Friday, April 15, 2011

What it feels like for a girl






Baghdad has seen protests every Friday since February 25th. Today in Baghdad, AGI reports, "hundreds" are protesting and calling for Nouri al-Maliki to resign. They are doing so in "Liberation Square" (Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad) and have rejected the notion that they will be penned inside a stadium. Alsumaria TV adds:

"Demonstrators chanted "Leave Maliki, Leave" and "wind of change has arrived" in the middle of an intensive presence of the Iraqi security forces," the reporter added.
Baghdad Operations had declared on Wednesday that Al Shaab and Al Kashafa Stadiums in Al Rassafa and Al Zawra' Stadium in Karakh were appointed as substitute regions to hold licensed demonstrations instead of Al Tahrir and Al Ferdaws squares.
This demonstration is the first of its kind, since the beginning of demonstrations in February 25, as to calling for Prime Minister Al Maliki to step down. Demonstrations slogans have called to halt corruption and to implement reforms and change. These demonstrations were organized by university students and independent educated people thru social networking websites. It is to be noted that security forces had applied tight security measures and curfew to prevent demonstrators from reaching the gatherings. To that, Iraq police opened fire and many people were killed and injured.

As noted in Wednesday'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." Kitabat featured an essay Thursday rejecting the demand that protesters gather in stadiums, noting that they would instead keep the voices of the protest close to the ears of the Iraqi officials in the Green Zone and would refuse efforts to isolate the voice of the Iraqi people. Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf observed:
Demonstrators gathering in #Baghdad's Tahrir square despite government ban - burning national registration cards in protest about 16 hours ago via web
Prashant Rao (AFP) quotes protester Mohammed Abdul Amir speaking to the crowd, "Why should we go to Al-Shaab stadium? Are we going to play a football match with the police? No! We will demonstrate here!" Human rights activist Sarah Abdallah tweets:
The demands of the Iraqi people are clear: free all political prisoners, down with #Maliki and end the criminal 8-year US #occupation. #Iraq about 1 hour ago via web
Tens of thousands marched through #Baghdad today for the "Friday of the Free," in defiance of the #Maliki regime's ban on protests. #Iraq about 1 hour ago via web
At Al Jazeera's live blog of MidEast protests today, Jane Arraf reported that some activists "burned their Iraqi identiy cards in protest against the government. Military and police units deployed at the square did not prevent the gathering".
On the subject of protests we're again left with the crazed rantngs of Raed Jarrar (see Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for a dissection of his previous crazy). How fitting that his latest revisionary history shows up at Iran's state controlled Press TV -- what would propaganda be without a propaganda mill? Making like Moqtada al-Sadr's girlfriend -- the Eva to Moqtada's Adolph, Raed's again writing about Saturday's protests. If you're wondering, no, he's not written of any of the other over 30 big protests which have taken place across Iraq in the last three months. But his Mookie Moqtada didn't have a hand in those and Raed's all about spreading the love for Mookie: "the prominent nationalist Shia cleric" -- does anyone else see the hilarity in referring to chicken Moqtada hiding in another country (Iran) as a "nationalist"? But, hey, the hilarity is right there the minute you apply "nationalist" to Moqtada. He's attempting to make Iraq a satellite of Iran, don't mistake that for nationalism unless you're grossly uneducated.
All of the protests that came before are reduced by Raed to a one and a half sentences: "Iraqis had already been demonstrating in the streets of Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities for a week as of this writing. So far most of the protests have focused on better services". He. Just. Can't. Stop. Lying. Protests have been going on in Iraq since February, not for a week. There's been a sit-in that's gone on non-stop for weeks, day after day. Better services? No. What an insulting thing to say, insulting and uninformed.
Iraqi protests this year kicked off in February and kicked off outside of Baghdad. It's amazing because people died in these protests but they're being stripped from the record by Moqtada's Fan Club. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the whilte Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq. Such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them.
But while many in the press would play dumb, the Iraqi people knew better. They knew their loved ones were gone, disappeared into Iraq's legal system. That is what began the protests in Iraq: the prisons. It's what fueled them throughout. And that's not "going on for a week as of this writing." From the Feb. 10th snapshot:
Alsumaria TV reports protests took place in Babel Province today with one protest calling for the release of prisoners and another calling out the continued lack of public services. Dar Addustour reports the the Council of the Bar Association issued a call for a Baghdad demonstration calling for corruption to be prosecuted, for the Constitution to be followed and sufficient electricity in all the schools. Nafia Abdul-Jabbar (AFP) reports that approximately 500 people (mainly attorneys "but also including some tribal sheikhs") marched and that they also decried the secret prisons. They carried banners which read "Lawyers call for the government to abide by the law and provide jobs for the people" and "The government must provide jobs and fight the corrupt." Bushra Juhi (AP) counts 3,000 demonstrating and calls it "one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Iraq" this year. Juhi also notes that attorneys staged smaller protests in Mosul and Basra today. Al Rafidayn reports that five provinces saw protests yesterday as the people demanded reliable public services and an end to government corruption. Noting the Babylon Province protest, the paper quotes Amer Jabk (Federation of Industrialists in Babylon president) stating that the provincial government has not provided any of the services the province needs, that basic services have deteriorated and that heavy rains have not only seen streets closed but entire neighborhoods sinking. Hayder Najm (niqash) observes protests have taken place across Iraq, "The protesters' grievances have been many and varied: the quality and level of basic services, government restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression, violations against civil servants, and the rampant financial and administrative corruption within state institutions. [. . .] Eight years after the US invasion of Iraq, the electricity supply in most areas of the country still does not exceed two hours a day, and the country still suffers from poor infrastructure, a weak transport network, and an acute crisis of drinking water and sanitation."

"This is in solidarity with the Iraqi people," said Kadhim Zubaidi, spokesman for Iraq's lawyers' union in Baghdad. "We want the government to sack the corrupt judges."

Noting recent reports by human rights groups revealing secret prisons in Iraq, Zubaidi added: "We also demand that the interior and defence ministries allow us to enter the secret prisons … We want to get information about these prisons."

And that's not when the protests started. We can go further back than that. But Raed Jarrar -- as usual -- does not know what he's writing about or is intentionally attempting to deceive. You cannot distort events to suit your own political aims and be considered credible. It just makes you a liar. Raed wants to get to the SOFA possibly being extended and does as he wraps up. To his credit, he shows a stronger understanding of the SOFA at the end of his column than he has prior. He doesn't want the SOFA extended. I don't either. But I'm not going to lie to make my point. Raed states that if the SOFA is extended "without approval by Iraq's legislators" [which appears to mean he's acknowledging at last that Nouri has twice extending the occupation without the permission of the Parliament -- he did so in 2006 and in 2007] "it would be the last straw that would destroy the Iraqi government's legitmacy and end the credibility of the country's political and electoral systems. It would push many Iraqis who have joined the government to boycott the political process and resort again to violence."
What would is Raed living in? The last elections concluded March 7, 2010 (early voting started the Thursday before Sunday the 7th). Sunnis turned out in larger numbers and did so because they'd skipped the 2005 national elections in large numbers and felt short changed (to put it mildly) in the years that followed. Were it not for the increased Sunni turnout, the commnetary would have been on how low the turnout was. That's because Shi'ites stayed home in large numbers. You're seeing disenchantment in the turnout already. If the puppet government survived Nouri extending the SOFA in 2006 (to cover the year 2007) and in 2007 (to cover the year 2008), you're going to have to offer some sort of support for your claim that his doing so again will destroy Iraq. In 2008, he did take the matter (then the SOFA, not the UN mandate) to the Parliament. And, try to remember, he promised that the people would get to weigh in. They'd get a referendum on the SOFA. And they could reject it!!!! They could say no!!! They could end the war!!! (They actually couldn't. Had they said "no" in July 2009, per the SOFA, the Iraq War would have continued until the end of 2010 -- read the SOFA.) But that July referendum? Never held. And did the puppet government fall apart?
No, it didn't. Repeatedly the occupation's been extended, repeatedly Iraqis have been lied to. There is outrage. There has always been outrage. The puppet government has not fallen. Which isn't to say it wouldn't. It is to say that if Raed wants to assert a claim that it likely will, he's going to have to offer some supporting evidence for his conclusion because, at present, the facts argue otherwise. What has kept the puppet government in control has been the US military on the ground. My guess has always been that it's very likely the puppet government falls when the US finally leaves. If there's a case to be made for it falling while US forces are on the ground in Iraq, Raed needs to make it. But his wet dreams about Moqtada aren't doing it. Nouri attacked Moqtada's forces in Basra and Baghdad. And Moqtada's forces melted away. Many of them ran at the start of the attacks. Though it drove up Moqtada's popularity, it didn't drive up his authority. Again, if you're going to offer predictions, try to provide supporting evidence for them as opposed to distorting events and reality to fit your own personal desires.
Reality doesn't need 'improving.' You can't offer an honest take if you distort. And the claim that people might lose faith in the government begs the question of who still has faith in Nouri? The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq note:
These days, Iraqi authorities feel free to carry out arbitrary arrests, physical assault and torture of Iraqi citizens who participate in peaceful demonstrations. In fact, they have begun to recruit and utilize of the expertise of the masterminds who were part of the horrific Baathist regime of Saddam. In doing so, they announce the end of any commitment to human rights stipulated in the Constitution they have offered to the Iraqi people as a social contract.
Yesterday, on April 13th at 1:45 pm, armed military\secret-intelligence forces arrived in three vehicles, stormed the offices of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and also the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), for the second time in one month. They arrested OWFI affiliate youth activist Firas Ali, one of the leaders of February 25 Group on Facebook and in Baghdad's Tahrir square. Those who raided the building intimidated all the youth present, calling them terrorists, though they were the organizing team of a group of demonstrators within Baghdad's weekly protests who have clearly shown their peaceful intentions, week after week. The armed forces immediately blindfolded Firas Ali, handcuffed him, and took him away, where demonstrators are detained and tortured with the same feared methods used under Saddam's reign. The armed forces had no court order for the arrest of Firas Ali, or for breaking into the offices.
Alaa Nabil, another youth leader of February 25 Group, was arrested in much the same manner on April 8th, and he remains in custody. It is thought that he is jailed in one of the prisons close to the Baghdad International Airport, along with 17 other demonstrators from Tahrir, but it is impossible to be sure.
The Maliki government thinks it can silence the youth, determined to end what have become the signature characteristics of its rule - oppression and corruption. All the Saddam-style violations, group arrests, and torture will not deter the youth from demanding an end to corruption and to start to an era of equality and freedom, expected in any civilized society.
The OWFI demands the immediate release of Firas Ali and Alaa Nabil. OWFI reserves the right to take to court all those who have given orders for arbitrary arrest, and those who physically assaulted the youth activists. The OWFI also warns those who consider the further torture of freedom lovers such as Firas Ali and Alaa Nabil… They will be pursued, brought to trial for their crimes against humanity, and thrown in the same prisons they now misuse.
We warn the Maliki government to stop denying the human rights of the demonstrators, and we demand an immediate official response, stating any legitimate charges against our activists, their place of detention, and physical condition. We also hold them directly responsible for any and all physical abuse or torture which our activists have been subjected to.
Down with the Baathist oppression
Down with the oppressive and corrupt despots
No more torture of youth activists… Enough is enough!
Yanar Mohammed
OWFI president

Firas Ali, an Iraqi political activist, was detained at the office of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq, Baghdad, at about 2pm on 13 April. A protester, Haidar Shihab Ahmad Abdel Latif, is believed to have been detained on 1 April on Tahrir Square, Baghdad. Alaa Nabil, another youth leader of the February 25 Group, was also arrested on April 8, and remains in custody. It is feared that they and other detained activists are at high risk of torture.

Political activist Firas 'Ali, 30 years old, is reported to have been detained by members of the armed forces early in the afternoon of 13 April, at the Baghdad office of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq. An eyewitness told Amnesty International: "Two men in plain clothes and three soldiers asked about Firas 'Ali. They did not show an arrest warrant. Later I could see Firas 'Ali blindfolded and handcuffed being forced by soldiers into a vehicle and taken away." Friends of Firas Ali have not been able to contact him via his mobile phone since his detention and his whereabouts remain unknown. Amnesty International fears that Firas 'Ali is at high risk of torture.

Haidar Shihab Ahmad Abdel Latif, a 24 year old casual worker, attended protests at Tahrir Square on 1 April for the first time. He was with two friends who briefly left him at about 11.30, but when they returned about 10 minutes later he was no longer there. There were no witnesses to his detention. However, Iraqi activists have told Amnesty International that on previous occasions protesters have been "discretely" led away from the protests and detained. A member of his family who is a political activist told Amnesty International he fears that Haidar Shihab Ahmad Abdel Latif was taken instead of him. His family has searched at hospitals and made inquiries with the authorities but has still no information of his whereabouts.

Alaa Nabil, another youth leader of the February 25 Group, was also arrested on April 8, and he remains in custody. It is believed he is being kept j in one of the prisons close to the Baghdad International Airport, together with 17 other demonstrators from Tahrir, but it is impossible to be sure.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or Arabic. We provide a Model Letter below to be sent to the following email addresses: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Add also the address of your nearest Iraqi embassy that can be found at the following link: (Please send appeals before 26 May 2011 to the Iraqi embassy in your country)

Please send copies also to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it so that we can keep those campaigning for their release informed.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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