Illustration by Kat, Betty's three kids and Wally, and used in Third's "Cliff Cornell faces court-martial on Tuesday." UPI notes that Cliff has been sentenced to one year imprisonment and quotes Cliff's civilian attorney, James Branum, stating, "Cliff is being punished for what he believes, for his comments to the press. Because he spoke out against the Iraq war, Cliff's sentence is harsher than the punishment given to 94 percent of deserters who are not penalized but administratively discharged." Nanaimo Daily News reports:
Cornell applied to stay in Canada but was deported. In February, he walked across the border, where he was briefly arrested, then released before he turned himself in to the military three days later.
On Tuesday, Cornell tearfully read a prepared statement to the judge, apologizing for leaving his unit. He told the judge that when his regiment was ordered to Iraq he became anxious about being asked to do things that go against his conscience.
Turning to the topic of Iraqi refugees. Sahar S. Gabriel is an Iraqi media worker for the New York Times who was granted asylum in the US and at the paper's blog, she contributed "America: The Less Violent Side" yesterday:
On March 18, just after my arrival in the United States, four high schoolers were killed in the state of Michigan. DUI, an expression I had heard so much in TV shows and movies.
Four lives ended in a reckless accident caused by a moment of irrationality. A bad decision. This was not a terrorist act or a sectarian killing. This was what is referred to as "stuff happens," and it happens everywhere around the world.
Nina Berman's "Double Jeopardy: The Harsh Reality for Iraqi Immigrants Trying to Live in America" (Mother Jones) is a must read about the plight of Iraqi refugees who make it to the US:
The United States took in a mere 735 Iraqi refugees between 2003 and 2006. Criticized for not doing enough, 17,000 are slated to arrive between September 2008 and September 2009. But the high-minded policy change seems more like another American broken promise.
Recently arrived refugees interviewed in Dallas wonder how they're supposed to become self-sufficient on minimal assistance in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Rather than making new lives, they are facing unemployment, eviction and isolation.
"The life here is closed," said Lara Yakob, whose husband, an architect in Mosul, has been out of work since he arrived five months ago. His best prospect to date: a tryout in a laundry room.
"I think the American government feels that they made bad things for Iraq, so they bring us here. I don't know why they do that if they don't find us a job. This life they start for us, is a very bad life, " said Omar Ibrahim, who arrived in Dallas in 2008 and still is jobless.
He lives in a housing complex on the edge of the city, on a tree-lined street off the freeway, near Garland. Around 100 refugee families from Iraq, Myanmar and central Africa share this neighborhood of two-story apartments around the corner from a gas station--the site of a recent police killing--a Cash America outlet, aging strip malls and shuttered superstores.
His rent assistance stopped after four months, and to pay the bills he had to do the unthinkable. "I called my family in Iraq to send me money," he said. And they asked him, "You are in America, and you are asking us for money?"
NPR's Susan Wilson (KCUR -- link has text and audio) reports on Iraq refugees. Yesterday Human Rights First issued the following press release:
Washington, DC -- Only 4,200 Iraqis with U.S. ties have made it to the United States since 2003, though at least 20,000 have applied, and the number of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis may be as high as 146,000, according to a new report issued today by a leading human rights group.
The report, Promises to the Persecuted: The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008, issued by Human Rights First, examines implementation of this critical legislation. It finds that, despite a Congressional mandate intended to expedite Iraqi refugee processing times, only a small portion of eligible Iraqis have been granted a safe haven in the United States. Based on its findings, Human Rights First urged the Obama administration to examine this issue and clear remaining bureaucratic obstacles to fulfilling America’s promise to persecuted Iraqis who worked with the United States in Iraq, as well as to their families.
"Progress has been made since the enactment of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act in January 2008, but it's not enough. Processing times are unacceptably long, and Iraqis seeking safety in the United States can wait a year or more for their applications to move through the system," says Human Rights First's Ruthie Epstein, who authored the report. "We pin the delays on two problems – inadequate staffing and inefficient security clearance procedures. The result is that thousands of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis are stuck in Iraq and other countries in the region, facing danger and destitution. The absence of direct access to the U.S. refugee program in Syria and Turkey, where the need is significant, exacerbates the problem."
