Tragedy looms as Iraqi authorities threaten by April 30 to expel 3,400 Iranians, members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. MeK members rightly fear for their lives if pushed across the border for the Iranian regime criminalizes membership in the MeK and abominates the organization, its determined foe.
Some background: Saddam Hussein allied with the MeK (also known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or PMOI) against their common enemy in Tehran. Following the U.S.-led conquest of Iraq in 2003, MeK members living in Iraq acquired “protected persons” status and entered a political limbo, neither friend nor enemy of the occupying powers. With the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and increasingly close ties between the Iraqi and Iranian governments, MeK circumstances worsened to the point that in April 2011 Iraqi troops attacked Camp Ashraf, its Iraqi home since 1986, killing 34 people and injuring 325.
Cooler heads prevailed after this dangerous flare-up. With U.S. government approval, Baghdad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations in December 2011. In it, the government of Iraq committed to the relocation of Camp Ashraf (renamed Camp New Iraq) residents to a temporary transit facility, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would begin the process of transiting MeK members in Iraq to refugee status, a necessary first step to resettle them outside Iraq.