Third Iraqi Turkmen Media Council Conference
10-12 April 2009
Merry Fitzgerald’s Speech
10-12 April 2009
Merry Fitzgerald’s Speech
I thank the General Secretary and the Members of the Turkmen Media Council for inviting me to the 3rd Turkmen Media Conference and for giving me the opportunity to speak.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Journalism in Iraq
Journalism in Iraq began with Zawra newspaper in June 1869, it was published in Turkish and later in Turkish and Arabic, its editor in chief was a Turkmen.
The Turkmen media in Kerkuk are almost a century old, their history goes back to even before the creation of the Iraqi state, indeed Havadis Gazetesi was the first newspaper which was published in the Turkish language in Kerkuk (in 1911), it was followed by Maaref Gazetesi in 1913.
After the First Word War, when Iraq came under British occupation, the Turkmen media were published in two languages: Turkish and Arabic, i.e. Necme in 1918, Teceddüt in 1920, Kerkük Gazetesi, a weekly publication of Kerkük Municipality from 1926-1974, Ileri in 1935, Afak in 1954, Beshir in 1959 and Kardaşlik in 1960.
After the 14th July 1958 revolution in Iraq which brought down the monarchy and established the republic in Iraq a new constitution was written. In this first republican era constitution the Iraqi people were defined as being composed of Arabs and Kurds.
One can consider that the actual problem of the Turkmens in Iraq has started with this first republican era constitution which has discriminated and marginalised their community by down-grading it to the level of a minority with lesser rights than their Arab and Kurdish compatriots.
The Turkmens were not allowed to be educated in their mother tongue and whilst the Arabic and Kurdish media were able to flourish in Iraq the Turkmens lost the right to publish in their own language, with the consequence that today, Turkmen media have a shortage of professional journalists and are lagging behind.
In the north of Iraq where the majority of the Turkmens live and where the Turkmen region is located Turkmens have suffered from the policy of arabisation in the past and are suffering since April 2003 from the hegemonic policy of the dominant Kurdish parties who are applying the policy of kurdification of the Turkmen region (Turkmeneli) in the north of Iraq.
The Turkmen media can play a very important role in promoting and defending the rights of the Turkmen community, indeed, the media play a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy; they are the backbone of a democracy. The media can shape people’s opinions and it is not without reason that they are also called the fourth pillar of democracy alongside the executive, legislative and judiciary powers.
Hence, the Turkmen media’s role in the development of the Turkmen society in Iraq should not be under-estimated, the media’s role is to create a social awakening about the cultural heritage, it has to build confidence and instil a sense of responsibility particularly among the youth.
As far as I know, since 2003 up to now, the Turkmens of Iraq do not yet have their own daily newspaper published in their language, this is unfortunate and all the Turkmens with their different political parties and organizations must realize that it neither logical nor acceptable for a community of almost 3 million people which considers itself rightfully as the third main ethnic community in Iraq, not to have a daily paper published in their language.
In these troubled times it is important for Turkmens to be kept informed about the political developments in Iraq, this will enable them to defend their cause and to demand their rights.
With the proliferation of alternative media, websites and blogs the Turkmens also have the opportunity to make the international public opinion aware of their situation and this requires a good knowledge of foreign languages To get people’s attention and to be credible Turkmens should give special attention to the quality of their writings, as sloppy texts are often misunderstood and do not draw the attention of the readers.
Turkmen youth in Iraq should therefore be encouraged to study communication and journalism and they should be given a chance to study abroad in order to learn foreign languages such as English, French, Spanish and German and become familiar with other cultures. Young Turkmens of the Diaspora should also be encouraged to study communication, as they already have the advantage of being familiar with foreign cultures.
On the subject of Iraq’s future a lot has been said and published in the media, US and EU experts are giving their opinions and advice, which are mostly patronizing and which do not necessarily represent the interest of the Iraqi people. These “experts” concentrate almost exclusively on the business opportunities in Iraq for their companies and their interest is centred principally on Iraq’s oil, gas and agriculture.
Iraq, as we all know, can be self-sufficient, it has water, wheat and oil. Today, because of the war and occupation, Iraq has to import wheat and even oil and a great number of Iraqis do not have access to water.
The future of Iraq’s oil is being decided under Occupation (by the US through their lackeys in the Iraqi government and by the Kurdish warlords) long term contracts which are giving away Iraq’s oil riches are being signed and these will bind Iraqis for several generations.
What is more, the fate of Iraq’s food sources and agricultural heritage is being looted behind closed doors.
The US-UK’s deliberate bombing of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure of water purification and electrical plants, cattle feed lots, poultry farms, fertilizer warehouses, pumping stations, irrigation systems, fuel depots and pesticide factories – the very infrastructure of Iraqi agriculture – has destroyed the Iraqi Agriculture.
The invasion of Iraq was not only about oil, the US corporate agribusiness is now overseeing the “rehabilitation” of agriculture in Iraq and this means the doom of Iraqi farmers.
Iraqi scientists are ringing the alarm bell, but unfortunately their warnings do not get the attention they deserve in the media.
The Occupation is destroying the economy and the future of Iraq.
