Last Saturday, Iraqi women protested in Baghdad against Nouri al-Maliki's proposed bill which would allow father's to marry off daughters as young as nine-years-old, strip away the need for consent to sex, and would strip custodial rights from mothers. The US press has worked overtime to ignore the protest and the bill Nouri's sent to Parliament. Today, it finally got some attention in the US press.
Lauren Cox (Hollywood Life) notes the bill and a detail everyone else (including me) has missed:
Iraq is seriously considering passing a new law called Jaafari Personal Status Law which would allow girls as young as 8-years-old to legally marry. The law itself actually reads girls age 9, but because Iraq follows the lunar Islamic calendar their age 9 actually equals the age of 8 years and 8 months. The law also mentions this is the same age that girls reach puberty. Is this their justification for allowing such young girls to be forced into marriage?
Making matters even worse, the same reads that a husband can have sex with his wife with or without her consent. This means that if an 8-year-old gets married, she could raped by her husband and it would not be illegal.
Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) adds, "One more aspect of the proposal that’s angered many: It only gives the father -- not the mother or female guardian -- the right to refuse to accept a marriage proposal." Brittany Greenquist (RYOT News) observes, "Sadly, the law doesn’t stop with child brides and marital rape, it also adds increased restrictions to a woman’s ability to leave her house, and would make it easier for men to have more than one wife."
The Associated Press' Sameer N. Yacoub and Sinan Salaheddin offer a lengthy report which includes: "Also under the proposed measure, a husband can have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill also prevents women from leaving the house without their husband's permission, would restrict women's rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives."
Many outlets are carrying the AP report including Huffington Post, The Australian, The Daily Beast, WA Today, Savannah Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, News 24, Daily Inter Lake, the Scotland Herald, Sydney Morning Herald, Singapore Today, the Irish Independent, The Scotsman, Lebanon's Daily Star, The Belfast Telegraph and Canada's CBC. UPI covers the issue by noting Felicity Arbuthnot's article from earlier in the week.
The bill is illegal by the Iraqi Constitution. It's offensive and offensive to the world. The brave Iraqi women who protested Saturday deserved and deserve support.
Nouri's asked his flunkies to stage rallies in support of the illegal bill.
As the West remained silent.
Nouri had the most success in Najaf on Wednesday when nearly a hundred women demonstrated in favor of this offensive bill while about 40 demonstrated in Basra. The women were mocked -- and deserved to be, let's not pretend otherwise -- and ridiculed in Arabic social media. Which may be why all the efforts that followed had poor turnout. Iraq Times notes a little over a dozen women turned out in Maysan today to insist the bill be turned into a law, close to 30 women turned out in Dhi Qar and a little over 20 turned out in Baghdad today whining for their rights and their daughters rights to be stripped away.
If you put it all together, the numbers from today with the numbers earlier in the week, you still don't have even half as many women as turned out to protest the law in Baghdad.
But that Nouri could scare up these 'support rallies' at all?
That goes to the refusal of the Western media to cover this issue and to make it clear that it was illegal and unacceptable.
Marie Harf is a US State Dept spokesperson. She presided over today's press briefing (yes, State finally gave a briefing on Friday). Said Arikat, Al Quds bureau chief, raised the issue of the proposed law.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
Said Arikat: Are you aware of a law that allows parent – fathers or guardians to marry off their 9-year-old girls?
MS. HARF: Yes.
Said Arikat: And what is your comment on that?
MS. HARF: This is a draft law. We understand that this draft law, which I think several high-level Iraqi political and religious leaders have publicly condemned and claim violates the rights of Iraqi women – has been sent to the council of representatives for consideration. We absolutely share the strong concerns of the UN mission in Iraq, which has noted that this law risks constitutionally protected rights for women. The draft law I think is pending before the parliament right now. It would require three readings before a vote could take place, so we’ll obviously be watching the debate closely and welcome a parliamentary process that ensures the rights of all Iraqis, including women, are fully protected in line with its constitution.
And I would also note that some women’s groups, some human rights NGOs, have also condemned the draft law as a significant step backwards for women’s rights in Iraq.
