Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Maturity required to give lessons on it





Al Mada reports that yesterday the province of Dhi Qar in sourthern Iraq saw protests in Nasiriyah as people demanded rations card items and jobs. The protesters noted that the price of "sugar, flour and other essential goods" have doubled at the markets putting further strain on struggling families. One man explains that only a few months ago they were paying less than 10,000 dinars (around US $8) for a bag of flour but are now paying over 30,000 dinars (approximately $25.46 in US dollars). And he explains that the price of sugar has similarly increased. Which is why the decision by Nouri al-Maliki and his Cabinet to increase the monthly ration card by 15,000 dinars a month (see this Al Rafidayn article) is so meaningless. The prices have soared and 15,000 dinars (approximately $12.73 in US dollars) per month isn't going to help. Take the price of flour in Nasiriyah. A few months back, they paid less than 10,000 dinars. Toss in the 15,000 dinars and that's 25,000 dinars which still won't pay for the current price of one bag of flour. Dar Addustour notes protests are increasing and now include Kut, Hilla and Missan and notes Sheikh Qasim al-Tai decreed yesterday that citizens excercising their rights are engaged in activities which demand integrity and should be free of abuse. Haider Roa ( quotes University of Baghdad political science professor Ali al-Jubouri stating that the Iraq protests are different from others in the region because they relate specifically to government performance and services. Related, Alsumaria TV reports, "The amendments made on Iraq's 2011 budget includes allocating 15% of the budget to the Iraqi people, member of the parliamentary financial committee Najiba Najib told Alsumaria News." Al Mada reports that the Parliament yesterday decided to form an investigative committee to examine the ration card system in relation to the years 2008 and 2010. Kholod al-Ziyadi (Zawya) adds:

The Iraqi parliament put off today's session to tomorrow, after reading the first reading of the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council, according to the KBC member.
The Deputy, Sheriff Soliaman told AKnews that the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Osama Nujaifi raised today's meeting to tomorrow after the postponed of the second reading of the law of the federal budget draft for 2011 and the first reading was read for the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council.
"Today's meeting was limited to discuss the ration card items and mechanisms adopted in the provision and distribution of flour exclusively that is experiencing scarcity in distributing it with in most of the provinces."

Alsumaria TV notes the government's fears over protests which have been taking place in Diwaniya: "Iraq's Trade Ministry took drastic measures to meet the people's demands. The Ministry approved to provide full ration cards and acknowledged that the level of poverty in the province has approached the limit of 88%. [. . .] Diwaniya residents believe the latest measures taken by the central and local governments have come a bit late." And, as Al Mada observes, protests gathered steam quickly after starting with small demonstrations last week. And Alsumaria reports MP Alia Nassif (Iraqiya) has issued a statement warning about "an uprising in Iraq. All the motives of uprising are there, namely unemployment, bad services and mounting poverty, she said. The Iraqi people expected a lot from its Parliament and Government after the changing developments in the past years, Alia uttered. Recent demonstrations in Iraqi cities are alarming and should be a warning for the government and Parliament to take responsibility, she added." And she's not the only one with concerns. Al Mada reports on a new Babuz survey in which the majority of respondents declared that they did not believe the government would be able to provide adequate security or services any time soon. The newspaper notes that the poll can be seen as a warning to various figures that if the fight against corruption and lack of services is not resolved, there ould be a "political explosion." Hari Sreenivasan (PBS' NewsHour -- link has text, video and audio) stated last night, "The government of Iraq is moving to address a wave of protests there." However, Al Mada reports today that Iraq's housing crisis will require the construction of two million additional housing units over the next five years.
Today Amnesty Internation released [PDF format warning] their report "Broken Bodies, Tortured Minds." For clarification, this report was noted this morning. A number of visitors e-mailing insist there is no such report. Use the link. Before we get to the report, let's talk about why people wrongly think there is no report: Amnesty did a report and now Amnesty decides TO BURY IT. Why? Because they can't resist being part of the useless gasbags. Go to their sites (whichever country you prefer) and you will see it's Egypt, Egypt, Egypt. That is not the only story in the world. And when you release a report, YOU NEED TO HAVE IT FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON YOUR HOME PAGE. Let's talk about the ambulance chasing of the soap opera for a moment. As January ended, Pew examined the coverage and US viewers response. The Middle East unrest made up 36% of the US news coverage (January 27th through 30th) with 30% of that being just Egypt. During this period, the media made it the story despite the fact that "[o]nly about one-in-ten (11%) cite news about protests in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries as the story they followed most closely last week." Today Pew released this report on the US public's attitude to the story the media really needs (a) to spend less time on and (b) to offer more insight when they do cover it. (All the wall-to-wall has produced is mass confusion. But that's what happens in a world of EZ Bake Gasbags.) If you need another example of how people are saturated with this story, ask the Pacifica program that tried to raise money on air and began yammering away -- for no reason -- about Egypt and ended up with their worst fundraiser ever. In the US, people are very much aware that Egypt is not the only story. And an already struggling fundraiser (only two lines were in use when they went into the Egypt pitch and then all the lines were available . . . forever). If you're not getting how much time has been spent oversaturating America with this story, Pew explains today, "Last week's turmoil in the Middle East registered as the biggest international story in the past four years- -- surpassing any coverage of the Iraq war, the Haiti earthquake and the conflict in Afghanistan. From Jan. 31-Feb. 6, the Middle East saga, driven by televised images of the protests and power struggle in Egypt, filled 56% of the newshole studied by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Not only was that easily the biggest overseas story in a single week since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007. It registered as the fourth-biggest story of any kind -- trailing only two weeks in the 2008 presidential campaign and the aftermath of the Jan. 8, 2011 Tucson shooting spree." Repeating, oversaturation. (And with all that, unable to effectively communicate the story -- with all the wall-to-wall, they still couldn't communicate it to the public.) Taking it back to Amnesty, if the US home page lists 22 items (and it does), one of those items should be a headline about the report you issued today.
Backstory, at the tail end of last month, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) broke the story of the secret prisons in Iraq and how they were run by Nouri's security forces. Last week, Human Rights Watch issued their report adding many more details. Throughout it all, including Sunday to CNN, Nouri and his spokespeople have denied the reports.
AFP notes that at least 30,000 people are held in these secret prisons, according to the report, and that torture is routine.
The report includes the stories of prisoner abuse. Example:
Samar Sa'ad 'Abudllah, aged 27, says she was beaten on the soles of her feet -- a form of torture known as falaqa -- and given electric shocks to force her to "confess" to killing her uncle and his family for money. Based on her "confession", she was sentenced to death in 2005 and her sentence was confirmed in 2007. The judge failed to order an investigation into her torture allegations. She says that her fiance carried out the killings; he is still being sought by the authorities. She is now in al-Kadhimiya Prison and, according to her father, suffering from depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another prisoner told Amnesty last April:
We [father and son] were tortured in the same manner: suspension from a bed upside-down, suffocation by putting plastic bags on our heads, beatings, use of electric shocks on various parts of the body. The suspension is for about 30 minutes. . . I was tortured three times. They used electric shocks on me twice. I was beaten several times. After that I confessed. I confessed to things I never knew what they were.
Forced confessions are one of the most common features of 'justice' in Iraq. Torture has many consequences (including imprisoning the innocent and letting the guilty go free). The report notes:
Most torture victims have long-term psychological issues to deal with. A common consequence of torture is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, depression, anxiety and memory loss. Many of the detainees interviewed by Amnesty International are not receiving psychological support for the torture they endured. Torture also affects families of detainees. According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, children are particularly vulnerable. They can suffer feelings of guilt and personal responsibility for what has happened to their tortured parent. Family members also experience anxiety and a sense of loss. Many psychologists believe that family members would benefit from therapy along with the survivor of torture.
There are many forms of torture including rape. The report notes:
In Iraq, rape or threat of rape of detainees or their loved ones has been widely alleged. Sexual assault shares with other forms of torture the objective of inflicing suffering, humiliation and degradation. It is also used to force "confessions", extract information or punish detainees.
A member of Iraq's parliament who met four male inmates at al-Rusafa prison in Baghdad in June 2009 said they told him that they had been raped and otherwise tortured, and that he had seen marks on their bodies that supported their allegations. Hundreds of inmates at the prison went on hunger strike in May and June 2009 to demand an end to torture and other ill-treatment.
Other Iraqi members of parliament have raised serious concerns about sexual violence in prisons. In mid-June 2009, for example, one said that security forces had sexually assaulted at least 21 male detainees at al-Rusafa and al-Diwanya prisons in southern Iraq since the beginning of the year. In May 2009, a delegation from the Council of Representatives' Human Rights Committee visiting al-Kadhimiya women's prison in Baghad heard testimony from two female prisoners who said they had been raped repeatedly after their arrest.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old man with dual Iraqi-UK citizenship, was held in communicado and tortured, including by being raped with a stick, after he travelled to Iraq to secure the release of his son Omar. Both men were beaten, suffocated, given electric shocks to the genitals, and supsended by the ankles. Interrogators also threatened to rape Ramze's first wife, who lives in Mosul, in front of him, and threatened Omar that he would be forced to rape his father if he did not confess to killings. Both men signed "confessions".
Rape or threat of rape has serious psychological and physical effects on survivors. The physical consequences for men and women can include sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV; sexual dysfunction; tears or lacerations to the anus and vagina that cause long-term pain; and bruising. Women can also suffer from unwanted pregnancy and gynaecological problems resulting in infertility.
The long-term mental effects on both sexes can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, phobias, eating and sleeping disorders, PTSD and suicidal behaviour.

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