TUC protest to Iraqi Embassy

His Excellency Mr Abdulmuhaimen Al-Oreibi
Dear Mr Al-Oreibi
Unjust punishment of Kareem Johi Sahan, Petrochemical Workers Union, Basra
The TUC strongly protests the unjust punishment of Kareem Johi Sahan, a trade union leader of the Petrochemical Workers Union of Basra by the State Company for Petrochemical Industries (SCPI) – wholly owned by the Iraqi Government. We call on your government to drop the unjust disciplinary measures against him, and compensate him for any injuries suffered.
As you may be aware, Kareem Johi led a peaceful workers’ protest in late January calling for SCPI to meet its pay obligations to workers. Since then he has been harshly interrogated, and now banned from attending his workplace for six months by the management of SCPI. This will cause him serious financial hardship. The TUC protests this serious violation of his basic human and trade union rights.
It continues a worrying trend. Last week the Iraqi Government attempted to seize control of the Iraqi Teachers Union. It is not only Iraqi workers’ like Kareem Johi Sahan, who are suffering under the continued government interference in trade union activities: it is Iraq’s international reputation and the morale and productivity of its workforce.
I look forward to hearing from you about improvements in Kareem Johi Sahan’s situation, and on progress towards implementing an Iraqi labour law preventing such violations.
Yours sincerely
Brendan Barber
General Secretary

Iraqi Government tries to seize control of teacher union

TUC calling for protests
The TUC has called for protests to be aimed at the Iraqi Embassy in London over attempts by the Iraqi Government to seize control of the Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU).
Urging trade union members to email their protest to the Iraqi Ambassador, the Chair of the TUC Iraq Solidarity Committee and Treasurer of teacher union NASUWT Sue Rogers said:
‘The Iraqi Government is acting like Saddam Hussein, treating unions as the property of the state. Iraqi trade unionists and teacher trade unions around the world are outraged at this latest attempt to seize control of our sister union.
‘The Government has demanded that the union hand over the keys to its buildings, its membership lists, and is demanding that the existing leaders stand down or face jail sentences of three to seven years despite doing nothing wrong. This is a breach of fundamental human and trade union rights. The Iraqi Government must not be allowed to act in this dictatorial way.’
Sue Rogers is leading a TUC delegation at a workshop in Erbil, Iraq for trade union leaders from all over Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Yesterday Iraqi trade unions issued a joint statement of solidarity with the ITU, who have angered some in the Iraqi administration by securing substantial pay rises for teachers after a series of strikes and demonstrations last year.
The statement, signed by the leaders of the main Iraqi trade union confederation and the two Kurdish confederations, as well as the Kurdish Teachers Union and the powerful oil unions of Southern Iraq, appears in the Notes to Editors below.
ITU President Jasim al-Lami, who has been invited to the NASUWT conference this April, was yesterday travelling back from the workshop to meet with Ministers in Baghdad. Mr al-Lami was jailed for six years in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein and says he is ready to face jail again to defend his union.
Protests by global trade unions have already been lodged with the International Labour Organisation which last year censured Iraq for its anti-union laws, some of which have been left over from Saddam Hussein. The TUC has also written to Ministers in the UK.
– Erbil Declaration of Solidarity with the Iraqi teachers’ union
We, the leaders of the trade union movement throughout Iraq – including Iraqi Kurdistan – meeting with our international colleagues in Erbil, condemn the harassment and threats directed at the Iraqi Teachers’ Union and their democratically-elected leaders.
This action is an attack on fundamental human rights and contrary to your Government’s obligation to uphold the ILO core conventions, including Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.
We call on the Iraqi Government to respect the right of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union to decide its own leadership in accordance with its own rules. We call on you to withdraw your threats to imprison Iraqi Teachers’ Union leaders and to desist from your attempts to seize the assets, membership lists and documentation of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union.
We reject your attempt to seize the union and express our solidarity with the membership and leadership of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union.
Failure to respond positively can only result in a major campaign – across Iraq and around the world – to highlight your Government’s appalling action.
We are copying this letter to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq and making it public.
Signed by
General Federation of Iraqi Workers
Kurdistan Workers Union
General Workers and Crafts Syndicate Union of Kurdistan
Kurdistan Journalists Union/Iraq
Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions
Kurdistan Teachers Union/Iraq

