vendredi 28 février 2014

Turkmen caught between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan

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A man mourns near the body of his brother, wrapped in a blanket, who was among those killed in a suicide bomb attack at a popular coffee shop in the town of Tuz Khormato in Iraq, July 17, 2006. (photo by REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed)

Turkmen caught between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan

While Iraq’s April 30 general elections approach, the bets are slowly coming up for grabs. The polls matter not only for the Iraqis. The vote, the first since the end of the US occupation, is as crucial for regional actors Turkey and Iran as it is for the United States’ so-called “democracy project.”
Summary⎙ Print Iraqi Turkmen are getting pressure from the Turkish government to work more closely with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq.

Author Fehim TaştekinPosted February 27, 2014
Translator(s)Sibel Utku Bila

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s re-election is Turkey’s nightmare scenario. Turkey believes that bilateral ties stand no chance of improvement as long as Maliki stays in office, diplomatic sources in Baghdad told Al-Monitor. Maliki’s own feelings are no different. He thinks relations cannot be restored with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in charge in Ankara.

Turkey counts on a scenario where Maliki is sidelined by Shiite rivals of his State of Law Coalition, including Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform, Ammar al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadr movement. Yet, predictions are difficult to make in a political landscape where 270 parties and 70 coalitions contest the polls, and Maliki still has room to maneuver.

Moreover, the Iraqis I talked to point out that Shiite perceptions of Turkey have soured after the Justice and development Party (AKP) government granted asylum to Iraq’s former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. Thus, even a Shiite-led government without Maliki does not guarantee a new chapter with Baghdad for Ankara.

There are other serious obstacles, too. Both Shiites and Sunnis have come increasingly to believe that Ankara’s strategic ties with Erbil are a major factor emboldening the Kurdistan Regional Government to drift away from Baghdad. Turkish officials, on the other hand, say privately that too much foot-dragging by Baghdad over a pipeline to carry Basra’s oil to Turkey compelled Ankara to “force certain things” and opt for an oil deal with Kurdistan, braving Maliki’s ire.

Backfiring cards

What is even more intriguing, Turkey — while courting Erbil to get what it lost in Baghdad — is also about to waste its Turkmen card, which it has already misused for years. Both Turkmen representatives and diplomatic sources say that Turkey, due to its pro-Sunni leaning, has already alienated the Shiite Turkmen.

A Turkmen academic in Baghdad told Al-Monitor, “Turkey’s sectarian policy has pushed the Shiite Turkmen under Iran’s influence.” According to the academic, “Sunni Turkmen are present in the ranks of al-Qaeda, which has been attacking Shiite Turkmen in recent years. Some al-Qaeda-linked people have used buildings of the Turkey-backed Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF). As a result, the Shiite Turkmen’s attitude toward Turkey has changed.”

Fevzi Ekrem, a former Shiite Turkmen parliament member from the Sadr movement, dismissed allegations that the ITF made its buildings available for al-Qaeda’s use. Yet, he, too, criticized Turkey for acting as if all Turkmen were Sunni. “The Shiite Turkmen feel they are treated as a stepchild,” he told Al-Monitor.

Ekrem, who identifies himself as “a patriot and nationalist above sects,” said the Turkmen had lost ground not only because of the Kurds, al-Qaeda and the Maliki government but also regional players such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Born to a Sunni-Shiite couple, Ekrem described the gloom in Tuz Khormato to illustrate the Turkmen resentment: “Over the past two years, we have lost 1,000 people in bomb attacks in Tuz Khormato. Another 4,000 have been wounded. Another 165 people have been kidnapped on their way home or to school, and remain unaccounted for. The attacks target the Turkmen neighborhoods in particular. Turkmen who fled the town have formed two whole neighborhoods in Karbala and Najaf. Some have fled to Baghdad as well. Christian Turkmen — the so-called 'fortress infidels' — have also fled the town. The truth is that no one really helped the Turkmen — neither neighboring countries nor the Sunni and Shiite political groups in Iraq. … The neighboring countries are playing a grave game; they want to make Iraq a second Syria. The Turkmen are the big losers, be they Sunni or Shiite. I’ll try to expose this tragedy at an exhibition I’m planning to open soon on al-Mutenebbi Avenue.”

Certainly, not all Turkmen are as pessimistic as Ekrem. A Turkmen employee at a construction company in Baghdad argued that all Iraqi communities were hit by violence and suffered. He underscored that the Turkmen were represented by seven lawmakers and three ministers, and that the government was taking steps for broadcasts and education in the Turkmen language. He was optimistic the community’s conditions would further improve.

Turkmen-Kurdish rapprochement suggested

For years, Turkey used the Turkmen card both against the central Iraqi government and the Kurds. Now the nature of the card appears to be changing. “Turkey is now advising us to get closer to theKurdistan administration. This has sparked serious reactions among the Turkmen,” a Turkmen official said.

A small Turkmen faction, including the Iraqi Turkmen Fraternity Party, favors cooperation with the Kurds. Yet, their favorable stance stems from skepticism toward both Iran, which uses the Shiite card, and Turkey, which counts on the Sunni card.

However, neither the ITF, which Turkey has not only backed but used as a tool, nor Shiite Turkmen groups such as the Iraqi Turkmen Islamic Union that aligns with Shiite Arab parties promoting Iraq’s integrity, are likely to engage with Kurdistan.

Even Turkmen currently in touch with the Kurdish region become agitated when it comes to Kurdish claims over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the much-coveted “Kurdish Jerusalem.”

Ekrem was equally resentful: “We are being advised to take advantage of the Turkey-Kurdistan rapprochement, but the Kurdish administration has never reached out to us. They have had an eye on our lands, and nothing has changed since 2003. This is not an easy problem to solve. We’ve been through a lot. Those who usurped our lands are out there. The Turkmen population in Erbil has melted away. [Iraqi President] Jalal Talabani does not have a single Turkmen [on his team]. How are we supposed to engage in dialogue under these circumstances?”

Iran’s outstanding policies

While Turkey’s Kurdish and Turkmen cards are failing to yield the desired results, Iran’s maneuvering ability stands out on the Iraqi scene. Despite Turkey’s regional ambitions, it is Iran that has stepped in to settle the in-house rift at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) when it plunged into a leadership crisis after Talabani bowed out. When it comes to efforts to end the political impasse in Kurdistan — without a government for six months — it is again Iran out on the field. The most influential of the Turkmen card is similarly in Iran’s hands.

Having taken the Turkmen for granted, Turkey has only recently realized why they have entered the Iranian sphere of influence. According to a Turkish diplomat, lessons have been learned from past mistakes and a new approach is under way vis-a-vis the Shiite Turkmen. Yet, it seems hard for Ankara to make up, given the perceptions its regional policies have created in Iraq. Gestures like visits to religious shrines appear to just not be enough.

Read more:

jeudi 27 février 2014

MEP Metin Kazak: The EU should pay special attention to the deteriorating human rights situation of the Turkmens in Iraq

Un grand merci à Monsieur Metin Kazak, le député qui a le plus oeuvré au sein du 

parlement européen pour faire connaître la cause des Turkmènes irakiens.

La Représentation du Front Turkmène irakien auprès de l'Union européenne


For the the original version in BULGARIAN, please see:

MEP Metin Kazak mentioned the bloody incidents and explosions which took place in the cities of Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, which killed a total of 20 and injured over 163 Turkmens.
Translated by Bing: 
Metin Kazak, ALDE Coordinator and Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights made a statement on the situation in Iraq during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (24 to 27 February, 2014). Bulgarian MEP noted that past 2013 will be remembered as "the bloodiest year" after the war on Iraq and the Iraqi people. He stressed that European liberals are extremely concerned about the deterioration of the security situation of the population, especially the Iraqi Turkmen.
The MEP stressed that the EP adoption on March 14, 2013 of "Resolution on Iraq: the plight of minority groups, including Iraqi Turkmen" is seen as a positive step forward, but not a sufficient measure taken by the EU, given the current situation. He argued that cultural, religious and economic damage on the Turkmen population are highly visible and can not be ignored by the Union.
This illustrates the existing open deep tensions between ethnic groups in Iraq, which increases the risk of civil war that will involve the Iraqi people in bloody clashes," 
According to MEP Metin Kazak, the EU should pay special attention to the deteriorating human rights situation of the Turkmen community in Iraq. He said that with the signing of the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the EU and Iraq in May 2012 for the first time establish contractual relations between the two countries and create a legal framework for relations covering political dialogue, trade relations, legal cooperation , human rights, development aid and others. Mr. Kazak pointed out that the purpose of the agreement is to significantly expand cooperation with Iraq on key foreign policy issues such as human rights, the rule of law, non-proliferation of weapons, the International Criminal Court, migration and others. Because the situation in the country is directly linked to overall stability in the Middle East region.
Finally Mr Metin Kazak called on the European Commission and the European External Action Service to exert additional pressure on the Iraqi government to achieve a peaceful resolution on the situation of Turkmen in Iraq to avoid irreversible consequences in the region.

MEP Metin Kazak's speech (Arabic)


Member of the European Parliament Struan Stevenson speaks about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iraq (video)

The unfolding tragedy in the Iraqi city of Fallujah seems to have slipped off the international radar screen, as the focus of the global community drifts from Syria to Kiev and back again. The humanitarian situation in Fallujah is dire. The sectarian prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki has surrounded the city with thousands of troops, effectively sealing it off. The Iraqi air force has mounted daily bomb attacks, cutting off electricity and water supplies and destroying several bridges in an effort to prevent food and water from reaching the besieged inhabitants. Last week, they bombed Fallujah General Hospital, killing nearly all of the doctors and nurses and many of the patients and forcing its closure. More than 300,000 people have been made homeless.

Ban Ki Moon and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) continue to plead with Maliki to provide humanitarian aid to the city and to enter into negotiations that can bring an end to violence in the predominantly Sunni, Al Anbar Province. The sharp response from the aggressively pro-Shia prime minister was there would be "no negotiation with terrorists." In a single sentence he has labeled all of the residents of Iraq's largest province as "terrorists" in order to justify his genocidal campaign.

During the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, the Sunnis in al Anbar fared well. Following the US invasion, it was Anbar where the Americans suffered most casualties and after Maliki came to power, he implemented a ruthless de-Baathification policy that saw tens of thousands of Sunnis in Anbar stripped of their jobs and income. Since the US military withdrawal, the Iraqi PM, egged on by his puppeteers in Tehran, has escalated the daily intimidation of the province, with assassinations, bombings, arbitrary arrests and atrocities that finally drove the Sunni population onto the streets in protest. For the past 18 months, hundreds of thousands of people in Fallujah, Ramadi and other Anbar cities have mounted large demonstrations, calling for an end to corruption and the abuse of power by Maliki.

Their protests provided Maliki with the perfect excuse for a bloodbath. Claiming that Fallujah and Ramadi had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda and terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Maliki mounted his bloody offensive on the civilian population of al Anbar. There is some sporadic evidence of one or two jihadists infiltrating the protests in Anbar, attracted by the chaotic situation, but they were quickly driven out by the local tribesmen, who want no truck with Al Qaeda. But Maliki's ploy worked well. He persuaded Washington that he was engaged in a war against terror and the US sprang into action, shipping over rockets, missiles, drones, jets, helicopter gunships and light weapons, which are now being used to annihilate the Sunni population of al Anbar. Innocent men, women and children are being massacred daily, while America counts the dollars from its lucrative sale of weaponry to oil rich Iraq. Futile protests from UNAMI and Ban Ki Moon and a deathly silence from the EU, do little to stop the murderous onslaught.

Last week, I organised a major conference in the European Parliament in Brussels, attended by Iraqi political and spiritual leaders, including the Grand Mufti of Iraq, leader of the Sunni religion. They all denounced the horrific genocidal war that is being allowed to rage in Anbar, fuelled by a steady supply of American arms. I read out a letter signed by 128 scholars, sheiks and tribal leaders from Al Anbar Province who called for help from the West. The European Parliament in Strasbourg will this week debate and vote on a resolution on Iraq. It is Europe's chance to make its voice heard; to condemn the atrocities being carried out by Maliki and to demand a stop to the flow of weapons from the US. The EU doesn't have an army, but it has massive economic power. Maliki must be told that unless he stops the bloodshed, all economic ties with Iraq will be cut.

This is a wakeup call for West, particularly the US who continues to back Iraq's government. The massacre of innocents in Fallujah has exposed the true colours of Nouri al Maliki, a corrupt and despotic tyrant whom many Iraqis now see as worse than Saddam. The sinister involvement of the fascist regime in Tehran, who seek to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam across the Middle East, should set the alarm bells ringing.

Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament, is president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq.

MEP Struan Stevenson in his interview with RT concerning Iraq.

mercredi 26 février 2014

Little boy wearing Iraqi Turkmen national costume

So sweet! :-)

IRAQ - Kurds to ask for confederation soon

BARZANI’S PERMANENT CONFEDERATION : Kurds to ask for confederation soon

25.02.2014 - Hemin Salih – BasNews, Erbil – The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by President Massoud Barzani, plans to announce confederation in the region as a result of the recent conflict between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A close source from the KDP leadership told BasNews that the KDP considers confederation the most suitable option for the KRG given the current tensions between Baghdad and Erbil.

“The KDP believes confederation will solve the problems between the KRG and Baghdad. Also, this option will prevent further escalations between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, because confederation will split them geographically,” the KDP source said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the near future, the KDP plans to present their plans to all Kurdish and Iraqi political parties and regional countries to convince those involved that confederation is the best possible outcome for all standing issues between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Confederation is the permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by way of a treaty, confederation often later adopts a common constitution. Confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign affairs, or a common currency, with the central government being required to provide support for all members.

Ali Awni, a member of the leadership council of the KDP told BasNews that for the last eleven years, Iraq has been a federal state – one that brings together a number of different political communities with a common government for common purposes.

But it is clear that a federal state is not the solution for Iraq. “The problem between Iraq and the KRG is not an administration problem, in fact it is both an identity and a geographic problem, that’s why at this stage, Confederation is the best solution for Iraq and for the KRG,” Awni explained.

“Confederation for Kurdistan is like becoming an independent state because it guarantees economic independence as well as geographical independence,” Awni added. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Kurdish alliance in the Iraqi Parliament, Muaed Tayib, told BasNews that the federal system failed in Iraq a long time ago.

“The principle of this system is that everyone should believe in it and its constitution, but that’s not happening in Iraq,” Tayib noted. Tayib also said that right now Kurds have two options on the table. One is for Iraq to remain the central government of a federated state. The alternative is for Kurd to split from the central government by announcing confederation or by declaring independence. “Without a question, confederation is the best solution for Kurds, but it will raise problems with Baghdad. However, I do think the best option for Kurds is to declare an independent state,” Tayib concluded.

lundi 24 février 2014

The Struggle for Iraq's Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy by Zaid al-Ali

Published on 3 Feb 2014
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs held a lecture and book launch The Struggle for Iraq's Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy by Zaid al-Ali

Since the withdrawal of US occupying forces, international attention has shifted away from Iraq - but life for Iraqis has become no easier. Deadly bombings are still all too common, sectarian violence has soared and all-pervading corruption means that massive inflows of aid and oil income have made very little difference to crucial issues like security, healthcare and power availability. Now, Iraqi lawyer Zaid al- Ali sets out why and how the post-occupation Iraqi government has failed to achieve legitimacy or improve its citizens' lives. He argues that the ill-planned US intervention destroyed the Iraqi state, creating a black hole which corrupt and incompetent members of the elite have now made their own. In particular, al-Ali demonstrates how Iraqi politicians and the political system have failed to address Iraq's problems.

Zaid al-Ali has been practicing law since 1999, specializing in
international commercial arbitration and comparative constitutional
law. He has law degrees from Harvard Law School, the Université de
Paris I (Sorbonne) and King's College London. From 2005 to 2010, he
was a legal adviser to the United Nations focusing on constitutional,
parliamentary and judicial reform in Iraq. Since the beginning of 2011,
he has been working on constitutional reform throughout the Arab region, in particular in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

How Faults With Iraq’s Constitution Undermines The Country, Interview with Constitutional Scholar Zaid Al-Ali

In October 2005, 79% of Iraqi voters came out in favor of a new constitution. The document was drafted in only a few weeks however, due to pressure from the United States. While the new government it created included many basic rights like freedom of association, and the right to education and work, it also had more controversial issues like creating a new federal system. Most of these new rules were not fleshed out in the final draft however, and were to be finalized in an amendment process that has never happened. Because of those vagaries, and the lack of further legislation, every political party in Iraq claims that its position is supported by the constitution making it a source of contention rather than unity. What follows is an interview with Zaid Al-Ali, a lawyer who has worked for the United Nations on constitutional and parliamentary issues on why he thinks the 2005 constitution is a flawed document. He just published a book The Struggle for Iraq’s Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy. He can also be followed on Twitter @zalali.

1. Many countries that have written constitutions in the last several decades have had outside help and influence whether from foreign governments or international bodies such as the United Nations. In Iraq however, the U.S. had an overwhelming influence by setting the timetable, influencing the make-up of the drafting committee, and the final document. The Americans for instance, decided that there would be elections for an interim parliament in January 2005, who would then select a committee to write the constitution, which wasn’t put together until May, and their work was due by August, for a final referendum in October. Was this enough time to do all of the necessary work, and what was the overarching goal of Washington to have the document completed in just a few months?

It was absolutely not enough time. In countries that emerge from harsh dictatorships such as Iraq, political forces and society as a whole need a lot of time to recover and to debate a set of vital issues, including what type of state they want to establish for themselves, and what relationship the state should have with various communities and with the individual. You need to be able to have a national debate on issues like federalism, fundamental rights, the role of religion, etc. Once again, in countries like Iraq, which emerged from a period of decades in which none of these issues could be discussed in a critical or free manner, we were absolutely not in a position to have a national debate on something like federalism by 2004 and 2005. And if a national debate had to take place, it should have taken place over a significant period of time, and certainly not rushed. Rushing these issues can lead to all sorts of unexpected outcomes in relation to really fundamental issues, which is far from desirable.

Something else is that when you are intent on redesigning the state in countries like Iraq, it is advisable to do so in as scientific a way as possible. One of the things that you would do is look into your own institutions of state and study which operate effectively and which do not. You would study your anti-corruption framework in detail and figure out where the cracks lie. You would also try to understand if your due process requirements are being respected in practice, and if not, if there is an institutional reason for that. These are issues that take time, particularly in countries like Iraq where free debate and critical analysis was forbidden for decades. Once again, to rush these issues or to just ignore them, which is what eventually happened in Iraq is to invite either unexpected outcomes or simply the continuation of practices from the previous regime, which is also what ended up happening in Iraq.

By way of comparison, Tunisia’s new constitution took two years to draft in a very free and relatively peaceful environment. All in all, South Africa took 7 years to draft its text. Kenya also took that amount of time to draft its constitution. Each country needs to decide on its own what amount of time it should take to draft its constitution; and that process should not be overtly influenced by foreign nations as was the case in Iraq.

In terms of why Washington was so determined to finish the drafting process so quickly, I can’t really speak as to what their motivations were, and I wonder if they really understood what they were doing. Certainly they were determined to transition as soon as possible to a fully “legitimate” according to their definition of the term, constitutional system of government that would be in place for a full legislative term. Some analysts have speculated that the U.S. was purely motivated by domestic considerations: by insisting in August 2005 that the drafting process should come to an end immediately, they were essentially ensuring that a new permanent government would be in place before the 2006 mid-term elections. A 6 month extension, which was allowed under the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), would probably have meant that the government might not be formed before the mid-term elections.

The main question however is whether they realized what a disaster they were creating and I am still unsure about that. There is evidence that they realized that the system of government that they were creating did not reflect the majority of what Iraqis wanted, but aside from that, they will have to answer for themselves as to why they proceeded in the way that they did.

2. The issue of Sunni representation was always a pressing one, while writing the constitution. Of the original 55 members of the constitutional committee Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List got 8 seats, some of which were Sunnis, and there were two other Sunnis as well. This was due to the fact that the Sunni community largely boycotted the January 2005 vote. In June 15 Sunnis were selected as permanent members, and 10 became advisers, but they weren’t approved until July, just one month before the document was to be finalized. Were the Sunni members able to get their opinions included in the constitution, and how did that affect the October referendum?

