WASHINGTON (AFP) — US lawmakers Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to stop the Iraqi government's forced relocation of Iranian dissidents from a border camp that has been closed down.
After 24 years at Camp Ashraf, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), who were expelled for opposing the Islamic regime of Tehran, on Tuesday began defying government orders to evacuate the camp.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants the more than 3,000 former fighters to move with their families to the new camp in the desert south of Baghdad as a first stage towards leaving Iraq.
Democrat Bob Filner, who presented a resolution supporting the refugees at the House of Representatives, drew attention to the PMOI's plight at a press conference Tuesday.
"We are here to call on whoever will listen, the Iraqi government the US government, to halt the forcible relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf," he told reporters.
The PMOI have warned that the forced evacuation of Ashraf could lead to more bloodshed as in July when 11 people were killed and 500 injured as Iraqi forces tried to install a command post inside the camp.
Backed by 120 House members, Filner hopes the House will take up his resolution before Congress goes into recess for the end-of-year holidays.
Washington, which disarmed the Iranian rebels after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and placed the camp residents under its protection, said on Friday it expected the Baghdad government to act legally and humanely in relocating camp residents.
"The government of Iraq has assured us that they would not deport any of these citizens to any country where they would be having a well-grounded fear of being treated inhumanely," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, in allusion to Iran.
Iran's rulers blamed the PMOI for bombings and other attacks inside Iran in the recent past.