According to the report, U.S. officials successfully established processing for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis under an administration that was reluctant to acknowledge the refugee crisis and in the face of significant logistic and security challenges. But the multi-agency programs are still plagued with procedural barriers.
"In February at Camp Lejeune, President Obama made a commitment to Iraqi refugees. He declared, rightly so, that the United States has a strategic interest and a moral responsibility to act," noted Amelia Templeton, a refugee policy analyst at Human Rights First. "His commitment should begin with a comprehensive evaluation and improvement of the programs designed to provide escape to the very Iraqis who helped the United States."
Human Rights First's recommendations to the U.S. government include:
- Reduce Processing Times: The State Department should increase staffing at the Embassy in Baghdad and the International Organization of Migration, and the Department of Homeland Security should increase the frequency and staffing of circuit rides to the region, so that the refugee applications of thousands of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and their families facing danger can be processed expeditiously; the Embassy should allocate the space in the building that is necessary for these increases;
- Improve the Security Clearance Process: The White House should review and improve the multi-agency security clearance process required for Iraqi refugee applicants and other immigrants and refugees so that Iraqis who meet all of the requirements for admission to the United States do not wait indefinitely for final answers on their applications;
- Expand Access to Iraqis in Need: The State Department and the White House should press the governments of Syria and Turkey at senior levels to permit direct access to the U.S. refugee program to vulnerable Iraqis in need; and
- Ensure Post-Arrival Services: Congress should appropriate the necessary funding to the Department of Health and Human Services to adequately support post-arrival services for Iraqi refugees and other new refugee populations to whom the United States has offered safety from persecution, as well as to the State Department to increase staffing on programs mandated by the legislation.
Today's report provides the most reliable public estimate to date of the number of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis who might be eligible for the programs mandated by the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act. Human Rights First has estimated that there are approximately 146,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis - Embassy direct hires, contractors, and employees of U.S.-based media and NGOs. This figure does not include spouses and children. The report says that no more than 4,200 U.S-affiliated Iraqis, including some family members, have actually made it to the United States.
The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act was first proposed by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) in June 2007 to address the plight of Iraq's refugees. Its mandate included special immigration visas for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government, military, or contractors for at least a year; direct access to the U.S. refugee resettlement programs for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government, military, contractors, or U.S.-based media or nongovernmental organizations, and certain minority groups; and refugee processing inside Iraq.
To read Human Rights First’s report and its complete recommendations to the U.S. government, visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/pdf/090428-RP-iraqi-progress.pdf.A large number of the external refugees are Christians due to the targeting of them in Iraq. Yesterday Vatican Radio reported on the Iraqi Christians murdered in Kirkuk Sunday. Also yesterday, Azzaman offered an editorial on the murders which noted, "The killing of five Christians in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has sent shivers of fear in the Christian minority in the volatile northern city of Mosul. A few months ago more than a dozen Christians were killed in Mosul, forcing a big Christian exodus to surrounding villages and towns. Mosul, Iraq’s second most populous city is under the control of insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi troops. Observers believe the city has emerged as a bastion for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Many of Mosul Christians have returned but some say they now fear for their lives." Eric Young (Christian Post Reporter) reminds, "Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries and some 750 Christians have been killed in Iraq, according to Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk." World Magazine reports on the three funerals held in Kirkuk yesterday which were attended by the province's governor Mustafa Abdulraham and presided over by Archbishop Sako whose church the three had attended: "Besides crowds of mourners, Christian clergy from across the city as well as government officials attended the service in the ethnically mixed city, which has repeatedly been forced to delay a referendum on whether it will join the Kurdish government to the north or remain part of the Baghdad administration to the south. A U.N. commission has just completed a report on the region, which sits atop most of Iraq’s oil reserves. It calls for a negotiated settlement that leaves the province intact. The outcome of the dispute will go a long way toward determining whether Iraq will continue with a strong centralized government in Baghdad once U.S. forces begin their departure. Many believe the attacks are aimed at undoing current negotiations." Meanwhile niqash's "kirkuk petition stokes tensions" reports on other tensions in the oil-rich Kirkuk:
A petition campaign collecting signatures supporting a Kurdish Kirkuk has provoked Arab and Turkmen anger.
