We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Iraq's conflict of the powerful

Sami Ramadani writes for The Guardian (December 23rd):  Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is again being terrorised by cowardly attacks aimed at spilling the blood of as many workers, students, shoppers and bystanders as possible. As I write, the facts are becoming clearer: the hundreds of murdered and injured men, women and children are Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd, Turkuman – a cross-section of the mosaic of peoples who have inhabited Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years.
So, who is killing the innocent in Baghdad today, and why?
In the rush to provide an explanation for the nihilistic violence, the same old simplistic mantra is trotted out. Thursday's co-ordinated, simultaneous attacks are invariably described by the media as sectarian. Few pause to ask why a "sectarian" attack would be aimed at all sects and ethnicities equally. Only a handful raise the possibility that these attacks are not sectarian in motive, or a reflection of sectarian hatred on the streets, but are instead designed to create sectarian entrenchment and animosity, and ignite street conflict.
Similarly, analysts are quick to conclude that both the power strugglewithin the political elite, and the explosions are the result of the withdrawal of US troops. They portray the US forces as the good Samaritan who prematurely left the scene. Too few examine the legacy of the occupiers' poisonous presence at the heart of Iraqi society for nearly nine years, or ask why the US has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, staffed by 15,000 personnel and spies.
Today's bitter power struggle can be traced back to the measured 2003 decisions made by Paul Bremer . Bremer, a Bush "civilian" appointed to rule Iraq, continued the military occupation under a different guise. Faced with massive popular opposition and armed resistance to the US-led invasion, the US recognised in 2003 that the occupation of Iraq could not continue without a prominent Iraqi component, so Bremer formed the Iraqi governing council while retaining control of all levers of power.
The mix of the 25-member council was carefully calibrated, with quotas to reflect Iraq's sectarian and ethnic makeup. That sectarian formula was to be mirrored in all Bremer's appointments. Far from preventing sectarianism, it introduced it to all the political and military institutions created by the occupation.
For the US, such divide-and-rule tactics remain the only viable weapon they have to control or influence the Iraqi political scene. Another example is the plan by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, to divide Iraqinto three autonomous regions based on ethnic and sectarian divisions. The Biden plan is now backed in Iraq by supporters of factions opposed to the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, grouped in a political bloc led by the self-confessed former CIA asset, Iyad Allawi, and the vice-president, Tariq Hashimi. This is taken as evidence that Iraqis themselves want their country to be divided in this way. But few media analysts have questioned the ramifications of such an approach. There is today no part of Iraq that is purely Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd or Turkuman. In Baghdad, where more than a quarter of Iraq's population live, you will still find Iraqi people in all their multi-layered social complexity. Not even Bremer's concrete walls that so disfigure the city have succeeded in creating sectarian hatreds there. Instead, they quickly became one of the most hated symbols of the occupation. The Biden plan, if implemented, could almost certainly lead to large-scale ethnic cleansing to create religiously and ethnically demarcated lines.
Such is the anger at the occupation that many Iraqis think the US was behind Thursday's attack. This belief is dismissed as conspiratorial, but it is widely held. There is a reason for this. Apart from the horrific violence committed directly by the occupation forces and Pentagon-contracted mercenaries, the US also created Iraqi secret militia, and smuggled tens of thousands of weapons and tons of explosives into Iraq through private firms in Bosnia. Bremer was unable to tell a congressional committee how he spent an unaccounted-for $8.8bn dollars, but many Iraqis suspect that it was used to fund violent sectarian forces. Indiscriminate killings and terrorist attacks were a permanent feature of the US-led occupation, and to many ordinary Iraqis, Thursday's bloodshed is just more of the same.
Similarly, ordinary Iraqis see their current rulers, who arrived with the occupation, as self-seeking, corrupt politicians who use religious and ethnic differences to perpetuate sectarianism as a means of creating power bases. Though no angel himself, the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr spoke for many when he described the current so-called sectarian divisions as "a conflict of the powerful", and the terrorist attacks as the product of "continued US influence and presence in Iraq".

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Will Iraq's 1.3 million refugees ever be able to go home?

The Independent report (December 16th): Eight years and three months after "liberating Iraq", a time of unrelenting savage strife in which tens of thousands died and a society was torn apart, America has formally ended its war in Iraq.
After the colours of the US forces were lowered and the "Last Post" was played, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told troops: "You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country's future generations."
The ceremony, just 48 minutes long to limit the scope of any possible attack, was held behind high, fortified walls in a concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad. "We spilled a lot of blood here," Mr Panetta acknowledged. But, he insisted: "It has been to achieve a mission making the country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself."
Not far from where the speeches were taking place lay grim evidence which refuted the claims that the Americans were leaving behind a land of stability and prosperity. More than 8,000 people are living in squalor in a field of mud and foetid water, with huts made of rags and salvaged pieces of wood.
The residents of Al-Rahlat camp are among 1.3 million refugees in their own country; families driven out of their homes by the sectarian violence spawned by the war. Another 1.6 million fled Iraq for neighbouring states, mainly Jordan and Syria. Those in Syria, with its escalating violence, are now having to seek another place of safety.
There is a third group who are particularly vulnerable – around 70,000 people who worked for the US military. They were promised the offer of refuge in the US, but little has been done fulfil the pledge. Barack Obama, while campaigning for the White House four years ago, berated the Bush administration over the issue, saying: "The Iraqis who stood with us are being targeted for assassination, yet our doors are shut. That is not how we treat our friends." In 2008 Congress passed a bill for special immigration visas to be issued for 25,000, but only 3,000 have been processed during Obama's presidency.
Around 450,000 of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are living in the worst conditions, crammed into 380 street settlements scattered around the country. They have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or medical care. Many of these people, deemed to be illegally squatting, cannot get the documents necessary to register for welfare relief or take up jobs, or enrol their sons and daughters in schools. The tension and claustrophobia of such an existence has led to psychological problems, especially among children. Domestic violence is rife.
Hakim al-Ibrahimi, a 47-year-old unemployed bricklayer, has been stuck at Al-Rahlat camp, in the Shia enclave of Sadr City, for the past two years with his wife and four children. "I was staying with my brother and his family. But there were 11 of us in a flat with two bedrooms, it became impossible," he said.
"Officials tell us to go back to our home. But what home? We used to live in Adhamiya [a mainly Sunni area] and we had to escape otherwise we would have been killed. That was four years ago and I know someone else is living in my house with his family. Life here is really bad, but if we go back to Adhamiya we won't be safe."
The turbulence of Iraq's recent history had taken its toll on Amal's family (not her real name). Her husband was killed in the war with Iran and a son, Akram, was executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after joining the underground opposition. A second son, Mazruq, died in a sectarian attack. Amal lives at a camp with her daughter, Radwa, and three grandchildren. She has not received compensation under a scheme set up by the Iraqi government for civilian victims of the war.
The International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian assistance, has taken up the case of Amal and dozens of others. The IRC said: "As the US government withdraws its troops, it leaves behind a major crisis in the region. The US has a responsibility to aid Iraqis uprooted by war it started and to protect the most vulnerable."
Laura Jacoby, with the IRC in Baghdad, said: "The main worry is that with the US forces leaving, international donors may go as well. The Iraqi government is organising assistance, but we face a very serious problem inside Iraq and in Syria and Jordan as well."
Case study: The Hayali family
What happened to Mohammed and Nadia al-Hayali, a decent couple bringing up two young children in Baghdad when US and British forces invaded, is a poignant illustration of how lives were destroyed in the unleashed violence.
I met them in 2004, 18 months after George Bush had declared "mission accomplished". Although the insurgency was already under way, with dead bodies turning up in the streets, relentless bombings and power cuts, the Hayalis hoped that peace would eventually prevail.
Nadia, 39, a Shia, and Mohammed, 40, a Sunni, lived in al-Jamiya, a "mixed" middle-class neighbourhood, where previously sectarian labels did not matter.
A year later things had changed for the worse. Suicide bombings were a daily occurrence, death squads roamed the streets and kidnappings had become common. My visit to their home had to be carefully planned. Groups of men in dark glasses cruised around in Audis and BMWs; they were insurgents looking for US or security convoys.
The middle-class exodus from Iraq was under way. The Hayalis, like many, decided to go. "What is left now? The place is destroyed. That is what liberation had done to us," said Mohammed.
He did not make it. A little later Nadia, Mohammed, their 10-year-old son Abdullah and daughter Dahlia, eight, were taken away by Sunni gunmen looking for "collaborators".
Mohammed was raising funds for small businesses and this brought him into contact with government officials. He was executed with a bullet to his head. Nadia now lives in Sweden with her children.
Kim Sengupta

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Latest East London News column

UK torture and inhumane treatment: case continues

The British Government may have withdrawn its troops from Iraq but that hasn’t ended our entanglement with that country. Iraqis are still trying to get justice in British courts for the treatment they received at the hands of our soldiers.

On 22nd November, The Guardian reported, “More than 100 Iraqis who were taken prisoner by British troops in the years after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 have won a court battle that could lead to an independent investigation into allegations that they were subjected to serious mistreatment.”

The court of appeal ruled that a police inquiry set up by the Ministry of Defence to look into the issue was fatally compromised because some of its investigators served with a military police unit responsible for detaining the men.

The Ministry accept the Iraqis – most of whom were civilians – have an ‘arguable’ claim that they were tortured or suffered other forms of inhumane treatment. There have also been allegations that a number of men were unlawfully killed while in British military custody.

The most high-profile case to come before the UK courts was that of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker who was beaten to death by British soldiers in 2003. An official report into the killing in September found “grave and shameful errors” in the conduct of British soldiers. Banned interrogation techniques were routine.

The Government has already paid out millions of pounds in compensation. It has also said that it plans to continue two controversial techniques. The first is hooding a detainee in sandbags. Human rights lawyer Phil Shiner wrote  recently: “Forcing a person into a sandbag (or two), especially in hot conditions, is cruel, barbaric and medically dangerous. It increases inhalation of carbon dioxide, makes it difficult to radiate heat from the head and induces panic and disorientation.”

The second technique is “harshing” - where a detainee is screamed at and abused at a range of six inches, in order to instil absolute fear and panic. This too is now likely to be challenged in the courts.

The Government’s clear commitment to these techniques underlines that the mistreatment of detainees may be much more than just a few “bad apples”.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Birth defects, rubble still scar Iraq's Falluja

Reuters reports (December 7th): As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, residents and officials in Falluja say they leave behind bullet-riddled homes, destroyed infrastructure and a worrying increase in birth defects and maladies in a city polluted by weapons and war chemicals.
Amir Hussain and Awfa Abdullah got married in Falluja in 2004 but their lives were turned upside by the birth of their two babies.
Their first child, a baby boy born in 2006, had brain damage and died last year. The second, a baby girl who was born in 2007, suffers from severe skin rashes and has one leg longer than the other.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Further Destruction Of Iraq's Higher Education

 A very interesting overview of what has happened to Iraq's universities from the BRussells Tribunal, here: