Monday, March 11, 2013

Iraqi women and girls (and the silence on this topic)

Late last night, Amnesty International released their report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses."  We'll note one section on women and girls this morning.  Last Friday was International Women's Day which is one reason to note this section.  Another reason to note the section -- on the treatment of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- is that this is one of the issue that's motivated protesters.  Excerpt.

More than a thousand of the 37,000 inmates of Iraqi prisons and detention centres in mid- 2012 were women. The Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi parliament reported in November 2012 that 1,130 women were then being held, 639 of whom had been convicted of offences. 
In October 2012, following a visit it had conducted to the Women's Prison   in Baghdad’s al- Resafa district in September, jointly with representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights, the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO) reported allegations by women inmates that they had been subjected to torture, includi ng electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse, while being detained and under interrogation.  HHRO reported that some women prisoners were suffering from skin ailments and that th e authorities were apparently unable to call on sufficient women police officers to manage transfers of female detainees. 
More than three years before, members of the Human Rights Committee of parliament who visited the earlier women’s prison that was then located in al-Kadhemiya told reporters in May 2009 that two women inmates they had seen had testified that they were repeatedly raped in detention after their arrest and before they were transferred to the prison. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein, 41, a journalist, was reportedly arrested on 29 February 2012 when she went to the offices of the army’s Fifth Bri gade in Baghdad’s Saydiya district to collect a car belonging to one of her relatives that th e authorities had confiscated. She was detained and told that she was a suspec t in a murder investigation. She was then transferred to the Directorate of Major Crimes (Mudiriyat al-Jara’im al-Kubra) in Tikrit, where she was held incommunicado, for about two months during whic h, she alleges, she was tortured. According to a member of her family interviewed by Amnesty International, she alleges that her interrogators burnt her with cigarettes, doused her with icy cold water and forced to undress in front of male police officers. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported on 26 November that she had identified the police officers responsible for her alleged torture and that their names had been submitted to the Ministry of Interior. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein was returned to Baghdad from Tikrit in May 2012 and held at al- Sayid For detention centre she was acquitted by the Resafa Criminal Court at the first session of her trial on charges brought under the Anti-Terrorism Law on 23 January 2013. Another defendant charged with her, however, was convicted and sentenced to death. Despite her acquittal, Sabah Hassan Hussein remained in prison until 18 February 2013, when she was released and allowed to return to her family. She subsequently told Amnesty International that she filed a formal complaint with the authorities about her torture and other ill-treatment in detention. They were previously alerted to her torture allegations in November 2012; however, they are not known to have taken any steps to bring those responsible to justice.
Addressing the National Assem b ly on 20 November 2012, one of Iraq's female MPs, ‘Atab Jasim Nasif al-Duri, questioned the security forces' practice of detaining the wives or other female relatives of wanted male suspects an d obtained the Assembly’s agreement for an investigation into the situation of women prisoners. 46 Eight days later, the head of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee presented an initial report which expressed concern that women detainees were liable to harassment and abuse when they in the custody of male only guards when they were being moved between detention facilities. The report also drew attention to a reported recent incident at al-Taji, north of Baghdad, where members of the Sixth Brigade of the Federal Police (al-Shurta al-Ittihadiya) had detained 10 women and two girls without arrest warrants in place of several men whom they were seeking to arrest. The police had then held the women and girls, who were named in the parliamentary committee's report, at a police detention facility for four days, where they were reportedly “tortured and pressured”, before being transferred to al-Sayid For detention centre in Baghdad. 47 An investigation of the same incident by Huma n Rights Watch concluded that in November 2012 federal police had “invaded 11 homes” in al-Tajji and detained 41 people, including 29 children, overnight in their homes, and had taken “12 women and girls ages 11 to 60 to 6th Brigade headquarters and held them there for four days without charge. The sources said the police beat the women and tortured them with electric shocks and plastic bags placed over their heads until they began to suffocate.”  The 12 women and girls were released.

For months, this has been an issue in Iraq.  Before the protests started, with this story brewing, week after week, we even noted here that it would result in protests.  Not because of any psychic power but because this is what gets people in the streets, this type of outrage.  Nouri ignored it.  He thought it would go away.  He hoped it would.

He was wrong.  But what's the excuse for the western press ignoring it.  The only western reporter who has covered this is Jane Arraf who noted in a piece for the Christian Science Monitor:

The Anbar demonstrations began in December, with protesters demanding an end to perceived targeting of Sunni Muslims after the arrest of the Sunni finance minister’s bodyguards on terrorism charges. But it is the arrests of dozens of Iraqi women that have infuriated many in this fiercely tribal area. That anger has spread to Sunni areas in Baghdad and to provinces farther north, and both Al Qaeda in Iraq and mainstream political figures have been quick to join the fray.

AP hasn't been interested.  The Washington Post (which doesn't have a reporter in the country at all times) hasn't cared.  The New York Times couldn't find the issue if you walked them to it and read aloud from Human Rights Watch's January 31st report entitled "Iraq: A Broken Justice System."

While western reporters have ignored the issue, columnists have had more luck getting the reality to news consumers.  Haifa Zangana (Guardian) wrote about the state of Iraqi women at the end of last month:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing:

"We transferred all women prisoners to prisons in their home provinces."
Al-Shahristani's statement is one in a long list of contradictory and misleading statements by the regime's most senior officials – from al-Maliki speaking of "not more than a handful of women terrorists", to his contradictory promise that he will pardon all "women detainees who have been arrested without a judicial order or in lieu of a crime committed by some of their male relatives". That assurance was followed by parading nine women, cloaked in black from head to toe, on the official state TV channel, al-Iraqiya, as a gesture of the regime's "good will".
Protesters and Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees. The truth is leaking out, drip by drip. A few weeks ago, 168 women detainees were released and there were promises of another 32 waiting to be released. No one accused of torture, rape or abuse has yet been brought to justice.

You may remember 'playwright' Eve Ensler's vanity project was last month.  Tons of e-mails came in asking why the Iraqi women weren't being noted because this is a topic that's months old -- a dominant topic on Arab social media by the end of the year.

But Eve couldn't be bothered with it.  I think that's great.  As I read one e-mail after another from Arab readers, I was thrilled that the vanity project was exposed for what it was to the Arab world -- a lousy, failed and chubby actress had a moment in time with a 'shocking' series of monologues that she passed off as a play.  She used her new found celebrity to rope other celebrities in and tried to make a day of romance (Valentine's Day) all about herself and rape.  If she really gave a damn, she would have been talking about what Iraqi women were going through.

It was no hidden secret.  If rape is an issue that disturbs you, you couldn't miss it.  Even if you didn't read Arabic, Gulf News and other English language Arabic-outlets were reporting on it.

We've covered it here for over five months now.

You only missed it, if you didn't want to know.

And it sent a message when Eve and her useless 'play' and ego ignored Iraq yet again, it sent a message.  It's a shame that it's bit by bit globally but people are waking up to the fact that Eve Ensler gets a lot of attention for herself and a lot of mechanical royalties for the monologues she assembled -- but apparently did not write.  But the women who need the help the most are the ones who continue to suffer.

One e-mailer wondered if Eve didn't care about Iraq because The Vagina Monologues could not be read out loud in Iraq?  Maybe so.  No money for her, no interest from her.

But the silence on what's happened to Iraqi women is outrageous.  The silence on the suffering the US war has inflicted is appalling.  Eve's left (she's a Socialist -- she may be semi in the closet on that still but she's always been fairly open when interviewed by Socialist magazines).  Which should mean she would give a damn about Iraqi women.  But she's also the woman who whored for Barack in 2008 (after cozying up to Hillary like the worst social climber I've ever seen -- and I did call that as one of Hillary's former advisers can attest -- I said she was a social climber over a decade ago and that she would stab Hillary in the back first chance she got).

Writing about whistle blower and political prisoner Bradley Manning last week,  Naomi Spencer (WSWS) points out, "Organizations that orbit the Obama administration-- including the International Socialist Organization, which has published a handful of articles about the case -- have likewise avoided uttering the name of Manning’s oppressor: the Democratic administration of Barack Obama. The most recent report in the Socialist Worker, the ISO’s publication, was a reprint of a February 22 Belfast Telegraph op-ed which made no mention of Obama."  And the silence on Bradley and all things Iraq goes to the refusal to criticize Barack.  Pointing out the nightmare Iraq has become is only possible for the political cowards if they can pretend it's all Bully Boy Bush's fault.

Bush was out of office in 2010 when Barack ignored the votes, the will of the Iraqi people and backed Nouri al-Maliki in Nouri's refusal to step down as prime minister after coming in second in the 2010 elections.  Barack ordered the creation of the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which went around the Iraqi Constitution to give Nouri a second term he did not win at the ballot box.

What's happened and is happening to Iraqi women is appalling. Feminists speak out and speak up.  Whores for various men silence themselves.  If that's shocking to you, you don't know the long history of the women's movement.  Eve's only the latest whore to sell out women and suck up to men while marketing herself as pro-woman. 

Sidebar, we noted Naomi Spencer last week and two e-mails came in defending Socialism.  "WSWS" is a Socialist publication -- World Socialist Website.  I have no problem with Socialism.  It's a political theory and it's valid.  But if you're a Socialist admit you are.  The type Naomi's calling out is similar to the type I call out.  And I never had a problem with them -- due to my own stupidity -- until 2008 when they all wanted to influence the Democratic Party's primary.  If you're a Democrat, weigh in.  If you're a Republican and you weigh in, we expect you to say you're a Republican.  But we let all these Socialists masquerading as Democrats weigh in.  And if you called them out, you were accused of -- as little Billy Fletcher Jr. accused me -- "red baiting."  No, it's not red-baiting.  If you're butting into a Democratic primary and you're not a Democrat but people assume you are because you're dishonest, then the public has a right to know.  We apply that standard to Republicans but when we do the same with Socialists or Communists they try to scream red-baiting.  I'm very interested in whether Eric Alterman will pursue a strand in his most recent book more fully in the next one.  Ava and I noted it back in July:

 Eric Alterman has a new book he wrote with Kevin Mattson entitled The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama. In promoting it, Alterman gave many interviews.  Some outraged a lot of people who felt he was practicing some sort of McCarthy tactic.  In some, we'll agree he was lashing out.  We won't agree that he was practicing or aspiring to any form of McCarthyism.  For Eric Alterman, "Democrat" basically means "liberal."  He was speaking from not just his position, but from the position many others hold.  You don't have to agree with him but don't call him crazy about this or think he's out on a limb all by himself.  Especially in the immediate post-McCarthy period, the attitude he's expressing was very, very common.  We're going with one of his milder interviews promoting the book because we want his argument to be clear.  May 24th, he appeared on KERA's Think with Krys Boyd for the first hour.

Krys Boyd:  Talk a little about the McCarthy Era.  When this idea developed that liberalism was a step away from Communism, which at the time was universally  seen as -- almost universally seen as -- an existential threat to the American way of life.

Eric Alterman:  Uhm.  I'm glad you asked me that.  Thank you.  Uh, that's actually the beginning of the problems that we face today -- that liberals face today.  Liberalism was a quite confidant movement under Franklin Roosevelt and, to some degree, under Harry Truman.  Where liberalism started to lose its nerve -- its nerves was during McCarthy Era, when liberals were accused of helping Communists.  Now some liberals were sympathetic to Communism.  They thought Communists were just liberals in a hurry.  But mostly liberals were sympathetic to civil liberties.  They thought that, in this country, you're guaranteed certain rights and if you want to believe something unpopular, you have that right.   That was evidence of being -- that was taken as evidence of being sympathetic to Communism and not just to Communists but to our Communist enemy, the Soviet Union.  So liberals had to choose between their belief in civil liberties or they're being perceived as disloyal.  And, of course, many people lost their jobs for making the wrong choice.  They lost their careers. Some people committed suicide.  Uhm, and so it became a matter of bravery to say I'm a liberal during that period.  And, you know, a lot of people didn't-didn't-didn't want to put their lives and their families and their future on the line -- quite understandably.  And liberals never really figured out how to handle this because the other part of the problem was that the Communists were not honest.  They wouldn't admit to being Communists.  They took the 5th Amendment.  They took over liberal organizations without admitting who they were.  So liberals were being asked to sacrifice themselves on behalf of a group of dishonest people who hated them and were trying to undermine them.  It was an impossible position to be in and they never figured out how to handle it.  And this is the beginning of the liberal loss of self-confidence that went from the New Deal to the Eisenhower period.

Again, that's a valid take.  It's not the only left take but it's a take that the NYC-based left media refuses to give much amplification to.  There's a reason for that but that's another story. 

A lot of what Alterman wants to address, if addressed, will be greeted with charges of "red-baiting."  He's writing about history and the history's been one-sided because we've all been kind (on the left) to the greatest victims of McCarthyism.  But if history is going to be honest, at some point, we'll need to talk about how a section of that group actively conspired to destroy.  I'm not talking about subvert the US government.  The reality is they were always too lazy -- this group I'm referring to -- to do anything like that or even attempt it.  This group was always more interested in hijacking existing movements and political parties and then trying to claim credit.**

Socialists and Communists with spines worked at building their own movements and their own parties.  But, back to Alterman, in 2008 we saw the beginning of a group of dishonest actors burn off the pity and goodwill the two larger groups had as a result of their lies and dishonesty.

Eve Ensler is one of the most dishonest in the US.  Iraqi women and girls should consider themselves lucky to be off her radar.

** ADDED: Hijacking existing movements and political parties?  These losers don't build.  They're dishonest and they're lazy.  They hijack.  And the perfect example of that in current times was already mentioned.  Eve's trying to turn Valentine's Day into V-Day, to turn a day of romance into a day of rape.  She can't create anything herself because she's emotionally stunted and lacks the ability to actually build something.  So she'll try to steal Valentine's Day and she'll cloak her Socialism in the guise of feminism and try to guilt people into going along with her on it.  Eve's the perfect example of a deceitful and lying Socialist who harms Socialism.  Repeating, there's nothing wrong with Socialism or with Communism.  These are political ideologies, they belong in the public square as part of an active and vigorous discourse.  But there are elements in both -- just as there are in the Democratic Party -- that are deceitful and practice trickery because they're too lazy to build something on their own.

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