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Posts tagged ‘Islamic State of Iraq’

Thousands of Iraqis protest against foreign intervention

BAGHDAD (BNO NEWS) — Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in the center of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Friday to protest against foreign intervention in the country, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported on Saturday.

Thousands of citizens gathered in central Tahrir square and Sadr City, a suburb district of Baghdad, after Friday prayers concluded to demand an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. They also demanded better social conditions and services as well as the redistribution of a percentage of oil revenues among people.

In Tahrir Square, protesters denounced the intervention of neighboring countries, including Iran and Kuwait, in Iraqi internal affairs. According to Aswat al-Iraq’s correspondent, citizens and civil activists denounced Iranian and Kuwaiti violations against Iraqi sovereignty and the Iranian shelling of Kurdistan borders and targeting civilians in the region.

The protesters also denounced the U.S. troops. Less than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, more than eight years since the U.S.-led war began on March 20, 2003. According to a security agreement between Baghdad and Washington, all U.S. forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2011.

Last Friday, thousands of Iraqi citizens also took part in anti-government demonstrations across the country. The demands of the demonstrators varied from one group to another, but the majority demanded better services, early elections and an end to corruption.

In the past weeks, civil activists have been using social networks to organize the protests against the government, corruption, and the lack of services. Protesters last week also denounced the assassination of radio journalist Hadi al-Mehdi.

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.
Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/thousands-of-iraqis-protest-against-foreign-intervention.html.

Iraq cabinet approves draft oil law

Baghdad (AFP)
Aug 28, 2011

Iraq’s cabinet approved a draft oil and gas law on Sunday in a bid to finally pass rules regulating the country’s most lucrative sector after years of political deadlock.

The law would govern the sector and divide responsibility between Baghdad and Iraq’s provinces but despite the lack of such guidelines, foreign investors have still poured in, signing 11 contracts to potentially boost the country’s oil output five-fold.

The cabinet “approved the draft oil and gas law and transferred it to parliament,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement, adding the draft law “voids all previous draft laws” on the issue.

The oil and gas, or hydrocarbons, law has been repeatedly delayed since it was first submitted to parliament in 2007. It has been held up due to disagreements between MPs from the country’s many different communities.

Despite the lack of such a law, foreign firms have signed multiple deals to develop Iraq’s oil fields.

Iraq currently produces around 2.7 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), and domestic authorities are targeting a capacity of 12 million bpd by 2017, although the IMF has voiced doubts over whether that target is obtainable.

Oil accounts for the lion’s share of government income, with Iraq exporting around 2.2 million bpd.

Source: Energy-Daily.
Link: http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/Iraq_cabinet_approves_draft_oil_law_999.html.

Commerce returns to Iran-Iraq border river

Al-Nashwa, Iraq (AFP)
Feb 7, 2012

Commercial traffic has resumed on the strategic Shatt al-Arab waterway after a three-decade break with the official opening of a port for oil giant Shell, an Iraqi official said on Tuesday.

Part of the 200-kilometre-long (120 miles) waterway forms a section of the border with Iran.

An unresolved boundary dispute was a major reason for the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran that resulted in the waterway’s closure.

“The Shatt al-Arab is reborn again after being closed for 31 years,” Mehdi Badah Hussein, head of a joint committee to develop Majnoon oil field, told AFP at a ceremony to open the port.

“There are other harbors on the Shatt al-Arab, but commercially, this is the first time Iraq succeeded in turning the Shatt al-Arab into a maritime passage which will help in transporting heavy equipment,” Hussein said.

Dia Khalil, an Iraqi engineer and joint committee member, told AFP the journey up the Shatt al-Arab to the new port is about 80 kilometers (50 miles), and that ships will pay customs fees in Umm Qasr to the south before heading to the new harbor.

A consortium of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and Malaysia’s Petronas signed a contract with Iraq in January 2010 to operate the enormous Majnoon field.

“We believe this is the first jetty harbor to bring in ships that can come from all over the world back off the river with heavy equipment in 31 years,” Shell Majnoon general manager Ole Myklestad told AFP.

“This is very important,” Myklestad said at the ceremony. “I hope that ships leaving this harbor in the future will also be carrying goods.”

Myklestad said the first ship arrived at the harbor on January 5 and clarified that the port would not be used to export oil which is to be carried by pipeline.

“This is a happy day,” said Khalaf Wadi, deputy manager of Iraq’s Southern Oil Co, a partner with Shell and Petronas. “We are officially opening the first commercial jetty in the Shatt al-Arab since the start of the war with Iran.”

The port’s main function will be to facilitate the transportation of equipment to the massive Majnoon oil field.

But ordinance in the field, which was a major battleground during the eight-year war with Iran, poses a danger.

Simon Mawdslag, Shell’s Explosive Remnants of War Coordinator, said “over 4,000 individual items of ordinance” have been located and removed from a roughly eight square kilometer (three square mile) area — the only part cleared so far.

“These items are handed over to the Iraqi armed forces and their explosive ordinance disposal team. They actually do the destruction of the items,” he said.

The Majnoon field was discovered in 1975 by Brazilian firm Petrobras but its work was interrupted in 1980 by the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, after it had drilled 20 wells.

In 1990, French firm total negotiated a contract for the field but was unable to sign due to international sanctions after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of that year.

Oil sales account for the vast majority of Iraqi government income and around two-thirds of gross domestic product.

Source: Energy-Daily.
Link: http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/Commerce_returns_to_Iran-Iraq_border_river_999.html.

Iran, Kurds to work to combat PJAK

TEHRAN, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Iran and Kurdish officials in Iraq have plans to set up a joint committee to fight Kurdish rebels along their border, an Iranian official said.

Hassan Danaifar, the Iranian envoy to Baghdad, said delegates from Tehran discussed forming an action plan with authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to combat the guerrilla campaign of the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, Iran’s state-funded broadcaster Press TV reports.

Danaifar added that high-ranking military officials from both sides would work to establish the committee.

Iranian officials have acknowledged sending troops to the border region and moving across the Iraqi border allegedly in pursuit of PJAK gunmen. Baghdad expressed frustration over Iranian action against PJAK, though Kurdish leaders told Iranian media recently that PJAK militancy presents a serious security concern in the region.

PJAK is considered a close affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which was blamed for killing Turkish soldiers near the border with Iraq in July.

Reports from Turkish news agency Today’s Zaman say Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech marking the 10th anniversary of his Justice and Development Party that Ankara’s patience with the PKK was wearing thin.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/08/16/Iran-Kurds-to-work-to-combat-PJAK/UPI-39591313515829/.

Iraqi PM al-Maliki expresses support for Assad

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and YASIR GHAZI

Iraqi Leader Backs Syria, With a Nudge From Iran

August 12, 2011

BAGHDAD — As leaders in the Arab world and other countries condemn President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on demonstrators in Syria, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has struck a far friendlier tone, urging the protesters not to “sabotage” the state and hosting an official Syrian delegation.

Mr. Maliki’s support for Mr. Assad has illustrated how much Iraq’s position in the Middle East has shifted toward an axis led by Iran. And it has also aggravated the fault line between Iraq’s Shiite majority, whose leaders have accepted Mr. Assad’s account that Al Qaeda is behind the uprising, and the Sunni minority, whose leaders have condemned the Syrian crackdown.

“The unrest in Syria has exacerbated the old sectarian divides in Iraq because the Shiite leaders have grown close to Assad and the Sunnis identify with the people,” said Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for the Middle East.

He added: “Maliki is very reliant on Iran for his power and Iran is backing Syria all the way. The Iranians and the Syrians were all critical to bringing him to power a year ago and keeping him in power so he finds himself in a difficult position.”

Iraq and Syria have not had close relations for years, long before the American invasion. During the sectarian violence here that broke out after the invasion, Iraqi leaders blamed Syria for allowing suicide bombers and other militants to enter the country.

But Syria and Iran have had close ties, a factor in the recalibration of relations between Syria and Iraq. Last year, Iran pressured Mr. Assad into supporting Mr. Maliki for prime minister, which eventually helped him gain a second term. Since then, Mr. Maliki and Mr. Assad have strengthened relations, signing trade deals and increasing Syrian investment in Iraq.

But the speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Najafi, a Sunni, said this week that the Assad government was suppressing the freedoms of the Syrian people and that it was unacceptable for it to use violence to halt protests.

“For the sake of the Syrian people we demand the government, out of its responsibility to safeguard the lives of its people and their property, take the bold and courageous steps to stop the bleeding,” Mr. Najafi said.

For months, Mr. Assad has faced a protest movement that has spread through much of the country. His response has been to use the police and the military against the protesters, killing about 2,000 people so far, activists say. Thousands more have been arrested. At first, Arab leaders were largely silent, concerned that the collapse of the government would add another layer of chaos to a region reeling from uprisings. But recently some have begun to speak out, condemning the killings.

Syria’s allies in Turkey have also called for an end to the bloodshed, as have leaders in Western capitals.

But Mr. Maliki last month hosted a delegation of Syrian government officials and businessmen to discuss closer economic ties, including the construction of a gas pipeline that would run from Iran through Iraq to Syria. A month earlier, Syria’s foreign minister visited Baghdad.

In a television interview this week, Mr. Maliki said that the protesters should use the democratic process, not riots, to voice their displeasure, though Syria does not allow competitive, free elections.

He put most of the blame on the protesters and said little about the government’s ending the bloodshed. This contrasted with a position his alliance took against the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain when it stifled a pro-democracy movement among the Shiite majority there.

To protest the crackdown in Bahrain, members of Mr. Maliki’s alliance walked out of a session of Parliament, sent a ship with supplies to the protesters and called on the government to step down.

Before the Syrian uprising, Shiite and Sunni leaders in Iraq were beginning to work together again after months of paralysis that had undermined the functioning of the government. That cooperation has not yet been derailed, but the conflict over Syria threatens to strain relations.

Shaker Darraji, a member of Mr. Maliki’s State of Law bloc, said the Syrian protesters were members of Al Qaeda and that the Israelis and the Arab Persian Gulf states were behind the demonstrations. If the Assad government is overthrown, he said, it will be replaced by members of Al Qaeda, who will use Syria as a base to launch attacks in Iraq and the region.

The agenda of Israel and the Arab gulf states “is to use the sectarian differences between the Shiite ruling family in Syria and the Sunni majority” to their own advantage, Mr. Darraji said.

But Jaber al-Jabri, a member of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc, objected to that assessment.

“What is happening in Syria is not because of a terrorist group, as some say, that is not accurate,” he said. “There are whole towns rising up to demonstrate against the regime. We call on the Syrian government to listen to the people’s demands and to stop violence against their people.”

Source: Uruknet.
Link: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=80436&s2=13.

خطة عراقية لتفكيك 25 مليون لغم

13/8/2011

علاء يوسف-بغداد

تتربص الألغام الأرضية بحياة مئات آلاف العراقيين الذين يعيشون في ثلاث رقع جغرافية مختلفة في بلاد الرافدين، ويقدرها الخبراء بأكثر من 25 مليون لغم أرضي وقذيفة غير منفجرة.

أولى هذه المناطق تقع على طول الحدود العراقية الإيرانية، ويوجد فيها مخلفات الحرب العراقية الإيرانية (1980-1988). وكانت هذه المناطق قد شهدت معارك ضارية خلال حرب الثماني سنوات.

أما المناطق الأخرى التي تنتشر فيها الألغام الأرضية فتشمل غالبية الطرق الجبلية في المحافظات الشمالية (أربيل ودهوك والسليمانية)، وهذه الألغام زرعها عناصر حزب العمال الكردستاني خلال تسعينيات القرن الماضي إبان المعارك الشرسة التي خاضها مقاتلو الحزب مع القوات التركية التي تعقبتهم داخل الأراضي العراقية.

