On Palestinian and Afghan refugees
- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On April 8, 2002
- 0 Comments
Radio International interview
Translated from Persian
April 8, 2002Radio International: The Israeli government has begun a new round of atrocities against the Palestinian people and Palestinian refugees. Please comment on the situation and the International Federation of Iranian Refugees’ (IFIR) position.
Maryam Namazie: The world is witnessing this new round of Israeli government atrocities against Palestinians including the killing of civilians, the razing of homes, arresting men and boys aged 14 to 40, stamping numbers on the arms of detainees, demolishing Yasser Arafat’s place of residence, clandestine executions, the destruction of civil infrastructure and the re-occupation of Palestinian territories. While the killing of Israeli civilians by vile Islamic terrorists are equally condemned, the Israeli government is directly and firstly responsible for pushing the region to the brink of an all-out war because of its occupation of Palestinian territories. Its unbridled assaults and its denial of a Palestinian state are playing into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups and states like the Islamic Republic of Iran and providing recruitment grounds for them.
Clearly, this carnage similarly affects Palestinian refugees residing in the territories, namely over 600,000 in the West Bank and nearly a million in the Gaza Strip. [These refugees are all those and their families who lost their homes during the Arab-Israeli wars.] On 21 March, for example, the Israeli government attacked a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing 100 and wounding over 500. Several days ago, it attacked Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, killing 6. During this time, the Israeli government has shelled numerous refugee camps. There is no electricity, water and a serious shortage of food. There is a curfew in some of the camps. Thousands of refugees are trapped. They are being shot at if they attempt to venture outside. Even UNRWA (UN Relief Works Agency) staff responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees has been shot at and one is still in detention. The situation is intolerable and must end immediately.
Radio International: The IFIR is initiating a campaign in defence of Palestinian refugees. What are its demands?
Maryam Namazie: The IFIR campaign aims to exert pressure on the Israeli and USA governments and defend the Palestinian people and refugees. Our demands are:
1. An end to the Israeli government war on the Palestinian people and refugees.
2. An immediate withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories.
3. Condemnation of the Israeli government and the prosecution of Ariel Sharon as a war criminal.
4. Condemnation of the assassination of Israeli civilians by Islamic terrorists.
5. Open borders and the right to asylum for Palestinians seeking protection.
6. A right of return for Palestinian refugees.
7. Recognition of an independent state of Palestine.
Radio International: The IFIR is calling for the right of return of Palestinian refugees but at the same time is opposed to the Tri-partite agreement recently signed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the governments of Iran and Afghanistan for the so-called voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees. Why?
Maryam Namazie: The situation is different because Palestinians were pushed out and expelled while Afghans were forced to flee. Of course, everyone has the right to return back to their homes, including Afghans, if they so choose. But favourable conditions have to exist for this right to have any meaning. For there to be a meaningful right to return for Palestinians, an independent Palestinian state has to be established. In Afghanistan, too, conditions must change a lot more before people’s return has meaning (that is if they want to return). Conditions in Afghanistan are still unsafe and attacks, lawlessness, fighting between warlords and Islamic groups are rampant. Civil society is non-existent; millions are starving to death. We have all read reports of fathers selling their children in order to feed their families or of people being forced to eat grass. It is under these tragic conditions that the (UNHCR) and the Iranian and Afghan governments have signed a tripartite agreement for the ‘voluntary repatriation’ of Afghan refugees! The Islamic Republic of Iran has opened 11 ‘repatriation centres’, and plans to ‘repatriate’ 400,000 Afghans in a year. We are opposed to this agreement and any plans to expel and return Afghans. If people want to voluntarily return, they would do so. The fact is that millions are staying put in other countries and thousands continue to flee Afghanistan.
In our opinion, there is nothing voluntary about this plan. The Islamic regime has simultaneously called for all ‘illegal’ Afghans to leave the country in six months and has closed down two border camps (on Afghan side of border) which had been opened for those fleeing the USA-led bombing of Afghanistan. 11,000 Afghans residing in these camps are being told to return home. Clearly, there can be nothing voluntary under such conditions. The UNHCR itself expressed concern that the Islamic regime was deporting Afghans even during the US-led bombing campaign. I believe the term ‘voluntary repatriation’ is a sterile name for a forced expulsion and deportation program that aims to rid Iran and Pakistan of Afghan refugees. This is nothing short of criminal. The IFIR reiterates its call for open borders for Afghan refugees, the recognition of the right to asylum of Afghans both in the region and internationally and an immediate end to deportations under any name.