Support Day for Darfur

UN must protect people of Darfur
Saturday September 16, 2006. Guardian letter
We are a group of writers who have blogged at the Guardians Comment Is Free site on the conflict in Darfur. Some of us have argued with each other intensely about different aspects of the conflict; all of us agree that there is a major humanitarian disaster taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan right now and that the United Nations must be supported in every way possible to bring it to an end and to reconstruct the region. Tomorrow we will be united in supporting the Global Day for Darfur.
We all believe that UN resolutions should be upheld and that the people of Darfur be protected by the international community. If the African Union force withdraws without being replaced by UN peacekeepers, then over 3 million people are at greater risk because humanitarian workers would also be likely to withdraw. The Sudanese government should now agree to UN deployment. We urge everyone to support the Global Day for Darfur.
Brian Brivati
Glenn Reynolds
Daniel Davies
Eric Reeves
Norman Geras
Alan Johnson
Inayat Bunglawala
Nick Cohen
Peter Tatchell

Dave Anderson at the TUC

Dave Anderson MP, joint President of Labour Friends of Iraq told delegates at the TUC fringe meeting on Iraq of a meeting he had with an Iraqi MP Adnan Pachachi who was Iraqi Foreign Secretary before Saddam Hussein took power.
“Adnan painted a bleak picture of major problems facing Iraq, particularly the weakness of its security forces which have been massively infiltrated by insurgents and are not yet up to scratch. He said that more foreign military support not less was needed and suggested that Iraq needed a UN military force made up of Arab and European armies.
It’s also essential that the British Government does more to support independent grassroots groups like the unions which are an essential building block of any democracy. We have to make sure that thousands of Iraqis, over 2,000 US soldiers and 118 of our own boys haven’t died in vain by helping build a proper democracy in Iraq.”
The TUC also heard from Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett who praised the work of Iraqi unions. Dave Anderson added that “support for the Iraqi labour movement is both a question of solidarity with those who want jobs and peace like everyone else. But it’s also in all our interests because the unions can do much to unite Iraq and bring on the day when British troops can be withdrawn. A strong Iraqi labour movement can stabilise democracy in Iraq whose success could also help undermine extremism throughout the Middle East. I shall keep raising these issues in the Commons and seeking practical support for Iraqi unions.”

Beckett praises TUC role in assisting Iraqi unions

Margaret Beckett delivered a wide-ranging speech to the TUC in which she praised TUC support for Iraqi unions. In particular, she said that The TUC itself has at its very core a belief in those fundamental human rights and freedoms that empower individuals and which are the bedrock of true democracy. And just last week in Iraq I was hearing about the work that the TUC is doing in supporting and training the General Federation of Iraqi Workers: work which is as brave as it is vital. People across the world have more freedom to meet, to speak their mind, and to earn a decent living wage because of what union activists in this country have done.

Beckett backs independent unions in Iraq

TUC Congress 2006 Question and answer session with the Foreign Secretary
Sue Rogers of the NASUWT who was a key member of the LFIQ delegation to Iraq earlier this year raised the independence of the Iraqi labour movement with Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett at the TUC
Mrs Beckett replied in a very helpful manner
She said: I share your regret and concern that at present we are not seeing as free a role in operation for trade unions in Iraq as we would like to. It is an issue that we raise with the now elected Iraqi government, it is an issue we will continue to raise, and we will continue to try and work to see that trades unions can operate as freely in Iraq as they do in the United Kingdom
LFIQ welcomes this and will pursue the issue with its supporters in Parliament and elsewhere
Gary Kent
This is the text of the Q and A with Mrs Beckett
Jimmy Kelly (Transport and General Workers’ Union): Thank you, Brendan. Yes, the question is Iraq and indeed the context for the question is the slaughter of so many thousands of innocent Iraqi people. We do not even know the full extent of that slaughter on those innocent people in Iraq. The other context for the question, of course, is the growth in the anti-war movement and indeed the role of our own trade union movement in the anti-war movement. The specific question, therefore, is: is there anything that your Government now regrets over the Government’s decision to invade Iraq and, if so, what?
Brendan Barber: Thank you, Jimmy. Sue Rogers, NASUWT?
Sue Rogers (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers): Foreign Secretary, the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq shows the immediate revival of the trade union movement as a free and independent movement. These unions in fact bring together Iraqi workers across the religious and sectarian divide and are therefore a very cohesive force for uniting and stabilising Iraq, but these unions are struggling against legal constraints. At the moment Saddam’s Decree 150, which actually forbad unions to be formed in the public sector, is still on the statute books. In addition, in August 2005 Decree 8750 was passed by the government which sequestrated trade union funds and therefore limited the effectiveness and the ability of trade unions to organise and to develop. Their life is difficult enough as my friend from the General Federation of Iraq Workers (who are here with us now) would testify.
So, I have to ask: what is the Foreign Office doing to try to get the Iraqi government to remove these decrees and to support the growth of the trade union movement in Iraq?
Margaret Beckett: First of all, Jimmy, you said was there anything at all that the Government now regrets. Of course, any military action is bound to lead to deaths on both sides and it is bound to be the case that there is regret for those deaths. It would be extraordinary if it were otherwise. So, of course, there are things that I regret. I certainly regret the fact that the tenor of debate about Iraq in this country has become of a kind that no longer recognises almost, in some cases, that there was anything wrong with the regime of Saddam Hussein. I think there is a balance here. Of course there are things that give us concern, of course there have been episodes of misbehaviour, of things being done that should never have been done, as well as, tragically, the inevitable casualties that come with conflict, but there are many things that I do not regret.
I do not regret the fact that when I talk to the Foreign Minister of Iraq about the decisions that have to be taken at the United Nations in the near future, he says: ‘Of course I have to take that to my parliament. I will not be able to agree that without the consent of my parliament.’ I do not regret the fact that we are seeing increasingly now in many parts of Iraq the growth of a peaceful and more secure, and more stable, regime within which there is more freedom for people to express themselves and also we are seeing a repair and restoration, and in many cases improvement, of infrastructure, but there is a huge amount still to do.
One of the things I very much regret is that there are so many people operating in Iraq, whether they are or are not native Iraqis, whose zeal for destruction is such that they almost want to wreck anything that can be achieved, so that we saw infrastructure repairs in the early days being destroyed by people who claimed to speak for those who such repairs were supposed to try and help.
Yes, of course, these are very difficult decisions. They are decisions about which often there is violent disagreement, but I hope in this Congress and in this movement we can all accept that decisions of that gravity and those dimensions are not taken lightly and they are not taken without people trying to consider very hard what they see on balance at that time as the right thing to do, and weighing it very carefully against their conscience.
Then Sue asked specifically about trades unions in Iraq. Yes, I accept one of the things that has been a potential sign for hope is both the re-emergence and the way people are working with the Iraqi trades unions, and I think it is an amazing tribute to the courage and tenacity of those Iraqi trade unionists that they clung to their principles and continue to try and work and organise through the days of real terror in Iraq.
I share your regret and concern that at present we are not seeing as free a role in operation for trade unions in Iraq as we would like to. It is an issue that we raise with the now elected Iraqi government, it is an issue we will continue to raise, and we will continue to try and work to see that trades unions can operate as freely in Iraq as they do in the United Kingdom

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

Statement by Brendan Barber to Iraqi Solidarity meeting

The Trades Union Congress, which represents people at work in Great Britain, expresses its solidarity with the working people of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, and especially with their free, independent and democratic trade unions. The main victims of terrorism and violence are ordinary people, wherever they are, and we have expressed our outrage at and sympathy with the victims of terrorism in Iraq, and our concern that so much terrorism is focused on people at work and their trade union representatives. We were particularly grateful that one of the earliest messages of support the TUC received when London was attacked on 7 July last year was from the Iraqi trade union movement, proving that while terrorism knows no boundaries, neither does trade union solidarity – it is a basic trade union principle that an injury to one is an injury to all. We support the struggle of trade unions in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan for peace, democracy and economic and social justice, and call on the Government of Iraq to recognise the positive role that unions can play in that struggle by repealing anti-trade union laws and establishing a labour law in full compliance with the standards of the ILO.


Mick Hartley reports A gesture of defiance by Iraqi women against the sectarians: Roba al-Asaly fingers the sliver of gold on her necklace and explains that it reminds her of a place that is not there anymore. The gold is shaped like the map of Iraq, and at a time when sectarian violence has fanned fears of civil war, it has become a gesture of defiance and of yearning for national unity.
Hat Tip Normblog

How many people make a civil war?

Omar the editor of Iraq The Model recounts a story which appears to be replicated in numerous other Iraqi regions. He concludes that what I see in this case is that the majority is not interested in being involved in this kind of conflict but, at the same time action and reaction from gangs that do not represent the majority are capable of finding a rift among the lines of what normally is a peaceful community. (David Spector)