In April 2009 a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), close to Kurdish groups, launched for a campaign to demonstrate that the majority of Kirkuk's residents want the city to be annexed to the autonomous Kurdish Region. The petition’s first sentence read: “We, the people of Kirkuk, the undersigned, demand the annexation of Kirkuk to the Kurdish Region."
Those running the campaign say that they want to review the names and signatures and submit the petition to the UN, the Iraqi Parliament and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
Rizkar Haji Hama, one of the campaign’s organizers, and an official spokesman for the Kirkuk Centre of Democratic Organizations of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, told Niqash that “the campaign was organized by a number of Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian organizations and around 80,000 signatures have been collected. The aim is to reflect the opinion of Kirkuk’s residents on this issue.”
The campaign provoked anger among Arab and Turkmen members of the provincial council (representing 15 out of the council’s 41 seats). They condemned it as a “terror and intimidation” campaign planned and organized by Kurdish security forces, known as Asayish, maintained by both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). They called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to ban these organizations from conducting any activity in Kirkuk city.
The Kurdistan Regional Government notes:
Welcoming international delegates from countries including Iran, Sweden, England and Wales, President Barzani said: "The Kurdistan region will benefit from our guests’ experiences and we will give them the chance to see the current level of sport in the Kurdistan region."
Underlining the importance of sport for all citizens, President Barzani, said: “Sports should be available for all people, girls and boys - not just boys – because exercise is a necessity for every human being.”
The two-day conference, being hosted in Erbil by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has drawn together international athletes and experts in sports policy to support the implementation of the KRG’s inclusive ‘sports for all’ policy.
In January 2009, the KRG announced a Roadmap for Sport setting out their vision for what sport can achieve across the region.
Speaking at the two-day conference yesterday, Taha Barwary, the KRG Minister of Sports and Youth, said: “Sport is an incredibly powerful tool that helps us unite communities, support a healthy population and empower individuals with a sense of achievement.
“This conference will help us take the vital next steps in developing a culture of sports that celebrates the involvement of women, youth and the disabled, and an infrastructure to ensure talented athletes excel to become formidable competitors at an international level.”
The conference was attended by the Iraqi Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports Isam Al-Diwan, from Iran by Faiza Hashemi Rafsanjani , President of the Islamic Federation for Women’s Sport, and Basha Mustafa, Deputy Head of the Iraqi Oympic Committee.
Huw Jones , Chief Executive of the Sports Council Wales, said, "It is clear that the Kurdistan Regional Government, Ministry for Sports and Youth is committed to creating a clear vision for sport in Kurdistan and we give them our full support."
Also among the international delegates were British Olympic medal-winner Kate Allenby, British Paralympian Sophie Hancock, and representatives from the English Youth Sport Trust, the Welsh Football Trust and the English Federation of Disability Sport.
The conference has been enthusiastically welcomed by the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr Wilfried Lemke, who said, "The issues and goals to be discussed at the conference will serve as an excellent opportunity to find effective ways to help the Iraqi people recover from the extensive conflict they have faced."
For more information please see the conference website www.mosy-conference.info
And Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces "German Ambassador in Baghdad Gives lecture to Students of Diplomatic Course 26:"
Mr. Christopher File Ambassador of Republic of Germany to Iraq gave a lecture to the students of the diplomatic course 26.
The lecture dealt with bilateral relations between the two countries and the contribution of Germany to rebuild infrastructure and train Iraqi army and police and cultural assistance to Iraq in addition to Iraq's willingness to assist the staff of the Foreign Ministry.
At the end of the lecture a discussion between the Ambassador and the attendees took place on the possibility of developing bilateral relations. The meeting was attended by the Ambassador Ziad Khaled, Dean of the Foreign Service Institute in addition to several ministry officials.
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