{mosimage}PRESS RELEASE - At a meeting of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom at the House of Lords on Thursday, MPs and Peers voiced concern about the recent measures undertaken by the Iraqi government in imposing further restrictions on Ashraf City, home to the members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).


{mosimage}At a meeting of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom at the House of Lords on Thursday, MPs and Peers voiced concern about the recent measures undertaken by the Iraqi government in imposing further restrictions on Ashraf City, home to the members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).

The official “al-Iraqiya” TV station reported on 6 July 2007 that the government had issued a decree about “any Iraqi individual or political party contacting” the PMOI and warned that “legal action will be taken against those who breach the law on national security”.

The British Parliamentarians reiterated that such action was a direct consequence of the proscription of the PMOI in the UK and its inclusion in the European Union blacklist, despite the 12 December 2006 ruling of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities which ordered the EU to remove the terror tag from the PMOI.

They said that a result of this decision is to seek to deny the residents of Ashraf City their rights as “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention, a treaty by which the Iraqi government is duty bound.

They added that the Iranian regime had demanded that the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) transfer the protection of those in Ashraf City to government security forces. This will not only breach the terms of their protected persons status but risks putting them under the control of alien Iran-sponsored militia, they said.

They called on the MNF-I to continue to protect the PMOI under international law and ensure that they have the normal commercial access to the supplies which they need such as food, water, medicine and electricity.

Committee Chair Lord Corbett of Castle Vale said, "There are new threats from Iranian backed people within the fledgling Iraqi government towards the PMOI members in Ashraf city. The demands of the mullahs’ men in Baghdad are that the Multi-National Force - Iraq hand over the security of PMOI members in Ashraf City to militia trained, armed and paid for by Tehran. I have written urgently in the name of the majority of MPs and 200 members of the House of Lords to the US ambassador in Iraq to express our alarm at this threat to Ashraf residents. I have asked and I expect he will ensure their protected persons status is enforced.

"It is alarming enough that the UK and the EU and others have given time to the mullahs to get their nuclear bomb. Appeasement signals weakness. It is now time for signalling strength. I am not asking for support from our government to the Iranian Resistance. I am asking for an even-handed approach. If you can talk to this odious regime, you can talk to its democratic opposition."

Conservative MP, Brian Binley, said, "Any talk of handing over control of Ashraf to the Iraqi security forces must be rejected on the strongest of terms by all. As we are all aware such an action would lead to the Ashraf residents being at the mercy of Iranian regime sponsored terrorists. The proscription of the PMOI as a terrorist organisation has been a shameful slur on the British nation that has always prided itself on supporting democrats. The time has come for the removal of this tag and a turning of this chapter of appeasement. "

Lord Clarke of Hampstead, a Labour Peer, said, "Our call to the United Nations and the EU must be for both the organisations to make a strong declaration of support for the inhabitants of Camp Ashraf and the preservation of their Protected Persons Status. That there have been suggestions of making it a criminal offence if contact is made with the people in Camp Ashraf is appalling."

The Parliamentarians also denounced the continuing violations of human rights in Iran, particularly the recent stoning to death of a man in the Iranian city of Takestan in western Iran after the victim had been incarcerated for 11 years and the harsh crackdown on young Iranians who staged a nationwide uprising against fuel rationing.

Lord Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, while reaffirming his call for deproscription of the PMOI, reiterated that greater attention must be focused on the crimes perpetrated by the Iranian regime.

Baroness Harris of Richmond, a Liberal Democrat Whip and Party Spokesperson for Northern Ireland and Home Affairs, voiced grave concern over the persistent violations of human rights in Iran and what she described as "appalling practice of stoning to death."

Baroness Turner of Camden, a Labour Peer, said, "It is appalling that this government is still trying to appease such a brutal regime. It is absolutely necessary that a political opposition to this regime exists, which is the PMOI. It is the Iranian regime that is terrorist, not the PMOI. We must recognise the PMOI as the legitimate opposition."

Lord Russell-Johnston, Former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, noted in his remarks, "The validity of our case has been clearly set out and there is wide support for de-proscription in both Houses of Parliament. However, in a democratic state we have not even been able to get a proper explanation or answer to our questions."

Former Conservative Home Secretary, The Rt. Hon. Lord Waddington QC, added, "It is essential that there is regime change. It is ridiculous that we have labelled the PMOI as terrorists. We should be helping not obstructing those who want democracy. We must support the PMOI."

The Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Wales, Mark Williams, said, "It is important we make our views clear to our own opposition party front benches and the government. There is change within Iran and we must draw the link between de-proscription of the PMOI and democracy within Iran."

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen added, "Women in Iran are being attacked in the most horrendous ways for their dress code. It has occurred to me how brave you have to be to continue to fight in the face of such adversity."

Other speakers included Labour MPs, David Drew and David Marshall, and Lord Inglewood, Lord Joffe CBE, Lord King of West Bromwich, Baroness Knight of Collingtree as well as Baroness Masham of Ilton DL.

The representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in the UK, Ms. Dowlat Nowrouzi, was also present in the panel.

British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
13 July 2007