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WikiLeaks: 09BAGHDAD2521, MEK DEFECTORS ON LIFE IN ASHRAF AND RESETTLEMENT

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Reference IDCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BAGHDAD25212009-09-18 15:09CONFIDENTIALEmbassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO9230
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGB #2521/01 2611509
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181509Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4757
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 002521 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO CORBIN, NEA/I, NEA/IR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2019 
TAGS: PTER PREF PINR IR IZ
SUBJECT: MEK DEFECTORS ON LIFE IN ASHRAF AND RESETTLEMENT 
 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gary A. Grappo for reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: During a September 17 meeting with Emboffs, 
several recent defectors from the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) 
organization residing in a Baghdad hotel under GOI auspices 
expressed frustration and disappointment at the absence of 
resettlement options and the alleged indifference of Western 
nations for their welfare as refugees.  Many revealed 
psychological and physical harm experienced at the hands of 
the MEK and reaffirmed existing perceptions of the MEK as a 
cult-like organization that thrives on maintaining control of 
its members and those lured to Ashraf under false pretenses. 
The defectors were grateful for GOI assistance but urged 
greater action by the UN and third-countries to relieve them 
of their state of legal and physical uncertainty in Iraq. 
They cautioned that failure to do so would discourage other 
Ashraf residents from defecting. END SUMMARY 
 
Frustrations Mount 
------------------ 
 
2.  (C) On September 17, Post's Iran Watcher (IW) and Poloff 
met with MEK defectors currently housed in a modest Baghdad 
hotel (on GOI expense) to discuss their current situation and 
the circumstances that led them to Ashraf. There are 21 
defectors in Baghdad, among them 20 men and one woman. 
(NOTE: The woman did not participate in the meeting but is 
willing to meet separately with Emboffs.  The GOI had a 
representative from Ashraf committee present during the 
meeting.  END NOTE.)  Another 22 are in Erbil awaiting UNHCR 
resettlement.  The Baghdad defectors have been residing in a 
local government-run hotel (2 star equivalent) for the past 
several months. 
 
3.  (C) The defectors range in age between 25 and 60.  On 
average, most have spent 10-15 years in Ashraf, either as 
committed MEK supporters or captives allegedly lured to 
Ashraf on false pretenses of employment, study abroad, or 
transit enroute to resettlement in Europe.  The defectors 
confirmed that this was their first encounter with any 
foreign mission and welcomed future visits. 
 
4.  (C) Although appreciative of GOI assistance and support, 
the defectors were all unified in their desire to leave Iraq 
as soon as possible for resettlement/repatriation in Europe, 
Iran, the United States or Canada.  Many accurately pointed 
out that their failed resettlement has offered little 
incentive for other residents to leave Ashraf, fearing 
similar hopelessness and "purgatory" in Iraqi hotels.  Many 
also expressed disappointment with the U.S. and other Western 
country for refusing to accept them as refugees.  One man 
questioned why, after renouncing their ties with the MEK, 
they were still treated as terrorists and refused 
resettlement, pointing out that even former Guantanamo 
detainees were being resettled in Europe.  Another man 
asserted that had he known resettlement would be so 
difficult, he would have remained in Ashraf despite its 
hardships. 

5.  (C) More than one defector expressed disappointment with 
and loss of trust in the USG for "encouraging us to leave and 
raising our expectations of assistance."  Others expressed 
concern about the welfare of friends or relatives left behind 
in Ashraf.  In explaining their motivations for leaving 
Ashraf, nearly all the defectors felt betrayed by the MEK and 
dismayed by their psychological and physical degradation at 
the hands of the organization. One man asked for help in 
retrieving his confiscated papers and other personal 
documents, including passport and Iranian identification 
Qdocuments, including passport and Iranian identification 
cards, from Ashraf. 
 
 
Preference for Resettlement in the West 
-------------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) When asked by IW about their willingness to return to 
Iran, only four expressed an interest while others voiced a 
preference "to live in freedom in an open society, preferably 
in the West." One man said that life in present-day Iran 
would be too alien for him given the social and political 
changes following the Iranian revolution.  One of the four 
individuals destined for Iran complained about the ICRC's 
lack of responsiveness in expediting their return to Iran. 
 
