Iraqi authorities should order an immediate, transparent, and independent investigation into lethal police and army shootings of anti-government protesters on March 8, 2013, and others in recent weeks. The authorities should also ensure that those responsible for unlawful killings or excessive force are brought to justice.
Police may have killed one person and wounded others when they fired on protesters in Mosul on March 8, 2013. Soldiers who opened fire on demonstrators in Fallujah on January 25 killed nine people. Human Rights Watch on March 9 interviewed witnesses to the Mosul shootings, who said soldiers also searched and harassed demonstrators as they approached the protest site and tried to prevent ambulances from carrying away wounded people.
“Iraqi authorities need to intervene before further lives are lost,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Security forces are repeatedly opening fire on protesters. The government needs to find out why and hold anyone responsible for excessive use of force to account.”
The March 8 protest in Mosul was one of the ongoing regular demonstrations that have gripped Iraq’s predominantly Sunni provinces since December 2012, when government security forces arrested 10 bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi al-Essawi, a Sunni. The demonstrations, called to protest what the Sunni demonstrators say is their unfair treatment by the government and the imprisonment of Sunnis on little or no evidence, were initially largely without incident . On January 25, however, soldiers fired at protesters in Fallujah after they threw rocks at soldiers, killing nine. Since then, soldiers and police have fired on several demonstrations, including the one in Mosul on March 8. One protester, Mahmoud Saleh Yassin, died and nine others were wounded.
Witnesses to the Mosul shootings told Human Rights Watch that federal police officers opened fire with live ammunition after protesters began throwing stones at them. It is unclear whether the police gave any warning before opening fire. This contrasts with the version of events provided by the Interior Ministry later that day, which accused “infiltrators” among the protesters with Kalashnikov rifles of starting the shooting and provoking the use of live fire by the federal police. The ministry said it had appointed an investigative committee to look into the matter further but was silent as to whether police fire had killed Yassin.
Today's violence? National Iraq News reports 1 women and 6 children are dead from bombing three homes in Haweeja (Kirkuk) in the latest assault on Sahwa. Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (or "Daughters Of Iraq"). In other violence, NINA reports a sticky bombing injured a police officer and his son as they were enroute to Falluja, a Mosul street bombing injured one cab driver, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Mosul armed attack left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, 1 civilian was shot dead in Falluja, a Mosul home invasion left 3 members of one family injured, and a Kirkuk bombing left fifteen people injured. Alsumaria adds 1 corpse was discovered in Ramadi (signs of torture).
Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi was in Ramadi today. NINA reports he held a news conference at the Iraqi Conference of Sahwa Forces headquarters and he stated, "The government is trying to tarnish the image of the sit-ins of Anbar and deprive them from their legitimacy. The government is trying to circumvent the demands of the protesters, and trying to distort the true picture through describing them as sectarian." He also noted that Nouri's Committee of Five has done little to address the demands of the protesters. Al Mada notes that also present at the press conference was the President of al-Anbar Awakening Ahmed Abu Risha. The two join Human Rights Watch in calling for an investigation as do students in Anbar Province. NINA notes that Risha and al-Nujaifi discussed the protesters demands and the governments lack of response to them.
Osama al-Nujaifi is riding a wave of popular public opinion as a result of his attending (along with Iraqiya MPs Salman Jumaili and Dhafi al-Aani) services yesterday at Abu Hanifa Mosque in Adhamiya despite efforts by the federal forces to keep worshipers out of the mosque. NINA notes he received chants of praise from Falluja and Ramadi protesters. Mohammed Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Shi'ite clerics are joining with politicians to criticize the federal forces attempt to seal of Adhamiya and prevent people from attending morning services -- a move they point out is both a violation of the Iraqi Constitution and of religious freedom. The National Alliance's Wael Abdul Latif stated that the closure is stealing the freedoms the Constitution guarantees and that it is not permissable to encroach upon the rights of the Iraqis.
All Iraq News notes that Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, issued a statement today calling for members of his party to remember that it is the obligation of the government to serve the citizens. This as Nouri met with National Alliance head Ibrahim al-Jaafary today to discuss political and security situations in Iraq. Alsumaria reports that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr charges that the government has focused on sheltering and protecting itself instead of doing its role to protect the citizens. Al Mada adds that he declared the government needs to stop bullying the Iraqi people and that it is time for the government to learn to live in "red" areas and stop hiding in "green" ones -- a reference to the highly protected Green Zone in Baghdad where the government is housed.
Thursday saw an attack on Baghdad's Ministry of Justice. Al Mada reports that Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has received a response from the ministry about why the attacks took place? The Ministry insists it was due to a lack of money and a lack of equipment. The Iraq Times wonders, "Why target the Ministry of Justice?" Al Rafidayn reports that the Ministry was targeted because it houses the files on prisoners due to be executed.
Meanwhile Dawa (Nouri's political party) made the decision to give the appearance of popularity to Nouri. National Iraqi News reports that Dawa "re-elected Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki its Secretary General." All Iraq News notes, "It is worth mentioning that the Dawa Islamic Party has elected Maliki in 2006 as its Secretary General to replace Ibrahim al-Jaafary." Al Rafidayn is reporting the rumor burning up Baghdad at present, that Nouri is about to arrest Minister of Finance Rafaie al-Issawi.
