Tuesday, April 26, 2011







In Iraq, protests continued over the weekend. They continue today including in Basra and Um Qasr. Hardi Farukh died Saturday. AFP reports that Hardi was 28-years-old, worked at a publishing hosue and was engaged to be married but instead, on Saturday, became the tenth protestor to die in northern Iraq in the last weeks (Hardi died from wounds received when 'security' forces shot at protesters April 18th in Sulaimaniya). CPT's Michele Naar-Obed (Ekklesia) reports from the KRG:

A new song was playing on Iraqi Kurdistan radio just before Easter, which included the lines, "Don't kill this generation" and "don't kill the future." While the song played, guns were blasting and tear gas filled the streets in both Suleimaniya and the KRG capital city, Hawler (Erbil).
Day sixty-one of Suleimaniya's daily demonstrations against corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan started earlyon 18 April 2011. The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) group arrived at 11:00. Music was playing from the stage and small groups of people were gathering. Two CPTers decided to use the quiet time to grab a cup of coffee and juice in a cafe next to the square. A few of the demonstration organizers were doing the same.
Meanwhile armed soldiers, the anti-terrorism unit, and police were positioning themselves around the square., with guns, tear gas, water cannons, and riot gear.
When the two CPTers and organizers left the cafe, a group of about twenty young men were talking about confronting the soldiers and police. Some were talking about throwing rocks. Others told us them that soldiers would throw the first round of rocks to provoke a fight. Still others told them that the government pays some of these young men to throw the first stones in order to provoke an escalation of violence. The organizers and CPTers gave an impromptu workshop on nonviolence. Some of the young men decided to stay in the square. Others were ready to confront the soldiers. One young man said he needed the money.

Today, Jim Muir (BBC News -- link is video) provides an overview of the protests in Iraq.
Jim Muir: It shouldn't be happening here but it is. This is Basra in the south [footage of protesters]. Iraq had its second free general election only last year. But that hasn't stopped trouble breaking out in almost all parts of the country. They've been particularly strong in Kurdistan in the north They've had free elections for nearly 20 years. But there's growing anger there against the two big Kurdish parties accused of corruption and repression. The capital of Baghdad has had its share of protests too against what some see as the emergence of a corrupt political elite which has failed to provide jobs and services to a growing number of young people.
Yanaar Mohammed (Women's Freedom in Iraq): This is the democracy that we see in Iraq: arbitrary arrests, torture, beating, joblessness and they are drowning in a sea of money. $40 billion are totally lost. Nobody knows where it went from the financial budget while the widows are in this square -- the widows and the orphans of the war are startving.
Jim Muir: Despite the fact that they went to the polls only last year to elect a new Parliament and government, people still feel the need to come here in their hundreds every week to voice their demands and press their greivances. There are small signs that the government may be at least going through the motions of paying attention to some of those demands. Prime Minister Maliki has said he won't stand for a third term in office in three year's time. He's also given government ministries a hundred days to shape up and meet government targets. He says he doesn't feel threatened by the protests.
Nouri al-Maliki: The demonstrations here are different from the protests in other Arab countries. Here, they are about demands and services which we respect and try to meet if we can. We're not afraid of demands and demonstrations. In fact, we encourage them.
Jim Muir: Ala Nabil would not agree. He's been detained by security men after demonstrations twice. Held for days and beaten for criticizing the prime minister. He says he's under constant surveilance.
Ala Nabil: We have detentions, abductions from the street. We're thrown into secret prisons and some people just disappear and nobody knows where they are for months or years. People are afraid to talk. Just like under Saddam [Hussein].
Jim Muir: And so the protests continue. Not to get rid of the government, but to get it to live up to its promises and slogans. The message from Iraq is that even if someone else comes in and gets rid of your dictators, real democracy does not come easy. Jim Muir, BBC News, Baghdad.
Nouri's comments about 'respect' are in direct contrast to his repeated characterization of the protesters as linked to "terrorism" and "Ba'athists." In the text version of the report, Muir notes that Firas Ali campaigned for Ala Nabil's release while he was imprisoned for eight days and that the response was for "armed security operatives" to seize Firas Ali from an NGO office and that Ala Nabil is attempting to get Firas released.
The people of Mosul continue to demand a functioning government. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "An Iraqi Army force has surrounded al-Ahrar (Liberals) Square in central Mosul on Monday to prevent demonstrators from reaching the square the witnessed a sit-in demonstration over the past few days, a Ninewa security source said." They have attempted this throughout the month. Last Thursday, Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi had to break through the military barricade to join protesters -- and to clear a path for many others to follow him to the protests. Atheel al-Nujaifi is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Protests continued in Mosul over the weekend. Saturday AFP reported, it was "the 15th day in a row" for Mosul protests and that "Tribal leaders and members of the provincial council joined more than 1,000 protesters who vowed to continue their rallies until US forces leave the country." DPA reminded that Friday security forces fired on protesters in Mosul killing at least 1 and leaving forty-four more wounded. Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports, "Sunday, around 5,000 people, including provincial council members and tribal leaders, rallied in the main square against extending the U.S. troops presence beyond the year-end deadline." Aswat al-Iraq quoted a security source stating, "About 6,000 demonstrators have gathered in al-Ahrar Square on Sunday, calling on non-extension of the U.S. troops presences in Iraq, release of prisoners and carrying out reforms by the Iraqi government."
And today? The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "The large Kuridsh Herki Tribe joined the SIT-IN in Mosul this morning." And they reported, "It has just been confirmed that there are 2 martyrs not 3 [. . .] and there are 35 injured. Mosul has shut down completely and they are stating that they can wait it out. They are holding Maliki and his gang responsible for all of this and they are calling on all honourable Iraqis to start SIT-INS everywhere," "We have just heard that the number of martyrs has risen to 7 now. God Rest Their Souls," "In addition to our brothers Arkan Al Onaidi and Ghanem Al Abid, the following of our colleagues, friends and brothers have been injured: Khalid Juma Al Khaffaji, Haithem Al Jibourie, and Mohammed Al Qadhi amongst others," and "Ghannam's forces have shot a woman demonstrator." Ghannam is Nasser Al Ghannam who is the Iraqi Army's Second Division Chief. Nouri al-Maliki sent him to Mosul to oversee the assault on Iraqi civilians.
Atheel al-Nujaifi is the governor of Nineveh. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, ""Atheel Al Nujaifi has just stopped all work in all government offices as a statement against the tyrannical and unconstitutional acts that Maliki and Ghannam are carrying out." When the governor of a province takes such an action, it is news. Where's the western press? The Iraqi military are basically terrorizing the people of Mosul. The governor of the province has protested their actions and today called an end to work at all the government offices. Nick Turse (TomDispatch reposted by Al Jazeera) observes of the ongoing protests:

The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq.
As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform - focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs - but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki's regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein's regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki's US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.

A blind eye also appears to have been turned to corruption for many years now. New Sabah reports that the Iraqi Office of Financial Supervision has informed the US that they retain the right to file for compensation over "mismanagement" of Iraqi money by the Coalition Provisional Authority which ran things immediately after the start of the Iraq War. Questions remain on the Iraqi side about at least seven billion dollars.

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