The issue of “Sunni representation” in the constitutional drafting process has been very misunderstood. The common understanding is that after the 15 Sunnis were added to the committee, that they were not included in the discussions and were essentially ignored, which is what led to the rejection of the constitution in Sunni-majority provinces in October 2005. The drafts that were produced by the constitutional drafting committee tell a very different story. What we know by reviewing the drafts is that the expanded constitutional drafting committee was making progress towards a constitution in which the central government would have played a much more important role than under the TAL, the interim constitution that was drafted by US officials and two Iraqi-Americans. It turns out that most of the Sunni and Shia Islamists who were on the constitutional drafting committee had very similar ideas about what their future state should look like: they wanted for the state to be heavily influenced by religion, and also wanted for the central government to be the dominant force in the state and not the regions and provinces.

In the end however, because the expanded committee was unlikely to meet the August 2005 deadline, some of the parties to the process and the U.S. embassy prevented the deadline from being extended by 6 months, and shut out a large number of drafters (most of the Shia and Sunnis) from the rest of the discussions altogether. Suddenly, once again, by tracing the evolution of the drafts, the tone of the negotiations shifted altogether in favor of a very loose federation in which the central government played hardly any role. Then, when the elected interim parliament , which was supposed to be responsible for putting together the draft demanded to be given the right to debate and vote on the draft, they were snubbed. Instead, Hussein Shahristani, who was deputy speaker, merely read the draft to them without giving them a chance to debate or vote on it.































samedi 22 février 2014

To the young Iraqi Turkmens: Do you know who Gertrude Bell was?

Gertrude Bell (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English archaeologist, writer and explorer, political officer, and spy, who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British Imperial policy-making, she spent the early 1900s travelling alone across the Middle East. 
 She is also known as:  
"El-Khatun" - 'The kingmaker' and the 'Uncrowned  Queen of Iraq'
she worked at the Arab Bureau in Egypt, with T.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - and archaeologist David Hogarth, helping to secure British interests in the Middle East. 
She helped to draw up the borders of the new nation of Iraq and helped choose its first ruler, King Faisal. Along with T.E. Lawrence, she helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in Jordan as well as in Iraq.

Born on 14 July 1868 in Washington New Hall, in what was then County Durham, Gertrude Bell was the daughter of a wealthy family of ironmasters.

After being home schooled, she went to London to be taught at the age of 15, before going on to become the first woman to gain a first-class degree in Modern History at Oxford.

Because of her sex, she was unable to graduate.

In 1892, after leaving Oxford, Bell travelled to Tehran, in what was then Persia, to visit her uncle Sir Frank Lascelles, who was British minister to the country.

According to Helen Berry,  professor of British History at Newcastle University,  it was on this visit that she developed a love for the Arab people as she visited archaeological sites, learnt their language and travelled deep into the desert.
A lone woman among Arab men, to many she became known as "El Khatun", the Lady of the Court.

She spoke eight languages, including French, Persian, Arabic and Turkish, and it was her knowledge of the tribes, geography and politics of the area that attracted the attention of British Intelligence.

She was the only woman among about 40 delegates invited to a 1921 conference in Cairo by the secretary of state for the colonies, Winston Churchill, where she was asked to draw up the boundaries of Mesopotamia.

She died later that year, just before her 58th birthday, of a sleeping tablet overdose. It is not known if her death was accidental or if she took her own life.

In the last years of her life, she was made Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq and founded the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, where King Faisal ordered a wing be dedicated to her.

In a letter home in 1926, Gertrude described herself as an "antiquarian at heart" as she expressed her "pride" in opening a museum.

'Only one Khatun'

In a diary entry from 1921, Bell wrote about how the locals of Baghdad reacted to her:

"As we rode back through the gardens of the Karradah suburb where all the people know me and salute me as I pass, Nuri said 'One of the reasons you stand out so is because you're a woman.

"'There are lots of political officers but there's only one Khatun...

"So for a hundred years they'll talk of the Khatun riding by.' I think they very likely will."

Gertrude's legacy lives on at the Gertrude Bell Archive after her sister Lady Richmond presented 7,000 photographs and her letters and diaries to Newcastle University.

Film about Gertrude Bell
Production has begun on a film telling the story of Gertrude Bell,
The film, "Queen of the Desert", which will see Nicole Kidman play Bell, is due to be released in 2015.

Iraq is Run by Wolves, The Farewell Speech of Muqtada Al-Sadr

FEBRUARY 19, 2014

The Farewell Speech of Muqtada Al-Sadr
Iraq is Run by Wolves

I am not of those who turn a blind eye and keep their mouths shut in the face of corruption and wrongdoing. It has been decreed upon us, the Sadrs, to be those who call and work for guidance.

Here we are seeing our wounded and oppressed Iraq, under a black cloud that has covered its land and its sky: blood is flowing, wars are everywhere, people killing each other, some under the name of the ‘law’ and some under the name of ‘religion’.

Cursed is this ‘law’ that sheds blood and violates sanctities and down with a religion that gives right to beheading, bombing and assassinations.

Then politics became a door for injustice, mockery, autocracy and violation. So a dictator would become in charge of wealth, and he steals it, and of lives of people and he kills them, and of cities and he attacks them, and of sects and he divides them, and of minds and he buys them, and of hearts and he breaks them, so that everybody votes for him to stay in power.

Iraq with no life, no farming, no manufacturing, no services, no security or safety, no peace. And elections that thousands of lives are scarified for, all that, so a government would rule us, disregarding our rights and opinions, and a Parliament, with its worn seats, that can’t protect itself, let alone protect others.

A Parliament that can only agree to vote in one condition; if there are special rewards for MPs; but if there are (laws for) general benefit of the nation, everyone steps back, or the matter reaches the cabinet, where they (the laws) would be turned down/vetoed. But the cabinet would never veto against the MPs special rewards or their pensions.

Iraq that is ruled by wolves, thirsty for blood, souls that are eager for wealth, leaving their nation in suffering, in fear, in water puddles, in dark nights, lightened only by moonlight or a candle, swamped by assassinations based on differences or after ridiculous disagreements. All that and the government is only watching.

Iraq that is ruled by a group which came from beyond the borders. We long awaited for them to free us from the dictator, only for them to hold firmly on to the seats themselves, in the name of Shia, and Shiaism.

Was the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace and blessings upon him) able to sleep whilst there was a hungry person near to him? And now, how full are the streets with (people) with no roofs, no walls, no basic food, instead they sleep on the bare ground, covered by the raining sky.

A government that is overstuffed, has forgotten those who live beyond the guarded walls, has become blinded with wealth, houses, palaces, and aeroplanes, ignoring a prison that is called ‘Iraq’.

An honourable nation, that has been engulfed by wars, with harsh conditions that left it an easy bite that has fallen between the jaws of politicians and leaders. A nation that does not want food, but it demands honour, a heard voice and freedom, that lead it to the pleasure of the Lord, and to prove itself.

But, a government has come to shut the voices, to kill the opposition, to force them into exile, to fill prisons with them, and with everyone who resisted and tried to free his country from the tanks and aeroplanes of the occupation.

