Turkey tells Syria: make reforms now

March 30, 2011 at 10:19 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Turkey tells Syria: make reforms now
SEVİL KÜÇÜKKOŞUM
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

As Syrian protests turned increasingly violent in recent days, Turkey urged the country’s administration to make reforms “without delay,” an adviser to the Turkish president has said.

“Waiting for the protests to end to make reforms is the wrong approach. Necessary reforms should be made now, not later. Leaders should be brave,” Erşat Hürmüzlü, adviser to President Abdullah Gül on the Middle East, told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview on Monday.

Syria is a very important country for Turkey, Hürmüzlü said, recalling that this country is in a significant process of transformation. “The system, stability and demands of the Syrian people are all equally important for us,” he said. The Syrian leader should apply immediately “whatever they believe in without waiting for other accounts,” Hürmüzlü said.

Citing indirectly the aspect of the Syrian administration that resists reforms, Hürmüzlü said some defects could occur in the administrative systems such as corruption or being privileged. “Yet, leaders should push them,” he said.

Syrian authorities accused fundamentalists and “armed gangs” of aiming to incite unrest in the country after the demonstrations turned violent in recent days.

Giving Turkey as an example for its recent transformation, Hürmüzlü said: “We, as Turkey, faced our mistakes and made reforms. We changed our minds rather than laws. Economic and social-cultural changes follow that. Changing the vision is more important than changing laws. Implementers of law may resist, however, a complete change of mind can pave the reforms,” he said.

Hürmüzlü drew attention to the differences between Syria and other Arab countries. “Similarly, the people of the region are pouring into the streets not for food, but for their dignity. The difference is that the foreign policy and domestic policy of other Arab countries, such as in Egypt, was kept separate. The expectations of the people were not reflected in foreign policies,” he said.

However, foreign policy and people’s expectations almost overlap in Syria, Hürmüzlü said, adding that this was the reason Syria was the last country to witness protests, he added.

The adviser is optimistic that the protests would not end with a change of regime. “The reforms can respond to the demands of the Syrian people. It would be an easy transformation if the Syrian administration can make significant reforms on human rights and democracy and find solutions in the struggle against corruption,” Hürmüzlü said.

“There have been coups and monarchic republics. A normal birth of regimes can only come with election polls,” he said, adding that the systems in the Middle East were created very late, 20 years after the Cold War had finished. He recalled Turkey also suffered similar troubles, but transformed easier.

He ruled out that foreign countries’ intervention caused uprisings in Arab countries. “Some say that these uprisings came one after another because some circles pushed the button for the natural resources of these countries. Saying someone pushed the button is an insult for people of the region,” he said. Hürmüzlü described the reaction of those people as a “burst of anger, which was suppressed for many years by fear.”

Asked about the criticisms against Turkey for not voicing a stronger stance on democracy for countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which also have been facing revolts, Hürmüzlü said Turkey would not impose anything on other countries. People of the region could observe what Turkey had been doing in the name of democracy and they could inspire, he said. “Turkey can’t be a sub-contractor.”

For the case of Bahrain, Gulf states not only sent troops to the conflict-hit country, but also supported it financially with $10 billion to help Bahrain make reforms, Hürmüzlü said. “States in the region should solve their problems within the region. They should not seek solutions outside the region by delegating to powerful countries as sub-contractors,” he said.

Asked about Turkey’s shift in policy regarding NATO intervention in Libya, Hürmüzlü said Turkey opposed a military occupation to change regime in Libya. Prime Minister Erdoğan’s remarks ruling out NATO intervention in Libya were to prevent an illegitimate military occupation of the country, he said.

”We don’t want Libya to turn into an Iraq. No country or countries independently can decide to intervene in another state. That decision should be taken within the scope of international laws.”

Hürmüzlü said Ankara’s attitude to NATO’s role in Libya should be considered as “before and after the U.N. Security Council decision on the issue.”

“The U.N. decision presented international legitimacy,” he said.

© 2009 Hurriyet Daily News
URL: www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=ankara-calls-syrian-president-for-courageous-and-immediate-decision-on-reforms-2011-03-29

ICG:Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears

March 30, 2011 at 9:41 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears

Middle East Report N° 103 28 Mar 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Iraq’s government was long in the making, but its inclusive nature and the way in which it was formed offer hope that it can make progress in the struggle between Arabs and Kurds. The conflict, which has left a devastating imprint on the country’s twentieth-century history, could cause political paralysis or, worse, precipitate Iraq’s break-up. Coalition partners have a unique opportunity to make headway. Failure to seize it would be inexcusable. Both sides should build on the apparent goodwill generated by efforts to establish a government to lay the foundations for a negotiated and peaceful settlement. In particular, they should immediately resume talks over the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. They also should use their January 2011 agreement to export Kurdish oil through the national pipeline as a basis for negotiations over a revenue-sharing law and a comprehensive hydrocarbons law.

As protests throughout the country have shown, Iraq is not immune from the revolutionary fervour that is coursing through the Middle East and North Africa. Nor should it be, as successive governments’ inability to provide essential services, most importantly a steady supply of electrical power, has given rise to legitimate grievances. In what will be an early test for the new government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have to find an effective response to protesters’ demands as a top priority, certainly before the arrival of the hot summer months. The same holds true for the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), which has long been buffeted by complaints concerning poor service delivery and widespread corruption. Protests in Suleimaniya in February and March 2011 show it is overdue in taking persuasive remedial action and thus faces the risk of escalating and spreading unrest.

Arab-Kurdish relations remain a tinderbox. In late February, the Kurdistan regional government sent military forces into Kirkuk in a transparent attempt to both deflect attention from events in Suleimaniya and rally the Kurdish population around the supremely emotive issue of Kir­kuk’s status. In doing so, it dangerously inflamed an already tense situation and exacerbated ethnic tensions. This should serve as a reminder of the need for leaders in Baghdad and Erbil to urgently attend to the structural Arab-Kurd fault line.

In joining the coalition government, Kurdish leaders presented conditions on power-sharing and outstanding claims over resources and territory. Maliki says he agreed to most, but to the Kurds the ultimate proof lies in whether and how he fulfils them. It is doubtful that the prime minister can or even would want to satisfy their every demand, and both sides will need to show flexibility in hammering out the required deals – notably on completing government formation, hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing legislation and the delineation of the Kurdistan region’s internal boundaries.

In the past, Crisis Group has argued that Kirkuk should gain special status as a stand-alone governorate, under neither Baghdad’s nor Erbil’s direct control, for an interim period, with a mechanism for ultimately resolving its status, and with a power-sharing arrangement in which political representatives of the main ethnic and religious groups are represented fairly. A deal along these lines appears within reach, and now is the time to pursue it. In January, building on their success in forming the coalition government, Baghdad and Erbil negotiated a tactical agreement on oil exports from the Kurdistan region whose implementation should prove beneficial to both. They ought to take this a step further by starting talks on the range of issues that have plagued their post-2003 relationship.

