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 Hundreds gather for Iraqi demos

استعرض الموضوع السابق استعرض الموضوع التالي اذهب الى الأسفل 
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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
التوقيت :

مُساهمةموضوع: Hundreds gather for Iraqi demos    الأحد 06 مارس 2011, 5:50 am

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Hundreds gather for Iraqi demos





Hundreds of people converged on Baghdad's Liberation Square Friday for an anti-government demonstration despite a vehicle ban that forced many to walk for hours to the heart of the capital.

The Baghdad demo was one of many taking place across the country, as Iraqis rallied for the second straight Friday in a row. The demonstrations inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have concentrated on demands for improved government services, better pay and an end to corruption in Iraq."Our country is lost and for the last eight years the government has failed to offer services for people. Thousands of youths are without jobs," said Bahjat Talib.

He said he walked from the vast slum in eastern Baghdad called Sadr City through eight checkpoints to get to the square. Talib said he had to tell security forces that he was going to work or they would not let him pass.He was one of about 500 demonstrators in Liberation Square, surrounded by what appeared to be even more security forces.

The Iraqi government, worried the demonstrations may spiral out of control, have taken strict measures that appear designed to limit the number of demonstrators who come out. Late Thursday, they imposed a vehicle ban in the capital so many of the protesters were forced to walk for miles. Similar vehicle bans were in place in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and the southern city of Basra.

Side streets leading up to the square were blocked with security vehicles and helicopters buzzed overhead in Baghdad.Iraqi security forces around the country clashed last Friday with protesters in the most widespread and violent demonstrations the country has seen since a wave of unrest began spreading across the Middle East. At least 14 people were killed in those rallies.

Before those protests, Iraqi officials sounded a drumbeat of warnings about the demonstrations, saying they were being backed by supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. The warnings seemed designed to keep people away and paint those who did take part in a bad light.

Demonstrators this Friday took measures to protect themselves, evidencing the distrust many feel toward the security forces. Kamil al-Assadi, from Sadr city, formed a committee checking demonstrators entering the square because they were worried the security forces might plant people in the crowd to create problems.

"We do not trust the Iraqi security forces and formed a committee to check the demonstrators to make sure that no one is carrying a knife or any kind of weapon who aims at creating any problems during the demo."

In the southern city of Basra, about 1,000 people converged on the Basra provincial council building. Last week the protests in the city led to the resignation of the governor. This week they were demanding that the provincial council step down and essential services such as water and electricity be improved.

By BUSHRA JUHI and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA,
Associated Press Bushra




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Iraq sets vehicle curbs





Protesters streamed into central Baghdad on foot after authorities imposed vehicle bans on major cities ahead of rallies over corruption, unemployment and poor public services.The demonstrations come after nationwide protests in more than a dozen cities a week ago, which spurred Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to give his cabinet 100 days to shape up or face the sack.

Several hundred protesters had gathered in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square by 10:00 am (0700 GMT), with more on the way, chanting, "Liar, Liar, Nuri al-Maliki" and "Oil for the people, not for the thieves."The demonstrators, who were outnumbered by security forces, also carried banners which read, "Where has the people's money gone?" and "Yes for democracy and the protection of freedom."

Similar demonstrations, also with several hundred protesters, were taking place in the holy city of Najaf and the port of Basra."We are not Baathists, we are just Iraqis asking for simple rights like services," said finance ministry employee Ammar Ziad, who was protesting at Tahrir Square.

He was referring to comments by Maliki ahead of last week's protests in which he claimed they were organised by loyalists of late dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and insurgents linked to Al-Qaeda.Vehicle curbs have been applied to all of Baghdad, with the capital's streets deserted but for a handful of cars attempting to evade checkpoints, and the centre of Basra.

Nasiriyah, in the south, barred anyone from entering.Complete vehicle bans were also placed on every non-Kurdish province north of the capital, with protesters not even allowed near provincial governorate offices in the city of Mosul, after five demonstrators were killed and one building set ablaze in rallies there a week ago.

Friday's rallies have been billed by some organisers as a "Day of Regret", to mark one year since parliamentary elections.It took politicians more than nine months to form a government after the poll on March 7, 2010, and even now, several key positions, such as the ministers of interior, defence and planning, remain unfilled.

"People will continue demonstrating until there is reform because the government has been built on a sectarian basis," said Faisal Hamid, a pensioner who walked to Tahrir Square from the nearby neighbourhood of Karrada.

"Officials only look for their personal interests."

Demonstrations have been taking place in Iraq for the past month, with protesters decrying a lack of improvement in their daily lives, eight years after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam.The biggest such rallies took place last Friday, when Iraqis took to the streets of at least 17 cities and towns. A total of 16 people were killed and more than 130 wounded as a result of clashes on the day.

The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority has also added his voice to calls for the government to step up its performance, saying last week that ministers needed to make progress on improving power supplies, providing food for the needy, creating jobs and combating corruption.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is based in the central shrine city of Najaf and rarely wades into politics, also called on Iraq's leaders to "cancel unacceptable benefits" given to current and former politicians, and said they must "not invent unnecessary government positions that cost Iraq money."

The rallies have led to the resignations of four top officials -- three southern provincial governors and Baghdad's mayor.In response, Maliki told ministers on Sunday they would be assessed on their performance in the coming 100 days, with "changes" being made based on whether or not they improved.

He has also pushed measures to combat graft, cut politicians' pay and dedicate more money to providing food for the poor in a bid to head off the demonstrations.Maliki and parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi have also backed early provincial elections. The last such polls were conducted in January 2009.

By Ammar Karim (
AFP)



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Kurds send in militias




Tensions are high in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as the head of Kurdish autonomous region has deployed new units of his Kurdish militias known locally as Peshmerga.

Massoud Barzani, in comments on his decision to send in his militias, said he wanted to protect the Kurds in the city. However, he did not say from whom.The presence of Kurdish militias has ignited harsh criticism from both Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk who charge that the Kurds are intent to resort to force to annex the city.

The beleaguered Barzani faces tough choices as tens of thousands of Kurds have been shouting for the first time slogans demanding his departure.His decision to send in his militias to quell demonstrations in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya was met with a barrage of criticism and further defiance by the protesters.

The heavily armed Kurdish militias arrived in Kirkuk shortly before the city authorities had decided to clamp a 24 hour curfew early this week.Some 5,000 Kurdish militiamen were sent to the city by Barzani.Kirkuk is part of the so-called disputed territory over which Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen are battling

Hassan Surhan of the Turkmen Front, a political umbrella, denounced the deployment of Kurdish militias in Kirkuk, and asked from their withdrawal."We the Turkmen reject the presence of Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk because it clearly violates paragraph 121 of the constitution," Surhan said.

Reports from Kirkuk say Barzani sent in additional militias as his opponents were preparing for a protest against Kurdish practices in the city and the deteriorating conditions of public services.Barzani controls the city through his militias and has so far turned down calls by Arabs and Turkmen for them to be replaced by Iraqi troops.

Both Arabs and Turkmen fear that Barzani "has political objectives behind his decision to deploy Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk," Surhan said.But Surhan said he and his Arab allies were trying their best not to let the situation escalate.

By Nidhal al-Laithi,
Azzaman



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Labels: Arabs, Barzani, Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Turkmens, Jalal Talabani, Kurdish Peshmerga, Turcomans






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Iraq 'violence and bribes'








Authorities in Iraq are using a mixture of strong-arm tactics and financial persuasion to prevent anti-government protests gaining momentum.

The political stakes escalated significantly when thousands of people took to the streets of Baghdad and other major cities last week to demand reforms, improved services and an end to the corruption associated with Iraq's new political elite.Those demonstrations, the largest yet in Iraq, were met by force, as riot police opened fire on protesters with live ammunition. At least 29 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy.

Since then, army and police units have beaten, arrested or threatened scores of political activists and journalists, their colleagues say. Meanwhile, government security and intelligence agencies are trying to root out the organisers of the protests, especially those who are using the internet in an attempt to organise another mass protest.

Hussein Abdul Hadi, a blogger who helped to arrange the "Day of Rage" march in Baghdad, said: "The intelligence services are collecting information about activists and after the demonstrations they have been making arrests and detaining people."

According to Mr Hadi and other activists, the number detained in the past three days runs into the dozens. Abul Razzq Nouri, a blogger from Anbar province who helped to organise last week's demonstration, said protest organisers and demonstrators were being "hunted down". The security services deny any systemic effort to silence demonstrators and have promised to carry out a wide-ranging probe into allegations of abuse.

Qassim Attar, spokesman at the Baghdad Operations Command centre, which oversees security of the Iraqi capital, said he believed some soldiers had "overreacted" and behaved "stupidly" during the protest. "We have opened an investigation into the claims of damage against journalists and protesters and if we find evidence that laws have been broken by members of the security services, they will be punished," he said.

With more demonstrations contemplated, Mr Nouri said Iraq was entering a "dangerous time", with the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, apparently insistent on quashing dissent on the streets."Al Maliki doesn't want any future demonstrations and he is doing all he can to stop us, he is coming after us," he said.Even before the Friday protests, the prime minister had moved to defuse them, imposing a curfew and a vehicle ban.

Another success for the government in tamping down the protests has been its management of the media. In the months running up to the demonstrations, the government has given Iraqi journalists gifts including plots of land, low-interest loans for car purchases and cash handouts, all of them officially sanctioned and distributed under the auspices of the journalists' union.

Sabah Khadim Hamza, office director at the journalist's syndicate, was adamant the land allocations and car loans were not bribes, but instead perks the union had struggled to get for its members. "Many government employees in the ministries enjoy such benefits and we wanted to win them for hard-working journalists," he said. "It does not mean reporters will stop being independent."

But critics were not so sure. "Most of the domestic media didn't cover the protests in detail and really downplayed them. They didn't interview protesters or ask them why they were marching," said one journalist for a leading Iraqi television channel.

"Basically, al Maliki has found out how to control journalists. He's given them money and land, and on Friday they paid him back by not covering the protests. Only the reporters working for outside media did their jobs properly that day," he said.

The government repression, plus payments to journalists to spin public opinion in the government's favour, have so far been effective in limiting the size and frequency of protests in Iraq."The government has bribed and beaten journalists to stop them covering the demonstrations," said Nasir al Shalal, a leading human rights activist. "The police and army in Baghdad, Mosul and Anbar were targeting reporters who were trying to film the protests or cover them properly."

Mr al Maliki's office has said it would investigate allegations of improper use of force. But it insists that any abuses were an overreaction by a handful of security personnel, not a matter of policy.Officials have also long brushed off allegations that Iraqi journalists receive government bribes. They say gifts of land and cheap loans are designed to support poorly paid reporters who would otherwise have to find another profession, not to buy their silence or complicity.

Mr Shalal dismissed such assurances. "It was not an accident. It was all quite deliberate. A decision was taken at the highest level about how to handle this."In Mosul, a traditional centre of opposition to the central authority, protesters have accused the government of sending out hit squads, armed with silenced pistols, to sow chaos among the demonstrators.

Omar Majid, a blogger from Mosul, said: "The emergency security forces arrested and beat tens of activists, and gangs working for the government, dressed in civilian clothes, shot and injured people here during the Friday protest, to spread fear. Now these gangs are after us and anyone connected with the movement. They are trying to stop us."

Shaker Kitab, an MP from Iraqiyya, said there were indications the government was acting illegally to suppress demonstrations."It was a very modern and peaceful protest, in accordance with people's constitutional rights, I don't understand why some of the security forces were violent in their response. This must stop. People are allowed to campaign peacefully for their rights."

Andrew Raine,
The National.





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UN worried over Iraq violence








The United Nations says it's concerned about reports of human rights violations during nationwide protests in Iraq.

U.N.'s Special Representative to Iraq Ad Melkert said in a statement on Wednesday that reported violations included "disproportionate" use of force by security forces against protesters.Melkert has also voiced concern over restrictions on the media and arrests of journalists across the country.

Thousands of Iraqis have been taking to the streets in protests fueled by anger over corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services.At least 14 people were killed during protests last Friday billed as the "Day of Rage."Many protesters clashed with authorities, set fire to government buildings and toppled concrete barriers.

The Associated Press



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Where are the tourists?







Nayef Hajwal still dreams of the day when he will see tourists flowing through the ancient city of Babylon, as he did in the 1970s and '80s when he took pictures of thousands of foreign visitors."Tourism was flourishing in Babel. Tourists from all nationalities used to visit," said the 69-year-old retiree, who worked as a guard and photographer at Iraq's most famous tourist site. "Now tourism in Babylon is not so good."

Tourism is considered a potential gold mine for a nation widely known as the cradle of civilization but still fighting a stubborn insurgency and trying to recover from decades of war.The sector has been badly neglected and needs huge investment to spruce up sites and build hotels and services.On a recent rainy day, Babylon, whose historical importance ranks with Egypt's pyramids, looked forlorn and empty.

Before being reopened to visitors in 2008, it was used by U.S. and coalition forces as a base and suffered the ravages of war. Troops parked tanks and weaponry at the site and used earth containing ancient archaeological fragments to fill sandbags.

Fabled home of the "Hanging Gardens," one of the wonders of the ancient world, Babylon has suffered from looting through the years and from "renovations" by the late dictator Saddam Hussein, who used bricks that bore his name for restoration.

Government entry fee data show 23,777 locals and only 70 foreign tourists visited Babylon last year."I expect the number will increase in 2011 and the following years," said Mariam Omran Musa, general inspector of the site.

Rich in history


The site of ancient Mesopotamia and known by some as the birthplace of writing, agriculture and codified law, Iraq is steeped in history.It boasts 12,000 discovered historical sites, chief among them Babylon, 85 miles south of Baghdad, Namroud in northern Mosul, the medieval Islamic city of Samarra and the ancient Sumerian city of Ur in southern Nassiriya province.

Tourism began to die with international sanctions imposed against Saddam's regime in the 1990s and screeched to a halt with the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.As violence ebbed in recent years, tourism officials began to hope. But since the first Westerners visited ancient sites in March 2009, Iraq has counted only 165 foreign visitors.

"I believe the tourists are thirsty to visit the archaeological sites. Nothing stops them but the security situation," said Qais Hussein Rasheed, head of the Antiquities and Heritage Board.Far more successful is religious tourism. Pilgrims have flocked to important sites, mainly Shi'ite shrines in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala, putting faith over security.

Abdul-Zahra al-Talagani, the spokesman of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said the numbers of foreign religious tourists increased from 360,000 in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010."The religious tourism has not been stopped by the security situation. This is an ideological issue," Rasheed said.

Renovating infrastructure


The ruins of Babylon — temples, theaters, parade ground, gates and other buildings — are in serious need of investment.

"Babylon needs a huge amount of money," Musa said. "We need to renovate the whole site, to build hotels, a parking lot, restaurants and other tourism establishments."Heritage and tourism officials said the government is allocating little money to historic sites. Only a few — including the National Museum in Baghdad and the Malwiya Minaret in Samarra — have been renovated.

The museum, a key to Iraq's strategy to bolster tourism, has 23 halls of millennia-old artifacts from Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian cultures, and more recent Islamic history.Yet it has attracted few visitors, foreign or Iraqi, since it was partially reopened in 2009. The rest may reopen by June.

While the sites are legendary, there is little to support tourists who venture to Iraq. Border crossings, airports, railways and roads were neglected during decades of war."The archaeological sites are without real services," Talagani said. "When the tourist comes, he needs a rest house, a restaurant. None of these is available."

By
MSNBC


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the arithmetic of austerity







Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Idaho ... these are the latest fronts in the battle of budgets, with the larger fight over a potential shutdown of the US government looming. These fights, radiating out from the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol building, are occurring against the backdrop of the two wars waged by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. No discussion or debate over budgets, over wages and pensions, over deficits, should happen without a clear presentation of the costs of these wars – and the incalculable benefits that ending them would bring.

First, the cost of war. The US is spending about $2bn a week in Afghanistan alone. That's about $104bn a year – and that is not including Iraq. Compare that with the state budget shortfalls. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, "some 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totalling $125bn for fiscal year 2012."

The math is simple: the money should be poured back into the states, rather than into a state of war.President Barack Obama shows no signs that he is going to end either the occupation of Iraq or the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Quite the opposite: he campaigned with the promise to expand the war in Afghanistan, and that is one campaign promise he has kept. So how is Obama's war going? Not well.

This has been the deadliest period for civilians in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion began in October 2001. Sixty-five civilians were reportedly killed recently in Kunar, near Pakistan, where mounting civilian casualties lead to increasing popular support for the Taliban. 2010 was the deadliest year for US soldiers as well, with 711 US and allied deaths in Afghanistan. Soldier deaths remain high in 2011, with the fighting expected to intensify as the weather warms.

The Washington Post recently reported that Obama's controversial CIA-run drone programme, in which unmanned aerial drones are sent over rural Pakistan to launch Hellfire missiles at "suspected militants", has killed at least 581 people, of whom only two were on a US list of people suspected of being "high-level militants". Ample evidence exists that the drone strikes, which have increased in number dramatically under Obama's leadership, kill civilians, not to mention Pakistani civilian support for the United States.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the democracy that the neocons in Washington expected to deliver through the barrel of a gun with their "shock and awe" may be coming finally – not with the help of the US, but, rather, inspired by the peaceful, popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. However, Human Rights Watch has just reported that as people protest and dissidents organise, "the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees, are routinely violated with impunity."

Protests have erupted in another Tahrir Square, in Baghdad (yes, it means "liberation" in Iraq and Egypt), against corruption, and demanding jobs and better public services. Iraqi government forces killed 29 people over the weekend; and 300 people, including human-rights workers and journalists, have been rounded up.

Yet, the US continues to pour money and troops into these endless wars. Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings, whose reporting exposed the crass behaviour of General Stanley McChrystal, has just exposed what he calls an illegal operation run by Lt Gen William Caldwell in Afghanistan, in which a US Army "psy-ops" operation was mounted against US senators and other visiting dignitaries in order to win support and more funding. One of Hastings' military sources quoted Caldwell as saying: "How do we get these guys to give us more people? … What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

The recently retired special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (Sigar), Arnold Fields, just reported that $11.4bn is at risk due to inadequate planning. Another group, the US Commission on Wartime Contracting, "concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $200bn that has been spent on contracts and grants since 2002 to support military, reconstruction and other US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Which brings us back to those teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters in Wisconsin. Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, told me in the Capitol rotunda in Madison why the unionised firefighters were there, even though their union was one not targeted by Governor Scott Walker's bill: "This is about an attack on the middle class."

By shutting down the attacks on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, we can prevent these attacks on the poor and middle class here at home.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column. Follow Democracy Now!, the daily news and current affairs TV/radio show hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, online here

By Amy Goodman, 2011


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Hundreds gather for Iraqi demos
استعرض الموضوع السابق استعرض الموضوع التالي الرجوع الى أعلى الصفحة 
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