In memory of the leading women of Ashraf slain on September 1, 2013
The struggle by the Iranian opposition movement is being led by selfless women who have sacrificed everything in their own lives to bring freedom and democracy to their people in Iran. Over the years, these leading women have become indispensable to the Iranian opposition in its struggle for regime change and democracy. So, at every crucial juncture, Iran’s leading women are seen playing a crucial role in the movement.
One such watershed moment took place on September 1, 2013, in Ashraf.
Ashraf represented the spirit and symbol of the democratic struggle for regime change in Iran. On September 1, 2013, as the Iranian regime was preparing to sit at the negotiating table in Geneva over its nuclear program, hitmen raided the unarmed, innocent, and legally protected civilians at Camp Ashraf, the 30-year seat of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in Iraq.
In this great crime against humanity, Iraqi special forces and Iranian commandos raided the camp at around 5 a.m. and machine-gunned the unarmed and defenseless residents of Ashraf.
The assassins got hold of 52 of the 100 remaining residents of Ashraf and killed them in cold blood. Some were killed while their hands were tied behind their backs. Even the wounded lying on the clinic beds were shot to death. Everyone was given a shot in the head. A big crime against humanity by all standards.
Thirteen women led the group of 100 who remained in Ashraf according to a quad-lateral agreement between Ashraf residents, the United States, the United Nations, and the Iraqi government to protect residents’ properties after their relocation to Camp Liberty. All of them were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention and classified as “persons of concern” who enjoyed “international protection” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they had stayed in the camp based on assurances given by the U.N., the U.S., and the Iraqi government.
Six leading women were killed and another six were abducted and taken hostage.
The Iranian regime sought to deal a shattering blow to its main existential threat, the PMOI/MEK, prior to the negotiations in Geneva where it had to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. So, the cowardly attack on defenseless people in Ashraf was launched to overshadow the regime’s weaknesses at a crucial juncture.
On the anniversary of this tragic massacre, let us remember the great leading women who gave their lives as the price for freedom. Let us pledge to never forget their sacrifice. We will not forget or relent until we take the mullahs’ religious tyranny and their agents and mercenaries in Iraq to the courts to face justice.
Zohreh Ghaemi, 49, was the Deputy Secretary General of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. She was the leader of Camp Ashraf on the day of the massacre. She was known for her strength, self-control, and humbleness, and for her tolerance and judgment. She was imprisoned for five years in Iran for her political activities in the 1980s. In a previous assault on Camp Ashraf by Iraqi forces in 2009, she was shot in the leg. She was one of the leading women of the Resistance that was determined to end the oppression of women in Iran. To accomplish that goal, she empowered herself to become a leader.
Giti Givechinian, 55, Assistant Secretary General of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran and Chairwoman of the Security and Counter-terrorism Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. She had a B.A. in psychology and was engaged in the struggle for 34 years. She was also known for her risk-taking, patience, tolerance, strength, and qualifications in various fields.
Mitra Bagherzadeh, 54, is a senior member of the PMOI Leadership Council. She had studied management and was involved in the movement for 34 years. She was from Abadan and was known for her resolve, determination, and invincible faith in her cause. She was in charge of the team handling legal affairs of Ashraf at the time.
Jila Tolou, 53, member of the PMOI Leadership Council. She was from Tabriz and had joined the movement as a university student 34 years before. She worked closely with Zohreh Gha’emi and was in charge of communications in Ashraf at the time of the massacre.
Fatemeh Kamyab, 52, is a former political prisoner from Rasht and a member of the PMOI Leadership Council. She was involved in the Resistance movement for 30 years. She was known for her selflessness and honesty, and she was in charge of Ashraf’s logistics at the time of the massacre. Two of her brothers had been previously executed by the Iranian regime.
Maryam Hosseini, 49, is a former political prisoner for four years and a member of the Leadership Council. She was involved in the movement for 31 years. She was in charge of protection of Ashraf when she was handcuffed and shot at the time of the massacre.
The spirit of these leading women of the PMOI/MEK and the Iranian Resistance, and their 46 other comrades who gave their lives on September 1, 2013, continues to inspire the people of Iran, and especially Iranian women, in their struggle for freedom, as the world witnessed during the uprisings in 2017-2018, 2019, and 2022-2023.