Comment by Abdullah Muhsin to Iraq Solidarity Week

The GFIW/IWF is honoured to be part of this solidarity week.
Iraq is battling for its national unity, its sovereignty and integrity. And is fighting to consolidate its representative parliamentary political system to create a federal Iraq where the people of Iraqi Kurdistan may enjoy federal autonomy, peace and democracy.
But in this Iraqis are hindered by the legacy of 4 long decades of Saddam’s fascist-type dictatorship, by the current onslaught of terrorists, and by the impact of the 2003 war.
Heinous crimes are committed against the people of Iraq by extreme religious fundamentalists and extreme nationalists. Their simple yet brutal plan, is to push our country into sectarian civil war and thus destroy Iraq and any chance of building on the social and political progress Iraqis have gained since the fall of Saddam’s regime, limited though it is.
The transitional phase of Iraq’s polity remains fragile and extremely dangerous and requires careful handling by Iraq’s sovereign legislative body and its accountable executive. Any unwise move by one of these two agencies could plunge the country into unforeseen danger and possibly civil war.
Victory in this battle against extreme religious fundamentalist and extreme nationalist forces is vital for achieving a unified, democratic and federal Iraq characterized by social justice and respect for human rights.
Hence Iraq’s incumbent representative government must exert utmost effort to ensure victory and thus consolidate national unity. To achieve this victory a number of concerns must be addressed:
I shall focus only on three;
* Eradicating the long shadow of Saddam’s nightmare;
* Rebuilding Iraq’s pulverised economy by reducing high unemployment and improving the quality of lives of ordinary working people;
* Resolving Iraq’s national identity.
Though there are other concerns such as the security and the presence of foreign troops that also need an urgent response.
The short history of our young trade union federation has been bloody one. Our federation, alongside the majority of Iraqis, has democratically although critically embraced the UN-sanctioned political process under resolution UN [1546].
As a consequence of taking this stand our federation has endured kidnapping and murder in cold blood.
Hadi Saleh, our late international secretary paid the ultimate price for his commitment to trade union rights. He was tragically assassinated after being brutally tortured by Saddam’s thugs in his home January 2005. His assassination marked new waves of murders and kidnapping against Iraqi organised labour.
The international labour movement has risen with one voice to condemn the killing of Iraqi trade unionists and to extend the hand of solidarity to our federation. Please see the ICFTU survey, June 2006 on trade union rights violations in the Middle East in which Iraq and one neighbouring country have suffered the most violations.
Eradicating Saddam’s legacy:
Building a genuine democracy depends not only on the role of the state – although it’s fundamentally essential – but also on the active participation of civil society.
Our federation strongly believes that it is impossible to foresee the creation of open and democratic Iraq without allowing its organised labour movement to operate freely and independently from the influence of the state and political parties.
But how can our movement operate freely when the shadow of Saddam’s 1987 anti-union laws is still hanging over our heads and prohibits workers in the public sector from joining unions or forming their own unions.
Instead of giving support to the new unions the new Iraqi government not only maintained Saddam’s anti-union laws – reluctant to adopt a labour code that adheres to ILO core conventions – but also issued an anti-union Order 8750 to curtail and hinder our development.
In August 2005 former government of PM Al-Jaafari’s issued order 8750 authorising the state to exercise detailed control of the organised trade union movement.
The ILO, the ICFTU and many trade union centres around the globe including the TUC have protested against Order 8750.
Growing Economy;
Iraq’s economy has been pulverized by Saddam’s wars, bled by the unjust UN sanctions after the Saddam disastrous invasion of the brotherly state of Kuwait and further devastated by the 2003 invasion and the current rampant corruption.
Iraq’s national economy is crying out for emergency investment and reconstruction of all its sectors. But national assets must remain publicly owned. Instead of privatization, Iraqi industries must be rehabilitated.
Iraq’s economy must be diversified, as over 95% of Iraq’s income currently derives from oil. This must change as oil will not last forever
Unions are the engines that propel the economy and are democracy’s egalitarian insurance policy against the self-defeating triumph of egoism. Unions are the embodiment of a powerful idea: that equality and freedom advance best when they advance together. A prosperous and healthy economy encourages social and political stability and helps maintain a strong sense of community. Without a growing economy of social justice democracy will not take root in Iraq.
When democracies look after unions, unions look after democracies. Gaining tangible benefits from democratic politics, trade unions have been great defenders of democratic politics
Iraqi unions can also be one of the most important independent
sources of common identity. They also help in the formation,
development and consolidation of our democratic future and Iraq’s
national identity. They are home to all Iraqis, irrespective of
gender, ethnicity and religion and political affiliation. They can
help promote social inclusion, prosperity and citizenship and thus
social unity. Unions are the antidote to the sectarian poisons of
extremism in Iraq. We do not see our selves as Shia, Sunni, Turkoman,
Assyrian or Kurds but as workers, citizens and Iraqis while valuing
our distinct historic identities.
Unions are the glue that binds together disparate identities and
traditions on the basis of social justice, democracy and human rights.
Trade unions are playing a major role in bringing different Iraqi
communities to the same table, to share dreams of a better life for
our children, dignity at work, a fair share of prosperity and decent
I believe that free trade unions in Iraq can play a historic role
in helping to cement this identity which is a key factor in recovering
our full national sovereignty and building our democratic and federal