Our social gathering in London on 12 September was memorable and eventful. Our dear friend Jenny Carter was MC.
We had the privilege of hearing Rt Hon Anna Brent, former Mayor of Islington talking about her concern over Camp Liberty residents and the situation of human rights and in particular women in Iran.
Mr Stephen Roche played magnificent piano, Bahman played the Persian drum and a video described how Camp Liberty was transformed from a deserted dry land looking like a garbage dump to a liveable quarter by the residents, who spent over 30 million hours of work to transform the place.
At one point during the event we had the opportunity to link to Camp Liberty by phone. It was a unique experience and many volunteers and supporters were able to communicate with the camp residents, ask questions and express their feelings. Excerpts from this conversation follow:
Hello everybody, this is BEHZAD SAFFARI and first of all let me thank you all on behalf of our group here. This is a privilege, and an honour, that we are able to speak directly to you today, to our very good friends, many of whom have been supporting us for many years; and we are really grateful for that and thank you for all your help. We are very much thrilled today, as I said, to be directly in touch with you and we are at your disposal for any questions that you would like to ask and we will try to answer as best as we can. I want to be very short because my other colleagues here, Dr Javad Ahmadi and the others, are very eager, first of all, to say hello to you.
Hello everybody. This is JAVAD AHMADI. I am the senior doctor in Camp Liberty. My specialty is urology. Actually this relation, communication, reminded me of the years when I have been in England. Tonight it’s my great honour and privilege to be in touch with you. Actually I am very appreciating you for your help and protection, especially your help and protection have given the help to some of our patients and this is really appreciated for me as a doctor responsible here for the treatment of our patients and I am ready to reply to any questions regarding the medical service in Camp Liberty. I pass to my colleague Ms Zari to talk to you.
Hello, I start with the warmest greetings and good evening to all of you, dear friends and volunteers. My name is ZARI HELMI and I want to tell you how happy I am talking to you directly. I wish that one day you come to see the restrictions on us removed by our struggle and your great endeavours and support and we can meet in person here and show you how we have changed a terrible stony, sandy place into a green garden, with very hard, 35 million hours of work, of course without any equipment, even ordinary spades, forks or anything like that which is used in a small garden. I am in particular very happy talking to you since I used to live in London for years, the very good years of my life. I went to London when I was a teenager, did my A Levels in Wimbledon, my B. Sc. in Queen Mary College and my post-graduate in London School of Economics. I must tell you that we have almost the same story, all of us who are here, all sacrificing our lives for restoring freedom, democracy and human rights and women’s rights in Iran. I must tell you that a third of the population here are women like me, many of them much younger than me and are like my daughters. We are encircled by many layers of military intelligence and police forces of Iraq, all being infiltrated by hirelings and militias of mediaeval rulers in Iran. We all believe that without the splendid support of you we would not be alive or able continue our struggle. The fundamentalist regime is not only the enemy of us, but your enemy, an enemy of freedom-loving people, an enemy of mankind. Therefore we are all in the same fight against a fundamentalist regime whose aim is destroying freedom and democracy. The mediaeval regime does not belong to this century. Once again I appreciate your marvellous and great support straight from this in my heart and pass to my colleague.
My name is MOHAMMAD HOSSEINI. I am very delighted and happy that I am speaking to you all directly. I am grateful and thank you all on behalf of all the residents, especially the patients whom you have saved their lives. It is an honour and a privilege for me to be here and I am ready to answer your questions.
Hello, my name is CHRIS, and I’m in amongst a team of about 150 people, I think, for this interview today. I wanted to ask you: Liberty is a place where we have seen desert go to green, and how did you first plant your first patch of green in that desert?
BEHZAD: OK. This question I can answer very well, because I came to Camp Liberty with the first group that left Ashraf, and it was, you know, everything was strange to us. So the very first plant that was planted here actually was two plants. The seed was from the apple that we ate here and also a little bit of grass that one of the residents smuggled in his pocket to Camp Liberty from Ashraf. So we planted both together. And I just want to tell you, all the grass that you see on the land here, it came from that little one, that this fellow put in his pocket, the guards couldn’t find it, and he brought it to Camp Liberty, because all the plants and everything was forbidden to come to the camp. So that is how they started it, and after that we had a tree here before, you know, they put the walls around the camp in a way that all the trees are placed outside the camp except one which was inside the camp. And that was a willow tree, so then six months later they took sticks from that plant, that tree as well, and planted it everywhere. That’s how it happened in the beginning.
CHRIS: Congratulations. It’s a very inspiring story of how the barren camp has been made green by hard work and by a certain amount of ingenuity in acquiring plants. We’re full of admiration for this.
My name is DAVINA and I’ve been a supporter for many years now. And I just want to say how inspired I was by the stories that you told, by your courage, by your resilience, by your optimism despite of all the things that those people have put there to make you lose faith in everything. It was inspirational being able to talk to you, and I think like many people who were listening, we wanted to know how we can help you. What can we do to make your lives easier, or to help you to get out of the camp?
SHAHRIAR: The most important thing is what you are doing, the financial support. Besides that, I think writing letters to the international bodies is very important.
SALEEM: I just wanted to explain something about our friends who have gathered here today, because I think this should be very heart-warming for you that they are the most wonderful people one could meet and have as supporters; each and every one of them, through difficult times, even difficult times of their own, standing behind you. Personally I thank God for having such friends like them and I don’t think that you could wish for better friends.
LIZ: As Chris said, a large number of people are here who come from all walks of life and we have become a solid team and friends over the years, united in working with you. As you’ve repeated now the United Nations need to be reminded, UNHCR and the United Nations, about the fact that UNAMI tells them lies and we think that actually we are getting the truth from other sources, and they should listen to our truth rather than the lies from UNAMI. I’d like to hear you say something about the medical siege and what that’s doing and how difficult it is for you, and perhaps whether there’s any mileage in us trying to get the Ashraf equipment brought over for you.
DR AHMADI: Yes, actually right now because of the inhumane restrictions and limitations which are imposed upon our patients to transfer them to outside hospitals, and limitations even to send them to the private section, to treat our patients, because of these limitations right now there are several hundreds of patients in the list, and waiting to be sent to hospitals. Besides that, there are more than 200 patients in the list of surgery, different types of surgery. So you can imagine how the situation of the medical services in Camp Liberty is. I would like to inform you , when we were in Camp Ashraf, we had a qualified hospital with enough medical equipment and a good operating room with different types of surgical equipments; for oncology, for eye surgery and other fields. We also had instruments for brain surgery. Iraqi government did not permit these instruments and equipment be brought to Liberty.
SALEEM: Thank you so much Dr Javad, and we are really admiring you for persevering in this difficult situation with medical siege and we really are very indebted to you for trying your utmost day and night for the residents of Liberty. I think truly you should be awarded in this world for everything you have done selflessly without anybody knowing (applause).