More than three thousand of the residents have now relocated to Camp Liberty, but the place belies its name. Not only do the refugees lack freedom of movement or the right to have visitors, Camp Liberty lacks adequate water, sanitation and electricity, making life nearly unbearable for its residents. The residents have asked permission to be able to bring construction vehicles, large generators, specially equipped vans for the elderly and disabled and personal belongings and cars from Camp Ashraf, but the Iraqi government has prevented them from doing so despite assurances to the contrary.
In December 2011, the U.N. signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Iraq guaranteeing humanitarian protection for the residents of Camps Ashraf and Liberty. But MEK members fear that the report to be presented to the U.N. this week on whether the MOU is being observed will not fully reveal the dire conditions under which residents in Camp Liberty live. Yet, the U.N. and the U.S. government continue to push for the remaining residents of Camp Ashraf to leave their belongings, their vehicles, and the comfortable living conditions in which they have lived for two decades and resettle in Camp Liberty, which lacks basic infrastructure and humane living conditions.
The MEK have asked for basic guarantees if they are to abandon Camp Ashraf for Camp Liberty: to be allowed to bring air conditioners, trucks, forklifts, vans for the disabled, and passenger cars; to build footpaths, ramps and porches or awnings on buildings for shade; to connect Camp Liberty to the Baghdad water supply or allow residents to pump water and purify it on the premises; to allow residents to sell and buy from local merchants; and to negotiate with the Iraqi government for sale of the property and assets remaining in Camp Ashraf.
There are many humanitarian crises in the world today, and few of them have easy solutions. But the crisis at Camps Ashraf and Liberty are resolvable -- but only if the U.S. and U.N. insist that the residents of those camps be accorded their rights.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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