Saturday, March 26, 2011






It's Friday and, yes, protests continued in Iraq. And because the government disrespects the people's right to freely express themselves, roads into Baghdad's Tahrir Square were yet again blocked. Wamith Al-Kassab (MidEastYouth) reports that Iraqi forces shut down the streets around Thrir Square yesterday and encircled them with barbed wire to prevent protesters." Al Mada reports on what the youth movement protesters were saying, that they have been protesting since February 26th to bring about a better Iraq and that the government cannot hide behind the walls of the Green Zone. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that despite "heavy rains" and "tight security measures," hundreds of Iraqis protested in Baghdad's Liberation Square. At the Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page, Hind Burgif wonders, "was it realy rain or baghdad crying and call iraqi people to help her and set her free???" Wedding Shawki and Adham Youssef (Al Mada) report on the demonstrations noting Iraqi security forces (again) used batons and water cannons while protecting themselves with shields (Youssef's photo shows a man with a menacing baton apparently aimed at a woman who is no threat to herself or anyone else). Iraqi women were a highly visible presence in today's protest in Baghdad and the article notes that women have been a part of the recent demonstrations, helping to demonstrate what a true picture of a democratic Iraq could look like. They then speak with women participating in the demonstrations like feminist Hmamonov Yousef Taher who feels the presence of women in protests helps reduce violence ("women's presence can lead the authorities to refrain from violence and it can reduce violence on the part of demonstrators") and is bothered by the inability of some to include women, noting the need to reach out with the message as well as obstacles that prevent women's participation (such as the curfew). She feels that the government's response to the protest with curfews and other repressive tactics has demonstrated the government's own failure and that women will increase their participation in the demonstrations. Sana, who is a poet, tells Al Mada, that women have bee participating in larger numbers in other countries and outlines some factors which may influence participation in Iraq. She also feels that the presence of women can help prevent the authorities from attacking the protesters. The Association of Iraqi Women's Suhaila Alaasm feels that women have been increasing participation throughout the country's provinces. She notes that women have been marginalized in Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet. Like Sana, she points to the losses women have suffered since the invasion of Iraq and the oppression. The Baghdad Forum Cultural Center's Zainab Kaabi notes that women are oppresed and the Institute of Fine Arts' Precious Hashim notes that women face many obstacles but they will be present more and more in future demonstrations because when you participate and demonstrate for reform of Iraq you develop a taste for it and know that the soul and the connection will provide life and redemption. Mostafa Badr posts a photo of Iraqi women at Liberation Square and notes, "Elderly women demonstrating today in Tahrir Square demanding the release of their sons, husbands and brothers." Nafee Alfatlayi notes, "The mourning father of one of the demonstrators who was killed 4 days ago broke his mourning to attend the demonstration, stating that his son who was an agricultural engineer was killed 4 days ago by government security forces but he is here in Tahrir Square to uphold and support his son's stand." Ibrahim Laebi reports, "Suppression of the press in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, and the injury of 3 members of the press."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the Baghdad protest and notes that women calling for the "government to release sons and husbands who are in prison awaiting trial or investigation" were often "carrying photos of their loved ones" and that "in Najaf, Diwaniya, Kut and Hilla -- Shiite provinces south of Baghdad -- hundreds of demonstrators rallied Friday against unemployment and corruption, police said." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes Iraqi forces were sent to Ramadi and Falluja but protesters still turned out and demonstrated ("thousands" in Falluja). Mostafa Badr reports, "The people of Tikreet have come out from the Grand Mosque, Tikreet, after Friday Prayers in a large demonstration demanding the release of detainees and the change in government and for the Parliament to go!!!!" The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The People of Babil are out in a very large demonstration demanding that Parliament and government resign!" And they report, "The Askeriein Regiment is surrounding the Aisha Mosque in Sammarra'a in an attempt to break the large demonstration taking place now despite suprresion tactics and methods -- the people of Sammarra'a demand the exit of the Parliament and the government as well as are refusing to sell their land around the 'Hathra'. God Save Iraq all Iraqis."

The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The U.S. administration says the occupation, which began on March 20 eight years ago, is ending as well, with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But as the U.S., Great Britain and France begin another military intervention in North Africa, their respective administrations are silent about the price Iraqis are paying for the last one.
Not so the Iraqi, however. Demonstrations have taken place in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, among other cities, calling on the U.S. in particular to stop its escalating military intervention in Libya. Iraqi unions have been especially vocal, linking the U.S. invasion of Iraq with continued misery for its working people. According to one union representative, Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi workers, "Eight years have ended since the fall of Saddam's regime, yet the empty promises of the "liberators" - the invaders and the occupiers who promised Iraqis heaven and earth - were simply lies, lies and lies."
The GFIW, which supported the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, says the U.S. should "allow the people of Libya, Bahrain and other countries to determine their own destiny by themselves." Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, says violence directed against workers and unions is intended to keep a lid on protests against miserable living conditions. "We are still under occupation," he charges. "The new Iraqi army, created by the U.S. occupation, is doing the same job, protecting the corrupt government while we are suffering from the difficulties of daily life."
"There's no electricity most of the time, and no drinking water - no services at all," says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed of Iraq. Eight years after the start of the U.S. military intervention, "there's hardly even any repair of the war damage - there's still rubble in the streets. People are going hungry."
Despite often-extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. When demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk had been taking to the streets for years. In large part, protests continued in Iraq because living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.

There was an attack on detainees in Rassafa Tasfeerat Prison according to The Great Iraqi Revolution, a week lon gattack, where "militias in plain clothes with knives and sharp instruments" attack the detainees and they note, "Journalist, Sa'ad Al-Awsi who has been detained for several months in Rassafa Prison in Baghdad on charges of terrorism, has an hour ago, been kidnapped by armed militias from the prison dressed in their black plain clothes uniform! Please mount a campaign for him -- they plan to liquidate him. Imagine prison officers colluding all the time with militias!"

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