UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. chief is urging some 1,200 Iranian exiles to follow orders to leave a northern Iraq camp, the site of two deadly raids by Iraqi forces, and resettle in a new refugee camp near Baghdad.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday also urged other countries to give asylum to the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, an exiled Iranian dissident group that had waged a campaign from foreign bases to overthrow Iran’s clerical government.
The distrust between the exiles and Iraq’s government has always been palatable, but it peaked after security forces led deadly raids at Camp Asraf twice in the last four years. An Iraqi army raid last year left 34 exiles dead.
The exile group, also known by its Farsi name, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, has already moved about 2,000 of its residents from Camp Asraf in northern Iraq to a Baghdad refugee camp, Camp Hurriya, a former U.S. military base. But they ignored a July 20 deadline to move the remaining 1,200 members, saying they will not go until they see proof of more water, increased electricity, better facilities for sick and disabled people and other improvements to the base.
The U.N. says the services at Camp Hurriya are already far better than at most other refugee camps worldwide.
On Tuesday, Iraqi National Security Adviser Faleh al-Fayadh warned the group to move soon or his government will take matters into its own hands.
Ban urged the refugees to “earnestly prepare for their next transfer.” He added that “violence should, at all costs, be avoided” and urged Iraq’s government to “exercise restraint.”
Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the group, said in an email that the infrastructure is inadequate and nobody will move there until it is improved. He said the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran had offered to pay for improvements and to cover the cost of the next convoy.
“The problem is that the government of Iraq receives all of its orders on Ashraf from the Iranian regime, refrains from implementing the simple and practical plan to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of the residents, and it is planning for the third massacre in Ashraf,” he said.
The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran has been labeled everything from a cult to a terrorist organization — although one that has provided the U.S. with intelligence on Iran. The group says it renounced violence in 2001, after carrying out bloody bombings and assassinations in Iran in the 1980s.
The Iraqi government considers it a terrorist group that is in the country illegally. Over the last six months, the U.N. has tried to mediate, and helped broker an agreement to close Ashraf and temporarily move the exiles into the refugee camp. Ultimately, Iraqi and U.N. officials want to give the Ashraf residents refugee status and resettle them outside of Iraq.