Shahriar Kia is a press spokesman for an Iranian opposition group housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Kia says the group, the Peopleâ€™s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK), advocates for a democratic, secular Iran with separation of church and state and gender quality that is nuclear-free. He graduated from North Texas University and currently resides in Iraq. His Twitter handle is @shahriarkia
The following is Shahriar Kiaâ€™s interview with the Clarion Projectâ€™s Ryan Mauro:
Ryan Mauro: Tell us why Camp Ashraf should be of concern to the West.
Shahriar Kia: This is a natural thing that any fair conscience in any democratic society, which respects human values and human rights, be concerned about the lives of 3,200 defenseless refugees, 1,000 of whom are women. In 2004, the US signed an agreement with each and every resident pledging that in return for collecting all their weapons, it would take up the responsibility of their protection under the fourth Geneva Conventions until their final disposition.
Also, the U.S., and especially Secretary Clinton and the U.N., ensured that with the transfer of the residents to Liberty, their safety and security would be ensured until the resettlement of the very last person to third countries. To this end, I must emphasize that the U.S. government and the U.N. are responsible for any crime that is committed against the residents at (Camp) Liberty or Ashraf.
Despite this pledge, there have been two deadly attacks by Iraqi forces in 2009 and 2011 at Camp Ashraf, which led to the death of 50 residents and injured more than 1000; three missile attacks by Iranian regime-affiliated militias and the Iraqi government has used one hundred 107mm rockets that killed 10 and left over 170 injured.
The Iranian regime and the Iraqi Maliki government, with the collaboration of U.N. Secretary-General Special Representative Martin Kobler, have placed the dismantling of the mullahsâ€™ opposition on their agenda. Two reports by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions have described Camp Liberty as a detention center.
Militias affiliated with the Iranian regimeâ€™s terrorist Al-Qods Force have told the Associated Press that they will soon carry out another attack against Liberty, yet the Iraqi government prevents the entrance of T-walls, concrete bunkers, bulletproof vests and helmets that belong to the residents. They are left without any defense.
It is for all the above mentioned reasons that the international community is seriously concerned about the plight of Ashraf and Liberty residents. The majority of parliamentarians, political and legal dignitaries from 50 countries across the globe have also expressed their concern. In an enormous gathering of 100,000 Iranians in Paris on June 22, a call was issued by these officials to save the lives of the Ashraf and Liberty residents and urged for their immediate return to Camp Ashraf, which is safer than Camp Liberty.
Mauro: Why donâ€™t the residents of Ashraf pack up and leave?
Kia: After 26 years of being refugees in Iraq, the residents have forfeited their refugee rights in Iraq and have accepted to leave this country and resettle in other countries but, now after 17 months, there is no prospect for the residentsâ€™ transfer to third countries.
The Temporary Transit Location (TTL) plan that forcefully moved them to Liberty is a failed project carried out by Kobler at the behest of the Iranian regime. Kobler, in collaboration with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, deceived the residents in order to transfer them to Liberty prison. General James Jones said in an interview on March 11, 2013, â€œthe people at Camp Liberty have a worse situation than the people at Guantanamo Bay.â€
A very small area (about half a square kilometer), with a population of 3,100 living very densely in vulnerable trailers in one of Baghdadâ€™s most dangerous areas is a very easy target for the Iranian regimeâ€™s terrorists. Now, Kobler is attempting to place the blame for the failed TTL and resettlement project on the residents.
After the passing of 17 months, only 2% of the Liberty residents have been resettled and, notwithstanding Albania, no other country has accepted to resettle them. This is a criminal plot against MEK members in Iraq in order to rid the mullahs of the organized force that will topple them and bring change to Iran. However, the plot to annihilate the residents has failed, due to the residentsâ€™ endurance vis-Ã -vis all pressures and repressions.
Mauro: If the Iraqi government is doing the bidding of Iran, why doesn’t the Iraqi government just wipe the camp out?
Kia: According to the written agreements signed by the Iraqi government, U.S. and U.N., it is obligated to protect the Ashraf and Liberty residents and respect their human rights. However, the Iraqi government and the Iranian regime have, to this day, attempted time and again to dismantle and massacre the PMOI with a series of deadly attacks against the results. Around 70 have been killed and over 1,000 more injured. These are clearly crimes against humanity and defenseless refugees.
Iranâ€™s mullahs, engulfed with internal and international crises, are in a steep downward slope towards being overthrown. With the Iranian society ready to rise against the mullahsâ€™ regime, the regime views the existence of an organized opposition with international and internal support like the MEK as its main threat. Therefore, the Iranian regime wants to turn Liberty into a killing field for the MEK.
