We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Endtimes in Mosul


by PATRICK COCKBURN
On 22 May, Ahmed Mohsen, an unemployed taxi driver, left his house in the Islamic State-controlled western part of Mosul to try to escape across the Tigris to the government-held eastern side of the city. He and his mother, along with ten other people, carried rubber tyres down to the river: most of them couldn’t swim, and they planned to tie them together to make a raft. The siege of Mosul was in its seventh month and Ahmed was both desperate and starving: he and his mother were living on handfuls of wheat they cooked, though he said it made him feel sick. His friends believe that lack of food made him light-headed and led him to risk crossing the river. ‘Even if I die in the river,’ he told them, ‘it will be better than living here.’

IS snipers were shooting people who tried to leave. Their commanders calculated that holding the civilian population hostage, as human shields, would deter Iraqi government troops and the US-led coalition air forces from using the full extent of their firepower. This strategy had worked, to an extent, during the siege of east Mosul, which began on 17 October; it was three months before that part of the city was captured. But by the time the assault on west Mosul began on 19 February there was little sign of Iraqi or American restraint. As the bombardment intensified, the only plausible escape route for Ahmed was across the Tigris between the Fifth and Sixth Bridges, both of which had been put out of action by coalition airstrikes. He had already seen IS snipers kill three people who’d tried to cross and his luck was no better: a sniper shot him in the back and killed him, along with nine other members of his party, before they had even put their tyres in the water. Only one man, a good swimmer, got across to the other side. According to people living in houses overlooking the riverbank, Ahmed’s mother stayed beside his body for three days. Nobody dared to go to help her because they were afraid of being shot; on the third day, they say, they could no longer see her or the body of her son. They were probably thrown into the river, like hundreds of others.

I had got to know about Ahmed in an indirect way, two months before he died. After IS captured Mosul in June 2014 it became difficult for journalists or anybody outside the city to talk to people living under its rule. IS did everything it could to seal off the population from contact with the outside world. It blew up mobile phone masts, banned the use of phones and executed anybody caught using them in the few high places where there was reception. You could always interview people who had fled IS territory, but this wasn’t a satisfactory way of gathering information: refugees from Mosul arriving in Iraqi government or Kurdish-controlled territory were at the mercy of local military and civilian authorities and had every incentive to denounce IS as demonic, to dispel suspicions that they had been collaborators or members. Mosul is a Sunni Arab city and Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidis suspect Sunnis in general of colluding with IS. ‘I have never seen such terrified people in my life as a group of young men who had run away from Mosul waiting to be vetted by Iraqi security to see if they were former IS fighters,’ a human rights worker in a camp for internally displaced persons 15 miles south of Mosul told me. ‘One day I saw two men of military age walk into a tent for questioning. They were carried to the camp hospital on stretchers two hours later covered in blood.’

As the assault on west Mosul gathered pace, the IS strategy of isolating people behind its lines started to falter. The Iraqi government brought in a mobile phone mast mounted on the back of a truck and put it up at Nabi Yunus, the Tomb of Jonah, a shrine that IS had blown up as heretical in 2014, but whose ruins remain the highest point in east Mosul. Phones in the west of the city started working again and IS was too busy defending itself against army incursions to hunt down civilians talking on their mobiles. I knew someone who lived on the east bank of the Tigris: he found he was able to speak, over a poor connection, to relatives and friends in the IS-held territory on the other side of the river.

Ahmed Mohsen, trapped with his mother inside the old city of Mosul, was 31 years old. His father was dead; he had a married sister living nearby and a brother who was a refugee in Germany. I asked questions through an intermediary he trusted and he gave detailed answers about the situation in west Mosul. ‘Dozens of civilians are killed every day, including children,’ he said. ‘Yesterday, two children were killed by a mortar shell of the Iraqi army coming from the eastern part [of the city].’ He derided American and Iraqi government claims that they were using ‘smart artillery’: the incoming fire, he said, was ‘stupid’ and indiscriminate. It became clear, as the assault on west Mosul went on, that the Iraqi and US generals were using their massive firepower more freely than they had in the east. The Americans had expected the siege to take two months from start to finish; by March it had already gone on for five months, with the heaviest fighting still to come in the alleyways and closely packed houses of the old city. By then, according to US Central Command, 774 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed and 4600 wounded. The rules were changed: units on the ground could now call in airstrikes or artillery fire at will to destroy a building if they believed they had spotted an IS sniper operating from it. Alongside attacks from the air, Iraqi Federal Police and the Emergency Response Division, both heavily armed but inadequately trained, used artillery and rockets – none of them accurate – to pound the densely inhabited buildings where, even in the final weeks of the siege, 300,000 people were hiding in stairwells and cellars. Looking later at the ruins of central Mosul, I could see where shells and rockets had knocked sections off buildings and where bombs had turned a whole block into a mound of broken bricks. ‘Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition used imprecise, explosive weapons, killing thousands of civilians,’ as an Amnesty International report, At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, puts it. By the end of March, civilians behind IS lines were being killed in large numbers by shells, rockets and bombs. They were also beginning to starve. ‘People in our neighbourhood,’ Ahmed told me, ‘are searching in the garbage to find something that can be eaten to take it to their children.’ Vegetables and fruit had disappeared from the markets that were still open; Ahmed and his family had stored some flour and rice, but wanted to keep it as a final reserve for the children of their extended family.

The coalition had a lethally over-simplified list of signs visible from the air which indicated that a building was being used by IS. Ahmed had a tarpaulin draped over part of his house as a sunshade, a practice fairly common in Mosul, where the temperature in summer often exceeds 45°C. Disastrously, similar tarpaulins were being used by IS to cover alleyways or courtyards so that coalition surveillance aircraft couldn’t see armed fighters moving from house to house. The coalition had made an announcement that anybody using such a covering would be attacked as an IS target, but few in the west of the city had heard the news. On 28 March, a coalition drone flew over Ahmed’s house and dropped a bomb. It fell on a corner of the building, near a water tank, bringing down a wall near where Ahmed was standing. ‘I didn’t lose consciousness,’ he said. ‘After a few moments, I realised I was injured. I partly walked and partly crawled to a small temporary clinic nearby, but they couldn’t treat my leg properly.’ The medics said he needed surgery but they didn’t have the equipment for an operation and could give him only bandages. When we spoke to Ahmed again, he was back at home, in bed, crying as he talked because of the pain in his injured leg.

When I wrote about Ahmed for a newspaper report, I changed his name and age and avoided any detail that might identify him to IS, of whom he was terrified. I hoped to meet him when the siege was over, though I could see from his own account that there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive. Mosul had been a dangerous place for a long time. I was there when Kurdish ground troops backed by US airstrikes captured it after the US invasion in 2003, and I watched as order collapsed within hours, as looters ransacked government buildings and Sunni clerics called from the minarets for people to man the barricades. Over the next 11 years, neither the Americans nor the Shia-dominated Iraqi government ever won full control over the city, and in June 2014 a few thousand IS fighters unexpectedly took charge, defeating an Iraqi government garrison of at least twenty thousand men. At the time, Ahmed, who came from a poor family, was driving his taxi between Mosul and Baghdad, a journey of about four hours. His friends say he was a friendly and generous man, who liked talking to passengers and who took great care of his car, of which he was proud. He didn’t own it outright, but had bought a share in it and was saving up to buy the rest. When IS overran Mosul, travel to government-held areas was still just about possible and Ahmed went on driving to Baghdad. But a few months later he was arrested by IS, accused of helping members of the Iraqi police and army to escape the city. As a friend of his put it, ‘he stayed in prison for three months and was badly tortured. He would talk a lot about that.’ He was released but could no longer work, and then he was jailed again for a month and a half. He worried about his mother: his brother in Germany was able to send back small amounts to support her but wasn’t officially allowed to work. ‘When Ahmed was freed for the second time,’ his friend said, ‘he sold his share in his taxi and spent the money over the remaining two years of IS rule. Recently, he went bankrupt.’

Despite these disasters, Ahmed and his mother remained optimistic well into the siege that IS rule wouldn’t last much longer and that things would improve. They planned to travel to Turkey, where Ahmed’s brother would meet them. This brother now appears to be the only surviving member of the family; he is trying to get a death certificate issued for Ahmed, which would entitle him to asylum in Germany and allow him to get a job. His married sister has disappeared: she is believed to have been killed in an airstrike, though her body hasn’t been found. This is far from unusual: at one stage, the Civil Defence Corps in west Mosul had just 25 men, one bulldozer and a forklift truck to search for bodies, estimated to number in the thousands, buried under the ruins. They haven’t been paid their salaries by the central government and won’t search for a body unless a relative can give them a clear idea of where it is.

Ahmed was one of Iraq’s five or six million Sunni Arabs, politically the dominant community under the rule of the Ottomans, the British and the Baath Party, though numerically a minority. But since 2003 the Sunni have been on the losing side in a sectarian civil war with the Shia who now control the Iraqi state: in 2006 and 2007 the Sunni were squeezed into small enclaves in Baghdad that one US diplomat described as ‘islands of fear’. IS’s victories in 2014 in Iraq and Syria allowed them a brief resurgence. But the Iraqi government counterattack, backed by American aircraft, wrecked their cities, including Ramadi, Fallujah, Baiji and Tikrit, displacing many from their homes. ‘We are the new Palestinians,’ a Sunni journalist from Ramadi told me in 2015, predicting a future of flight and dispossession. At the time, there were half a million displaced Sunni Arabs in Kirkuk Province who have now been joined by a million people from in and around Mosul.

Most Sunni would argue that they never voted for IS, couldn’t refuse to co-operate without being killed, and were often as much its victims as anybody else. But this isn’t going to save them. Other communities, in both Iraq and Syria, suspect their Sunni neighbours of collaborating with IS, covertly if not openly. Sectarian and ethnic hatred runs deep, especially after such IS atrocities as the Camp Speicher massacre in 2014, when 1700 Shia air force cadets were killed near Tikrit. Fear of IS ‘sleeper cells’ is pervasive: a Syrian Kurdish commander advancing with his troops near Hasakah told me that he his two main problems militarily were the mountainous terrain in which he was fighting and the threat to his troops from Sunni Arab villagers. Some of them waved nervously at us as we drove past, but it seemed unlikely that they would be allowed to stay in their homes for very long. In Iraq, Sunni tribal leaders are expelling ‘Daesh families’ to underline their loyalty to the Iraqi state. Sectarian and ethnic cleansing is sweeping away Sunni communities across northern Iraq and Syria.

The battle for Mosul – where IS had declared its caliphate – was always going to be bloody. But the fight was even more destructive than anyone expected thanks to a number of mistakes made by the Iraqi government and the US. IS resistance was stronger and their own forces weaker than they imagined. Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, was convinced that people in Mosul would rise up against IS when given the chance, so as the siege came into operation locals were discouraged from leaving the city. But IS had a well-organised and ferocious security apparatus: anyone who showed signs of resistance was killed. And then there was its military expertise: it defended Mosul with a combination of snipers, suicide bombers, mines, mortars and booby traps. Swiftly moving from position to position, IS fighters inflicted heavy casualties on pro-government forces and minimised its own losses despite its enemy’s overwhelming superiority in firepower. The Iraqi government’s Counterterrorism Service, the division of between eight and ten thousand highly trained men who did the bulk of the fighting in east Mosul, suffered a casualty rate of between 40 and 50 per cent. Losses as heavy as this could not be sustained for long.

After east Mosul was finally won, the strategy for regaining the city west of the Tigris was revised. West Mosul had a larger population than the east – 750,000 compared to the east’s 450,000, according to a UN estimate – and the buildings were more tightly packed and easier to defend: many alleyways in the old city were so narrow that two people couldn’t walk abreast. Already short of combat troops, the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition decided to rely much more heavily on firepower than it had in the first phase of the siege. The Federal Police and the Emergency Response Division played a bigger part in the fighting, using mortars, artillery and rockets. Grad missiles – Soviet weapons from the 1960s – were fired in volleys of forty at a time from the back of vehicles in the general direction of IS-held territory. Locally made rocket-assisted munitions, with warheads weighing between 90 and 140 kg, were fired into what was becoming one of the most densely populated patches of ground on earth. Even before the government offensive began, IS had been forcing people from their homes in the villages around Mosul and busing them into the city. As IS’s territory shrank under the government forces’ onslaught, it compelled civilians at gunpoint to retreat deeper into the IS enclave: snipers killed anyone who tried to flee behind government lines; the metal doors of houses were welded shut; those caught escaping were hanged from electric pylons; survivors speak of 75 or more people being gunned down at one time by IS patrols as they tried to run away.

Nobody knows for sure how many civilians were killed in the city as a whole. For long periods, shells, rockets and bombs rained down on houses in which as many as a hundred people might be sheltering. ‘Kurdish intelligence believes that over forty thousand civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them,’ Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s former foreign minister, told me. People have disputed that figure, but bear in mind the sheer length of the siege – 267 days between 17 October 2016 and 10 July 2017 – and the amount of ordnance fired into a small area full of people. The Iraqi government ludicrously claims that more of its soldiers died than civilians, but refuses to disclose the number of military casualties and has banned the media from west Mosul. On his website Musings on Iraq, Joel Wing gives a figure of 13,106 civilian fatalities based on media and other reports, but adds that ‘the real number of casualties from the fighting in Mosul is much higher.’ The Civil Defence Force, looking only for bodies that relatives have located, is still delivering between thirty and forty of them to the city morgue every day. The UN says that out of 54 residential areas in west Mosul, 15, containing 32,000 houses, were completely destroyed; 23 areas lost half their buildings; and even in the 16 areas that were ‘lightly damaged’ some 16,000 houses are in ruins.

All the people I was in contact with inside the IS-held part of the old city are dead. Ahmed Mohsen was wounded by a drone and then killed by an IS sniper; his mother and sister have disappeared and are presumably dead. I was also in touch with Rayan Mawloud, a 38-year-old businessman with a wife and two children who had a trading company based in a shop in one of Mosul’s markets. He came from a well-off family and his father had a fleet of trucks that used to carry goods to and from Basra and Jordan. When the attack on Mosul began, a friend of Rayan’s says that he spent his savings buying food to give not just to his relatives ‘but also to many people whom he did not know’. Rayan, knowing that his family would probably be shot by IS snipers if they tried to escape, took the opposite decision to Ahmed Mohsen and stayed with his family in their house. It was hit in an airstrike on 23 June, killing his wife and five-year-old son. He remained in the part of the house that was still habitable, but it was hit by another airstrike on 9 July. He was severely injured and died three days later.

This article originally appeared in the London Review of Books.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/18/endtimes-in-mosul/

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Joint Call to Iraq and US-Led Coalition: Weapons Choice Endangers Mosul Civilians Warring Parties Should Minimize Harm to Civilians

The battle involving Iraqi and US-led coalition forces against the Islamic State (ISIS) in west Mosul’s Old City poses a considerable threat to civilians and civilian objects, international humanitarian and human rights organizations said today. All warring parties should cease using explosive weapons with wide area effects and inherently indiscriminate weapons in densely populated west Mosul. ISIS’s unlawful use of civilians as “human shields” and the difficulty of identifying civilians in buildings increases the risk of civilian casualties.

The United Nations has estimated that 200,000 civilians remain in the two-square-kilometer area in west Mosul’s Old City, which Iraqi and US-led coalition forces are encircling in preparation for the battle there.

"More than 12,000 munitions were used by the US-led Coalition at Mosul between March and May alone, according to official data - comprising airstrikes, rocket and artillery salvos, mortar attacks and helicopter actions. In addition, thousands more munitions were released by Iraqi air and ground forces - at times with little apparent discrimination. This despite the city still containing hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians," says Airwars Director Chris Woods.

"The result of this ferocious bombardment on a densely populated city has been inevitable - with thousands of Moslawis reported killed in Coalition, Iraqi government and ISIS actions. Determining responsibility is proving particularly challenging, given the high number of munitions involved. We urge both the Coalition and Iraqi forces imediately to end the use of wide area effect and indiscriminate munitions in Mosul, in order to save lives."

The groups expressing concern are: Airwars; Amnesty International; Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC); Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), and War Child.

On May 25, 2017, anti-ISIS forces dropped leaflets urging civilians to immediately leave areas under ISIS control. Anti-ISIS forces should take all feasible precautions to minimize harm when carrying out attacks and ensure that civilians can safely evacuate the Old City and get humanitarian assistance both inside and outside the besieged area. With the offensive to take west Mosul entering its 109th day, the situation for civilians trapped there is growing increasingly perilous. Those fleeing Mosul have told humanitarian and human rights organizations that markets are being emptied of food, with civilians subsisting on little more than wheat and rainwater.

In mid-February, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) supported by the US-led coalition, known as the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), began the offensive to retake west Mosul, a densely populated set of urban neighborhoods.

Rising civilian casualties from aerial operations have heightened concerns regarding coalition and Iraqi forces’ use of airstrikes. The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects such as air-dropped bombs of 500lbs and above, which have been used in the context of the operation, in densely populated civilian areas of western Mosul may be resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects that is excessive to the anticipated military objectives of the strikes. Such disproportionate military attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Iraqi forces have also been launching locally fabricated rockets, commonly known as improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAMs), into west Mosul. Images published by media outlets and the US military also depict US forces and Iraqi forces firing mortars and unguided artillery rockets into western Mosul. Both of these weapons are inaccurate and can be unlawfully indiscriminate if used in heavily populated areas.

The difficulty of detecting civilians in the packed city, even with advanced targeting systems and continuous observation, make it difficult to determine accurately the number of civilians occupying a target area prior to approving strikes. The dangers are increased by ISIS’s use of civilians as “human shields,” which is a war crime.

Dozens of newly displaced people from west Mosul, including the Old City, have told humanitarian and human rights organizations that ISIS fighters forced them and their families to move with them up to three times, packing large numbers of families into small neighborhoods still under their control. They witnessed fighters summarily killing dozens of men as punishment as they and their families tried to flee ISIS control. They also saw ISIS fighters fire on groups of civilians as they fled; and some saw fleeing civilians shot and killed.

As the fighting intensifies and ISIS increases its use of civilians as shields, anti-ISIS forces should use all available means to verify the presence and location of civilians in the immediate vicinity of any fighters or military objectives targeted. In December 2016, US forces made procedural changes in its targeting that may increase the likelihood of civilian casualties.

All parties to the conflict are prohibited under the laws of war from conducting deliberate attacks against civilians or civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks. Indiscriminate attacks are attacks that strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction. An attack is disproportionate if it may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life or damage to civilian objects that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the attack.

Individuals who commit serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are responsible for war crimes. Individuals also may be held criminally liable for attempting to commit a war crime, as well as assisting in, facilitating, aiding, or abetting a war crime.

The laws of war require that the parties to a conflict take constant care during military operations to spare the civilian population and to “take all feasible precautions” to avoid or minimize the incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects. When used in populated areas, munitions with large payloads of high explosives can have a wide-area destructive effect, and it is not possible when using them to distinguish adequately between civilians and combatants, almost inevitably resulting in civilian casualties.

Weapons such as mortars and multi-barrel rocket launchers when firing unguided munitions and IRAMs are fundamentally inaccurate. This can make discriminating between civilians and combatants during an attack on a densely populated area virtually impossible. Human rights and humanitarian organizations and journalists have documented the use by Iraqi forces of IRAMs that lack the ability to be aimed beyond a basic orientation toward the target and are inherently indiscriminate.

Mortars and multi-barrel rocket launchers firing unguided munitions used by anti-ISIS forces can be aimed and adjusted by an observer, but are area-fire weapons and, when used in densely populated areas, are prone to unlawful indiscriminate use. Iraqi and US-led coalition forces should avoid all use of these weapons in the densely populated Old City of west Mosul.

Signatories:
Airwars
Amnesty International
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Network on Explosive Weapons –
INEW is governed by a Steering Committee whose members are Action on Armed Violence, Article 36, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian People’s Aid, Oxfam, PAX, Save the Children and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
War Child

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Does anyone care about Mosul?



Donald Trump says he was motivated by the death of “beautiful babies” in a chemical gas attack in Syria to launch a missile strike on a regime airbase, which incidentally also killed at least four children. But in fact, Trump’s aerial bombardment in the region is responsible for scores of civilian deaths, including children, on a nightly basis, as coalition aircraft pound targets in northeastern Syria and around the city of Mosul in Iraq.

Mosul is a city similar in population size to Birmingham. It was overrun by Isis a couple of years ago after the Iraqi army fled in the face of an Isis attack, leaving large amounts of weaponry to fall into the group’s hands. Since then, Mosul has been at the mercy of this ruthless death cult, whose crimes against civilians have been unspeakable. Those who have tried to escape the city -often in small fragile boats across a river in spate - have been shot dead. Despite this danger, some 300,000 residents have fled, creating a major humanitarian crisis which worsens by the week.

For more than six months, the Iraqi army, reinforced by aerial bombing by coalition aircraft, have attempted to liberate the city. The process is agonisingly slow: Isis are determined to fight to the death, with many of their militants permanently wearing the equipment of suicide bombers and others often mutilated or worse for not fighting with sufficient zeal.

The reluctance of US and other western forces to risk the lives of their own troops impels them to resort to increasingly reckless aerial bombardment of the city. Even before Trump took over, journalists at Airwars, a site that highlights media reports of civilian casualties, began to register a huge increase in civilian fatalities in Mosul. With the exception of one incident, where over 200 civilians may have died in one attack, hardly any of this has been reported in the western media. To give just a flavour of Airwars reportage for two weeks earlier this month:

(April 6th): Local sources said that a mother and her two children were killed in an airstrike on her house in Zanjili neighbourhood, in West Mosul.
(April 7th): Local sources, in what was possibly based on an Al Amaq [ISIL press agency] statement, reported that 22 civilians were killed and 42 injured in Coalition and Iraqi government airstrikes on Farouk, Zinjili and Isilah Zeraei (Agricultural Reforrm) neighbourhoods in West Mosul. Local sources reported that one civilian was killed and eight others were injured in airstrikes on Al Saha neighborhood in West Mosul.
(April 8th): Local sources said that three named family members were killed and their daughter injured on the morning of April 8th, after an airstrike reportedly struck their house in West Mosul. Local sources, possibly referring to a statement originating with Al Amaq [ISIL’s media wing], said that that 13 civilians were killed and 91 were injured – mostly children and women – in shelling and bombing by the Coalition and Iraqi forces on several neighborhoods in West Mosul.
(April 9th): Two local sources said that an unspecified number of civilians were killed and injured due to airstrikes and missile attacks on Zanjili neighborhood in West Mosul. Local sources said that heavy airstrikes and artillery shelling hit Rifai and 17 July neighbourhoods in West Mosul, killing and injuring an unspecified number of civilians. A single source – the local Facebook group of the Jarjria tribe – said that a son of the family of Muhammad Daham Murad al-Jarjari from the village of Jasa was killed in an airstrike on Yarmouk neighbourhood in West Mosul.
(April 10th): Local sources said that three named civilians were killed including a child, after an airstrike struck their house in Sekak neighborhood in West Mosul. Local sources reported a major incident in Yarmouk neighbourhood, West Mosul, where airstrikes allegedly killed more than thirty civilians.
(April 11th): A single local source reported that over thirty civilians, including women and children, were killed in Coalition airstrikes on al-Saha and al-Sham neighborhoods in West Mosul. A single source reported that two people were killed and nine others were injured due to unidentified shelling on Al-Resala neighborhood in West Mosul. Local sources reported that 13 civilians from two families were killed and 17 others injured in Coalition airstrikes on houses in Yarmouk neighbourhood, which had been liberated by Iraqi forces the previous day. Local sources said that nine people from the same family died in an unspecified airstrike on their house in Al-Farouk Street, in Farouk neighbourhood in West Mosul, at midnight.
(April 12th): Akbar Elyam News, quoting Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdul-Aziz Al-Nu’mani of Iraqi forces, reported that violent Coalition airstrikes hit the old part of Mosul, particularly the neighbourhoods of the Grand Mosque, Farouk, Clock and the center of Mosul, in the evening into the night of April 12th. Sawlf Ateka (local Facebook group) reported moreover that five civilians died in the Grand Mosque neighbourhood at 11 PM, when a missile hit their house.  (April 13th): Multiple local sources reported that Coalition airstrikes as well as raids carried out by Iraqi government forces led to the deaths of dozens of civilians, and left up to 181 people injured.
(April 14th): Two local sources reported that seven civilians from one family died when an airstrike or bombardment hit their house in Ras Al Jadda neighbourhood in the old part of Mosul.
(April 15th): Local residents told the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights that 42 members of the well-known family of Ghanim Sobhiya died after an airstrike hit their 16-room house in Bab-Sinjar neighbourhood in the old part of Mosul, at dawn on April 15th. Local sources reported that at least eight civilians died after two missiles consecutively hit a two-floor house in Isilah Zeraei neighbourhood in West Mosul. Sources reported a similar incident hours earlier in the same neighbourhood, with casualty numbers so far unknown.
(April 17th): Local sources reported that Coalition and Iraqi government warplanes carried out airstrikes on Zanjili and other neighbourhoods in West Mosul, killing and wounding dozens.
Iraqyoon and Yaqein spoke of more than 100 dead and wounded in the various western neighbourhoods of the city. Local sources reported violent airstrikes on Al-Thawra (Revolution) neighbourhood in the old town area of Mosul city, on Monday 17th of April. Two victims were named.
(April 18th): Local sources reported that heavy airstrikes hit several neighbourhoods in Old Mosul on Tuesday, leading to dozens of civilians killed and injured. Local sources reported that ‘US airstrikes’ hit the entrance of the emergency department of the Republican Hospital at the Medical Complex of West Mosul. Civilians killed: 7.
(April 19th): Local press sources reported that 51 civilians were killed and 55 injured in airstrikes of the international Coalition and Iraqi government forces on several neighborhoods in West Mosul. Local press sources and relatives reported that four members of the Al-Fakhri family died after Coalition airstrikes hit their house in Old Mosul. A single local source reported that Abdel Wahab Talal Hadidi and his father died after an airstrike was carried out in front of their house, in Al Thawra (Revolution) neighbourhood in Old Mosul.
(April 20th): Local sources reported that airstrikes of the Coalition and the Iraqi airforce on several neighbourhoods in Old Mosul, as well as artillery shelling, lead to the death of 18 civilians.
https://airwars.org/coalitioncivcas2017apr/


Looking through the events listings on the Stop the War website, there are virtually no meetings about these terrible events, nor, sadly, any commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. If we fail to protest against such unconscionable attacks on civilians, who are we to criticise the media silence? And if we do not protest, are not our enemies emboldened to carry on their murderous bombardment with impunity?

To receive the Iraq Occupation Focus free fortnightly e-newsletter, go to: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The battle for Mosul

Last week, I received the following email:

“Dear Friends,
As you might have heard, the American Coalition have been bombing civilian areas in Mosul. Over the past few days the coalition targeted 3 houses of well known professors and researchers in Mosul University. One of them was my college professor and mentor Prof. Dr Mohamad Tybee Al-Layla.
Dr Al-Layla got his PhD in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Texas, USA. Worked as a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering in the Engineering College of University of Mosul since the early seventies of the last century. He was assigned as a Chairman of the Civil Engineering Department and the dean of the college twice. Supervised more than 30 PhD and Master degree thesis in Geotechnical Engineering and Civil Engineering. He published 48 research and technical papers in Iraq and abroad, and became an editing member of 3 scientific journals and magazines.
He received the prestigious award of the Iraqi Science Day on June 2nd, 2014.
He worked sincerely and hard for about 40 years to educate and help thousands of highly efficient and intelligent engineers graduate, many of whom became ministers, deputy ministers, academics and high ranking executive directors in Geotechnical, Irrigation Engineering and other civil and political posts inside Iraq and abroad.
Being one his students, it breaks our hearts that even though Dr Al-Layla was such a great scientific Iraqi figure who never let down or disappointed the University of Mosul community or even the city of Mosul in its hardest times, the crime of targeting his house by the American Coalition and his painful death along with his innocent family under the rubbles of his house, will remain an unforgettable disaster to us, one that all parties hold responsibility for, that reminds all of us that we are still sinking into the abyss the criminal US occupation of Iraq has led to.
May his soul rest in piece, and the souls of the many innocent thousands dying every month in Mosul by ISIS and the Coalition without accountability nor remorse.”

