Wednesday, December 11, 2013






I blame the western press and I blame government officials -- especially US government officials. For what? For the news Amal Sakr (Al-Monitor) reports today, the Iraqi government rejects women's shelters:

"Living in a jungle ruled by men." This is how Dahaa al-Rawi, the chair of the Women's Committee in the local Baghdad government, described the status of women in Iraq. Women are marginalized and their abilities unrecognized — domestically, socially and politically. Women are subjected to violence of all forms and murder on an ongoing basis.

"We do not have any statistics about the status of women, or the daily violence that they are subjected to," Rawi said, adding, "In Baghdad's local government council, they view us as merely a secondary committee that does not play an important role."
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Rawi said that the same also applies to Iraq's state institutions and ministries concerned with statistics or women's issues. None of them have accurate data showing the extent of violence against women in Iraq.
In an attempt to obtain figures showing the depth of the problem, Al-Monitor spoke with Dr. Marwa Mohammed, who works at Al-Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad. According to Mohammed, Al-Yarmouk's emergency room receives an average of two cases per day of women who have been beaten by their husbands or another family member.
"The most dangerous cases we receive are pregnant women who have been severely beaten. This exposes them to the risk of miscarriage," Mohammed added. She noted that in most cases the beatings cause internal bleeding, which leaves bruises that need a long time to heal.

Nouri's government rejects women's shelters -- even the stooge he has as Minister of Women rejects women's shelters.

Dropping back to Sunday, November 24th,  "Umed Sami (Kirkuk Now) reports that Monday kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness Week which actually lasts two weeks and that there are many different actions because there are '20 women's rights organizations in Kirkuk'."  And now moving to Tuesday, November 26th:

The Kurdistan Regional Government noted the kick off on Monday and that Monday was International Day Against Violence Against Women (that's a United Nations day around the world).  KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani addressed a large group of men and women -- including ministers of government, MPs in the Iraqi Parliament and the Kurdish Parliament, regional official and diplomats --  in Erbil.  Barzani noted that violence against women is violence against human rights and the issue is not a 'women's issue' but one for the entire community to work on.  He called for justice which means changing the laws in the KRG so that the light penalities for husbands killing wives are eliminated (he noted the KRG law currently mirrors the law for the rest of Iraq).  He noted that they need to address the issue of child brides and the practice of female genital mutilation.  He cited figures finding that reported violence against women had fallen in 2012 but he stated that the gains were not enough and the community needed to work harder to address the issue.
Iraq's Human Rights Ministry also had an event.  Compare the photos.  Even if you can't read Arabic, you'll note many things.  For example, the Baghdad turnout?  Not that impressive in terms of numbers. The KRG photo displays ten packed rows of attendees (and the photo cuts off with the impression that there are rows not displayed in the photo).  In Baghdad, they take up about six rows -- with a lot of empty spaces.  In the KRG, you see shiny, healthy hair on the heads of men and women.  In Baghdad, most women have their hair covered.  (Four brave women on the second row do not cover their hair.) Nouri's Prime Minister of Iraq.  Did he address the gathering?
He couldn't be bothered with the topic.  
Ibithal al-Zaidi was present.  Declaring she (now) believes in equality between the sexes -- based on the law and religions.   Whatever.  
How important was the event?  
They don't even bother to finish the press release -- it cuts off before the end of the release.
Nouri should have been present.  By refusing to show up for the Baghdad event, let alone speak at it, he made clear that violence against women does not qualify as a serious issue to him.
We're not done with the KRG yet.  Al Mada reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement decrying violence against women saying it was inhumane and against the basic principals of humanity.  He noted the sacrifices and actions Iraqi women had taken part in to create a better Iraq and called for rights to live safely and free from oppression, discrimination and violence.

We called Nouri out repeatedly in the last two weeks as he remained silent (here for another example).  Where was the western press?  Where was the US government?

You know it doesn't take a million dollar weapon or a bombing campaign for the US State Dept in any of their multitude of useless blathering briefings to bring up Iraq and note that it's very disappointing when the prime minister of a country can't decry violence against women even during the two weeks when the country is supposedly decrying violence against women.

