Friday, September 30, 2011

Protests continue in Iraq

"I will sleep in peace. I want to rest so long, and dream of my name written on my grave, dream that my son will come and visit me, even once, my son who does not speak Arabic well. I hope that he will be able to read his father's name, the lover of freedom and its martyr." Those are the words of assassinated Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi. Tim Arango (New York Times) quotes Hadi in a report on how Hadi's death has impacted Iraqis. Journalist and film director Ali Sumari speaks of having hopes for Iraq as recently as a year ago but now those hopes have vanished. Educator Karema Hashim assumes she will be "killed one day." It's a strong article and the only real coverage of Hadi al-Mahdi's activism, torture and assassination the paper's done. I'm not doing it justice here, so make a point to read it. I would quibble with "human rights activists" being the ones sounding alarms. The International Crisis Group is an NGO and their recent report (covered in a snapshot this week) specifically addressed these issues and specifically addressed Hadi al-Mahdi's assassination. Also noting Hadi's assassination is Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) who examines the state of journalism in Iraq:

Instead, Iraq's outlook is more like China's than America's. The onslaught began on Feb. 17 with the unsolved murder of Hilal al-Ahmadi, who focused on government corruption. Seven days later, soldiers stormed the office of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, the country's sole media-advocacy group. "They wanted to shut us up to clear the way for what they planned to do," says Ziad al-Ajili, the group's director. The troops confiscated hard drives, cameras, and other files.
The next week, tens of thousands of young Iraqis protested the government, modeling themselves on the Arab Spring movements. First, government agents began arresting Iraqi reporters in attendance, confiscating their cameras and notebooks. Having silenced the native chroniclers, security teams swept in, beating scores of demonstrators and using tear gas, water cannons, and bullets to disperse crowds. Nineteen people were killed and several thousand arrested. Ajili estimates that 160 journalists were arrested within five days of the protest. Hundreds of other reporters have been detained or beaten in the months since, he said.
Ali al-Sumery, an editor at the state-owned al-Sabaah newspaper, was arrested on Feb. 25 as he ate lunch with Mehdi and two other Iraqi journalists. Soldiers struck the four men with wooden sticks and the butts of their rifles. The journalists were driven to a bend of the Tigris River where bodies are commonly found. "I thought they were going to kill us," Sumery says. They were interrogated for hours and accused of being Baathists. Bruised and bleeding, they were abruptly released later that evening.

Hadhi was part of the Friday protests, as Tim Arango notes in his article, and they continue today. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "A big demonstration came out after Friday prayer today in Wasit condemning the American occupation and refusing to grant occupation forces an extension of their stay under the pretext of 'training'." They note the same was true in Theeqar, in Karbala and in Qadisiya, in Amara.

And in Baghdad? Alsumaria News reports that activists gathered in Tahrir Square calling for an end to the occupation and an end to govermnet corruption. They protested the millions spent for Jalal Talabani's New York Visit to the United Nations and they called for unity and the registion of sectarianism. Banners included those that rejected sectarianism, called out the judiciary that protects the corrupt and declared Parliament to be a farce. They noted that the two million spent for Jalal's NYC visit could have been spent within Iraq on needed projects that would benefit the people. The report notes that as much as $7.5 billion may have been wasted in corruption by the government in the last two years -- that should be in US dollars because the oil monies in the article are in dollar figures and not dinars -- and that estimate appears after they note the Transparency International annual reports. I'm not sure where the figure comes from, but it maybe TI's estimate. The Great Iraqi Revolution's Baghdad correspondent reports, "A large number of protestors were unable to access Tahrir Square today as the government forces have cordoned the square and allowed only one entrance point which was in turn controlled by at least forty officers and troops of the government forces. A number of ambulances were also seen in the square which raised suspicions and fears that abductions are planned as has been the practice in previous Fridays.In addition, a number of intelligence officers were deployed atop surrounding buildings, In fact they were seen using binoculars and cameras to document and know the identity of the protestors,. Due to the severity of the measures ,the revolutionary youth were unable to document the protest by videos."

Dar Addustour notes that Parliament will be examining security issues shortly in light of the continued rise in violence. Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted stating that the security chiefs and Nouri al-Maliki must be called before Parliament to answer about the security breaches throughout the country resulting in the death of "many innocents."

Let's stay with Parliament. Usually 100 members are missing out of the 325 at every session. Al Mada reports that, for now, the Parliament doesn't plan to punish those not attending. While it might make sense that some provinces would have a higher absence -- that would be dependent upon them being further away (I would guess). Salahuddin Province (also known as Salah ad Din Province) is not that far from Baghdad, it's also to the north which strikes many as 'safer'. Yet MPs from that province are the ones most likely to miss a session. The second most likely group? Baghad Province. No excuse at all there. Anbar Province comes in third and while it is also close to Baghad, it is also the scene of much violence so that might be more understandable.

Al Mada also reports
that someone arrested has been released. We didn't cover the arrest because the whole issue is a question and I don't -- as noted before -- believe there's justice in Iraq's legal system. On Nouri's orders, Raad Shallal al-Ani was arrested. You may remember him as the controversial electricity minister that Nouri al-Maliki fired. Supposedly, al-Ani was responsible for "phantom" contracts, fake ones, which enriched those participating by nearly $2 billion dollars (US dollars). al-Ani, after he was fired, publicly denied that he was responsible and noted that others in the Cabinet, including Nouri, were aware of and signed off on the deals. Whether they were phantom deals or not remains in dispute. I say "On Nouri's orders," al-Ani was arrested. Al Mada says on the orders of the Integrity Commission.

If you've forgotten, Nouri fired the chair of that commission and recently installed another hand-picked bag boy. So, yes, Nouri made the call for the arrest order. He has been released so presumably they had no charges they could make stick. Considering how easily the judicial system bends to the will of Little Saddam, they must not have anything to back up the charges (or maybe al-Ani played hardball and brought out the file on Nouri he was said to have kept). Al Mada notes that Ahmed Chalabi is stating that the Parliamentary Integrity Committee ordering the arrest of six directors of the Bank of Iraq in two years is harming international investment. (The Parliamentary Integricy Committee is a legislative committee. The Integrity Commission is part of the executive branch. They are not the same body.)

Al Sabaah notes that October 7th, in Erbil, the First International Peace and Nonviolence Marathon will be staged by the government of Erbil and the International Federation of Athletics. The slogan is "We run for peace and nonviolence throughout Iraq." Some will run individually, some will run as teams representing NGOs, governmental departments, student unions, labor unions and workers, youth centers, etc. The marathon will feature men and women, boys and girls.

We'll close with this from Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya's "The War in Libya is a Fraud: Using Human Rights Organizations to Launch Wars" (ICH):

The war against Libya is built on fraud. The United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions against Libya on the basis of unproven claims, specifically that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was killing his own people in Benghazi. The claim in its exact form was that Qaddafi had ordered Libyan forces to kill 6,000 people in Benghazi. These claims were widely disseminated, but always vaguely explained. It was on the basis of this claim that Libya was referred to the U.N. Security Council at U.N Headquarters in New York City and kicked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

False claims about African mercenary armies in Libya and about jet attacks on civilians were also used in a broad media campaign against Libya. These two claims have been sidelined and have become more and more murky. The massacre claims, however, were used in a legal, diplomatic, and military framework to justify NATO’s war on the Libyans.

Using Human Rights as a Pretext for War: The LLHR and its Unproven Claims

One of the main sources for the claim that Qaddafi was killing his own people is the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR). The LLHR was actually pivotal to getting the U.N. involved through its specific claims in Geneva. On February 21, 2011 the LLHR got the 70 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to sent letters to the President Obama, E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton., and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon demanding international action against Libya invoking the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. Only 25 members of this coalition actually assert that they are human rights groups.

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