Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nouri's touring

After a three-hour meeting in Ayatollah Sistani's offices, Mr. Melkert would not comment on what the men discussed. He urged Iraq's politicians to end the stalemate that has gone on since parliamentary elections last March failed to hand a majority to any political bloc. Iraqi and foreign officials worry about rising levels of violence and unrest amid the power vacuum.
Despite his widespread influence among thousands of Iraq's Shiite Muslims, Ayatollah Sistani has remained all but silent during the postelection political jockeying. He urged Iraqis to vote in the elections but refused to throw his support behind any electoral coalition.

The above is from Jack Healy and Omar al-Jawoshy's "Roadside Bombing in Iraq Strikes Convoy Carrying U.N. Diplomat" (New York Times). Yesterday the United Nations Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, was targeted with a roadside bombing in Najaf. (The UN is dancing swiftly for public consumption with a we-don't-know-if-he-was-targeted but privately and off the record they know and discuss it in depth.) We'll again note the statement
The Secretary-General strongly condemns today's attack in Najaf, Iraq, on a UN convoy carrying his Special Representative for Iraq, Mr. Ad Melkert, his Deputy Special Representative, Mr. Jerzy Skuratowicz, and UNAMI staff. All UN staff escaped without injury. Regrettably one member of the Iraqi security forces was killed and several others injured.
The Secretary-General sends his condolences to the family of the deceased and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.
The Secretary-General wishes to express his appreciation to his Special Representative and the staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), who are working under difficult circumstances to implement the mandate of the United Nations in Iraq. This attack will not deter the UN from continuing its efforts to assist the Iraqi people on their path to reconciliation and prosperity.

Among the issues Melkert was raising with al-Sistani was the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and thirteen days and counting.

AP reports that Nouri al-Maliki is meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Murbarak today in Cairo as he attempts to woo the country's support and backing for him to continue as prime minister. Alsumaria TV notes he will also be meeting with "Arab League Secretary General Amro Moussa." Hurriyet Daily News notes he's due in Turkey tomorrow in an attempt to garner the support of officials there (specifically President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan). Meanwhile Jason Ditz ( reports that Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, made an assertion yesterday, "According to Hashemi, Iraqiya had reached an agreement with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the former dominant player in the INA, and said he believed those who would go along with SIIC would be enough for Iraqiya to form the government."

At the US State Dept yesterday, spokesperson Marc C. Toner was asked about the Iranian government announcing their support for Nouri to continue as prime minister and Toner replied, "We've said, as recently as yesterday, that our policy towards Iraqi Government formation is that we want them to move forward as quickly as possible to form an inclusive government. It's frankly, an Iraqi process and it needs to be an Iraqi-led process, and so we don’t believe it's our place nor is it the Government of Iran's place to comment or to -- or in any way on that process. Our ultimate concern is that it be an inclusive government." Nussaibah Younis (Guardian) observes, "In what now feels like the distant past, the results of the March 2010 elections were hailed a great success for Iraq. Voters had thrown out the most sectarian parties in favour of al-Da'wah and Iraqiya, who had both campaigned on anti-sectarian, Iraqi nationalist platforms. But seven months on, Maliki's proposed coalition with the Sadrists sounds the death knell for Iraqi cross-communalism and the future of Iraq looks bleak."

Reuters notes two Baghdad roadside bombings which injured eight people. Alsumara TV adds, "15 people were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Al Mansour District in Baghdad, a source from the Interior Ministry reported."

Yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), Kelly McEvers reported on the practice of temporary marriage in Iraq which has made a comeback with the US invasion. Temporary marriage? It's sex. A man marries a woman for a brief period of time (months or hours) and then he's broken no codes, laws or cultural mores because they were married! The practice was outlawed under Saddam Hussein.

Kelly McEvers: This woman is so ashamed about what happened to her, she doesn't want to give her name. A mother of three, she says her husband abandoned her when she found out he preferred men. She had no way to support the family. A religious figure in the neighborhood promised to help, brought her to his home, locked the door and had sex with her. He offered her $15. For the man, at least, it was a brief moment of muta'a -- the Arabic word for pleasure and the Arabic word for temporary marriage. The woman said the man who had sex with her worked with leading Shi'ite religious clerics in the Iraqi city of Najaf. It's one of the most revered places in Shi'ite Islam.

McEvers speaks to "religious scholar" Aqil al-Shammari later in the report and he brags that he's used the practice "at least five" times and it's fine and dandy because he ended each 'marriage' after one month, the women "used birth control" and he paid them. What a prince. Poor women in the area endure rejection of public services because they aren't judged attractive or, if they're judged attractive, they're forced to have sex with men in 'temporary marriages' to receive the services.

Today on Morning Edition (NPR), Peter Kenyon reported from Kirkuk on the census (which supposedly will take place this December). Kenyon (and Steve Inskeep in his intro to the report) sketch out the back-and-forth over the oil-rich Kirkuk and who has 'rights' to it. Kenyon reports that there is fear that the latest delay (kicking the census back two months) is an attempt to avoid the census.

Remember this from this from David Edwards and Muriel Kane's "Whistleblower Reveals Systematic Humiliation of Detainees" (World Can't Wait):

Note -- On October 20, Ethan McCord will be joining World Can't Wait for a live webcast on the Collateral Murder video released by Wikileaks. Ethan is the soldier in video carrying the young girl from the van. Today, he has also just released some videos showing humiliation of detainees...
A former US soldier in Iraq has come forward with video of his fellow soldiers subjecting Iraqi detainees to what he describes as "mental, emotional, degrading" abuse.
US Army Specialist Ethan McCord was a member of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, the same unit that was involved in a 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad shown in a leaked video released last April by WikiLeaks.

