Except for a folding table and chairs in the kitchen, nearly everything has been sold so the family can bolt as soon as someone rents the two-story home in a relatively safe Baghdad neighborhood.
At a time when the Iraqi government is encouraging its citizens to return and the U.S. military is highlighting security gains across Iraq, the Shakirs want out. They see no future here for Iraqis such as themselves: well educated, affluent, secular or non-Muslim.
The above is from Tina Susman's "Iraq too dangerous for many professionals" (Los Angeles Times) and you can pair that with Leila Fadel's "Displaced Iraqis, now told to go home, fear for their lives" (McClatchy Newspapers) which both indicate just how little has done to assist the internal refugees in Iraq (at a time when Jordan is flying and busing back in some external refugees). Tom A. Peter's "Innkeeper's log chronicles ebb and flow of Iraq war" (Christian Science Monitor) also makes the case for how little has been done for the internal refugees (estimated to number over 2.5 million people):
The Johara Hotel was a backpacker's delight. Rooms were just $12 at the tiny, 10-room inn that was part youth hostel and part rooming house. European, Asian, and American tourists stayed there, even as embargoes tightened on Iraq ahead of the invasion.
When war came, the Johara was the unofficial residence for freelance reporters, aid workers, and activists. But eventually they checked out – or left Iraq altogether – as Baghdad grew more dangerous.
Osama Johara has been forced to close his hotel twice during the war. Today, however, he has a full roster of guests. All of them are Iraqis, however, who for one reason or another have been driven from their homes and are still unable to return.
In many ways, Mr. Johara's hotel registry tells the story of the war. When the insurgency terrorized the city, guests vanished and the Johara closed. Now that car bombings and kidnappings are scarcer, he faces one of Iraq's biggest unresolved issues: What to do with its refugees from the war.
It's time for more waves of Operation Happy Talk and the reason is because the puppet government in Baghdad wants to make what they hope are upcoming provincial elections (some estimates put elections taking place in late January). Before the waves of Happy Talk overwhelm all, check out Elizabeth Ferris "Iraqi elections and displacement" (Relief Web):
Despite the plethora of media covering triumphant Iraqi voters raising ink-stained fingers in the 2005 elections, not all Iraqis bought into the process. Key political groups boycotted the vote and IDPs were not able to make their voices heard. Interestingly though, arrangements were made so that Iraqis living outside the country could register and vote - and apparently they did so in large numbers. This year the situation has been reversed: those living outside the country are not allowed to vote while provisions have been made for internally displaced Iraqis (those displaced by the violence after April 2003) to participate. Iraqis overseas – particularly those displaced since the start of the war – should be able to vote in the upcoming elections. And IDPs should be encouraged to register and to turn out to vote. While mechanisms are in place this time around to ensure IDP voting rights, the Wall Street Journal reports that only 100,000 IDPs have registered to vote in the provincial elections while other sources put the figure even lower.
Participation of Iraq's refugees and IDPs in the provincial elections is critical to a legitimate electoral process, national reconciliation, and regional stability. Many of the Iraqi refugees currently living in harsh conditions in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf were displaced because of their religious or political beliefs or because they favored a secular Iraq. To exclude these Iraqis from the process is to let the militias' efforts to rid the country of secularists, intellectuals, Catholics, Yezidis, and many other minority groups win.
How IDPs' votes are counted - or actually where they are counted – is another key issue in the upcoming elections. The problem with requiring IDPs to vote for provincial leaders who will govern in their place of origin is the fact that many IDPs will likely never return to their home communities. Some may have found jobs and established new lives in their host communities, some may be too frightened to think about returning; others may be planning to move elsewhere or even to seek refuge abroad. There are other problems with requiring displaced Iraqis to vote for officials to govern their current location as well; if they do plan to return home, should they have a say in electing officials in their temporary settlement? Given the ethno-sectarian cleansing that has gripped many of Iraq's multi-ethnic and multi-religious cities, IDP voters could strongly influence the election outcomes. For example, allowing Sunni IDPs to vote in their former place of residence – perhaps now dominated by Shi'a communities – defies the efforts of militias to segregate Iraqi civilians along sectarian lines. However, it also might be too optimistic to assume that the majority of IDPs will ever benefit from provincial policies adopted in their home governorates.
Meanwhile northern Iraq remains a hotbed over border tension with Turkey. Lloyd notes
Ellen Knickmeyer's "Retaliatory Turkish Airstrikes Target Kurdish Rebels in Iraq" (Washington Post):
Turkey staged retaliatory airstrikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Sunday as thousands of Turks attended rain-lashed funerals for 15 soldiers killed by the rebels in a cross-border attack.
Public anger mounted in Turkey at the inability of civilian leaders to stop attacks by the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The group has waged a 24-year-old guerrilla war for greater autonomy for Turkey's minority Kurds from bases in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
Mourners booed President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at funerals Sunday for two of the soldiers killed near the border with Iraq on Friday.
Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) reports Turkey has launched air strikes today and notes:
The incident has strained ties between Iraq and Turkey, which accuses its neighbour of not doing enough to combat rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in mountainous northern Iraq. Two soldiers were also wounded and two more were missing and possibly dead after rebels used heavy weapons.
On May 12, 2007, Byron Fouty and Alex Jimenez went missing in Iraq following an attack and were assumed (and were in fact) kidnapped. An attack claimed the lives of 4 US service members and 1 Iraqi translator. Three were originally classified missing; however Joseph Anzack body was found almost immediately. Fouty and Jimenez remained missing. The attack was noted in the May 14, 2007 snapshot:
Al Jazeera reports that a web posting by a group reported to be linked to al Qaeda is video of the 2 US soldiers and contains the photo ID cards of Byron Fouty and Alex Jiminez. CBS and AP report that the group and posted video (they display the ID cards for Fouty and Jiminez in a screen capture) "offered no proof for its claims that the soliders had been killed and buried" and that the US military is continuing to search for Fouty and Jiminez.
It would be over a year later before the MIA status changed. From the July 6, 2008 snapshot:
AP reports today that Fouty's parents believe their son was tortured before he was killed and quote Charles Meunier (his step-father and quoted via the San Antonio Express-News) stating, "We think they held him for up to four months, and those four months must have been hell." The AP explains that the autoposy results finally arrived last month with a cautionary note to Fouty's mother that she not read them alone but with people "such as your minister, family friend or a counselor" and AP summarizes the report as follows:
But the one-page autopsy report and its four-page supplement offer clues that the 19-year-old may have been beaten and dismembered before he and Staff Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, were killed and buried in a shallow grave. The report's last page said that Fouty's nose had been broken but had "well healed prior to death."
The report also described foot bones detached from commingled remains of Fouty and Jimenez, and finger bones wrapped in a blanket. Part of a pair of handcuffs was found.
In the US presidential race, Bryan notes this from Team Nader:
Gallup's Black Box
We do fairly poorly on the Gallup poll, generally registering less than 1 percent (or about 5 times less than the recent WSJ poll). This is probably because they don't mention Ralph Nader's name in the question--just Obama and McCain.
So I phoned up Gallup's Editor-in-Chief (609-924-9600), and asked him if they had any kind of objective threshold which we could strive toward so that Ralph Nader's name could be included as part of the primary question.
His answer: "No. We use our internal judgment to decide. We do some open-ended questions and variety of other criteria, and then our editorial team makes a decision." I asked if there were any ballpark levels of support in the open-ended question they looked to as a threshold, and he repeated his mantra, that it was subject to "internal judgment criteria," and then jumped off to take another call.
He was kind enough to leave me with his e-mail to follow up. Anyone who wants to let Newport know what you think of his internal judegment, please call him or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
the los angeles times
the washington post
tom a. peter
the christian science monitor