When Forklifts Are Used as Political Weapons

File:A painting adorns a wall at Camp Liberty, Iraq, July 7, 2011. All paintings were completed by U.S. Service members and civilians 110707-A-HR697-133.jpgForklift operators in the US take their equipment for granted, using it freely as part of their daily work. But in other parts of the world, forklifts are sometimes used as a political weapon to reward or punish people with opposing political views.

For example, an exiled Iranian support group is criticizing the current Iraqi government for depriving a group of refugees the use of forklifts that have been donated by foreign governments.

Camp Residents Prevented from Using Their Own Forklifts

The National Council of Resistance of Iran — an Iranian resistance group currently based in Paris — said Iraqi forces have seized control of forklifts earmarked for refugees at Camp Liberty, the former US military installation in Baghdad which is now used to house members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMI).

The PMI is a group of refugees which has been exiled from its native Iran since the Iranian Revolution. Iraq considers the PMI to be a terrorist organization, although the US has removed it from its lists of terrorist organizations.

“Anti-Human Torture in the 21st Century”

According to the exiled Iranian group, the Iraqi government is using the forklifts as a political weapon. By depriving PMI from using their own forklifts and forcing them to carry heavy loads of supplies on their backs, Iraq is committing “anti-human torture,” the group announced in a news release.

“Obstructing residents from using their own forklift trucks as the simplest equipment to carry loads is nothing but an anti-human torture in the 21st Century,” the group stated. “The residents are therefore coerced to constantly carry heavy loads with their hands or on their backs that during the recent months has caused severe backaches and hand aches, as well as osteo-diseases among many residents.”

PMI members formerly had been held at Camp Ashraf but essentially were forcibly moved to Camp Liberty by the Iraqi military after most of the US military left Iraq in 2012. Dozens of forklifts that had been used by the PMI to move supplies at Camp Ashraf were left behind.

But after complaints from the US and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the Iraqi government agreed to transfer two forklift trucks to Camp Liberty for use by the PMI members.

“The Iraqi forces refused to hand over these two forklift trucks to the residents and it was decided that the forklift trucks be kept at the police battalion to be given to the residents on a daily basis and returned back at the end of the work,” NCRI stated in its news release.

Iraqi Intelligence Commandeers the Vehicles

Instead, Iraqi intelligence agents only provided the forklifts only every few days. And in the past four months, they have refused to provide the forklifts altogether despite daily requests by the residents of the camp.

“The Iraqi intelligence agents have taken the forklift trucks to their own place and are using them,” NCRI claimed.

There currently are about 3,400 PMI members at Camp Liberty. The current Iraqi government has declared that it wants to expel them all from their country but are currently holding them forcibly at the facility. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called the Iraqi government’s actions “arbitrary detention” and has called for the “immediate release and lifting of all restraints upon the free movement of these persons.”

In the meantime, without the use of their own forklifts, PMI members are required daily to unload pallets of food, water and supplies by hand and move the materials on their backs.

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