And what's even worse is that the US State Dept is always making these pretense that they care about women.  Right now, they also have two women as spokespeople: Marie Harf and Jen Psaki.  But the Dept is silent as women suffer Iraq.  The State Dept funnels a billion-plus dollars -- US tax dollars -- into Iraq each year and it can't say a damn word while Iraqi women suffer.

Last March,  Rania Khalek (Muftah) noted it wasn't always women under attack in Iraq:

Contrary to popular imagination, Iraqi women enjoyed far more freedom under Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist government than women in other Middle Eastern countries. In fact, equal rights for women were enshrined in Iraq’s Constitution in 1970, including the right to vote, run for political office, access education and own property. Today, these rights are all but absent under the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki.
Prior to the devastating economic sanctions of the 1990s, Iraq’s education system was top notch and female literacy rates were the highest in the region, reaching 87 percent in 1985. Education was a major priority for Saddam Hussein’s regime, so much so that in 1982 Iraq received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award for eradicating illiteracy. But the education system crumbled from financial decay under the weight of the sanctions pushing over 20 percent of Iraqi children out of school by 2000 and reversing decades of literacy gains. Today, a quarter of Iraqi women are illiterate, more than double the rate for Iraqi men (11 percent). Female illiteracy in rural areas alone is as high as 50 percent.
Women were integral to Iraq’s economy and held high positions in both the private and public sectors, thanks in large part to labor and employment laws that guaranteed equal pay, six months fully paid maternity leave and protection from sexual harassment. In fact, it can be argued that some of the conditions enjoyed by working women in Iraq before the war rivaled those of working women in the United States.

The US government is directly responsible for the destruction of women's rights but it can't say a word?

In November,  the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villas, (at Huffington Post) noted violence against women:

The picture is grim. A perception poll of gender experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation shows that the rise of political Islam across Arab Spring countries has had a real impact on secularism. Almost three years after popular uprisings toppled autocratic leaders in one of the most conservative corners of the world, three out of five Arab Spring countries rank among the bottom five states for women's rights
Many political gains for women have been lost. In fact, women are struggling to preserve their dignity, and far from progressing, they are now fighting to preserve the rights they had before the Arab Spring. 

[. . .]
Life is not much better in Iraq, second-worst country for women's rights in the region, according to the survey.
The experts said that radical Islamisation of society, sectarian violence and a reaction against what many see as western imperialism in the years after the 2003 invasion were all having a devastating impact on women.
The "war on terror" has made widows of 1.6 million Iraqi women, leaving them without income and with few prospects of employment. In Iraq, only 14.5 percent of the entire female population is employed, and women have lost their voice in political circles. Mass displacement has made them vulnerable to trafficking and sexual violence.

Again, it wouldn't cost the US tax payers a damn cent if the State Dept could get it off it's do-nothing ass and raise the issue of Iraqi women in a briefing.  If they did, it would then be up to the press to amplify the remarks and faced with such coverage -- if the press did their job -- Iraqi women might get a domestic violence shelter or two.  If the US government would actual strings in place, actual conditions for aid or on the military hardware they're still supplying Iraq with, Iraqi women could get shelters across Iraq.

But the US government doesn't care about Iraqi women.  Secretary of State John Kerry is wrapping up his first year in the post and doing so having failed to ever acknowledge Iraqi women despite the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan are the two biggest items in the State Dept budget.

Are we surprised that the State Dept's done such a poor job for Iraqi women?


April 17th, Secretary Kerry appeared before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.   Let's note Kerry on women from that hearing:

Ava here, filling in for Trina.  I'm covering a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The witness they heard from was Secretary John Kerry.
They didn't really discuss the budget at all.
I will note one exchange.  It was very disappointing.  It started off interesting.  And then . . . Well, here's the exchange.

US House Rep William Keating: Thank you for being here.  I know that both of us, although we're here, part of us are still back home in Massachusetts this morning.  Getting to the theme of this morning's hearing, your theme of small smart investments is right on point, I couldn't agree with it more.  One of those areas that the administration and you have been involved with personally and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton had been involved with was really dealing with issues like the National Action Plan for Woman Peace and Security in the World.  And I think that we can't approach the broader issues of poverty and the rule of law and education and health care around the world without dealing with these issues, they're core to dealing with any advancement in that area. And, furthermore, I think they're the smartest way to make some of these investments for our dollar and to be effective. So I'd like you to, just two things, if you could, comment on.  One is generally comment on your ability to deal with these gender equality advancement issues with women around the world and, number two, particularly, gender-based violence.  You know it, in your capacity, you knew it when you were a prosecutor, as I did.  They know no borders or bounds when you're dealing with violence based on gender-based violence.  And internationally, the violence that so many women experience take many different forms -- from rape to early forced marriage to harmful traditional practices that occur such as genital mutilation, 'honor' killings, acid violence, sexual violence and contact -- and I could go on and on and on. But can you comment on the Department's first-time ever strategy to prevent gender-based violence globally?  Those are the two things I'd like you to comment on, Mr. Secretary. 

Secretary John Kerry:  Well, thank you, Congressman.  It's good to see you and thanks for our shared feelings about what's happened up in Boston. Secretary Clinton did a great job of putting this issue squarely on everybody's agenda and I'm determined to make certain that we live up to that standard -- if not exceed it.  And we're in -- I think we're in a good start to do that in terms of trafficking issues and other things.  But in-in London last week at the G8 Ministers meeting, Foreign Minister [William] Hague of Great Britain made the centerpiece of our meeting sexual violence as a tool of war.  And we had a meeting, we had outside representatives come in who helped to raise the profile of that and, in my judgment, it was a very valuable moment for people to realize that this is going to be held accountable as a War Crime.  And we're going to keep this gender-based violence front and center as we go forward.  I would also say to everybody, when I was in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago, when Anne Smedinghoff was my control officer, she helped put together a remarkable meeting of ten entrepreneurs, ten women in Afghanistan who are struggling against all of the resistance culturally and historically in that country to stand up and start businesses and-and help girls go to schools, help women be able to be entrepreneurs.  A remarkable process.  And the courage that they exhibited deserves everybody's support.  It would certainly get ours in the State Dept.  And we're going to continue this in many different ways over the next years in the State Dept -- you'll see us continue it. 

US House Rep William Keating:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  In terms of accountability, could that also include standards that might be tied to aid to some extent?

Secretary John Kerry:  You know, Congressman, there are some places that lend themselves to that kind of conditionality and there are others that just don't. And I don't think there's a blanket cover all of explaining a set of standards that's going to apply everywhere.  In some countries, the standards could actually be counter-productive and you don't get done what you're trying to do.  It really depends on what is the package, what's the nature of the program, and I think you have to be pretty customized in that approach. 

Excuse me, we can't impose a standard?

Ava goes no to note a State Dept April 11th statement which opens:

G8 Foreign Ministers met in London on 10-11 April. The G8 represents a group of nations with a broad range of global interests and with a collective responsibility and opportunity to use its influence to address some of the most pressing issues in the world.
Foreign Ministers addressed a number of international issues, challenges and opportunities that impact on global peace, security and prosperity. Beyond exchanging views and coordinating actions on the pressing foreign policy issues of the day, they made a number of commitments as set out below and in the separate Declaration on the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Empty talk from an empty department.

We got more empty talk from the Dept  November 13th when the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs testified to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa -- see the November 13th "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and in the November 15th  "Iraq snapshot."

If the US government is telling the truth, the seven are no longer in Iraq.  This was revealed in the final exchange of the hearing, when US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee joined the Subcommittee and, after taking a brief break, began her five minute round of questioning.  Two notes.  "[. . .]"?  We don't have time to include their praise of one another and maybe if that praise hadn't been used to waste time then Sheila Jackson Lee would not have had to ask for more time?  Second "pointed purse"?  I have no idea.  I turned to Ava and asked, "Did she just say 'pointed purse'?"  That's what Ava heard as well.  Who knows what she said, that's what it sounded like.  With that, here's the exchange.

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:   [. . .]  But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now.  There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information.  I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans  cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days.  And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/  Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now?  Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq?  Second, would you be engaged with -- or  the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf  for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]

Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe  but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq.  And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go.  There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in.  And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.  We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq  and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe.  This is an international crisis and we need international help and support. 

