Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kurds to increase number of women on provincial councils

The US government announced: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. James M. Dorsey, 23, of Beardstown, Ill., died Feb. 8 in Kamaliyah, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation." They made that announcement Monday. Citing that announcement this morning, AP notes, "The death raises to at least 4,244 members of the U.S. military who have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003." ICCC also has 4,244 as their count. If it seems like we're doing a slow walk through, we are. ICCC lists this month's deaths:

09-Feb-20094| US: 4 | UK: 0 | Other: 0

US NAME NOT RELEASED YETMosul - NinawaHostile - hostile fire - IED attack

US NAME NOT RELEASED YETMosul - NinawaHostile - hostile fire - IED attack

US NAME NOT RELEASED YETMosul - NinawaHostile - hostile fire - IED attack

USSergeant Joshua WardMosul - NinawaHostile - hostile fire - IED attack
08-Feb-20092| US: 2 | UK: 0 | Other: 0

USSpecialist James M. DorseyBaghdadNon-hostile

USSpecialist James M. DorseyBaghdad (Kamaliyah)Non-hostile
06-Feb-20091| US: 1 | UK: 0 | Other: 0

USSpecialist Christopher P. SweetBalad Ruz - DiyalaNon-hostile
Total7| US: 7 | UK: 0 | Other: 0

And as you can see, currently Dorsey is mistakenly listed twice.

With AP having the same count (they do their own count), the 4,244 is most likely correct but due to the above, we're walking it through slowly.

Nawal al Samurrai

That's Nawal al Samurrai who announced her resignation from Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet Friday. Today Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report on why al Samari (also spelled Samaraie by some press accounts) quit her "$10,00 a month" post: It was a for-show post. Parliamentarian Nada Ibrahim explains, "It's not a real ministry. It's one room with a woman, no budget, no staff. It's a trick." The reporters note that the issue "also highlights what many women say is the lip service paid them by the Shiite conservatives loyal to Dawa and other Shiite parties dominant in parliament. In August, Inaam Jawwadi, a female member of parliament from the Shiite bloc, called for Samarai's ministry to be turned into a Cabinet portfolio, but the proposal went nowhere." The reporters note the "hundreds of thousands of women widowed since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003" and report:

Her eyes glistened with tears as she described the frustration of confronting widows and not being able to offer them anything beyond promises that she would try to help. She found herself sitting in her small office appealing to nongovernmental organizations for money to launch the programs she had envisioned when she took the position in July.
"It's shameful for me in Iraq, a rich country, to have to ask NGOs for money," Samarai said.

al-Maliki's band of crooks insist they are not dismissing women or refusing to take their problems seriously. The reporters write, "Officials have denied allegations that women's rights have eroded since the rise of the Shiite power structure. They point out that 25% of seats for the newly elected provincial councils are reserved for women, and that 33% of seats in the parliament were set aside for women after the last national election in 2005." January 14th snapshot:

Today Alissa J. Rubin and Sam Dagher (New York Times) report the latest attack on women's rights in Iraq: Somehow, no one can figure out how, the rights of women to be represented with 25% of the seats in the January 31st elections just fell by the wayside. No one can figure out. It just, in all the talks and discussions, somehow, no one can figure it out, it just dropped right out. Oops. The reporters explain, "Early versions of the law, which governs the election of Iraq's 18 provincial councils, included a firm guarantee that women would have at least 25 percent of the seats -- the same percentage mandated by the Constitution for the numbers of women in Parliament. In the male-dominated Arab culture, the framers of the Constitution and the Americans who were involved in drafting it thought that the quota was necessary to ensure that women would be represented.
But the provincial election law was changed several times, and the quota language was gone by the time it went to the Presidency Council, whose approval is needed for it to become official. It went back to the Parliament with several unrelated changes and was published in early October. The lack of a strong guarantee for women's council seats has begun to gain widespread attention only in the last few days." And good for Rubin and Dagher but find that topic at any other outlet. Find one example in the US of the press using their power to amplify. You can't.

And if you're wondering why there's no number listed above it's because there was no known number. The 25% was cut. A measure was applied in which a third seat won by a political party with multiple candidates would go to a woman and what the percentage on that would be, no one knew and they won't know until the provincial election results are final. (No, they're still not final.) So, no, al-Malki thugs, you can't point to the 25% on provincial elections because that was done away with and no one wanted to fess up and take ownership for that action.

