Past terrorist allegations shouldn’t deter aid: South Surrey MP

Russ Hiebert claims People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran refugees in peril at Iraq's Camp Ashraf

In 1991

In 1991

An imminent human-rights crisis in Iraq has brought Surrey-White Rock’s Conservative MP Russ Hiebert together with government colleagues and opposition politicians in defending a group still classed by some as a terrorist organization.

Some 3,400 men and women of  the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as Mujahedin-E Khalq (MEK), at Camp Ashraf, are under a Dec. 31 deadline to leave Iraq.

But it’s feared they face the threat of assault or death before that, in the wake of attacks from the Iraqi military in 2009 and again this year, Hiebert said this week.

Some figures say as many as 50 camp residents have died in these attacks and more than 1,000 have been injured.

“There were 36 people killed in April,”  Hiebert told Peace Arch News Thursday, acknowledging the PMOI – which has been linked to mortar attacks, bombings and assassinations of Iranian officials – has been classed, historically, as a terrorist group.

“They were defined as that in the past.”

But, he noted, “these people are unarmed and defenceless.”

Hiebert and other members of Parliament’s non-partisan Subcommittee on International Human Rights are calling for the Iraqi government to meet its obligations under international law, including extending the deadline for closure of the camp to give time for residents to seek asylum and allow the United Nations Human Rights Council time to consider and process applications.

“We also want to ensure that Camp Ashraf residents are not forcibly transferred to a country in which they face persecution,” Hiebert said at an all-party press conference Wednesday.

“Some have been in Iraq for decades,” he later told the Peace Arch News, adding that the human rights subcommittee would also like to see a United Nations resolution calling for blue-helmeted United Nations peacekeeping forces to oversee the resettlement process.

Characterized as refugees by the United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights, the PMOI began in the 1960s as a militant leftist Iranian group opposed to the rule of the former Shah.

MP Russ HiebertFollowing Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, group members were targeted as dissidents by the radical ruling clergy led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and after exile in Paris, found a home in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where they supported the country in its eight year war against Iran.

With Hussein’s support, the PMOI consolidated its position as a military organization, and performed internal security for the Iraqi regime.

But at the end of the 2003 Iraq War the group voluntarily surrendered its munitions and weapons to Coalition forces, was party to a peaceful cease-fire, and was noted for co-operating with the Coalition.

The Dec. 31 deadline for the PMOI to leave Iraq coincides with the departure of the last U.S. forces from the country.

“Witness testimony has suggested the (current) Iraqi government is not terribly concerned about their security, and also that they are under pressure from Iran to deport (the PMOI) back there,” Hiebert said Thursday.

“It also suggests that, due to their association with the previous regime, the current government feels no obligation to protect them.”

Witness testimony has also said the Iraqi military is using loudspeakers to keep people in the camp sleepless, Hiebert added.

“The message seems to be not just that they have to leave, but that they are facing their doom,” he said.

Hiebert said Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, has been working with Canadian allies to keep up diplomatic pressure on the Iraqi government to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf and has directed Canadian officials to visit the camp and monitor the situation.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has also been raising Canada’s concerns with both the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and a senior Iraqi cabinet member.

Hiebert said the pressure Canada and other countries can bring to bear on the Iraqi government is “substantial – if we’re united in our message.”

“Other governments are concerned about what Canada thinks  – there’s no doubt about that – and we’re not alone in this. We’re calling on the governments of other countries to join us in asking for an extended deadline.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey nurse Brittany Williams has been involved with the Burn Camp since 2013. (Contributed photo)
Burn camp ‘really puts things in perspective,’ says South Surrey nurse

Brittany Williams’ experiences hoped to boost Hometown Heroes Lottery fundraiser

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – checkpoint at Manning Park

Four checkpoints are set up Thursday, May 6 around the province

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Serena Deol, Jaspreet Deol, Madison Sweeney and Tanveer Pannu (pictured clockwise from top left) are Surrey United soccer players recruited to the University of Fraser Valley. (submitted photos)
Surrey United soccer quartet sign to play for UFV Cascades

Three of the university’s recruits are Panorama Ridge Secondary students

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read