Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Human trafficking in Iraq

Sunday the US military announced: "One U.S. Coalition Soldier died of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated in Salah-ad Din Province, April 12. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The Dept of Defense identifies the soldier as US Army Spc Michael J. Anaya of Crestview, Florida. In "UPDATE: Panhandle soldier killed in Iraq explosion" (Panama City's News Herald), Wendy Victoria reports the family was enroute to Dover Air Force Base and notes:

Michael Anaya was a young man who loved fishing, cooking on the grill and fighting for his country.
"He knew the risk, and he said that's what he loved and that's what his life was meant for," said Katie Rowe, who is engaged to his older brother, Carmelo Jr. "He has, ever since he was 5 years old, known that's what he wanted to do."
Rowe said some family members would return Wednesday, but Mike's father would stay to fly back with his son's body Thursday. He will be buried locally.

The illegal war passed the six year mark last month and 'liberation' and 'democracy' have yet to appear on the horizon. "Will Iraq Crack Down on Sex Trafficking?" wonders Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine):

Ravaged by rights groups and upbraided by the U.S. for failing to take measures against human trafficking, the Iraqi government has been quietly working on a draft law to tackle the scourge. Baghdad was prodded into action late last year, after the release of the U.S. State Department's "Trafficking in Persons Report," according to Human Rights Minister Wijdan Mikhail Salim. "Let's say it was a tough report about the situation in Iraq, and in so many cases it was right," she says.
The report was damning. Baghdad, it concluded, "offers no protection services to victims of trafficking, reported no efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and does not acknowledge trafficking to be a problem in the country." As a TIME.com story detailed, trafficking in Iraq is a shadowy underworld where nefarious female pimps hold sway and impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters on the sex market. (See pictures of a women's prison in Baghdad.)
The situation is slowly changing. The draft law, a copy of which was obtained by TIME, imposes tough penalties, including life imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 25 million dinars ($21,000) for traffickers if the victim "is under 15, or a female, or has special needs." The same punishment applies if the crime was committed by kidnapping or force, or if the criminal "is a direct or distant relative or the victim's caretaker or husband or wife," a tacit acknowledgment that victims are often trafficked by people they know.

On the same topic, Rania Abouzeid offers "Iraq's Unspeakable Crime: Mothers Pimping Daughters:"

Nobody knows exactly how many Iraqi women and children have been sold into sexual slavery since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. There is no official number because of the shadowy nature of the business. Baghdad-based activists like Hinda and others estimate it to be in the tens of thousands. Still, it remains a hidden crime, one that the 2008 U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons report says the Iraqi government is not combating. Baghdad, the report says, "offers no protection services to victims of trafficking, reported no efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and does not acknowledge trafficking to be a problem in the country."
While sexual violence has accompanied warfare for millenniums and insecurity always provides opportunities for criminal elements to profit, what is happening in Iraq today reveals how far a once progressive country (relative to its neighbors) has regressed on the issue of women's rights and how ferociously the seams of a traditional Arab society that values female virginity have been ripped apart. Baghdad's Minister of Women's Affairs, Nawal al-Samarraie, resigned last month in protest of the lack of resources provided to her by the government. "The ministry is just an empty post," she told TIME. "Why do I come to the office every day if I don't have any resources?" Yet even al-Samarraie doesn't think sex-trafficking is an issue. "It's limited," she said, adding that she believed the girls involved choose to engage in prostitution.
That's a view that infuriates activists like Yanar Mohammed, who heads the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. "Let me take her to the nightclubs of Damascus and show her [trafficked] women by the thousands," she says. To date, the government has not prosecuted any traffickers. And for the past year it has prevented groups like Mohammed's from visiting women's prisons, where they have previously identified victims, many of whom are jailed for acts committed as a result of being trafficked, such as prostitution or possessing forged documents.