7.  (C) In a separate meeting later in the day, ICRC informed 
IW that four individuals are expected to return to Iran in a 
week, pending issuance of their Iranian passports and other 
documentation. (NOTE: The Iranian embassy in Iraq has offered 
to issue passports for former MEK rank and file willing to 
 
BAGHDAD 00002521  002 OF 003 
 
 
return to Iran. However, one of the defectors who claimed to 
be the former head of the MEK's political department told IW 
that IRIG intelligence officers visit the defectors regularly 
to solicit their cooperation against the MEK in return for 
passports and possible resettlement in Europe.  The defector 
explained that collaborators would travel to Turkey on 
official Iranian passports and then smuggled into Europe on 
falsified documents.  He also dismissed claims by other 
defectors that they had been lured or trapped in Ashraf under 
false pretenses, asserting that such claims were only 
intended to help their resettlement cases.  END NOTE.) 
 
Disillusionment with the MEK 
---------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) Many of the defectors alleged psychological and 
physical harm at the hands of the MEK, including solitary 
confinement in MEK jails in Ashraf.  One man in a wheelchair 
spoke passionately about how the MEK "crushed our 
personalities" and threatened to turn them over to the Saddam 
regime if they refused to join the organization.  He and 
others requested medical assistance for their ailments, 
citing dissatisfaction with the GOI's medical facilities. 
 
9.  (C) IW asked the defectors how long they had resided in 
Ashraf; their reasons for being there and what prompted their 
departure. Nearly all said that they had grown disillusioned 
with the MEK and/or life at Ashraf, and anxious to secure 
their freedom.  Most confirmed that their departure had been 
facilitated by the GOI's human rights ministry with help from 
the U.S. military and the Ashraf Refugee Camp (ARC) located 
next to Ashraf. (NOTE: ARC has since closed due to slow 
defection rates.  END NOTE.)  Below is a sampling of their 
answers: 
 
--Six-year resident; 25 year-old former student; resident 
since 2003; lured from Iran with promises of study abroad 
opportunities; no ideological or political sympathies with 
the MEK. 
 
--Nineteen-year resident, 39 year old former Iranian POW 
captured by the Iraqis; MEK confiscated his documents and 
promised to facilitate his return home or resettlement 
abroad; 
 
--Nine-year resident; deceived by offers of travel abroad; 
lured to Ashraf from Turkey with "laissez passer" documents 
under new name. 
 
--Nine-year resident; former MEK recruiter in Turkey; lured 
to Ashraf for "consultations" with leadership but imprisoned 
for questionable loyalty. 
 
--Eighteen-year resident; believed MEK was a political vice 
terrorist organization; escaped three months ago after 
several failed attempts.  Brother remains in Ashraf and is 
unable to leave. 
 
--Twenty-year resident; MEK member who was prevented by 
leadership from leaving but managed to do so with help from 
GOI and U.S. military. 
 
--Twenty-year resident; self-declared freedom fighter opposed 
to Iran's theocracy; left MEK after "their lies were 
revealed"; considers MEK "the most disgusting and devious 
organization in the world." 
 
--Eight-year resident; deceived with resettlement assistance 
while in UAE; paid MEK 13,000 USD to facilitate resettlement; 
found himself trapped in Ashraf. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
10.  (C) The defectors, although residing in relative 
comfort, are clearly (and understandably) frustrated with 
their situation and the lack of closure regarding possible 
resettlement opportunities.  During a subsequent briefing to 
EU missions and UN reps (UNHCR, UNAMI), IW reiterated the 
defectors' request for resettlement assistance.  UNHCR is 
equally frustrated at the lack of third-country interest in 
Qequally frustrated at the lack of third-country interest in 
offering resettlement to those MEK defectors identified as 
refugees.  EU officials, when pressed about their lack of 
interest, cite domestic legal restrictions against 
resettlement of former members of a FTO (although the EU has 
de-listed the MEK as a FTO, many individual EU member-states 
have separate legal and policy restrictions prohibiting 
resettlement of former FTO members.)  According to UNHCR, 
some EU states are looking to the U.S. to initiate the 
resettlement process.  SRSG Melkert also believes admissions 
 
BAGHDAD 00002521  003 OF 003 
 
 
of some MEK refugees will be necessary in order to prod 
reluctant EU member states. 
HILL

WikiLeaks: 09BAGHDAD2521, MEK DEFECTORS ON LIFE IN ASHRAF AND RESETTLEMENT

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