March 19, 2005


Tending an Oasis of Uprising: Exiled Iranians, fenced in by the U.S. Army in Iraq, harbor a dream of overthrowing Tehran. In the meantime, their yards need watering. (Ashraf Khalil, March 19, 2005, LA Times)

Residents of this sprawling commune an hour north of Baghdad pride themselves on their self-sufficiency. They bake their own bread, purify their own water, even make their own carbonated cola.

They spend their days tending to their gardens, sprucing up their living quarters and listening to performances of John Lennon's "Imagine." And they conduct military drills while they wait for their chance to overthrow the Iranian government.

"This is heaven," Abdel Reza "Joe" Jowkar said, gesturing around a landscaped park complete with artificial waterfall.

"I'm close to the [Iranian] border, I'm ready. I'm a warrior, ready to do battle," said Jowkar, an Iranian-born 57-year-old who attended Cal Poly Pomona in the 1970s. "I'm having fun with my friends and looking to the future."

This is Camp Ashraf, home to the Mujahedin Khalq: the people's holy warriors.

The MEK, as the group is known, is one of the stranger byproducts in the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. When American forces overthrew Hussein's regime, they inherited this 4,000-strong group of Iranian dissidents that the dictator allowed to set up shop here in the mid-1980s.

With enough firepower for a mechanized brigade and an emphasis on self-reliance, celibacy, feminism and fervor, the MEK was a kind of Shaker army of the Iraqi flatlands.

We've abandoned Shaker villages all over New England they could move to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 19, 2005 7:36 AM

I'll bet these Shakers will reproduce, though. Dogma can be terminal.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 19, 2005 5:00 PM