In June 2009, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) set up a high-level task force whose stated goal was to work toward a negotiated solution – initially through confidence-building mechanisms – for the disputed territories, the broad swathe of land from the Syrian to the Iranian border that Kurds claim as historically part of Kurdistan. UNAMI realised full well, however, that the task force was unlikely to make progress in the months leading up to and following legislative elections, so its real objective was to keep the parties at the table until a new government was formed. This period, which lasted a year and a half, has now come to an end; today, the initiative should be invested with new life.

At the core of the territorial dispute lies the disposition of Kirkuk, the name for three separate but overlapping entities – city, governorate and super-giant oil field – that are subject to competing claims. The 2005 constitution lays out a process for resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, but it has run aground on profound differences over interpretation and lack of political will. Meanwhile, the situation in the disputed territories has been left to fester. In areas with a rich ethnic mix, such as Kirkuk city and several districts of Ninewa governorate, this has produced strong tensions and politically-motivated provocations aimed at sparking inter-communal conflict.

To prevent small incidents from escalating into a broader conflagration, the U.S. military in 2009 established so-called combined security mechanisms along the trigger line – the line of control between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish regional guard force, known as the peshmergas, that runs along the disputed region’s spine. The mechanisms’ key features are joint checkpoints and patrols involving army and guard force personnel with embedded U.S. officers, as well as coordination centres designed to improve communication and build trust between the two sides. Moreover, Baghdad and Erbil agreed to a set of rules governing the deployment of their respective security forces in these areas.

Together, these steps have reduced tensions, but the security forces’ presence and posture in their designated sectors remind a weary population the conflict is far from resolved. The standoff between the army and the peshmergas in Kirkuk’s environs, in particular, and provocative conduct of the Kurdish security police, the asaesh, inside the city augur trouble for the period after U.S. withdrawal, scheduled for the end of 2011. Events in late February-early March, when peshmerga forces deployed around Kirkuk city over the vehement protestations of local Arab and Turkoman leaders, were another warning that the security situation, relatively stable since 2003, may not hold.

The combined security mechanisms were intended to buy time for negotiations over the disputed territories’ status. So far, measures fashioned to break the deadlock, such as a process to organise provincial elections in Kirkuk, have reinforced it, increasing frustration and mutual recrimination. The impact has not been limited to the immediate area: a nationwide census has been postponed indefinitely because of disagreements over its application in the disputed territories. Without progress, conflict threatens to erupt as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq, including positions along the trigger line. This causes anxiety all around, especially among Kirkuk residents, who appear unanimous in calling for continued U.S. military protection.

There are no easy fixes. Although Maliki’s government might seek to negotiate a troop extension, the likelier scenario is that the U.S. troop presence in the north will be severely curtailed if not ended within a few months. UNAMI has begun to explore Baghdad’s and Erbil’s readiness to re-engage on core issues, but delays in filling key government posts, such as the defence and interior ministers, militate against an early resumption of talks.

The U.S. takes the position that its forces are leaving, so Iraqis will have to sort out problems along the trigger line without the psychological security blanket its military presence has provided. It also appears to believe the impending departure itself might concentrate Iraqi minds and produce political will to agree on the disposition of Kirkuk and other territories. That could be a logical wager, but it also is a risky one. At a minimum, the U.S. should provide strong diplomatic and financial support to UNAMI as it prepares for talks, including by making continued military aid conditional on stakeholders’ constructive participation in negotiations and commitment to refrain from unilateral military moves. UNAMI should propose specific confidence-building steps in the disputed territories based on its impressive (unpublished) April 2009 report. In so doing, it should make every effort to involve political representatives from the disputed territories. Both the Maliki and Kurdistan regional governments should encourage economic activity in the territories and, in Kirkuk, impartial use of extra revenue from oil sales on projects benefiting the entire community.

Most of all, leaders in Baghdad and Erbil need to ask themselves: will they be persuaded to pursue a negotiated solution by the realisation they cannot attain their objectives either by letting the matter linger or by using force? Or will they be prompted only by the outbreak of a violent conflict neither side wants and whose outcome they could not control?

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government:

1.  Commit publicly to a negotiated solution to the status of disputed territories.

2.  Resume negotiations on the full range of pertinent issues, including the status of disputed territories, a hydrocarbons law, a revenue-sharing law, provincial elections in Kirkuk and a national census; discuss in particular disputed territories as part of the high-level task force established under UN auspices; and institute confidence-building steps in individual districts, per recommendations in UNAMI’s April 2009 report.

3.  Include in such talks leaders of parties representing all ethnic and religious groups in the disputed territories.

4.  Continue joint army-peshmerga checkpoints, patrols and operations in the disputed territories, based on the U.S.-sponsored combined security mechanisms, after a U.S. troop withdrawal; maintain and fully staff the Joint Coordination Centres in the disputed territories; and create a Baghdad-Erbil monitoring team to investigate disputes involving joint security operations.

5.  Issue clear instructions to security forces deployed in disputed territories to remain in designated separate areas, except in jointly agreed-upon joint checkpoints, joint patrols and joint operations against violent groups outside the political process; appoint a non-voting official from each side to, respectively, the Iraqi cabinet and the KRG’s council of ministers to promote early flagging of disputes; and a senior military officer from each side to, respectively, the National Operations Centre in Baghdad and the KRG’s equivalent in Erbil.

6.  Encourage provincial authorities in the disputed territories to recruit additional police personnel from all ethnic and religious groups in order to achieve a force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity.

7.  Continue efforts to integrate Kurdish peshmergas and police (including the paramilitary zerevani) under the respective defence and interior ministries within the national security architecture.

8.  Move toward police primacy in the disputed territories with the aim of turning these areas into a demilitarised zone in which neither the Iraqi army nor Kurdish peshmergas or zerevanis are authorised to operate.

9.  Accept the Supreme Court decision that the census mentioned in Article 140 of the constitution is not the same as the decennial population count and proceed, initially by asking parliament to amend the 2008 census law, on that basis with the latter, excluding the inflammatory and – for national purposes – unnecessary question regarding people’s ethnicity.

10.  Promote economic development in the disputed territories and, in Kirkuk, encourage the effective use of extra revenue from oil sales on projects benefiting the entire community.

To the Kurdistan Regional Government:

11.  Finalise legislation and step up implementation of the plan to unify security forces (peshmergas, zereva­nis, asaesh, parastin, zanyari) belonging to the Kur­distan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under its direct and exclusive authority.

