WASHINGTON, July 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Thursday July 7, 2011, a landmark hearing, entitled "Massacre at Camp Ashraf: Implications for U.S. Policy," was held by the Oversight and Investigation Sub-Committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Among those who provided testimony in the hearing were: Ms. Neda Zanjanpour, a survivor of the massacre at Camp Ashraf; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; Col. Gary Morsch, M.D., Chief medical liaison between Camp Ashraf and the U.S. military, Colonel Wes Martin (Ret.), Former Base Commander of Camp Ashraf; and Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow, Council of Foreign Relations. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
In addition to the Ranking Member Russ Carnahan (D-MO), the Subcommittee members Ted Poe (R-TX) and David Rivera (R-FL), Representatives Bob Filner (D-CA), Co-Chair of Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus, Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) also took part in the hearing. Representatives of the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) and relatives of the residents also attended the hearing.
A brief video clip showed scenes of the April 8th massacre at Ashraf by the Iraqi Army operating under the direct order of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It was followed by a briefing in which Ms. Zanjanpour, responded, via a live video link from Ashraf medical clinic, to questions by Members.
A Canadian citizen who studied at York University, Zanjanpour went to Ashraf in 1999 at the age of 20. She testified that she had been wounded "when an Iraqi soldier threw a grenade at me, which exploded between my legs."
"The day before the attack, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad told us that the Iraqi forces were going to launch an operation. Despite our pleas to the commander of U.S. forces - which had been at Ashraf since April 3rd - to stay, his unit was ordered out of the Camp at 9:20 p.m. on April 7th. That left us completely defenseless in the face of a massive assault by the Iraqi forces."
She said Ambassador James Jeffrey's comments that the MEK should be relocated inside Iraq amounts to "asking Ashraf residents to submit to the demands of the Iranian regime… We will never surrender to the Iranian regime by going to concentration camps in Iraq where we could be murdered away from international spotlight."
In his opening remarks, Rep. Rohrabacher said, "Why was a U.S. unit deployed at Camp Ashraf ordered away just hours before the attack? We would have liked to have asked State Department officials these questions, but we were told no one was available to testify today at this hearing. This stonewalling can only go so far before it becomes a cover up. … U.S. appeasement of this crime is part of the story."
He noted that the continued blacklisting of the MEK "is used to justify actions like the April attack." "The United Kingdom and the European Union have removed the MEK from their terrorist lists. We should quit playing games and also remove the MEK from the terrorist list before it results in another massacre," Rohrabacher added.
"During our trip to Iraq last month, we met with numerous people regarding the slaughter at Camp Ashraf on April 8th. Not surprisingly, we heard a lot of different and conflicting stories. What is not in dispute is that over 30 Camp Ashraf residents were killed, over 300 wounded by Iraqi security forces. These killings have been widely condemned, and I concur... A full, fair and independent investigation will provide for the best means of finding a final determination of what happened and will allow anyone found responsible to be brought to justice and help prevent future attacks," Subcommittee Ranking Member, Russ Carnahan added.
Congressman Ted Poe said, "To date, the administration has done nothing to hold Iraq accountable for the attack." He added that he also opposes the proposal to displace Ashraf residents in Iraq.
With regards to MEK's designation, Congressman Poe said, "I have seen the classified evidence and it is unconvincing. The State Department has not made its case that the MEK should stay on the FTO list. The MEK should not be used as a political tool to appease brutal dictators."
Congressman Filner stated that "The MEK and its leader have come up with the one legitimate policy that is best for us as Americans. They call it the third way. That means we do not invade Iran, but we do not appease the existing mullahs. We get out of the way and let the resistance do what it can and should and wants to. The listing of the MEK as a terrorist organization is getting in the way, so we ought to de-list.
"After all our treasure of money and men and women who have died and been injured there, do we want the Iranians to take over? And yet that is a potential. Ashraf is a symbol of what we need to prevent. After all this intervention in Iraq in a decade, the Iranians come in. The MEK favors a non-nuclear, democratic, secular regime. I think that's something we can all agree to," the Californian Democrat added.
