On Saturday 9 February, in the small hours of the morning, more than 3,000 Iranian dissidents interned at the sadistically-named Camp Liberty detention centre in Baghdad awoke to the deafening sound of missiles raining down on their tiny 0.6km² prison. Five of the inmates were killed almost instantly, the containers in which they slept ripped apart by the shelling. Within hours, the death toll had risen to six. The seventh victim, Ali Ahmadi, took three days to die of his wounds.
All of this happened on the United Nations’ watch. In the months prior to the massacre, when the Camp Liberty prisoners warned of a coming attack and when Iraqi forces entered the camp to remove the concrete blast walls installed to protect the residents from mortar fire, Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, did and said nothing. Even now, with the bloody assault on Camp Liberty still fresh in his memory, Kobler continues to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the plight and pleas of the 3,300 refugees whose human rights he was appointed to safeguard.
Knowing that the UN will not lift a finger to help them, the Iranians held at Camp Liberty have spent the last month doing what little they can to help themselves. Arrangements had been made to purchase shovels and sandbags to build makeshift bomb shelters, as well as helmets and ballistic vests to protect them from flying shrapnel. But in a trilateral meeting between representatives of the Camp Liberty prisoners, the Government of Iraq and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Iraqi officials flatly refused to allow any such equipment into the camp. The UNAMI delegation raised no objection to this.
Even when the leader of the Mukhtar Army, the Tehran-backed terrorist outfit behind the February attack, announced in a recent interview his plans to inflict a “second crippling blow” on Camp Liberty, Kobler and the UNAMI still had nothing to say about the Iraqi government’s malicious obstruction of the Iranian refugees’ efforts to defend themselves.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s motives in all of this are clear; his job is quite simply to do the bidding of his puppet-masters in Tehran. Speaking at Azad University in Iran, senior Iranian regime official Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi publicly boasted that Maliki is unable to act “without coordinating with the [Iranian] Supreme Leader. Even the formation of the [Iraqi] cabinet was done in coordination with the Supreme Leader.” In this context, Maliki’s campaign of persecution against Iranian dissidents living in his country is hardly surprising.
It is Martin Kobler’s motives that are the real mystery. Why does he acquiesce so ignominiously in Maliki’s every decision, however nefarious? Why does he seemingly attach no value to the lives of the more than 3,000 Iranian refugees crammed into a concentration camp some 80 times smaller than their previous home of 26 years, Ashraf City? Why does he continue to instruct UNAMI staff to lie and cover up the shocking truth about Camp Liberty, pulling the wool over the eyes of the international community and human rights groups?
We may never know the answers to these perplexing questions. But one thing is certain; if the UNAMI under Kobler stays its present course, a second Camp Liberty massacre may well be imminent.