humanity, ending tyranny, as well as the best interest of American people, I urge you to restore the ignored rights of the resident of Camp Ashraf who are heroically resisting and opposing the dictatorship in Iran. I urge you to take the side of the Iranian people, set the record straight on Camp Ashraf and think about a lasting solution in Iraq. Leaving Iraq in the hands of pro-Mullahs elements is an insult to the American, Iraqi and Iranian people.

I urge to act quickly before it is too late. Currently, the ISF has 36 residents of Camp Ashraf in its custody. Already, they have been beaten and tortured by the Iraqis, however, they can be turned over to the Iranian regime any day where they will face certain death.7

Your action in defense of Camp Ashraf will wash away the bad memories of 1954 and 1997. Since July 28th, people in Iran are chanting “Down with Khameini, from Ashraf to Tehran.” The fate of Camp Ashraf is now tied with the fate of those protesters who are agent for meaningful change in Iran. Protection of Camp Ashraf has brought Iranians together creating a national solidarity among the opposition groups against Tehran.

Many humanitarian organizations, defenders of justice and Iranian opposition groups have offered their support for Camp Ashraf. Yes, truly, today the issue of “Ashraf” has become national issue for Iranians. You are facing a nation when taking position regarding Camp Ashraf. You can either turn your back on the Iranian nation or stand on their side in defense of Camp Ashraf. I certainly hope is the latter before we lose more lives due to hunger strike outside of the White House and US embassies in 16 other countries.8 

Mehdi Razavi

[1] The New York Times, August 1, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/world/middleeast/02policy.html

[2]Congressional Research Services “Iran’s Influence in Iraq” by Dr. Kenneth Katzman http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/78337.pdf

[3] Los Angeles Times, 1997. The US State Department designated the group as a “goodwill gesture” towards Tehran’s regime.

[4] The International Herald Tribune, February 26, 2008 http://www.iranfocus.com/en/iran-world-press/americas-misguided-blacklist-14344.html

[5] Los Angeles Times “ U.S. faults Iraq raid that left Iran dissidents dead” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran-dissidents14-2009aug14,0,3517196.story

[6] US Embassy Statement in December 2008, http://iraq.usembassy.gov/pr_12282008.html

[7] Amnesty International Report on Camp Ashraf: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/concerns-grow-detained-iranian-residents-iraq-camp-ashraf-20090811

[8] The Guardian, “Hunger striker seriously ill outside US embassy in Londonhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/aug/13/us-embassy-hunger-strike-iran


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