In part of her remarks, Rep. Jackson Lee said, "Nowhere should we tolerate the heinousness of the attack on the residents of Camp Ashraf. And no matter how deep the friendship is or the recovering history of Iraq, it should not be tolerated.
"If the ambassador of Iraq can hear my voice, he needs to come to Congress. He owes this Congress an apology… He owes both an apology to the people in Camp Ashraf, to the people of Iraq who will suffer as well because they are diverse, and he owes an apology and explanation to the world family, and particularly the United States of America, for the treasure that we lost attempting to provide democracy there," the Texas Democrat concluded.
The former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in his submitted testimony outlined the steps the sub-committee should take to remedy the "terrible situation" at Camp Ashraf. He said: "The committee should first seek explanation from the State Department about the current and future policy towards Ashraf and oppose their displacement inside Iraq; it should try to assure that a UN force will protect Ashraf residents until their safe resettlement."
He also raised questions about the removal of an American unit before the attack and called for the committee's investigations into that and the failure to provide adequate medical care after the fact.
Third, he said, "the committee should seek an answer from the State Department about its review of the MEK's designation in accordance with a July 2010 court of appeals ruling. And, fourth, the committee should look into what the State Department has done to enforce what is known as the Leahy Amendment that bars assistance by the U.S. to any military unit that has committed human rights violations. "
Colonel Wes Martin (Ret.), Former Base Commander of Camp Ashraf, said, "The terror and torment that is being cast upon the [MEK] and Camp Ashraf needs to stop. I know from experience, the [MEK] is not a terrorist organization. My recommendation in this effort is for the People's Mojahedin to be immediately removed from the State Department terrorist list."
"They do need protection of U.S. military forces," he added while strongly dismissing the U.S. Embassy-Baghdad proposal to relocate Ashraf residents inside Iraq. Col. Martin also debunked allegations by the Iranian regime that the residents of Ashraf were being held against their will. "One perpetual rumor worthy of specific address concerns members of the MEK being held against their will. I was able to validate through specific occurrences anyone wishing to leave has that choice," Col. Martin added.
The third witness, Dr. Gary Morsch, who served as the Battalion Surgeon at Camp Ashraf, stated, "There were no findings of any terrorist activities, disloyalty to the mission of the U.S. military in Iraq, illegal activities, coercion of MEK members, hidden arms, or any evidence that the MEK were not fulfilling their agreement with the U.S. Military to fully cooperate with and support the goals of the U.S. in Iraq…"
He said Ashraf residents were highly educated and "had come to Ashraf to voluntarily serve with the MEK to establish a free and democratic Iran, and were now working with the U.S. to promote democracy in Iraq."
Referring to the siege on Ashraf, he said the residents are being denied basic security and other necessities. "It was with great sadness," he said, "that I have now witnessed the abandonment of the residents of Camp Ashraf by the very government that had asked me to risk my life to defend these same people."
He said relocation of the residents within Iraq, "in my judgment, would be a recipe for disaster."
Takeyh emphasized, "It would be wrong and immoral to forcefully repatriate inhabitants of the camp back to Iran. Given the fact that the Islamic Republic lacks even the basic rudiments of an impartial justice system, they are likely to be met with certain death. Nonetheless, the international community under the auspices of the United Nations should begin to search for new homeland for the MEK personnel…"
"There will be a list of questions offered to the State Department concerning the massacre at Camp Ashraf, including when they knew about what and who gave orders for our military to leave, etc., etc… And we will expect an answer. If we do not get an answer, I will proceed with making sure that we have a follow-up hearing until those questions are answered," Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Rohrabacher said in his closing statement.
"Let's just make sure that no more of these people [Ashraf residents] who are friends of freedom are murdered by the mullah regime in Tehran or by their stooges who now control the government of Iraq," he added.
Camp Ashraf is home to 3,400 members of Iran's principal opposition, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), including 1,000 women.
SOURCE U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR)