November 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, someone involved in the
2011 negotiations between the White House and Nouri to keep US troops
in Iraq speaks, Nouri moves towards the majority-government, Jalal
Talabani feels betrayed, the alleged Israeli spying devices on the US
supplied F-16s continue to be covered by the Iraqi press, Tareq
al-Hashemi gets a second death sentence, and more.
young Baghdad woman has ambitious plans for Iraqi women's rights – and
she has started a Facebook campaign to back them. She already has 10,000
online supporters. NIQASH asks Ruqaya Abdul-Ali how this will translate
She's not even 20 years old but Baghdadi university student Ruqaya Abdul-Ali has started a wildly successful Facebook campaign.
It is called "Revolution Against Patriarchal Society" and it's only
three months old – and already Abdul-Ali has got almost 10,000
says she aims to educate Iraqi women about their rights, to stop sexual
harassment in Iraqi society and to get some of the country's most
discriminatory legislation changed. NIQASH asked her exactly how she
plans to achieve those grand plans.
NIQASH: Could you tell us exactly what you mean by a "Revolution Against Patriarchal Society"?
It is a revolution against tribal, patriarchal norms and the traditions
that deprive women of their basic rights, ones that cause them to live
like machines whose sole purpose is to give birth and to do household
tasks. It is a revolution that will make women more aware of their
rights and help them become more informed, introducing them to new
ideas. The campaign is about encouraging women to read and to educate
NIQASH: Why are you doing this?
I launched this campaign on Facebook because of the pressures being put
on women as a result of the revival of tribal traditions in Iraq
[following the 2003 US-led invasion that ended former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein's regime]. There are also increasing levels of violence,
discrimination and verbal and sexual harassment.
phenomenon of early and underage marriage also seems to be becoming
more widespread and this prevents women from getting an education, not
to mention the societal impact this has on divorced and widowed women.
I used Facebook because I wanted to remind Iraqi women of their rights.
Many women both inside and outside Iraq have joined the Facebook page
and that number has almost reached 10,000. Many of them are human rights
suffer in a multitude of ways as a result not limited to the hardships
involved of war turning your nation into a country of widows and
orphans. In 2005, Ghali Hassan (Global Research) explained how Iraqi women were being robbed of their rights:
to the arrival of U.S. forces, Iraqi women were free to go wherever
they wish and wear whatever they like. The 1970 Iraqi constitution, gave
Iraqi women equity and liberty unmatched in the Muslim World. Since the
U.S. invasion, Iraqi women's rights have fallen to the lowest level in
Iraq's history. Under the new U.S.-crafted constitution, which will be
put to referendum on the 15 October while the bloodbath mounts each day,
women's rights will be oppressed and the role of women in Iraqi society
will be curtailed and relegated to the caring for "children and the
Immediately after the invasion,
the U.S. embarked on cultivating friendships with religious groups and
clerics. The aim was the complete destruction of nationalist movements,
including women's rights movements, and replacing them with expatriate
religious fanatics and criminals piggybacked from Iran, the U.S. and
Britain. In the mean time the U.S. moved to liquidate any Iraqi
opposition or dissent to the Occupation.
women were not helped by the exiles the US government put in charge of
Iraq or by the unrest the US government encouraged in an attempt to
intimidate, silence and control the people. No one has been more
damaging than Nouri al-Maliki. This can be seen by women in his
Cabinet. In his first term as Prime Minister, Nawal al-Samarraie served
as Minister of Women's Affairs. February 6, 2009,
she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not
properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed
to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be
able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So
naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).
didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised.
Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women
completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:
Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note,
"A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting
one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his
that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in
the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We
congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at
the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women
chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by
sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to
several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even
choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have
confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal
Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds,
"The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of
parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently
concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no,
Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do
posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't
have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. And note that
Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42. That
tells you just how inclusive Nouri isn't. Also note that it was Iraqi
women and they did it without any help from the United Nations which is
so cowed that it refuses to stand up for women in Iraq. Nouri also
oversaw the appointment of commissioners to the so-called Independent
High Electoral Commission. While the United Nations tried so hard to
find a rainbow in manure, the reality is that one third of the members
were supposed to be women. This is a point that the UN was making as
late as the summer. But when only one woman was named a commissioner,
the UN decided to just pretend that didn't take place -- even when the
Iraqi court ruled that, yes, a third of the commissioners should be
women. Maybe if the UN had pushed for the law and for women, that would
have happened. But it was much more important to the United Nations to
use up all their happy face stickers that day than it was to stand up
for Iraqi women.
kidnapping, prostitution, sexual slavery, honour killings, stigmatising
and marginalisation from wider society, as well as lack of employment
and poor pay, so many different issues.
Also, women aren't the only ones who suffer at the hands of patriarchy in the country.
was the only organisation that stood up against homophobia and the
murder of homosexuals in Iraq. We raised issues homosexual Iraqis face
with Shi'a Islamists.
How usual is it for women to be employed? Has it become less usual as Iraqi society
moves towards Islamism?
It depends. Some places have always been deeply religious, while others are progressing towards Islamism.
a woman finds a job, she works, but it is all about who you know. Even
prostitution is now an income for some women, if they get paid at all.
itself is illegal and we stand up for the welfare and employment and
human rights of sex workers because they are victimised and dehumanised
in such societies.
met some ex-prostitutes, and they were still in danger. They sought
help from many women's groups, but were turned away for moral or
Zhala Aziz (Warvin) reports
that Sunday, October 21st, a marathon was held in Hawler. (Hawler is
in Erbil, a province of the Kurdistan Regional Government --
semi-autonomous area in northern Iraq.) The marathon was for breast
cancer and the city's Director of Health, Qasim Ali Aziz, explained, "To
raise awareness among women and protect themselves against this
disease, in the memory of breast cancer, we organized a marathon between
the female high schools students with the commerical high schools
girls." In addition, Jim and Deb Fine (Mennonite Central Commitee Iraq) reports on how bee keeping is creating opportunites for Iraqi women living in the KRG:
In the Yezidi
village of Beban we met our first woman participant, Aasimah (not her
real name), whose husband was kidnapped in Baghdad in 2006. The family
sold goods from the camera shop they owned to raise the $50,000 ransom
the kidnappers demanded. They paid the ransom but to no avail. The
kidnappers killed Aasimah's husband and Aasimah fled Baghdad with her
four children to live in the safety of Beban, her family village.
reported that she had already sold 4 kg. of honey for $50 a kg.,
although her five hives had been working for only three months.
Aasimah, like the 25 other displaced female heads of household
participating in the ZSVP project, can expect to earn some $2,000 a year
in the first years of the project and could earn much more as the bees
swarm and populate new hives. (On our visit we met one man who had been
the beneficiary of an earlier ZSVP beekeeping project. He received five
beehives in 2009. He now maintains fifty hives and sells bees as well
as honey to customers in the area.)
is almost ten years since the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The
electricity keeps going off here and all throughout the country. Sami,
whose family is hosting me in Najaf, remarked yesterday with no ill
intent, "Maybe we could send them some of our electricity!" We had to
I read another email this morning
from an Iraqi friend of Sami's whom we were unable to see in Basra. He
spoke about the lack of electricity and the high humidity in Basra,
where temperatures reached almost 50 degrees Centigrade last summer
(about 120 degrees Fahrenheit), and this was during the fasting month of
Ramadan when no water, or food, is taken from dawn to dusk. "How is
it," this friend asks, "that the U.S. has poured billions of dollars
into Iraq and yet there was no project for a [national] electrical power
station to help cool temperatures and calm temperaments that went along
with the political instability, the insecurity and the sectarian
On violence, yesterday was the end of the month. Iraq Body Count's
counts 253 reported violent deaths in Iraq for the month of October.
Last month, their total was 356 which means a reduction of about 100
deaths. AFP, forgetting fairy tales are for bedtime, notes
the government total for October is 136. AFP also forgets to note that
there were over 550 reported mass arrests in Iraq in the month of
October. Nouri's round up largely focused on Sunnis.
not just 'terrorists.' No, Nouri brought in a new charge in the
Baghdad area: prostitution. Over 180 women were arrested for
prostitution in the Baghdad area alone. Two weeks ago, a reporter
attempting to report on that was killed: Zia Medhi. From the October 24th snapshot:
Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory notes
the investigative journalist was in Baghdad's Tahrir Square at ten a.m.
Monday morning conducting meetings and interviews and she was also
working on a story about prostitution and brothels in Iraq. She went to
a police station to interview some of the 180 women arrested but a
police officer prevented her from entering and he denied that there were
any prostitutes among the arrested. He left and then moments later
re-appeared telling her she could enter but without her colleagues. Zia
Mehdi didn't feel comfortable with that offer and instead returned to
Tahrir Square to continue her LGBT interviews. Later she was discovered
dead, stabbed to death, still in her jacket that noted she was a
Approximately a fourth of the deaths from violence in October took place last weekend. The Islamic State of Iraq, as Fars News Agency reported, claimed credit for the "shootings and bombings over the Eid al-Adha holiday that killed dozens of people nationwide." July 22nd,
the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new
campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include
prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards." Since they made their July announcement there have been minor and major attacks throughout Iraq. Ashley Fantz (CNN) reported
a very important detail about the Islamic State of Iraq's announcement,
"In the statement, the ISI claims that the Shiite Rafidi government
have conducted a series of arrests that targeted Sunni women in order to
pressure their relatives to surrender to authorities or to blackmail
their relatives. Attacking during Eid was intended to deliver a message:
You are not safe, even during a holiday built around peace." Yes,
we're back to the issue of Nouri's government targeting Sunni women for
arrests. Today, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) reports on the way Sunnis are shut out:
Iraq's Sunnis largely back Syria's rebels, the Shia prime minister,
Nouri al-Maliki, fearing the establishment of a Sunni fundamentalist
regime on Iraq's western flank, supports the secular Syrian regime.
armed forces and civil administration, dismantled after the US
occupation, have not been restored. The military, where most soldiers
were always from the majority Shia community, has been transformed into a
sectarian Shia force by Maliki.
fighters who helped the US defeat al-Qaeda and its offshoots have been
denied recruitment into the armed forces, creating a wellspring of
resentment in Sunni provinces that border on Syria. Youngsters are
encouraged to join radical Sunni groups. Some have gone to Syria to
fight against the Assad regime while others are mounting deadly attacks
on Shias and Iraqi regime targets.
Nouri's most famous Sunni target in recent years has been Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.
political crisis was already well in effect when December 2011 rolled
around. The press rarely gets that fact correct. When December 2011
rolls around you see Iraqiya announce a boycott of the council and the
Parliament, that's in the December 16th snapshot and again in a December 17th entry
. Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya but he's not in the news at
that point. Later, we'll learn that Nouri -- just returned from DC
where he met with Barack Obama -- has ordered tanks to surround the
homes of high ranking members of Iraqiya. December 18th
is when al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are pulled
from a Baghdad flight to the KRG but then allowed to reboard the plane.
December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued for Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri al-Maliki who claims the vice president is a 'terrorist.' .
has been in Turkey where he remains. He was there while a Baghdad
court controlled by Nouri pretended to hear charges against him in a
faux trial. This despite the Baghdad
judges declared him guilty in February at their press conference and
while one judge was stating that he had been threatened by al-Hashemi,
before the trial even started, they declared al-Hashemi guilty. That
press conference demonstrated that al-Hashemi was correct, he would not
get a fiar trial in the Baghdad courts (he had asked that the trial be
moved to the KRG or to Kirkuk). In May, the trial began. The judges
have also refused to allow Vice President al-Hashemi to call President
Jalal Talabani to the stand as a character witness -- in fact, they
refused all the requests for character witnesses. Among other
problems with the trial? The use of so-called confessions obtained via
torture, the refusal to make the proceedings open and transparent (the
press was kicked out during some of the trial) and the simple fact that,
even after his September 9th
'conviction,' Tareq al-Hashemi remains Vice President of Iraq. He was
never removed from his position and while he holds that position -- as
he currently does -- the Constitution does not allow for him to stand
trial. He can stand trial after he leaves office. He can be removed
from office by the Parliament immediately and then legally stand trial.
But he was never removed from office and his term has not expired so he
can't legally be tried.
He can't legally be
tried? You'd assume that Iraqi judges would grasp that Constitutional
fact and stop the trial. But that assumption would be built upon the
fact that the Baghdad judiciary was independent of Nouri and that it was
interested in practicing the law and not just delivering rubber stamp
verdicts on Nouri's orders.
