Posted by: bahareiran | December 29, 2012

Iraq’s Inhumane Treatment of Iranian dissidents

By: Ali Safavi

behrouz-rahimianAn Iranian opposition activist died of cardiac arrest in Iraq over the weekend after Iraqi authorities prevented him from receiving appropriate medical treatment, according to opposition sources.

Behrooz Rahimian, 56, was a veteran member of the main Ireanain opposition the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK), whose members currently reside in Camp Liberty near Baghdad.

The Iraqi government, at the behest of the Iranian regime, has long called for the expulsion of the Iranian political dissidents. In early 2012, the 3,400 residents were forced to move to Camp Liberty from Camp Ashraf, where they had lived for over 26 years, in order to have their refugee applications processed and be transferred to third countries.

Mr. Rahimian had a history of heart problems and underwent heart surgery in 2003 in Baghdad. He was under treatment up to four years ago when the exiled Iranians complained about extensive restrictions and a “medical siege” imposed by the Iraqi government eager to fulfill the demands of the Iranian regime. Rahimian was reported to be among the patients who faced medical restrictions and his condition began to deteriorate.

The living conditions at Camp Liberty are intolerable. The residents are not allowed to transfer most of their belongings there, including badly needed medical supplies and equipment. The situation has taken a toll on patients with serious conditions, with 14 of them dying already due to the restrictions imposed by the Iraqi government.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has unfortunately ignored this dire situation. Despite the high number of preventable deaths at Liberty, UNAMI released a report last week, praising the Iraqi government for its treatment of the residents.

“There is a medical facility with an Iraqi physician at Camp Liberty. Ambulances are on alert around the clock,” UNAMI said in its report. Two days later, Rahimian became the latest casualty.

Last month, Rahimian wrote a chilling letter to UNAMI, detailing how Iraqi officials prevent him from receiving treatment. He had complained of serious chest pains on November 25, and was urgently rushed to a hospital in Baghdad.

Officials at the hospital recommended hospitalizing him, but Iraqi security agents escorting Mr. Rahimian adamantly refused, saying that no resident can spend the night outside Liberty. In his letter, Rahimian objected to what he described as “pressures and insults” by the Iraqi intelligence agents.

He was forced to return to Liberty without receiving the proper care and he died less than a month later.

Rahimian had also requested help from the UN officials, saying the Iraqi agents escorting him to hospital had “created an intimidation atmosphere and openly told them that they were not allowed to keep me over night.”

Regrettably, UNAMI, headed by Ambassador Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Iraq, took no action to prevent his death.

Mr. Rahimian had lost eight family members at the hands of the Iranian regime, including three brothers and his wife. Since 2004, like all other residents of Ashraf and Liberty, he was designated by U.S.-led Coalition Forces in Iraq as a “protected person” under the Fourth Geneva Convention, entitling him to certain humanitarian rights under international law. He was also recognized as “asylum-seeker” by the UNHCR in September 2011.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the democratic coalition of Iranian opposition groups and personalities has called on the U.S. and the UN to help lift the medical blockade on Liberty and to convince the Iraqi government to allow the residents to transfer their medical equipment to the camp.

It has also urged the UNHCR to declare Camp Liberty as a refugee camp so that the residents are accorded basic humanitarian needs and rights to which any refugee is entitled.

Ali Safavi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

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