That's today. We'll close with this from ETAN:

WPAT: Torture video reveals "Indonesia's Abu Ghraib" on eve of Obama visit

Contact: Ed McWilliams (WPAT) +1-575-648-2078

October 19, 2010 - A new video shows the torture of helpless men in the Indonesian-ruled territory of West Papua. Monitoring groups are already describing the footage as "Indonesia's Abu Ghraib."The video reveals indisputably Indonesian security force brutality, and raises serious questions about the Obama administration's decision to embrace cooperation with Indonesian security forces engaged in active and ongoing torture.

The video, available at, is the <>second in recent months to offer graphic footage of Indonesian to offer graphic footage of Indonesian security force torture of Papuans. In it, a Papuan man is held to the ground while a hot stick, still smoldering from a fire, is held against his genitals. A plastic bag is wrapped around his head several times, a rifle held against him. Another man has a large knife held against him while he pleads: "I'm just an ordinary civilian, please..." One of his interrogators responds: "I'll cut your throat... Do not lie, I will kill you! Burn the penis!" The video appears to have been taken on the cell phone of one interrogator. Although the interrogators are dressed in plain clothes, they speak in Javanese and in Indonesian with non-Papuan accents. Plain clothes dress is common for Indonesian security forces in West Papua. The techniques used mean they are almost certainly trained security personnel in the Indonesian army or police. The dialect of the victims places them in the <$file/Indonesia_Papua_Overview_Oct2010.pdf>Puncak Jaya region, where security forces are accused of repeated rights abuses.

The extreme brutality revealed in this footage is not new. What is new is that there is now additional video evidence of the brutality suffered by Papuans for nearly five decades. The international community can now clearly witness the indisputably harsh reality of life for Papuans. While Indonesia continues on the path of democratization and peaceful resolution of disputes, one region is sent on the opposite path: towards ongoing military domination, widespread suppression of political activity, and routine use of torture and other severe violations of basic human rights. In West Papua, the brutal and unaccountable Indonesian military and its accomplices, the militarized police (<>Brimob), special forces (<>Kopassus) and "anti-terror" force (<>Detachment 88) continue to operate with impunity under the old dictatorship's rules: peaceful dissent is criminalized; civil society leaders are humiliated and intimidated and the international community is precluded from any effective monitoring of conditions in this besieged community.

Thanks to the courage of Papuan human rights advocates in the face of harsh security measures designed to silence them, the world periodically has been witness to the harsh rule of West Papua. In the past, the faith in international justice and humanity demonstrated by these courageous Papuans has been betrayed by the international community's deference to the Indonesian government's insistence that neither its course nor rule there not be challenged. Numerous governments have placed the territorial integrity of Indonesia and the desire to support its democratization process first. In the process, however, they have abandoned what could have been constructive efforts to uphold human rights in West Papua, which continue to be systematically violated.

Geopolitical and commercial goals led the U.S. government to ignore <>Suharto dictatorship atrocities targeting its own people and the people of East Timor for decades. President Bill Clinton acknowledged this when East Timor gained its independence in 2002, <>saying: "I don't believe America or any of the other countries were sufficiently sensitive in the beginning and for a long time, a long time before 1999, going all the way back to the '70s, to the suffering of the people of East Timor." It was the suffering of the people of East Timor that led to Congress deciding to <>suspend military cooperation with Indonesia.

The system of security force rule and repression of peaceful dissent has been dismantled in much of Indonesia, but the same security system and the same systematic human rights violations continue in West Papua today. Such stopgap solutions as "special autonomy" have been clearly rejected by the Papuan people. Despite the continued human rights violations, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration's policy of support to the Indonesian security forces. It has <>continued support to the Indonesian military through the IMET program, and support through the Anti-Terror Assistance Program to the notorious Detachment 88 of the Indonesian National Police, credibly accused of torture and other rights violations. It has resumed cooperation with the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) notwithstanding that unit's decades-old record of human rights abuse including recent, credible accounts of brutality targeting Papuan civilians. In so doing the Obama Administration, like its predecessors, has wittingly or unwittingly made itself complicit in the repression now underway in West Papua.

The United States, under President John F. Kennedy, was responsible for the transfer of West Papua to Indonesian rule. In that act, the United States made itself co-responsible for the outcome of its actions. Successive administrations have not been sufficiently sensitive to the ongoing human rights violations, including torture to this day, which resulted from Indonesian rule.

President Obama's upcoming visit to Indonesia offers an opportunity to end the silence on West Papua, and to craft new policies that advance human rights rather than lending support to human rights violators. Information about the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua was heard on <>September 22 by the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Asia, the Pacific.

The Obama administration should:
Insist upon an investigation and prosecution of those who recently tortured Papuans in Puncak Jaya

Seek an investigation by relevant United Nations human rights rapporteurs of this and other instances of torture in West Papua
Suspend cooperation with Indonesian security forces accused of systematic human rights violations, including Detachment 88 and the Brimob (Mobile Brigade) of the National Police and the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus)
Call for full and open access for journalists, humanitarian assistance personnel including the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international monitors to all of West Papua
Seek meetings between President Obama and Papuan human rights and civil society leaders during his visit to Indonesia
Call upon the Indonesian government to carry out an internationally facilitated, senior-level dialogue process with Papuan officials and civil society designed to resolve the Papuan conflict peacefully, as was done in Aceh province

Posted with additional links:


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John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
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Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
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