Problems also exist in northern Iraq, in the Kurdistan Regional Government. A new report by Amnesty International, which we'll go into in the next entry) documents problems and offers the following recommendations:

Amend the law:
􀂄 Review all legislation that discriminates against women, in particular provisions of the Penal Code and Personal Status Law, and abolish or amend any provisions which discriminate, directly or in their impact, against women;
􀂄 Take effective measures to eliminate all violent acts against women, including by banning female genital mutilation and prosecuting those who order or commit such abuse;
􀂄 Take effective measures to ban early marriage and forced marriage, including by reviewing and implementing relevant legislation.
Empower women:
􀂄 Take steps to improve education for girls, including by ensuring that all girls receive primary education and by working to ensure that girls and boys are able to access secondary education on an equal basis;
􀂄 Support and promote the economic independence of women, including by increasing employment opportunities for women.
Improve protection measures:
􀂄 Ensure that all officials in contact with or aware of women at risk of violence are able and willing to take effective, appropriate and urgent protection measures, including measures that would allow the appropriate and timely implementation of civil protection orders -- based on a judicial decision -- banning a man who threatens to harm a woman from having contact with her;
􀂄 Provide appropriate financial and other support for the running or the establishment of shelters and other facilities run by NGOs or the authorities for women at risk of violence, in consultation with women’s rights advocates and shelter managers;
􀂄 Ensure regular review of protection and security measures at all institutions – in particular shelters - where women at risk of violence reside, in consultation with women's rights organizations, shelter managers and others;
􀂄 Ensure that written standard procedures exist for institutions, including shelters, detention centres, police stations and hospitals, that frequently release women into a potentially unsafe environment; such procedures, drawn up in consultation with women’s rights organizations, should stipulate a range of safety measures, including ensuring that a woman is fully informed about the risks and identifying a responsible body for establishing local back-up systems for protection of a returned woman and regular and appropriate follow-up contact with her;
􀂄 Create opportunities for a safe and empowering living environment for women in need of protection for an indefinite period within and outside shelters, including by providing qualification and job opportunities;
􀂄 Provide or support protection mechanisms for women human rights defenders in consultation with women’s rights organizations.
Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Index: MDE 14/006/2009 Amnesty International April 2009
Investigate and prosecute:
􀂄 Ensure prompt, effective, independent, impartial and thorough investigations into all reported cases of violence against women, including by conducting separate interviews with all relevant witnesses and conducting all necessary forensic tests;
􀂄 Ensure the availability of suitably trained staff, including female staff, for investigating cases of violence against women;
􀂄 Ensure gender-sensitivity and safety when taking testimony of survivors of violence and witnesses;
􀂄 Ensure protection of witnesses testifying at court;
􀂄 Ensure that where there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspects of violent acts against women are detained and charged, having due regard to their human rights, and that all appropriate efforts are made to apprehend suspects who remain at large;
􀂄 Ensure that all who, after a fair trial, are found to have committed violence against women are given sentences commensurate with the gravity of the crime, but without use of the death penalty.
Train officials in gender issues:
􀂄 Provide training in gender issues for all elements of the criminal justice system -- including police officers, forensic medical examiners, prosecutors and judges -- in order to fully equip officials and members of the judiciary to deal with women’s complaints with appropriate sensitivity and competence;
􀂄 Ensure that training in gender issues is made available to officials throughout the area under the administration of the KRG and take steps, as soon as possible, to ensure that there are police officers who have been trained in gender issues in all police stations, including those in rural areas;
􀂄 Ensure the establishment of an effective, independent complaints mechanism into all allegations of police and government officials failing to carry out their legal duty to protect women and prevent violence when clearly required to do so; those failing such legal duty should be subject to disciplinary or penal sanctions.
Improve preventive measures:
􀂄 Support and engage directly in public awareness-raising about crimes of violence against women, using new as well as existing approaches, in consultation and collaboration with women’s rights organizations;
􀂄 Compile systematically and maintain comprehensive data on incidents of violence against women, in collaboration with women’s rights organizations and other NGOs, academics and others; and ensure that the information obtained from data collection and analysis is made publicly available and is used to refine official policies and procedures to address violence against women.