In the United States, next week will see a major event from Iraq Veterans Against the War:
March 19th is the 10th Anniversary of the commencement of the War in Iraq, A war that ended quietly in December 2011 and was quickly and deeply forgotten by many. It's consequences, though, are far-reaching and very present. As we reach the watermark of a decade since the war began it seems a fitting time to have a frank discussion of what the war has wrought for those who have participated in it.
For the veterans of this decade of war and occupation it is far from over. Every single person in Iraq is a veteran of the war. Until they have reliable infrastructure, competent and non-corrupt governance, an environment cleared of biohazards and munitions, and sophisticated healthcare the war cannot begin to end.
Over two million US service members are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
They came away from the experience with severe physical, mental and moral wounds that they will be coping with and overcoming for a lifetime, often with woefully inadequate support from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.
Haider Hamza, Aaron Glantz and Antonia Juhasz are three journalists each with expertize in different areas of the war. They will share their stories and analysis of the war and its aftermath with respect to the costs to all its veterans, Iraqi and American.
Haider Hamza is an Iraqi journalist. “For most Americans the Iraq war is a thing of the past. The U.S. has withdrawn most of its troops from Iraq, and incidents that roiled newspaper headlines seem all but forgotten. But nearly 1 million Iraqis were killed in the course of the war, 3 million injured and more than 4 million displaced. For those still struggling from physical, economic and psychological wounds, the legacy from the Iraq war can seem impossible to forget.” Hamza lived through the 2003 invasion with his family near Babylon, south of Baghdad. In his early 20s, he was a TV producer and photo editor for ABC News and Reuters, among others. He covered many of the landmark events. He was embedded with U.S. military units covering combat operations throughout Iraq. He also covered the perspective of Iraqi armed resistance as a freelance journalist. He has seen the war through many lenses. In 2007 he won a Fulbright scholarship which brought him to the U.S. where he earned a Masters Degree in global security and conflict resolution from Columbia University. He was featured on NPR's "This American Life" in 2008 when he traveled across the country offering himself up to American citizens for conversation, more often receiving lectures in return.
Aaron Glantz is an American reporter covering veterans issues, among other things, for The Bay Citizen. Before joining TBC, Glantz spent seven years covering the war in Iraq and the treatment veterans receive when they come home. Glantz's reporting has been honored with numerous awards, including a 2010 national investigative reporting award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of veterans' suicides. He was awarded the Journalist of the Year Award in 2012 by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his investigative work in veterans’ issues.
He has been a Rosalynn Carter Fellow for Mental Health Journalism at the Carter Center, a DART Center Fellow for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University Journalism School and a fellow at the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media and Columbia University Teachers College.
He is author of three books, most recently The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans (UC Press 2009).
Antonia Juhasz is a leading oil and energy analyst, activist, journalist, and author. She has written three books, Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill (Wiley, 2011); The Tyranny of Oil (HarperCollins, 2008); and The Bush Agenda (HarperCollins, 2006), and is currently working on her fourth. For over a decade, in writing and action, Juhasz has articulated the linkages between oil and the wars in Iraq. She is the recipient of a 2012-2013 Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism where she is investigating oil and natural gas and the Afghanistan war. Juhasz has also been published in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlantic, Petroleum Review Magazine, The Nation, Tikkun, and The Progressive, among other outlets. Juhasz holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelors Degree in Public Policy from Brown University.
The following community sites -- plus Tavis Smiley and Antiwar.com -- updated today:
Rebecca's "a roundtable on iraq" is not showing on the list above. Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "US-Style School Reform Goes South" (The Nation):
Just weeks after taking office, Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, ordered the arrest of the country's most powerful union leader, Elba Esther Gordillo. The move garnered international headlines and was widely cast as a sign that the government was serious about cracking down on corruption. But virtually no one in Mexico believes that was the real reason for her arrest.
The timing alone suggests a different interpretation. Gordillo, president of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), was charged with embezzlement and removed from office in late February-shortly after the Mexican Congress gave its final approval to an education reform program that is hated by most of the country's teachers.
Gordillo was a longtime ally of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party not only of Peña Nieto but of the disgraced former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who imposed her as the union's president in 1989, after forcing her predecessor to resign. Although Gordillo was forced out of the party several years ago in a power struggle, she remained one of the most powerful politicians in Mexico.
An anti-democratic union leader, Gordillo may prove to be guilty of the charges leveled against her. But what placed her in the cross-hairs of Mexico's corporate elite was more likely her inability to keep teachers under control as the country moves forward with its latest neoliberal reform-this time of its schools.
One leader of the progressive opposition within the SNTE, Juan Ortega Madrigal, warned that Peña Nieto "is totally wrong if he believes that he can silence the voices of 500,000 teachers by decree," adding that they would not "abandon the defense of public education." Teachers backed up that sentiment with a two-day national strike. Rubén Núñez Ginez, the head of Oaxaca's teachers union, said they would not permit a law to take effect that attacks public education and the rights of teachers.
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