عدد المساهمات : 38652
تاريخ التسجيل : 21/09/2009
|موضوع: Non-combat troops kill Iraqi civilians الإثنين 20 سبتمبر 2010, 13:55|| |
Non-combat troops kill Iraqi civilians
Two weeks after President Barack Obama proclaimed the end of the US "combat mission" in Iraq, a night raid by US troops in the city of Fallujah has claimed the lives of at least eight Iraqi civilians.
Wednesday’s raid provided one more indication that the US occupation of Iraq continues and American troops are still battling to suppress Iraqi resistance. While the US military has reduced its deployment in the country, the nearly 50,000 troops that remain are prepared for and are engaged in combat, the August 31 official deadline for an end to combat operations notwithstanding.
American military officials claim that the raid was aimed at killing or capturing a leading member of Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia, an insurgent group. Those killed, they say, were insurgents who fired on the joint US-Iraqi raiding party as it approached a house where the targeted individual was believed to be.
Both residents and local officials, however, strongly dispute this account. Fallujah’s police chief Brig. Gen. Faisal al Essawi told the AFP news agency that eight civilians were killed, including two women and two children. The casualties were confirmed by a local hospital.The New York Times cited Iraqi police and area residents reporting that "Four of the dead were brothers between the ages of 10 and 18."
Iraqi police said that four US Army helicopters provided support during the 1 a.m. operation.Local residents reported a scene of "chaos and fear as American soldiers and Iraqi security officers moved through the area in the darkness," the Times reported. "They accused the Iraqis of firing indiscriminately, often at people who represented no threat."
"I was sleeping when I was awakened by gunfire and explosions," a resident told the Times. "I went out to see what was happening and they shot at me. They missed, but I went back inside and stayed there."
Fallujah, 43 miles west of Baghdad, is located in the predominantly Sunni Anbar Province, a center of resistance to the US occupation since the 2003 invasion. In November 2004, the US military subjected Fallujah to a brutal siege, in which thousands were killed and more than half of the city’s buildings reduced to rubble. The population of 600,000 was reduced by half due to the killings and the forced exodus of those who fled the assault.
The siege involved some of the worst war crimes of the US occupation, including the summary execution of prisoners and the use of white phosphorus shells to burn insurgents and unarmed civilians alive.This week’s murderous raid has reawakened the deep-seated rage of the local population over the suffering inflicted by the US occupation forces.
"The security situation in Fallujah may deteriorate because of what happened today," Abdulfattah Izghear, a city council member, told the Washington Post. "We asked US troops and the Iraqi government to explain this unjustified action and this naked aggression against civilians."
On Thursday, the city’s Municipal Council declared three days of mourning for the victims of the raid. A statement issued by the council read, "The people of Fallujah denounce this terrorist operation … motivated by the deep hatred of this city and its people." Offices, schools and shops were shut down in protest over the killings.
Condemnation of the raid also came from officials in Ramadi, the capital city of Iraq’s western Anbar Province. The governor of the province Qassem al-Fahdawi demanded that the regime in Baghdad conduct an investigation into the raid. Officials reported that President Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to set up a commission to investigate the killings.
"All the casualties were civilians, including the owner of the house the troops targeted," the governor said.The US military faced protracted resistance in Anbar Province, which it was never able to subdue by force. Relative calm was restored only by the Pentagon paying former insurgents to form tribal militias known as the Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq, which took charge of local security.
One thing that the formal end of the US "combat mission" has meant is that responsibility for these militias has been handed over to the Shia-dominated central government in Baghdad, which has failed to pay many of the militiamen. While disarming some of the militias, the government has reneged on pledges to provide their members with government jobs or integrate them into the security forces.Al Qaeda has increasingly targeted the leadership of the "Awakening" groups, while seeking to recruit its members into the insurgency.
"The Sahwa [Awakening Councils] are finished and we see the truth that the stability they supposedly brought was an illusion, it was never really there," Harith al Dhari, the exiled chairman of Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni opposition group, told the Abu Dhabi-based daily, the National. "He insisted tribal leaders in the Sahwa Councils now viewed their decisions to join with the government and US as a mistake," the paper reported. "They are like loyal slaves who get killed for that loyalty," he said.
Unrest in the region has intensified in the context of the continuing failure of Iraq’s discredited sectarian political parties to form a new government, six months after parliamentary elections last March. The new 325-member parliament has met only once since the election, for a 20-minute session.
By Bill Van Auken of the WSWS
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In reaction to the expression of support by nearly a half million people in Iraq’s Diyala province for the residents of Camp Ashraf, the Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad set up a photo gallery this week against the residents with the help of its proxies in Iraq.
