The relocation of the last remaining residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq, has been hailed as a major correction of a dangerous situation and as a victory for Iran’s political resistance.
Camp Liberty, Iraq, was initially an outpost created by the U.S. military during the Iraq War in 2003. It later became home to the People’s Mojahiden of Iran (PMOI, or MEK), Iran’s largest political opposition group, after Camp Liberty, Iraq, their previous home, was forcibly evacuated in 2012. Ashraf had endured several rocket attacks by Iranian proxy forces.
At Liberty, residents once again found themselves under attack by rockets, food and fuel blockages, and psychological terror, including the blasting of loudspeakers 24 hours a day. Most of these attacks are believed to have been undertaken by Iran or by Iranian proxies in Iraqi uniforms. In October, 2015, a rocket attack killed 20 residents and caused extensive physical destruction to the camp.
Until recently, Albania had been the only country willing to host Camp Liberty refugees, taking in more Liberty residents than all other countries combined. But after extensive international campaigning for their removal, the last remaining residents of Camp Liberty were evacuated by plane in September. After flying from Baghdad Airport to Albania, they have departed for various European countries.
Their successful evacuation has been hailed by many in the international community as a victory for the rights of political refugees.
“The successful relocation of the last families from Camp Liberty marks the beginning of a new and hopeful chapter for families who have suffered terrible persecution and violence,” said U.S. Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“For years,” she added, “the precarious position of the families in Camp Liberty presented an urgent humanitarian challenge for the United States and the international community. It is a great credit to Secretary John Kerry and the State Department’s persistent leadership that new homes have been found for all of these families.”
Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum in America voiced their support for the move.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) shared the following statement:
“We are glad the evacuation and resettlement of the residents of Camp Liberty from Iraq to Albania has been successfully concluded. The safety and security of the residents has always been our primary concern, and they have now been effectively placed beyond the immediate reach of Iran and its terrorist proxies operating in Iraq. While the completion of this resettlement is good news, we know that attacks on Camp Liberty as well as Camp Ashraf cost far too many lives…
“We are glad the evacuation and resettlement of the residents of Camp Liberty from Iraq to Albania has been successfully concluded. The safety and security of the residents has always been our primary concern, and they have now been effectively placed beyond the immediate reach of Iran and its terrorist proxies operating in Iraq. While the completion of this resettlement is good news, we know that attacks on Camp Liberty as well as Camp Ashraf cost far too many lives.
“We also thank the Government of Albania for its generosity and compassion. They have opened the doors to the people of Camp Liberty and have allowed this process to move forward.”
Senator John McCain, an affirmed supporter of the Iranian political resistance, offered a statement as well on the day of the evacuation:
“In 2003, the United States made a commitment to protect thousands of members of the Iranian dissident organization, the Mujadedin-e Khalq (MEK), who agreed to surrender their weapons and came under our protection as a result. Today marks the culmination of that commitment with the safe and successful relocation of all Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Liberty, Iraq to Albania. This is a welcome and long overdue development.”
“Given the history of the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on these residents and the subsequent violence directed against them during their stay in Iraq, I believe it is imperative that the residents continue to be recognized as people of concern and entitled to international protections underscored in the 1951 Geneva Convention,” he added.
“This is necessary to ensure that the residents will finally have the opportunity to enjoy their long-denied rights and privileges in a new and democratic environment.”