Earlier this week, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed resolution 650 with the aim of:
“Providing for the safety and security of the Iranian dissidents living in Camp Liberty/Hurriya in Iraq and awaiting resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and permitting use of their own assets to assist in their resettlement.”
H.Res.650 was introduced by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade, Brian Higgins (D-NY), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and was cosponsored by 61 of their colleagues, including 7 Committee and 20 Subcommittee chairmen and ranking members.
The resolution aims to provide protection for the approximately 2,000 residents of Camp Liberty and urges expedited resettlement of the residents, who are members of the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group long at odds with the Iranian regime. The residents are awaiting resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UNHCR has already recognized the residents of camp liberty as “persons of concern” and “in need of international protection.” Further, the formerly armed dissident group was disarmed and relocated by the United States military during the invasion of Iraq with the promise of protection and resettlement.
While approximately 1,100 children and other vulnerable residents of Camp Liberty were successfully resettled to Europe, primarily Albania, those remaining residents are both disarmed and vulnerable to attacks carried out by Iran and its allies, such as pro-Iranian Shia militias.
Camp Liberty Residents in Precarious Situation
The residents of Camp Liberty are currently living in a small section of a former U.S. military base now under the control of the Iraqi military base near the Baghdad airport. It might be tempting to assume that being on a military base would afford the residents some security, however, the Iraqi military has turned a blind eye to attacks in the past, and has even been complicit in the attacks themselves.
Up until 2009, the residents were under the protection of the United States government, while residing at Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province near the Iranian border. As the U.S. began to withdraw from Iraq, responsibility was transferred to the Iraqi government. On multiple occasions, however, the Iraqi government has failed to live up to its responsibilities.
The Iraqi government, which is predominately Shia, has now fallen under the influence of nearby Iran, the region’s major Shia power. The MEK, meanwhile, has long opposed the Iranian regime and can be seen as an arch nemesis of sorts. Iran’s growing influence over the Iraqi government, thus puts the residents of Camp Liberty in grave danger.
In his opening statement, Chairman Royce (R-CA) said, “We have been receiving information that the Iranian regime and their proxies in Iran are preparing for an imminent attack against the camp’s residents. The frustration with this committee is that time after time after time we’ve had the Iranian regime go forward with attacks on these individuals without this being blocked by the government of Iraq. And in the meantime That is why Mr. Poe’s resolution calls on the Administration and the Iraqi Government to work to provide camp residents with the protections they need, and to ensure they are expeditiously resettled outside of Iraq…”
Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) added, “I want to welcome our friends wearing their yellow jackets to this Committee today. And believe me, we are very concerned about Camp Liberty and we’re making everyone know that we’re keeping a watchful eye to make sure those people are protected.
The residents of Camp Liberty deserve to live in dignity and without fear of violence. Last October’s rocket attacks on the unarmed residents of Camp Liberty by a Shia militia with ties to Iran killed 24 people. It’s the height of cowardice. We are still waiting for the perpetrators of this attack to be brought to justice.”