Thursday, April 21, 2011

He loves his spring colors!





In Mosul, protests continue today. This is day 12 of the ongoing sit-in. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that "Mosul university, faculty and students, have joined the Demonstrators in their vigil, in Al Ahrar square" and that "The Liwayziyeen, Mityout and Ubaid Tribes have joined the SITIN and Vigil in Mosul." Among the people participating in the sit-in, GIR notes, is a blind woman ""carrying the Holy Qura'an in her hands" who has been taking part since day one of the sit-in. GRI notes, "The Vigil in Mosul is the First Step towards Liberation." And it's noted of head counts (we used these counts in a snapshot earlier this week) "that as usual the number of demonstrators reported by the western press is incorrect once again -- it seems to me that the western press despite its alleged freedom of speech is very frightened of reporting the news as is because it has now wish to upset the American Administration."
Protests have been going on in Sulaimaniyah as well and the response to that? AFP reports that yesterday officials "slapped a ban on unauthorised protests". Ekklesia explains, "Following 62 days of continuous protest in Suleimaniya, Iraq, against corruption and trible rule within the Kurdistan Regional Government, legal permission for the protest has been revoked. A source within the armed Peshmerga Forces has now said that they have been given orders to shoot to kill any demonstrators. The otherwise nonviolent demonstrations in Suleimaniya at Azadi (Freedom) Square ended in major violence on 17 and 18 April 2011. On both days, security forces formed a ring around Azadi Square. Claiming they were provoked by groups of young men throwing rocks, the forces entered the square which has been filled with an average of 1,000 unarmed and noviolent demonstrators, shooting tear gas and live bullets, beating people with batons and clearing the square of all demonstrators." Aswat al-Iraq adds,Kamal Nouri of the Iranian Sahar channel states, "We ["two-people crew"] were beaten by Peshmerga and security forces, which confiscated our equipments and cameras." Press TV notes, "In an indication of how the unrest in Sulaymaniyah is affecting the confidence of the ruling party there, the PUK, regional Prime Minister Dr Barham Salih, wrote a letter to PUK leader and President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, offering to tender his resignation. In the letter, leaked to the French press, Dr Salih complains of Mafia-like practices in his party being used against the press and protesters, and says that some of the leaders of the party are quote 'unable to go on'."
Shwan Mohammed (AFP) quotes Barham Saleh, "I am ready to resign from the leadership of the party in order to renew it and the political bureau." Salih belongs to the PUK -- Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the same party as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The two major political parties in the KRG are the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Pary of Iraq which is the party of KRG President Massoud Barzani. A third political party, Goran, sees itself as a challenger. It has US-backing. Alsumaria TV reports, "Goran Kurdish Change Movement said on Monday that the USA is responsible for the people's blood in Suleimaniah and Irbil in Kurdistan. Change Movement pointed that the region's authorities are dealing in a hysteric way with the protesters."
The Archbishop of Kirkuk, Monsignor Louis Sako spoke with Asia News and declared:
Arab nations will not be stable or democratic unless they grant all their citizens the same citizenship. Arab nations are a mixture of various ethnic groups, cultures, languages, languages and doctrines. They include Arabs, Kurds, Assyro-Chaldeans, Turkmen, Shebeks, Copts, Armenians, Shias, Sunnis, and Christians of various denominations, Yazidis, Druses and more. Their traditional mindset is patriarchal, tribal and sectarian. Education and teaching programmes are usually imposed from above and are viewed as infallible. Thus, they do not stimulate thinking and analyses or kindle the quest for new knowledge or possibilities.
On the subject of Kirkuk, Harun Akyol (Today's Zaman) lays out the basics on the disputed territory of Kirkuk:
My primary aim was to assess the impact of Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab political discourse on the politics of Kirkuk. My secondary aim was to make some social and political observation about the people of Kirkuk. Initial interviews with representatives from each of these main ethnic groups established some common points in the construction of their discourses. Each group has its own narrative relating to their presence in Kirkuk, the number of their ethnic group present and their roots in the city.
Each group backs up their claims with historical, official and anecdotal evidence. For Kurds, Kirkuk is historically and geographically the center of Kurdistan; as a result, they are not prepared to negotiate under any circumstances. They believe that a political solution around Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which imposes normalization, census and referendum in Kirkuk, is how to decide its political fate. For the Turkmen and the Arabs, Kirkuk was not, is not and should not be part of Kurdistan; they view it as an ethnically mixed city. To these groups, Article 140 is dead and not applicable. Both groups are happy to acknowledge that the Kurds are victims of Saddam's iron fist policy. The difference is that these other groups claim that the Kurds used and abused this victimization by returning to Kirkuk many more Kurds than Saddam expelled from Kirkuk. One older Arab said, "Yesterday they were the victims [mazlum], but today they are the oppressors [zalim] of Kirkuk." Both groups fear that if the Kurds manage to annex Kirkuk into Kurdistan, they will then declare their independence.
Monday's snapshot noted Rawya Rageh's Al Jazeera report from Kirkukk on the Arab population. Yesterday she filed from the region on the Turkmen (link is video):
Rawya Rageh: In the yard of his Kirkuk home, Mohammed Raouf Saleh feels the space with folk tunes. They're called hoyrats [also spelled qoyrats] an ancient form of song and poetry unique to Iraqi Turkmen. It's difficult to tell exactly when it began but there's little doubt over where.
Mohammed Raouf Saleh: Centuries ago, hoyrats originated in Kirkuk. People in Azerbaijan and Turkey speak our language but they don't sing our horat.
Rawya Rageh: It's a steadily eroding art song, Saleh says, just like his community in the city that's claimed by several ethnic groups. Turkmen formed the third largest ethnicity in Iraq. There exact number is politically controversial though they believe that they make up up to 10% of the population. Here in the central Kikruk market, most of the merchants are Turkmen. Traditional crafts that were brought by their ancestors dating as far as the 9th century are no longer here. They've been replaced by modern goods instead. But, make no mistake, the sense of identiy here is clear. The older generations who lived through years of Saddam Hussein's assimilation policies still cling to their traditional dress. Many here will tell you their ancestoral heritage is an integral part of both Kirkuk's history and present day life. Unlike the Kurds, the Turkmen have not asked for an autonomous state in modern Iraq, nor did they take up arms over territory. But their involvement in running the country falls short of what they desire.
Sadeddin Ergech (Iraqi Turkmen Front leader): As long as key positions are being divided between the two ethnicities -- Arabs and Kurds, we, the third main group, have a right too. It's a national entitlement. We should get a vice president post too. We feel there are always attempts to get round Turkmen national rights.
Rawya Rageh: In the fight over Kirkuk, the Turkmen have sided with the Arabs in not wanting the city to be folded into semi-autounomous Kurdish Region. But in a recent political alliance, they were given a key post in the city's provincial government controlled for years by Kurdish parties. For this hoyrat master, though, the battle for a say in the new Iraq is pointless iIf not enough is done to stop their folklore, the corner stone of their identity, from slowly fading away. Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera, Kirkuk.
This week Abullah Gul, president of Turkey, has made some interesting remarks. Abdul Qader al-Wendawi (Zawya) reports Gul claims, "Turkey discussed Kirkuk issue with NATO and with the European Union and the rest of the international parties interested in Iraq's situation and assured them that Kirkuk is a miniature of Iraq and our demand that its three spectra (Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs) would live with equality and justice." Gul also bragged that "if not for the Turkish positions, Iraq would be divided, but the problem in this country is the Shiaa-Sunni fighting".
This morning Nizar Latif (National Newspaper) weighed in on the proposed Baghdad summit for the Arab league, "The Iraqi government continues to insist the Arab League summit, scheduled for Baghdad next month, must go ahead. In reality however, few Iraqis expect their capital to host the meeting. Militant attacks, including recent car bombs in the heart of Baghdad, are a reminder of Iraq's persistent danger and the dogged insurgency that years of warfare and billions of dollars have failed to defeat." The summit was supposed to take place in March. It wasn't secure enough then. People pretend it is now. For how much longer or if the summit will be held next month in Baghdad is unknown. Press TV states Iraq may leave the Arab League. While that's in part, Iran's state media working off a grudge against its Arab neighbors, it's also true that Iran has a lot of pull in the puppet government out of Baghdad. AFP reports that the summit has been postponed -- again. It was supposed to be held March 29th but got delayed and then rescheduled to May 10th. The postponement was not a surprise to everyone. Aswat al-Iraq released their reader poll results this morning which found, "76.68% of the total 491 voters believed that the Arab Summit won't be held in Baghdad in its scheduled time, due to the current challenges facing the Arab Region." Alsumaria TV reports, "The Arab League has scheduled an urgent meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers on May 15 to set a new date for the Arab Summit and appoint a new Arab League Secretary General as a successor for Amro Moussa, [deputy secretary Ahmed] Ben Hill said." UPI explains, "The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed outrage over Baghdad's criticism of the minority Sunni leadership in Bahrain, calling for the cancellation of an Arab League summit scheduled next month in Iraq. The tiny island kingdom is under scrutiny for its response to a Shiite uprising." Arab News adds that an unnamed Arab "League official said the summit will probably be held in September. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. [. . .] The Arab League summit was considered by many Iraqi officials as an opportunity to show off the strides the country has made since the height of the US-led war, and they have spent millions of dollars refurbishing buildings and hotels in anticipation of the meeting." Earlier this month, Al Mada reported that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, has declared holding the Arab Summitt in Baghdad (May 10th through 11th) will cost the country $450 million in US dollars. Lost money and lost prestige at a time when Iraq's puppet government is attempting to ignore the violence and pretend they are a democratic oasis in otherwise dry region. Ahmed Eleiba (Ahram) reports, "Iraq's Permanent Ambassador to the Arab League Qais Al-Azzawi said that his country respects the decision to delay the Arab summit, scheduled to be held in May in Baghdad, due to the current uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria."

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