UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. chief is urging some 1,200 Iranian exiles who are refusing to leave Camp Ashraf to cooperate with Iraqi authorities 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 exile group, also known by its Farsi name, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, have already moved about 2,000 of its residents from Camp Asraf in northern Iraq to a Baghdad refugee camp, Camp Hurriya, which is 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 there 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 expressed "appreciation" for Iraq's government and urged the refugees to "earnestly prepare for their next transfer."
But he added that "violence should, at all costs, be avoided" and urged Iraq's government to "exercise restraint."
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 them 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.
The distrust between the exiles and Iraq's government has always been palatable, but it peaked after security forces led deadly raids in Ashraf twice in the last four years.
"The government of Iraq receives all of its orders on Ashraf from the Iranian regime, refrains from implementing this simple and practical plan, and it's planning for the third massacre at Ashraf," the exiles said in a statement Tuesday.