Iraq, the Fertile Crescent, is home to the oldest agricultural traditions in the world. It was the centre of domestication for a remarkable range of today’s primary agricultural crops and livestock animals. Wheat, barley, rye, lentils, sheep and goats were all originally brought under human control around 8.000 BCE. Iraq is where wild wheat was once originated and many of its cereal varieties have been exported and adapted worldwide.
The inhabitants of Mesopotamia have used informal seed supply systems to plant crops, suited to their particular environment. The saving and sharing of seeds in Iraq has always been a largely informal matter. Local varieties of grain and legumes have been adapted to local conditions over the millennia. Agriculture remains an essential part of Iraq’s heritage.
Despite extreme aridity, characterised by low rainfall and soil salinity, Iraq had a world standard agricultural sector producing good quality food for generations.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002 still used saved seed from their own stocks from last year’s harvest, or purchased from local markets, this despite the criminal sanctions which destroyed Iraq’s agricultural sector.
U.S. Policies – GMOs and the Detrimental Effects of Order 81
When Paul Bremer left Baghdad after the so-called “transfer of sovereignty” in June 2004, he left behind the 100 orders he enacted as head of the occupation authority in Iraq.
Among them is Order 81 which he issued and signed on April 26, 2004 (paragraphs 51-79) on “Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety”. This order amends Iraq’s original patent law of 1970 and unless and until it is revised or repealed it has the status and force of a binding law; with important implications for farmers and the future of agriculture in Iraq, this order is yet another important component in the US attempts to radically transform Iraq’s economy.
While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds. Inserted into Iraq’s previous patent law is a whole new chapter on Plant Variety Protection (PVP) that provides for the “protection of new varieties of plants”. PVP is an intellectual property right (IPR) or a kind of patent for plant varieties which gives an exclusive monopoly right on planting material to a plant breeder who claims to have discovered or developed a new variety. So the “protection” in PVP has nothing to do with conservation, but refers to safeguarding of the commercial interests of private breeders (usually large corporations) claiming to have created the new plant.
To qualify for PVP, plant varieties must comply with the standards of the UPOV Convention, (International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties) which requires them to be new, distinct, uniform and stable. Farmers’ seeds cannot meet these criteria, making PVP-protected seeds the exclusive domain of corporations. The rights granted to plant breeders in this scheme include the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, sell, export, import and store the protected varieties. These rights extend to harvested material, including whole plants and parts of plants obtained from the use of a protected variety. This kind of PVP system is often the first step towards allowing the full-fledged patenting of life forms. Indeed, in this case the rest of the law does not rule out the patenting of plants or animals.
The term of the monopoly is 20 years for crop varieties and 25 for trees and vines.
During this time the protected variety de facto becomes the property of the breeder, and nobody can plant or otherwise use this variety without compensating the breeder. This new law means that Iraqi farmers can neither freely legally plant nor save for re-planting seeds of any plant variety registered under the plant variety provisions of the new patent law. This deprives farmers from what they and many others worldwide claim as their inherent right to save and replant seeds.
The new law is presented as being necessary to ensure the supply of good quality seeds in Iraq and to facilitate Iraq’s accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization). What it will actually do is facilitate the penetration of Iraqi agriculture by the likes of MONSANTO, SYNGENTA, BAYER and DOW CHEMICAL – the corporate giants that control seed trade across the globe.
Eliminating competition from farmers is a prerequisite for these companies to open up operations in Iraq, which the new law has achieved. Taking over the first step in the food chain is their next move.
Food sovereignty is the right of people to define their own food and agriculture policies, to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade, to decide the way food should be produced, what should be grown locally and what should be imported.
The demand for food sovereignty and the opposition to the patenting of seeds has been central to the small farmers’ struggle all over the world over the past decade. By fundamentally changing the law in Iraq, the US has ensured that Iraq’s agricultural system will remain under “OCCUPATION”.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media hardly cover this important subject and the majority of Iraqis are unaware of this Machiavellian plan which will devastate the future of their country’s agriculture and irremediably change their lives and that of the future generations of Iraqis if it is implemented.
Organizations, activists, farmers and organic food advocates around the world have endorsed and will observe April 26 (day on which Bremer issued and signed this criminal law in 2004) as International Seeds Day (ISD).
A “Greedy, unjust law is meant to be disobeyed”.
The Iraqi Turkmen media can play a paramount role in informing the Iraqi people and especially the farmers of the implications of Order 81, the future of Iraq’s agriculture depends on it.
According to a recent report drafted for the ministers of the Group of Eight nations the world faces a permanent food crisis and global instability unless countries act now to feed a surging population by doubling agricultural output, it warns that global agriculture production must double by 2050.
I wish the Iraqi Turkmens and all the Iraqi people determination and courage to achieve these goals.
I thank you for your attention.
Committee for the Defence of the Iraqi Turkmens’ Rights (Belgium)
Istanbul, 10th April 2009.
Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law of 2004, CPA Order No. 81, 26 April 2004, http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20040426_CPAORD_81_Patents_Law.pdf
UPOV stands for International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland it is an intergovernmental organisation with 53 members, mostly industrialised countries. The UPOV Convention is a set of standards for the protection of plant varieties, mainly geared toward industrial agriculture and corporate interests. See http://www.upov.org/.
WTO : The World Trade Organisation, wherein the Iraqi Government has an observer status.