Friday, December 16, 2011

Semi-autonomy for Diyala and realities Iraqi women live with

Iraq is a country composed of 18 provinces. Three are semi-autonomous (Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah) and they form the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The other 15, at present, are under the control of the Baghdad-based government. Thursday, October 27th, Salahuddin Province's council voted to go semi-autonomous. Monday, Diyala Province's council passed a decision for the province to become semi-autonomous. Xinhua explains: Iraqi constitution says 'one or more governorates (provinces) shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods: First: a request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region. Second: a request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region."

Al Mada notes that 30 residents of Diyala Province staged a protest which quickly turned into a sit-in. The protesters were registering their objection to the decision for Diyala Province to move to semi-autonomy. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) notes that protests took place in Baquba yesterday for the third day in a row -- with "hundreds" participating. Alsumaria TV adds, "Sadr movement stated, on Thursday, that Diyala Region's declaration was advanced in a provocative and challenging way. Head of Diyala Province is spurring discord between the province's different components, the movement accused while asserting that the Iraqi Central Government is responsible for demands to establish federal regions." Bryar Mohammed (Zawya) adds, "Baghdad is trying to bully Diyala Province out of trying to become an autonomous region, AKnews has learnt. Suhad Hayli from the Iraqiya List party says he expects the Iraqi government will use force to quash the autonomy demands of the Province to the north east of Baghdad, bordering Iran. Diyala Provincial Council's demand for regional autonomy was announced two days ago, almost two months after another Sunni dominated province Salahaddin called for the same." On Salahuddin Province, the Kurdish Globe notes the events leading up to the October vote:

The provincial council of Salahadin last October unanimously supported making the province an autonomous region after the dismissal of faculty members from the University of Tikrit and mass arrests in Salahaddin province. Last October, the Baghdad Ministry of Higher Education dismissed 140 faculty members from the University of Tikrit in Salahaddin Province. The ministry pointed out that "it was simply following the parliamentary directive on "de-Baathification." Later, Iraqi security forces started an operation in the central and southern provinces, arresting former members of the Baath Party and accusing them of plotting a coup against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of this year.
The arrest came after Maliki received information from former Libyan interim leader Mahmoud Jibril, whose rebel forces obtained documents indicating that former Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi tried to support an attempt by Baath members to overthrow the Iraqi government.

At MSNBC, Kael Alford is contributing photo essays on the Iraq she saw immediately after the US-invasion compared to what she saw over the summer in Iraq. Her latest essay is on Iraqi women and she notes activist Yanar Mohammed was raising important issues in 2003 and continues to do so today:

One of her main talking points is this: Iraq is a more dangerous place for women than it was before the U.S. invasion and it is getting worse. Reports by international human rights groups support her observations. According to the 2011 Iraq summary report by Human Rights Watch: "The deterioration of security has promoted a rise in tribal customs and religiously-inflected political extremism, which have had a deleterious effect on women's rights, both inside and outside the home."
Today, in a country where women have served in Parliament since the 1960s -- longer than in any other Middle Eastern country -- they are increasingly targeted by militant Islamic elements for participating in government, holding jobs or violating conservative Islamic traditions, such as appearing in public without head coverings. Even secular women now wear scarves in hopes of avoiding dangerous attention.

At Huffington Post earlier this week, Kiri Westby spoke with Iraqi women about the realities in 'today's' Iraq:

How ironic. According to Awatef [Rasheed], Iraqi women did not support the invasion of Iraq, nor can they support the troop withdrawal at this time, given the current political climate. Iraqi women have had to bear the brunt of this war, are the largest victims of this war, and yet they have not been included in any of the decisions that will govern their lives or determine their future. And now, those who speak out against destructive government policies are being hunted down and silenced. Where is the liberation in that?
As Yanar Mohammed put it, "we used to have a government that was almost secular. It had one dictator. Now we have almost 60 dictators -- Islamists who think of women as forces of evil. This is what is called the democratization of Iraq."
Awatef elaborated, "The American occupation destabilized the country and provided an invaluable opportunity for corrupt people to hold political positions. Organizations cannot develop and advance programs under a suppressive regime and a theological government. The current government is shaped by serious corruption, disrespect to human rights, lack of transparency, non-democratic practices and lack of freedoms. It relies very much on militiamen and security authorities emerging from the religious militia. Women are marginalized, being exposed to sexual and domestic violence and their human rights are not recognized."
This past year we watched much of the Arab world take to the streets and demand change from repression under decades-long dictatorships. The U.S. government has gone to bat supporting activists calling for democracy in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, and provided military assistance to armed rebels in Libya. As Secretary of State Clinton stated, "The people of the middle east, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. Leaders need to view civil society as their partner, not as a threat." But so far, the U.S. government has remained eerily silent about the non-violent protests on the streets of Baghdad.

From Iraqi to American women, an e-mail to the public account notes Patrick Goodenough (CNS News) report on various figures in the Iraq War and that he states 104 women died in the Iraq War. The e-mail's in reference to yesterday's snapshot: "As of September 23, 2011, 111 female US service members had died in the Iraq War according to Noonie Fortin -- and 13 US civilian women died in the Iraq War as well. Fortin provides a write up on each one of the dead (including the civilians like DynCorp contractor Deborah Klecker who died at age 51 in June 2005). The first US female service member to die in Iraq was PFC Lori Ann Piestewa (also the first Native American to die in the Iraq War) on March 23, 2003. And the last so far was August 7, 2010, SPC Faith R. Hinkley of Colorado. " While I'm glad Goodenough and CNS are noting the number of women killed, I'll go with Fortin's figures because, again, she notes every death, I believe she has a photo for every woman, and has a write up. CNN's Barbara Starr spoke with Iraq War veterans at the VFW in Virginia and we'll note this:

"I think that sense of isolation can be enhanced for female veterans because we are even more invisible, " says Kayla Williams, linguist with an intelligence unit of the Army during the initial invasion. "Because female veterans don't fit that stereotype of what a veteran looks like, who a veteran is, they can blend into the background even more."

The following community sites -- plus and IPS -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from Kevin Gosztola's "Bradley Manning's Pre-trial Hearing December 16: What to Expect" (World Can't Wait):

Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing, also being referred to as his pre-trial hearing, will begin on December 16 at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The hearing could potentially last until Friday, December 23.

An Article 32 hearing, according to the Defense Department, is “closely akin to the civilian grand jury investigation.” When the hearing closes, the “Article 32 officer” will make “a recommendation” on “the disposition of the charges.” Or, as David Dishneau of AP clearly and concisely puts it, “The proceeding is to determine whether the Army intelligence analyst will be court-martialed for allegedly leaking government secrets.”

This kind of hearing is supposed to be about whether there is enough evidence to bring Manning to trial. As mentioned above, an “investigative officer, not a judge,” will preside over the hearing. This officer is often “a military attorney, a judge advocate, but legal training isn’t required.”

As Dishneau further describes, “Lawyers can call witnesses and make motions, just as in civilian court. But the military tightly controls public access to written filings.” Additionally, “There is no court clerk from whom such documents can be readily obtained. Except for what’s said in court, most of the public information about proceedings comes from civilian defense lawyers, who aren’t bound by a chain of command.”

I had nothing to add to that topic this week in part because a friend in the administration never forwarded the "amendments." Barack changed some military policies this week -- did anyone cover that? This might potentially effect a court-martial of Bradley (the Article 32 will determine whether the case goes on to a court-martial or not). Hold on, I'm flipping to another screen to log into a personal e-mail account. Okay, "Executive Order --2011 Amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial, United States" and it was December 13th. I asked a friend for a copy of the actual amendments because all the statement notes is that Barack has made amendments to Parts III and IV in the Manual for Courts-Martial. I was told I'd get a copy and haven't yet. (And a ton of other things have come up since for me and I'm sure for my friend as well.) The changes wouldn't effect Bradley's Article 32 because the changes don't go into effect until January 13th.

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