Archbishop: U.S. and Iraq Must Protect Iranian Exiles

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressed concern on Sunday for Iranian exiles living in a refugee camp in Iraq, saying that the United States and Iraqi government have "an obligation" to defend them against violence and abuse.

"The continuing situation in Camp Ashraf, together with the fact that the 36 people taken from the camp in July have not been released, constitutes a humanitarian and human rights issue of real magnitude and urgency," said Williams, head of the Anglican Communion.

"Both the government of Iraq and the government of the United States - as the agency responsible for the transfer of the residents to another jurisdiction - have an obligation to secure the rights of these residents and to defend them from violence and abuse."

The camp, which houses over 3,500 residents, was under U.S. military control until January, when it was transferred to Iraqi jurisdiction. An attempt by Iraqi forces to take control of the camp in July left seven of the camp's residents dead and 36 taken captive. Some of the exiles have since gone on a hunger strike, demanding that the Iraqi forces release their colleagues and leave the establishment.

"I hope that all concerned will listen to what those across the world who are deeply anxious about these human rights violations are saying, and respond as a matter of urgency," said Williams, who also insisted that the exiles end their hunger strike.

"Further loss of life would only compound recent tragic events," he said

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