Lord Corbett’s introduction of Lord Clarke:“Lord Clarke has been a very long time supporter of this campaign. He was a distinguished chairman of the Labour party, and I well remember at the Labour party conference he chaired in Blackpool, there was a delegation up in the gallery from the National Council of Resistance of Iran and Tony drew attention to them, and the conference rose to its feet to applaud them. Some of those delegates applauding that day, when they got into government connived with the mullahs to put them on this list of dangerous organisations. It is amazing what power does. Oh dear, I must not get petty. Lord Clarke”.
LORD CLARKE of HAMSTEAD:
As always, it is a great pleasure to be among so many people who support the Iranian people, in particular that today support is shown for the residents of Camp Ashraf.
That we are still holding meetings to discuss the suffering of the residents of Ashraf is a disgrace. It has gone on far too long and should have been ended some time ago. Robin, you were kind enough to mention Madam Rajavi's comments, and the fear that is probably going through the mullahs' minds. They will get a copy of what she has said, her comments about the youth of her country, the comments about putting the blame and the responsibility of the problems in a region, and we should be concentrating on the main threat, and the main threat is of course the mullahs' regime in Tehran in Iran.
When Madam Rajavi calls on us to redouble our efforts to end the preoscription, especially in the United States of America, we should be listening and redoubling our efforts to make sure that nobody forgets how we had to go through the courts here, as Robin has mentioned. But as the people in Ashraf both continue to suffer, the international community, to its shame, remains silent. The cause for justice both in Iran and Ashraf in large measure go unheard by a world that should know better.
In 2011 the world has not yet developed into the state where it can see injustice and act to do something about it. Shame is also a word I would use when describing the actions of our government here in the UK. I will temper what I am saying about the government, because my comment is really about my own government, and Robin has just mentioned that I was part of that some years ago. But the shame goes back for so many years. It has been my privilege to know many of you the representatives and the activists of the NCRI and PMOI in the United Kingdom. I have been privileged to be with them in other parts of the world. It is now more than 25 years since I first met with the brave young man who came to my office in Clapham and showed me the actual facts in black and white and pictures of what people were suffering, and it was long before people talked about nuclear programs. This was the blatant abuse of human rights and the beating and torturing of decent people who want nothing more than the right to express their feelings. So I have listened to the voice for a number of years as a legitimate cause for peace and freedom and democracy in Iran had been made. The struggle they have had, I will not go into the details Robin has mentioned the struggle through the courts. What a dreadful indictment of the democratic government that they have to ignore one court appeal to another court, go to Europe and get their nose bloodied, and still when you go to meet the representatives in the foreign office, there is still a reluctance to accept what was being said by the PMOI, by the NCOI and by people like our chairman and others on this platform.
But, of course, if we are honest, the British government in recent years have bowed their knees to the mullahs. I would confess that the British Labour government for those years acted with shame. They followed a policy of appeasement when they should have been really pushing for meaningful sanctions to get some beef behind the demands, the legitimate demands, of the Iranian people.
Robin has said to you some of, and you may have heard this before, the day the list came out for the proscription and they lumped them all together, some of us went over to see Jack Straw within a couple of days of the announcement, and I recall being face to face with him in his office not far from here. I said, "Do you remember, Jack, when Madam Rajavi and others were being applauded by our conference, and the day that we were in the gallery"? As chairman of the conference I said, "Our friends are there and the conference rose to applaud them". I said, "What has happened, Jack"? I will never forget the words. He said, "Tony, we are in government now"; government of appeasement for the mullahs for what was in it for them. I find it appallingly disgraceful that a party I belong to should produce people to say such things.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Shame.
LORD CLARKE: I agree.
Colleagues and friends, there are signs that there is a change of awareness of what is going on. Last month our chairman, Robin, asked the minister in the House of Lords a question about the plight of the people in Camp Ashraf, and it is worth reminding ourselves that for the first time in a long, long while, we felt some confidence in a minister who said in reply to Robin, he said the situation in Ashraf was miserable, and he hoped that what had happened didn't turn into a worse tragedy. Responding on behalf of the government, he said that Robin had rightly drawn attention to it and the organised disturbances. He had watched the videos, videos that the foreign office in our time didn't want to look at and said that they were biased. As I have said before in the House of Lords, how can you have biased footage of men with chains beating defenceless woman? If that is biased, well again, words fail.
He went on to say having people gathering and parking outside the Camp Ashraf is something more than a disturbance, it is a sort of provocation and it appears to be organised or permitted by the Iraqi government. This is a pattern that could build you from intimidation to something more serious. Although this is Iraqi sovereignty, the Iraqi government must act to avoid this from becoming a tragedy which it otherwise threats to become. I was delighted to hear that it was unequivocal, it was coming straight from a minister who clearly understood what those poor people in Ashraf, the residents, are suffering with those loudspeakers, and Robin has mentioned the denial of medical aid.
Colleagues and friends, we have to do is bit more than protest. … In the short term, we must support the efforts of our friends in United States Senate. Yes, we have got them and their voices are being heard here. They have expressed concern about the welfare and the well being of the people in Ashraf. Voices like Senator John McCain who told the US Senate only 11 days ago that he hoped that the committee would address the issue of giving assurance of the American government and Iraq government of their commitment to their security. They actually got that guarantee when they handed over responsibility to the Iraqi government. Thankfully, we have voices now in the American Senate reminding the world of what has gone on. The chairman of the committee is a Senator Carl Levin. In thanking Senator McCain he said:
"We share your concern about the people you have mentioned."
He relayed that concern over to Mr James Jeffrey, the US ambassador to Iraq. He was standing there as a witness. Senator McCain expressed the hope:
"Ambassador, you will make some representations to the Iraqi government concerning the situation in Camp Ashraf."
Let's hope he does it, and let's hope he does it quickly. That is the power we need to have behind our arguments.
Chairman, time is short and there will be many speakers today that will speak of the nuclear weapons being ready, probably as early as next year what a terrifying thought. It's the suffering of the three and a half thousand residents of Ashraf that is uppermost in our minds today. We know that the United Nations are aware of the continuing executions that are becoming common place in Iran. They know the torture, the violations against women, oppression of minorities, the total disregard for human rights. All of these vile and despicable acts against its own people are well reported and known by the international community.
The people of Iran and Ashraf do not deserve to suffer until the world wakes up to a nuclear threat. It will be too late then as so many people will have died in meantime. The time to wake up is now and do not wait for someone to prove that they have got a nuclear bomb tucked away. It is now that we have to speak even louder. We have to demand that the United Nations acknowledges the need to proclaim that the Ashraf people that they should be protected by the fourth Geneva Convention and the creation of a meaningful monitoring inside Ashraf.
For people of Iran, we should repeat our call for proper sanctions; economic sanctions and oil sanctions. They should all be utilised in an effort to rid the world of these wicked people. Political and economic ties must be cut off for as long as the mullahs defy the international community over its nuclear and human rights violations. We would seek support for those who call for the lifting of the ban of the PMOI and the United States. Colleagues, these demands must be pursued with renewed vigour. We have to pledge our support for Madam Rajavi, and her words today are, as always, an inspiration to us all to continue the fight, and we will fight it today and for as long as it takes to free Iran.