Sunday, 19 May 2013
Iraq's invisible refugee crisis
Al Jazeera reports (May 12th): According to UNHCR figures, there are currently 450,000 Iraqis in Jordan.
But what there aren't figures for, is a growing influx of Iraqis fleeing the increasing violence wracking Iraq.
"Most everyone in my city in Iraq are now hoping to leave," a man from Iraq's western al-Anbar province, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera.
Sunday, 5 May 2013
AT Williams writes for The Guardian (May 3rd): First, there was a farcical court martial. Seven soldiers were prosecuted for the death, the ill-treatment of nine other prisoners held with Mousa, or neglect of duty. But those soldiers who came to give evidence suddenly could no longer remember what had happened; the judge advocate lamented the collective amnesia that had set in and had little choice but to dismiss most of the charges. Six defendants were acquitted. The seventh, Corporal Donald Payne, was convicted only because he pleaded guilty to inhuman treatment; he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. No one was held responsible for Mousa's killing or even for allowing the system of torture (for that was what it was: hooding, handcuffing, enforced stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings) to become an institutionalised practice.
My book A Very British Killing, which has just been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, is an attempt to make sense of all this. It became a forensic detective story of sorts. The details of the military police investigation and the legal hearings that followed needed to be laid out with precision. I hope that was achieved. But the shame is that ultimately it's a detective story without resolution. Despite all the available evidence, a damning report at the end of the Baha Mousa inquiry in 2011, and army generals queuing up to lament this "stain on the British army", still no one has been brought to justice.
Sunday, 28 April 2013
Hawija: Chronicle of an Announced Mass Murder
BRussells Tribunal reports (April 23rd):At least 38 protesters (some reports say 50) were killed and hundreds injured when Maliki’s security forces stormed an anti-government protest camp in Hawija near Kirkuk on Tuesday 23 April and turned a peaceful demonstration into a slaughterhouse.
Scores killed in two days of Iraq clashes
Al-Jazeera reports (April 25th): More than 100 people have been killed in two days of violence across Iraq after a raid on a camp of mostly Sunni Muslim protesters ignited the fiercest clashes since US troops left.
Fighting broke out for a second day between government troops and protesters in the country's north, after the deaths of at least 56 people at a protest camp in Kirkuk province.
Friday, 19 April 2013
Ten years after the occupation of Iraq, trade unions are fighting back, reports Mike Phipps
On April 16, over a thousand workers from the Basra oilfields converged on the head quarters of the Southern Oil Company. They came to demand unpaid bonuses, the upgrading of temporary workers to permanent status and other elementary rights. A tent city was set up - the workers are digging for a long haul.
This protest came despite the prosecution of Hassan Juma, President of the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, who has been charged by the Ministry of Oil for allegedly organising strikes. The court case has been repeatedly postponed, however, due to the inability of the oil companies to present a shred of evidence.
The union’s campaign began in mid-February against the practices of major multinational oil companies in the region, including BP. It quickly turned into a fierce battle with the Iraqi Government that threw its security and intelligence apparatuses against the workers.
Some of the unpaid bonuses go back years. When the mass demonstration converged on the Company headquarters, the general manager came out and informed the angry protesters that he had met with the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Minister of Oil Al Shahristani, who authorised him to release 50% of the accumulated production bonuses from 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Union leaders were more sceptical. They declared that they would see if the Government would keep its word before demobilising. Iraq exports about 80% of its oil through Basra's oil fields and the workers’ conditions, including in the multinational firms, are no better than in Saddam Hussein’s time.
Hassan Juma faces a possible jail sentence of up to five years under a 1987 law banning public sector employees from organising protests or strikes that could harm the economy. This is one of the few pieces of Saddam Hussein-era legislation that American authorities left on the books after the 2003 takeover. Juma accuses the Government of “overriding the Iraqi constitution, which gave the right to protest and strike, and which acknowledges the right of any citizen to express his opinion in a civilized manner, provided there is no damage to public property.”
Iraq's oil unions have positioned themselves as a guardian of Iraq's oil on behalf of the Iraqi people. In March 2007, Juma helped organise a prospective strike against an oil law that some workers judged as too generous to foreign companies. It was his union that insisted no oil law be signed, while the occupation was still ongoing.
Oil, probably the central reason for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, remains a vital part of Iraqi identity. The civil society campaign against the oil law the multinationals wanted led to its being voted down by the Iraqi Parliament in 2007. The agreement eventually signed fell far short of the companies’ demands.
US Labor Against the War is calling on all supporters to sign a letter calling on the Iraqi Government to drop the charges against Hassan Juma. Please see https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2488/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1270876
Sunday, 14 April 2013
The deadliest war for journalists
Al-Jazeera reports (April 11th): The invasion and subsequent nine-year occupation of Iraq claimed the lives of a record number of journalists. It was undisputedly the deadliest war for journalists in recorded history.
Disturbingly, more journalists were murdered in targeted killings in Iraq than died in combat-related circumstances, according to the group Committee to Protect Journalists.
CPJ research shows that "at least 150 journalists and 54 media support workers were killed in Iraq from the US-led invasion in March 2003 to the declared end of the war in December 2011."
Iraq executes 7 convicts over terror charges
Xinhua reports (April 7th): The Iraqi Ministry of Justice announced that it has executed seven convicted prisoners over terror charges.
"The executions were carried out today by hanging for the seven terrorists in accordance with Article 4 from the anti-terrorism Law," the ministry said in a statement.
Iraq struggles to solve electricity crisis
BBC reports (April 12th): Thick clusters of electric wires hang low from tilted wooden poles, winding their way through Baghdad's alleyways to distribute privately generated electrical power.
It is one of the most common scenes across Iraq's urban landscapes and seems to reflect much of what is wrong with the country's electricity sector - crumbling infrastructure, unreliable services, and a tangled web of bureaucracy and corruption.
‘US illegally obtained and kept thousands of Iraq’s cultural treasures’
Russia Today reports (April 9th): One of the gravest casualties of the 10-year US-led war in Iraq is the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage, Iraqi archaeologist and architect Ihsan Fathi told RT.
On top of thousands of looted or illegally obtained cultural artifacts during the war, billions of dollars have also been transferred out of “Iraq’s Central banks to US without any paper trail.”
“I’m sure that everything that was stored in the Central and other banks was sent to the US without any documentation and now is kept in archives,” Fathi said. “Huge amounts of documents representing historical importance that cannot be assigned a monetary value were taken by the US.”http://rt.com/op-edge/iraq-war-cultural-artifacts-553/
Sunday, 7 April 2013
Sunday, 31 March 2013
Brussells Tribual reports (March 27th): When considering the number of civilian casualties during the Iraq occupation 2003-2013, it would be a good idea to use the scientific studies of the Lancet, ORB or even BBC to estimate the number of victims of the Iraq war.