CNN reported on Sat. Feb. 18 from Baghdad that about 400 members of an exiled Iranian opposition group who are the first to leave a long-term camp in Iraq under a U.N. plan criticized their treatment and the conditions at the new temporary site Saturday. The group left Camp Ashraf at midnight following 12 hours of inspections and checks, Shahin Ghobadi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said in a statement. When they arrived seven hours later at the new site, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad International Airport long known as Camp Liberty, the group discovered a heavy presence of police. Camp Liberty has been renamed “Camp Hurriya” and is now an Iraqi facility. Another inspection was then demanded, prompting the residents to protest what they consider “degrading, humiliating and inhumane treatment” and the obstructive behavior of the Iraqi forces by refusing to leave the transit buses, Ghobadi said. “The preliminary reports indicate that Camp Liberty (Hurriya) is a prison from all aspects,” he added. The group’s relocation to the new site was agreed between the United Nations, Iraqi authorities, the United States and the European Union. The U.S. commended Iraq for the relocation to the camp and called for the Iranian expatriates to cooperate with Iraqi and U.N. authorities in a State Department statement from spokeswoman Victoria Nuland Sunday. From Camp Hurriya, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will begin efforts to resettle the group outside of the country. Martin Kobler, the U.N. secretary general’s special representative and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), was at the temporary site to welcome the new arrivals. Camp Ashraf has been home to members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, for more than 25 years. More than 3,000 exiles, described as Iranian resistance figures and their sympathizers, live at the camp. The MEK has been on the U.S. terrorism list since 1997 but since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf “noncombatants” and “protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions. Before moving, the Camp Ashraf residents had demanded a commitment that no Iraqi police would remain inside the new site, in order to ensure the security of the residents. The group believes the current regime in Iraq, under orders from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has previously staged deadly attacks against Camp Ashraf.
Instead, there are several police posts inside the facility and residents must be accompanied by the police even to go to the dining area, Ghobadi said.