A government that has dominated over everything. It does not listen to anyone, even to the voice of the ‘Marj’’ (scholar)i and his ‘fatwa’ (rulings), or even to the voices or complaints of its counterparts, supported by the East and the West, in a way that surprises every wise man. In all this, we do not want to take their post or their chair, as we, the Sadrs, are much above this. We want to guide them, and protect them from mistakes, so Iraq would be in safe and caring hands. But they only listen to their masters, leaving the Sadrs and the two Sadr martyrs behind them, and whoever has an objection against them; Shia, Sunni or Kurd, theywould accuse him of terrorism or sectarianism, using the politicised judiciary to finish him, or to the army to arrest him, or using media propaganda or other ways which you know more about.

We, the Sadrs, if we could not change this, we say: Oh God do not associate us with the oppressors, and associate us with those who love the truth.

Peace upon those who supported us, we have not betrayed them, and we will not betray them. We seek to protect them, and their reputation, and from being led astray in this life. Especially, as there are those who seek to manipulate you, our loved ones and even use our name, the Sadrs, to reach his heinous aims in this life .They have collected well, they have spilt blood, they have violated sanctities and became in charge of people’s lives using our name and no one else’s name

And all that, they do not respect a ‘fatwa’ (ruling) or ruling or a question or a decision (or even a small paper from me), not even advice and not even an order, they ignore all of these.

And so that you know, all the people of Iraq, we love you so continue on your faith, love, religion and your support. God has made you victorious by us and has made us victorious by you. You are an honour to us except those the misguided who misguide others, who chose this life over the afterlife- down with them.

If there are amongst you honourable voices, political or others, let them continue in their work but in an independent way or otherwise away from me, under general guidelines, based on righteousness, faith, patriotism, wisdom and the public good. Iraq should not be left to the people of injustice

But I shall remain for all, I am not only to the Sadrists, I have devoted myself to Iraq, to Islam and I shall remain for everyone.

Whatever decisions or orders I have made, that you could not bear, I seek forgiveness for myself and for you but I am proud of these decisions until the day of judgment because I tried in all of them to be inspired and based on the path of the two Martyrs, their ideas and their manners and I shall not deviate from this, as they are my masters and my leaders, they are my authority and their enemies are my enemies.

In addition the society appears to be far away from the remembrance of God all praise to him, and this this has put a distance between myself and the society to some extent. I urge the believers to remember God and to be obedient to him so that he may forgive us all and so the gates of mercy would open for us and may this be an opportunity for the appearance of truth. Truth shall rise and nothing shall rise above it.

O beloved ones I have a few other points to mention:

Firstly the participation in elections. Despite this decision (by myself), I see participation in the elections as an obligation and must be on a large scale so the government would not fall into the hands of the sly ones who cannot be trusted, God forbid.

As for me I shall vote and I shall give my vote, if I live, to every honourable person who wants to serve the people, and I shall stand with everyone at equal distance, so I ask the Iraqis to participate in these elections and not to fall short. To fall short in this would be a betrayal to Iraq and its people.

Secondly, there are politicians who have served the Iraqi people honestly and sincerely, “and if there were no pious ones, it would have been destroyed”, and they are many, God willing. But I particularly would like to thank and to mention the two brothers; the governor of Misan and the governor of Baghdad, may God reward them as He would reward the righteous ones. They should continue and perfect their work in serving their nation.

Thank You.

Translation of Sayd Muqtada Al-Sadr last speech on 18/2/14 by Hassen Basil Al-Sader.

vendredi 21 février 2014



For Immediate Release - 19th February 2014


A high-level conference involving some of the most prominent political and religious leaders in Iraq, was held in the European Parliament, Brussels, on Wednesday 19th February. Organised and chaired by Struan Stevenson, MEP, President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, the conference focused on human rights in Iraq and featured speeches from Sheik Dr Rafe Al Refaei - Grand Mufti of Iraq, Saleem Abdullah Al-Jabori - Chair of the HR Committee in the Council of Representatives, Haidar Mulla - Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir - KRG Head of Department of Foreign Relations, Yonadam Kanna - Chair of the Labour and Social Affairs Committee in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Kamel Zozo - Syriac Assyrian Chaldean Movement, Elisabetta Zamparutti - 'Hands Off Cain' NGO, Btrus Sliwa - Head of the KRG's Independent Human Rights Board, Dr Abdul- Razzaq Rahim al- Shemmeri- Spokesman for the Herak Delegation from Al Anbar Governorate, Dr Sabah Al-Mukhtar - President of the Arab Lawyers Union, UK, Dr Mohammad Taha Hamdoon, Spokesman of the Popular Movement in Iraq, Dr Moneir Hashm Al-Aobyde, Spokesman for the Movement of Baghdad and many others. The eminent speakers were welcomed by Dr. Charles Tannock MEP, Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the ECR Group.

Many Iraqi guests had travelled to Brussels to participate in the conference, which follows the publication of a highly critical report on Iraq by the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies - entitled "Iraq's deadly spiral towards a civil war". A resolution condemning the on-going violence and abuse of human rights in Iraq is also under preparation in the European Parliament and will be debated in Strasbourg next Wednesday, 26th February. The draft resolution refers repeatedly to the damning report on the abuse of women in Iraq published recently by Human Rights Watch.

Speaking after the Conference, Struan Stevenson MEP said:

"Last November, I was in Iraq. I met with many leading politicians, religious leaders and with courageous men and women who had led popular uprisings and protests in Al Anbar and 6 provinces of Iraq and in many Iraqi cities. The message from all of them was identical. They told me that lawlessness, terrorism, corruption and the systematic abuse of human rights are each a daily feature of life in Iraq. They told me that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is rapidly becoming another Saddam Hussein and that modern Iraq is a dust bowl of violence and bloodshed. More than 9,500 people died last year in bomb attacks and assassinations in an increasingly ugly insurgency that threatens to take the country back to the civil war that erupted from 2006-2008. Over 1000 have died already this year.

"It was these same people, people from different ethnic backgrounds, from different faiths and creeds, but who share a desire to see freedom, democracy, justice and peace restored to their country, who urged me to organise today’s conference, so that they could come to the European Parliament and reveal the truth about Iraq to the West. I am deeply grateful to them and thank them for the expense, effort and courage they have expended to come here today.

"They told us in graphic detail how Maliki is using the Iraqi military in a genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Sunni population of Ramadi and Fallujah, aided and abetted by a generous supply of missiles, rockets, drones and other weaponry from the US, which he uses to slaughter his own people, on the pretext that they are terrorists. The US has even decided to sell and rent Maliki Apache helicopters which he will use to massacre men, women and children in Al Anbar. It is an outrage.

"I am also appalled at the treatment of the 3000 refugees in Camp Liberty who are incarcerated in prison-like conditions and where the Iraqis are even restricting supplies of food and preventing emptying of sewage tanks, causing the camp to flood with polluted sewerage water and risking health. These defenceless people have been repeatedly attacked by Maliki's forces, including the horrific massacre of 52 of their colleagues in Camp Ashraf last September, when 7 hostages were seized, 6 of whom are women and nothing has been heard from them since. The limp-wristed response from the west has simply encouraged further atrocities of this kind.

