Monday, October 22, 2012

Afifa Iskandar passes away, the political crisis continues

Afifa Iskandar

Afifa Iskandar passed away Sunday.  The singer, pictured above, was not just an Iraqi institution, she was acclaimed throughout the region.  All Iraq News reports she was 91-years-old, born in 1912 to an Iraqi father and a Greek Christian mother.  The paper notes she began singing at the age of five and gave her first concert when she she was 8-years-old (gave the concert in Erbil).   Alsumaria notes that she married at the age of 12 and that she began singing in Baghdad clubs in 1935.  She'd go on to sing at all the leading clubs including Cabaret Abdullah and the Paradise.  In 1938, she'd travel to Egypt where she wowed Cario.

The History News Network shares a story of a social get together where Afifa Iskander performed:

To compare any singer to Um Kulthoum was the biggest compliment a singer could receive, especially in the fifties (this is before Arab rock had been invented). Afifa Iskander deserved it, not because of her overpowering voice nor her magnetic presence (factors which had made Um Kulthoum a star) but because of the warmth of her personality and the astonishing way she sang Iraqi ballads and made them her own. She was Iraq’s Um Kulthoum because she sang Iraqi songs that spoke to Iraqis everywhere in the same way that Um Kulthoum, despite her great Arab following, sang primarily to Egyptians; and she became a national icon precisely because she was able to sing songs that did not imitate the style of Egyptian or Lebanese chanteuses, but were profoundly, natively Iraqi. 

 Dropping back to Saturday, " In other scandals, Nouri fired Sinan al-Shabibi as Governor of the Central Bank (despite Article 103 of the Constitution making clear that he doesn't have that right -- Parliament does).  Since then a warrant's been put out for al-Shabibi who is said to be in Europe.  An unnamed MP tells Al Mada that Nouri fired al-Shabibi because the man refused to loan Nouri $63 billion that Nouri said was for the government's budget.  Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr is calling out Nouri's attempts to politicize the Central Bank and he also asks where is the reform that Nouri promised in early 2011?"  Today Prashant Rao (AFP) reports, "The targeting of Iraq's well-respected central bank chief appears to be a move by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to consolidate power and sends a bad message to international investors, experts and diplomats say."  Long time Iraq observer Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group tells Rao, "The Maliki government will claim it (the move against Shabibi) is part of long-standing efforts to root out corruption.  It looks more like a long-standing effort to gain control over independent institutions."

The political crisis continues in Iraq.  Ahmed Abdul Murad (Kitabat) reports a delegation of Kurds arrived Sunday in Baghdad to discuss the political crisis.  Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports they have met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  Rudaw explains:

A group of intellectuals, academics and political analysts gathered in Salahaddin on Oct. 20 to talk about the current political situation in Iraq. At the meeting, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said, "We welcome constructive talks with Baghdad."
Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Roj Nuri Shaways and Barham Salih, deputy secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), were also in attendance.
According to the official website of the presidency of the Kurdistan Region, those at the meeting “praised the role of the President Barzani in building the new Iraq and in creating the new Iraqi government. They also informed Barzani that Iraq is deeply upset by the current political crisis and that their mission in visiting the Kurdistan Region is to take a positive message back to Baghdad in order to end this political crisis."

Alsumaria notes that today's meet-up was with Nouri who spoke of the need for real solutions. Nouri's second term may end before the political crisis is resolved.  The crisis is usually pegged to December 2011.  The political stalemate pre-dates the crisis.  Political Stalemate I is the eight months after March 2010 when Nouri brought the country to a stand still as he demanded a second term as prime minister.  The US-brokered Erbil Agreement (November 2010) ends Political Stalemate I.  Nouri's trashing the contract starts Political Stalemate II.  In the summer of 2011, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya called for a return to the Erbil Agreement so you can see that as the start of Political Stalemate II or you can date it back further when Nouri refuses to create an independent national security commission headed by Ayad Allawi as outlined in the Erbil Agreement.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Cowardly Debater" went up last night.  On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include military commission and David Hicks, attorney Noura Erakat speaks with the hosts about the Russell Tribunal on Palestine Findgins and Ilan Pappe's speech at the Russell Tribunal is broadcast.
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