Tuesday, September 17, 2013







The US government has succeeded in burying a report on the true costs of war.  The report in question was to be published by the World Health Organization and the study was undertaken by WHO and the Iraqi government in response to the huge number of birth defects now appearing in Iraq.

Just last week, Iraq's Dr. Samira Alaani started a petition calling for the suppressed report to be released:

My name is Dr Samira Alaani and I am a pediatrician working in Fallujah General Hospital. In the years since US forces attacked our city my colleagues and I have recorded a horrifying increase in the numbers of babies born with congenital defects: spina bifida, heart abnormalities and defects that I do not even have a name for. Many do not survive. For those that do, we care for them as best we can with the limited resources we have.
I have worked in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases; we have determined that 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later. It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families. The first question I am asked when a child is born is not ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ but ‘is my child healthy?’

When I heard that the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) were going to carry out research I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I knew it would only confirm what we already knew; that there had been a rise in birth defects, but I saw it as a stepping stone to finally spur Iraq and the international community into action.

The research is now complete and we were promised that it would be published at the beginning of 2013, yet six months later the WHO has announced more delays. We worry that this is now politics, not science. We have already waited years for the truth and my patients cannot wait any longer. The WHO has another option. The data should be published in an open access journal for independent peer review. The process would be fast, rigorous and transparent.

My patients need to know the truth, they need to know why they miscarried, they need to know why their babies are so ill but, most importantly, they need to know that something is being done about it. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization need to release this data and give us answers.
Please sign this petition and show that the rest of the world has not forgotten about the people of Iraq.

Currently, the petition has 51,736 signatures.   Last March, Dhar Jamail (Al Jazeera) reported on the birth defects and noted:

A frequently cited epidemiological study titled Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009 involved a door-to-door survey of more than 700 Fallujah households.
The research team interviewed Fallujans about abnormally high rates of cancer and birth defects.
One of the authors of the study, Chemist Chris Busby, said that the Fallujah health crisis represented "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied".

Those are precisely the reasons Dr. Samira Alaani started her petition.  But the petition may have been rendered moot today.  Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani (Al Jazeera) reported this morning:

A short and anonymous report just appeared on the World Health Organization (WHO) website. It is titled "Summary of prevalence of reported congenital birth defects in 18 selected districts in Iraq." Previously, this report was referred to on the WHO website as a "joint study" with the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) which began in May-June 2012. It was to examine the prevalence of congenital birth defects in a number of geographically dispersed areas of Iraq which were exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting, or were unexposed.

This joint investigation was initiated following widespread public alarm over unusual increases in poor reproductive and birth outcomes in Iraq after the US-led invasion. Across Iraq, increasing numbers of birth defects appear to be surfacing, including in Mosul, Al-Ramadi, Najaf, Fallujah, Basra, Hawijah, and Baghdad. In some provinces, cancers also are rising. Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some not found in any medical books - are reported widely.

This explains why many public health scientists awaited the release of the WHO/MoH report on birth defects in Iraq.

The doctor continues her coverage at Salem-News, noting:

Another unusual and outrageous feature of this report is its anonymity. No author(s) are listed or identified. An anonymous report is rarely seen in epidemiological reporting given the multiple questions that often arise when interested readers examine complicated study designs, large data sets, and multiple analysis. Identification of corresponding authors is critical for the transparency and clarity of any report. Without author names and affiliations, without identified offices in the MoH, the reader must ask, who is responsible to answer for this report? To whom must the public direct their questions and concerns about this report?

The WHO has simultaneously broadcasted and vanished from this report.

The described methods of this report are not without fatal shortcomings. First and foremost, an epidemiologic study must clearly show that individuals who were selected for the study accurately represent the population of interest. To that end, methods must offer clear and justifiable criteria for the inclusion of individuals in the study, and for their exclusion from the study.

The methodology section of this report simply declares that the selection criteria were "determined by the Ministry of Health". The critical questions of "on what basis" and "why" remain unanswered. Selection criteria have major and critical influences on an epidemiological investigation and are universally expected to be fully discussed, even in short reports.

We cannot tell whether selection bias, a common problem in epidemiological studies, has occurred here. If it has, then the study is fully discredited. Based on information available in this report, we cannot rule out selection bias issues. The undisclosed criteria for recruitment of participants appears to have "included areas that had and had not been exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting."

The maps and tables in the report do not indicate which areas were exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting and which areas were not. Another fatal shortcoming of the report is that the exposed and unexposed populations remain unidentified throughout. How is a comparison between two population's rates of "spontaneous abortions", "stillbirths", or "congenital birth defects" possible if their exposure status is never described?

What happened?

The US government went after WHO and it wasn't pretty.  Nouri shared their interest in killing the report.  (He has remained silent on the birth defects epidemic since he first became prime minister.)  He bought off the Ministry of Health which then demanded that WHO not list them on the report.  For a change, the head of the ministry is not accused of lining their pockets.  Instead, Majeed Hamadaminie Jamil is said to be using the money to provide more clinics to in-need provinces. 

 The violence never stops in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 Mosul bombings left three people injured, a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, an armed clash in Diyala left 1 militant dead, the Islamic Party's Dhafer al-Rawi was kidnapped in Rawa, 1 police officer was shot dead in KarbalaBrigadier General Ismail al-Jubouri was injured in an assassination attempt in Mosul (a suicide bomber detonated in the midst of the general's convoy), a Mosul bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left two people injured, a Baghdad suicide bomber claimed the lives of 10 other people and left thirty injured, this morning 22 homes of "employees of the security services and the army in different areas south of Mosul" were blown up and last night four shops in Sheikh Hamid (to the north of Tikrit) were blown upAll Iraq News adds, "Two employees within the Shiite Shrines Directorate were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked the holy shrine of Imam Ahmed bin Musa al-Kadhim in Muqdadiya district."

The Kurdish Globe reminds the UN's death toll for last month was 800 Iraqis killed and that 5,000 have been killed so far this year.  Yesterday's violence claimed 67 lives according to Iraq Body Count which also notes 574 violent deaths for the month so far through yesterday.

While the violence continues, journalists in Iraq face more problems and no one seems to even notice.  An except for Ayad Allawi, no one seems too concerned.  

  1. أن سلب حق الاعلام في التعبير عن رأي الجماهير ظاهرة خطيرة وتتطلب عدم السكوت.
  2. أستنكر قرار الحكومة بأغلاق مكاتب في ، حيث أن هذه الخطوة تأتي في إطار تكميم الأفواه.
  3. The closure of the Baghdadia news channel conveys the government’s silencing policy.

The Tehran Times reports that "another group" of the Ashraf community has been resettled to Albania.  They don't specify how many but note that Albania had already taken in 159 members of the Ashraf community earlier. All Iraq News states 210 members were admitted to Albania.

Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  Shreck also noted when the last of the Ashraf residents left Camp Ashraf this month.



US Senator Robert Menendez issued a statement on the attack which included, "I hold the Iraqi government directly responsible to protect the community, to investigate this matter thoroughly, and to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous act. I am deeply concerned for the seven hostages who were taken during this attack. The Iraqi government should act swiftly to determine their whereabouts and ensure their safety. There is added urgency for the global community, as well as for the United States, to help resettle this community outside of Iraq, and end this cycle of ongoing terror attacks."  Seven Ashraf hostages? Nouri's government denied they existed but they did and do. Last week, UNHCR issued the following statement:

These seven are all known by UNHCR to be asylum-seekers, and the agency hopes to have an opportunity to interview them. In light of the numerous and persistent reports over the past week that these individuals may be at risk of forced return to Iran, UNHCR calls upon the Government of Iraq to locate them, to ensure their physical security, and to safeguard them against return to Iran against their will.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher issued a statement noting them and the continued attacks on the Ashraf community.  He observed, "The refugees disarmed themselves with faith in U.S. Government guarantees of their safety. If we fail them, nobody will believe us again." The World Organisation Against Torture issued a statement and a call for action:

According to the information received, on 1st September 2013 seven Iranian exiles, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group, were abducted from Camp Ashraf during an attack carried out by the Iraqi security forces, which also led to the death of 52 people and several injured[1]. The seven residents are: Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi.  
According to the same information received, on 12th September 2013, Mr. Kamel Amin, Deputy of the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, confirmed the arrest of seven members of the PMOI and announced that they are in the custody of the security forces.
OMCT is gravely concerned about the fate and safety of Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi. OMCT urges the Iraqi authorities to immediately disclose their exact whereabouts and to guarantee their physical and psychological integrity at all times, in accordance with international human rights law.
OMCT fears that they may be forcibly returned to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. OMCT recalls to the Iraqi authorities the absolute prohibition of sending a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations.
OMCT further urges the Iraqi authorities to immediately release them in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, to bring them promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.
Action requested
Please write to the authorities in Iraq urging them to:
i.           Immediately disclose the exact whereabouts of Ms. Fatemeh Tahoori, Ms. Vajihe Karbalaey, Ms. Mahnaz Azizi, Ms. Lila Nabahat, Ms. Zahra Ramezani, Ms. Fatema Sakhie and Mr. Mohammad Ratebi;
ii.         Guarantee, in all circumstances, their physical and psychological integrity, including by not forcibly returning them to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment;
iii.        Order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, bring them promptly before an impartial, independent and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
iv.        Guarantee unconditional access to all members of their family and their lawyers;
v.         Guarantee that they are examined by independent doctors and receive adequate medical care;
i.           Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these events, the results of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
ii.         Ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


Ø  Prime Minister, H.E. Nouri Kamil Al-Maliki, Email: info@pmo.iq;
Ø  Minister of Justice, H.E. Hassan al-Shammari, Ministry of Justice;
Ø  Minister of Human Rights, H.E. Mohammed Shia´al-Sudani, Ministry of Human Rights, Email:minister1@humanrights.gov.iq
Ø  H.E Mr. Mohammad Sabir Ismail, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Email: mission.iraq@ties.itu.int, Fax. +41 22 733 03 26
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iraq in your respective countries.

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