"It is time the West woke up to the tragedy of Iraq. It was the US and the UK - George W. Bush and Tony Blair - who invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam, declaring: "Mission accomplished". They boasted that they had left behind "a functioning democracy", when in fact they left behind a basket case. It was the US who colluded with Iran to return Maliki to power after the last election, even although he had lost that election by 2 seats. Now, in breach of the Erbil Agreement, Maliki has retained control over the Defence, Intelligence and Interior Ministries in his own office and he has even created new, independent security 6 intelligence organisation that is answerable only to him, giving him despotic powers.

"There is still time for the West to reassert its authority and make amends for its disastrous intervention in Iraq. The UN, US and EU must tell Maliki that his whirlwind of bloodshed, violence, corruption and abuse will no longer be tolerated. Unless there are free and fair elections on 30th April that can restore a semblance of democracy to Iraq and provide the beleaguered people of that country with a non-sectarian, secular government, committed to the restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights, then the economic umbilical cord to the West must be severed."

In his address to the conference Dr Rafe Al Refaei - the Grand Mufti of Iraq, said: "Maliki is following a heinous policy of indiscriminate bombings of innocent people. The people of Al-Anbar did not start the war. We did everything to reach a peaceful settlement. Maliki forces attacked the peaceful rallies. They have bombarded the houses of innocent people. My own brother was killed last week in the bombardment and was not from al Qaeda or from Daesh. When Maliki launched his so-called war against terrorists in the desert in Anbar province not a single combatant of al Qaeda was killed. The only people killed were innocent shepherds. What is happening in Fallujah is genocide. 1000 civilians have been injured. Events in Iraq have taken a very dangerous turn. It could lead to a civil war in which all Iraqi people will lose. The European Parliament should deal with this matter. We've been handed on a golden platter to the Iranian govt."

Saleem Abdullah Al-Jabori - Chair of the HR Committee in the Council of Representatives said: "We called on the international community to come to our rescue, but we were faced with just talk and no action. Now Iraqi women's tears have dried up. We're sick of unfulfilled promises. But all of this has not put an end to bloodshed in Iraq. All of the violations are serious, all are important. They are issues of international governance and international law. We Iraqis are the ones who suffer. Investigators use torture to obtain confessions. We need to adopt legislation that will put a stop to violations of prisoners. A person can be detained for years on false accusations. But HR violations will not lead to the eradication of terrorism. Our committee has managed to get many women released from prison. Iraq is rich in diversity, but the killing still goes on. There are around 10 car bombs every day. The Iraqi media should be given more freedom to report the truth. Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in al Anbar Province. A generation has lost all of its rights."

Haidar Mulla - Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives said: "Mr Stevenson has increased the influence of the EU in Iraq and in particular, he has increased the importance of HR. We had hoped that Iraq would become a democracy after the fall of the previous regime. But our HR record is not something we should be proud of. Our task is difficult and complex. We have to pave the way for a culture that respects HR. Until now GoI did not implement article 19 on HR. This is not a gift to the people. It is their right. Currently there is a ratio of one military personnel to 27 civilians and even so we cannot live peacefully. We have a political crisis and we have to deal with it politically."

Btrus Sliwa - Head of the Independent KRG Human Rights Board said: "The Ministry of HR was abolished in 2009 because it was being politically influenced. The government set up an independent board not linked to any political body. There is a high rate of domestic violence against women in parts of Kurdistan which we have legislated to stop. There are also now an estimated 200,000 IDPs in Kurdistan as well as over 200,000 refugees from Syria."

Dr Abdul-Razzaq Rahim Al Shemmeri - speaker for the Herak Delegation from the al-Anbar Governorate said: "This is my first time in the EU and I have come to bring the true voice of Anbar to the European Parliament. Why do you turn a blind eye to the Shia militias who slaughter our people? The Sunni movement entered the conflict through the demonstrations and sit-ins which started in 2012. But it was clear from the start that there was no political will to deal with the demonstrators in a peaceful way. Maliki's army invaded the places where the demonstrators were gathering. The crimes being committed there are similar to Bosnia, Herzegovina. Anti-terrorist forces were sent by the GoI in 2013 to arrest leaders of the so-called terrorist movement in Anbar under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Maliki resorted to threatening us, stating it was a rebellion under influence of foreign forces. He told his forces to finish us off before we finished him off!"

Dr Sabah al-Mukhtar - UN Permanent Representative, Arab lawyers Union, said: "Sending foreign troops to spread democracy turns the concept upside down. HR abuses occur in every country, but Iraq has a unique situation. Maliki abuses all of the human rights of all of the people, all of the time. Iraq is also bottom of the transparency international list of corrupt states, behind even Somalia and Sudan. Why did the Americans liberate Iraq and then hand it over to the mullahs in Iran?

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir - KRG Head of Department of Foreign Relations, said: "HR is not a privilege. It is a basic right. We care about HR because as Kurds we have a long experience of suffering. Our democracy is in its infancy. No-one can claim they are perfect. Respect for HR is what we care about in Kurdistan. We have a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. This has led to prosperity for the people and an economic boom. Diversity is the source of our strength. We have also provided shelter for IDPs and refugees. The KRG also focused on women and children to address issues that empower and protect them. Women must be part of society and properly protected in all walks of life. Unlike the federal government in Baghdad, we have always welcomed UN HR reports. As Kurds we will not accept the status of 2nd class citizens. We'd like to see all of Iraq become like Kurdistan."

Kamel Zozo, representing the Syriac Assyrian Chaldean Movement said: "Iraq is a country for all of us. As Christians we've been there since the creation of Iraq. Now we are filled with bitterness and sadness when we see what has happened to the ethnic minorities. The system of government in Iraq is now a despotic one. Christians are doomed to extinction. This is the land of our fathers and forefathers and yet we are being driven from it. We must enact necessary laws to give us protection. Plans to change the demography of Nineveh and other regions are directly targeting the Christian community. We are being pushed into an unknown future. Can I request that EP pays attention to the minorities in Iraq."

Elisabetta Zamparutti - Italian politician in the Radical Movement and Treasurer of "Hands off Cain" NGO, said: "Executions began again after a suspension in August 2005. Over 600 people have been executed since then, 117 last year alone. Iraq is now 3rd behind China and Iran for the number of executions it carries out. There are wooden gallows working overtime in the old intelligence HQ building in Baghdad, where Saddam was hanged. No records of these executions are kept. The justice system in Iraq is broken. Those executed are not represented properly. Evidence taken from secret informants cannot be challenged in court. We need to reflect on the situation in Iraq today."

Struan Stevenson MEP

President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq

jeudi 20 février 2014

Iraqi Turkmen leader’s convoy attacked

Iraqi Turkmen leader’s convoy attacked
"My house was bombed twice and my convoy was attacked three times with a bomb," he said.

A land mine detonated while Salihi's convoy was passing near Musalla district.
World Bulletin / News Desk

A convoy with Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) chief Arshad al-Salihi was attacked with remote controlled mines in Iraq's Kirkuk province on Wednesday.

Salihi was unharmed but his two security guards were injured and six vehicles were damaged.

A land mine was detonated while the convoy was passing near Musalla district. The armored vehicle carrying Salihi was heavily damaged in the blast.

The ITF chief told AA that they returned to visit Musalla for election campaigns when the blast happened.

"The windows of my armored vehicle were smashed due to the attack. The vehicles of my security staff were not armored. If the land mine had detonated near them, the number of casualties would have been higher," said Salihi.

Salihi said it is the second assassination attempt targeting him within two months.

"My house was bombed twice and my convoy was attacked three times with a bomb," he said.

Anbar crisis: IOM Iraq updated map on IDP displacement and destination

Anbar crisis: IOM Iraq updated map on IDP displacement and destination
Click on picture to enlarge

mercredi 19 février 2014

A Comprehensive Strategy Against Terrorism - Nouri al-Maliki

A Comprehensive Strategy Against Terrorism : Iraq is using all the political, economic, and military tools at its disposal in its effort to defeat al Qaeda.
BY Nouri al-Maliki – FOREIGN POLICY

FEBRUARY 18, 2014 – BAGHDAD — When al Qaeda and other terrorist groups attacked Anbar province in late December and temporarily took control of parts of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.”

Indeed this is our fight. More than two years after American troops left Iraq, with violent extremist groups such as al Qaeda resurgent, Iraq accepts that it is our responsibility to defeat them militarily, to isolate them politically, and to create the social and economic conditions that will deny them any local support in the future.

While the battle against al Qaeda in Anbar province is Iraq’s fight, it is part of a larger struggle against terrorism that threatens our neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa and also endangers the United States and the entire world community. The terrorism we face is transnational in nature, and defeating it will require international collaboration, including a strong partnership between the United States and Iraq. As President Barack Obama emphasized in his State of the Union address, we need to work together as partners to “disrupt and disable” terrorist networks. Both the United States and Iraq, then, have much to gain by making the shared effort against our shared enemies.

In order to defend and rebuild our country, Iraq needs American equipment and American know-how, as well as private investment in our own country and strategic coordination in our region. Such common efforts against common enemies in pursuit of common goals are the object of the Strategic Framework Agreement that the United States and Iraq signed before the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.

Iraq is not a protectorate; we are a partner. Iraqis are grateful to the U.S. troops who served in our country, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. But today Iraq is a sovereign country that does not need American boots on the ground.

In that spirit of partnership, I want to share the thinking behind our efforts to defend our country against terrorism. Over the last decade, the Iraqi people and their elected leaders have learned many lessons. We understand that a purely military approach will not succeed in stopping terrorism, much less in healing the sectarian, ethnic, and regional rifts that are exploited by violent extremism.

vendredi 14 février 2014

Iraqis demonstrate in front of the EU Parliament to denounce terrorism, sectarianism and corruption

Brussels, 14th February 2014 -

Despite the heavy rain and strong wind, Iraqis from Belgium and the Netherlands demonstrated today in front of the European Parliament

to denounce:-

. the targeting of the Iraqi people by foreign supported terrorist gangs inside Iraq
. corruption
. sectarianism

jeudi 13 février 2014

ITF EU Representative met with Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

ITF EU representative received an invitation from Minister Brigitte Grouwels to attend a reception in Brussels on 7th February 2014.

The guest of honour was Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Dr. Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU Representative and Member of DÜTAP (DÜNYA TÜRKLERİ AVRUPA PLATFORMU)

Mr. Steven Vanackere, Former Belgian Finance Minister and Vice-Prime Minister

Mr. Benjamin Dalle, Director Politics Coordination, Secretary of State's Office 

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

Dr. Hassan Aydinli and other members of DÜTAP received an invitation from Minister Brigitte Grouwels to attend a reception at Daarkom in Brussels.

The guest of honour was Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

At the reception Dr. Aydinli took the opportunity to inform the President of the European Council and other distinguished guests about the situation of the Turkmens in Iraq.

Musings On Iraq’s January 2014 Security Report Breakdown

Musings On Iraq’s January 2014 Security Report Breakdown

There were a reported 1,031 security incidents in Iraq in January 2014. That averaged out to 33.2 attacks per day. In comparison, in January 2013 there were 564 attacks for an average of 18.1 per day. That was an 83% increase in one year’s time showing that the insurgency was reborn last year. The chart shows that there was a slight dip in attacks in the second half of the month, 461, compared to the first, 570. January 14 had the most attacks with 59 while January 29 only had 18.

Those 1,031 attacks led to 1,495 deaths and 2,876 wounded, which averaged out to 48.2 deaths and 92.7 wounded per day. January 15 was the deadliest day of the month with 110 deaths and 157 wounded. That was largely due to car bombings in Baghdad’s Shula, Shaab, Karrada,Husseiniya, Palestine Street, Mamil, and Sadr City, and Dujail, Salahaddin that left 35 killed and 101 wounded. Those along with the daily routine of shootings and IEDs led to the worst day of the month. In comparison on January 17 there were only 16 killed and 13 wounded.

Killed and Wounded Jan. 2014

ITF EU representative attended the Conference "The State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World" at the EU Parliament

ITF EU representative Dr Hassan Aydinli and the Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) Mr. Willy Fautré.

ITF EU Representative and Mr. Jean-Bernard Bolvin, Policy Officer, Human Rights Policy Instruments and Bilateral Cooperation European External Action Service (EEAS).

At a conference held in Brussels on February, 12 the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (EPWG), co-chaired by MEPs Peter van Dalen (ECR) and Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL), presented its first annual report on freedom of religion in the world. The report takes stock of developments regarding religious freedom and concludes that this human right is increasingly violated, around the globe. The report proposes to give the promotion of religious freedom a more prominent place in EU foreign policy. It furthermore makes recommendations for EU action in case of fifteen countries where the situation is particularly dire.

Namely: China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.

The report was presented at a conference jointly organised with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who also presented their annual report. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, gave the keynote speech.

The conference welcomed the adoption of EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, by the EU Member States last year. Participants agreed that this was a major step, however, the process of ensuring a thorough implementation has only just begun. Also, complementing measures were needed.

MEP Peter van Dalen said:

"Today is a sad day as right now many millions of people are bullied, discriminated, persecuted and even killed for their faith. I hope that our work may contribute towards improving this situation."

"We made several recommendations on specific countries. On Egypt for example, we would like the EU to unfreeze the aid pledged, but tie it to human rights conditions; Coptic Christians must be able to freely and safely practise their faith. On Pakistan, we demand that hate speech be scrapped from school books, in particular where they are subsidized by the EU! On India, we'd like to see the states who have introduced anti-conversion legislation, to repeal those provisions."

MEP Dennis de Jong said:

"I am grateful for the co-operation we developed with the EEAS on the EU Guidelines. However, we now need to follow this up through an informal dialogue on the toolkit which will serve as an instrument for embassies and EU delegations to implement the Guidelines."

"Similarly, we need to further develop our dialogue with the EEAS also on the countries of concern: we identified many such countries and we now have to focus on the instruments the EU and the Member States have to help to change the situation in these countries."

Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt said:

"I see an enormous practical potential in the EU Guidelines, in harnessing the existing capacities of the EU and its Member States to make Freedom of Religion or Belief a reality. I value the Working Group's strategic role in promoting the Guidelines and their efficient implementation. The European Parliament would be well advised to upgrade the working group to an intergroup."

Recommendations for Iraq:

After relative calm for some years, Iraq is experiencing a new peak of violence along sectarian lines. Although people from every ethnic or religious background are bein made victim, smaller religious minority groups are particularly vulnerable. Despite this volatility the EU and IRAQ have signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The EU must now make sure that the Human Rights provisions in this Agreement don't become a dead letter. 

jeudi 6 février 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH - Iraq: Security Forces Abusing Women in Detention

Iraq: Security Forces Abusing Women in Detention
Torture Allegations Underscore Urgent Need for Criminal Justice Reform
FEBRUARY 6, 2014

What Iraq Should Do
Investigate alleged abuse of women in detention
Prosecute those found responsible for abusing detained women
Repeal provisions that allow arrests based on secret testimony and coerced confessions
What Other Governments Should Do
Condition aid to Iraq, especially weapons and security assistance, on compliance with treaty obligations


Women incarcerated in the Kadhimiyya women’s prison in 2006. Prior to 2009, Kadhimiyya was the only place in Baghdad where women charged with crimes were incarcerated. Security forces now detain women in prisons and other detention facilities across the country; many remain in detention for months and even years without trial.
© 2006 Yuri Kozyrev / Noor /Redux

“No One is Safe”
The Abuse of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System
FEBRUARY 6, 2014
Download the full report

(Baghdad) – Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of Iraqi women illegally and subjecting many to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. Iraq’s weak judiciary, plagued by corruption, frequently bases convictions on coerced confessions, and trial proceedings fall far short of international standards. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

The 105-page report, “‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,”documents abuses of women in detention based on interviews with women and girls, Sunni and Shia, in prison; their families and lawyers; and medical service providers in the prisons at a time of escalating violence involving security forces and armed groups. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents and extensive information received in meetings with Iraqi authorities including Justice, Interior, Defense, and Human Rights ministry officials, and two deputy prime ministers.

“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In fact, these women and their relatives have told us that as long as security forces abuse people with impunity, we can only expect security conditions to worsen.”

In January 2013, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to reform the criminal justice system, beginning with releasing detained women who had judicial orders of release. A year later, the brutal tactics of security forces remain essentially the same and hundreds of women remain in detention illegally.

As fighting raged between a multitude of Sunni insurgent groups and government security forces in Anbar province in January 2014, Anbar residents expressed their frustration to Human Rights Watch over Maliki’s failure to carry out promised reforms. Residents’ lack of trust in security forces, caused by their policy of attacking residents in Sunni areas, including the abuses of women Human Rights Watch documented, is undermining the government’s military efforts against Al-Qaeda in Anbar, they said.

Many of the 27 women who spoke with Human Rights Watch described being beaten, kicked, slapped, hung upside-down and beaten on their feet (falaqa), given electric shocks, and raped or threatened with sexual assault by security forces during their interrogation. They said security forces questioned them about their male relatives’ activities rather than crimes in which they themselves were implicated. Security forces forced them to sign statements, many with fingerprints, which they were not allowed to read and that they later repudiated in court, they said.

One woman entered her meeting with Human Rights Watch in Iraq’s death row facility in Baghdad’s Kadhimiyya neighborhood on crutches. She said nine days of beatings, electric shocks, and falaqa in March 2012 had left her permanently disabled. The split nose, back scars, and burns on her breast that Human Rights Watch observed were consistent with the abuse she alleged. She was executed in September 2013, seven months after Human Rights Watch interviewed her, despite lower court rulings that dismissed charges against her following a medical report that supported her alleged torture.

Human Rights Watch found that Iraqi security forces regularly arrest women illegally and commit other due process violations against women at every stage of the justice system. Women are subjected to threats of, or actual, sexual assault, sometimes in front of husbands, brothers, and children. Failure by the courts to investigate allegations of abuse and hold the abusers responsible encourages the police to falsify confessions and use torture, Human Rights Watch said.

The vast majority of the more than 4,200 women detained in Interior and Defense ministry facilities are Sunni, but the abuses Human Rights Watch documents affect women of all sects and classes throughout Iraqi society.

Both men and women suffer from the severe flaws of the criminal justice system. But women suffer a double burden due to their second-class status in Iraqi society. Human Rights Watch found that women are frequently targeted not only for crimes they themselves are said to have committed, but to harass male family or members of their communities. Once they have been detained, and even if they are released unharmed, women are frequently stigmatized by their family or community, who perceive them to have been dishonored.

Iraq’s broken criminal justice system fails to achieve justice for victims either of security force abuses or of criminal attacks by armed groups, Human Rights Watch said. Arrests and convictions Human Rights Watch documented appeared often to have been predicated on information provided by secret informants and confessions coerced under torture.

“We don’t know who we fear more, Al-Qaeda or SWAT,” said one Fallujah resident, referring to the special forces unit that carries out counterterrorism operations. “Why would we help them fight Al-Qaeda when they’ll just come for us as soon as they’re done with them?”

Human Rights Watch reviewed a video in which a man representing himself as a leader of Al-Qaeda asks a crowd of onlookers in Ramadi, “What are we supposed to do when the army is raping our women? What are we supposed to do when they’re imprisoning our women and children?” Peaceful protesters posed these same questions to Iraqi authorities in mass demonstrations that began over a year ago, but Maliki’s promises to address these issues remain unfulfilled.

Women detainees, their families, and lawyers told Human Rights Watch that security forces conduct random and mass arrests of women that amount to collective punishment for alleged terrorist activities by male family members. Authorities have exploited vague provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2005 to settle personal or political scores – detaining, charging, and trying women based on their association to a particular individual, tribe, or sect, Human Rights Watch said.

In the vast majority of cases Human Rights Watch examined, women had no access to a lawyer before or during their interrogation, contrary to Iraqi law when security forces presented them with statements to sign, or at trial, either because they could not afford one or because lawyers feared taking on politically sensitive cases.

In every case Human Rights Watch documented in which women told the investigating or trial judge about abuse, the judges did not open an inquiry. Some dismissed the allegations, saying that they observed no marks on the defendant’s body or that the woman should have made the allegations earlier.

Iraqi authorities should acknowledge the prevalence of abuse of female detainees, promptly investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment, prosecute guards and interrogators responsible for abuse, and disallow coerced confessions, Human Rights Watch said. They should make judicial and security sector reform an urgent priority as a prerequisite for stemming violence that increasingly threatens the country’s stability.

“The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq,” Stork said. “These abuses have caused a deep-seated anger and lack of trust between Iraq’s diverse communities and security forces, and all Iraqis are paying the price.”