The battle for Mosul, an Isis stronghold in northern Iraq, has raged on for months. In the last four months alone, an estimated 145,000 people have been displaced and the vast majority of them are in need of major humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

Civilians have been caught in the crossfire between Iraqi ground troops and Isis militants. The later also shoot at anyone leaving the city without their authorisation. Militias allied to Iraqi regular forces have been accused of sectarian atrocities. But by far the biggest cause of civilian fatalities is Coalition air strikes, which UK forces are also involved in. Some of these, it is alleged, have deliberately targeted hospital and educational establishments.

What’s not in doubt is the huge increase in bombardments killing civilians since the start of 2017. The website Airwars attempts to record all reported instances of these strikes. It also comments on the degree to which each has been independently corroborated. Just to give a flavour of the level of bombardment, I will quote from their reports for the first twelve days of this year:

January 2nd: Mosul: Four women were killed and 8 injured by Coalition strikes, according to local reports. January 3rd: As many as 22 civilians were reported killed, and 29 injured, in air strikes by an unspecified party in eastern Mosul according to local media. Yaqein reported that one civilian was killed and 11 injured in the Noor neighbourhood of eastern Mosul. January 4th: Press and local sources said that 16 displaced civilians were killed or injured, mostly children and women, after Coalition warplanes targeted their houses in 17 July neighbourhood, at the right side of Mosul. A local sources said that a named civilian, Imad Ahmed, was killed in raids on Farms district, north of Mosul. January 5th: Five members of the same family were killed when a Coalition air strike hit a house, according to local sources. Multiple reports referenced dead and wounded Iraqi troops killed in a friendly fire incident by Coalition strikes. Local sources told Mosul Ateka that 26 civilians from 4 families were killed when their home was bombed by Coalition strikes. Fourteen people including women and children were killed, and 15 wounded by Coalition strikes in the Garage and Fatih areas, according to local reports. Local sources said two named civilians (a father and son) were killed after a missile targeted their house in the left side of Mosul. January 6th: Local sources and relatives of victims said that more than 20 civilians from three families were killed, including children and women, after Coalition air strikes targeted their houses in front of Saddam mosque at the entrance of Farms district, north of Mosul. Local sources said that a family of three children and their grandmother were killed after their house was hit by a missile during raids in the Agricultural residential neighbourhood in central Mosul area, which is still under ISIL control. Local sources said civilians were killed and injured after Coalition Apache helicopters targeted a market in Sumer neighbourhood, southeast of Mosul, with machine guns. January 7th: Five civilians were reported killed, including 3 children and 2 women in raids in West Mosul. Local and medical sources said that 15-27 civilians were killed and many others injured and children displaced, in an alleged Coalition air strike. Local and medical sources said that 12 civilians were killed and many others injured, mostly displaced women and children, in the locality of Ibn al-Haytham area of Mosul due to Coalition air strikes southeast of Mosul. January 8th: One civilian was reported killed in alleged Coalition air strikes that targeted an ISIL member in a civilian vehicle, in Hadbah neighbourhood in the northeast of Mosul. Local reports say that the streets in eastern Mosul were covered by the bodies of dozens of civilians – their deaths caused by Coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery. Local reports indicated that shelling struck civilian homes in Sukkar, Talla and Mufthana neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul, “resulting in the burying of dozens of civilians under the rubble,” according to an account in a report by Iraqi Spring Media Centre. Local sources and relatives of victims said that Coalition air strikes targeted a family house in Muthanna neighborhood northeast of Mosul. January 10th: Local sources reported that the Coalition targeted Hadbah neighbourhood, northeast of Mosul, with three raids. January 11th: Local sources said Coalition air strikes and artillery shelling targeted Hadbah neighbourhood northeast of Mosul , killing dozens of civilians. Local sources reported that Coalition air strikes bombed a house with three missiles in Second Ka’afat neighborhood, northeast of Mosul. Local sources reported that Coalition air strikes bombed a house in Maliah neighbourhood, at the left side of Mosul during an operation to retake it. Up to 17 civilians were killed and five others injured, mostly women and children from the same family who were inside the house at the time of the strike. January 12th: Local sources reported that the international Coalition and/or US aircraft had carried out air strikes in New Mosul neighbourhood, at the right side of Mosul, leaving up to 30 civilians dead and 14 others wounded. https://airwars.org/coalitioncivcas2017jan-mar/

To emphasise, these are the strikes reported in a period of just twelve days. Yet, sources in Iraq suggest this may be a severe underestimate of the true numbers of civilian fatalities which could be around 10,000.