When a group in a country is being targeted, if the world rallies to call it out, it can have an impact. By the same token, silence only endorses and embraces the targeting. Human Rights Watch deserves strong credit for weighing in earlier this week with "Iraq: Don’t Legalize Marriage for 9-Year-Olds." Suadad al-Salhy and Reuters reports deserve credit for being the only Western outlet to grasp last Sautrday this was serious and news. (Yes, I know AFP's Prashant Rao spent Saturday attempting to get a copy of the bill's text in writing. I know it, so what? AFP didn't report on it -- because Prashant couldn't get a written copy of the bill. al-Salhy and Reuters did report on the issue. So we applaud them. No applause for AFP and they should be glad that it's been too busy of a week for me to connect this to all the other silences on Iraqi women from AFP.) Iraqi media covered it and deserves credit for that. Rudaw took it seriously and did at least three stories by Tuesday on this issue so they deserve applause as well.
And we'll again note and applaud the United Nations Secretary-General's special envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, for his Tweet last Saturday:
I'll certainly applaud the ones who showed up today.
But there should have been a lot more and it's really sad that the State Dept can't make a statement on it until they're asked about it.
You know what, though? If the State Dept will make their policy on all countries, I'll be fine with it. If John Kerry, Secretary of State, will stop threatening various countries and just keep his mouth closed unless he's asked a question, that might be a good policy. It might de-escalate some of the tensions in the world right now instead of ratcheting them up -- something that's especially dangerous when Weak Barack is the president.
You can play madman of the planet. That's actually a game theory in international relations. Bully Boy Bush was insane. And the world knew it as did the US. So he could bully and threaten and everyone knew he was crazy enough to do it -- to do anything. As the global madman, he intimidated many.
But Barack's not seen as a madman. That's fine. But is he seen as strong? No.
Which is why he delegates to Kerry to be the mouth piece making threats (and did so with Hillary Clinton before Kerry). And both are willing to play this crazy role.
You'll notice the Secretaries of Defense -- Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and now Chuck Hagel -- have all rejected that role in the administration. That's because they're smarter than Kerry and Clinton.
Let's move back to Iraq where Friday's big news was the return of Moqtada al-Sadr. Alsumaria reports the cleric and movement leader has returned to Najaf from Iran and done so the day before the demonstrations he called for to take place.
Background. Nouri's big mouth ended up tanking his own two-day conference. For those who missed it, Nouri's fat mouth was flapping last Saturday insulting many as he spoke to France24. France 24's Mark Perelman interviewed (link is text and video) Nouri for a half hour broadcast which aired Saturday. In the interview, Nouri's well noted paranoia was on full display as he repeatedly declared, in the very first two minutes, his alleged 'victory' over those attempting to turn Iraq and Syria into one country ("there are goals to create a one state," "create a state -- one part in Syria and one part in Iraq"). He continued to gab and began accusing other countries of supporting terrorism (he was supposedly going to reveal proof of his gossip in the conference but, as usual, his fat mouth made empty promises). He also insulted Moqtada.
Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement February 15th. February 18th, he delivered a speech -- CounterPunch posted the speech in full -- emphasizing his decision. February 26th, NINA noted the rumors that Moqtada left Iraq, "The sources noted in a press statement that Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr left today's afternoon the city of Najaf heading to the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to complete his religious studies and stay away from the political scene as he officially announced for all Iraqis."
Now Moqtada had left Iraq. He'd asked his followers not to protest. And they ceased their protests and heeded Moqtada's call. But Nouri had to go all bitchy on Moqtada in the interview, insulting his intelligence, etc. This led to mass protests all week and now it's led to the return of Moqtada to Iraq. And to what's expected to be a very large protest against Nouri on Saturday. Al Mada quotes Baraa al-Azzawi, with the Sadr bloc, stating that they've implemented security plans and are expecting a turn out in Dhi Qar of over one thousand.
Kitabat notes that Moqtada met, earlier this week, in Tehran with the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim and the two discussed issues regarding the planned April 30th parliamentary elections. There are rumors in Arabic social media that his return will include an announcement or two regarding the planned elections.
On the topic of the planned elections, Women's e-News notes, "About 3,000 Iraqi female candidates are preparing to start campaigning for parliamentary elections, the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported March 2. It's the biggest female participation in an election in the recent history of Iraq, and the majority of the women are running for the first time. The Higher Commission for Elections in Iraq asked every party to have a minimum of 25 percent female candidates on their list."
If Nouri had a brain, he would have kept his mouth shut. If he had, it's doubtful Moqtada would have returned.
March 4th, we noted an e-mail from an Iraqi MP which stated that Nouri was using arrest warrants to take out political rivals and that there was one on Moqtada among others. Dar Addustour reports today the rumors that Nouri has files on many in Sadr's bloc -- open files, warrants, ready to be issued. Former prime minister and leader of the National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari is said to have tried to reason with Nouri but without success.
In returning, Moqtada avoided Baghdad International by flying from Iran to Al Najaf International Airport.
This allowed him to avoid the prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki.
Sadly, the people of Anbar can't avoid Nouri or his continued assault on the province. National Iraqi News Agency notes that the military shelled a residential neighborhood in Rawa killing 1 person and injuring three members "from the same family." Nouri also ordered bombings in Falluja's residential neighborhoods and 1 adult and 1 child were killed while another child, a woman and five males were left injured. Civilians are targeted, hunted and killed in Nouri's Iraq.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 427 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.
National Iraqi News Agency reports an al-Rashad Village home invasion carried out by killers "in military uniforms" left 3 family members dead, Baghdad Operations Command states they killed 6 suspects in Latifiya, Joint Operations Command stated they killed 4 suspects "near al-Mowadhafeen Staff bridge" (in Anbar), an al-Qaim roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left three more military personnel injured, an Abu Dsher roadside bombing left two people injured, an Anbar suicide bomber ("between Aanah and Rawa cities") took his own life and the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 police member dead (six more people injured), a Shualah roadside bombing left 2 people dead and six more injured, and "late last night" a bombing "targeted the house of municipal adminstrator [Aj,ed Sjejab] in Hawij" leaving four people injured. Alsumaria, citing Anbar Province's Council deputy chair Faleh al-Issawi, notes a Rawa bridge bombing which he states targeted a wedding and not the military present. All Iraq News notes 18 people have died in the Rawa Bridge bombing and eighteen more were injured. All Iraq News also reports 1 police member was shot dead near his Tikrit home. Iraq Times reports a mortar attack in Ramadi (no word on whether it was by the military or not) left 2 children dead and four more injured.
Let's wind down on Iraq by remembering Wednesday's snapshot included US Secretary of State John Kerry bragging about how the Dept is used as a collection agency, pressuring the government of Argentina to pay of US corporations. It's interesting when you consider Nouri al-Maliki's failed conference.
Iraq Times notes that Nouri had a little insignia for his conference.
Is Nouri a graphic artist now?
No, he's a tracer.
Nouri used the copyrighted Batman insignia. Did Kerry have any official bother to inform Nouri that this was trademark infringement?
In England, a prominent figure in the anti-war movement has passed away. GRITtv with Laura Flanders Tweeted:
We're very saddened to hear of the passing of Tony Benn. Watch
@GRITLaura's interview with him here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSo42biUwwc&list=PLOWumRv2zO8aEI--RE5Cp5kevc4zvTrnQ …
We'll mix in Tweets throughout. Tony Benn passed away today at the age of 88, just weeks from his 89th birthday (he was born April 3, 1925). He served in the British Parliament for 50 years and was a member of the Labour Party. Afterwards, his actions included being the first president of the UK's Stop the War Coalition.
i really admired Tony Benn. one of those people who had unwavering principles. felt safe with him around. force for good. an inspiration
Stop the War's Lindsey German remembers Benn and notes:
The loss of Tony Benn is a loss for our whole movement. He was a good friend to the Stop the War Coalition, of which he remained president to the end. One of his last speeches was at the Stop the War international conference on 30 November 2013. He was a socialist, someone with a deep commitment to social change, who was principled to the end.
Tony was from a privileged and highly political background, the son and grandson of Liberal and then Labour politicians. He would have become Viscount Stansgate in the early 60s if he had not fought a long legal battle to renounce his peerage and to continue as an MP in the House of Commons. This he did, first in Bristol then in Chesterfield. He became an important minister in the Wilson Labour governments, standing for deputy leader in 1981 after Labour’s defeat by Thatcher.
Almost uniquely for someone in his position, he moved to the left as he got older. As an MP he campaigned over a range of issues, supported the miners during their year long strike in 1984-5, was committed to equality and women’s rights, was an internationalist who opposed empire and apartheid, and a socialist. But in my opinion his most important work came after he left parliament as he quipped ‘to spend more time on politics’.
This was after the death of his remarkable wife Caroline, a fine socialist campaigner and author. He dedicated the rest of his life to campaigning and was absolutely tireless in doing so.
Gary Younge (Guardian) offers, "The two things that stood out, watching him both from afar from an early age and up close over those few weeks, were his optimism and his persistence. He believed that people were inherently decent and that they could work together make the world a better place – and he was prepared to join them in that work wherever they were."
Charlie Kimber (UK Socialist Worker) shares:
A lot of people genuinely loved Tony Benn for his commitment to working class politics and socialism.
I was once lucky enough to speak at a meeting with Benn and share a train with him.
Throughout the journey people begged for photos or asked him to “speak to my mum on the phone—you’re her hero”.
I don’t imagine that happens to Ed Miliband or Ed Balls—or that they are as accessible or friendly as Benn was.
Benn had that happy knack that, even though you might have heard the speech many times, it never lost the power to cheer you up.
He supported every significant working class struggle in the last 30 years and played a major role in building the Stop the War movement after 2001.
He campaigned across Britain, giving people inspiration and confidence.
UK Channel 4 News grabs a series of his quotes including, "If you are invaded you have a right to self defence, and this idea that people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are resisting the invasion are militant Muslim extremists is a complete bloody lie."
Mark D'Arcy (BBC News) reports, "Benn was a third-generation MP - his grandfather John had served in the Commons and his father William entered Parliament as a Liberal, served under Asquith as a Treasury minister and then switched to labour when the old Liberal party imploded, becoming Ramsay MacDonald's Secretary of State for India."
So what did Tony Benn lack that made him different from the rest? The pathological self-regard that blocks compassion. It's not complicated.
The New Yorker's John Cassidy offers a tribute which includes:
[. . .] he raised many issues that are still pertinent, from Britain’s future in Europe to the primacy of the City of London and the financial industry; from the threat of rising inequality to the activities of U.S. intelligence services around the world. (He was forever invoking the misdeeds of the C.I.A.) He brought a drive and a moral urgency to politics that is largely lacking today, and, for a while, he accomplished something that few radicals manage: he created genuine fear among his enemies, on Fleet Street and elsewhere. To quote Benedict Brogan, of the Daily Telegraph, “There was a time … when he wasn’t harmless at all, but downright dangerous. That’s what made him such a powerful, memorable force in the history of British politics.”
The Yorkshire Post opines, "There was no one else in his era who so superbly and with such fire led the left and who so utterly ignored his own personal prospects in order to get his message across."
Admired so many things about Benn: unwavering principles; always open to new ideas; stellar political speaker but unfailingly courteous.
Tony Benn dies. So sad. A personal political hero.
Michael White (Pakistan's The Nation) adds, "Throughout his adult life Benn was also a prolific keeper of what became nightly diary notes, later tape recordings, the basis of eight very readable volumes of diaries, the last published in 2013 as A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine. They provided insights into both his happy family life - married for 50 years to Caroline, an American of similar outlook - and Benn’s take on the politics of the day, both high and low, plus gossip. In old age, the diaries were augmented by live performance on stage and TV, where he was as much a hit in the Tory home counties as in Labour heartlands. Even his worst enemies did not deny he was an excellent mimic who could be very funny."
Michael McHugh (Belfast Telegraph) notes Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams statements on Benn's passing:
The former West Belfast MP said: "Tony was a true friend of the Irish people.
"A principled politician and activist, he spoke up passionately for the idea of a united Ireland. He remained an avid supporter of Irish freedom throughout his life."
Mr Benn met the Sinn Fein leader on numerous occasions. He invited Mr Adams to a meeting in 1983 during the height of the IRA's campaign when the republican party's tolerance of violence was anathema to most in Great Britain.
After a visit by Mr Adams was blocked in 1993 he correctly predicted that he would eventually visit Downing Street, to become a regular occurrence during peace process negotiations under the Blair administration.
UK's Pink News notes Benn was a supporter of LGBTQ rights:
Benn voted strongly in favour of gay rights during his time in Parliament – including the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967.
He denounced the Thatcher Government for introducing Section 28 in 1988.
The law stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” and that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Speaking in the Commons, Benn said: “If the sense of the word ‘promote’ can be read across from ‘describe’, every murder play promotes murder, every war play promotes war, every drama involving the eternal triangle promotes adultery; and Mr Richard Branson’s condom campaign promotes fornication. The House had better be very careful before it gives to judges, who come from a narrow section of society, the power to interpret ‘promote’.
the associated press
sameer n. yacoub
the daily beast
channel 4 news
the socialist worker
the belfast telegraph
all iraq news
national iraq news agency