Terence Bunch

Photojournalist & Writer

The campaigners gather once again on the day Iraqi security forces are due to assemble for the operation to remove the residents of Ashraf City prior to their transit into internment. Unlike the earlier operation in July, in which eleven people were killed and scores injured, journalists had this time been promised access to the operation. However, as they assemble at the Immigration Ministry at the Green one in Baghdad prior to departure, a large bomb explodes close by. The explosion is immediately seized upon by Iraqi security officials as the mark of Al Qaida. As a result, the journalists are now unlikely to attend and Iraqi security forces will once again act alone and without any cogent monitoring. Downing Street, London. 15th December 2009. All pictures © Terence Bunch.

Camp Ashraf Press Conference, PMOI, Downing Street. London. 15th December 2009.

By Published Last Edited 2009-12-15 00:00:00

On the day the Iraqi Governments deadline for the forced removal of the residents of Ashraf City to an internment facility expires, Iranian pro-democracy campaigners gather in Whitehall opposite Downing Street to hold a press conference.

They are joined by Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and Lord Cotter amongst others.

On December 10th Iraqi PM, Nouri al-Maliki, gave a statement claiming that he had ordered Iraqi security forces to commence the final operation to remove the residents of Ashraf City to an internment facility in southern Iraq, prior to removal to Iran. Earlier during the morning in Iraq, a number of journalists due to accompany the security forces into Ashraf City were involved in a security incident in Baghdad when a large bomb exploded close to the Immigration Ministry in the Green one were they had assembled. A number were injured.

At once, Iraqi Security chiefs seize upon the bombing (one of three) as the work of Al Qaida. In tandem, officers of the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) initially claim the devices are triggered by magnetic devices but later concede them to be of homemade origin.

The protests in London are likely to continue on while the treat to the residents of Ashraf continue.

Downing Street. London. 15th December 2009.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale speaks to the assembled campaigners. He says I wrote to Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) at the end of November giving him, word for word, the initial threat made to use force against the residents of Ashraf if they had not left by December 15th and asked him...to make clear to the Iraqi Government...that we would condemn them if they [continued] with this. I had a reply on December 7th. What did it say about that threat? not a single word!

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale speaks to the assembled campaigners. He says I wrote to Ivan Lewis (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) at the end of November giving him, word for word, the initial threat made to use force against the residents of Ashraf if they had not left by December 15th and asked him...to make clear to the Iraqi Government...that we would condemn them if they [continued] with this. I had a reply on December 7th. What did it say about that threat? not a single word!

A female campaigner stands opposite Downing Street a short while later and joins others in condemning the British Government for its inaction.

A female campaigner stands opposite Downing Street a short while later and joins others in condemning the British Government for its inaction.

Others join the protest from as far afield as Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Bath.

Others join the protest from as far afield as Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Bath.

Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Cotter speaks outside Downing Street. He says We hope that today and tomorrow wont bring what [we] invisage will be a terrible disaster and gross violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international criminal law at the same time

Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Cotter speaks outside Downing Street. He says We hope that today and tomorrow wont bring what [we] invisage will be a terrible disaster and gross violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international criminal law at the same time

A short while later the campaigners continue on with their protest in tandem with the expected disaster for the residents of Ashraf.

A short while later the campaigners continue on with their protest in tandem with the expected disaster for the residents of Ashraf.

Former hunger striker Soudabeh Heidari chants along with others.

Former hunger striker Soudabeh Heidari chants along with others.

The images of pro democracy campaigners who have become political prisoners in Iran.

The images of pro democracy campaigners who have become political prisoners in Iran.

The protest is expected to continue as the Iraqi Government approach Ashraf.

The protest is expected to continue as the Iraqi Government approach Ashraf.