Support protest at Iraqi Embassy on 15th June

The picket is scheduled to start at 12.30pm outside the embassy at 9 Holland Villas Road, W14 and will last one hour during which Jeremy Dear and NUJ national officers will hand in a letter to the ambassador for the Iraqi PM.
This is part of a worldwide effort to draw the attention to the horrendous carnage of journalists in Iraq. Over 130 journalists have been killed since the invasion, most of them Iraqis. June 15th is significant for Iraqi journalists as it is their press freedom day and the (International Federation of Journalists) IFJ unions are responding to a call made by our two sister unions there, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate and the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate.

Football, Women, Iran and Solidarity

Harry Barnes regrets that Iraq is not taking part in the World Cup but asks us to look at the plight of female football fans in Iran
Some will feel that the national fervour that arises when the World Cup takes place has its downside. But in terms of building up feelings of national solidarity, it is a great pity that Iraq isn’t currently playing in Germany.
In the absence of Iraq we can direct our attention to what is happening just over the Shatt al’ Arab river in Iran.
Women are banned from attending male football matches. In June 1998 one of the reasons given by the Press Court for banning the newspaper “Jame” was “that the publication of the pictures of young men and women dancing in the streets of Tehran following Iran’s victory over America in the World Cup soccer on June 20 violated Islamic Principles” (page 177 “Iran Today” by Dilip Hiro.)
Currently there is a fascinating and fine film I saw yesterday, which deals with the plight of female football fans in Iran.
Jafar Panahi’s “Offside” deals with the unsuccessful efforts of a handful of women to attend the Iran v Bahrain World Cup qualifier. Disguised as men, they are discovered and arrested by soldiers. But they and the soldiers end up celebrating their teams victory in the packed and jubilant streets of Tehran, when on their way to prison their minibus is caught up in the crowd. A crowd which had its far share of flag waving women in jeans and t-shirts.
Needless to say, this first rate film which is full of comedy and pathos has also been banned in Iran. Full and sympathetic reviews of this film classic can be found in the current editions of the New Statesman (page 51) and The Observer
Events are brought bang up to date by two extra reports.
First, Tehran-based female blogger ET gives an account of her watching Iran lose to Mexico 3-1 on TV on Sunday. “The apartment was draped with flags. Faces were painted green and white; young women wore t-shirts; horns were blaring; the music was loud. Within minutes a tray filled with vodka was passed around the room. The stereo was blaring Arah’s “Iran…Iran…”
At half time, with the score at 1-1, she goes outside with a young man. ( “My Iran is here” the face-painted man said to me as he pointed to the apartment. “It is not there”. He pointed outside. “I love my Iran. My people are happy inside and sad outside.”)
Secondly, Iran News reports that yesterday some 5,000 women and supporting men participated in a peaceful General Women’s March to protest against the general lack of Women’s Rights; included were members of the Tehran Bus Drivers Union.
They report that vans were full of protesters who had been arrested and the homes of the organisers were raided prior to the demonstration. It was even arranged for women dressed in green nun-like hijabs to pass themselves off as demonstrators before using batons and pepper gas to attack the protesters.
Iran’s next World Cup game is against Portugal and is on TV at 2 p.m. on Saturday, 17 June. If you aren’t (like me) going to the Compass Conference in London, why not give them a shout. I will have to wait for the match against Angola at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 June.
It is not that I have anything against the supporters of Portugal and Angola. But if Women’s Rights for Iran is to engage our active support, then sympathy for the problems of their women football fans might be a good start.

Arab world does not endorse fanatics

Hussein Ibish, the executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership writes much sense in the Chicago Tribune. He opposed the invasion of Iraq and writes convincingly that the battle against this form of (jihadist) extremism must be and increasingly is being fought by mainstream Arab and Muslim societies, although received wisdom in the United States has yet to recognize this. He notes that some activists are so focused on opposing U.S. interventions that they seem unable to grasp the profound menace this so-called jihadist movement poses to Arab and Muslim societies, two thoughts at the same time apparently being prohibitive.
Acclaimed Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy declared her unconditional support for all elements of the insurgency in a 2004 speech in San Francisco, saying: “The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the front lines of the battle against Empire. And therefore that battle is our battle.” She declines to differentiate insurgent groups, or to question their methods and goals because “if we were only going to support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.”
The idea that standing against the war in Iraq means indiscriminately supporting everyone who has taken up arms to oppose it is odious nonsense. That is to suspend all moral and political judgment and accept a false binary that pits terrorism against imperialism as if there were no other choices. Opposition to an unwise and unjust policy should never translate into indulgence toward nihilistic ultra-right-wing killers.
For these reasons and more–as an Arab-American, a member of the American Muslim community and a staunch opponent of the war–I am glad Zarqawi is dead.

Assessing the strength of jihadism

Jason Burke The Observer Europe Editor and author of The Road to Kandahar examines why bin Laden is losing his war of terror. He concludes: But, even if it is impossible to say that we have won the war on terror, it is equally the case that the terrorists are not doing too well. Bin Laden’s strategy has not succeeded. The ‘awakening’ has not started – at least not yet. And that is not because of 500lb bombs dropped on militants in Baquba, useful in the short term though they might be, but because of the millions of ordinary men and women in the Islamic world who, despite what has happened to them, despite their anger and frustration, their despair and their hopes, have decided that violence is not the answer.

Ann Clwyd on the oppression of Iraqi women by Islamic extremists in Basra

Ann Clwyd is interviewed about this after her recent trip to Iraq.
Ms Clwyd, who returned after a week in Baghdad meeting women MPs, said: ” There is very great concern among women about the pressure put on them to wear the veil or the hijab. I have heard stories of women at the hairdressers being shot. I think there is pressure on women to conform. I really think it is up to the new Iraqi Government to try to get some agreement that women should be able to wear what they want.” She said: “The killing of al-Zarqawi gives added impetus to the declarations from the new Government. It adds to their credibility. There is also an agreement to release over 2,000 detainees. I think that was essential. There have been far too many people kept in detention. Most of them are young Sunni men and if they are not charged, they ought to be released. There are a lot more there. The 2,000 is a start but I believe there will be another 2,000 quite soon.”
Ms Clwyd added: “Women ministers I met, and not wearing the hijab, were all talking about the pressures to wear what they didn’t want to wear.” Ms Clwyd said women’s demands for freedom had to be enforced by the ” majority of the men and the leadership” in Iraq. Mr Blair said he believed in the next few weeks, the Iraqi government would announce measures to impose greater security in Basra to answer the appeals for help from women there.

Why the Cabinet remains incomplete

A security clampdown would, under normal circumstances, be unpopular. For many Baghdad bloggers, however, a radical solution is needed to deal with both wings of the violence in their city. Healing Iraq comments that militia in the west of the city want the residents to return to 7th Century customs and laws, whilst using 21st Century weapons as their tools of persuasion. Another blogger attempted to make a film about this phenomenon for Newsnight, but found that most people were too scared to face a camera. Iraq The Model suggests that the delay in appointing three security-related cabinet posts serves the immediate interests of the troublemakers because it postpones any large-scale security operation. (David Spector)


Iraqi Government demand answers. Denouncing what they called repeated acts of violence by American forces against innocent civilians, Iraqi leaders said today that they would demand that American officials turn over their investigative files on the Iraq deaths in Haditha as they vowed to conduct their own inquiry. Iraqi PM imposes new blitz on Basra. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared a one-month state of emergency in Basra, vowing to crush with an iron fist the death squads that have plunged the city into chaos. Residents unite against sectarian conflict Kurds, Turcomans and Christians from northern Iraq have established independent organisations that aim to reduce the influence of sectarian militias operating in the area. abduction of diplomat. The Iraqi government and people are dismayed by the abduction of UAE diplomat Naji Rashid Al Nuaimi. Gulf youths avoid social work. Young people from the Gulf avoid volunteering and social work even as civil service organisations struggle to encourage participation and promote a culture of solidarity, complained activists.