Friday, November 23, 2012

Iraq: Persecution of women, protests, corruption and more

In Iraq, Parliament's Human Rights Commission announced earlier this week that they will begin making prison inspections due to the increased reports of women being abused and treated poorly in prison, Al Mada reports.  The announcement led the Ministry of Justice to announce mid-week that they are responsible for prison interrogations.  And outside of prison?  Hanaa Edwar states, "Day after day, I am seeing more indicators that there is discrimination against women who choose not to wear hijab in Iraq."  Dina al-Shibeeb (Al Arabiya) speaks with Hanaa Edwar who founded the Iraqi Women's Network and is the General Secretary of Iraqi al-Amal Association:

Edwar, also founder of Iraqi Women’s Network, sounded the alarm about attempts to force women to wear the hijab, especially in government offices.
Head of Iraq’s Ministry of Women, Ibtihal Kasid al-Zubaidi, ordered in January that women working in government offices dress “modestly.” Zubaidi axed tight pants, short skirts and colorful clothes.
Zubaidi, who segregated genders in her ministry, was lambasted as "anti-female" and her ministry described as an "anti-women ministry."
Edwar’s Iraqi Women Network, made up of 18 civil society organizations, protested against Zubaidi’s policy, describing it as seeking to curb women’s civil liberties.
More women are approaching Edwar to file their complaints about government institutions and even TV channels belonging to religious political which enforce strict dress code and gender segregation.

Hanaa Edwar also decries the increase in temporary marriages in Iraq.  Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is audio and text) reported on temporary marriages in October of 2010 with Robert Siegel observing in the introduction that the practice is popular in Iraq but had not been in Iraq where it was banned by Saddam Hussein.  After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, things changed.  Excerpt:

KELLY MCEVERS: This woman is so ashamed about what happened to her, she doesn't want to give her name. A mother of three, she says her husband abandoned her when she found out he preferred men. She had no way to support the family.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken) 

MCEVERS: A religious figure in her neighborhood promised to help. He brought her to his home, locked the door and had sex with her. He offered her $15.
For the man at least, it was a brief moment of muta'a, the Arabic word for pleasure and the Arabic word for temporary marriage.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: The woman says the man who had sex with her worked with leading Shiite religious clerics in the Iraqi City of Najaf. It's one of the most revered places in Shiite Islam.
We're standing on a main street in the Holy City of Najaf. Just down some of these smaller streets are the offices of the Marjah. That's the four top clergymen for the Shiite community in all of Iraq.

Demonstrations have not vanished in Iraq. Al Mada reports that yesterday, for the third day in a row, special needs persons staged a strike outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Sulaimaniya.   They are staging a hunger strike, spokesperson Iara Mohammed explained, that the money allocated to those with special needs does not meet the most basic needs.  Meanwhile, a strike is threatened in Babylon.  Al Mada reports that teachers in Babylon are considering going on strike for, among other reasons, a lack of protection and accountability.  A school headmaster was killed and Wednesday saw demonstrations over it.  It is not felt that the death is being taken seriously or being investigated as needed.

Al Mada also notes that Iraqiya is pushing for Parliament to host Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for questions about the Russian arms deal.  The $4.2 billion deal was signed with much fanfare weeks ago only to have Nouri announce it was off.  Corruption rumors have swirled around the deal.   Al Rafidayn notes that one target of the rumors continues to be Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh.  al-Dabbagh has publicly denied involvement in the deal.  However, All Iraq News reports National Alliance MP Jawad Albzona notes that his al-Dabbagh's dismissal as spokesperson this week does not answer any questions and that al-Dabbagh is seen as a major player in the arms deal.

In other news, All Iraq News notes that, as the religious holiday of Ashura approaches, the Ministry of Health has sent Iraqis a text message warning them that terrorists are attempting to use foods, beverages and medicine to poison Iraqis. So Iraqis should be fine if they avoid all medicine.  And all food.  And all liquids.  Al Mada notes that Parliament's Integrity Commission disputes their ranking by Transparency International on the corruption index.  Today is the International Day to End Impunity.  Transparency International explains:

Friday, 23 November marks the International Day to End Impunity. At Transparency International we view impunity as getting away with bending the law, beating the system or escaping punishment. Impunity is anathema to the fight against corruption.
Earlier this month, activists, businesspeople, politicians, public officials, journalists, academics, youth and citizens who convened at the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brazil made it clear that transparency alone is not enough but must be accompanied by prosecution and punishment.
In a joint declaration, the gathering of 1,900 representatives from 140 countries called on political, business and community leaders everywhere “to embrace not only transparency in public life but a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are accountable.”
“We are watching those who act with impunity and we will not let them get away with it,” said the declaration, adopted in Brasília on 10 November.
The International Day to End Impunity is organized by IFEX, a global network that defends and promotes free expression. Events in more than 14 countries raise public awareness about what creates and sustains a culture of impunity. Transparency International supports the goals of protecting journalists and others engaged in the vitally important work of exposing corruption.
Dictionary definition of impunity im·pu·ni·ty  [im-pyoo-ni-tee]
1. exemption from punishment.
2. immunity from detrimental effects, as of an action.

Many of Transparency International’s some 100 national chapters are involved in initiatives that work toward ending impunity for corruption in their country, including helping in the detection of corruption, facilitating access to the judiciary, strengthening the judiciary’s independence and capacity, or by analysing and monitoring how corruption cases are being judged.
TI’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) offer the opportunity for citizens to pursue complaints about corruption. ALACs also play an instrumental role in identifying corruption hotspots that demand reform or official action. These centres are already functioning in more than 50 countries.
Our Rwandan ALAC pursued a case of land grabbing involving a mining cooperative president who sought to renew the mine’s certificate under his name. With the help of the ALAC, an investigation was launched with the Public Prosecutor Authority; after being taken to court the cooperative president’s was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined nearly US$3,500.
Many TI chapters have conducted election monitoring, including in Serbia, Bahrain and the Dominican Republic. In Venezuela, our chapter is part of an initiative, Alerta Electoral, which monitors electoral irregularities including potential misuse of taxpayer money by political candidates.
Several TI chapters are also working to improve whistleblower protections by advocating for strong legislation and assisting whistleblowers. These include chapters in Hungary, Lebanon and Zambia.
Our chapter in Ireland has established “Speak Up”, a free, secure helpline and online system for employees considering reporting wrongdoing. The Ireland chapter is also campaigning for the passage of a national whistleblower law that would cover all employees.
The need to fight impunity was also stressed at the closing session of the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference, which called for the promotion of a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are held accountable.
Transparency International believes that ‘impunity undermines integrity everywhere’ and is proud to participate on 23 November along with citizens who are fighting to end impunity for corruption and other crimes.

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