I have written about the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf before. Writing about the Mojahedin is touchy. Yet, the images of the dead are haunting me, and so I write.
In a film posted on You Tube, I watched the images of more than 30 victims of the April 8, 2011, attack by the Iraqi government. The faces of the dead, the moment just before death swept in, took them by surprise, were forever captured in a frozen gaze and recorded for the world to see. There were women who could have been sisters or cousins of any one of us, middle-aged men who might have been distant uncles, brothers, or fathers. The bodies of the victims were lined up on the ground. Each seemed to be placed on a stretcher of some sort, covered in white sheets, red flowers placed across their bodies. In truth, I must admit that the faces of the dead were beautiful and tragic all at once. They were the faces of my country — faces that will never see our homeland again.
As I have said, I am not a member of the Mojahedin organization. I am not a Monarchist, Communist, or Reformist either. What I am is a human being and an Iranian. Politically, I identify most with the idea of a secular democracy for Iran. I identify with the idea of freedom for the people of my country, and I welcome the day, whenever that may be, when they are no longer being held hostage by the monsters in the government who have controlled Iran for 32 years. We, as Iranians outside our country, understand that the current regime thinks nothing of murdering our own people in the streets, torturing them for little more than a thought that is in disagreement with the government, and hanging them from cranes in a shameful display to the world that shows that the Islamic Republic cares nothing about human rights.
One group that, in my mind and from the outsider’s perspective, appears to have been particularly targeted, is the Mojahedin. Their opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran landed them in a camp in Iraq, hosts of Saddam Hussein. For 24 years the camp has been in existence. The government of Iraq has changed, and while the group is still designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, they have been provided security from within Iraq by U.S. forces during the transition to the new government there. The custodianship is ending, as attacks like the one in 2009 and the latest one indicate. The time has come for some 3400 Iranian members of the group to leave Iraq, but the big question is: where would they go?
If they are shipped back to the waiting arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will face certain death at the hands of the regime. Yet, attempting to get a visa when you have been tagged as belonging to a terrorist organization is likely impossible.
When we see the reactions to dictatorships and the resistance unfolding all over the Middle East today, as Iranians we must take pause and ask ourselves what we have to do to change our own government. In my mind, we really only have one choice, and that is to unite. At the protests we have seen in the U.S. and Europe in support of freedom for Iran over the last couple of years, I’m heartened to see members of many groups. It’s not uncommon to see Reformists standing next to Leftists, or women wearing head scarves standing next to a Monarchist. What this says to me is that we are, in our own way, uniting.
And so we look at the faces of the dead inhabitants of Camp Ashraf. We write responses about the loss of the Shah’s youngest son, Alireza Pahlavi. We raise our voices along with supporters of Mousavi and Karroubi as well as those we don’t even recognize as belonging to any other group except that they are members of our culture and of the human race. When we look back at the last century of political movement in Iran, the times when we have united, from Mashrootiat to the Nationalization of oil in the 1950s, we see the power behind our common voice.
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