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 Shiite alarm over Sadr's return

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Dr.Hannani Maya
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الدولة : العراق
الجنس : ذكر
عدد المساهمات : 37598
مزاجي : أحب المنتدى
تاريخ التسجيل : 21/09/2009
الابراج : الجوزاء
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مُساهمةموضوع: Shiite alarm over Sadr's return    الثلاثاء 11 يناير 2011, 6:32 pm

Shiite alarm over Sadr's return





Even as supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr rejoiced at his return to Iraq, some in the country's Shiite Muslim majority population expressed alarm Sunday about the implications of his homecoming.

In Baghdad and the southern provinces of Basra and Maysan, the news gave deep pause to some Shiite Iraqis, mindful of Iraq's history since 2003 and wondering whether Sadr would once more spark violent confrontations, or whether he had in fact truly evolved.

Sadr came home last week from Iran, where he had gone in 2007 after his Mahdi Army militia had engaged in years of fighting with American troops and had been blamed for some of Iraq's worst sectarian violence. His supporters won 40 seats in the Iraqi parliament last year, allowing him to play a decisive role in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's return to power after a lengthy period of political deadlock.

For Abu Muhanned, 47, a resident of Maysan province, it was as if the clock had been set back to 2006, when Sadr's militia controlled neighborhoods and even some cities, with residents living at the mercy of pro-Sadr street commanders.

Already, Abu Muhanned, who did not give his full name out of fear of the fundamentalist religious movement, says he has seen Sadr's supporters again exert their will in Maysan's capital, Amarah. Now as part of the deal that brought Maliki, a Shiite, back for a second term, the prime minister has handed the province's governorship back to the Sadr movement.

"We feel that Maliki sold us out by appointing a governor from them," Abu Muhanned says, remembering how Maliki ordered troops to fight the group less than three years ago.

Sadr has proclaimed his support for the current Iraqi government and has vowed to work through politics for change. But rather than being heartened, Abu Muhanned feels fear. He knows Sadr's religious-civic organization, Mumahidoon, has divided the city into two districts, east and west, and wonders whether there are ulterior motives to such plans.

"They shave their moustaches and leave their beards long … we call them the Taliban Amarah," Abu Muhanned said. "His return back to Iraq will have nothing to do with strengthening the security and stability because their thoughts are based on the opposite of that."

In Basra, where Maliki's military forces defeated the Sadr movement in 2008, Sadr is far from popular and many here doubt that his movement has forsaken violence. "When Sadr was here, Iraq passed its worst stages including violence, killing and displacement, and I think that phase will be repeated," said Nassir Nayif Sulaiti, 49.

Such views make no sense to Sadr's fervent backers, including some who do not hide their past links to the violence. They were simply jubilant about Sadr's return, and uttered words that highlighted the thin line between the group's military and civic wings.

"When the leader came back, it's like Iraq was born again," said former Mahdi Army fighter Haidar Jassim Mohammed, 38. "Maliki promised us before.... I hope this time he implements his promises. We are all with our leader, if he says carry your weapons, we will do so. We all fought in the Mahdi Army."

By Ned Parker,
Los Angeles Times - ned.parker@latimes.com






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Labels: Iran, Iranian Government, Iraqi Government, Moqtada al-Sadr, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, Shi'ite






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Occupation destroys women's lives





More than seven years after the US- and UK-led invasion of their country, Iraqis continue to endure an occupation that has systematically violated their rights to life, dignity, self-determination and economic development. The occupation has been and continues to be so destructive and so violent that one in four Iraqis are estimated to be dead or displaced. One in five Iraqis has been made a refugee or an internally displaced person (IDP).

In particular, the role and situation of women and girls has declined precipitously compared to prior to the invasion. From torture to rape to assassination, from forced separation for mixed couples to women and their children enduring the death of their husbands and fathers, from a loss of educational rights to expulsion from the workplace and public life, and from sexual slavery to forced flight or enforced disappearance, for the past seven years Iraqi women and girls have endured the most terrifying of fates. They are living at the mercy of an occupation that both seeks to terrorize them into submission, and to use them as objects for the terrorization of the whole of Iraqi society.

