A letter from the prison that once was “Camp Liberty”

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By Nadereh Afshar, Camp Liberty resident

Published by TrendingCentral on November 15, 2013


I am writing this from an Iraqi detention centre that, ironically, was once named “Camp Liberty”.

There are roughly 3,000 others here with me. We were evicted from our homes in Ashraf City in eastern Iraq last year, and this prison is where we live now.

I lived in Ashraf for thirteen years. It is my home because I grew up there. I spent three years of my childhood there before I was evacuated to Canada during the Gulf War, but returned nine years later to join the Iranian Resistance and dedicate my life for the freedom of my country – a place I had never seen but had heard so much about, a nation for which my father gave his life.

My father was assassinated by Iraqi thugs when I was just 6 years old. You cannot imagine how painful it was to confront this reality at such a young age. My father was my hero. All those years in Canada, I always dreamed of seeing him again. Now all that is left of him is a monument to his memory in the Ashraf cemetery.

That is why Ashraf will always have a special place in my heart. It is where I feel closest to my beloved father. But now I must confront another agony: the pain of being torn away from my home and dumped in this hellhole, this prison.

Why do I call it a prison? In short, because we have no right to leave, there are no recreation centres, and visitors are banned. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said it is a prison in all but name. I could fill a book with details of the appalling conditions at “Camp Liberty”. But that is not the purpose of this article.

If you have heard the names Ashraf or Liberty in the news in recent weeks, you will doubtless know about the brutal massacre that took place two months ago, on September 1st, in which fifty-two were murdered and seven taken hostage. But do you know why we were moved from Ashraf City to Camp Liberty, and why we reluctantly went along with it?

We left Ashraf because the U.S. and the UN had promised us safety and security. After two deadly attacks on the city by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s forces in 2009 and 2011 that left dozens killed and over a thousand wounded, we were told – guaranteed, in fact – that the killing would stop if we moved to Camp Liberty.

Now, not only are we unsafe and miserable in Liberty, but fifty-two more of our beloved friends have been murdered and those who promised us security are silent. We are paying the price of this betrayal with our lives.

What will become of those seven people who were abducted on September 1st? Why do the ones who have the power and authority to put pressure on the Iraqi government to release the hostages act so cold and cruel and, even though they see the facts, turn a blind eye?

For more than two months, those six women and one man who are in Maliki’s custody have been on hunger strike. God only knows their physical and psychological conditions. And what does President Obama have to say about this? What does UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have to say about this? Nothing!

I have already lost a loved one once in my lifetime, and I still struggle with the pain of that loss. I cannot bear to lose another one. It is time to break this deafening silence.


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