Starting in the US where there's been a conviction. City News Service reports the El Cajon murder trial reached a verdict today with the jury "finding Kassim Alhimidi, 49, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five." As we noted April 1st, Shaima's murder was briefly important to gas bags in March 2012 when they thought she was murdered by someone who hated her because she was Muslim or because she was Iraqi or both. When it turned out it was her husband? They ran from her and never looked back. Uprising Radio, US Socialist Worker, Democracy Now . . . all of them cared when it was a 'hate crime' by a stranger. When Shaima's murder became another in a long line of women killed by 'loved ones' in the US, they didn't have any interest.
Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Al-Himidi did not testify during the trial. He wept openly at times and followed the proceeding with the help of an Arabic translator. He screamed when the jury's verdict was read. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced." Kristina Davis and Dana Littlefield (San Diego Union-Tribune) offer, "Kassim Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger repeatedly when he heard the verdict: first-degree murder. He put his head down on the desk in front of him several times and appeared to be praying." R. Stickney and Monica Garske (NBC San Diego -- link is text and video) note, "As the defendant cried out in Arabic 'not guilty,' his mother-in-law flailed her arms, screaming 'you killed my daughter,' while his two teenage sons chose opposing sides." Kassim Alhimidi is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Moving to another topic popular on Twitter . . .
Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century. This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community. If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world. The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance. It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15. Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women? Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.
Basma al-Khateeb: Actually, the Minister of Justice by the end of October declared that they have a committee -- expert committee -- and they have finished drafting the Ja'fari law. It consists of 256 articles and he's going to present it to the Cabinet by the next session. He says that they've been working on for the past two years.
Malihe Razazan: Back in 2004, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who died in 2009, he was in exile in Iran for 20 years before the invasion, and after the occupation of Iraq, he worked very closely with the Americans. His party worked to pass Decision 137 issue by interim governing council to abolish the Personal Status Law Number 188 which was passed in 1959 --
Basma al-Kahteeb: That was actually the first thing that he -- that he issued, this Resolution 137 -- as if Iraq had no problems. This was the only rule that he came up with. And we had demonstrations and we managed to defeat that. They withdrew it.
Malihe Razazan: Yeah, because there was a huge backlash against it.
Basma al-Khateeb: But this is historical. His father, Muhsin al-Hakim, back in 1959, when the civil Personal Status Law was issued, the religious institutes led by Muhsin al-Hakim back then, his father, refused this Personal Status Law because it will take all the authority from the cleric.
Malihe Razazan: In matters regarding women's divorce, child custody, inheritance it will be left to civil courts.
Basma al-Khateeb: Yes. And this is how our judicial system and lawyers and colleges and scholars all -- I mean, we're talking about sixty years that all our institutions -- judicial, court, everything -- is built on it. This -- going back just to abolish all of this -- this law --the formal law, the Personal Status Law that's still active now. It doesn't go to clerics, only the judge rules. This current law puts another council that is in control of judges of courts. It just turns everything into chaos. Every lawyer has to study all these religious and cleric institution and legal issues. It doesn't mean that we have one court. It means that we have more than 20 courts because each Ayatollah is different in examination with the other. Havilah? Even though they're Sh'itie, they're different from the Sadr group, they're different from Sistani interpretation which means multi courts.
Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Andrew Roche (Reuters) explore the topic and note:
Proponents of the Ja'afari Law say many families marry off daughters underage anyway, particularly in the rural south, so the bill would protect young brides by codifying their status.
"The law does not make the marriage of underage girls obligatory," said Shi'ite women's rights activist Thabat al-Unaibi, adding she would not let her own two daughters marry until they were old enough to have finished their studies.
"Why all the fuss over this issue?"
And supporters have been the winners. Hajer Naili (Women's eNews) notes:
Haider Ala Hamoudi, a law professor at the University of Pittsburg who advised the 2009 Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature on behalf of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, has analyzed the text.
In a phone interview he called it sloppily drafted and poorly organized. "I just dismiss it as publicity to garner votes."
In a March 31 article in the Jurist, Hamoudi lays out the obstacles to transforming religious texts into actual laws and calls the text something of a "political stunt." In the article he quotes Ayatollah al- Bashir Najif, a leading Shiite, as criticizing the bill as "rife with flights of fancy in legal and juristic formulations that render it impossible that a jurist would find it acceptable."
Really? We're going to predict what's going to happen in an election when anything can happen?
And if it's being used "to garner votes," might some push hard for it to pass the Parliament after the election?
I have no idea what's going to happen with the bill.