No security

Dr. Souad al-Azzawi, who authored a study on Iraqi women entitled "Deterioration of Iraq women's rights and living conditions under occupation," published in January 2008, told The Electronic Intifada: "The most significant loss that Iraqi women have suffered is a complete and total loss of security." She explained that the loss of security entails both the loss of physical security and "the economic, social and civil securities Iraqi women were so accustomed to prior to the occupation."

In fact, it appears that the loss of physical and other aspects of security have a Catch-22 effect on the lives of women. The lack of legal and institutional support for women by an Iraqi puppet government which is at best ineffective has meant that in the vast majority of cases the criminals, mafias, militias, death squads, US occupation forces and Iraqi police and army forces committing crimes against women are not held accountable for their actions. This has in turn encouraged the development of a situation characterized by lawlessness and criminality, in which women are prime targets. As such, many women have been forced to leave their jobs and quit their education, for fear that they may be the next victim of rape or assassination.

According to al-Azzawi, Iraqi women have had to resort to "the relative security of their homes," often taking their children out of school too if they were the only parent able to accompany them there and back.

Echoing al-Azzawi's words, an Iraqi refugee speaking on condition of anonymity said that she was forced to leave Iraq precisely because of death threats issued against her by militias who had found out she was actively working as a journalist seeking to expose the injustices taking place against women. Had she stayed in Iraq, the threats likely would have been fulfilled.

"Not only was I being targeted, but I was also without protection, given that Iraq has no government to speak of," she explained. She added that "I could have been killed at any moment, and no one would have been held accountable for it. It was for one reason alone that I fled: because I had no choice."

Criminal levels of poverty

The figures speak for themselves. According to a dossier on Iraqi women published by the BRussells Tribunal, prior to the invasion 72 percent of working women were government employees. The dismantlement of state institutions immediately after the invasion meant that these women became unemployed. Instability and ineffective institutions in Iraq render it impossible to pinpoint the total rate of unemployment today, but estimates range from 15 percent to 70 percent. The few stable jobs that exist, according to the dossier, are usually given to men, though a growing number of female-headed households means that many women need to take extraordinary risks in order to try and cater for their children ("Iraqi Women Under Occupation" [PDF]).

The same economic insecurity affects Iraqi refugee families. Aseer al-Madaien, the Protection Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - Syria, says that out of 139,000 registered Iraqis in Syria, 28 percent are households headed by women. In total, estimates for the total number of displaced Iraqis, including both refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), range up to almost five million, according to the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, which believes that there are 2.5 million Iraqi IDPs and 2.3 million refugees.

IDPs suffer both extreme vulnerability and insecurity, as they seek refuge in the homes of relatives and friends, said Hana Al Bayaty, member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Many of them are the victims of ethnic cleansing, whereby a country once free of sectarianism is increasingly witnessing the targeting of persons on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. Mixed marriages in these conditions are all too often broken up by force, according to a report published by the UN-affiliated IRIN humanitarian news agency ("Mixed Marriages confront Sectarian Violence," 6 April 2006).

The majority of Iraqi refugees have headed to neighboring countries Syria and Jordan, where they are not allowed to work, as they are legally considered "guests." In 2007, the UNHCR reported that an estimated 40 percent of Iraq's middle class had fled the country. Not only have almost half of those with the qualifications and experience to help rebuild Iraq left the country, but they are also suffering from the most extreme form of disempowerment, according to Al Bayaty.

Al-Azzawi explained that "For the educated middle class, this situation is shattering as everything we have worked so hard to earn and build up over decades of war and sanctions is being brought down by military force before our very eyes."

Unable to work legally, it is often refugee women who take upon themselves the burden and the risk of working as they are less likely to be asked for documentation on the streets of Amman, Damascus and beyond, and they thereby hope to be less likely to be deported.

Unemployment levels in Syria and Jordan, however, mean that even illegal work is hard to come by. It is because of this that the phenomenon of forced prostitution is becoming increasingly rife. The growing problem of sex trafficking is partly caused by poverty.

According to al-Azzawi, the lack of work permits, qualifications and opportunities "leads some women to prostitution in order to feed their children and their families." In other cases, the sheer lack of protection faced by some women push them into prostitution. Problems in such cases include threats of kidnapping issued against women should they not accept to prostitute themselves. These threats are issued especially against women whose husbands are dead or missing. "The women of Iraq live in a very fragile situation as a result of the American occupation's crimes," al-Azzawi said.

Death, torture and enforced disappearance

No statistical reference can adequately convey the sheer suffering experienced by the people of Iraq, as a whole, from the genocidal sanctions period through the invasion and ensuing occupation. Current estimates place the number of dead at anywhere between 1.5 million and 2.5 million.

According to Iraqi human rights analyst and advocate Asma al-Haidari, "Up to one million Iraqis have been forcibly disappeared." Behind the enforced disappearances are the US army, Iraqi government forces including the army and police, and al-Qaeda and other militias that operate freely across the country, according to a presentation given by Dirk Adriaensens, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee, at a London conference organized by the International Committee Against Disappearances on 9-12 December 2010. According to calculations by Adriaensens, based on UNHCR statistics, 20 percent of internally displaced Iraqi families have reported cases of missing children ("Enforced Disappearance. The Missing Persons of Iraq" [PDF]).

It is also understood that, given that there is a very real and justified fear of retaliation against families who report the disappearances of their loved ones, many others suffer in silence. Thousands of detainees, some of them in secret, illegal prisons, according to al-Azzawi, are women. Estimates published in 2008 by the Iraqi Parliamentary Women's Committee and the Iraqi Ministry of Women's Affairs indicate that between one and two million Iraqi women are widows.

Inside Iraq's jails, legal or not, cases of torture and sexual abuse have been widely reported. Revelations by WikiLeaks published on 22 October 2010 were described by Iraqi activists such as Sabah al-Mukhtar, president of the Arab Lawyers' Union, as just "the tip of the iceberg," as he said on an Al-Jazeera English interview on 24 October. According to al-Azzawi, women are usually jailed on trumped-up charges of terrorism, where there is no proof and while there is no adequate legal system to ensure their right to a fair trial. "Many are awaiting execution," al-Azzawi added.

Further, when it is the man who disappears, whether he is dead or missing, women and their families have to fend for themselves in a hellish situation. Out of this horror comes forth one of the more obtuse trends, inexistent in Iraq up until 2003, of families giving their daughters away in early marriage for fear of being unable to adequately support them.

One immediate effect of this phenomenon is the fact that girls aged 13, 14 and 15 sold into early marriage lose their right to education. As figures currently stand, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report published on 1 September 2010, for every 100 boys in school, there are only 89 girls ("Girls Education in Iraq 2010" [PDF]).

"Lots of those little girls are very bright and are willing to finish their education if they are allowed to," said al-Azzawi.

Worse still is the flourishing of what are known as "pleasure marriages." These are short-term marriages conducted out of court, whereby separation is also very simple. It is a practice that Iraqi women's rights advocates describe as linked to prostitution, because of the wrongful abuse of the practice by men in power, often blackmailing fathers into giving their daughters away in a "pleasure marriage," and also because once a girl or a woman has married in this way and has received alimony for her short-term commitment, she will find it very difficult to reintegrate back into her family.

"Many girls are forced into prostitution and ultimately sex trafficking this way," al-Azzawi added.

Forced Islamization of society

It is deeply telling that Iraqi society is becoming forcibly Islamized by militias tied to the Iraqi puppet government, which is dependent upon the United States for its survival. Meanwhile, Washington claims to be fighting a war on Islamic terrorism. The reality, as is frequently the case, is the precise opposite. Previously a secular state, Iraqi society is becoming forcibly transformed into a theocracy. In such systems, women and girls inevitably lose.

The results of the proliferation of fundamentalist militias are varied. While reports of Christian women veiling in order to avoid attacks are troubling in the Iraqi context, what is potentially much worse is that the notion of an Iraqi state for all its citizens is fast disappearing. Not only does this mean that Iraqi girls are no longer safe on the streets; it also means that if the occupation fulfills its goals, Iraqi "career women" may be a thing of the past.

Al-Azzawi notes that "Economically the country has lost a huge, skilled working force, which is exactly what the occupation planned to do, and the lives of millions of working women and families were shattered."

Considering that there is not a single right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the US occupation has not violated -- as the International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq team found when working in 2009 to bring a legal case for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against four US presidents and four UK prime ministers -- it is amazing yet encouraging that the US occupation's goals have failed.

Not only is the US administration under President Barack Obama still battling to maintain control over a country whose people resist in the name of their dignity and their love for Iraq, but many of the most outspoken and brilliant advocates for Iraqis' rights in general are in fact women.

"I have much hope for Iraq," said human rights advocate Asma al-Haidari, "Nothing will make me lose hope."

Serene Assir is a Lebanese independent writer and journalist based in Spain.


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Labels: Domestic Violence, Education, Iraq Kidnapping Torture, Iraqi Violence, Iraqi Widows, Iraqi Women






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Arab world must face its demons






In the wake of the recent attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, warned that Christians face a campaign of "religious cleansing in the Middle East". But, given Western governments' colonial history and double standards on human rights, Arab Christians would be better served by an end to destructive Western intervention in the region than by sympathetic statements.

This Western show of concern is not only hypocritical and damaging to social cohesion, but could serve to further ignite the growing wave of sectarianism sweeping the region. It was, after all, Western colonial powers that planted the seeds of the divisions that haunt the Arab world to this day and the US invasion and occupation of Iraq that unleashed the sectarian strife from which it is reeling.

As an Arab Christian, originally from Bethlehem, I am offended to hear Western leaders pretend to defend Arab Christians, while they either do nothing to stop or actively support Israeli violations of the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people - Muslim and Christian alike.

The hate in our midst

But this is not to say that Arab societies do not also bear the blame for nurturing the bigotry and hate in our midst.The attacks on Christian worshippers, first in Iraq and now in Egypt, should serve as a wake-up call for the governments and citizens of the Arab world.

The region's social cohesion has for some time been at risk of total implosion. Repression and economic disenfranchisement have bred extremism, particularly among the young - many of whom despair of a secure, let alone successful, future.

Most Arab governments, with complete Western support, backed Islamic fundamentalists with the aim of undercutting the secular wave of pan-Arab nationalism and leftist activism that engulfed the region during the 1950s, 1960s and part of the 1970s.

In turn, Western governments, with the total complicity of many Arab states, used Islamic groups to fight communism, funding groups that rallied to the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as a religious war against communism. A wave of extremists who advocated a very narrow and distorted interpretation of Islam - devoid of the tolerance the ancient religion espouses - was unleashed.

The emergence of al-Qaeda, in part as an expression of anger towards Western interventionism, has also given a voice to prejudiced views of 'the other', including Arab and other Christians.

But the massacres in Iraq and Egypt reveal that the language of hate that has been pervading some Islamic websites and extremist groups has not been adequately countered and addressed by Muslim scholars and intellectuals.

Constituency of the oppressed

Islam is being manipulated by bigots and quasi-intellectuals who thrive on feeding hate to a constituency of young people frustrated by foreign domination and social injustice.

The carnage at the Alexandria church was carried out by a young man who saw Egyptian Christians as representatives of 'the other' - possibly blaming them for the social ills of Egyptian society. But this likely disenfranchised young Muslim wrought vengeance on people who most probably suffered equally from the country's prevailing social injustices.

There is, undeniably, a misconception that Christians in the Arab world are an extension of the West - a perspective that will only have been perpetuated by Western reactions to the latest attack.

The vast majority of Christians in the Arab world are Arabs and those of other ethnicities are an integral part of their countries, although it must be noted that southern Sudan is a more complicated case.

Even under the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi president, Chaldeans were protected, not considered outsiders. In Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, the Armenian minority enjoys the same rights as Muslim citizens.

