Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas In My Soul

Red and silver on the leaves
Fallen white snow runs softly through the trees
Madonnas weep for wars of hell
They blow out the candles and haunt Noel
The missing love that rings through the world
On Christmas
-- "Christmas In My Soul," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

Yahya Barzanji and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report Christmas celebrations and any public signs of observance have been called off in Iraq by "a council representing Christian denominations" and let's step aside for just a second to grasp that this council is predominately made up of the public voices who have insisted that Iraqi Christians must stay in Iraq, who have basically issued that order leading many to wonder what was really going on? Did they want to create martyrs? If you can't worship freely, there's no reason to urge Iraqi Christians to stay in Iraq. They're no longer just under threat of violence, they're now not allowed to worship publicly. In terms of the religion being practicied, this isn't a minor detail. Marco 't Hoen (Epoch Times) adds, "Churches in Bagdad, Kirkuk, Basra, and Mosul have asked members not to decorate their houses, and the churches canceled Christmas Mass and planned Christmas celebrations."

The New York Times sees fit to run a whole paragraph (that is sarcasm) on the issue (written by Jack Healy). Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "There will be no Christmas Eve mass, no Santa or decorations at some churches during Christmas or the New Year, Sako said. Some churches will continue with Christmas Day mass as usual. Cancellations don't include the relatively safe Kurdish region in northern Iraq." IRIN notes, "Hundreds of Iraqi Christians are fleeing to the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region and particularly the town of Ankawa, which has become a safe haven for the country’s Christians, thanks to its special status and privileges granted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Ankawa, near Erbil, KRG's capital, has a predominantly Christian population and administration, several churches and distinct Assyrian language." England's Journeyman Pictures offers this report (transcript and video -- if you don't see the clip option, click here). Jason Ditz ( observes, "Given the number of high profile killings and complaints that the Iraqi government seems disinterested in protecting them, this Christmas will be a grim one for Iraqis indeed. But at the rate they are fleeing the country, it may be one of the last ones marked at all.

From Amnesty International, we'll note "Iraq must ensure release of police officer detained without charge:"

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to free a police officer, initially detained because he was suspected of having links to armed groups, who has been held for over a month after an order for his release was made.
Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib has been held for over two years apparently on suspicion of collaborating with armed groups opposed to the Iraqi government and the presence of US forces in Iraq although no charges have ever been brought against him.
An order for his release was issued in November but he is still being held at a police station in Tikrit, where he is at risk of torture. It appears that those detaining him may be seeking to extract some sort of ransom payment from the family of Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib before releasing him.
"Iraq’s new government must now intervene and ensure that the order for the release of Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib is implemented without further delay and not made subject to the payment of a ransom or other illegal obstruction,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“After more than two years in detention without facing any charge or trial, it is high time that Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib is released and reunited with his family."
Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib worked as a police officer in the village of ‘Uwaynat, near Tikrit, at the time of his arrest by US forces in July 2008.
They reportedly suspected him of having links to armed groups involved in violent attacks but never brought any charges against him.
He was still held at Camp Taji when US forces handed over control of that prison to the Iraqi government on 31 March 2010. A month earlier, the US authorities had recommended his release.
In mid-November, the Iraqi authorities at last ordered the release of Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib. He was transferred to al-Rusafa prison for one day, then on to the police station where he formerly worked, apparently in preparation for his imminent release.
Instead, the father of two has continued to be detained there.
Initially, the reason given for his continued detention was that the Anti-Terrorism bureau in Najaf was looking for an individual of the same name. However, his family were able to obtain a certificate stating that Qusay ‘Abdel-Razaq Zabib is not the man wanted by the bureau.
His family have since been told repeatedly that he is to be released but he remains in custody.

The following community sites -- plus Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night and this morning:

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "The Migrant Hotel" (New America Media):

MEXICALI, Mexico-- Last year, almost 400,000 people were deported from the United States. That's the largest wave of deportations in U.S. history, even larger than the notorious "Operation Wetback" of the 1950s, or the mass deportations during the Great Depression.
Often the Border Patrol empties buses of deportees at the border gates of cities like Mexicali in the middle of the night, pushing people through at a time when nothing is open, and no services are available to provide them with food or shelter. Most deportees are young people. They had no money in their pockets coming to the United States, and have nothing more as they get deported back to Mexico.
These are invisible people. In the wave of anti-immigrant hysteria gripping the United States, no one asks what happens to the deportees once they're sent back to Mexico.
In Mexicali, a group of deportees and migrant rights activists have taken over an old, abandoned hotel, formerly the Hotel Centenario (the Hundred Year Hotel). They've renamed it the Hotel Migrante, or the Migrant Hotel. Just a block from the border crossing, it gives people deported from the United States a place to sleep and food to eat for a few days before they go home, or try to cross the border again. The government gives it nothing. Border Angels, the U.S.-based immigrant rights group, provides what little support the hotel gets. A cooperative of deportees cooks the food and works on fixing the building.
During the winter, about 50-60 people live there at any given time, while five or six more knock on its doors every night. Last summer, at the peak of the season when people try to cross the border looking for work, the number of deportees seeking shelter at the hotel rose to over 300.
"A lot of people get hurt trying to walk through the mountains around Mexicali," says Benjamin Campista, a cooperative member. "It's very cold there now, and when they get caught and deported, many are just wearing a T-shirt and tennis shoes. Some get sick -- those we take to the hospital. The rest stay here a few days until their family can send them money to get home, or until they decide to try to cross again."

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends