Tuesday, July 21, 2009







Yesterday on NPR's Morning Edition, Quil Lawrence filed a story on Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Jassem:

Quil Lawrence: Ibrahim Jassam was 29-years-old when he began filming news for Reuters wire service. That was 2006 and the towns southwest of Baghdad had earned the name Triangle of Death because of the violence between Shi'ite militias and Sunni insurgents. His brother Waleed says Jassam took his work very seriously.

Waleed Jassam: When there was an explosion Ibrahim was always the first one to be in the location filming. He felt whatever was happening on the ground, he wanted to be seen on the television.

Quil Lawrence: But, as with many cases in the past, the US military apparently thought Jassam's photos looked a little too close to the action suggesting a connection to insurgents. One morning last September, a combined US and Iraqi force cordoned off Jasam's neighborhood hours before dawn. They broke down the door of the house where he lived with his parents and siblings and dragged Jassam away in his underwear, handcuffed. They brought dogs inside the house said his sister Iman as she points out Jassam's room. Iman says she tried to tell the soldiers her brother had done nothing wrong.

Iman Jassam: One of the Iraqi soldiers said, "Why are you still talking? If you only knew what we are going to do to your brother, you would be crying." These words are still echoing in my ears.

Quil Lawrence: It took months before the family got word that Jassim was in a US military prison and they eventually visited him. What they're still waiting for is any kind of criminal charge against him.

Capt Brad Kimberly: Ibrahim Jassam is still in detention because he's classified as a high security threat

Quil Lawrence: Capt Brad Kimberly is a US military spokesman. He says starting this year with the new US-Iraqi security agreement, all American arrests require an Iraqi warrant but, since Jassam was arrested last year, no warrant was needed. Kimberly said the only obligation is to transfer him sometime after December. But Kimberly offers no evidence.

Capt Brad Kimberly: Prior to the first of January, all detainees were held as wartime security threats, no legal charges were assigned.

Quil Lawrence: In fact, an Iraqi court document from last November says that, since the Americans provided no evidence or confession, Jassam should be released. Michael Christie is the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad. He says Jassam did a good job in a dangerous city.

Michael Christie: We have to assume he has been detained because of the work he was doing as a journalist. Until we see otherwise, until the evidence is declassified, he deserves the presumption of innocence.

Quil Lawrence: Iraqi journalists have been regularly detained by US forces through the course of the American occupation. Several have been killed when mistaken for insurgents. According to Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Jassam is the only one still in US custody.

Mohammed Abdel Dayem: No charges have been brough against any of the journalists. Journalists, if and when they are detained, their cases should be reviewed in a quick and timely way and they should either be charged with a recognized crime or be released.

Quil Lawrence: After a few months in a prison near Baghdad, Jassam was transferred to Camp Bucca, a massive US prison camp near the border with Kuwait. It's an eight or nine hour drive south from his home but the family was able to visit him last month. Ibrahim Jassam's sister Iman says he isn't eating enough and looks thing. She says her brother knows the Iraqi court cleared him in November and he can't understand why the Americans keep holding him for ten months now and counting. Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Baghdad.

From the December 1, 2008 snapshot:

In other news, Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam has been a prisoner in Iraq since Sept. 1, 2008 when US and Iraqi military forces drug him from his Mahmudiyah home. He has been held a prisoner since then at Camp Cropper. Reporters Without Borders and Journalistic Freedom Observatory have been calling for his release. Reuters reported yesterday that Iraq's Central Criminal Court has ordered that Ibrahim be released because "there was no evidence against" him; however, "There was no immediate response from the U.S. military to the ruling." Daryl Lang (Photo District News) adds, "Jassam's case resembles those of several other Iraqi photographers and cameramen working for Western news organizations, all of whom were eventually freed. And the decision comes as the U.S. is releasing thousands of security detainees and preparing to turn its much-maligned detainee system over to the Iraqi government."

December 9, 2009, Reuters reported that US Maj Neal Fisher stated all the Iraqi court order meant was that when he is released Ibrahim "will be able to out-process without having to go through the courts as other detainees in his threat classification will have to do." Why is that? Because the court has found no reason to hold Ibrahim. So while others will go on to have their day in court, Fisher is admitting that Ibrahim's had his but the US military just doesn't want to release him. In June of this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki and they noted Ibrahim and requested, "Press the U.S. military to respect the decision of the Iraqi courts and immediately release Ibrahim Jassam." Last September, Reporters Without Borders pointed out that over "20 journalists have been arrested in Iraq in similar circumstances since 1st January 2008, all of whom have been released after spending days or even months in custody without any charges being made against them." CPJ notes him here (note that Adel Hussein, whose profile follows, has been released and shouldn't even be on the current list of journalists imprisoned). Reporters Without Borders notes that three journalists are currently detained in Iraq, there's Ibrahim starting September 1, 2008; Mountazer al-Zaidi starting December 14, 2008 (he's the one who threw his shoes at Bully Boy Bush and Nouri's joint-press conference in December) and Jassem Mohamed who has been imprisoned since February 2009. Meanwhile, last week Reporters Without Borders declared, "Iraqi security forces working with Sahwa militias seem to be taking advantage of the withdrawal of the US forces to physically target journalists. The Iraqi authorities must do what is necessary to put a stop to this and to ensure that there are independent investigations into these two recent incidents." The first incident involved Ali Al-Juburi (Ifaq) Ahmad Omad (Biladi TV) and Karim Al-Qasimi (Al Fiha) outside Ramadi, traveling in a car clearly marked as press being pulled over by Sahwa and Iraqi police and physically attacked. The second is Haydar al_Qotbi (Radio Sawa) attacked in Baghdad by Sahwa after he displayed his press credentials ("dragged from the car and badly beated by six men").

Staying with the topic of Iraqi reporters, one year ago today, Soran Mama Hama was assassinated in Kirkuk Province. From the July 22, 2008 snapshot:

Reuters notes "an Iraqi journalist working for a Kudrish magazine" was shot dead in Kirkuk Monday and 5 people wounded in shootings in Haswa while Tirkit was the site of an attack today "on the convoy of Khalid Burhan, head of health office of Salahudding province" that left his guards wounded. The journalist was Soran Mamhama. He was 23-years-old and AP states he worked for the "magazine Leven and often covered government corruption." Reporters Without Borders issued a statement condeming the murder and stated, "We call on the Kudristan authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Hama's murder. He wrote hard-hitting articles about local politicians and security officials and had received threats from people telling him to stop his investigative reporting. The authorities should therefore give priority to the theory that he was killed because of his work." Xinhua notes Soran was shot dead outside his home and quotes Journalist Freedoms Observatory's Ziyad al-Ajili stating, "The first step to halt the assassinations against journalists is to capture those culprits." Iran's Press TV quotes Latif Satih Faraj (Kurdish Journalists Union in Kirkuk) stating, "If the government can't protect Kurdish journalists in Kirkuk, we might adviste them to withdraw from this city." Iraq's The Window reports Leveen is calling for an investigation and that "Leveen, which is an independent Kurdish magazine founded 6 years ago in Sulaimani, is known as a muckraking journal in Kurdistan and Iraq."

The Committee To Protect Journalists is calling for his murder(s) to be brought to justice, "Authorities in Kirkuk province must bring to justice those responsible for the 2008 murder of journalist Soran Mama Hama . . . the Committee to Protect Journalists said on the eve of the anniversary of the reporter's slaying. . . . Mama Hama published an article in Livin before his death about the alleged complicity of the police and security officials in prostitution rings in Kirkuk. He claimed in the article that his sources had provided him with names of 'police brigadiers, many lieutenants, colonels, and many police and security officers,' who were clients. The shooting occurred at around 9 p.m. in the dominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Shorija, a relatively safe area in Kirkuk." They note that Soran was one of 139 journalists killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

A year ago today, Nouri was gearing up for his trip to Berlin where he'd meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This as thug and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki gears up for his media stop in the US, just in time for Barry O's prime time address Wednesday night. July 25th, three provinces in Iraq hold their provincial elections and to steal attention (what little's been given) for the KRG, Nouri plans to announce an education plan that would put 10,000 Iraqis in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US for college study. Of course, that 10,000 wouldn't come anytime soon. He plans to do 500. He'll make his announcement of the program in DC Saturday morning. Ned Parker's "Maliki remakes himself ahead of elections" (Los Angeles Times) covers the region's Madonna as he prepares to embark on his Blonde Ambition tour and notes of self-promoter Nouri:Iran has played a king-making role in Iraqi Shiite politics since 2003 because of its ties to many Shiite lawmakers, who spent years in exile across the border."In the period of 2006 and 2007, there were moves to remove Maliki. It was Iran who stopped it. Maliki has to remember this. They can make his life harder," said Sami Askari, a Shiite legislator and confidant of the prime minister.Still, Askari warned that Maliki would not be hemmed in; he would set the conditions for any list of candidates he might join."Maliki will not accept to be marginalized. . . . Some may have ambitions to surround Maliki. I doubt they will succeed," Askari said. "Everyone understands Maliki is an asset."Noting the visit is Jake Kurtzer (Refugees International) who stresses the ongoing Iraqi refugee crisis -- internal and external displaced persons -- and offers:President Obama can convey this message by urging Al-Maliki to take a few basic steps. First and foremost, the Iraqi government must continue to improve its own response to the displacement crisis. Reports that the Iraqi government plans to close the IDP file at the end of this year indicate a desire on their part to gloss over this humanitarian emergency. This is unacceptable. The Iraqi government, with U.S. support, must continue to improve its legal framework for supporting returnees and must ensure that all returns are voluntary, and conducted with dignity to areas that are safe and suitable for return. In urging Al-Maliki to take these steps, President Obama should reiterate America's commitment to meeting the basic needs of Iraq's displaced, through financial support for humanitarian agencies and through diplomatic engagement with host countries. The announcement of a potential return of an Ambassador to Syria is a welcome and overdue step that RI has been calling for since 2007. This will ensure that the U.S. can engage with the Syrian government on issues relating to the basic needs of Iraqi refugees. Finally, the President can continue to affirm the U.S.'s commitment to resettle those most vulnerable Iraqi's who will never be able to return home. Refugees International's latest report is [PDF format warning] entitled "IRAQI REFUGEES: WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND SECURITY CRITICAL TO RETURNS" and it's covered in yesterday's snapshot.

Nouri's first stop will be the United Nations. No surprise, the UN is suddenly interested in Iraq again. The same UN that's shutting down offices and websites. (Didn't you notice? Try to visit UNHCR's Iraq page. It's gone.) Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports that an unnamed UN diplomat is swearing that the KRG needs to stop their demands on Kirkuk and just wait because, "We (all) believe that would lead to war and the U.N. has . . . told the Kurds that." And the response of the Kurds should be: Who the hell cares? The referendum on oil-rich Kirkuk was supposed to have taken place no later than December 2007. It's 2009 and they're still being told to wait? The UN claimed in the summer of 2008 they'd work on a solution. It's a year later and the solution is: Wait?

No. If you were a Kurd you wouldn't support waiting one more moment. They've waited. They've listened. It's really past time for something to be done about the situation. Iraq's Constitution has not been followed and if the United Nations wants to help, they might try actually helping instead of being the joke to every NGO and charity in Iraq right now. They made themselves that joke. They did it when they let a man WHORE out the good name of the UN to appease al-Maliki. Yeah, back when they said that host countries shouldn't consider Iraqi citizens refugees from a dangerous country. Under huge protests internally, the UN issued a statement saying that, of course, the situation in Iraq was still too dangerous for a return. But they'd already made a joke of themselves and they'd yet again proven that they will LIE for Nouri. They did last fall when they allowed their spokeswoman to lash out at Iraqi women in a press conference, to blame Iraqi women for the cholera outbreak. That's wasn't public health, it wasn't anything but take the heat off Nouri. The United Nations has played the fool for Nouri one time too damn many and their reputation is in tatters in Iraq. It's their own fault and it will require real work to build it back up. Until they do, the Kurds should tell them to butt the hell out of an issue in a supposedly soveriegn country. What's the United Nations doing butting in yet again anyway? The Kurds didn't invite them into the conversation.

Oh, Nouri invited them in. Well it's not all about Nouri and the KRG doesn't have to listen to the UN and shouldn't at this point in time. Read Tim Cocks' report and grasp that the unnamed diplomat is WHORING for Nouri. (Cocks has written an excellent report, the embarrassment is the UN diplomat.) It's all, "Bad Barzani!" from the diplomat. First off, July 25th is when the KRG holds provincial elections and presidential. It's funny how many times I've heard friends at the UN excuse Nouri's alarmist rhetoric with, "He's just trying to drum up support for the elections." Yet, Barzani faces an election on Saturday and he's not given the same benefit of the doubt? The UN has embarrassed themselves and the problem has been from day one that no one person is in charge. This group (usually on the ground in Iraq) goes off and does what it wants. The UN attempts to fix it by using an agency spokesperson from outside Iraq. But they never punish their staff in Iraq that continually causes these problems. Instead of fretting over Kirkuk, the UN should work on getting their own damn house in order. The United Nations needs to be seen as an honest broker. It gave that up due to on the ground staff repeatedly distorting to benefit Nouri al-Maliki. Those people were not disciplined (and it took forever just to get two of them removed from Iraq). Now the UN wants to tell the Kurds to wait? After it gave up the right to be seen as an honest broker?

If I were Baghdad, I'd wait. I'd wait happily. If I were the Kurds, I'd grasp that maybe a little violence will come in the already violent Iraq if I move but if I don't move the issue will continue to be postponed while the US government gets closer and closer to Nouri. I'd grasp that Nouri's violence usually leads to the US Embassy appeasing him. I'd grasp that maybe setting off my own violence might get me some of Kirkuk or Nineveh. I'd grasp that the United Nation's diplomat is trashing me to the press when Nouri is the one who has held up the Kirkuk issue. When the Iraq Constitution mandated that he commission a census and schedule a referendum before the end of 2007, when the White House benchmarks included that he resolve the issue of Kirkuk. Nouri didn't do that. But the one causing the problem is the Kurds? I'd grasp that any UN staff that turned around and trashed me to the press wasn't worth working with and I'd decide what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. Two and a half years after the Iraq Constitution mandated this issue be settled, it's still not and the United Nations wants to say "WAIT!" and blame the Kurds? And they want to be seen like they are being fair to both sides? It's nonsense. And that's demonstrated by the fact that Iran's Press TV provides perspective the UN diplomat seems not to grasp:The Kurds say that parts of the majority Arab Nineveh belong to their ancient homeland and want them included in Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Kurds represent 16 of Nineveh's 37 seats in the parliament. They complain that Arab Governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi has marginalized them in the provincial council since he was elected on January 31, restoring Arabs to power.Should the problem fail to be resolved, the Kurds will be forced to split the province into two, forming their own splinter council to run the 16 administrative units, Kurdish councilor Derrman Khitari said on Sunday.

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