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Iranian Dissident Vigil Moves to White House


Iranian demonstrators have begun a vigil outside the White House to prompt a vow of protection for Iranian dissidents in Iraq.

The group ended a two-month vigil outside United Nations headquarters in New York Monday, after the plight of people living in Iraq's Camp Ashraf were addressed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Members of the Mujahedeen Khalq, also known as the People's Mujahedeen, have been living in Iraq since they were expelled by Iran in the 1980's. They disarmed after the U.S. invasion in 2003, and were granted protection under the Geneva Conventions.

Many in Camp Ashraf fear that Iraqi authorities may force them to return to Iran, where they say they will be killed.

The head of an Iranian-American human rights group, Nasser Rashidi, of the National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates, told VOA the protesters will stay outside the White House until Washington renews its pledge to protect the camp's citizens.

The United States has been returning security responsibility back to Iraqi authorities and Monday signed a pact saying it would withdraw all its troops by the end of 2011.

The Mujahedeen Khalq, of which many in Camp Ashraf belonged, is considered a terrorist group by the United States and other countries. It was supported by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who allowed it to launch attacks into Iran from Iraq. They also carried out campaigns within Iraq against Saddam's enemies, earning the hatred of some in the current government.

But after members disarmed, they were granted protection under Article Four of the Geneva Conventions, which protects civilians living under a foreign military power.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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