Friday, January 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a Baghdad funeral is targeted with a bombing, the media keeps undercounting the dead in Iraq since December 18th, new conditions of a national confrence in Iraq, and more.
Today in Baghdad, a funeral procession was attacked by a suicide bomber. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) quote Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count, stating, "The situation is worsening. Sectarian politics in Iraq in Iraq is setting the stage for armed conflict."
Throughout the Iraq War, there have been non-stop waves of Operation Happy Talk. Efforts which have consistently failed leaving the US official who produced the spin looking like an idiot. Reality will always slap you in the face, when it comes to Iraq. That is the lesson of every year of the Iraq War and occupation. As Iraq's former Ambassador to the UN Feisal Istrabadi explained December 13th to Warren Oleny on KCRW's To the Point:
The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010. The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done. Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name. I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing. What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers. We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
"We're getting a lot of Happy Talk," Istrabadi noted. And it's not helpful no matter what US official it comes from -- whether its James "Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador, or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers." And it was the US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, who got slapped upside the face by reality today due to insisting, in an interviewGulf News published yesterday, that the political crisis had nothing to do with the current wave of violence, "These attacks are not a result of the political crisis as they are planned months in advance; they are very carefully put together by Al Qaida." Operation Happy Talk is just one of the many things Barack's administration has continued from the Bush administration. It was laughable during the previous administration, it's just pathetic now. Nine years of continuous lies from the government and Jeffrey is supposed to be the face of the United States in Iraq.
(If you're confused, the attack on today's funeral procession was not "planned months in advance." Nor is most of the violence.)
Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) reports, "A suicide bomber killed at least 32 people on Friday by driving an explosives-laden vehicle into a Shia Muslim funeral procession in Baghdad, heightening fears that Iraq is in the grips of sectarian conflict." KUNA notes, "The car exploded on Markaz street, targeting a funeral of a man who was killed in Al-Yarmouk district on Thursday, a police source said." Kareem Raheem, Patrick Markey and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) quote an unnamed Baghdad security official stating, "The suicide car bomber failed to arrive at the Zaafaraniya police station so he blew himself up close to shops and the market." The Daily Mirror notes, "Half of the victims were policemen guarding the march". Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) add, "Among those killed Friday, witnesses reported, was a woman who sold fish from a cart at the intersection. Rescuers put the woman's corpse in her cart and took the remains to the hospital, a witness said."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Authorities believe Col. Norman Dakhil may have been the target of the bomber. Dahkil and his family were in the procession making their way to the hospital to collect bodies of three relatives, including his brother, when the bomb exploded, police said." Ali A. Nabhan and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) add, "The suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the crowd, which included the pallbearers at a funeral for an Iraqi army commander's brother, who was assassinated along with three others on Thursday, according to a Ministry of Interior official." Sebastian Usher (BBC News) was on the NPR hourly news break this morning stating that many details were not clear at this time and that the funeral was for a real estate agent. Al Bawaba notes, "The funeral was held for an Iraqi man, his wife and son who were killed yesterday in the predominantly Sunni Yarmouk district of the capital." Al Rafidayn identifies the realtor as Mohammed al-Maliki (they do not give the names of his wife and son who were also buried after being killed last night "by gunmen." Salam Faraj (AFP) provides this view of the attack, "Helicopters flew overhead as a heavy security presence cordoned off the site of the explosion, while distraught witnesses screamed in anguish, surrounded by the remains of the dead, their clothes and shoes, and chunks of twisted metal. Outside the hospital, groups of men called out names, searching for missing relatives." Bushra Juhi (AP) notes that the death toll has risen to 32 (per hospital officials) and quote grocer Salam Hussein describing "human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood." Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports hospital sources state the toll might rise, "Many of the injured are in serious condition, which could make the death toll higher, said the official. "
Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) states, "The attack Friday was the deadliest in a month and came as part of a wave of attacks that has left more than 200 people dead since US forces withdrew on Dec. 18, reports Al Jazeera." Doesn't that seem like an undercount? It is one. All this week that claim's been made. So let's take a look at it because, on its face, it doesn't seem correct (because it's not). We're referring to the violence covered by the press and noted in the snapshots. We'll start with December 19th but only reported violence from the 19th (on December 19th, the press was also reporting violence from the night of December 18th, we're leaving that out of the count). In addition, we're ignoring the Turkish bombing on the border of Iraq that left 5 dead -- that's not in the count. We're focusing on the dead in Iraq from violence (other than Turkish war plane bombings) and in parenthesis is the number injured, FYI. Also 'credited' for the "more than 200"? The Los Angeles Times today credits AFP for that (false) figure.
So what did we get? Check my math (always). 391 is the number killed from December 19th through yesterday's reporting cycle. Now add in today's death totals and you get over 400. Yes, 400 is "more than 200," in fact, it's twice 200. And calling over 400 dead "more than 200 dead" is leaving a false impression with your reader. Please note, those aren't all the deaths, those are just the deaths that we noted from press reports (meaning I may have missed some deaths) and, in addition, all violent deaths do not get reported on in Iraq. And calling over 400 deaths only "more than 200" is cutting the truth in half.
Violence didn't end with the bomb attack on the funeral. Barbara Surk (AP) reports, "Minutes after the explosion, gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in Zafaraniyah, killing two police officers, according to police officials." In addition, Reuters notes 1 electrician was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 civil servant in Mosul.
Prensa Latina explains, "The current escalation of violence is associated with political frictions between the government, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Al-Maliki issue[d] a warrant for the arrest of al-Hashemi, who is under protection of Iraqi Kurdistan, for alleged terrorist acts in 2009, and also . . . . [is attempting] to make the Parliament withdraw its vote of confidence on Sunni Deputy Prime Minster Saleh Al-Mutlaq." Middle East Online adds, "The United States and United Nations have urged calm and called for dialogue but oft-mooted talks involving Iraq's political leaders have yet to take place."
The only hope for resolving the political crisis was said to be the national conference that President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since the end of December. Last week, things appeared promising for a national conference at least being held. One planning meet-up had taken place and another was scheduled for Sunday January 22nd; however, last Sunday's meet-up (which was hoped to be the final planning session) was postponed due to Talabani having to fly to Germany for spinal surgery. Since then, Nouri and his State of Law have insisted that if anything take place, it not be called a "national conference" and that participants be limited to Nouri, Talabani, al-Nujaifi and the leader of blocs in Parliament.Al Rafidayn reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has declared he will not participate and that he can't be forced to. Whether this means no one from his bloc will participate or not isn't clear. Dar Addustour also covers al-Sadr's statements which he issued online in reply to a question from one of his followers. Al Mada quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh talking down the national conference and stating that it will be a failure if it raises the issue of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. (Nouri wants him tried for treason; he wants Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya which bested State of Law in the March 2010 elections.) The report also notes that State of Law's push to replace Saleh al-Mutlaq with former Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani does not have the full support of the National Alliance (a Shi'ite coalition made up of many actors including the Sadr bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).
The political crisis has many roots but at the heart is the failure to follow the agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri refused to allow anyone else to be prime minister. During this time, Iraqiya should have been allowed to build a coalition but Nouri blocked it. During this time, Moqtada al-Sadr and others were vocal that they didn't want Nouri to be prime minister. But he had the backing of the White House so the will of the Iraqi voters and the Constitution didn't matter. To get the country moving forward, all political blocs except State of Law made major concessions in the US brokered Erbil Agreement of November 2010. It allowed Nouri to continue as prime minister. It was supposed to mean a number of other things but after Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he trashed the agreement and refused to honor it.
Some online sycophants of Nouri al-Maliki, worshipers of authoritarianism, insist that the agreement must be trashed, that it's "unconstitutional." The aspect that's against the Constitution, the only aspect, is the section that made Nouri prime minister. Not surprisingly, the self-styled 'analysts' never object to that or suggest that section was unconstitutional. Yet they expect to be taken seriously as analysts and honest brokers. Only in your all male circle jerk, boyz, only there.
Al Mada notes that a spokesperson for KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih that the Erbil Agreement must be part of the national conference and that it must be followed. The Kurdish blocs have been calling for that for months.
In other news of announcements, Al Mada notes that the Badr Brigade (Shi'ite militia) has declared that there are still people who need to be targeted in Iraq, foreigners and embassies, and has called on the Promised Day Brigade, the League of Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades not to lay down their arms but to stand with the Badr Brigade agasint the foreign countries with embassies in Iraq. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked last week. The United States has the largest embassy in Baghdad (it's a compound) as well as consulates throughout Iraq. Kuwait is specifically mentioned in the article. In addition, many other countries -- including France, England, Australia and Russia -- have embassies in Iraq and many foreign dignitaries visit.
In another sign of risks, Alsumaria reports that a US helicopter was forced to make "an emergency landing this morning" and that "another US helicopter landed and evacuated it.
On diplomacy, the White House received a visitor this week according to Al Mada but there's no release on it from the White House. Al Mada reports that Iraq's new envoy to the US, Ambassador Jaber Habib Jaber, spoke with Barack and that Barack was full of praise for Nouri and "convinced" that Iraq would resolve the political crisis.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Behar Gidani, and the last time I stood before you I was an intern, and now I'm a program analyst, so it's quite an honor to be here before you again today. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, good.
QUESTION: My question is regarding foreign policy, if I may. As a Kurdish American, much of my interest focuses on the current state of Iraqi political affairs. Given what's going on or what's happened since the American troop withdrawal, with Hashimi fleeing to the Kurdistan region, I was wondering what the role of U.S. diplomacy is right now with that situation, and what you hope you will see in the future to ensure Iraqi security and democracy and stability continue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I'm delighted that you've gone from intern to full-fledged employee in such a short period of time, and we're delighted, and that's exactly the kind of movement of young people into our ranks that I'm thrilled to see.
Look, there is no doubt -- all one has to do is follow the media -- that there's a lot of political contention in Iraq right now. The United States, led by our very able, experienced Ambassador Jim Jeffrey -- I don't know if the man has slept more than an hour or two, because he is constantly, along with his able team, reaching out, meeting with, cajoling, pushing the players, starting with Prime Minister Maliki, not to blow this opportunity. Let me just be very clear: This is an opportunity for the Iraqi people of all areas of Iraq, of all religious affiliation, of all backgrounds -- this is an opportunity to have a unified Iraq, and the only way to do that is by compromising.
And one of the challenges in new democracies is that compromise is not in the vocabulary, especially in countries where people were oppressed, brutalized over many years. They believe that democracy gives them the opportunity to exercise power and, even though it's not the specific individual -- Saddam Hussein is gone -- he oppressed the Shia, he terribly abused the Kurds, including chemical attacks -- he's gone, but people's minds are not yet fully open to the potential for what this new opportunity can mean to them. And unfortunately, there's a lot of line-drawing going on and boundary-imposing between different political factions.
So we are certainly conveying in as strong a message as we can that these political difficulties and disagreements have to be peacefully resolved for the good of all Iraqis, and that everyone has a chance to grow the pie bigger, to have more freedom, more economic prosperity by working together.
And it's not easy. It's unfortunately one of the challenges we face everywhere in the world right now. With the great movement toward democracy, which we welcome and applaud, it has upended a lot of the historical experiences that people have held onto, and there is a need to get moving beyond that. But it will take time. The United States will be firmly in the role of advising and mentoring and playing the go-between in every way that we possibly can. But at the end of the day, Iraq is now a democracy, but they need to act like one, and that requires compromise.
And so I'm hoping that there will be a recognition of that, and such a tremendous potential to be realized. Iraq can be such a rich country -- it's already showing that with the oil revenues starting to flow again -- but problems have to be resolved. They cannot be ignored or mandated by authoritarianism; they have to be worked through the political process. (Applause.)
Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).
Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:
Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet."AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).
42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. (And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.) December 22nd, AFP reported on women's status in Iraq and how it has fallen from a high for the region to a nightmare (my term) today. Excerpt:
Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. "They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it," she said. "Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognised by the Iraqi people." She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a "shame on Iraq". Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki's national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women's affairs.
We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.
We noted American gender traitors in a snapshot this week and Trina's "Diane," Rebecca's "continuing c.i., i grab goodman," Elaine's "Grab bag" and Ann's "2 women, 4 men" followed up on that. We were noting silences of American women who should have been speaking out for Iraqis especially now that a new Human Rights Watch report had found that Iraq was turning into a police state. Along with that major finding (which we noted earlier this week), the report, [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012 also noted realities for Iraqi women today:
Iraq adjudicates family law and personal status matters pursuant to a 1959 Personal Status Code. The law discriminates against women by ranting men privileged status in matters of divorce and inheritance. The law futher discriminates against women by permitting Iraqi men to have as many as four polygamous marriages.