But it does have supporters and it is being sold. It's being normalized.
And this is happening not just with the bill and the attempt to kill off the Personal Status Law Number 188. This is part of a larger war. Dropping back to January 27, 2012 snapshot:
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.
Let's to back to Wednesday's broadcast of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa.
Basma al-Khateeb: It lowers the marriage age for girls to 9 --
Malihe Razazan: From 18.
Basma al-Khateeb: -- 15 for boys, it's 18 for both [currently] marriage. Only in very, very special cases it's 15 with the consent of the judge under the current law. But for this Ja'fari law it lowers the age to 9. And wives must seek permission from their husbands before leaving the house. If I am a doctor or a minister or a lawyer, I cannot go out without permission from my husband, go out of the house. Muslim men would be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women. Granting husbands legal rights to have sex with their wives without their consent. Granting custody to the father of any child over two-years-old in the case of divorce which is not the case that we have now with the current law.
Note the similarities between the law and the position, two years ago, of the Minister of Women's Affairs.
Nouri picked that idiot for a reason.
This is not happening by accident.
Bit by bit, this gets pushed over and over. And every time it does the appropriate response is world wide condemnation. Short of that? It's not just being normalized within Iraq, it's being normalized outside of Iraq via silence.
"But it's still a danger because it's there, the draft is there," Basma al-Khateeb noted.
As Mark Taliano (Troy Media) observes, "'Freedom' and 'democracy' are still cloaking, tacitly or overtly, mass murder and genocide in Iraq at this moment." And that's certainly clear as Nouri terrorizes the citizens of Anbar. His War Crimes are many but include the non-stop bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja. Yesterday's snapshot noted how common these bombings were. The military's bombing of the residential neighborhoods continues. NINA reports, "A source at the Fallujah General Hospital told the reporter of the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / five people, including a woman, were killed and 11 others wounded, including two children, in the renewed shelling and mortar to most of Fallujah today." Qatar News Agency covers the killing of civilians here.
This is a War Crime. Nouri's committing War Crimes with weapons the US government provides him with.
Ann submitted a question to Gwen Ifill's live 'chat' (it's not) at PBS' The NewsHour today:
So Ann raises specific issues and gets an 'answer' where Gwen basically says, 'Watch The NewsHour!'
It's a funny kind of chat with Gwen playing Amway salesperson.
But credit to Ann for raising the issue during the 'chat.'
Turning to other violence . . .
National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja, a Balad Ruz suicide bomber took his own life and the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, Nouri's military used helicopters to kill 4 suspects in Ramadi, a Jurf al-Sakar roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left three police members injured, a Baghdad car bombing left 5 people dead and nineteen injured, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.
In addition, Xinhua reports:
Also in Salahudin province, gunmen blew up a crude oil pipeline in al-Fatha area in east of the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, causing large quantity of oil spill into the nearby Tigris River, a provincial police source said.
The pipeline carries crude oil produced from Ajil Oilfield in east of the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, to the refinery in Baiji. A huge fire occurred at the scene, while the oil leak caused pollution in Tigris river that forces many water facilities to stop working in the cities to the south of the leak, the source added.
National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command declared they killed 54 suspects in Falluja, 1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, another Shabak was shot dead in Mosul -- Hussein Badran who was the city's director of parks and forests, a Raibia secondary school was stormed and its director shot dead, and, west of Mosul in Addayya Village, an attack on an Iraqi military base killed 12 soldiers and left ten more injured.
Alsumaria notes the corpses of 5 men and 1 women (all shot) were found dumped in the Euphrates River to the north of Babylon,
Elections are supposed to take place April 30th, parliamentary elections. Al-Shorfa reports, "Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) on Thursday (April 17th) said it has doubled the number of international observers who will monitor the next parliamentary elections." Kirk Sowell (Gulf News) notes
The other key Al Maliki rival are the Sadrists, most of whom are running under the name Ahrar Bloc (Freemen Bloc). Ahrar recently voted in a new governing board following Muqtada Al Sadr’s announcement that he was withdrawing from politics. It remains unclear as to what impact Sadr’s withdrawal will have.
There are several third-tier coalitions which should get a handful of seats; some of them are entirely Shiite while others are cross-sectarian. They are about evenly divided between factions which are pro and anti-Al Maliki, and should only have an impact if Al Maliki’s margin of victory is relatively narrow.