In June, it was announced at a conference by sheikhs and Iraqi political figures in Baghdad that more than 480,000 residents in Diyala province have signed a petition in support of Camp Ashraf, where 3,400 members of the main Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) reside. A former prime minister of Algeria, Sid Ahmad Ghozali, also unveiled the petition at a gathering of 100,000 Iranian exiles near Paris in June.
After a two-month campaign and marshalling of its cohorts from the council of Khalis city, which is tied to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the clerical regime’s embassy in Baghdad finally unveiled a photo exhibition against the PMOI, which has faced criticism from Iraqi political figures.
A former chair of the Diyala province council said the exhibition in Khalis is a result of the Iranian regime’s political pressure on the Iraqi government to interfere in the affairs of the PMOI.According to the Lebanese news agency on Thursday, Ebrahim Bajlan added that Diyala’s previous council had informed the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross that the residents of Camp Ashraf are Iranian refugees on the basis of UN conventions and are considered guests of Iraq.
The Iraqi government and the regional government have no right to interfere in their affairs, he said. But, political pressures on the Iraqi government has caused meddling in the affairs of Camp Ashraf by the Iranian regime, he added. Bajlan also urged the UN to intervene immediately to protect the residents.
The Iraqi news agency reported on Thursday that a former council member in Diyala, Ziad Ahmad, also reacted to the regime’s measures against Ashraf residents by saying, “I don’t know what the aims of this exhibition are, but we will review this matter because we will not allow measures such as this that cause regional instability and insecurity to take place.”He added, “We will not accept any foreign meddling against the interests, stability and security of Iraq.”
Email This BlogThis! Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Google Buzz 0 comments Dhari sees revolution ahead
Increasing public disillusionment and fury over the stalled political process in Iraq is strengthening anti-government militants, according to Harith al Dhari, the hard-line tribal chief considered a spiritual leader of the insurgency.
In an interview in Damascus, the Sunni sheikh, a wanted man in Baghdad, admitted that insurgents had been weakened in recent years but said they were now rejuvenating, fuelled by increased popular outrage against parties across the political spectrum.
"The resistance isn’t defeated, it is still present and active, it still inflicts casualties on the forces of occupation," he said. "We have to admit that the resistance has become reduced in its impact and influence compared to 2004, 2005 and 2006, but it is rebuilding today."The Iraqi people are very angry and there will be renewed resistance and we may finally see a revolution against the occupation and this government that has spread so much suffering."
Since the March 7 elections, Iraq’s political parties have failed to form a new administration, unable to agree on the fundamental matter of which group gets to choose the prime minister. Divisions between the various blocs seem intractable, with no sign that a resolution is on the horizon.This impasse has added to a deep frustration with Iraq’s political classes among ordinary people, many of whom already saw the parties as corrupt and self-serving, rather than working collectively to reconstruct a war-shattered country.
As the stalemate continues, millions of Iraqis struggle with poverty, unemployment and the political violence that remains rife. About 200 to 300 people are killed each month, a significant number of them civilians.Circumstances are "dire and worsening by the day", Mr al Dhari, said, describing Iraq as a battlefield between "militias, foreign intelligence agencies, occupation troops, the resistance and sectarian politicians".
As chairman of the fundamentalist Association of Muslim Scholars, Mr al Dhari, 59, has been an ardent opponent to the post-2003 invasion political process. Together with his rejectionist followers he has refused all involvement in Iraqi politics until US forces leave the country, insisting that in the meantime it is a national duty to resist foreign occupation.
Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, Washington is supposed to pull out its troops by the end of next year, a timetable Mr al Dhari dismissed as a fiction. "Don’t trust the Americans in their promise to leave. I don’t expect them to go."Mr al Dhari predicted that, if conditions in Iraq continue as they are, al Qa’eda and Iraqi nationalist insurgents could join forces. The two sets of militants are opposed to one another, he said, the former involved in murdering innocent Iraqis while the latter provide a legitimate resistance.
"The relationship between the Iraqi national resistance and al Qa’eda is bad but maybe, if the suffering continues as it is, the entire rejectionist movement in Iraq will unify its efforts and a united force will be established, to face the dictatorship of the sectarian political parties."At the height of Iraq’s bloodletting between 2005 and 2007 – when the insurgency was at its strongest – many Iraqi tribes supported the insurgency and allied with al Qa’eda in opposition to the government.
They then switched sides as part of the so-called tribal awakening, forming Sahwa Councils, joining with US and Iraqi government troops and turning their weapons on their former allies. This awakening movement is credited as a key element in stabilising Iraq and cutting back spiralling violence.
In recent months, however, it is these same Sahwa forces, now being phased out by Baghdad, that have borne the brunt of many al Qa’eda attacks, with scores of tribal fighters killed and injured. Reports are beginning to circulate of disgruntled Sahwa members returning, once more, to the al Qa’eda fold.
"The Sahwa are finished and we see the truth that the stability they supposedly brought was an illusion, it was never really there," Mr al Dhari said. He insisted tribal leaders in the Sahwa Councils now viewed their decisions to join with the government and US as a mistake. "They are like loyal slaves who get killed for that loyalty," he said.
Since 2006, when the Iraqi interior ministry issued a warrant for his arrest for his support of militants, Mr al Dhari has lived in exile, splitting his time primarily between Jordan and Syria. He was born in Anbar province in 1951, and his family has a reputation of fighting against foreign interference in Iraq. It was his grandfather who shot and killed Col Gerard Leachman, the British army officer in charge of suppressing the Arab revolt in 1920.
That is a piece of history of which Mr al Dhari is proud: "My grandfather fought British imperialism with a rifle, so did my father with the rifle and the sword."
By Phil Sands of The National - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Iraqi authorities should stop blocking peaceful demonstrations and arresting and intimidating organizers, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi security forces should also respect the right of free assembly and use only the minimum necessary force when violence occurs at a protest.
After thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in the summer of 2010 to protest a chronic lack of government services, Iraqi authorities cracked down on demonstrations. The Interior Ministry issued onerous regulations about public protests, and the prime minister's office apparently issued a secret order instructing the interior minister to refuse permits for demonstrations about power shortages. In the past few months, the government has refused to authorize numerous requests for public demonstrations, with no explanation. Authorities have also arrested and intimidated organizers and protesters, and policing actions have led to deaths and injuries. The clampdown has created a climate of fear among organizers and demonstrators.
"To take away the rights and freedoms Iraqis have been promised in exchange for all the suffering they have endured since the war is to add insult to injury," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. "When will Iraqi officials learn that silencing the voice of the people is only a formula for strife?"
In recent months, public frustration has mounted across Iraq at the government's inability to provide sufficient electricity and other basic services. With as little as a few hours of electricity a day in many areas, and with summer temperatures soaring to 50 degrees Celsius, demonstrations broke out across the country in June. The protests in Basra culminated on June 19, when security forces killed two protesters and wounded two others after demonstrators tried to force their way into the provincial council building.
Other demonstrations started to spring up around Iraq with some turning violent, injuring some protesters and police. In an attempt to calm public furor, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki replaced the electricity minister, and several government officials promised to improve services and to investigate the lethal actions by security forces. However, behind the scenes, Iraqi authorities have moved to prevent other demonstrations and to target organizers for arrest or harassment.
On June 25, the Interior Ministry issued new regulations with onerous provisions that effectively impede Iraqis from organizing lawful protests. The regulations require organizers to get "written approval of both the minister of interior and the provincial governor" before submitting an application to the relevant police department, not less than 72 hours before a planned event. The regulations fail to state what standards the Interior Ministry, governors, or police may apply in approving or denying demonstration permits, effectively granting the government unfettered power to determine who may hold a demonstration. It is not clear whether an organizer can challenge a permit denial.
These regulations undermine guarantees in the Iraqi constitution of "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration." The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iraq is a state party, also guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention. The ICCPR makes clear that restrictions on peaceful demonstrations should be exceptional and narrowly permitted, only if found to be "necessary in a democratic society" to safeguard "national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." Iraq's grant of over-broad approval authority to government agents fails to meet the narrow criteria international law allows for limits on the right to assembly, Human Rights Watch said.
The Interior Ministry regulations are also problematic because they explicitly permit Iraqi security forces to use unlimited force against protesters, whether proportional or not, Human Rights Watch said. The regulations state that, in the case of any violence occurring during a demonstration, "all known methods to disperse protesters will be used."
On September 5, a high-ranking Interior Ministry official told Human Rights Watch that on the day the new regulations were promulgated, the prime minister's office sent a secret order to the ministry instructing Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani to deny approval for all demonstrations dealing with electricity shortages or other government services, and telling him to "make up excuses if needed."
"Squashing Iraqis' ability to express their grievances about the government's failure to provide basic services certainly only makes people angrier and more frustrated," Whitson said. "If the government can't even provide electricity to Iraq's cities and towns, it should at least allow public complaints."
Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq, told Human Rights Watch that since the new regulations were introduced, "it has become impossible to get permission to protest the government's failure to provide services, so people stop trying." Alwan, who has organized dozens of marches and protests since 2003, said that the law effectively bans demonstrations.
"It amounts to the same thing," he said. "When we try to get a permit from the Interior Ministry, we either get no response, or they keep telling us that they are 'checking on it.' After a while, organizers just give up."Four other would-be organizers told Human Rights Watch that they have not received permits - or responses to permit requests - in the months since the regulations went into effect.