Yet, with very few exceptions, none of this has been repeated in western media, a failure of historic proportions, which helps conceal this humanitarian tragedy. At the end of 2016, Parliament voted that UK forces should take part in these bombardments - how many civilian casualties have our troops been responsible for? Why is there no outrage at this killing from the skies that western powers are inflicting on the same country they invaded 14 years ago, before Isis - the creation of their own interference - existed? Activists should lobby their MPs and demand some answers from the Government about its involvement in this carnage, which can only increase the likelihood of more terrorist attacks on British soil.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Sabah Jawad



We are very sorry to announce the death of Sabah Jawad on 9th January in London. Sabah was an Iraqi exile who opposed both Saddam Hussein and any attempt to intervene in Iraq by western powers. He was centrally involved in the campaigns against the first Gulf War in 1990/91 and in the Stop the War Coalition against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He continued to campaign against the occupation and the impact of that intervention on his own country and the rest of the Middle East, and was for many years a member of the STW steering committee. He will be known to many supporters for his speeches at meetings and demonstrations. We are very grateful for all of the work that he did. We send our condolences to his family, friends and comrades, and below we print an appreciation of him from his fellow Iraqi comrades. We will let people know of memorial arrangements.

Lindsey German, StWC Convenor

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Sabah Jawad, founding member of the Stop the War Coalition, Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation and decades long activist for democratic socialism in Iraq passed away peacefully, 09 January 2017, at a London hospital, following a sudden deterioration in his condition.

Sabah was born in Iraq and lived in exile in Britain due to his strong opposition to repressive regimes in his beloved Iraq. He was a committed socialist and held firmly to the idea that only democratic socialism could bring dignity, justice and prosperity to the Iraqi people. He campaigned vigorously against Saddam's repressive policies, but never for a moment entertained the idea that imperialism could become a friend of the Iraqi people. On the contrary, he always upheld the principle that true democracy could only come about through the protracted struggle of the Iraqi people themselves for a better future and ridding Iraq of imperialist presence and interventions.

Along with his Iraqi comrades and friends, in 1991 Sabah became very active against the murderous US-led war and sanctions on Iraq and was a founding member of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation and of the Stop the War Coalition. He served as an Officer of STWC for many years. He redoubled his efforts when the US and British governments started beating the drums of war in preparation for the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

During his student days, Sabah was active in the Iraqi Student Society and later became an active member of Britain's National Union of Journalists during a strike that he led at a news agency. He was a committed internationalist who fought for the rights of British workers and opposed racism in all its forms, including Islamophobia.

His support for trade unionism and his close links to the struggles of the Iraqi people alerted him to the re-emerging independent trade union activity among oil workers in Basra. In 2004 he established close links with leaders of the workers campaigning against the occupation and for workers rights, particularly the president of the Basra Oil Workers Union, Hassan Juma'a. Within hours of his passing away yesterday, the Executive Bureau of the Iraqi Oil Workers Union issued a statement mourning the loss of Sabah as an honorary "member of the union" who fought against the US-led occupation, upheld the rights of Iraqi workers and staunchly defended their union.

In the past few years, Sabah became acutely concerned about the counter-revolution that has been sweeping the Middle East following the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain.

Consequently, he stood firmly against the NATO war on Libya, the US-Saudi-Qatar-Turkey proxy war on Syria, the Saudi invasion of Bahrain and the Saudi-led war on Yemen. He identified SaudiQatari backed Wahhabi and al-Qaeda-type sectarian terrorism in Iraq and Syria as posing a grave danger to both societies as well as to the unity of the peoples of the entire region. He also opposed the sectarian and racist campaigns in the Arab world, by Saudi and Qatari regimes and propaganda tools such alJazeera TV, against the Iranian people.

The struggle of the Palestinian people against Zionism and for a free Palestine was always a source of inspiration for Sabah and he regarded this struggle as vital to establishing a just and peaceful Middle East.

The anti-war movement, the Iraqi people and his comrades and friends have lost a loyal and principled campaigner. We shall miss you Sabah.

Sami Ramadani
Kamil Mahdi
and Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
10 January 2017
http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news-comment/2355-remembering-sabah-jawad