The Iraqi government scoffs at claims by international human rights organisations that security and living conditions in Iraq are deteriorating, reports Nermeen Al-Mufti from Baghdad
In a country where no less than 70 civilians are killed on any given day, and where over a million have fled their homes to live in makeshift camps, the Iraqi parliament has taken the extraordinary step of forming a committee to question what they term "exaggerated reports" by international humanitarian organisations about the situation in Iraq.
Alaa Al-Talabani, chairperson of the committee on civil society organisations, was quoted by the local press as saying that a parliamentary committee had been established to investigate the statistics and reports released by international organisations about the security and living conditions in Iraq. "A great number of those organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have no headquarters in Baghdad and issue statistics that border on the fictitious," Al-Talabani said.
The committee on civil society organisations intends to question representatives of these international organisations about the statistics they release. "Reports from the Human Rights Commission, the UNHCR and the ICRC have made serious allegations concerning the deteriorating health and social conditions of large numbers of orphans and widows. These reports and figures do not reflect reality, and some are exaggerated," Al-Talabani remarked.
In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, an ICRC spokesman in Iraq Hesham Hassan said that the ICRC had expressed dismay at Al-Talabani's remarks, as well as "the suggestion that the credibility of international organisations was questionable. We work independently and provide credible and reliable data derived from the activities of our special mission and the Iraqi Red Crescent." Hassan explained that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating due to the government focussing exclusively on political matters.
"The health problem, for example, is not related to the paucity of medicine alone, but to the poor state of the infrastructure, and also to the lack of security that doctors face when travelling to clinics or hospitals," he added. The ICRC has been working in Iraq since the Iraq-Iran war and is one of the few international organisations still operating in the country, despite the attacks on its facilities and the death of some of its workers.
The group has offices in Irbil, Al-Suleimaniya, and Dahuk in northern Iraq, as well as in Basra and Baghdad, Hassan pointed out.
"All those offices have Iraqi and foreign staff who regularly send working teams to various Iraqi cities despite the difficult security circumstances." Hassan added that the ICRC is working closely with a number of Iraqi government and independent organisations and that most reports are issued after coordination with the Iraqi Red Crescent.
The group maintains contact with the Iraqi government in order to visit prisons run by the government. "The ICRC also regularly visits the prisons run by the International Coalition Forces," Hassan stated.
An Iraqi human rights activist, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Weekly that the establishment of such a governmental committee to monitor foreign organisations meant that the Iraqi government was intent on covering up the situation in Iraq. "Had the parliamentarian in question gone into the streets and read the posters mourning the victims of the daily violence, she would have concluded that international and Iraqi organisations were inaccurate in their counts for another reason: the numbers of the victims actually exceed anything that is being reported," the activist said.
The Iraqi government has been trying to cover up the deteriorating security situation and living conditions, and to cast doubt on international reports, but anyone who spends one hour in Baghdad would see that these reports are true and the government is lying, the activist added.
Violence of a sectarian nature by the various militias is on the rise again following the meeting of the Iranian and US ambassadors in Baghdad. Several attacks were carried out against mosques, including the Fattah Mosque in the dominantly Shiite neighbourhood in south Baghdad. Yet, Iraqi officials continue to put their own interests ahead of those of their people. Instead of admitting his mistakes, recognising the failure of the government's security plans and seeking national reconciliation, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned of a coup that he said was being planned against his government.
The prime minister called on military commanders to foil all coup attempts, hinting that an unnamed Arab capital was conspiring against his government. His remarks may be related to a recent meeting in Cairo, during which Iraqi politicians expressed their willingness to form a moderate and broad-based front for the salvation of Iraq.
According to Iraqi sources, Nuri Al-Maliki visited Irbil last week and spoke with Massoud Barzani, head of the northern administration, about the possibility of a coup.
Ershad Zebari, the Iraqi minister of state in the 1980s who went on to form the Kurdistan Justice and Freedom Party, attended the Cairo meeting. He voiced opposition to the policies of Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani. Consequently, Talabani and Barzani met and issued a statement similar to that made by the prime minister.
Meanwhile, tensions mounted in Kirkuk after the controversial national security adviser, Muwaffaq Al-Robiei, was named chairman of the normalisation committee in the city. Turkoman officials expressed dismay over the appointment of Al-Robiei. "He is not a legal expert and has no experience in managing complex tasks such as those of Kirkuk," said Turhan Ketene, the political adviser of the Turkoman National Movement.
Al-Robiei has failed in several issues in the past, including the Al-Zarka case last year, during which thousands of Arab Shias died. "Al-Robiei is not impartial, nor is he fit to resolve this issue, where any miscalculation could trigger a civil war," Ketene said.
Several Iraqi politicians accused Al-Maliki's government of striking a political deal with the Kurds, by which the latter would take control of Kirkuk, and called for a final decision over the city to be postponed. Mohamed Al-Deini, a parliamentarian from the Dialogue Front, told the Weekly that, "the appointment of Al-Robiei constituted a political deal between Al-Maliki's government and the Kurds." He added that it was impossible to decide on Kirkuk's future before the deadline (set by the constitution for the end of this year), because some controversial matters concerning the constitution hadn't been resolved. Furthermore, "Kirkuk is a time bomb which could explode at any moment, further endangering Iraq and the entire region." He also warned that civil war in the area could break out should the government decide to hand Kirkuk over to the Kurds.
Meanwhile, during an interview with Iraqiya, the official Iraqi satellite station, Shia leader Moqtada Al-Sadr called for Kirkuk to become "a model of peaceful co-existence among all Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias, Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans, Muslims and non-Muslims." Kirkuk, he said was "holy land" that deserved to be defended with "all our might".
In another development in the city, a cleric lashed out at a tourist company, allegedly run by occupation forces, which claimed to be able to obtain asylum on humanitarian grounds in the US for its clients. A woman speaking on condition of anonymity said she went to the office and discovered during the interview that her two sons would be obliged to undergo military training and then be sent to Afghanistan or Iraq. So she left without registering. A university student recounted a similar story, saying that he too had refused to register.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved