And for what? What is being accomplished? The Iraqi 'govermnet' remains in a state of paralysis. 2007 benchmarks were never, ever reached. Instead of grasping that Iraq is a sink hole, the US government wants to throw more blood at the war. Robert Burns (AP) observes, "The U.S. wants to keep perhaps several thousand troops in Iraq, not to engage in combat but to guard against an unraveling of a still-fragile peace. This was made clear during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit Thursday and Friday in which he talked up the prospect of an extended U.S. stay."
In February many Iraqi cities continued their 2010 protests. February 25th, the protests reached Baghdad. Every Friday since, protests have taken place in Baghdad (and across the country -- and they've been held on days other than Friday as well). The response from Nouri's government was to attack protesters, arrest them, assault journalists, impeded access to protest sites and more. Amnesty International issued the following today:
Iraq: Protests being crushed by security forces - new report
Posted: 12 April 2011
‘He said if you don’t stop your political opposition activities we will kidnap you, rape you and videotape the rape’ - Fatima Ahmed, an opposition activist threatened in Erbil
The Iraqi authorities must stop attacks on peaceful protesters calling for an end to unemployment, poor services, and corruption and demanding political reforms, Amnesty International said today (12 April) in a new report.
The 24-page report - Days of Rage: Protests and Repression in Iraq - documents how Iraqi and Kurdish forces have shot and killed protesters, including three teenage boys, and threatened, detained and tortured political activists, as well as targeting journalists covering the protests.
Protests first erupted in mid-2010 over the federal government’s failure to provide basic services such as water and electricity. The Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Governments responded by issuing regulations effectively giving the authorities unlimited jurisdiction over who can demonstrate. The popular protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year encouraged Iraqis to defy the new restrictions and protests reached their height on the 25 February “Day of Rage”, when tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in cities across Iraq, including the Kurdistan region.
Incidents detailed in the report include:
■On 16 February: a teenage boy was among those killed in the city of Kut, south-east of Baghdad, during initially peaceful protests advocating better basic services, including electricity and water supplies.
■On 17 February: organisers obtained authorisation for a protest in Sulaimaniya’s Sara Square in Kurdistan, now referred to by protesters as Azady “Freedom Square.” Live ammunition was fired at protesters, and a 15-year-old boy, Rezhwan Ali, was shot in the head and died instantly.
■On 25 February: armed forces raided the Baghdad office of the TV station Al-Diyar, preventing further broadcasts of the “Day of Rage” demonstration. At least seven staff members were arrested. The same day in Kerbala, Reuters correspondent Mushtaq Muhammad was hospitalised with serious head injuries after security forces beat him with batons, and in Mosul, Ahmed Hiyali of Radio Sawa was beaten by police and prevented from covering the demonstration
■In Mosul: five people have reportedly been shot dead. One of them was Mu’ataz Muwafaq Waissi, married with one child, reportedly shot in the head by a sniper.
■In the Kurdistan region: at least six people have died as a result of excessive force by the Kurdish security forces.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:
'Eight years on from the end of Saddam Hussain’s long and grossly oppressive rule, it is high time that Iraqis are allowed to exercise their rights to peaceful protest and expression free from violence at the hands of government security forces.
'The Iraqi authorities must end the use of intimidation and violence against those Iraqis peacefully calling for political and economic reforms. The authorities in both Baghdad and the Kurdistan region must cease their violent crackdowns.
'The governments in Baghdad and the Kurdistan region must take control of their security forces, investigate their use of excessive force, and the killings and injuries that this has caused, as well as the torture and other ill-treatment of protesters, and hold those responsible to account.'
On 30 March Iraqi authorities in Baghdad announced that their security forces were under orders not to use firearms against demonstrators except for self defence. Yet only days later security forces used live fire against Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad - at least 30 are said to have been killed and many others injured.
■Download a copy of the report (pdf)
An Amnesty International fact-finding team visited the Kurdistan region of Iraq from 5-15 March 2011 to obtain first-hand information on recent human rights violations, especially in relation to pro-democracy demonstrations. Based mainly in Erbil and Sulaimaniya, the Amnesty team collected testimonies from victims and witnesses. They also met pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government, as well as activists from elsewhere in Iraq.
While Iraq cracks down on protests in their own country, Ahmed Chalabi attemps to sew discontent in other countries. Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reported yesterday:
Mr. AL HASHMI: This is the first time we found a brother, a big brother who is taking - who is leading us, who is putting their hand into our hand and saying, come, I'll take your case to the world together.
McEVERS: That hand is coming from Ahmed Chalabi, and it's not just the Bahrainis he's helping. Chalabi's group is talking to Egyptians, to Libyan rebels. And he's talking to Yemenis.
Unidentified Group: (Speaking in foreign language)
McEVERS: In his modernist sitting room, Chalabi receives petitioners like a powerful sheik. He says Iraq should serve as an example to the region.
Mr. AHMED CHALABI (Iraqi Politician): Iraq has overthrown one of the most terrible dictatorships and blood-thirsty dictators in the 20th century. Now, Iraq can claim rightfully that it has a democratic government and it has elected parliament and free elections, and there is a dialogue, a political dialogue, going on.
McEVERS: Thing is, it's not quite so simple. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein led an elite made up mostly of Sunnis. Now that he's gone, many of those in power are Shiites.
Western analysts say rather than just asserting a new Iraq, Chalabi and others are pushing for a Shiite Iraq to become a major player in the so-called Shiite Crescent, which is led by Iraq's neighbor, Iran.
And this, they say, is why Chalabi cares so deeply about Bahrain. The majority of people there are Shiite, but the ruling family is Sunni. Chalabi denies he's stoking sectarian flames by extending a Shiite hand to Bahrain.
Staying on NPR, as Ann noted last night, Carly Simon is on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today. Still on NPR, Alicia Shephard, NPR's ombudsperson, is caught in yet another lie. She won't care for that wording. But when she sneered at a friend's valid complaint (his being booked on one program to discuss his project meant that no other NPR program would book him to discuss the project), she became a liar. Already, we've heard the writer of the rubber duckie book on two of the NPR progams she said operated under the if-you-book-them-we-don't policy and this morning we're again hearing from Charles Fishman (who was on Fresh Air yesterday pimping his same book). Shepard would be caught in far less lies if she ever actually did her job as opposed to merely asking questions and then repeating unverified statements. Again, she won't care for that. I really don't give a damn. When she was proven a liar on this once, I looked the other way. Now we hear it a second time. She's a liar.
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