But this also means that Arab Christians as well as Christians of other ethnicities suffer the same repression by Arab governments as their Muslim brethren. Establishing democratic institutions and ensuring full civil rights and participation for all would go a long way towards eradicating communal divisions.

But the attack in Alexandria must also bring attention to the recent history of discrimination against Egyptian Copts, such as government obstruction of the building of churches, which has added to their feelings of marginalisation. This must be acknowledged by both the state and Egyptian Muslims who have been in denial about the growing sense of resentment felt by their Christian compatriots.

Egyptian writer Hani Shukrallah has accused Egyptian society of practicing the same double standards it rightly accuses the West of employing, pointing to the hypocrisy of those who "rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim centre near Ground Zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo".

Growing mistrust

Sectarianism and prejudice is not confined to extremist or misguided Arab Muslims. Hostile views of Islam are also on the rise within some Arab Christian circles, some of which - either out of fear or to receive Western funding - act as though they are an extension of the West.

This growing mistrust is evident in some of the mushrooming Muslim and Christian satellite channels, which foment spiteful stereotypes and broadcast chauvinism to millions in the name of religion. Many of the Christian channels involved in deepening sectarianism are funded by Western donors. And while it is not clear who funds the Muslim channels, some governments have used radical Islamists to counter the Muslim Brotherhood - the dominant opposition force in many Arab states.

Arab governments are more likely to censor opposition media than bigoted channels that help to divert attention from the real social problems facing their people.

This creeping sectarianism can be found not only in relations between Christians and Muslims but also between Muslims. Colonialism has left Lebanon with a sectarian system that pits Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other as well as against Christians. The invasion of Iraq has left the country with a sectarian and ethnic conflict that has now been institutionalised in the form of sectarian power-sharing. Sudan is splitting over ethnic and religious divides.

The West is not honest, but we Arabs are equally as guilty. Sarkozy and other Western leaders can save us their speeches. The Western outcry over slaughtered Christians, while it is engaged in killing Arabs in Iraq and Muslims in Afghanistan, could only preclude a real introspective discussion about the Arab role in creating fragmented societies and it is time for us to face our own demons.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect
Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


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London protests attack on Iran exiles






Demonstrators have gathered outside the Iranian Embassy in London to protest at what they claim was an attack on Iranian exiles in Iraq.

They have accused Iraqi special forces and Iranian agents of breaking into Camp Ashraf and injuring 175 refugees with stones, pieces of metal and other sharp objects.

Camp Ashraf, close to the border with Iran, houses 3,500 Iranian dissidents.They have "protected persons" status under the Geneva Convention.

The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom has accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of ordering the attack.The committee's chairman, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, called on American troops and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq to intervene.

He warned of an "imminent humanitarian tragedy" and claimed that the Iranian government had played a part in the attack, calling it "Tehran's response to growing domestic unrest and nationwide calls for regime change".The committee also voiced concern that Camp Ashraf's residents were being psychologically assaulted by more than a hundred loudspeakers.

Demand for protection

Protesters in London, who waved purple flags and chanted slogans, linked the most recent attack to a visit by the Iranian foreign minister to Baghdad.

In a statement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claimed the attack had been "in pursuance of a dictated policy by the Iranian regime"."Therefore, it is the duty of the US forces and the United Nations to assume the protection of Ashraf residents immediately," it said.

The incident comes after Spain's central court summoned the chief of police of Iraq's Diyala Province for prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of 11 residents of Camp Ashraf in July 2009.

More on This Story

Spain to probe Iraq camp deaths 04 JANUARY 2011, MIDDLE EAST

Iraq accused over Ashraf refugees 12 NOVEMBER 2010, MIDDLE EAST

Iran exiles 'killed in Iraq raid' 29 JULY 2009, MIDDLE EAST

Camp Ashraf groups vow to fight on 08 OCTOBER 2009, MIDDLE EAST
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Shiite alarm over Sadr's return
استعرض الموضوع السابق استعرض الموضوع التالي الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة 
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