The primary Sunni Arab bloc is Speaker Nujaifi’s Mutahidun. It contains a majority of the Sunni factions in the 2010 opposition Iraqiya coalition nominally headed by former interim Prime Minister Eyad Allawi, plus the largest Sunni Turkoman group, the Iraqi Turkoman FrontIts political programme mainly consists of decentralisation, potentially forming new autonomous regions, and the defence of Sunni identity in the face of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
While Mutahidun’s public rhetoric is focused on pillorying the Al Maliki government, Nujaifi is informally allied with the main Kurdish party, the Kurdistani Democratic Party (KDP), due to his pro-decentralisation stance, ties to Turkey and the need for Kurds, who are predominately Sunni, to balance the Shiites.
Sowell also points out that there are 142 political parties competing and twelve of those are part of Nouri's State of Law coalition (which lost in 2010 to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) notes Iraqiya has fragmented since 2010:
Five main coalitions will compete to win Sunni votes, but we cannot rule out surprise results that might be achieved by small or local parties. Three of these five coalitions, in fact, represent fragments of the Iraqiya List, which is no longer present in the elections. The Mutahidoun bloc, led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, is the first of these coalitions. It consists of 13 parties and is seeking to appear as the biggest Sunni force after the elections. The second coalition is the Arabiya led by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, and includes nine parties. Third, there is the Nationalist Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister who was the leader of the Iraqiya List.
The Nationalist is one of the rare blocs that includes Sunni and Shiite members. Moreover, it is participating in the elections in all Arabic-speaking provinces. However, this coalition has poor chances because of intense sectarian polarization and Allawi’s loss of a large part of his traditional constituency, partly due to the emergence of a new liberal list called the Civil Democratic Alliance.
Al Mada notes Allawi stated today the US backed Nouri (gave him the post of prime minister for a second term) because the US just wanted out of Iraq and he notes their influence is very small in Iraq and in the Middle East -- he points to the failure of (John Kerry's) efforts with regard to Palestine, he points to the Taliban increasing in Afghanistan as the US prepares to leave, he points to Somalia and Sudan. National Iraqi News Agency reports:
The independent MP of the coalition of Kurdish blocs, Mahmoud Othman confirmed " the possibility of establishing a new alliance comprises Barzani , Allawi, al-Hakim, al-Sadr and al-Nujaifi to form the next government ," ruling out holding a session for the House of Representatives before the parliamentary elections ."
Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) notes the parties are offering no platforms or programs as they seek elected office:
The Iraqi political forces competing in the elections justify the absence of real programs by asserting that Iraq remains in transition, so there are real differences over the basis of the political process — such as the constitution, government formation, the decision-making process and the relationship between the central government and the provinces and the regions. They claim that this reality forces them to take positions on these particular issues, rather than presenting political programs. For example, some campaigns are sloganeering on amending the constitution, while others' slogans invoke government formation by the political majority, decentralization and the war on terror.
Being in a transitional phase and disagreeing over political fundamentals do not, however, justify lacking an economic or development program or taking positions on such issues as housing, health, education, human development, and human rights and freedoms. To be fair, a few political forces such as the Supreme Islamic Council have presented detailed programs, but the problem is then that the Iraqi voter is faced with a choice between a detailed program and lots of attractive slogans.
They may not have programs or proposals, but, in Basra, they have food. Saleem al-Wazzan (Niqash) reports:
“Some candidates believe that the easiest way to convince voters, or to silence critics, is by filling their mouths with food,” Kathem Zayer, a primary school teacher in Basra, told NIQASH. “The same thing happens when there are provincial elections – there’s clearly a direct relationship between elections and banquets. Today special meals are the best way of enhancing a candidate’s image, and of burnishing the image of the party behind them.”
And during this round of campaigning it seems that banquets are more popular than ever, replacing the usual distribution of other gifts like blankets and food. Banqueting also seems to have replaced campaign promises, for things like government jobs or better services. That’s because nobody believes these promises anymore. But they can still dine out.
In the province of Basra, south of Baghdad, there are more than 750 candidates competing. Prominent parties in the area, which has a mostly Shiite Muslim population, include the State of Law list led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is himself a Shiite Muslim as well as the list led by the Shiite Muslim-oriented Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Ahrar list, which is tied to the Sadrist movement, also Shiite Muslim. Also noteworthy in Basra is the Wataniya party, which is led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and which is trying to set itself apart as being secular and non-denominational.
By rights Basra should be one of Iraq’s wealthiest cities – it is the site of a major port and some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields are located in the surrounding province. But somehow this wealth has not had any effect on the lives of many ordinary people who live here – the poverty level in Iraq sits at around 22 percent but some recent estimates suggest that it’s higher in Basra. They say that just over a third of the population in Basra live in poverty.
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