Don't expect any of the above to get much attention from Panhandle Media. They've yet to cover the assaults on Iraq's LGBT community. They do have time for 'experts' and bulls**t topics like the Queen of Beggar Media Amy Goodman who wants us to understand why pirates are pirates. Yes, that is a pressing issue . . . in the 1400s. Our calendars show 2009 and anyone who doesn't grasp why pirates exist is more lost than Amy's worthless Kenyan expert who, in a typical moment of 'expertise,' responds to a question with "uh - uh -uh - I don't remember right now". The quality of Beggar Media continues to slide. Speaking of the crackpot whores of beggar media, a few visitors (with an apparent sense of humor one hopes) have e-mailed Patrick Cockburn's latest loony garbage. We're not interested. A close reading will reveal why. Patrick is in love with Nouri al-Maliki. His hatred for America (which is fine, I'm not offended by it, he can feel whatever he wants) is so intense that he's built Nouri up to his uber god or at least his sex god. Well lots of luck with those fantasies on your many lonely nights, Paddy. However, you can't write about a crackdown on Sahwa and never mention Nouri in the entire article . . . unless you've styled yourself the Eva Braun to his Adolph. Amy Goodman's just America's shame, Patrick Cockburn is an international embarrassment.

While they waste everyone's time and give journalism an ugly name, Rod Nordland and Sam Dagher (New York Times) offer "Iraqi General Filing Suit to Close Newspaper and TV Channel Over Alleged Misquotes" which explores the assaults on press freedom in Iraq including the latest attempt to shut down a newspaper and television station: "[Major General Qassim] Atta's suit seeks to shut down the two organizations for 'publishing false reports,' his office said. Al Hayat published a correction on its Web site, saying the newspaper had confused General Atta's remarks with those of an unnamed source." They review Iraq's shaky history of press freedom and they also cover the attack on the arts:

In another development on Monday, an Iraqi cartoonist demanded an apology from the police in the Shiite holy city of Karbala for having confiscated two satirical drawings of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and other government officials.
"What happened was an offense to freedom," the cartoonist, Salman Abed, said in a telephone interview. "We want to build a new country on liberal and democratic foundations."

The cartoon is reproduced online but a better example of it can be found in the print version of the article in today's New York Times.

Mia highlights Chris Hedges' "Israel's Racist in Chief" (Information Clearing House):

It was unthinkable, when I was based as a correspondent in Jerusalem two decades ago, that an Israeli politician who openly advocated ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory, as well as forcing Arabs in Israel to take loyalty oaths or be forcibly relocated to the West Bank, could sit on the Cabinet. The racist tirades of Jewish proto-fascists like Meir Kahane stood outside the law, were vigorously condemned by most Israelis and were prosecuted accordingly. Kahane's repugnant Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization, was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism.
Israel has changed. And the racist virus spread by Kahane, whose thugs were charged with the murders and beatings of dozens of unarmed Palestinians and whose members held rallies in Jerusalem where they chanted "Death to Arabs!" has returned to Israel in the figure of Israel's powerful new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman openly calls for an araberrein Israel-an Israel free of Arabs.
There has been a steady decline from the days of the socialist Labor Party, which founded Israel in 1948 and held within its ranks many leaders, such as Yitzhak Rabin, who were serious about peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. The moral squalor of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Lieberman reflects the country's degeneration. Labor, like Israel, is a shell of its old self. Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party, with 15 seats in the Knesset, is likely to bring down the Netanyahu government the moment his power base is robust enough to move him into the prime minister's office. He is the new face of the Jewish state.
Lieberman, a former nightclub bouncer who was a member of the Kach Party, has the personal and political habits of the Islamic goons he opposes. He was found guilty in 2001 of beating a 12-year-old boy and fined by an Israeli court. He is being investigated for multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering and is rumored to have close ties with the Russian mafia. He lives, in defiance of international law, in the Jewish settlement of Nokdim on occupied Palestinian land.

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