Monday, July 20, 2009

Nouri on one side, the people of Iraq on the other

Abject poverty across Iraq is fuelling an illegal trade in human organs.
Hundreds of people are believed to have sold kidneys and other organs through dealers in the capital, Baghdad, over the last year.
[. . .]
About 23 per cent of Iraqis live in poverty, meaning that they are forced to survive on $2.2 a day or less, according to government figures.
Unemployment is also high, with at least 18 per cent of the population out of work, UN and government reports suggest. Unofficial estimates have put the figure as high as 30 per cent.
The organ brokers who arrange the deals between the desperately poor and those desperate enough to pay to save the life of a loved one, typically congregate around the hospitals.

The above is from Aljazeera's "Poverty drives Iraq organ trade" and file it under Operation Iraqi 'Freedom.' And file it under: "Nouri for the people." As Nouri sits on those stacks and stacks of money, the people under the puppet suffer. Dropping back to the July 14th snapshot:

And the river dries up as Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the poverty, "Beggars have become as visible as blast walls and checkpoints in Iraqi cities. Government ministries don't have reliable statistics, partly because those who beg fear official crackdowns on their only livelihood. It's a problem the government has yet to tackle." This happens as the Oil Ministry brags it has "acheived (59.1000) million barrels with (3.378) billion dollars incomes with daily average of (4.400) barrels per day for May and the raise was (686) million dollars. In comparison with April which achieved (54.700) million barrels with (2.692) billion dollars incomes."

Will anyone have the courage to challenge Nouri during his DC visit? Or are we all supposed to still pretend "poor Nouri"? He's been in office for over three years. He's enriched himself. He's done very, very little for the Iraqi people.

Among the segments of Iraqis currently suffering are the country's LGBT community. While Nouri looks the other way, the LGBT community is targeted repeatedly. This includes targeting and homophobia from Nouri's police force. And without a peep from Nouri. (Not a peep from Barack Obama either.) The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (UK) announces a fundraiser for Iraq's LGBT commnity:

Liverpool's Iraqi lesbian and gay society are hosting a charity fundraiser for LGBT Iraq.

Amnesty International have reported that the situation in Iraq is "unclear". Homosexual acts have been legal in Iraq since 2003. However, the Amnesty International website reports that the current Government in Iraq has issued a decree allowing Sharia laws (death penalty for homosexuals) to be enforced. LGBT Iraqis are now targeted for persecution and execution.

According to The New York Times; in 2005, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a religious decree that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed… The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Iraqi LGBT Lifeline estimates that, since December 2004, there have been as many as 600 homophobic murders of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people or those perceived to be.

In the past four months alone as many as 65 bodies of those suspected of being “homosexual” have turned up with notes attached to their bodies with the word “pervert” written in Arabic. These figures do not include those who have survived homophobically motivated kidnapping, involving physical assault which often consists of sexual humiliation.

The BBC have consistently reported on attacks targetting LGBT people in Iraq. In April of this year the BBC reported on a campaign against gay men in Iraq which activists say has claimed the lives of more than 60 since December. Also in April Amnesty International claimed that 25 boys and men were reported to have been killed in Baghdad over a three week period because they were, or were perceived to be, gay.

Iraqi LGBT began establishing a network of safe houses inside Iraq in March 2006. As of today, they operate only one safe house, having been forced to close three since the beginning of 2009 due to the expense of running them.

The members of their group inside Iraq urgently need the funds to open at least five safe houses. These funds will allow them to keep the safe houses running, thereby providing safety, shelter, food and many other needs for LGBT people in Iraq.

For more information about Iraqi LGBT, click here.

The Fundraiser - Chew Disco - is taking place in Liverpool on Friday 7 August. There will be a whole host of punk and post punk bands playing including Vile Vile Creatures, Ste McCabe and Husbands aswell as some riotous DJs. Chew Disco is taking place at Magnet, 45 Hardman Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 9AS. Doors open at 8pm till 4am (£4 adv / £5 Door (£4 NUS). For tickets, click here.

Every penny received will go directly to Iraqi LGBT (London) and their Safe Houses Project which provides emergency shelter, human services and protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Iraq.

That's in August and in England. In the US later this month. This is Michael Cole's "DC Event: Help LGBT Iraqi Refugees" (HRC):

If you’re in the DC area I encourage you to join the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch and the National LGBT Bar Association for a unique event in Washington, D.C. to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iraqis who have fled their home country.

On Friday, July 24, spokesmen for a group of twenty LGBT Iraqi refugees undergoing their resettlement process will be in Washington, D.C. to bring attention to their struggle and raise money to support LGBT Iraqi refugees still in the Middle East.

Since the U.S. invasion, sectarian violence and fundamentalist religious leaders have filled a power vacuum left by the war that has made life for LGBT Iraqis increasingly unbearable. In recent months, international media have reported that LGBT Iraqis face kidnapping, torture, horrific sexual violence, death threats and murder.

Start your weekend off with a reception that may save lives. All proceeds from the fundraiser go to support Helem, a Lebanese LGBT organization that has provided food, shelter and clothing to LGBT Iraqi refugees currently undergoing their resettlement process.

What: Fundraiser to Support LGBT Iraqi Refugees
When: Friday, July 24, 2009
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Human Rights Campaign Equality Center
1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20036,
(at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 17th Street)
Cost: Please bring your checkbook or credit card and donate as you can.

For questions or more information, please contact Eric Wingerter at

Another targeted population in Iraq is the Christian community. From Asia News' "Bishop of Baghdad: 'Christians, do not be afraid', but the fear of a new exodus remains:"

The Iraqi Christian community "attended Sunday mass regularly", despite a "climate of fear for possible new attacks". "I asked the faithful to have courage", but the "fear" of a possible "new exodus of Christians from Iraq" remains. Mgr. Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, speaks to AsiaNews one week from attacks - July 12 last – that targeted several churches in the country, in Baghdad and Mosul.
"It went well", commented Msgr. Warduni. "There was a high level of participation among the faithful, both in the morning and evening masses, which recorded only a slight decline" The prelate urged the Christian community "to come to mass" and the faithful "responded with courage."
In recent days a feeling of "powerlessness and despair" is spreading among Christians, which could lead to a new mass exodus. To everyday problems, such as unemployment, concerns over restarting businesses after years of war, fear over the recent wave of violence is added. Msgr. Warduni does not hide the danger of "a new exodus of Christians from Iraq" and says that "this feeling of fear, fuelled by deaths, injuries and destruction is normal". "I asked the faithful to stay – he said - but we must also give them security guarantees, job opportunities, a future. Without these basic prerequisites, what can we say to them?".

The Iraq War continues. Sarah M. Rivette (Watertown Daily Times) reports, "The 2nd Brigade is headed to eastern Baghdad in October. It is not known where the 1st Brigade will be stationed yet, but those soldiers will deploy in January. Both deployments are expected to be for 12 months."

The Kurdistan region's relation to the central government in Baghdad remains tense, in fact, tensions are climbing. AFP reports that Massud Barzani, president of the KRG, stated yesterday, "We are committed to the application of Article 140 (of the Iraqi constitution) and we rpomise that we will absolutely not compromise on this issue or on the rights of the people of Kurdistan." Article 140 requires an independent census in Kirkuk and a referendum to take place no later than . . . December 2007.

This is not a minor detail nor is it something once touched on and then forgotten. Saturday, the KRG's Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani gave a speech and it included the following:

In formulating policy for our government, we have always been committed to the Iraqi Constitution and protection of the interests of the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq.
As you are all aware, recent tensions have occasionally surfaced with the federal, central government over pending issues.
It is clear that, as long as those issues remain unresolved; this will threaten the stability that we all aspire to achieve in Iraq.
I would like to address this matter openly. What we in the Kurdistan Regional Government want to achieve is to resolve these issues peacefully and in accordance with the terms and conditions enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution, for which 80% of Iraqis voted.
We have always been ready in the past, and we are ready and willing now to sit at the negotiating table with the federal government and talk with those who possess the will to solve these issues.
Sometimes we in the Kurdistan Region are accused of being too firm and insistent in our demands. But I would like Iraqis and the whole world to be aware of two things:
First, our insistence on the commitment to the Constitution and its guarantees for freedom and democracy emerge directly from our history.
We in the Kurdistan Region have suffered greatly as the result of agreements which were unfulfilled and promises which were ignored.
In order for us to live in peace and stability, we want our rights to be protected. This will take place as a result of permanent agreements by which all concerned will abide, in accordance with Constitutional principles. We don’t have any hidden agenda in Iraq.
Second, for those who say that we cannot negotiate seriously, there are tangible examples of how the KRG has participated seriously in negotiations that have led to historic results. Therefore, we can engage in a similar manner with Baghdad in this regard.
We want to be a reliable and cooperative partner with the federal government. Our vision of security, stability and prosperity for the Kurdistan Region requires a peaceful and cooperative relationship and coordination with all of Iraq and with Baghdad and we will continue with this policy in the Kurdistan Region.
All that we ask for is to have a relationship within the framework of the Constitution, which is the highest law of the land and the greatest guarantee to us that history will not repeat itself.
Our message is clear. The Kurdistan Regional Government is ready and hopeful that serious dialogue will resume with the federal government to solve the issues according to Constitutional principles and within a federal, democratic Iraq.
Our insistence on resolving the issues are with the aim of guaranteeing a bright future for our people and the prevention of any repetition of our tragic history.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry and TOTUS" went up last night.

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