And while al-Maliki's thugs cut the 25% that was supposed to be law, the KRG ups their numbers. Alla Majeed (UPI) reports: "Kurdish lawmakers Wednesday made amendments to their provincial elections law to set aside 30 percent of the seats for females, al-Bayyna of the Iraqi Hezbollah reported Wednesday." Meanwhile the Kurdistan Regional Government offers a discussion on human rights:

Interview with Dr Yousif Mohammad Aziz, Minister for Human Rights

Human rights are a focus of the Kurdistan Regional Government's work and one of Prime Minister Barzani's guiding principles. Human Rights Minister Dr Yousif Mohammad Aziz explains to the challenges and steps that the KRG is taking to protect and promote human rights.

What are role and responsibilities of the KRG Human Rights Ministry?

Our main responsibilities are the promotion and protection of human rights in the Kurdistan Region, and the observation and follow-up of human rights cases.

In many Western countries, governments do not have human rights ministries. Why did the KRG decide to establish the ministry in 2003?

In fact the UK, for example, does have a minister of state whose remit includes human rights.

Civil society and local human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Kurdistan Region are not as strong as those in the West and are still evolving. The ministry has the authority and manpower to tackle human rights problems, and can work directly with the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister to resolve them. Once our civil society and our emerging democracy are as developed as in the West, NGOs should be solely responsible for campaigning for human rights.

What role do local NGOs play in human rights?

Besides the international NGOs, there are a large number of local human rights NGOs in the Kurdistan Region but not all of them are active. We know that effective and active NGOs will help to develop our democracy, so we have made the active local NGOs members of our ministry's advisory board, along with UNAMI and UNICEF.

When we first established it two years ago, the advisory board met monthly and now meets every three months to discuss all human rights issues and concerns. The NGOs have also provided some useful ideas on how to tackle issues related to human rights. Earlier this month on the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, we awarded five local NGOs to recognise their achievements and encourage them in their work.

What are the greatest challenges that the Kurdistan Region face in terms of human rights?

One of our biggest challenges is preventing violence against women. Other challenges are street children and underage labour; terrorism and dealing with terror suspects according to the law. Another challenge is to raise the public's awareness of international human rights laws. I believe that since 1991, we have made some progress in these areas.

What are you doing to prevent and punish violence against women?

We are making great efforts to prevent it and have established at least six mechanisms to deal with it. Every three months the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers meets to devise preventative and judicial policies and monitor progress.

Second, I supervise a committee that includes representatives of the ministries for women, justice, civil society, interior, religion, education and social affairs. We meet every month to define the steps that each of these ministries must take. For example, the Religious Affairs Ministry is responsible for ensuring that clerics and religious figures in their sermons explain that honour crimes and violence against women are anti-Muslim practices.

Third, the Interior Ministry has established a special directorate in Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimaniah, and hopes to open more in other towns in the Kurdistan Region. These special directorates offer threatened women protection and advice, and work with the ministries of justice, health and human rights to prevent and investigate violence against women.

Fourth, Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimaniah now each have a Violations Board made up of a general prosecutor, forensic scientist and representatives of the human rights and interior ministries. They ensure that the judicial process is followed properly and rapidly in cases of honour killings and domestic violence.

Fifth, we provide centres and shelters for threatened women who are protected until the threat has been removed, and are helped to find work and return to their communities.

Lastly, we have amended several laws relating to women. Honour killings are now punished as harshly as other killings and are not viewed as 'honourable' under the law. We have also removed old Iraqi laws that allowed men to 'punish' and beat their wives, and changed the law in a way makes it difficult for men to have more than one wife – limiting the practice to only exceptional circumstances.

Are there any statistics on violence against women?

The government statistics show a large increase in the number of women coming forward for protection because of the new specially dedicated directorates and the success of our campaign to raise awareness of the issue. The positive sign is that the number of honour killings is decreasing. Of course the presence of such crimes is still appalling and our aim is to eliminate honour killings altogether, but we are seeing a definite improvement thanks to the multiple strategies we are employing.

What is the KRG doing to protect press freedom?

The media law that was passed in September 2008 is a change in the right direction, as it has completely removed imprisonment as a punishment for libel or slander. The law also refers specifically to journalism standards set out in a paper presented to the UN by the International Federation of Journalists.

What is your view of the courts and judicial system?

One of the biggest problems we face is the judicial system. The courts, judges and general prosecutors need to be reformed and some violations of human rights are even caused by the judicial system. At the celebration the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Prime Minister Barzani said that in 2009 more steps should be taken to improve the rule of law.

What provisions has the KRG made to protect minorities in the Kurdistan Region?

Every minority has seats in the Kurdistan National Assembly, our regional parliament, and have ministerial posts in the cabinet. Minorities have their own schools where they teach in their own language and have full freedom of religion. I believe that minorities enjoy full rights in Kurdistan because we ourselves are a minority in Iraq and are very aware and sympathetic of their needs and rights.

What about the accusations that Kurds are expropriating land from Christians?

If this has happened, it has certainly never ever been a KRG policy. On the contrary, many Christians have moved to Kurdistan from other parts of Iraq for security and protection. If individuals have illegally expropriated land, the courts would look at the deeds and return the property to the rightful owner.

The Kurdistan Region has been threatened by terrorist groups, but it has remained relatively secure and stable thanks to the work of the security forces and police and the cooperation of the public. However, from 2003 many terrorism suspects were detained without charge or trial. What is the KRG doing to tackle this?

Many people - more than 700 - were detained without charge, as at the time [2003] there was no terrorism law under which they could be charged, and there were two administrations in Kurdistan. Since the unification of the two administrations into a unified cabinet in May 2006 and the passage of the anti-terrorism law in July 2006, we have worked hard to solve this problem and from the outset I have personally visited the prisons where they were held and we listened to the opinions of international NGOs. We worked with the Ministry of Justice, Interior Ministry and security forces to solve most of the cases so that from more than 700, now there are just nine held without charge. We are working hard on those nine cases and talking to experts so that none of them are held without charge.

Kurds suffered genocide and we hope this will never happen again to any of the peoples of Iraq. What can the KRG do to ensure that no group is ever targeted again for genocide?

The high court in Baghdad, the Iraqi parliament and the Kurdistan National Assembly (parliament) decided that the campaign against the Kurds was genocide. In the 20th Century genocide was perpetrated many times and in different continents, even though each time we said 'never again'. I twice attended the regular session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The Armenian representative at the session prepared a draft UN resolution to take practical action to prevent genocide in the future, and I supported this global initiative. It is also vital to educate people in Iraq and around the world on human rights and the prevention of genocide.

Meanwhile violence continues today with Reuters reporting a Mosul car bombing which has claimed the lives of 4 police officers with an additional five injured, "Abdul-Kareem al-Sherabi, a senior member of the Sunni Arab secularist party National Dialogue Front" has been shot dead in Mosul and 8 pilgrims have been killed in a Kerbala roadside bombing (eighteen wounded).

Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes:

11 February, 2009

Foreign Minister Meets Iranian Counterpart in Baghdad

His Excellency Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met on Wednesday 11/2/2009, at the Foreign Ministry headquarters with Mr. Minoshehar Mottaki, Iranian Foreign Minister and his accompanying delegation visiting Iraq for discussions that concern the two countries .

Minister Zebari and his Iranian counterpart discussed in a closed meeting the political aspects and issues that concern the relations between the two countries. Minister Zebari congratulated the Iranian Foreign Minister on the thirtieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and praised his efforts in resolving outstanding issues between the two countries, such as borders, water and oil.

His Excellency Minister Zebari stated that the path was paved and open for the development of relations between the two countries in all fields and the need for continued support for Iraq's Government, adding that Iran was one of the first countries that supported the new Iraq and its national government since the formation of the interim Governing Council after the fall of the former regime.

On his part, Mr. Mottaki expressed his pleasure at being in Baghdad, adding that one of the major reasons for his visit is to convey an invitation from Iranian President Ahmadi Nejad to His Excellency President Jalal Talabani to visit Iran in the near future, and praised the efforts of His Excellency Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in the development of relations between the two countries, especially during the past three years in reaching high levels, commending the efforts of the Ambassadors of both countries in developing them. Mr. Mottaki congratulated the Government and people of Iraq for the success of the provincial elections and its high participation rate in addition to security and stability in the country, describing it as a translation of the will of the Iraqi people for self determination.

The two foreign ministers held a press conference attended by many local, Arab and foreign media where they touched on the nature of Iraq and Iran's relations and their growing stages in addition to future projects between the two countries.

The meeting was attended Foreign Ministry Undersecretaries and Ambassadors and the Iraqi ambassador in Tehran and Iran's ambassador in Baghdad.

Foreign Minister Mottaki arrived this morning to Baghdad International Airport heading a large delegation which was received by Mr. Labeed Abbawi, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, and senior officials from the Ministry.

In the US, Serving Our Troops organized a meal for 8,000 soldiers and their families -- the soldiers will deploy to Iraq in two months -- no, the illegal war is not ending.

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 tina susman
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