Friday, April 15, 2011

The spoiled child




At the top of the Facebook page for the Great Iraqi Revolution, this report appears, "Inspite of the fact that I am really feeling ill and awful I really felt that I have to come in for a mom and update you with some wonderful news despite the fact that there is so much black - the sit-ins in Mosul and the vigils have been added to - The brave and outspoken Shaikh Salim Al Thabbab from Nassiriya, Shaikh of Rabee'a and ...Shayban came to Mosul and joined the sit in with a large party - who were also joined by a large contingent of women fro Nassiriya to keep the women of Mosul company and they were all joined by Shyoukh from Basra, Diyala, Salah Eldeen and Kut and there are more to come - also joined by a large group of poets from Baghdad - Power to the People - I believe the tidal wave has really started gathering force - Thank you Uday Al Zaidi who also gave a wonderful slap to the Islamic Politicians who visited him telling him that he had no right to want the Occupation out! That what are they to do about Iran! The people of Mosul told them that they had no place at this gathering and they had to leave. Power to the Iraqi People. Watch this page and space. I promise, as soon as I get better I will keep you updated with everything that has been happening since Saturday - but before I stop, it was a carnival scene - flags flying, poetry reading, chanting and dancing - I will post videos - I have been recording everything - Uday, a few days ago told me that they would have to kill him and his group before they stop the sitins - now I thin k it will be impossible to stop anything - Fallujah also had a very large demo today anti occupation and ruling gang. Pray for Iraq and for us everybody - support us." Today Tim Arango (New York Times) provides a look at Iraq's young protesters:
A common sentiment from nearly three dozen interviews with young Iraqis around the country recently is a persistent disenchantment with both their political leaders and the way democracy has played out here. "The youth is the excluded class in the Iraqi community," said Swash Ahmed, a 19-year-old law student in Kirkuk. "So they've started to unify through Facebook or the Internet or through demonstrations and evenings in cafes, symposiums and in universities. But they don't have power."
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, "AFP reports that Baghdad security forces have announced that protests in the capital from now on will only be allowed in one of three football stadiums. The excuse being offered is complaints from shop keepers about traffic issues but the reality is this is yet another effort to hide the protests away." The latest assault on democracy from Nouri al-Maliki is getting some attention (here and here, for example). Another US-installed despot is conducting a power-grab and herding people into stadium's in the nation's capital. Does it end like the National Stadium in Santiago back in 1973? Or are we all still pretending that Nouri's not a despot?
Last week, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, ordered attacks on Camp Ashraf. The United Nations now has observers in the camp. Louis Charbonneau and Bill Trott (Reuters) report the UN has confirmed that 34 people were killed and the reporters note, "The fatality count was the same number of deaths Ashraf residents had reported." They note that the death toll had been reduced to three in claims made by Nouri's officials. Yesterday Lara Jakes (AP) reported that at least 17 injured residents of Camp Ashraf were "forcibly removed from their hospital beds" by Iraqi forces and left/dumped at Camp Ashraf. Jakes explained, "Three women were among the patients, many of whom were bandaged, according to the doctor and an ambulance driver who spoke on condition of anonymity because that were not authorized to speak to the media." Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported last week that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied -- this is the attack that the UN has now confirmed resulted in 34 deaths. AFP reports, "European parliamentarians on Thursday urged the United States and the United Nations to help protect residents of a camp housing Iranian dissidents in Iraq, which witnessed a deadly assault by government forces. A statement signed by more than 100 members of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe also called on the European Union to demand 'the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Camp Ashraf'."

The assault has been a big issue outside of the US media. You've had two members of England's upper house of Parliament (House of Lords) accuse the US of giving the okay for the Friday assault. Earlier this week, David Waddington (England's House of Lords) wrote at the Independent:

Last week Iraqi forces entered a camp in Iraq housing members of the Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). Thirty three residents were killed and over 300 wounded. Were the US authorities, as it has been suggested, told of the intended attack by the Iraqi Government? If they were, then surely members of the US government were complicit in a crime against humanity. And of course it shows that the US administration is continuing to appease the regime in Tehran whose influence over the Iraq government grows and grows.

The raid which took place at 5am on Friday 8 April, involved 2,500 severely armed Iraqi forces entering the Camp in armoured vehicles and Humvees, with video footage filmed by the residents clearly showing Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents and firing indiscriminately at them. Under any parameter of international law such a massacre of unarmed civilians is a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Another David, David Alton who is also a member of England's House of Lords, issued his thoughts in the form of a column for The Hill calling on the US to protect Camp Ashraf and noting a similarity between Friday's attack and the July 28, 2009 attack: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq when both took place. Alton writes, "In fact the attacks both happened only hours after a meeting between Nuri al-Maliki and Secretary Gates. Although Secretary Gates may not have had any knowledge of what was in the making by al-Maliki, this can hardly be a coincidence. There are not so many options: either Nuri al-Maliki has received some kind of green light from the Secretary Gates or he wanted to demonstrate that he carries some sort of pre-arrangement with the US; or he is contemptuous of U.S. opinion." AFP notes that the residents are "protected under the Geneva Convetions" and explains, "A left-wing Islamic movement, the PMOI was founded in 1965 in opposition to the Shah of Iran and has subsequently fought to oust the clerical regime that took power in Tehran after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution."
Kate Allen (Guardian) sees the treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents as a way of measuring the level of human rights progress in Iraq:

Meanwhile, the Iraqi authorities are barely paying lip-service to their obligation to properly investigate these deeply troubling events. Nouri al-Maliki's government has said it will investigate last week's violence, but it said that in 2009 as well. In common with scores of other "investigations" in the country, nothing more has been heard of it.
And neither is Iraq coming under much international pressure over Camp Ashraf. The UK's foreign office minister Alistair Burt said he was "disturbed" by the loss of life and supported a UN monitoring mission to the camp, but generally there's been relatively little reaction. A letter in the Guardian bemoaned the "blanket of silence" surrounding it.
Drowned out by Libya, Syria and Ivory Coast, violence at Camp Ashraf is at risk of being all but ignored. Amnesty is calling for an independent investigation into Friday's blood-letting as well as assurances that no one at Ashraf is going to be forced out of Iraq if their lives are put in danger.
Camp Ashraf doesn't come close to fitting into the "Arab Spring" narrative (though meanwhile Iraq's own protests have in fact been well-attended, ruthlessly put down and almost totally unreported). But the world should start paying attention to this forgotten story. How Iraq treats the residents of Camp Ashraf will provide an important window into how far Iraq has come in respecting human rights.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Uninformed or misinformed?"
"Camp Ashraf"
"Barry and Dick"
"Well good for Diane"
"Caldicott responds"
"a real education war"
"Lila Garrett's blanket of hatred"
"The truth"
"Joe Biden"
"The Guardian and belief"
"Barry's groovy speech"
"He puts the world to sleep with his yammering"

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