Tareq and the ridiculous criminal court in Baghdad are back in the news today. Vestnik Kavkazza has the best headline, "Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi to be executed twice." AP gets this right:
"The verdict was the second death sentence for Tariq Al-Hashemi in less
than two months, and is likely to stoke further resentment among Iraq's
minority Sunni Muslims against the Shiite-led government." Press TV also notes this is Tareq's "second death sentence."
and despite all the fond hopes of a diverse, secular and democratic new
order emerging in Iraq – remember all those earnest discussions post
invasion, about whether a 'liberated' Iraq would have a loosely federal
structure or a strongly centralized one? – something quite different has
emerged. Namely, a virtual Shi'ite dictatorship led by Nouri al-Maliki
and subservient to Iran. Instead of liberating Iraq and containing Iran,
the US invasion has enabled a tyrannical client regime of Teheran to be
installed in Baghdad. Nice work.
process of setting up his new tyranny, al-Maliki has made a joke out of
those fond hopes of peaceful power sharing with Sunni legislators. Amid
terrible bloodshed since 2003, many of the Sunni fighters have been
killed or driven out, and Kurdish aspirations have been sidelined.
However, those residual Sunni elements from Iraq - and Kurdish fighters
from all over the region – have now poured into Syria to fight the Assad
regime, and as the New York Times recently pointed out, Iraq is already feeling the blowback.
Nouri is moving towards a majority government which is his effort to shut out political rivals. Dar Addustour reports
Nouri and Ammar al-Hakim (Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq) have been
meeting and bonding over this move and that al-Hakim has declared such a
move "wise." From Monday's snapshot:
Dar Addustour notes
today that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani feels betrayed by this move.
Talabani was supposed to be working on getting the political blocs
together. Before the four-day holiday kicked off on Friday, Nouri and
his State of Law political slate were singing Jalal's praises, saying he
was going to fix the political stalemate. He was also saying that he
wanted the National Conference (a meet-up of the political blocs to
resolve the political crisis) that Jalal and Speaker of Parliament Osama
al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st. Not only does Dar Addustour
report Jalal feels betrayed, they also report that he's met up with
Iraqiya's al-Nujaifi and the two are discussing what their options
are. Dar Addustour feels ther are three ways this can play
out: a vote in Parliament to withdraw confidence from Nouri (in which
case a caretaker government would be put in place until elections can be
held), the majority government that Nouri wants or a Nouri's using his
control of the military to seize total control of Iraq (Little Saddam
would become the Hussein he always wanted to be).
was a key player on both the Washington and Baghdad sides of the 2011
negotiations that were meant to agree on a follow on force to extend the
Bush administration's Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) after it was
set to expire last December. Those negotiations ultimately failed. The
White House has said the Iraqis refused to grant immunity for U.S.
troops in Iraq after 2011 and submit a new SOFA through their own
parliament, two things the United States needed to extend the troops'
Jeffrey said that he and Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki personally discussed the idea of extending
the U.S. troop presence in Iraq via an executive agreement, which would
not have to go through the Iraqi parliament.
said at one point, 'Why don't we just do this as an executive
agreement?'" Jeffrey said. "I didn't think he was serious, and I didn't
think he had thought it through."
and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in
the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training
missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General
Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed
to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
noted that the current US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft had
blown his credibility (claiming there were no US troops remaining in
Iraq to the Iraqi press and, as All Iraq News pointed out,
also claiming that there was no desire for US troops to be sent back
into Iraq) and that this wasn't a good time for that to happen:
All Iraq News reports
Iraqis state they have found Israeli recording devices on the F-16s the
US has supplied so far. The Iraqi Air Force leadership has sent a
letter objecting to the device to Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the
F-16s. Fars News Agency adds,
"Iraq's air force has found out Israeli company RADA has planted
information recording systems in its F-16 fighters recently purchased
from the American Lockheed Martin Company."
Dar Addustour reports
today that the Iraqi Air Force first sought comment from the US
government and when they received no answer from the US government,
about what they see as spying devices, they asked Lockheed Martin. I
have no idea of whether they're spying devices or not. But at some
point, someone in leadership in Iraq is going to realize that if there
is one set of spying devices, there may be two or more. Someone will
shortly grasp that the set discovered may have been intended to be
discovered in order to conceal more important devices. That's sleight
of hand -- look here, not over there. Again, this wasn't a time where
the US face to Iraq should have thrown away credibility by lying that
all US troops were out of Iraq and that the US government wasn't
attempting to work on a new agreement with Iraq governing US troops.