The terrorists linked to the Iranian regimeâ€™s Al-Qods Force have said that in the latest attack on Liberty, they had 120 missiles ready to fire. They will continue with these attacks until the MEK departs Iraq.
Mauro: Is it true that the MEK is cult-like and has carried out terrorist attacks on Americans in the past?
Kia: These false allegations against the MEK have been clearly answered after dozens of U.S., E.U. and British court decisions in favor of delisting MEK as a terrorist group. Many U.S. officials have admitted time and again that the MEK was listed in 1997, a few months after Iranian President Khatami took office, as a â€œgoodwill gestureâ€ and as part of Clintonâ€™s policy of rapprochement.
Many members of the U.S. Congress opposed the MEKâ€™s label as a Foreign Terrorist Organization long before it was delisted. A huge bipartisan coalition of senior government officials strongly supports the MEK as a democratic alternative to the Iranian regime.
The list includes former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former FBI director Louis Freeh; former CIA director Porter Goss; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton; former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge; former National Security Advisor General James Jones; former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell; former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
I donâ€™t think prominent people like these would tend to support a terrorist or â€œcult-likeâ€ group. The attacks on the MEK, the largest organized movement that advocates a democratic and tolerant Islam against fundamentalism and terrorism, were a gift to the fundamentalists and terrorists who kill in the name of Islam. These baseless allegations were part of the appeasement of religious fascism and the strange tolerance of terrorism and nuclear weapons projects by the West.
Mauro: You and the other MEK residents in Iraq are practicing Muslims. How do you view Sharia Law and Islamâ€™s compatibility with Western democratic values?
Kia: The MEK represents the true, democratic, tolerant and pluralist Islam that can be recognized today in any progressive society. This Islam is the anti-thesis of Islamic fundamentalism, with its heart beating in Tehran.
First, please allow me to refer to you a statement by the International Committee in Search of Justice issued on May 27, 2013 and signed by 18 U.S. and European dignitaries who visited Camp Ashraf when it was protected by U.S. forces from 2003 to 2008.
The report states:
â€œLiberty residents are a most valuable part of Iranian society with considerable political expertise and many years of experience in struggling against the mullahâ€™s regime. Their only goal is to free their homeland and it is natural that they will not accept dissolving or annihilating their organization at any price.
In any turn of events, they are a reliable force that can be a determining factor in moving Iran towards democracy and stability, preventing extremism and internal war. This is the very element whose absence in the Arab world has resulted in the deviation of the Arab Spring from its democratic origins. There are no alternatives to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that has its roots in the struggle of the Iranian people for freedom which began in the early 20th century.â€
I believe the best answer to your question is the famous 10-point plan of Mrs. Rajavi, the President-Elect of the NCRI for the period of transition to the Iranian people. In the 100,000-strong gathering in Paris on June 22, Mrs. Rajavi described her thoughts about Sharia in Islam and her beliefs as a Muslim woman in democratic values.
1. We believe in the rule of law and justice. We want to set up a modern judicial system based on the principles of presumption of innocence, the right to defense, effective judicial protection and the right to be tried in a public court. We also seek the total independence of judges. The mullahsâ€™ Sharia law will be abolished.
2. In our view, the ballot box is the only criterion for legitimacy. Accordingly, we seek a republic based on universal suffrage.
3. We want a pluralist system, freedom of parties and assembly. We respect all individual freedoms. We underscore complete freedom of expression and of the media and unconditional access by all to the internet.
4. We support and are committed to the abolition of the death penalty.
5. We are committed to the separation of religion and state. Any form of discrimination against the followers of any religion and denomination will be prohibited.
6. We believe in complete gender equality in political, social and economic arenas. We are also committed to equal participation of women in political leadership. Any form of discrimination against women will be abolished. They will enjoy the right to freely choose their clothing. They are free in marriage, divorce, education and employment.
7. We are committed to the equality of all nationalities. We underscore the plan for the autonomy of Iranian Kurdistan, adopted by the National Council of Resistance in Iran. The language and culture of our compatriots from whatever nationality, are among our nationâ€™s human resources and must spread and be promulgated in tomorrowâ€™s Iran.
8. We recognize private property, private investment and the market economy. All Iranian people must enjoy equal opportunity in employment and in business ventures. We will protect and revitalize the environment.
9. Our foreign policy will be based on peaceful coexistence, international and regional peace and cooperation, as well as respect for the United Nations Charter.
10. We want a non-nuclear Iran, free of weapons of mass destruction.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.orgâ€™s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.