Against all the odds

Soma reports that due to mines, wars, natural disasters, genetic and inborn factors, a large number of people have become disabled in the Kurdistan region. They can be seen daily in the markets, offices and government departments. In the Kurdistan region, scores of governmental and non-governmental organizations are engaged in dealing with the problems facing disabled persons, as well as working to protect their rights. It examines the formation of the Kurdistan Paralympics Committee.

Recovery of the southern Iraqi marshes

Normblog carries a report on how native species have returned to reflooded marshes devastated by Hussein regime. The marshes were devastated in the 1980s and 1990s by the Hussein regimes campaign to ditch, dike, drain, and burn them. Unable to pursue their traditional means of livelihood–fishing, herding water buffalo, and hunting–tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs fled to southern Iran.

Ann Clwyd in Iraq

Ann Clwyd has had a round of meetings with ministers in Baghdad and is reported to have urged the new government on Monday to complete investigations into police abuses and to free thousands of prisoners held in Iraqi and U.S. military prisons.

Appeal for solidarity

Gary Kent replies to letter in Guardian and urges increased solidarity with the Iraqi labour movement.
Tuesday May 30, 2006
Jane Hoskins simplistic strictures on Iraq (Letters, May 29) define out of the equation those Iraqis trying to build a sovereign and federal polity after decades of minority rule. Hoskins ignores the new and non-sectarian Iraqi labour movement that was pulverised by Saddam, but has won nearly a million members in just three years.
A recent Labour Friends of Iraq delegation met many union leaders from across Iraq. They are not “puppets” but real people, who asked us to encourage moral and material assistance so that they can help overcome the physical and psychological legacy of decades of fascism and war. It is perfectly possible to walk and chew gum: to oppose the invasion, as they did, but also to assist Iraqi civil society to democratise their country. This isn’t a part of the “white man’s burden”, but elementary solidarity and it’s high time we saw much more of it.
Gary Kent
Director, Labour Friends of Iraq

Interview with Salam Ali

Member of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party
Published by Nameh Mardom, central organ of the Tudeh Party of Iran, 26 May 2006, Issue No. 739
1- The new government of Iraq was announced yesterday. What is your view about the composition of the new government? Is this any near to your concept of the Government of National Unity? What position the ICP will take towards this government?
– The new Iraqi government was formed after lengthy and tortuous negotiations between the various political blocs that won in the elections in Dec. 2005. The idea of setting up a broadly based national unity government was eventually endorsed, though reluctantly by some forces, to prevent a repetition of the policy of allocating posts on sectarian-ethnic basis. That policy had contributed to aggravating the sectarian polarization in society to unprecedented dangerous levels with catastrophic consequences for the people. The “principles of the government programme”, jointly worked out by representatives of the main political groups including our Communist Party, stated that “the principle of participation and representation of Iraqi constituent components” would be employed in forming the government. But, once again, narrow political interests and hegemonistic tendencies prevailed in the distribution of leading positions in governance: President and two deputies, Prime Minister and his two deputies, the speaker of parliament and his two deputies. These positions were divided up, along sectarian-ethnic lines, among three blocs: the Iraqi United Alliance (IUA), the Kurdistan Alliance and the National Accord Front. The democratic and liberal National Iraqi List that includes the Communist Party, ranking fourth with 25 seats (9% of the vote), was excluded from these posts. Attempts were also made to exclude the Iraqi List from “sovereign ministries”, although the ministries of interior and defence will now be allocated to “independent” figures who should not be associated with any particular bloc or party, especially one that has its own militia. The Iraqi List was openly and strongly critical of these steps, indicating clearly that it may not join the government unless its grievances were addressed. After last minute negotiations, the List was offered five ministries: Justice, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Communications and a Ministry of State.
In a statement issued on 21 May 2006, the National Iraqi List said that its “participation in the government is based on its recognition of the importance of consolidating the principle of national unity and Iraq’s security, safety and stability”. It also pointed out that “our participation with a number of ministers who represent a broad spectrum of our people, will help to restore the balance inside the government, strengthen the Iraqi patriotic voice in the Council of Ministers, and curtails the policy of sectarian quota”. Furthermore, it called on the Prime Minister to honour a number of promises and commitments that had been previously agreed. These include the need to remedy the “flagrant shortcoming in the proportion of women’s participation in ministerial posts” (only 4 women ministers out of 37), and to disband the militias and integrate them within state institutions “as individuals rather than organisations”.
It is, therefore, quite clear that the newly-formed government falls short of our Party’s aim and desire for a national unity government based on the above-mentioned criteria. But its composition, which is no longer totally dominated by one single bloc (the IUA) as was the case in the previous Transitional Government of Dr. Ibrahim Jaafary, opens up the potential for greater say in the decision making process. There is a relatively better representation of the political spectrum and diversity in Iraqi society. It is a permanent government with a 4-year term according to the constitution, that is facing enormous political challenges and will have a significant impact on the way a new Iraqi state will emerge.
2- There are those who argue that the ICP should not participate in the government and should instead support it from outside. This view points out that non- involvement of the ICP would have made it certain that it would not be tainted by the actions of a government which in the main is made of forces with a questionable past- and tendency for accommodating anti democratic- anti communist policies.
– This argument, whether or not to participate in in the government, was indeed seriously considered and carefully weighed by the Party, and and also by the broad democratic and liberal electoral coalition, the National Iraqi List. Two important factors were taken into consideration: the government’s programme and the ability to influence the decision-making process. In addition, the composition of the new parliament, as well as the government, has changed, opening up possibilities for a realignment of forces on major issues facing the country, both national and democratic. Inner rules have also been agreed for the Council of Ministers that would help to curtail authoritarian tendencies in policy formulation. A “Political Commission for National Security” will be set up, providing a forum for national consensus on strategic issues among the main political forces.
Iraqi CP’s participation in the government, despite the above-mentioned reservations, will compliment its work in parliament and mass democratic struggles. Strengthening the position and influence of the democratic and secular forces, advancing their vision of a modern democratic state, and consistently combating sectarian and reactionary policies, are essential prerequisites for safeguarding against, and defeating, anti-democratic and anti-communist tendencies. One must also not overlook the urgent need for strengthening national unity and achieving national consensus to be able to seize back full national sovereignty and independence. The ongoing political battle to decide the character of the emerging Iraqi state is closely interconnected with the national task of eliminating the legacy of occupation and ending foreign military presence in our homeland. In all this multifaceted and complex struggle, our Party will be guided, first and foremost, by the interests of the Iraqi people, workers and toilers.
3- Would you please give your evaluation of the new Prime Minister? What is his programme? Do you think that this programme is capable of overcoming the current difficulties you are facing?
– The new Prime Minister is a leading figure of the Dawa party led by Dr. Jaafary. He had been its representative in Damascus before the regime’s fall, and was well-known to various opposition groups based there. He has pledged to pursue non-sectarian policies in government, fight rampant corruption, deal firmly with the issue of militias, and tackle the chronic and deteriorating security situation and basic services. As pointed out earlier, the principles of his government’s programme had been worked out jointly with other political blocs, and are generally good. But his performance, and that of the government, will be closely scrutinized by the people in the coming weeks and months to see if the words are matched with deeds. The challenges ahead are enormous, and only a government truly embodying national unity can succeed.
4- It seems that during the past few month the security situation has gone out of control. Since October referendum and December General Election terrorism has become a daily feature of events in Iraq. What is the views of the ICP for a Qualitative change in tackling the security issue?
– Our Party has always pointed out that the security issue should be tackled by adopting a multifaceted and integrated approach, including political, social and economic measures, rather than resorting to direct military force alone. The formation of a national unity government, drawing more political groups into the ongoing political process, promoting genuine national dialogue and isolating extremist and terrorist anti-people forces, are all essential prerequisites for handling this issue. The forthcoming National Accord Conference, to be convened next month, will provide an important platform and opportunity to discuss these aspects and develop further the agreement reached at the Cairo Conference last November.
5- There are many international observers who believe that presence of occupation forces is a key factor in the continuation of terrorist violence. Do you have any sympathy with this view? What is the IC Party position regarding the issue of bringing an end to the occupation and regaining full sovereignty and independence for the country?
– Certain important aspects of the current violence in Iraq, further aggravated by sectarian polarization, are a direct consequence of the occupation and the policies implemented by the occupation authority (CPA) and the US administration in Iraq. Our Party has called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces together with doubling the efforts to provide the internal political, institutional and security conditions for this withdrawal. The National Accord Conference held in Cairo last November supported such a withdrawal timetable in order to avoid chaos and additional suffering. We believe that this is a realistic agenda and can be implemented in a relatively short period. With the formation of a permamnent government, that has already endorsed the idea of “an objective timetable” for withdrawal and speeding up the transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces, this issue will feature prominently on its agenda.
6- In your CC meeting in March 2006 you called for a serious and responsible National Dialogue. What form this dialogue will take? What conditions should be created so the dialogue could take place? Who will be invited/ encouraged to this national dialogue and who not?
– The forthcoming National Accord Conference will be an important step in the direction of the desired National Dialogue. The agreement reached at the pervious Cairo Conference provided a good basis for such dialogue. But it has to broadened to include the full spectrum of social and democratic movements, including trade unions, women, youth, students organisations and other NGOs.

Realism and intervention after Iraq

Andrew Rawnsley argues that if the cause of humanitarian interventionism is lost in Iraq, it will not just be Tony Blair who has tragic cause to be sorry. He says that despite the terrible mistakes made after the removal of Saddam, the case for liberal interventionism is still compelling. In a globalised world, morality and self-interest alike demand that Western nations cannot ignore what goes on within the borders of other states when they threaten their own citizens, their neighbours or the rest of the world. Rawnsley fears that the alternative is to retreat into the school of foreign policy that likes to call itself ‘realist’. It was this doctrine of malign inactivity which sat on its hands as a million people or more were slaughtered during the genocide in Rwanda. (Gary Kent)

Murdered for wearing tennis shorts

The Times reports this atrocity in which the coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad, apparently for wearing shorts, in a district where Islamic radicals have started to enforce brutal, Taleban-style law.

The Marines and a massacre in Iraq

The Times carries a shocking piece on an alleged massacre by US Marines last November in al-Haditha, a town on the Euphrates. An American soldier died in a roadside bomb and, it is reported that marines then ran amok, killing as many as 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in cold blood. The eye witness account by a ten-year-old girl, Iman Hassan is harrowing. The awful incident is the subject of a US military inquiry with possible courts martial and murder charges. That is how it should be. American, British and other foreign troops in Iraq must uphold the highest standards of behaviour for the sake of those like Iman Hassan and her relatives.
Gary Kent

Solidarity with Iraqi and Kurdish women trade unionists

The TUC carries this report of a trade union womens visit to Britain. The aim of the visit is set out as follows: The TUC believes strongly that womens participation in public life, and in particular in trade unions, is vital to the development of a free, democratic and open society. Given the fact that Iraqi/Kurdish women today make up half of Iraq’s population and some 35% of the workforce (in some industries, they are the majority, including some parts of heavy industry as a result of the need to draft women into the labour force to replace men sent to the front or killed during Iraq’s bloody war with Iran) they are a key part of the development of Iraq’s pluralist polity and social stability. Releasing their potential and freeing them from the shackles of outdated cultural tribal customs and traditions will not only benefit Iraqi/Kurdish women but will help Iraq’s development and prosperity. For without their active participation Iraq will suffer huge social and economic deficit and probably prolonged political instability.