lundi 30 mars 2009
The Government seems to have institutionalised duplicity
Monday, 30 March 2009
I watched a report on Fallujah last week on Sky News by Lisa Holland for which she deserves our gratitude and a top television award. It featured a quietly spoken Iraqi neo-natal specialist, Dr Muntaha Hashim, who is finding that in that town, bombed and collectively punished by the allies, there has been a massive increase in the number of deformed babies. Dr Hashim sees children with two heads – one, a young girl with bountiful hair was curled up on a bed – and others limbless, or born without vital organs. The number has doubled since the days of Saddam.
Some unidentified chemical weaponry is responsible. Pro-war politicians, dodgy spooks, spin doctors and unrepentant media warriors such as Christopher Hitchens still claim triumphantly the war was a victory of good over evil. Their own offspring will not be born with two heads and, they must believe, Iraqis are paying but a small price for 'freedom'.
We will never know what was done in Fallujah in our name. We will not be told the full truth on the victimisation of civilians in Basra either, nor on the global "renditions" industry, which provides us with information obtained under torture from alleged terrorists, and certainly not on our productive links with some of the world's most diabolical regimes.
In our supposedly free and open democracy we are not even entitled to know the truth about why we went to war in Iraq – a war which made terrorism respectable and convinced millions of Muslims that the West had embarked on a new crusade.
As a good citizen, I make it my business to question MPs and peers who supported the false case made for the Iraq war. I meet with practiced insouciance or unwarranted fury, or that most base of excuses: "I believed what I was told". Contrition hardly makes an appearance. Most do not want to be dragged back to those difficult days. Even Chris Mullin, whose published diaries are delightful, was against the war but succumbed to Blair's charm offensive and voted to prevent an inquiry – a stand I find inexplicable and unforgivable.
The issue of Iraq is the cut on the body politic that seeps and will not heal, as a constant reminder of the wounded country our soldiers leave behind. In a recent BBC poll over 70 per cent of Britons want an open and credible inquiry on it. Millions more want another on the use of torture allegedly sanctioned by the Government.
The attorney general has, to her credit, decided the latter needs to be investigated through the criminal justice system, and we are now given a vague promise of some kind of investigation on Iraq, probably deep indoors, some years hence. David Miliband has said: "I am obsessed with the next five years in Iraq, not the last five". We seem to have institutionalised duplicity in the executive, judiciary, intelligence services, Parliament and the Privy Council (the 'privy' is, of course, a water closet where nasty stuff is dumped and washed out). And those in power will, after feigned concern, simply flush the burning issues away.
You cannot trust our masters not to cover their tracks and it is now impossible to trust those they choose to lead investigations into improper conduct. Remember Hutton. Remember Butler.
It is a very British response, that is so clearly illustrated by the interminable Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday. In 1972 Lord Widgery decided the army did no wrong. Another inquiry was set up 10 years ago under Lord Saville. It still has to deliver a judgement. By the time it does – after spending millions of pounds – few will care.
Meanwhile, all the key players who lied grievously and sexed-up evidence have got away with it. More sickening still, the once conjoined twins Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell are today endowed with respect. Blair struts around the world stage believing himself to be a Mandela figure, a peace prophet. Campbell gets plaudits for his panache, a novel, his wit, intelligence and cockiness.
Carne Ross, a former Foreign Office advisor on Iraq, says we were duped. Brian Jones, former head of arms intelligence at the MOD believes the "dossier" was manipulated by Downing Street. According to Lord Bingham, Britain broke international law. Nick Clegg wants a full public inquiry, so too the families of soldiers killed in action. And Iraqis want to know who is responsible for the cries of grieving mothers as they deliver malformed foetuses. They will all wait in vain, I fear. There is no atonement, only glory for the sinners. Perhaps God really is on their side.
AP Exclusive: UN suggests power-sharing for Kerkuk
Seeking to head off an explosion of ethnic violence, the United Nations will call for a power-sharing system of government for Iraq’s deeply divided region of Kerkuk in the oil-rich north.
A draft U.N. plan, outlined to The Associated Press by two Western officials, aims to defuse dangerous tensions.
samedi 28 mars 2009
Despite President Barack Obama’s statement at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina Feb. 27 that he had "chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months," a number of Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), which have been the basic U.S. Army combat unit in Iraq for six years, will remain in Iraq after that date under a new non-combat label.
A spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Lt. Col. Patrick S. Ryder, told IPS Tuesday that "several advisory and assistance brigades" would be part of a U.S. command in Iraq that will be "re-designated" as a "transition force headquarters" after August 2010.
But the "advisory and assistance brigades" to remain in Iraq after that date will in fact be the same as BCTs, except for the addition of a few dozen officers who would carry out the advice and assistance missions, according to military officials involved in the planning process.
Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades will be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams. Appearing on Meet the Press Mar. 1, Gates said the "transition force" would have "a very different kind of mission", and that the units remaining in Iraq "will be characterised differently".
"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."
Obama’s decision to go along with the military proposal for a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops thus represents a complete abandonment of his own original policy of combat troop withdrawal and an acceptance of what the military wanted all along - the continued presence of several combat brigades in Iraq well beyond mid-2010.
Other names for the new variant that were used in recent months but eventually dropped made it explicitly clear that it is simply a slightly augmented BCT. Those names, according to Burns, included "Brigade Combat Team-Security Force Assistance" and "Brigade Combat Team for Stability Operations".
The plan to deploy several augmented BCTs represents the culmination of the strategy of "relabeling" or "remissioning" of BCTs in Iraq that was developed by U.S. military leaders in the wake of the surge of candidate Barack Obama to near-certain victory in the presidential election last year.
Late last year, Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM chief, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, were unhappy with Obama’s pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades within 16 months. But military planners quickly hit on the relabeling scheme as a way of avoiding the complete withdrawal of BCTs in an Obama administration.
The New York Times revealed Dec. 4 that Pentagon planners were talking about "relabeling" of U.S. combat units as "training and support" units in a Dec. 4 story, but provided no details. Pentagon planners were projecting that as many as 70,000 U.S. troops would be maintained in Iraq "for a substantial time even beyond 2011".
That report suggested that the strategy envisioned keeping the bulk of the existing BCTs in Iraq as under a new label indicating an advisory and support mission.
Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen discussed a plan to re-designate U.S. combat troops as support troops at a meeting with Obama in Chicago on Dec. 15, according a report in the Times three days later.
Gates and Mullen reportedly speculated at the meeting on whether Iraqis would permit such "re-labeled" combat forces to remain in Iraqi cities and towns after next June, despite the fact that the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement signed in November 2008 called for all U.S. combat forces to be withdrawn from populated areas by the end of June 2010.
That report suggests that Obama was well aware that giving the Petraeus and Odierno a free hand to determine the composition of a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops meant that most combat brigades would remain in Iraq rather than being withdrawn, as he ostensibly promised the U.S. public on Feb. 27.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
Irak : L’anniversaire oublié d’un désastre humanitaire
(traduction de l'Anglais)
Lieven DE CAUTER
Le sixième anniversaire de l’invasion de l’Irak est l’occasion triste de dresser les bilans : en six ans d’occupation, un million deux cent mille citoyens ont été éliminés, deux mille médecins tués, cinq mille cinq cents académiciens et intellectuels assassinés ou jetés en prison. Il faut compter aussi quatre millions sept cent mille réfugiés, dont deux millions sept cent mille réfugiés de l’intérieur et deux millions qui ont dû gagner les pays voisins. Parmi ces derniers, il faut compter plus de vingt mille médecins.
Selon la Croix Rouge, l’Irak est aujourd’hui un pays de veuves et d’orphelins : deux millions de veuves à la suite de l’embargo, de la guerre et de l’occupation, et cinq millions d’orphelins dont un grand nombre de sans abri (estimés à cinq cent mille). Près du tiers des enfants Irakiens souffrent de malnutrition. Environ 70% des filles Irakiennes ne fréquentent pas l’école. Les services médicaux (les meilleurs de la région il n’y a pas si longtemps), se sont totalement dégradés : 75% du personnel médical ont perdu leur travail et la moitié ont quitté le pays. Après six ans de « reconstruction » des services de santé en Irak, ils ne rencontrent toujours pas les standards minimaux.
À la suite de l’utilisation par les occupants de l’uranium appauvri dans leur armement, le nombre des cancers et des fausses couches a tragiquement augmenté. Selon un récent rapport d’Oxfam, la situation des femmes est des plus inquiétantes. Cette étude indique qu’en dépit des bulletins de presse optimistes, la situation des femmes empire. Les besoins essentiels ne sont pas satisfaits. L’accès à l’eau potable est problématique pour une large portion de la population, et le courant électrique n’est disponible que de trois à six heures par jour. Et cela se passe dans un pays qui fut il n’y a pas longtemps une nation d’ingénieurs. Quatre Irakiens sur dix vivent au dessous du seuil de la pauvreté, et le chômage atteint des proportions jamais égalées (28,1% de la population active. En plus des vingt six prisons officielles, il existe plus de six cents prisons secrètes. Selon l’Union des prisonniers politiques Irakiens, plus de quatre cent mille Irakiens ont connu la détention depuis 2003, dont six mille enfants mineurs et dix mille femmes. La torture est pratiquée à grande échelle, et près 87% des détenus ne sont toujours pas inculpés. La corruption est généralisée : Selon Transparency International Irak, après la Somalie et le Myanmar, l’Irak est le pays le plus corrompu du monde. Le périodique états-unien Foreign Affairs qualifie l’Irak d’« État en déroute ». Il est significatif qu’alors même que l’Irak possède les troisièmes plus importantes réserves pétrolières du monde, il est obligé d’importer massivement son pétrole raffiné.
Les autorités s’apprêtent à accorder à des entreprises pétrolières multinationales (mais aussi européennes) des concessions pour vingt cinq ans, alors qu’elles n’ont pas le mandat, et encore moins le pouvoir de le faire. Au lieu d’obtenir des dédommagements pour les énormes destructions infligées aux infrastructures du pays, et qui ont entraîné des milliards de dollars de pertes en revenus pétroliers, l’Irak continue à être mis à sac.
Un nettoyage ethnique à grande échelle est pratiqué contre les turkmènes, les chrétiens, les Assyriens et les Shebak. Kirkuk est en voie de « kurdisation » par l’immigration massive et les colonisations illégales (d’inspiration israélienne). Et son Histoire est falsifiée.
Ces faits, relatés dans nombre de rapports, ont été soumis par un panel de spécialistes Irakiens à l’attention du Parlement européen lors d’une session d’information organisée par le Tribunal de BRussels le 18 mars dernier. Le 19 mars, réagissant au rapport que le Dr. Omar Al Kubaïssi, un cardiologue Irakien renommé et un expert mondial en santé publique, remettait au parlement belge réuni en session, un député a reconnu franchement qu’il n’avait jusqu’ici aucune idée de l’étendue du désastre humanitaire. Qui pourrait l’en blâmer ? Dans les media européens, il n’y a rien ou presque rien au sujet de ce désastre humanitaire. Les journaux parlent d’élections, d’une occasionnelle attaque à la bombe, du processus politique, des résultats positifs de « l’intervention chirurgicale », etc. Mais pour ce qui est de la souffrance du peuple Irakien… Rien ou presque rien.
Nous avons sombré dans un sommeil lénifiant : Obama planifie un retrait des troupes US. La solution du problème Irakien est donc prévue au programme. La vérité, c’est que nous voulons oublier ce désastre humanitaire, parce que l’Occident en est responsable. Les administrations Bush et Blair en premier, bien sûr. Mais les Pays Bas, le Danemark, la Hongrie, la Pologne et l’Italie étaient membres de la coalition et lui ont prêté leur concours. Et Anvers a été un port de transit vital pour l’invasion. L’Europe a donc une importante part de responsabilité.
Comment pourrions-nous dissimuler l’impact de cette guerre qui avait pourtant initialement alerté l’opinion publique mondiale en dépit des rapports odieux ? Entre-temps, à bon escient, le « Darfour » a sonné la cloche d’une sorte d’holocauste africain. Mais les crimes contre l’humanité commis en Irak à une échelle presque « génocidaire » sont balayés sous le tapis. Si la presse ne fait pas son travail, comment l’opinion publique pourrait-elle être sensibilisée ?
L’engagement militant de certains citoyens ou la bonne volonté de quelques politiciens ne suffisent pas. On pourrait qualifier de négationniste ce type de désinformation ainsi que l’indifférence qui l’accompagne. Il s’agit à tout le moins d’ignorance coupable. Nous pourrons toujours dire : Wir haben es nicht gewusst. Mais les peuples arabes ne nous oublieront pas. Que ça soit clair.
Lieven De Cauter
initiateur du Tribunal de BRussels.
20 mars 2009
(traduction de l’anglais)
vendredi 27 mars 2009
8 March 2009
A surge of state aid for women and their families, investment in basic services, urgently needed; 75 percent of widows interviewed not receiving pension.
For more information, contact:Liz Lucas,
Press Officer 617-728-2575 (office)
OXFORD, UK — Iraqi women are suffering a 'silent emergency', trapped in a downward spiral of poverty, desperation and personal insecurity despite an overall decrease in violence in the country, according to a survey of 1,700 women in Iraq released today by international aid agency Oxfam.
The survey report, "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talk about their greatest concerns and challenges," is being released on International Women's Day to highlight the daily hardships women are facing as a result of years of conflict.
The report also calls on the government of Iraq to begin a 'surge' of investment into reviving Iraq's social welfare and essential services sectors now that the security situation, although still fragile, has improved in recent months. Critical in this effort is robust support from the international community. Such investment would benefit the population as a whole, and perhaps none more than Iraq's at risk women, and in particular, women-headed-households.
"Women are the forgotten victims of Iraq. Despite the billions of dollars poured into rebuilding Iraq and recent security gains, a quarter of the women interviewed still do not have daily access to water, a third cannot send their children to school and since the war started, over half have been the victim of violence. And to add further insult more than three quarters of widows, many of whom lost their husbands to the conflict, get no government pension which they are entitled to," said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.
A large majority of women surveyed were not receiving any state support and had become so poor as a result of the conflict that many could not afford to provide their families with clean water, electricity, food, an education and medical treatment.
Oxfam and an Iraqi women's organization, Al-Amal Association, which conducted the survey last year, found that despite security gains some 60 percent of women said that their security and personal safety were was still their number one concern.
The majority of women surveyed also said that access to most services, including drinking water and electricity, was worse or the same in mid-2008 as it was in 2006 when levels of insecurity in Iraq were higher. A quarter of the women surveyed—24 percent—had no access to clean water. Nearly half of those who did have access to water—48 percent—said it wasn't suitable for drinking. Eighty-two percent said that access to electricity had worsened or had not improved since 2006.
"A whole generation of Iraqis are at risk. Mothers are being forced to make tough choices, such as whether to pay for their children to go to school and receive healthcare, or to pay for private power and water services. These are choices no mother should have to make, and they are not only threatening individual families. They are also threatening the future of Iraq itself," added Hobbs.
The survey also found that:
Income was worse for 45 percent of women in 2008 compared with 2007 and 2006, while roughly 30 percent said it had not changed in that same time period;
33 percent of women had received no humanitarian assistance since 2003;
76 percent of widows were not receiving a pension from the government;
Nearly 25 percent of women had no daily access to drinking water and half of those who did have daily access to water said it was not potable;
69 percent said access to water was worse or the same as it was in 2006 and 2007;
One-third of respondents had electricity three hours or less per day; two-thirds had six hours or less; 80 percent said access to electricity was more difficult or the same compared to 2007;
82 percent as compared to 2006 and 84 percent as compared to 2003;
Nearly half of women said access to quality healthcare was more difficult in 2008 compared with 2006 and 2007;
40 percent of women with children reported that their sons and daughters were not attending school.
jeudi 26 mars 2009
Mohammed Al-Daini is currently missing (since 20 days).
Dr Vandana Shiva to IRAQI Farmers & Women
Dedicated to Iraqi Farmers and Women
Dr. Vandana Shiva to Iraqis
The Institute of Near Eastern and African Studies (INEAS)
Interview by Wafa’ Al-Natheema
New Delhi, India
Let April 26 of every year be the day to celebrate free seeds,
COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY
ORDER NUMBER 81
Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed information,
Integrated circuits and Plant Variety
Law CPL/ORD/20 AP 04/81/
Coalition Provisional Authority (Iraq) 26 April04
This video was put together to provide general information and to invite organizations, activists and agriculture experts to join us in endorsing April 26 as International Seeds Day and to educate about biodiversity, organic foods, Genetically Modified (GM)-Free Seeds and Order 81.
Let the Numbers Speak
Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Associate Professor, Baghdad, Iraq, member of the BRussells Tribunal Advisory Committee (26 March 2009)
I pride myself in being a scientist and a researcher. I built my academic career on theories and numbers. As a teacher, I teach my students that everything is based in science - everything has reason. For this reason, I am always frustrated with myself when I find I am overwhelmed with feelings on specific topics.
One such topic is the occupation of my country, Iraq. On this subject I find that I cannot always be dispassionate. I cannot be the researcher and observer and discuss it without feeling or emotion as I am sometimes expected to do. I find myself doing research on the damages caused by the war and occupation, and my head buzzes with anger, my eyes burn with tears of desperation at the state of my country.
Six years after the attack and the pain is as fresh and cutting as it was in March 2003. This year, I decided, I would view it as a scientist. I would not attack the subject with emotion. I would let the numbers speak for themselves. This year I will sit back and play the part of the analyst- the researcher- on this topic that is closest to my heart.
Six years into the occupation…
- 72 months of destruction
- $607 Billions spent on the war
- 2 Million Barrels of oil being sold per day
- 2 Million Displaced Iraqis inside of Iraq
- 3 Million Iraqis forced to leave the country
- 2615 professors, scientists, and doctors killed in cold blood
- 338 dead journalists
- $13 Billion misplaced by the current Iraqi government
- $400 Billion required to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure
- 3 hours average of electricity daily
- 24 car bombs per month
- 7 major mafias running the country
- 4260 Americans dead
- 10,000 cases of cholera per year
- 50 of my friends dead
- 22 of my relatives dead
- 15 abductions of close relatives and people I know and love
- At least 1.3 million Iraqis dead since 2003.
Six years into the occupation and somehow, the numbers are not looking better. Year after dismal year, the numbers of dead and displaced grow as we continue to reap the rewards of an American occupation on our country.
So the numbers speak for themselves. Six. Six months is what it took for most Iraqis to realize no good could come of this war and occupation. Six years is what it has taken the rest of the world. Six years, six million Iraqis displaced inside and outside of Iraq- well over a million Iraqis dead or dying inside of the country.
As a scientist, as a researcher- it is a disaster that will never be sufficiently documented with numbers or words. As a researcher, the numbers are so astounding that we go back and recalculate to make sure they are real. As an Iraqi, it is enraging. The numbers and statistics fill me with a rage and shame that make my heart throb and my blood boil. It’s a rage towards all who are silent and uncaring, and a shame at the little we all are doing.
Souad N. Al-Azzawi
Dr. Souad Naji Al-Azzawi is a former Vice-President of Mamoun University of Scientific Affaires; former professor of environmental engineering at Baghdad Univ., recipient of the 2003 Nuclear-Free Future Award for her work on environmental contamination after the Gulf War in Iraq. She published 50 Papers in hazardous Waste management and Radiological Pollution from the use of Depleted Uranium Weapons in Iraq.
Dr. Souad Al-Azzawi's essential studies and articles, published by the BRussells Tribunal:
* Depleted Uranium Radioactive Contamination In Iraq [PDF]- Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi - Aug 2006
* Deterioration of Iraqi Women's Rights and Living Conditions Under Occupation [PDF] - Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi - 19 Dec 2007
* Crimes of the Century: Occupation & Contaminating Iraq with Depleted Uranium [PDF] - Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi -15 June 2008
mercredi 25 mars 2009
Ottoman Archives Show Land Deed Forged
Turkey's Fallout with Israel Deals Blow to Settlers
By JONATHAN COOK
A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighbourhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.
After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.
On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.
The families’ unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.Interest in the plight of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents peaked in November when one couple, Fawziya and Mohammed Khurd, were evicted from their home by an Israeli judge. Mr Khurd, who was chronically ill, died days later.
Meanwhile, Mrs Khurd, 63, has staged a protest by living in a tent on waste ground close to her former home. Israeli police have torn down the tent six times and she is facing a series of fines from the Jerusalem municipality.The problems facing Mrs Khurd and the other residents derive from legal claims by the Sephardi Jewry Association that it purchased Sheikh Jarrah’s land in the 19th century. Settler groups hope to evict all the residents, demolish their homes and build 200 apartments in their place.
The location is considered strategic by settler organisations because it is close to the Old City and its Palestinian holy places.Unusually, foreign diplomats, including from the United States, have protested, saying eviction of the Palestinian families would undermine the basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The help of the Turkish government has been crucial, however, because Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire when the land transactions supposedly took place.Israel and Turkey have been close military and political allies for decades and traditionally Ankara has avoided straining ties by becoming involved in land disputes in the occupied territories. But there appears to have been an about-turn in Turkish government policy since a diplomatic falling-out between the two countries over Israel’s recent Gaza operation.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, accused his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, of “lying” and “back-stabbing”, reportedly furious that Israel launched its military operation without warning him. At the time of the attack, Turkey was mediating peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.
Days after the fighting ended in Gaza, Mr Erdogan stormed out of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, having accused Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, of “knowing very well how to kill”.
According to lawyers acting for the Sheikh Jarrah families, the crisis in relations has translated into a greater openness from Ankara in helping them in their legal battle.“We have noticed a dramatic change in the atmosphere now when we approach Turkish officials,” said Hatem Abu Ahmad, one of Mrs Khurd’s lawyers. “Before they did not dare upset Israel and put us off with excuses about why they could not help.”He said the families’ lawyers were finally invited to the archives in Ankara in January, after they submitted requests over several months to the Turkish consulate in Jerusalem and the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Officials in Turkey traced the documents the lawyers requested and provided affidavits that the settlers’ land claims were forged. The search of the Ottoman archives, Mr Abu Ahmad said, had failed to locate any title deeds belonging to a Jewish group for the land in Sheikh Jarrah.“Turkish officials have also told us that in future they will assist us whenever we need help and that they are ready to trace similar documents relating to other cases,” Mr Abu Ahmad said. “They even asked us if there were other documents we were looking for.”That could prove significant as the Jerusalem municipality threatens a new campaign of house demolitions against Palestinians.
Last week, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the recent issuing of dozens of demolition orders in Jerusalem “ethnic cleansing”.
Palestinian legal groups regularly argue that settlers forge documents in a bid to grab land from private Palestinian owners but have great difficulty proving their case.
Late last year the Associated Press news agency exposed a scam by settlers regarding land on which they have built the Migron outpost, near Ramallah, home to more than 40 Jewish families. The settlers’ documents were supposedly signed by the Palestinian owner, Abdel Latif Sumarin, in California in 2004, even though he died in 1961.
The families in Sheikh Jarrah ended up living in their current homes after they were forced to flee from territory that became Israel during the 1948 war. Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem until Israel’s occupation in 1967, and the United Nations gave the refugees plots on which to build homes.
Mrs Khurd said she would stay in her tent until she received justice.“My family is originally from Talbiyeh,” she said, referring to what has become today one of the wealthiest districts of West Jerusalem. “I am not allowed to go back to the property that is rightfully mine, but these settlers are given my home, which never belonged to them.”
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.
"In fact, I did not use that term (Kurdistan) but as I said this is a reality. The country who attaches the biggest importance to Iraq's unity and integrity is Turkey. There is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq according to the Iraqi constitution. This is what I had said. I held a meeting with (the regional administration's) prime minister," Gul told reporters at a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday, the state-run Anatolian Agency reported. Gul returned to Ankara late on Tuesday after his two-day visit to Baghdad.
Turkish newspapers reported on Tuesday that Gul became the first Turkish official to define the northern Iraqi administration as "Kurdistan" when he said the “Kurdistan regional administration" in Iraq is the main actor in efforts to end the terror activities against Turkish territory.
Turkey does not recognize the semi-autonomous administration in northern Iraq with its official name due to concerns that this will eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state involving Turkish territory.
GUL'S REPORTED REMARKS
During his trip to northern Iraq on Monday, Gul referred to the administration as the “Kurdistan regional government,” then defended his use of the word “Kurdistan” by saying that it is the region’s official name according to the Iraqi constitution, the reports suggested.
"What should I say? We do not refuse to say Macedonia because Greece rejects to do so. This is written in the (Iraqi) constitution. This is a fact that those in northern Iraq should calculate the possible outcome of losing Turkey," Gul told reporters while traveling to Baghdad on Monday, Radikal daily reported Tuesday.
Gul began a landmark visit to neighboring Iraq on Monday, becoming the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, at a time of changing relations between Turkey and northern Iraq amid calls for increased efforts to eradicate the presence of the terror organization PKK.
Kurdish groups based in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Europe are expected to call on the PKK to disarm during a conference to be held in late April or May in the northern Iraq city of Arbil.
The conference will be organized by the regional administration in northern Iraq.
In remarks made last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the conference would aim to end the armed struggle. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) will be invited to participate.
The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States, remains the biggest obstacle to closer ties between the two neighboring countries.
Turkey is pressing Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in the north of the country to keep the PKK from launching cross-border attacks on Turkish territory from their bases in Iraq
Un invité quotidien de la rédaction qui réagit sur les grands sujets de l’actualité régionale et internationale.
Mme Nermine AL-MUFTI, porte parole du Front turkmène en Irak, commente la visite du président turc Abdullah GÜL en Irak et les relations entre les communautés turkmène et les kurde d’Irak.Imad
écouter 5 min 14
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mardi 24 mars 2009
President Abdullah Gül began a landmark visit to neighboring Iraq yesterday, at a time of changing relations between Turkey and northern Iraq amid calls for increased efforts to eradicate the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK."Just as we attach importance to and back Iraq’s territorial integrity, northern Iraqi officials should support us against the PKK terror in the Turkish territory," Gül was quoted as saying by Turkish television stations.
His remarks came in response to questions posed by journalists accompanying him on the flight to Baghdad. "This terror should come to a halt. Everyone should make their own calculation and take a step accordingly," Gül added. "We see the Kurds in the north as relatives and brothers, but the camps of the terrorist organization are in the north [too]." The Turkish president emphasized that Iraqi Kurds clearly understood what winning or losing his country’s support would mean and that it was the PKK terror that upsets ties with Ankara.
"We are ready for a strategic cooperation with Turkey," his counterpart, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, was quoted as saying. Gül, who was greeted at Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and other officials, became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years. The last Turkish president to do so was Fahri Korutürk in April 1976.
Gül received a warm welcome upon arrival in Baghdad and was given red-carpet treatment by Talabani. The two presidents held bilateral talks, but their joint press conference had not yet started when the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press yesterday. Gül did say that Turkey and Iraq have agreed on the transfer of energy sources via Turkish territory.
The Turkish president was scheduled to visit Iraq earlier but had to postpone the trip due to an ear problem. For security reasons, the timing of Gül’s departure from Ankara yesterday was written incorrectly on an official agenda showing the president’s plans to attend various events.
Shortly before his arrival in Iraq, a bomb exploded on the western outskirts of Baghdad, killing at least five and wounding a dozen others.The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States, remains the biggest obstacle to closer ties between the two neighboring countries.
Turkey is pressing Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in the north of the country to keep the PKK from launching cross-border attacks on Turkish territory from their bases in Iraq. "I expect important results from this visit," Gül was quoted as saying on the plane.
He was also scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.While in Istanbul last week to attend the 5th World Water Forum, Talabani suggested that a general amnesty for members of the PKK could be a way to end the violence caused by the terror organization, adding that the PKK is expected to heed a forthcoming appeal to law down its arms. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan welcomed the Iraqi president’s goodwill and said Turkey would look positively on efforts to find a solution to the terror problem.
Kurdish groups based in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Europe are expected to call on the PKK to disarm during a conference to be held in late April or May in the northern Iraq city of Arbil. In remarks made last week, Talabani said the conference would aim to end the armed struggle. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, will be invited to participate.Boosting tiesTurkey stepped up its cross-border operations into Iraq in 2008, accusing its neighbor of failing to stop PKK members from using bases in the region, which hindered Ankara’s desire for closer ties and economic cooperation with Baghdad.
However, the two countries have more recently pledged to work together to build security and economic ties. Hopes of better cooperation improved after Iraq, Turkey and the United States agreed in November to form a joint committee to work on the problem.Last July, Erdoğan visited Baghdad for talks with Maliki about greater cooperation over trade, energy and water, and agreed to set up a council to foster better relations.
During his December visit to Ankara, Maliki promised that there would be increased Iraqi government cooperation against the PKK.
dimanche 22 mars 2009
Round table discussion animated by Hana Al-Bayaty
of the BRussells Tribunal
On 20th March 2009
3rd day of the event “What Future for Iraq”
at the Beursschouwburg in Brussels
The main topics which were discussed were:
OIL: History of Iraq’s oil exploitation, illegality of long term oil-contacts signed under occupation, the oil of Iraq belongs to all the citizens of Iraq
KERKUK: denouncing the false claims of the Kurdish warlords that Kerkuk is a Kurdish city and why their claims over the so-called “disputed territories” in the north of Iraq are unjustified. The Kurdish attempts since April 2003, to change the demography of Kerkuk, the Turkmens' capital city and main cultural centre in Iraq.
DIVIDE AND RULE policy of the occupying forces to weaken Iraq.
The US-UK classified the Iraqi people as ‘Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds” . This classification is false and it is totally rejected by the Iraqi people.
The necessity to have a sovereign and united Iraq at peace with its neighbouring countries for the stability and peace in the Middle-East and the World.
The role of the EU, at humanitarian and human rights levels should be encouraged.
Before the First Gulf War and the economic sanctions (embargo), Iraq has always had strong economic relations with the EU and these relations should be strenghtened in the future.
Prof. Dr. Lieven de Cauter, President of the BRussells Tribunal denounced the mainstream media’s silence over the commemoration of the illegal war and occupation of Iraq.
samedi 21 mars 2009
A Forgotten Humanitarian Disaster
By Lieven De Cauter
March 20, 2009 "BRussells Tribunal " --- The sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is a sad occasion for the balance sheet: during six years of occupation 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 2.7 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 medical doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000). Almost a third of Iraq’s children suffer from malnutrition. Some 70 per cent of Iraqi girls no longer go to school. Medical services, not so long ago the best in the region, have totally collapsed: 75 per cent of medical staff have left their jobs, half of them have fled the country, and after six years of “reconstruction” health services in Iraq still do not meet minimum standards.
Because of the use of depleted uranium in ammunition by the occupation, the number of cancer cases and miscarriages has drastically increased. According to a recent Oxfam report, the situation of women is most worrisome. The study states that in spite of optimistic bulletins in the press, the situation of women keeps deteriorating. The most elementary supplies are still not available. Access to drinkable water is for large parts of the population a problem and electricity is functioning only three to six hours a day, and this in a state that was once a nation of engineers. More than four in 10 Iraqis live under the poverty threshold and unemployment is immense (28.1 per cent of the active population). Besides 26 official prisons, there a some 600 secret prisons. According to the Iraqi Union of Political Prisoners, over 400,000 Iraqis have suffered detention since 2003, among which 6,500 minors and 10,000 women. Torture is practiced on a large scale, and some 87 per cent of detainees remain uncharged. Corruption is immense: according to Transparency International, Iraq, after Somalia and Myanmar, is the most corrupt country in the world. The American Foreign Affairs journal calls Iraq “a failed state”. This is symbolised by the fact that Iraq, a state that has the third largest oil reserves in the world, must import refined oil on a massive scale. Authorities are on the verge of giving oil concessions for 25 years to international (also European) oil companies, though they have no mandate or legal authority to do so. Instead of being paid reparations for the enormous destruction wrought on the infrastructure of the country, entailing billions in oil revenues lost, Iraq is again in line to be robbed. There is large scale ethnic cleansing going on against the Turkmen, the Christians, the Assyrians and the Shebak. Kirkuk is being “Kurdicised” by massive immigration and illegal settlements (of Israeli inspiration) and its history falsified.
This data, referenced in numerous reports, was presented during an information session in the European Parliament organised by the BRussells Tribunal on 18 March by a panel of Iraqi specialists. On 19 March, there was a session in the Belgian Parliament where a national representative after the statement of Dr Omar Al-Kubaissi, a renowned Iraqi cardiologist and expert on health, frankly admitted that he had no idea of the scale of the humanitarian disaster. Who can blame him? In the European press we hear little or nothing concerning this humanitarian disaster. In the newspapers there is talk of elections, of an occasional bomb attack, of the political process, of the positive results of the “surge”, etc, but concerning the suffering the Iraqi people … next to nothing. We have fallen asleep and we console ourselves: Obama plans the retreat American troops; therefore the issue of Iraq is off the agenda. The truth is that we want to forget this humanitarian disaster, because the West is responsible. Of course, in the first and last instance the administrations of Bush and Blair, but also the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and Italy were part of the coalition and hence accessory while Antwerp was a vital transit port for the invasion. Therefore also Europe bears a heavy responsibility. How is it possible that we can dissimulate the impact of the war, which initially stirred world public opinion, in spite of the flow of shocking reports? “Darfur” sounds a bell meanwhile (and correctly so) as a sort of African holocaust, but the crimes against the humanity of a near “genocidal” scale in Iraq are swept under the carpet. If the press does not do its job, how can public opinion be touched? Even activists and well meaning politicians are not on the level. This type of disinformation, and the indifference that comes with it, one could call a form of negationism, or at least a type of immoral ignorance. Wir haben es nicht gewusst, we will say. But the people of the Arab region will not forgive us. Let this be clear.
Lieven De Cauter
philosopher, initiator of the BRussells Tribunal
20 March 2009
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20 March 2009
Occupation Year 7
What future for Iraq?
The BRussells Tribunal in the
European Parliament and Belgian Parliament
On March 18 and March 19, 2009, six years after the illegal US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, The BRussells Tribunal and its partners entered the European Parliament and the Belgian Parliament to bring the forgotten catastrophe in Iraq back to the fore.
The BRussells Tribunal, composed of intellectuals, artists and activists who denounce the logic of permanent war promoted by US governments and their allies, holds firm that all that derives from the US invasion and occupation of Iraq remains illegal and illegitimate and cannot gain legitimacy.
Panels composed of prominent Iraqi experts exposed the reality about Iraq under occupation as opposed to agenda driven propaganda.
In the European Parliament, Vice-President Luisa Morgantini hosted a BRussells Tribunal information session. In the Belgian Parliament, parliamentary Vice-President Dirk Van Der Maelen hosted an informal discussion session attended by other parliamentary members.
Panel speakers were: Abdul Ilah Albayaty, geopolitical analyst and expert on Arab national movements; Dr Omar Al-Kubaisy, Iraq’s most renowned cardiologist and expert on the breakdown on public health in Iraq under occupation; Dr Falah Al-Khayat, former director general of the Iraqi Oil Ministry prior to the US invasion and an expert on the issue of the Iraqi oil industry; Dr Hassan Aydinli, EU Turkmen representative and expert on the fate of minorities under the sectarian governments promoted by the US occupation; and Shannon Meehan, International Rescue Committee director of advocacy and expert in refugee protection. Hana Al Bayaty, coordinator of the Iraqi International Initiative on Refugees and member of The BRussells Tribunal, moderated the sessions.
The main points asserted and concluded were:
• By its geopolitical position and its rich resources, the stability of Iraq is not only in the interest of its people, but also of its neighbours and the world.
On the eve of Occupation Year 7, The BRussells Tribunal felt it imperative to assert these truths in official forums. Rejection of the US occupation and all that derived from it must become an official position.
The occupation of Iraq is intolerable. As the occupation enters its seventh year, the time is now to set a different agenda.
The BRussells Tribunal
For the programme of events:
For press interviews contact:
Hana Al Bayaty, email@example.com, +32 (0)488871408
Event speakers can give interviews in Arabic and English. Abdul Ilah Albayaty and Hassan Aydinli also speak French.
vendredi 20 mars 2009
“Ties between the European Union and Iraq grow stronger by the day” – Baroness Nicholson MEP
19th March 2009: Speaking yesterday at the conference, “What Future for Iraq?”, Baroness Nicholson MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Iraq, reported on the growing relationship between the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the European Parliament.
Addressing the Conference, which was hosted by Luisa Morgantini Vice President of the European Parliament, Baroness Nicholson said:
“Ties between the European Union and Iraq grow stronger by the day. Iraq is a close neighbour to the European Union and we share a common cultural and scientific heritage. With the possible entrance of Turkey into the Union, Iraq even is a potential direct neighbour of the Union.
“Since 2003 a determined cluster of individual MEPs has been visiting Iraq regularly and delegations from Iraq have been received in the European Parliament. In February 2008 we formed the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq and a only weeks later the Iraqi Parliament formed a sister delegation chaired by Sheikh al Atiyyah.
“The delegations have had an active and valuable exchange of views ever since, including meetings with the Iraqi Government, the diplomatic community, the World Bank Representative for Iraq, the UN Special Representative to Iraq and EU and Iraqi Parliamentary Committees.
“Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ministers and parliamentarians of European Member States are visiting Iraq on a regular bases and with them trade and industry is returning to the country. Iraq is a blossoming democracy and the European Union must continue to develop this vital relationship.” ENDS
18th March 2009: Today, Baroness Nicholson, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Iraq, hosted a delegation of Committee Chairmen from the Iraqi Council of Representatives.
The seven Chairmen strong delegation is on a fact-finding mission to the European Parliament and the UK Houses of Parliament to discuss and study the work and practices of their Parliament with fellow Parliamentarians in Brussels and London.
Baroness Nicholson welcomed the delegation to the European Parliament saying that “the growing cooperation and flow of information between the two Parliaments is creating a bridge of understanding and friendship between Europe and Iraq”.
The delegation represented by Ala Thasin Habib thanked Baroness Nicholson for her work in Iraq and the developing relations between Iraq and the European Parliament that Iraq highly values and wishes to pursue strongly.ENDS
Notes:- Members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives Delegation:
- Saleh Abdullah Hafthulla - Chairman of Labour and Services Committee
- Abdulkhaliq Mohammed Rashid Zangana - Chairman of the Refugee, Displaced and Immigrants Committee
- Hashim Yahia Ahmed Al Ta’ee - Chairman of the Regions and Governates Committee
- Ismail Shakur Rasul - Chairman of the Complaints Committee
- Ala Thasin Habib - Chairman of the Civil Society Committee
- Raof Osman Marof - Deputy Chairman of Culture, Media, Tourism and Archaeology Committee
- Harith Mohey Aldeen Abd Al-Obaidy - Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Committee
jeudi 19 mars 2009
Abdul Ilah Al-Bayaty, Political Analyst
for arranging a round table discussion at the Belgian Federal Parliament today
Hosted by Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament
Occupation year 7
The BRussells Tribunal are intellectuals, artists and activists who denounce the logic of permanent war promoted by the American government and its allies, affecting for the time being particularly one region in the world: the Middle East.
mercredi 18 mars 2009
asbl PAIX: QUEL FUTUR POUR L'IRAQ?
In samenwerking met Vrede vzw, Intal en Brussels Tribunal
T: 02 550 03 50F: 02 550 03 40
VREDE VZW: WELKE TOEKOMST VOOR IRAK?
In samenwerking met Vrede vzw, Intal en Brussels Tribunal
Abdul Ilah Albayaty (Irakees politiek analist, lid Brussels Tribunal en geopolitiek specialist)
T: 02 550 03 50F: 02 550 03 40
lundi 16 mars 2009
dimanche 15 mars 2009
Iraq Solidarity Campaign
Food for Aid - 20/3/2009 @ Didsbury Mosque, Manchester
The over all effects of War Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has not yet been made visible for the world to see, but the scars are beginning to show themselves across areas of conflict, with PTSD expressing itself through acts of behaviour such as domestic violence, drug and substance abuse, self-harming and suicide.
It is also showing itself through severe learning disabilities among children, anxiety and sleeplessness, nightmares and eating disorders. The Iraq Solidarity Campaign UK believe that it is time for the world to wake up and begin taking a pro-active approach to combating PTSD and to show our solidarity with both trauma workers and their patients.
Inside of Iraq alone, there has been over one million people killed since the invasion in 2003, there are also an estimated five million traumatised child orphans, along with an estimated 2.5 million refugee children, with the overwhelming majority of Iraqi children suffering from trauma related learning impediments.
According to the United Nations, there are over 50,000 Palestinians within the Gaza Strip, who are in urgent need of psychological assistance, with international news outlets reporting that children are even afraid of going to school.
British author and ex-SAS Soldier Andy McNab has even warned that Britain is going to face a “social crisis” because of the trauma experienced by soldiers, as a result of being kept in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. McNab has also warned that the ongoing “neglect by the Government” is putting soldiers at an “unprecedented risk” of mental health problems including the risk of suicide.
Food for Aid is an afternoon of awareness and socialising, which will provide the people of Manchester with the opportunity to express their support for the Iraqi Red Crescent, the Gaza Mental Health Hospital and Combat Stress - with all three organisations being in the front line, in dealing with the psychological wounds of war.
Money raised on the day, will assist each organisation to continue their work with proceeds raised, helping to deliver essential services to trauma victims, such as first aid and trauma training, counselling, bereavement support, disability aids and adaptations, along with the provision of services such as respite care.
Food For Aid will take place on Friday 20th March 2009, at the Didsbury Mosque in South Manchester and is located on the Barlow Moor Road and Burton Road junction. It will begin at 12:30 pm, where there will also be a chance to speak with campaigners and obtain more information about the issue.
To get involved or to help us organise future events, please contact the Iraq Solidarity Campaign on Iraq_campaign@yahoo.co.uk or by phone on 0788 084 0562. You can also read more about our campaign on PTSD on our website: http://www.iraqsolidaritycampaign.blogspot.com/
also check out:
Combat Stress - Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society.
The Iraqi Red Crescent
From the magazine issue dated Mar 23, 2009
Until the old man is out of the way, everyone else who hungers for power in Iraqi Kurdistan is on hold. It could be a long wait. Despite his chronic bad knee and a Mayo Clinic heart operation last August, 75-year-old Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, is a survivor. At present, he and his longtime rival, Massoud Barzani (together with their families and their respective political machines), still control the largest part of what's worth controlling in the three northern Iraqi provinces that make up the autonomous region. Government ranks are filled with their relatives.
Barzani himself is president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, while his nephew Nechirvan is its prime minister and his son Masrour is in charge of intelligence. Talabani's son Qubad is the Kurds' man in Washington, while a nephew heads counterintelligence. Backers once touted Kurdistan as the model for a democratic Iraq—perhaps even for a total makeover of the Middle East. But if anything, the place seems more and more like a stagnant, feudal principality.
Kurdistan used to be the Americans' favorite part of Iraq.
Temperate and stable, pro-Western, mostly secular and gleefully capitalist, it was a haven from the chaos and bloodshed that engulfed the rest of the country. It was never perfect—then as now, corruption was endemic, human rights were patchy and civic life was dominated by the same two parties: Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Still, most Kurds could live with the flaws as long as the regional government defended their hard-won autonomy and kept away the suicide bombers.
But as the rest of Iraq keeps growing more open and democratic, the enclave remains stuck in its old ways—and ordinary Kurds are noticing. Businessmen grumble at having to form partnerships with government cronies; voters are demanding more choice. One recent survey in the region found that 83 percent of respondents say the place needs to change. "We're fed up with a government that forgets about people," says Mousa Rasoul, 39, owner of a small business in the town of Sangasar. Those complaints are not to be ignored, a senior Kurdish official agrees. "If we don't respond, others will come and take over this place," he tells NEWSWEEK, asking not to be named on such a risky topic. "Whether it is the Islamists or someone else. We cannot count anymore on revolutionary rhetoric to justify our rule."
Such warnings may be wasted on Kurdistan's two great clans. Talabani created the PUK in 1975 as a leftist challenger to the "feudalist, tribalist, bourgeois, rightist and capitulationist" KDP of the Barzani family. Thousands on both sides are said to have died before the two parties signed a formal ceasefire in 1998 and carved up the region. They gave up their ideological differences long ago, and neither hides its desire for a piece of any action in sight—starting with the region's share of the national budget, which totaled about $6 billion last year. Kurdish officials say each of the two parties takes as much as $35 million per month off the top, although party leaders deny any knowledge of such sums.
Even the Kurdish budget is undisclosed. "We need a transparent [regional] budget," complains the senior Kurdish official. The vast majority of Kurds agree. In a February poll by the Erbil-based Kurdistan Institute for Political Issues, 94 percent of respondents said the regional government ought to make its budget public and specify where and how the money is spent.
Much has been made of Kurdistan's booming economy, but the region is littered with unfinished construction projects. Most foreign investors, daunted by red tape and confusion, are skittish. A former member of the PUK politburo says no oil company operates in Kurdistan without paying commissions to party or regional-government officials. NEWSWEEK was at a recent meeting where one local entrepreneur complained to top Kurdish officials that businessmen have to pay millions to party bureaucrats to win contracts. The officials commiserated.
But neither party tolerates criticism especially well. Local journalists tell of beatings, death threats, even charges of treason. Dissidents are subject to far rougher treatment. "There have been widespread and credible allegations of torture and people being detained for years without a hint of due process," says Joseph Logan of Human Rights Watch. The U.S. State Department's latest Human Rights Report describes abusive practices in the regional government's jails, including electric shocks, beatings and "suspensions in stress positions."
Masrour Barzani says he's doing his best as intelligence and security chief to correct any problems in his jails. The idea, he says, is to build "a more world-standard institution that would be strong enough both to withstand challenges and at the same time be very modern and civilized in terms of protection of citizens and in terms of conduct of duty." Logan credits Masrour Barzani with giving good access to Human Rights Watch investigators, but he adds: "There's well-documented harassment of journalists who have expressed views critical of the political leadership. If the response to pointed criticism is to go after the critics … then you can say that experiment [with openness] has not come to fruition."
Kurds hate seeing their political system falling behind that of other Iraqis. Across Iraq a January vote for provincial councils was an impressive show of wide-open democracy, in which several incumbents were tossed out of office. By contrast, the Kurds have yet to hold their own provincial elections, and the PUK and KDP have signaled their intent to field a joint "closed" list. Instead of offering a real choice, ballots will present a slate of candidates drawn from both dominant parties.
Officials from those parties insist their leaders are receptive to opposing views. "Jalal Talabani has been more willing than many others to listen and change," says a senior PUK official. The party has promised it will work toward more transparency and less control. A KDP Central Committee member says his party is also working toward opening up: "Massoud Barzani wants to be seen more as the president of Kurdistan than as carrying on the party agenda," he says. Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and a longtime supporter of Kurdistan, argues that conditions are improving there. "I think there has been a lot of progress," he says, although he concedes: "Periodically, there are things that one doesn't like to see." A Western defender of the Kurds, asking not to be named on such a sensitive topic, says Kurdistan's people have their own priorities. "The national issue is so important to Kurds that other issues, like democratization, take a back seat," he says.
Not all Kurds agree—and they say the parties need to start cleaning up fast. "You simply cannot go on justifying your rule based on what you did 20 years ago," says the senior Kurdish official. "We can either be a party of the past and end up like Fatah in Palestine, or regenerate ourselves like the Labour Party in the U.K." The time to decide is running out.
With Ferhad Murasil