Different views on the future shape of Iraq

Jeff Weintraub here discusses the provincial election results and differences on the future of Iraq between its different parties. He concludes that pluralist federalism in Iraq has to be recognized as a serious alternative to both partition and re-centralization, and I think we should all agree that for outsiders to try to force either of those alternatives on the Iraqis (including, let us not forget, that 20% Kurdish minority who are currently thriving in the northern provinces) would be a great mistake.
Hat Tip: Normblog

Guardian writers debate progress in Iraq

Ranj Alaaldin and James Denselow debate progress in Iraq.
Ranj Alaaldin argues that there is still room for improvement; public services, for example, are inadequate. However, the fact that success in Iraq is no longer being defined by the number of attacks the country suffers but by the standard of its services is a natural and welcome development, one that suggests Iraq has defied all the odds and is well on its way to becoming that flourishing, pluralistic state that few expected it to be, and one where the rule of law dictates over the rule of war.

Plea to help Iraqis escape their isolation

This letter appears in the Guardian on 3rd March.
Your reports indicate that Iraq provides both cause to celebrate and cause for concern as, for example, improvements in security coexist with corruption. Likewise, the growth of an independent labour movement is constrained by continuing restrictions from the Saddam era plus new curbs – their funds were frozen by the Iraqi government in 2005. We now understand that the leaders of the very large Iraqi Teachers’ Union are being threatened with jail if they don’t hand over their assets and membership lists.
Longer term, there is great scope for increasing the Iraqi-British relationship in commercial, cultural and political areas. In three trips in recent years, we found a high regard for Britain in Iraq where English is the second language and whose university and medical training follows ours. After decades of isolation from the rest of the world, Iraqis are most keen to catch up via political training and other exchanges. We appeal to all those who organise such programmes to see how they could include Iraqis.
Dave Anderson MP Lab, Blaydon
Gary Kent director, Labour Friends of Iraq

Sense not Sects

LFIQ Vice President Harry Barnes on his blog gives us the picture of the year from Iraq and quotes his favourite Iraqi blogger who says most people he knows were not voting based on sects, but on sense and hopes that a real democracy will be achieved in the land where the first laws of the human race were set.

Overview of Iraqi elections

Ranj Alaaldin examines what is at stake in the Iraqi provincial elections.
He writes that millions of Iraqis will vote in elections that will select governing councils in 14 of Iraqs 18 provinces and play a critical role in determining the next direction the country takes. The electoral atmosphere is electric. Ordinary Iraqis find themselves part of an election frenzy that will culminate in a voting turnout that should eclipse those of previous elections.
The elections could make a catalytic change to the political makeup of the country. They will set the stage for the national elections in December and lead to the formation of new alliances. They will be a battle between religion and secularism, nationalism and federalism, status quo and change. They will also affect the fate of US troops in the country. Those troops are this time stepping back to put to the test the Iraqi security forces’ ability to independently oversee the elections.

Lords Question on women in Iraq

Lord Judd – To ask Her Majestys Government what are their plans for extending support for the role of women in civil society in Iraq.
Lord Brett: The UK supports a wide range of organisations and projects to develop the role of women in civil society in Iraq, including supporting the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and Women. As part of this, the Department for International Development’s (DfID) focus remains on the most vulnerable women through humanitarian contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Organisation for Migration (IoM), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Iraqi constitution includes provisions protecting the rights of women. The UK Government will continue to work with the Iraqi authorities to ensure these rights are protected. Officials at our embassy in Baghdad, the FCO and the right honourable Ann Clwyd MP, the PM’s special envoy for human rights in Iraq, regularly raise women’s rights with the Iraqi Government at all levels.