Iraq recce

The Sheffield Star reports on the LFIQ delegation to Iraq.
THREE years after the invasion by British and American troops, Iraq remains a dangerous place.
But the risk of kidnappings and bomb attacks did not deter a delegation of trade unionists, including Sheffield teacher Sue Rogers and former North East Derbyshire Labour MP Harry Barnes.
Despite reports of carnage still taking place daily, they saw how recovery was beginning to take hold away from areas such as Baghdad and Basra, where insurgents remain a constant threat.
Sue, who teaches history at King Edward VII Secondary School, Broomhill, was on the trip representing the NASUWT teaching union. She said: “We went to look at how the rebuilding of Iraq is progressing.”
The 27-strong delegation, from the Trade Union Congress’s Labour Friends of Iraq group, included people who were for and against the war in 2003. (actually, it was 7 from LFIQ which is not part of the TUC, Gary Kent)
Sue had been opposed to military action and took part in Stop The War protests.
But on arrival in the northern region of Kurdistan – one of the areas most repressed by Saddam Hussein’s regime – she said the welcome was “unbelievable”.
She added: “The people we met were totally for the war and were so glad it happened.”
During their nine-day visit the group stayed in Erbil and Sulymania and saw how buildings had been reconstructed and schools reopened.
Sue said: “There were men with guns from the regular Iraqi army and police and a small group was assigned for our protection but it was peaceful and I felt quite safe.”
However, the group received a stark reminder of the region’s darker past when they were given a “moving” tour of the Red House in Sulymania, where Kurdish resistance fighters were imprisoned and tortured.
They also visited memorials to the struggle for freedom and talked to workers in the cities about how they re-established trade unions – banned under Saddam Hussein – but seen by the delegation as an essential part of a free democracy.
Sue was delighted to see classes up and running in schools.
“Although they didn’t always have the equipment everyone was positive and hopeful which was fantastic.”
Although she believed the invasion of Iraq was wrong she said Britain should not abandon the country. “Now we have to help complete rebuilding.”
During the visit, Harry Barnes – joint president of Labour Friends of Iraq – was granted honorary membership of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions to mark his efforts to help unions re-establish themselves in the country.
His work was also recognised by former colleagues in the House of Commons who passed a motion of congratulation.
25 May 2006