12.  Instruct the asaesh (party-controlled security police) deployed in Kirkuk city and other parts of the disputed territories characterised by religious and ethnic diversity to operate in close coordination with the local police and stay within the limits of Iraqi federal law; and develop a plan to restructure the asaesh deployed in such areas by recruiting personnel from all religious and ethnic groups in order to achieve a force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity.

To Local Governments in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Diyala and Salah al-Din:

13.  Ensure that local projects funded from the central Iraqi budget, including extra revenues from locally-produced and/or refined oil and gas (the so-called petrodollars), are distributed fairly throughout the governorate and/or benefit citizens without prejudice.

14.  Recruit additional police personnel from all ethnic and religious groups in order to achieve a police force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity.

To the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI):

15.  Revive the high-level task force, at least to address flare-ups along the trigger line; support negotiations between Iraqi stakeholders on disputed internal boundaries by providing technical expertise and political advice at all levels; propose specific confidence-building steps in the disputed territories based on its April 2009 report; and make every effort to involve leaders of parties representing all ethnic and religious groups in the disputed territories in the talks.

To the U.S. Government:

16.  Support the early start of negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government on the full range of issues listed above and provide full financial and diplomatic backing to UNAMI in mediating stakeholder talks.

17.  Encourage and support – in the event that no U.S. troop extension is negotiated – Iraqi joint mechanisms in the disputed territories designed to reduce the chances of armed conflict.

18.  Use military assistance as leverage to press the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government to refrain from unilateral steps in disputed territories, including by army and peshmerga units, and to ensure proper regulation of their respective security forces, these forces’ continued cooperation in joint security mechanisms and their respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Erbil/Baghdad/Brussels, 28 March 2011

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-syria-lebanon/iraq/103%20Iraq%20and%20the%20Kurds%20Confronting%20Withdrawal%20Fears.aspx

Erdoğan says Turkey to make Mesopotamia prosperity region

March 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Erdoğan says Turkey to make Mesopotamia prosperity region
 
 
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday that Turkey’s vision is to transform Mesopotamia into a stable and high-prosperity region.

Today’s Zaman

“Increasing cooperation between Turkey and Iraq in all fields is of key importance for the stability and welfare of the entire region,” Erdoğan told reporters before flying to Baghdad Monday afternoon.  “Our aim is to turn the Mesopotamian basin into a joint area of stability and welfare through a wide spectrum of projects, from energy to trade, from health to construction and from water resources to transportation,” he said.

“Turkey will continue to support Iraq. We put a lot of effort into improving bilateral relations in many areas with Iraq. In this framework, Turkey and Iraq signed 48 memoranda of understanding for a more comprehensive economic integration during my visit to Iraq on Oct. 15, 2009,” Erdoğan said. “Turkey has been pursuing an open and sincere foreign policy towards Iraq over the past eight years. We tried to provide support to ease the pains of our Iraqi brothers,” he added.

During the visit Erdoğan plans to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Parliament Speaker Usama al-Nujayfi and Massoud Barzani, the head of the regional administration in Northern Iraq. Erdoğan said that he will also be inaugurating Turkey’s Consulate General in Irbil, the Irbil International Airport, constructed by Turkish companies, and Turkish Vakıfbank’s Irbil branch.

Erdoğan is also expected to meet with one of Shiite Islam’s top spiritual leaders to discuss the crackdown on Shiite protesters in the Gulf nation of Bahrain.

Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız are accompanying Erdoğan during his two-day visit to Iraq covering Baghdad, Najaf and Irbil.

During a previous meeting with Iraqi Minister of Housing and Development Muhammed al-Darraji, Çağlayan had highlighted that there are over 260 Turkish contractors presently operating in Iraq on projects valued at nearly $11 billion. Turkey has a high-level strategic cooperation council with Iraq, whose first meeting was convened with the participation of both countries’ prime ministers in October 2009. Çağlayan also added that Turkey is planning to increase its trade volume with Iraq to $12 billion by the end of this year from last year’s $7.4 billion. Iraq was the second biggest importer of Turkish goods with $732.6 million in 2010.

Turkish PM Erdoğan in Baghdad to boost ties

March 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Turkish PM Erdoğan in Baghdad to boost ties

Monday, March 28, 2011 – Hürriyet
BAGHDAD – From wire dispatches
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki (L) greets Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Baghdad. AA photo.
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki (L) greets Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Baghdad. AA photo.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived Monday in Baghdad with dozens of businessmen on a visit aimed at boosting political and economic ties between the two neighbors.

Erdoğan, who is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, is also expected to travel to Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdish region, the first Turkish prime minister to do so. The fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has rear-bases in the border area, will also be discussed during Erdoğan’s visit, according to sources in Ankara. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“PKK terrorism, which arises from the north of Iraq and is a threat to our country, is also an issue we will bring up with the Iraqi authorities,” Erdoğan told reporters Monday before flying out of Ankara.

Turkey has repeatedly accused Iraqi Kurds of turning a blind eye to activity within Iraq by the PKK but their leaders have been careful not to anger their larger neighbor.

Turkish firms provide 80 percent of the Kurdish region’s food and clothes, and trade rose 30 percent between 2008 and 2009. Overall Iraqi-Turkish trade, much of which passes through northern Iraq, amounted to 7 billion dollars in 2009.

At the top of his agenda, however, were business investments, including some to help Iraq export oil and boost its dwindling electricity and water supplies.

“Increasing cooperation between Turkey and Iraq in all fields is of key importance for the stability and welfare of the whole region,” Erdoğan said.

“We aim to turn the Mesopotamian basin into a joint area of stability and welfare through a wide spectrum of projects, from energy to trade, from health to construction and from water resources to transportation,” he said.

Reflecting on Turkey’s rising power and popularity in the Arab world, which cuts across sectarian lines, hard-line Iraqi Shiites welcomed Erdogan’s visit, in particular because of his tough positions against Israel.

Waiting for Erdogan’s arrival, about 1,000 supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr lined the road leading from the airport into Baghdad, waving Iraqi and Turkish flags. The group hailed the Sunni Turkish prime minister for his criticism of Israel since last year’s deadly raid on a Turkish ship trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces killed nine Turks in the operation.

“We came here to welcome and greet a man of heroic positions – especially his strong positions against Israelis,” said Hasan Lazim Jumaa, 42, an intermediate school teacher in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighborhood.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called Erdoğan’s two-day trip an important visit and said the Turkish premier would also meet Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani – Iraqi-based Shiism’s highest ranking cleric in the Middle East – to discuss unrest in Bahrain and strife across the Arab world.

Political observers in Baghdad believe Sistani may ask Erdoğan to act as a mediator in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has cracked down on Shiite-led protesters demanding greater rights and political freedoms.

Turkey, which has served as a mediator in many regional conflicts under Erdoğan, is also maintaining contacts with both sides in the fighting between Libyan rebels and Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in an attempt to arrange a cease-fire.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly said he fears the unrest in Bahrain could spark sectarian violence around the Middle East – a particularly frightening scenario for Iraq, which is only just recovering from years of deadly Sunni-Shiite battles.

Ethnic clashes broke out Monday between Kurdish and Turkmen students outside a college in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Eleven students were injured in the scuffles, which included rock-throwing, said police Brig. Gen. Adel Zein-Alabdin. The competition for power in the oil-rich city involves Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, and tensions have simmered there for years.

Iraq’s Turkmen politicians told Agence France-Presse that Erdoğan was also expected to attempt to broker talks between ethnic Turkmen and Kurds over their rival claims to Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, three bombs exploded a few hours before Erdogan’s arrival, killing one person and wounding 13. Scattered violence continues to plague Iraq on a daily basis.

And in the northern city of Mosul, a former al-Qaeda stronghold, police said unknown gunmen stormed a family home, killing six women and a man in the early hours Monday before escaping.

Compiled from AP and AFP reports by the Daily News staff.

Investment talks bring Turkish premier to Baghdad

March 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Investment talks bring Turkish premier to Baghdad

28 March 2011, Monday / AP WITH TODAY’S ZAMAN, BAGHDAD

Joined by dozens of businessmen, Turkey’s prime minister led trade talks Monday with Iraqi leaders that he said would be a step toward greater stability across the Middle East.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a Sunni leader whose premiership has greatly expanded Turkey’s regional influence, was also expected to meet with one of Shiite Islam’s top spiritual leaders to discuss the crackdown on Shiite protesters in the Gulf nation of Bahrain.

The Turkish premier will also appeal for more help from Baghdad in combatting terrorists and operate from safe havens in the north of Iraq.

At the top of his agenda, however, were business investments, including to help Iraq export oil and boost its dwindling electricity and water supplies.

“Increasing cooperation between Turkey and Iraq in all fields is of key importance for the stability and welfare of the whole region,” Erdoğan told reporters Monday before flying out of the Turkish capital of Ankara. He arrived in Baghdad Monday afternoon.

“We aim to turn the Mesopotamian basin into a joint area of stability and welfare through a wide spectrum of projects, from energy to trade, from health to construction and from water resources to transportation,” he said.

Iraqi leaders have worked to soothe relations with Turkey, which for years has battled the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK is based in northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region.

“PKK terrorism, which arises from the north of Iraq and is a threat to our country, is also an issue we will bring up with the Iraqi authorities,” Erdoğan said.

Turkish warplanes have bombed terror targets in northern Iraq, and in February 2008, Erdoğan’s government sent ground troops over the border in an eight-day incursion to hunt the fighters.

Reflecting Turkey’s rising power and popularity in the Arab world, which cuts across sectarian lines, hard-line Iraqi Shiites welcomed Erdoğan’s visit, in particular because of his tough positions against Israel.

Waiting for Erdoğan’s arrival, about 1,000 supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr lined the road leading from the airport into Baghdad, waving Iraqi and Turkish flags. The devout Shiites hailed the Sunni prime minister for his criticism of Israel since last year’s deadly raid on a Turkish ship trying to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces killed nine Turks in the operation.

“We came here to welcome and greet a man of heroic positions – especially his strong positions against Israelis,” said Hasan Lazim Jumaa, 42, an intermediate school teacher in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighborhood.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called Erdoğan’s two-day trip an important visit and said the Turkish premier also will meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani – Iraqi-based Shiism’s highest ranking cleric in the Middle East – to discuss unrest in Bahrain and strife across the Arab world.

Political observers in Baghdad believe Sistani may ask Erdoğan to act as a mediator in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has cracked down on Shiite-led protesters demanding greater rights and political freedoms.

Turkey, which has served as a mediator in many regional conflicts under Erdoğan, is also maintaining contacts with both sides in the fighting between Libyan rebels and Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in an attempt to arrange a cease-fire.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly said he fears the unrest in Bahrain could spark sectarian violence around the Middle East – a particularly fearful scenario for Iraq, which is only just recovering from years of deadly Sunni-Shiite battles.

Ethnic clashes broke out Monday between Kurdish and Turkomen students outside a college in the northern city of Kirkuk. Eleven students were injured in the scuffles, which included rock-throwing, said police Brig. Gen. Adel Zein-Alabdin.

The competition for power in the oil-rich city involves Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, and tensions have simmered there for years.

In Baghdad, three bombs exploded a few hours before Erdoğan’s arrival, killing one person and wounding 13.

Scattered violence continues to plague Iraq on a daily basis.

And in the northern city of Mosul, a former al-Qaida stronghold, police said unknown gunmen stormed a family home, killing six women and a man in the early hours Monday before escaping.

A motive for the killing was not immediately known, although a policeman said it appeared to be a terrorist attack. Mosul still has pockets of Sunni insurgents around the city.

A morgue official at Mosul’s hospital confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Başbakan Erdoğan, Irak Başbakanı Maliki İle Ortak Basın Toplantısı Düzenledi

March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Başbakan Erdoğan, Irak Başbakanı Maliki İle Ortak Basın Toplantısı Düzenledi    
Pazartesi, 28 Mart 2011
Irak’taki tüm nüfusa eşit derecede önem veriyoruzBaşbakan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Irak Başbakanı Nuri El Maliki ile teröre yönelik ortak mücadelede 3’lü mekanizma çerçevesinde güvenlik işbirliğinin daha da ileri taşınması konusunu kapsamlı şekilde değerlendirdiklerini belirtti.

Başbakan Erdoğan, ”Memnuniyetle söylemek isterim ki bu konulardaki değerlendirmelerimizin örtüşmesi gerçekten daha ileri mesafeye taşınması hususunda her iki ülkenin hükümetinde irade mevcut” dedi.

Erdoğan, Irak Başbakanı Nuri El Maliki ile baş başa ve heyetler arası yaptığı görüşmenin ardından ortak bir basın toplantısı düzenledi.

Irak Başbakanı Maliki, konuşmasında Başbakan Erdoğan’ın ziyaretinden dolayı teşekkür ederek, ”Dost ülke Türkiye’nin Başbakanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ve heyetine hoş geldiniz diyorum” ifadesini kullandı.

Bu ziyaretin her iki ülkenin siyasi iradeleri tarafından konulan hedeflere ulaşma yolunda atılan bir adım olduğunu belirten Maliki, iki ülke arasındaki ilişkilerin geliştirilmesinin tek yönlü olmadığını vurguladı. Ziyaretin her alanda ilişkileri güçlendirme yolunda atılan bir adım olduğunu belirten Maliki, şunları kaydetti:

”Zira iki ülke arasında ticaret, ekonomi, sanayi alanında işbirliği anlaşmaları yapılmakta ve imzalar atılmaktadır. Bölgedeki gelişmeleri de ele aldık. Halkların taleplerine kulak asmamak olmaz. ‘Halkların taleplerini destekleyelim’ demek, o ülkelerin iç işlerine müdahale anlamına gelmez. İki ülkenin sahip olduğu ve faydasını gördüğü, imkanlar bize sorumluluk yüklüyor.

Yüksek düzeyli stratejik işbirliği anlaşması imzaladık ve iki başbakan başkanlığında bir kurul tesis edildi ve bunun ilk toplantısını en kısa zamanda yapacağız. Bu ilişkiler dertleriyle tasalarıyla, ümitleriyle, kaygılarıyla ortak olan iki komşu ülkenin ilişkileri geliştirmeye ne kadar ihtiyacı olduğunu göstermektedir. Bölge ülkelerini etkisi altına alabilecek terörün yöneticileri, onu kullananlar, burada terör örgütlerini kast ediyorum, bunlara karşı tutumumuz etkinliklerini azaltacaktır. Irak’ın terör faaliyetlerine maruz kaldığı gibi Türkiye’nin de kaldığını biliyoruz. PKK ve El Kaide örgütlerinin estirdiği terör havasını biliyoruz. Her iki ülkenin teröre karşı işbirliği yapmak zorunda olduğunu biliyoruz. Aşırı ve radikal terör düşüncelerine sahip olan örgütlere de karşı işbirliği yapmamız gerekiyor.”

-”IRAK’TAKİ TÜM NÜFUS KESİMLERİNE EŞİT MESAFEDE YER ALDIK”-

Başbakan Erdoğan da konuşmasına, ”Şahsıma ve heyetime yönelik misafirperverlik için Maliki’ye teşekkür etmek istiyorum” diyerek başladı.

Irak’a bu gelişinde şartların biraz daha normalleştiğini görmenin memnuniyeti içinde olduğunu ifade eden Erdoğan, ”Irak bizim için dost bir ülke olmaktan öte, kardeş bir ülkedir. Irak halkının uzun yıllardır çektiği sıkıntıları, acıları yüreğimizde hissettiğimiz gibi olumlu yönde mevcut gelişmeleri bundan sonra olabilecek gelişmeleri taktirle ve hayranlıkla izliyoruz” diye konuştu.

Irak halkı ve yönetiminin birlikte layık olduğu aydınlık güzel günlere en kısa zamanda ulaşacağına inandığını belirten Erdoğan, şunları kaydetti:

”Biz Irak’la sadece aynı coğrafyayı paylaşmıyoruz, ortak bir tarihi ve kaderi paylaşıyoruz. Bizim için Irak’ın her köşesi, bizler için Irak halkının her ferdi aynı derecede önem arz eder. Bugüne kadar her platformda Irak’ın bağımsızlığını, toprak bütünlüğünü, birliğini, beraberliğini savunduk. Irak’ın güvenlik ve istikrarını sürekli gözettik. Irak’taki tüm nüfus kesimlerine eşit mesafede yer aldık. Görüşmelerimizde sorumlu bir komşu, bir dost ve kardeş olarak ülkemizin Irak’a olan desteğinin devamı konusundaki kararlılığımızı kardeşim Maliki ile paylaştım.

İkili ilişkiler ile yüksek düzeyli konseyin çalışmalarını da ele aldık. Tabii iki önemli kardeş ülke olarak bölgedeki gelişmeleri değerlendirmeden yapamazdık. Gerek Kuzey Afrika, gerek Ortadoğu’daki tüm gelişmeleri değerlendirme fırsatımız oldu. Genelde değerlendirmelerimizin örtüştüğünü gördük. Teröre yönelik ortak mücadelede 3’lü mekanizma çerçevesinde güvenlik işbirliğimizin daha da ileri taşınması konusunu da kapsamlı şekilde değerlendirdik. Memnuniyetle söylemek isterim ki bu konulardaki değerlendirmelerimizin örtüşmesi gerçekten daha ileri mesafeye taşınması hususunda her iki ülkenin hükümetinde irade mevcut.”

İki ülkenin ekonomik ilişkileri de daha ileri taşımanın kararlılığı içinde olduğunu belirten Başbakan Erdoğan, 2010 yılı itibariyle 7.5 milyar dolar olan ticaret hacmini daha yukarı taşıma kararlılığını ortaya koyduklarını aktardı. Erdoğan, ”Türk müteahhit firmalarının Irak’ın imarında rol alacak olması, rol alması bu da güzel bir örnektir. Enerjiden, gıdaya dayanışmamız bu süreçte devam edecektir” dedi.

Irak Meclis Başkanı Usame Nuceyfi ve diğer siyasi liderlerle de görüşeceğini belirten Erdoğan, ”Meclis’e hitabımız olacak. Yarın Necef ve Erbil’e gideceğiz. Necef’de bildiğiniz gibi Sistani ile bir görüşmemiz olacak. Sistani ülkede kardeş kavgasının doruğa ulaştığı günlerde halkı sükunete ve sağduyuya sevk eden, Iraklılar’ın huzur ve barış içinde yaşamasını sağlamak için gerekli zemini oluşturmaya çalışan büyük bir alimdir. Erbil’de de bölgesel yönetimin başkanı Barzani ile bir araya geleceğim. Bu ziyaretlerimiz Irak’ın her köşesine ayrı ve eşit derecede önem verdiğimizin bir göstergesidir” diye konuştu.

Ziyaret boyunca atılan her adımda, yapılan her görüşmede mesajlarının hep aynı olduğunu belirten Erdoğan, ”Bu mesaj, işbirliği, kardeşlik ve dayanışma mesajıdır. Irak’ın birliği, beraberliği ve bütünlüğüne yönelik mesajlardır. Tüm Iraklı kardeşlerimin birbiriyle dayanışma içinde olması, birlik ve beraberlik içinde olması, onların mutluluğunu, huzuru görmek bizleri de mutlu edecektir, bunu ayrıca ifade ediyorum” dedi.

beyaz gazete

Qui pour remplacer Boris Boillon à Bagdad?

March 27, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Qui pour remplacer Boris Boillon à Bagdad?

Par Georges Malbrunot le 25 mars 2011 21h49 

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Diplomatie. Plusieurs diplomates expérimentés sont candidats au poste d’ambassadeur de France en Irak, laissé vacant par le départ de Boris Boillon à Tunis.

Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, adjoint à la direction Afrique du Nord-Moyen Orient du Quai d’Orsay et ancien consul à Istanbul après un passage par Jérusalem et Téhéran, est en lice, aux côtés de Franck Gellet, ancien numéro 2 à Bagdad entre 2004 et 2006, mais qui est aussi annoncé à Sanaa au Yémen.

Antoine Sivan, également ancien numéro 2 à Bagdad au cours des dernières années du régime de Saddam Hussein entre 2000 et 2003, ainsi que Denis Gauer, ancien ambassadeur en Jordanie, seraient également sur les rangs.

Les autorités irakiennes ont été déçues du départ inopiné de Boris Boillon, proche de Nicolas Sarkozy, pour aller recoller les morceaux à Tunis. Et ce, même si l’actuel chargé d’affaires, Issa Marault, est un fin connaisseur de l’Irak et de la Péninsule arabique. Pour l’instant, la diplomatie commerciale du chef de l’Etat en Irak ne s’est pas traduite par la conclusion de nombreux contrats au profit des sociétés françaises.

Sous le mandat de Boris Boillon, la consigne était clairement de ne pas « briser l’élan », comme on dit au Quai d’Orsay. Quitte à enjoliver une situation en Irak loin d’être apaisée au plan sécuritaire. Comme au plan politique.

Increase of birth defects and miscarriages in Fallujah, by Paola Manduca

March 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Increase of birth defects and miscarriages in Fallujah

Paola Manduca, Geneticist, University of Genoa, Italy

 

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Call for action to the scientific and political community – ENGLISH 29 KB
Call for action to the scientific and political community – ITALIAN 30 KB
Press release – ITALIAN 28.5 KB
STUDY: The complete text 69.5 KB
Table 1 S1 160.6 KB
Table 1 121.46 KB
Table 3 24.25 KB
Table 2 63.22 KB
Figure 1 S 127.66 KB
Supplementary methods 44.5 KB
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March 26, 2011

 

We present here a full scientific investigation on the birth defects increase in Falluhja. Unusually high frequency of birth defects and miscarriages was observed over the years following 2003, with gradual increase since then and with birth defects frequencies not decreasing up to November 2010.

For 2010, medical sources in Falluhja reported to us 14.7% of birth defects. This is about 10 folds higher compared to the frequencies in the same families in the years 1991-2001. Also miscarriage rates have increase considerably over the time from 2003.

The modalities of the presentation of the birth defects in 56 families studied and in their immediate kin (1256 people) indicates that genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, post-mutational, but potentially transmissible to the progeny, may be responsible of the events.

The finding suggest that continuing environmental contamination due to war associated and long lasting contaminants, like teratogenic metals, could be determining the reproductive damage.

The high rate of birth defects is associated with an increase in the hair the hair of children and adults of metals components of weaponry used in the recent wars in Iraq, but also in Lebanon and Gaza and Afghanistan. The study presented here can be seminal also for the decreased reproductive health in these countries.

From the analysis of metals in hair of 43 children with birth defects and 103 their parents, and of 11 healthy newborns and 16 their parents is shown that metal contamination is diffuse in the whole population of the town of Falluhja and is present already in newborn children hair.

The authors report that absolute levels of teratogenic and carcinogenic  contaminants (Vanadium, Cobalt, Molybden, Uranium and Lead)  were significantly higher in Iraqi than in controls from other areas, with Lead levels in children with birth defects and Uranium in their parents higher respectively than that in other newborns or parents of normal Falluhja children.

The composite metal load might be a major factor in the increase in time of events that lead to birth defects and miscarriages registered in the last years.

Notes:

Notwithstanding the attention upon pre-enquiry for this science manuscript from various scientific Journals, including prestigious ones, there have been political and other pressures that suggested to choose press modality of publication. The Iraqi authors retired their assent to publish in scientific Journals, blocking de factu an already done submission to Lancet.

This pressure was achieved by the use of unproper methods of intimidation first and then under the claim of disagreement in results with those of other undisclosed reports. We believe that this was a political action with modalities outside those customary in science, and for aims that elude acquisition of knowledge of facts and open confrontation through collaboration or through publication of studies.

We identify as final aim of these studies the need to contribute to develop tools to improve the reproductive health of the populations of victims of long-term effects of war and all the studies done will contribute to this aim.

We chose therefore to send to press this contribute to future scientific memory and for what we consider to be the best information of all parties involved in the long term damages in all the countries interested.

The work is presented in the name of only one of the contributing authors, to save the other consenting authors from the treats we received.

The author that is presenting the report is responsible for the project design and coordinated the research, received the release of the clinical data and hair samples from the General Hospital of Falluhja and that of the analytical data from an internationally certified laboratory.

We strongly hope that more studies will be done and published on this matter, that eventual scientific differences in results will be dealt by preliminary honest confrontation among the scientists, doing the next useful steps to find truth and eventual mistakes, or be done openly after data publication.  

We are issuing a call for independent research in the field to international Institutions and the wide scientific community.

Authors’ contributions to the study

Two medical doctors in general hospital of Falluhja were responsible for the registration and collection of data and patients consent, for the clinical diagnosis and for the collection of hair samples.

Two analytical chemistry professors in Italy were responsible for the procedures of preparation and analysis of hair samples.

A medical doctor was responsible for the statistical analysis of the data, their rationalization and contributed with the corresponding tables and to the writing of the manuscript.

Myself, Paola Manduca, undersigned, designed the experiments, prepared the historical  registration protocol, coordinated the work, wrote the manuscript, prepared the figures and tables, was recipient of the funding for the work;  I am  responsible for the frame of interpretation of the data.

Paola Manduca, Geneticist, University of Genoa, Italy and coordinator of Newweapons research group

High prevalence data and increase in time of birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq: historical reproductive life and hair metal load in newborns and children with birth defects and their families

Paola Manduca, Geneticist, University of Genoa, Italy and coordinator of Newweapons research group
paolamanduca@gmail.com

Abstract
Background. Lack of birth registers hindered knowledge of the frequency of birth defects (BD) in Fallujah, Iraq and comparison of changes in prevalence in time. No investigation on correlation between BD presentation and teratogenic metal load is available.

  Methods. We obtained reproductive history, kin health, environmental exposure and historical residence of families. Hair was sampled from the nape of the neck from families and analyzed by ICP/MS for metal content.

Continue Reading Increase of birth defects and miscarriages in Fallujah, by Paola Manduca…

Iraqis take to the streets, call for Real Democracy

March 25, 2011 at 10:32 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

Iraqis Take to the Streets, Call for Real Democracy

Thursday 24 March 2011

 

The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The US administration says the occupation is ending as well, with the withdrawal of US combat troops. But as US politicians begin calling for another military intervention in North Africa, there’s little attention given to the price Iraqis are paying for the last one.

“There’s no electricity most of the time and no drinking water – no services at all,” says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed of Iraq (UUI). Eight years after the start of the US military intervention, “there’s hardly even any repair of the war damage – there’s still rubble in the streets. People are going hungry.”

Despite often extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. When demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk had been taking to the streets for years. In large part, protests continued in Iraq because living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring.

“There has basically been no change in the unemployment situation since the occupation started,” Hadi charges. “There are more than 10 million unemployed people in Iraq – about 60-70% of the workforce.” According to the UUI, government unemployment statistics are artificially low because they don’t count many people. “Women aren’t counted,” Hadi says, citing just one example, “because the government says their husbands or fathers are responsible for supporting them.”

Falah Alwan (right) and workers at a demonstration for labor rights in Baghdad.Falah Alwan (right) and workers at a demonstration for labor rights in Baghdad. (Photo: David Bacon)

Hadi was one of Baghdad’s first protesters, leading marches of unemployed workers to the gates of the Green Zone, where US occupation chief Paul Bremer had his offices, almost as soon as Bremer moved in. On July 25, following the May 2003 invasion, Hadi was arrested by US troops for protesting. For the next six years, he led one protest after another, making the UUI a thorn in the side first of the US occupation administration and, then, of the Iraqi regimes that followed.

Some government representatives tried to stop the union’s growth with bribes. “They said they’d give us a position in the Labor Ministry and make us responsible for unemployed people,” Hadi says. Those attempts were unsuccessful because, he explains, “we belong to the union because we want civil rights, not for ourselves, but for all people.”

When bribes didn’t work, threats followed. “A representative of the Dawa Party (the party of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki) told us to leave the union,” Hadi recalls. “If we didn’t, he said we’d be enemies of the people of Iraq. We know what this language means. They will kidnap you. They’ll make holes in your body with a drill. They will kill you slowly, with lots of pain.”

Hadi isn’t exaggerating. During the years of US occupation, many union organizers have been murdered, some, like Hadi Saleh, were brutally tortured first. “People who get threatened like this change the place where they sleep many times,” he says. “Sometimes they go live in another city. I don’t care what they do to me. I have a dream I’m fighting for. But when they threatened to kidnap my wife and children I couldn’t stay.” A year ago, Hadi left Iraq.

A stand where the children of oil refinery workers sell motor oil to passing drivers.  Workers at the refinery are paid part of their wages in oil because the refinery doesn't have enough money to pay them cash.A stand where the children of oil refinery workers sell motor oil to passing drivers. Workers at the refinery are paid part of their wages in oil because the refinery doesn’t have enough money to pay them cash. (Photo: David Bacon)

He describes enormous economic pressure on families. “Prices are very high and millions of people have no income at all,” he elaborates. “Even for those who have a job, wages are so low, you see people on the street selling all their furniture. If they get a sugar ration, they sell it instead. People stop drinking tea because they have to spend all their money just on the food they need to stay alive. It surprises me how people can survive.”

The Iraqi government only counts two million unemployed and pays unemployment benefits to a quarter of them. Benefits are low, about $110 a month and if there’s more than one unemployed person in the family, they reduce the benefit. But the worst problem, the UUI says, is that you have to register with the governing political party at the same time you register for benefits. “If you oppose the governing party, you can’t register,” Hadi says. “Benefits are given out as political bribes.”

Unemployment, hunger and corruption were the fuel that fed the rising wave of protest that culminated in Iraq’s Day of Rage at the end of this February.

At the beginning of the month, Baghdad neighborhoods saw rallies calling for dismissing and jailing corrupt officials, including those involved in election fraud. Al-Kuray’at neighbors protested declining services, while the people of Al-Mutanabbi Street demanded more freedom. Some held banners saying, “The Baghdad Municipality is wasting billions and the capital is sleeping in trash.” Other banners had warnings for the government: “O inhabitants of the Green Zone – think about the others,” and, “Remember the fate of Arab dictatorship regimes and how their people revolted.” On Al-Fardaws Avenue in central Baghdad, protesters accused a security company of executing an Al-Ma’lif man in front of his children, and called for ending random arrests and home invasions by police.

Unemployed men demonstrate outside the office of a contractor who had promised them work.Unemployed men demonstrate outside the office of a contractor who had promised them work. (Photo: David Bacon)

One of the sorest points for Iraqis has been the lack of more than a couple of hours of electricity a day and skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel oil, not just for vehicles, but for the small generators many people now use to run their air conditioners in summer heat that can reach 120 degrees.

Last summer, Basra was rocked by protests over the lack of services. Police put down June demonstrations over blackouts, supported by the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union, the first national union led by a woman, Hashmeya Muhsin. Haider Dawood Selman was killed and several others injured. Electricity and Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani then issued an order to shut the union down. A thousand Basra workers protested, shouting slogans asking Shahristani where the $13 billion appropriated for electricity reconstruction had disappeared. Within days, the union was expelled from its offices as well.

A similar fate met Iraq’s oil union after it, too, protested corruption, privatization, unemployment and bad housing. Hassan Juma’a and Falih Abood, president and general secretary of the Federation of Oil Employees of Iraq, were hauled into court and threatened with arrest. The government has never taken off the books the infamous Public Law 150, issued by Saddam Hussein in 1987, which makes unions illegal for public workers, including in the oil and electricity industries.

Both Qasim Hadi and Hashmeya Muhsin charge that the electricity blackouts are not simply the result of unrepaired war damage – the claim of US contractors like Bechtel Corp. that received billions of dollars for their (unsuccessful) reconstruction.

“Since 2005, there have been many projects to fix the electrical stations,” Hadi says, “but the money appropriated for them has been stolen. Big generators are not repaired. The workers in the stations say they can fix them, but instead, they’re sold and government people pocket the money. Each new minister just demands more money and time.” In addition, Hadi says, blackouts are used to punish communities for opposing the government.

Muhsin incurred the government’s anger when she accused ministers last year of using blackouts and repression to create an atmosphere of desperation. “If people are desperate enough, the government believes they’ll accept anything to get electricity, including privatization,” she charges. “It knows our union won’t accept that, so it wants to paralyze us so we can’t speak out.”

Under Saddam Hussein, power was free and there were no blackouts. Today, large private generators sell power on a thriving black market at 10-15 times the government’s power price.

A poster in a Baghdad factory, warning workers not to pick up unexploded bombs and ordinance. (Photo: David Bacon)A poster in a Baghdad factory, warning workers not to pick up unexploded bombs and ordinance. (Photo: David Bacon)

This year, as the February demonstrations grew, other workers joined in, including the oil and gas workers’ branch of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, which struck the refinery and fields of the North Oil Company in Kirkuk on February 13. The union demanded pay raises, especially for temporary workers, who make only a tenth of a normal salary. The Mechanics and Printing Workers Union held a one-day protest in Baghdad, followed by a contingent calling itself the Youth of the 14th of February, who organized a big rally that day in Tahrir Square. In addition to the constant complaint of lack of services and corruption, young people demanded jobs.

As the month wore on, the government passed an $82 billion budget, financed almost entirely from oil revenue. Endemic corruption, however, practically guarantees that little of that will reach the country’s hungry and unemployed populace. The growing anti-government tone of the demonstrations was displayed in one large banner at a Tahrir Square rally that read, “The oil of the people is for the people, not for the thieves.”

Finally, unions, left-wing political parties, and other organizations of Iraqi civil society announced a national mobilization for February 25, the Day of Rage. The Maliki government attempted to keep turnout low by arresting leaders of organizations calling for the protest. One was Jabbar al-Asadi, a member of the Executive Bureau of the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC) in Baghdad and a member of the People Protests Committee in Iraq. Another was IFC member Mahmood Khalis, who had applied for a rally permit for Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s hometown.) The offices of both the Iraqi Communist Party and the Iraqi Nation Party were closed by troops as well.

Nevertheless, Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, reported that almost 70,000 people participated in the day’s protest rallies. One demonstration in Samarra was the first tribal protest organized by women, in part because widows now make up a majority of the city’s female population. “The army shot the demonstrators in the evening,” Mohammed says, “attempting to disperse them. Seven were killed in Samarra and 15 were wounded.” According to the Iraqi Society for the Defense of Press Freedoms, 14 people were killed in Hawija, Mosul, Tikrit and Basra during the February 25 Day of Rage.

It’s hard to measure the number of people even in the Baghdad protest, the largest, because the government used force to disperse people that day and, when even more protested on the day following, tanks closed off the square.

Marwan was an IFC activist who helped organize the demonstration. He told Hadi, “When we started, they surrounded us with Hummers. We were shouting slogans – ‘Give us 24-hour electricity! Give us a minimum wage! Raise the salaries of those who work! Give us unemployment benefits!’ At first we thought the authorities would protect us, but then they suddenly withdrew. Then cars rushed in full of plainclothes police. They attacked us with knives, sticks and their fists. That’s when we began demanding that the government resign.” Marwan was shot in the neck.

The government closed streets leading into Tahrir Square. While 6,000 people were able to assemble there, Hadi says, in every street around it there were many times the number of people in the square itself. Al Jazeera reported 20,000 in one street alone. “Everyone was shouting about their civil rights,” Hadi says. “Then the police and army began to attack them, so everyone sat down. They called out to the army and police, ‘There’s no reason to hit us!’ When the attacks continued, people fled into the neighborhoods. The police followed, beating and shooting people. Residents let people into their homes, but then the army followed.”

If only several hundred people were brave enough to demonstrate in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on March 4, a week later, the reason was obvious. Iraqis have never become inured to high levels of violence, even after eight years of occupation. But it is not likely that shooting demonstrators and a massive show of force will end the protests sweeping Iraq. Instead, the state’s violence has pushed protesters into moving beyond calls for better conditions to demands that the government itself resign.

“The government says we’re Baathists or Al Qaeda,” says Hadi. “That’s their main tactic – try to scare people, to say we’re going back to 2003. But it’s a lie. They know the people don’t want them. They’re just the government because the US and Iran helped them get power with threats and militias and the military. But I believe people will lose their fear and the protests will get bigger and bigger.”
  Continue Reading Iraqis take to the streets, call for Real Democracy…

“Paying the Price” – Again. By Felicity Arbuthnot

March 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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 Libyan soldier killed by US-UK-France’s strikes near Benghazi

March 22, 2011
Now Libya’s people are “paying the price”, for being, well, Libyan, I am reminded of another people that, to use the words of the appalling Madeleine Albright, then US., Ambassador the the UN., were : ” … a price worth paying.” She was talking of the deaths of half a million Iraqi children, on 12th May 1996.

When I was involved, as Senior Researcher, in John Pilger’s ground breaking documentary on the reality of what was happening, in Iraq, resultant from America and Britain’s (arm twisted) UN., backed embargo, not from the actions of the regime, one scene has stayed with me to haunt.

I took Pilger and his three person film crew to a small graveyard, in a remote area on Northern Iraq, where, a few months before, five child shepherds and their Grandfather had been buried.The youngest child was nearly six and the oldest was thirteen. They had been blown to pieces in the US., UK., (illegally) imposed “no fly zone.” As Libya, the mis-noma meant the British and Americans could fly and bomb, and the Iraqis had no means of protection and could not even even fly commercial airliners.

The story, as told to me by one of those who had run, on hearing and seeing the bombing, to try and rescue them was harrowing and chilling. The ‘planes he said, had circled low, so could certainly see the children, the older man and, it transpired, two hundred sheep, alone on the ancient, remote, Nineveh plain.

Then they bombed. The family was blown to bits. The rescuers spent the day collected the still warm pieces, trying to identify as much as they could to ensure each was ensured their own final resting place and not the all muddled together in an eternal discourtesy. He lowered his eyes as he said: “We tried, but there was so little, we are still not sure if there were pieces of sheep we had mistaken ..”

We were taken to the graves by the children’s Uncle. The youngest child had been exited at the prospect of going to school and had taken a notebook and pencil with him on his shepherding duties, to practice writing. Pilger asked whether the Uncle would be kind enough to bring the note book to us, so it could be recorded on film, the child’s writing, as a small tribute; memorial.

When he returned, he was accompanied by a tiny woman, in a shabby and not too clean abaya. In a region where cleanliness is obligatory, she clearly had lost pride, will and nearly mind. She was the mother of the children and daughter of their Grandfather.

She walked down the steep, dusty path, to the graves, as if unaware of anything, tranced, mesmorised. She sat, silent, stone-still, on the smallest grave. That of the five year old. After some minutes, she walked back up the dusty path, in the searing heat. I was standing at the top, away from the film crew. I put out my hand, and stammering, attempted, impossibly, to find the words to somehow address the enormity of her tragedy. She listened to my inadequate, pathetic effort, put her hand in mine. It was ice cold, in an Iraq August of perhaps 130 degrees. She looked up at me, seemingly a representative of a country who had wrought this catastrophe on a tiny woman, from a tiny community, and her family, watching over their sheep.

“I want nothing from any of you”, she said: “But I would just like to meet the pilot of that ‘plane.” She withdrew her icy hand and disappeared over the hill.

Yesterday Iraq. Today Libya. “Paying the price.”

 

Posted on Uruknet

 

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