On October 6 Iraq's parliament passed legislation to lift Iraq's reservation to article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Atricle 9 grants women equal rights with men to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and pass on their nationality to their children.
Violence against women and girls continued to be a serious problem across Iraq. Women's rights activists said they remained at risk of attack from extremists, who also targeted female politicians, civil servants, and journalists. "Honor" crimes and domestic abuse remained a threat to women and girls, who were also vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution due to insecurity, displacement, financial hardship, social disintegration, and the dissolution of rule of law and state authority.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and several official and non-governmental studies estimate that the prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan is at least 40 percent. On June 21 Kurdistan's parliament passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes several provisions criminalizing the practice, as well as forced and child marriages, and verbal, physical and psychological abuse of girls and women.
The rights of women have been destroyed in Iraq. It may take generations for them to return to the legal rights that they had prior to the US invasion of Iraq. That story probably won't be told by too many US outlets but you can always count on the nonsense. Case in point, Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) conducts an interview with Adnan al-Asadi whom Nouri has put in charge of the Minster of Interior. Not noted in the article -- so probably not raised in the interview -- al-Asadi has no powers. He was not presented as a nominee to the Parliament, he was not voted into office by the Parliament. Legally, he heads no ministry and Nouri can strip him of the post (with no input from Parliament). He serves at the whim of Nouri, the puppet has a puppet. Somewhere in an article on violence, Schmidt and the New York Times should have had the guts to note that the security ministries still have no heads -- Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security. But, as we've already noted this week, the paper of US-government record has always sucked up to and covered for Nouri. Al Mada reports that Iraq's Integrity Commission has released a list of the most corrupt ministries in Iraq. At number four: Electricity. At number three: Trade. At number one: Defense. And at number two? Interior. No, Schmidt didn't cover that in his report either. How does one interview the 'acting minister' of the ministry just ranked the second most corrupt in Iraq by the independent governmental Integrity Commission and 'forget' to inform readers of the ranking? One manages that feat only when filing for the New York Times.
Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights." AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005." James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha." Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Do you see an opinion in there from me? No, you do not. We didn't follow that case here. What prevents us here from following an Iraq legal case? Not me knowing anyone on the legal teams of either side but if I act as a sounding board (only to listen to an idea later not pursued) for a friend who's on that case. I did that. I did not comment here for that reason. That has always been the policy here. I have covered cases here where I knew someone on the prosecution or the defense -- and they never got any slack from me -- but if I've only agreed to allow someone to bounce something off me, I don't comment on the case. I have no comment on the above -- so those who keep e-mailing bothered by my comment better figure out what comment I made because I made no comment on that case here. (Haditha was addressed here when the story broke. That's before the just decided case. In terms of the legal arguments, the plea bargain, etc., I have made no comment.)
We're not done with that case. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for the case to be reviewed. There's nothing to review now. When statements in the pargraph from Wednesay were being made (and more were made than what I included in the paragraph), I understood the emotions involved. But I really didn't think someone would try to pursue something that couldn't be pursued.
The plea bargain was signed off on by both sides. The judge has implemented it and done the sentencing. A ruling has been made. He can't be retried and, unless there's proof that the plea bargain was violated in some way, there's nothing to re-open. What's more bothersome to me is that there's talk in Iraqi media -- that I would have thought would have died down by now -- of the soldier being transferred to Iraq for another hearing. That will not happen. Anyone pursuing that is wasting their time. The US does not allow double jeopardy. The soldier has been tried and punishment has been handed out. (Iraq also doesn't allow double jeopardy, per their Constitution, FYI.) The US government would never transfer the soldier over to Iraq for a trial. Just as they refused to transfer soldiers over to face charges in Italy for actions in Iraq, they will not allow it to happen. Even more so with this soldier, because he's already been tried and, in the eyes of the legal system, been punished. The only avenue left -- and this is not a comment on the case which is now closed -- is civil court. In the US, charges could be filed, civil charges not criminal, requesting payment for damages -- and it would have to be in the US because the soldier will not go to Iraq (I wouldn't if I were him either) and it would be very difficult for an Iraqi court to get the US to agree to a lien on what would be a trial in absentia. Family members could sue for damages in a US civilian court. They'd no doubt use his confession as evidence. That's better than just a guilty verdict, he confessed and he made a statement of remorse that's now in the court record. There is no criminal avenue that can be pursued now. The only legal option currently would be for family members to file charges in a civilian court, file for damages as a result of the loss of the loved ones. That would be the only option left and it could go either way before a jury. But this nonsense of wasting everyone's time on this topic as you insist that criminal charges will come about or his punishment will be changed, that's not happening and you're wasting everyone's time with your fantasy.
