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Posted in: Iran

Published on Aug 14, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

The Women of Camp Ashraf


I am—finally!—taking a long weekend away. And, even if it rains, (let it snow, what do I care?), I will be happily ensconced, reading book after book, surrounded by views of the blue bay, water, water everywhere and more than a drop to drink!

Therefore, I cannot attend an important press conference which is taking place today.

My colleagues, Soona Samsani, and Rabbi Daniel Radamuz, have just alerted me to the fact that The Friends of Camp Ashraf are holding a press conference today, August 14th, at the UN Plaza from 11am to 1pm. They are speaking on behalf of the endangered members of this Camp, which is located on the border between Iran and Iraq.

Samsani is an Iranian Muslim woman who wears hijab and who has organized a Senate Press briefing and a panel at the United Nations in which I've participated. I have written about these events elsewhere, here and here.

According to Samsani, one third of the Camp's 3500 inhabitants are women. The Camp has recently been in the news because Iraqis with ties to Iran have attacked its unarmed, civilian members, killing at least thirteen people and wounding nearly four hundred and fifty others. The political office of the Secretary General has expressed interest in this cause.

Here is a passionate account of this latest attack by one of the survivors.

"I was shouting: Why for Gods sake why? What have we done other than to Cry out for our people's sufferance under the Mullahs?" and to my surprise and shock, one of the attackers, heavy built who had sunglasses and his face covered shouted sporadic foul language in FARSI and said "You are enemies of us, you hypocrites, we are here to kill you all, Its our leaders demand". I only had seconds to deduct they are Iranian and are certainly from Khomeini. It was the first time I had personally confronted Khomeini's trained terrorist Badr agents.

As I was contemplating how to act, a fragile built sister – aged between 25 to 30 – jumped in front of me opening her hands to embrace the metal batons falling on my head and face.

She shouted "hit me if you have no speck of humanity left in you". Then she continued:

"I am the daughter of Iran, the voice of Freedom, the desire for love and equality is in me. Hit me and you will have thousands of daughters rising from my blood".

Then she began shouting "Down with Khamenei in Ashraf and Iran." While I was just shocked by her amazing bravery and youth, others sisters joined in making a wall of their bodies in front of the nailed batons and stones flying on us. There was no other hesitation left for me.

I threw myself in front of them only to capture the falling axe that came and split my head.

Next I found myself in Ashraf hospital, where our sisters and brothers were trying hard to keep me going. I understood later that my situation was critical and despite numerous appeals by PMOI leadership Council to US representatives and Iraqi government to let critically wounded reach the … hospital they refrained. I also heard later that some died because they were not allowed to receive medical treatment in time.

My question is "Why can we NOT fight for the freedom of our people? Is it not time to open our eyes to the realities of Iran? It is time to choose and act because tomorrow is too late. Tell me … which side are you on? Why so much hesitation to give a helping hand to those who are devoted to FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY in Iran?"

Why are we still backing the regime in Iran while ongoing uprisings of Iranian people have already determined their voice against the tyranny? Why do we still shake the hands of butchers under the pretext of "diplomacy".

According to Samsani, the group in Camp Ashraf are not terrorists, are no longer armed, (they gave up their weapons)—and they believe in the same kind of pro-democracy and anti-mullahocracy views shared by the brave and determined demonstrators on the streets of Iran.

She points out that "Women occupy most leadership roles in Ashraf; women comprise the entire membership of the Leadership Council of the People's Mojahedin; that the Secretary General of the PMOI is a woman, Sedighe Hosseini, educated in the UK; and that the women of Ashraf have stood up to one of the most vicious dictatorial regimes of modern times."

In Samsani's view, the women of Ashraf are a "huge source of inspiration to the women in Iran," and have been "confronting the misogyny of Islamic fundamentalism for thirty years. That is why the mullahs in Tehran consider this group the most serious opposition to their tyranny and constantly demand that the west tie their hands and limit their activities. "

Yes, the group has been rendered "controversial." The movement behind it has also been considered a "terrorist" group. I do not believe this is true but seasoned experts have tried to persuade me otherwise. At this point, the actual inhabitants of the Camp are in danger of being killed by Iranian thugs, Iraqi thugs (who are allied with Iran)—and by the United States for adopting a hands-off policy.


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