The need for unity

The Times Leader argues that Iraq is not, though, at a stage where it can afford the luxury of lethargy. A government should be established by the middle of next month. It could then consider amendments to the constitution to reassure Sunnis further. If that were to take place, and it is not an impractical possibility, then the overwhelming bulk of Iraqis would be willingly bound into a democratic, federal and pluralist political order. This is a plausible prospect that many critics have long dismissed as impossible. It would not, alas, eliminate overnight tragedies such as car bombings or the desecration of a shrine. It would, however, allow the fanatics to be marginalised and, in time, to be defeated. (Gary Kent)

Solidarity Day with NGOs to Abolish Decree 8750

Solidarity Day with NGOs to Abolish Decree 8750
The “Co-ordinating Committee for the NGOs Conference” has considered the 6th of February a day of solidarity for abolishing the government Decree 8750, issued on 8 August 2005. The Committee, that includes the Iraqi Council for Peace and Solidarity and the Unions and Associations Co-ordinating Committee, held meetings yesterday at the headquarters of both the Engineers Association and the Peace Council. Banners were also raised at the buildings of all unions and vocational organisations. The “Co-ordinating Committee for the NGOs Conference” had issued an Urgent Appeal, addressed to the President, the government, the parliament and the leaders of political parties. It was distributed to the local, Arab and international media.
The following is the text of this Urgent Appeal:
NO to Government Interference in the Affairs of NGOs
The right of civil peaceful association and participation in setting up voluntary and non-profitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is one of the principles of human rights that have been internationally endorsed and stipulated by the UN Charter, as well as being endorsed by Iraq. It is one of the most important principles for building a free democratic society, where these organisations constitute a counter weight and lobbies parallel to the government and acting as a “fifth power”.
The work of these organisations is therefore a fundamental right that should not be constrained by laws and regulations of a totalitarian nature or by government decrees that deprive them of an adequate measure of independence. This independence distinguishes these organisations from those associated with the government. The relationship with NGOs should be one of a monitoring nature, with a special independent law regulating their existence and relations with the government and other bodies. They constitute a legal, independent and distinct subject of rights and duties, so that they can exercise their powers in an independent manner without any governmental or party interference. If disagreements or disputes arise, they should be resolved only through the judicial system.
Despite the existence of vocational organisations that had their own inner norms and regulations, a large number of civil initiatives were launched after the regime’s fall in Iraq, the disappearance of personality cult, and the demise of monitoring and domination previously exercised by the Bath party’s Vocational Bureau. Those civil initiatives were aimed at grouping citizens concerned with human rights, civil society affairs and charity work. The proliferation of such organisations may have been at the expense of quality, but they can develop, with time, into specialized fields of work. The CPA attempted to regulate the work of these organisations through its Order No. 45 in 2004, amended later through Order No. 61. In accordance with Order No.100, the Ministry of Planning was then authorised to regulate the work of NGOs. This authority was transferred to the Council of Minister’s Office, and finally to the Ministry of Civil Society.
Decree No. 8750, issued by the Council of Ministers on 8 August 2005, gave the Ministry of Civil Society and to a Government Committee made up of a number of ministries, extensive powers to interfere in the affairs of NGOs. It went as far as freezing the assets of NGOs and annulling the work of some of them using flimsy pretexts. Finally came the decision taken by the Minister of Justice to dissolve the council of the Lawyers Syndicate without any judicial decision or legal basis. It was simply blunt government interference in the affairs of these organisations.
We, the undersigned, representatives of vocational organisations and NGOs, expressing the free will and desire of hundreds of thousands of members of these organisations, while declaring our total rejection of this government interference that contradicts the most basic democratic and legal concepts, as well as contradicting what has been endorsed by the permanent constitution, call for speedy action to annul these unjust decrees and decisions which are reminiscent of the practices of the dictatorial regime, aimed at interfering and controlling these organisations. Such a policy is not consistent with the pledges made by the political parties and forces, and with the future of the new Iraq.
Signed by:
1- Teachers Union 2- Doctors Union 3- Lawyers Syndicate 4- Iraqi Industries Federation 5- Pharmacists Union 6- Agricultural Engineers Union 7- Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation 8- National Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Iraq 9- Union of Technical Engineering Professions 10- Iraqi Workers Federation 11- Iraqi Writers Federation 12- Brotherhood and Peace Movement 13- Veterinary Doctors Union 14- Dentists Union 15- Geologists Union 16- Iraqi Women’s League 17- General Co-operative Union 18- Independent Woman Voice Organisation 19- Central Council of Baghdad Sheikhs and Tribes 20- Iraqi Journalists Union 21- Economists Association 22- Association of Health Profession Employees 23- Iraqi Artists Union 24- Iraqi Engineers Association 25- Union of Iraqi Importers and Exporters 26- Iraqi Society for Supporting Families of Martyrs and Disappeared 27- Democratic Human Rights Organisation 28- Women Committee of Iraq’s Teachers 29- Rafidain Women Alliance 30- Arab Forum for Human Development 31- New Iraq Society for Humanitarian Aid 32- General Federation of Peasants Associations 33- League of Al-Sadr City Tribes 34- Arab-Kurdish Friendship Society 35- Union of Engineering Professions 36- Iraqi Foundation

The reality of life in Iraq

Normblog carries a superb letter from a reader in the Daily Telegraph which goes to prove the old adage that just because something appears in the Daily Telegraph does not mean it is not true.
Gary Kent
During the past few weeks, I have done some careful research into what is happening in Iraq.
I have discovered that 47 countries have re-established their embassies there. The current Iraq government employs 1.2 million Iraqis. More than 3,100 schools have been renovated and 364 are being rehabilitated, with 263 under construction. Twenty universities and 46 institutes are operating. Some 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary schools by the end of 2005.
The Iraqi police force has more than 55,000 fully trained and equipped officers and there are five police academies producing 3,500 new officers every eight weeks.
There are at least 1,190,000 mobile-phone subscribers. There is a fully independent media network of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations. Much normal life is going on, although we rarely hear about it.

Jeff Weintraub on what Iraqis think

The American socialist Jeff Weintraub offers an analysis which differs from his compatriot Michael Moore. Jeff examines polling data on what Iraqis think and concludes that these figures do offer one more reality check for those opponents of the war who have claimed to be acting on behalf of the wishes and well-being of Iraqis. (David Spector)

Contribution by LFIQ Director Gary Kent to LFIQ meeting at Commons

You don’t have to go back on opposing or supporting the war to understand that things have changed in Iraq. Against the odds, brave comrades are setting up a new trade union movement.
A healthy labour movement in Britain would make it a key task to provide maximum solidarity to its sisters and brothers in Iraq who face a serious threat to their independence from the Iraqi Government as well as from terrorism.
It’s high time that the British left and unions followed the example of unions such as Unison, the FBU and the RMT in doing all they can to build solidarity with Iraqi unions. The FBU has provided fire fighting equipment. Unison is providing training. The TUC is running a solidarity fund and hosting trips by visiting delegations.
As time goes by and the security situation allows, we should be seeing more such exchanges. We need to find ways of twinning and running human scale solidarity operations that personalise the effort.
We need to be more imaginative. I would highlight the Books to Iraq initiative too.
Yet too many on the left are sitting on their hands in the mistaken belief that supporting Iraqi labour helps Bush.
It’s reasonable for people to say that one would not have started from here but the fall of Saddam’s despised dictatorship has allowed progressive forces in Iraq a chance to rebuild the labour movement which was once one of the most powerful in the region.
The Iraqi Communist Party rightly chides the international left on this issue and says: “We have to note, with regret, that the Iraqi democratic forces have not received, in their difficult struggle, effective solidarity and support from international forces of the left. As a result, most of the latter have unfortunately been rendered observers of events, rather than exerting positive influence on the ongoing struggle over the future course of developments in Iraq, especially in supporting the struggle for a democratic prospect, at a time when the Iraqi patriotic and democratic forces are in urgent need for such concrete and multifarious support and solidarity.”
Worse still are those parts of the left which practice a form of the anti-imperialism of fools and support, sometimes explicitly, the “resistance” in Iraq.
The stakes are very high. Increased power for the labour movement in Iraq, as well as other parts of civil society increases the possibility that Iraq can succeed with its democratic experiment and expel extremism from the body politic. The rise of a non-sectarian politics can maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq.
A democracy in Iraq could begin to change the face of the region as a whole and thereby begin to unravel the base of the jihadist ideologies and movements which wish to foment conflict between the world of Islam and others.