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:  May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk?  And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing.  You know where they are.  Who is going to rescue them?  Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven?  Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility.  We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there.  Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it.  But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse.  I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere.  So can that be done in the next 48 hours?  Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?

Brett McGurk:  I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colliquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack.  We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release.  And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals.  And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up. 

Guess what?

No one believes Brett McGurk.  It's as though the world is his first wife and he's insisting he's not screwing Gina Chon.  No one believes him.  Imagine that, a cheater's word not being his bond.

The United Nations Human Rights' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following today:

GENEVA (9 December 2013) – A group of United Nations independent experts today called on the Government of Iraq to establish the fate and whereabouts of seven residents of Camp Ashraf, who were allegedly abducted last September after an attack in which 52 persons were killed. More than 3,000 Iranian exiles have been based at the Ashraf refugee camp near Baghdad since the 1980s.
The human rights experts expressed serious concern about the lack of information from the Iraqi authorities regarding the results of ongoing investigations into the attack.
“We call upon the Government of Iraq to speed up the investigations in order to disclose the fate and whereabouts of the individuals,” the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said, while recalling that, at some point, Iraqi forces allegedly admitted having these individuals in custody.
The facts are still being established three months after the violent event. However, there are allegations that the attack and the abduction of the seven residents of Camp Ashraf, including six women, were conducted by Iraqi security forces. It has also been alleged that it is impossible for anyone to enter Camp Ashraf without the cooperation of Iraq forces.
All of those killed reportedly died as a consequence of gunshot wounds, mainly in the head or neck. A number of those killed were found with their hands tied, an act apparently committed prior to their deaths. Some victims were allegedly shot while fleeing or seeking medical assistance after having been wounded.
“International law clearly requires Governments to ensure that all allegations of killings are investigated in a prompt, effective and impartial manner, irrespective of who the perpetrator is,” the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, noted. “Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The group of experts stressed that “The impunity with which these crimes have been committed is particularly flagrant given the severity of the offences and the alleged evidence of engagement by Iraqi forces in the commission of these crimes.” In their view, “the State has an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, protect, investigate, prosecute and punish all acts of violence, including those perpetrated against women, and to ensure their rights to be treated with dignity.”
“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has consistently held that the detention in Camp Ashraf is arbitrary,” said Mads Andenas, who currently heads the expert body. “The Iraqi Government has a particular responsibility to protect the detainees against human rights violations such as the recent deaths and abductions, and must now instigate independent investigations, end the detention regime, and in the meantime provide effective protection to those who remain in detention.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, echoed the urgent call to establish the fate and whereabouts of the seven Iranian exiles. “Detention in secret places can facilitate the perpetration of torture and other ill-treatment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment,” he warned.
Concerns have been raised that the seven missing residents of Camp Ashraf may be forcibly returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they might be at risk of being persecuted, tortured or subjected to other forms of ill-treatment. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the seven missing residents are asylum-seekers enjoying the status of protected persons.“Iraq’s obligations under international law are clear, the Government shall not expel, return, extradite or in any other way transfer a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” Mr. Mendez underscored.
The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, noted that this is the third time that the residents of Camp Ashraf have been subjected to physical assault. “I condemn the lack of proper investigation of the massacres and the impunity of those responsible for them,” he said.
Mr. de Zayas pointed out that “Grave crimes of this nature, and the impunity that has accompanied them, entail violations of numerous international treaty provisions and constitute an assault on the rule of law, an affront to the international community and a threat to the international order.”
“The families of the killed and disappeared are entitled to the right to know what happened to their loved ones, and to adequate reparation for the suffering endured,” he stated.
The group of experts urged the Iraqi authorities “to take all necessary measures to clarify the whereabouts of the missing individuals, guarantee their safety and rights, and prevent their extradition to Iran.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more:

UPI covers it here and here, World Bulletin covers it here. None of them note Brett McGurk's testimony where he claimed to know where the 7 were.

If McGurk were considered believable, don't you think the United Nations would be pressing the US government to reveal where the 7 were?

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