As my colleague Matt O’Brien wrote back in August, Iranian-Americans in the Bay Area continue to worry about the fate of an Iranian opposition group that has been living in Iraq for decades, but may now be in danger from the new U.S.-supported Iraqi regime.
Hamid Azimi of Albany, a spokesman for the Iranian-American Community of Northern California, said today the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to ensure members of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran – a group of Iranian dissidents who oppose the Islamic government that has ruled Iran since 1979 – won’t be put in harm’s way as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki follows through with a plan to relocate them this week from “Camp Ashraf,” the group’s settlement since the mid-1980s. All Washington has done so far is “urge caution.”
U.S.-led coalition forces disarmed the group in 2003, and protected the settlement until turning authority over to Iraqi security forces at the start of this year – a move that struck fear into the group’s supporters’ hearts, as they believe the Iranian government has considerable influence over the new Iraqi regime. Indeed, a July skirmish between Iraqi security forces and camp residents claimed 11 residents’ lives, leaving hundreds wounded. (See some video here.)
But despite high-visibility tactics such as hunger-strikes, Iranian-Americans have found it hard to build a lot of concern and sympathy for the PMOI, as the U.S. government has designated it as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997 (a move some said was meant as an olive branch to the somewhat reformist regime then in power in Iran).
Rep. Bob Filner’s H.Res.704, “deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq,” has amassed bipartisan support from 115 cosponsors since the San Diego Democrat introduced it at the end of July. Among those co-sponsors are Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.
As advocates for and relatives of Camp Ashraf residents prepare for an event tomorrow in Washington, Azimi – whose wife’s cousin lives at Ashraf – wants the public to turn up the pressure on members of Congress who haven’t already signed onto Filner’s legislation, in order to create pressure in turn on the State Department to intervene. So far, Azimi says, “The State Department is very interested in making sure there is not democracy in Iran, they are very adamant about it.”