and expressing fear that the announced withdrawal of US troops from Iraq will leave the 3,400 group members at Camp Ashraf unprotected.
The Iraqi military and police have twice tried to enter the camp, producing deadly clashes with Mojahedin members who resisted them.
Demonstrators expressed fear that the Iraqi troops might launch a massacre at the camp once US troops are gone from Iraq.
Responsibility for the camp was handed over by the US Army to Iraq in January 2010, so US troops have not provided any protection for almost two years now. There are currently a handful of US military observers at the camp, but they will leave shortly.
Members of the Mojahedin also argued for the organization being removed from the State Department terrorist list, saying the listing allows Iraq to justify attacking the camp on the basis that the group is terrorist.
But the Iran Times hasn’t seen that listing used by Iraq to justify either of its two efforts to take over the camp by force. Iraq has said the site is sovereign Iraqi territory and that it has the right to station troops there while a foreign organization like the Mojahedin has no authority over the land.
Supporters also told reporters that Iraq has not been allowing medical supplies to enter the camp. Over the last two years, Mojahedin members have often said food, medicine and other supplies were kept from the camp, but US officials have said the US military observers there have denied that.
Saturday’s protest in front of the White House was addressed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a Republican. Ridge was also a governor of Pennsylvania before Rendell.
Ridge defended the Mojahedin saying that in all his years as homeland security secretary the Mojahedin-e Khalq was never cited in any of his daily briefings as a threat to the United States.
Rendell said the United States should leave troops in Iraq to protect Camp Ashraf, saying, “We gave our word [in 2003] to protect these people.”
On a more practical level, the Mojahedin leadership has been pressing for Iraq to extend its deadline for the group’s members to leave Iraq. The deadline is now December 31. However, there have been several previous deadlines that have all passed without anything happening.
The members of the group last month agreed to submit individual refugee applications to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that could allow them to be dispatched to a multitude of countries all around the world. Previously, the group had opposed such a dispersal.