"After I told them that we were going to protest in solidarity with the Basrans and against the power shortages, I was redirected from one Interior Ministry building to another for over a week, with each saying it was not their responsibility to help me," said Rashid Ismail Mahmoud, of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. Mahmoud tried to get permission for a small gathering at Baghdad's traditional protest site, Firdos Square.
"I finally told an officer that if they were going to purposely withhold permission, we would protest anyway, as was our right," Mahmoud said. "He threatened that there were orders to disperse illegal demonstrations by firing over their heads and to arrest everyone involved."
At one unauthorized demonstration in the southern city of Nasiriyah on the evening of August 21, clashes between police and protesters injured about 16 people, on both sides, news reports said. Security forces arrested 37 people and fired water cannons and used batons to disperse the protest, while demonstrators threw rocks and sticks. An Associated Press journalist, Akram al-Timimi, who witnessed the protest, said that organizers in the area are now afraid to identify themselves, and that the behavior of the security forces raised tensions and made the situation much worse.
"The police acted very aggressively and started to fire their guns over the heads of the people," he told Human Rights Watch. Security forces prevented news cameramen from filming the event and, al-Timimi said, beat up one television correspondent and smashed his camera.The next day, Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned authorities for their response to the protest.
"Peaceful demonstrations that respect the public interest and public property are one of the means of expression guaranteed by the constitution and Iraqi law," read the statement, which was sent to Human Rights Watch. "It is the duty of the security forces to protect the demonstrators, not to harm and arrest them.... We call upon the local government and security forces to abide by the law and stay within the limits of its powers and to listen to the requests of the protesters and citizens. Instead of using force and oppression, they should work to address the deterioration of government-provided services."
At a protest decrying water shortages on August 11 in the northern city of Chamchamal, security forces demanded footage from a cameraman that showed them firing over the heads of protesters. According to witnesses, security officials fired at the journalist after he refused and ran away."What happened in Chamchamal is absolutely outrageous," said a statement by Reporters Without Borders. "Journalists are often the targets of verbal threats or physical violence from the security forces, but this time the security forces deliberately fired on a journalist in the middle of a city street."
Immediately after the death of the two protesters at the June 19 Basra demonstration, Iraqi authorities moved on the organizers, arresting at least two suspected organizers in the following days. On June 22, Iraqi Army forces raided the house of a suspected organizer, Matham Kadhem, who was not home. Basra local officials and media reports said that the soldiers arrested Kadhem's two sons and told his family they would be held until Kadhem turned himself in.
"This is completely unacceptable," Ahmed al-Sulaiti, deputy head of Basra Provincial Council, told Human Rights Watch on September 8. "We [in the local government] made many calls to security forces, telling them to stop targeting the organizers of the protest. This was not about security, but was politically motivated."
One of the organizers of the Basra demonstration who spoke to Human Rights Watch said: "Three of us went into hiding. Those who weren't arrested were harassed. Soldiers would come to my neighborhood every day and question me about what I was doing, where I was going, and who I was meeting.... Treating me as though I was a criminal was a message to me and to others to not take part in organizing."
The regulations require protest organizers to register with the Interior Ministry, causing concern among some activists that they will be targeted for harassment or worse. An organizer from Baghdad told Human Rights Watch: "The government's reactions in Basra have really affected people in the rest of the country. Now, I'm trying to organize a demonstration in Baghdad about employees' rights, and it is difficult. Not only are organizers afraid now, but many regular people do not want to be a part of any demonstration because of the chance of being arrested, and they are fearful of how security forces will use violence to break up the crowd."
"This is all too reminiscent of Iraq's bad old days of scaring activists into keeping their mouths shut and their heads down," Whitson said. "Iraqis who care about what's happening in their country and want to voice their opinions about the country's problems should be celebrated, not intimidated."While the crackdown has focused primarily on preventing demonstrations about the lack of government services, other protests have not been immune to government interference - even if organizers have proper permits.
On September 7, security forces prevented protesters urging Iraq's political parties to form a government from continuing along their planned route in Baghdad even though organizers had all the necessary permits from the Interior Ministry, including written permission from the interior minister himself, and the route was pre-approved by government and security officials. The protest, organized by the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, a human rights nongovernmental organization, was scheduled to be held in front of Parliament, where the organization had held protests over the years without incident.
"Our organization has a history of many peaceful demonstrations, but we were suddenly not allowed to [proceed]," said Al-Amal's secretary-general, Hanaa Edwar. After speaking to security officials on the phone, she was told that, by order of the prime minister's office, no demonstration would be permitted."Today, they are preventing peaceful, legal demonstrations," she told Human Rights Watch. "Tomorrow, we are afraid they will do more than this."
Report compiled by Human Rights Watch