Michael Ratner: Heidi, we all heard the good news over the last few weeks that Mumia was taken off death row and is no longer facing the death penalty. I know there are other issues you want to talk about with Mumia and I know you just had a visit with Mumia. So why don't you tell us what's going on with Mumia, where is he, how was your visit?
Heidi Boghosian: Mumia was transferred from the facility SCI Greene where he'd been on death row for 17 years -- 17 of the past 30 years -- in that facility and he was transferred to SCI Mahanoy which is in Frackville, Pennsylvania.
Michael Ratner: SCI means?
Heidi Boghosian: State Correctional Institution. It's about two and a half hours from New York so it makes it a lot easier to visit him than in the other location.
Michael Ratner: Is that where you visited him? In his new location?
Heidi Boghosian: I've been to his new location three times.
Michael Ratner: Wow.
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's actually a medium security facility. The problem is that Mumia's held in what's called Restrictive Custody in the Administrative Housing Unit there. So he was literally taken off death row and moved into solitary confinement where he is shackled and handcuffed whenever he leaves his cell, his number of weekly visits has been reduced to one and that's just for one hour -- that doesn't include legal visits which can last for several hours.
Michael Ratner: Let me ask, and I want you to go on, when you visit him, he comes into the room or where ever you visit him in shackles?
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's noteworthy that years ago at SCI Greene, he also was in shackles until [Bishop] Desmond Tutu visited him a few years ago and complained that this was inhumane treatment because essentially he's behind thick plexi-glass in a small 4 by 6 roughly foot holding unit and there are little perforated holes on the side so you can hear each other. But, so now he's back in the shackles. His phone call privileges have been --
Michael Ratner: Wait a second. You talk to him through a wall?
Heidi Boghosian: Yes, you're sitting on one side of a thick plexi-glass partition. So you're in the same room but it's divided in half by plexi-glass. So, anyway, his phone call privileges have been reduced. He can only have, I think it's ten stamps and envelopes a week. And, as a writer, you can well imagine that Mumia writes probably at least ten letters a day so this is a dramatic change. He doesn't have his radio or TV.
Michael Ratner: Books?
Heidi Boghosian: I think he only has four books. At first, he had none, then they allowed him four. The National Lawyers Guild along with the Human Rights Research Fund, which is co-chaired by Kathleen Cleaver and Natsu Taylor Saito, sent a letter to the Department of Corrections on January 11th calling for him to be moved into General Population as he was supposed to have been when he left SCI Greene. And we cited, as listeners probably know, that for over a century the US Supreme Court has recognized the psychological damage that results from being held in solitary. There was a case in 1890, In re Medley, Also the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America, a few years ago, found that the increasing use of punitive segregation is not only counter-productive but it often results in violence in the facilities and also contributes to post-release recidivism and Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rappoorteur on Torture just a few weeks ago called for a ban on solitary confinement longer than 16 days, reiterating that it amounts to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. As a result, the people's movement has really been calling the facility. We are disheartened to note that there were rumors Mumia was going to be moved into general population as of last Thursday and that has -- of this airing -- not happened.
Michael Ratner: Tell me, Heidi, he's not been moved yet and what can people do?
Heidi Boghosian: People can call. We'll put a link to the website that has all this information but they can basically [. . .]
As of 1/27/12, Mumia Abu-Jamal has officially been transferred to General Prison Population after being held in Administrative Custody ("The Hole" or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA for seven weeks. This is the first time Mumia has been in General Population since his arrest in 1981.
PLEASE NOTE that while this is a victory in transferring Mumia out of the torturous Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), we call upon the closure of ALL RHU's! Furthermore, we call upon the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of Mumia Abu-Jamal and are not disillusioned by this transfer. Free Mumia!
Write to Mumia to send him some love!
MAILING ADDRESS FOR MUMIA ABU-JAMAL: Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM8335 SCI Mahanoy 301 Morea Road Frackville, PA 17932