ويشاهد زائر مناطق دهوك وأربيل تحديدا لافتات على جوانب الطرق تحذر من وجود ألغام.

أما المنطقة الثالثة فتقع في محافظتي البصرة والناصرية جنوب العراق، حيث دارت معارك شرسة بين القوات الأميركية والعراقية مطلع عام 1991 إبان حرب الخليج الثانية، مع العلم بأنه رغم انتهاء الحروب فإن جهودا لم تبذل للتخلص من ملايين الألغام التي زرعت في تلك المناطق.

هذه الألغام باتت مصيدة للرعاة والمزارعين من سكان تلك المناطق، حيث يسقطون بين قتيل أو معاق، ويسيطر عليهم الخوف الدائم لمعرفتهم بوجود ملايين الألغام دون معالجة.

ويؤكد مسؤول عراقي كبير أن الأراضي العراقية لم تنظف من الألغام منذ عقود، وأن نسبة ما أزيل منها لا يتجاوز 5%. ويكشف الوكيل الأقدم لوزارة البيئة العراقية الدكتور كمال حسين لطيف للجزيرة نت أن الوزارة وضعت خطة إستراتيجية لإزالة الألغام من الأراضي العراقية ستبدأ عام 2012. ويضيف أن رئاسة مجلس الوزراء شكلت لجنة وطنية برئاسة رئيس الوزراء وعضوية وزراء البيئة والنفط والدفاع والداخلية وبعض الدوائر الأخرى المساندة.

اتفاقية أوتاوا
تأتي هذه الخطة -كما يقول- تطبيقاً لاتفاقية أوتاوا التي قررت أن يكون العراق خالياً من الألغام عام 2018، مشددا على أنه ما زال هناك ضعف في قاعدة المعلومات الخاصة بجغرافية حقول الألغام وأعدادها. ويشكك لطيف في الأرقام المعلنة عن وجود 25 مليون لغم في الأراضي العراقية، ويعتقد أن الرقم أكبر من ذلك.

وعن الخطوات التنفيذية يقول لطيف “بدأنا أولاً بتحديد حاجتنا من الموارد البشرية والحاجة للموارد المالية والفترة الزمنية، وأن تنظيف مساحة 10 كلم2 تحتاج إلى خمسة ملايين دولار”.

من جهته رفض الناطق الرسمي باسم وزارة الدفاع اللواء محمد العسكري الحديث حول جهود الوزارة وتعاونها على صعيد إزالة الألغام، واعتذر عن الإجابة على أسئلة الجزيرة نت الخاصة بخرائط الوزارة عن حقول الألغام وإمكانية الاستفادة منها في التعرف على الرقع الجغرافية المزروعة بها.

وتقول المتحدثة الرسمية باسم اللجنة الدولية للصليب الأحمر بعثة العراق ماري كلير فغالي للجزيرة نت إن خبراء اللجنة لا يعملون في نزع الألغام في العراق، بل نزع الذخائر غير المنفجرة بكافة أشكالها.

العراقيون المهددون
وتؤكد أن الألغام بالعراق تعرض حياة أكثر من 1.6 مليون عراقي للخطر. وفي يونيو/حزيران 2010، بدأ فريق متخصص في اللجنة الدولية بإزالة الذخائر غير المنفجرة من محافظة ميسان. وخلال العام الماضي أزيلت أكثر من 1600 قطعة من هذه الذخائر في 27 منطقة يقطنها أكثر من 10 آلاف شخص.

وتضيف فغالي أن خبراء الصليب الأحمر تمكنوا في الشهرين الماضيين من تحديد مواقع ألفي قطعة من هذه الذخائر في 66 موقعاً مختلفاً يسكنها 30 ألف شخص، مضيفة أنهم أزالوا الذخائر بثلاث معاينات تقنية في مخيم للنازحين في الكوت بمحافظة واسط، يسكنه ألف شخص. وقد تمكن الفريق من تحديد أماكن 2500 قطعة ذخيرة غير منفجرة.

المصدر: الجزيرة.
الرابط: http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/EXERES/B757EACB-832B-41B2-BAD2-F90B751AA84A.htm.

“New” Iraq a Nightmare for Women, Minority Groups

By Denis Foynes

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9, 2011 (IPS) – A United Nations report on Iraq says the human rights situation there remains fragile, and huge development challenges loom as the country transitions out of a near decade-long conflict.

Torture and poor judicial practices are widespread, says the report, released Monday by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The report claims the 2,953 civilian deaths it attributed to violence in 2010 were mostly carried out by insurgent and terrorist groups.

It stressed that minorities, women and children suffered disproportionately from these abuses.

While there have been improvements in some areas of human rights, many challenges remain and some areas were actually worse off in 2010 than previous war-torn years.

“Particularly women’s rights levels and standards have gone down. They suffer from widespread violence, especially from domestic violence,” Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told IPS.

“There is little legislation to prevent this from occurring and the criminal code in Iraq almost encourages these crimes. There needs to be laws in the region against domestic violence,” Colville said.

The treatment of minorities was also heavily covered in the report.

Samer Muscati, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told IPS, “Minorities have suffered hugely since 2003. We have also released similar two reports explaining this, as have many rights agencies.”

“Kurds, Christians, Persians and Yarsans are among some the groups targeted for violence. This rise is caused by general insecurity and a rise in religious extremism,” he said. “These groups are also targeted by desperate criminal gangs because they are believed to have huge wealth.”

The murder in August 2010 of Luay Barham al-Malik by kidnappers despite the fact that his family had paid a 15,000-dollar ransom is just one example the report gives of this sort of criminal activity in the country.

According to the report, major problems plague law enforcement and the administration of justice in Iraq, especially respect for due process and the right to a fair trial.

While there has been some improvement in the brutal conditions within many detention facilities and prisons, incidents of cruelty and torture remain widely reported in the world’s press.

“An over-reliance on confessions to convict encourages an atmosphere where the torture of detainees takes place,” the report said.

It also pointed to “widespread poverty, economic stagnation, lack of opportunities, environmental degradation and an absence of basic services constitute ‘silent’ human rights violations that affect large sectors of the population.”

These abuses are often overshadowed by the more heavily publicized issues of terrorism and insurgency.

The report also cited the questionable March 2010 parliamentary elections and the ensuing nine-plus months of stalemate as one source of Iraq’s rights problems.

“It is believed that this fueled instability, but it also contributed to a degree of inactivity in relation to implementing reforms and other measures aimed at ensuring the protection and provision of human rights to the Iraqi population,” the report stated.

As Colville told IPS, “The report has a mixed scorecard that is slightly better than the 2007-2008 report, but it is still pretty appalling.”

Asked how the problem can be effectively tackled, Colville stated that, “A functioning legal framework needs to be set but this is not all that needs to be done. Changing law isn’t enough. Society in Iraq must change too and this will take time.”

“We hope that the government will also address their other issues such as their rigorous use of the death penalty. This combined with the weakness of their system of law means there is a risk that many innocent civilians are being killed every year,” he added.

Muscati of Human Rights Watch said that “the international community needs to assist Iraq to improve its human rights”.

“The people also need to freely express themselves and be able to hold guilty persons accountable. A completely free press would also aid this,” he said. “This would make injustice more difficult to carry out without being seen by the Iraqi people and the international community.”

Asked by IPS if there was any realistic expectation that the situation would improve, Muscati responded, “I hope so, but it is hard to say with any sort of hope for accuracy. The situation is currently getting worse in many ways.”

“The question is unanswerable – especially with the effects of the American forces’ withdrawal. One would hope but the future of Iraq is truly anyone’s guess,” he said.

Source: Inter-Press Service.
Link: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56796.

Al-Hashemi blames Maliki for violence

BAGHDAD, Dec. 23 (UPI) — Iraq’s vice president, in hiding to avoid arrest on terror charges, blamed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a sudden surge in sectarian violence.

“We should blame Mr. Maliki — he started a national crisis and it’s not easy to control,” Tariq al-Hashemi told the BBC’s Arabic service. “The Iraqis have a right to be worried.”

His comments followed a series of explosions that ripped through mostly Shiite areas of Iraq’s capital Thursday, killing at least 68 people and injuring nearly 200. The attacks, which began at 6:30 a.m., destroyed schools, markets and apartments.

An ambulance packed with explosives incinerated a government office, The New York Times reported.

The morning blasts killed at least 65 people — Baghdad’s deadliest day in more than a year. Four more blasts shook Baghdad Thursday night, killing at least three more people.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but analysts told the BBC and the Times they appeared similar to attacks conducted by the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq.

Western officials were alarmed at how quickly the withdrawal of U.S. troops had led to deadly sectarian violence, the Times said.

Maliki is a Shiite. Al-Hashemi is one of the country’s most prominent Sunni politicians.

Maliki accused al-Hashemi this week of running a death squad and put out an arrest warrant for him.

Al-Hashemi denied the allegations and fled to Irbil in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, under the protection of the regional government.

Maliki has demanded al-Hashemi return to Baghdad, but al-Hashemi said he would not because he could not receive a fair trial there. The Kurdish government offered no sign Thursday it would heed Maliki’s demand to extradite al-Hashemi, the Times said.

Al-Hashemi told the BBC the attacks occurred because the government was too busy chasing “patriotic politicians” like himself instead of hunting down terrorists.

“The security services are pointed in the wrong direction,” he said.

Maliki added new tension to the political climate Wednesday by threatening to discard Iraq’s fragile power-sharing government.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/12/23/Al-Hashemi-blames-Maliki-for-violence/UPI-24551324627200/.

Hidden victims of Iraq conflict: Women expect little change for better

2011-12-21

By Amelie Herenstein – BAGHDAD

Women remain victims of violence, trafficking, forced marriage at young age, kidnapping for confessional, criminal reasons.

With US forces having completed their pullout, Iraqis are hopeful their country will regain its lofty status in the Arab world, but one group expects little to change for the better: women.

Until the 1980s, Iraqi women were widely considered to have more rights than their counterparts across the Middle East, but they have suffered in the face of brutal violence, Islamic extremism, and a run-down education system.

“It has been a very bad regression,” said Nada Ibrahim, an MP belonging to the secular mostly Sunni-backed Iraqiya party, adding that women have paid a heavy price in recent years.

Along with the increase in violence harming their own physical security, it has also resulted in husbands and sons being imprisoned, conscripted into militias or insurgent groups, or killed.

As a result of those factors, as well as the decades of unrest Iraq has suffered — including the 1980-88 war with Iran, the 1991 Gulf War, and the 2003 US-led invasion that unleashed brutal bloodshed — there are more than one million widows and female heads of households in Iraq.

Before the Gulf War and the embargo that followed, Iraqi women enjoyed strong protection and opportunities compared with the rest of the region, according to both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

HRW notes that, after coming to power in 1968, the Baath Party, which now-executed leader Saddam Hussein would eventually lead, “promulgated laws specifically aimed at improving the status of women in both the public and private spheres.”

It guaranteed equal rights for women, mandated primary education, and passed labor and employment laws that improved women’s status in the workplace.

But the 1991 war and the ensuing years of sanctions, followed by the violence triggered by the 2003 invasion, eroded those freedoms.

The overall level of violence in Iraq has declined since its peak in 2006-2007, but women remain victims of violence, trafficking, forced marriage at a young age, and kidnapping for confessional or criminal reasons, according to non-governmental organizations.

When the US overthrew Saddam after the invasion, Ibrahim noted, they had good intentions with regards to improving women’s rights, but Iraqis were reticent to take them on board because the American forces “were invaders”.

“People were against them because all the ideas that came from the Americans, they did not like them,” she said.

A UN report issued this year notes that after 2003, “women’s rights and gender equality became symbolic issues for Iraq’s new national agenda”.

“However, as the overall situation in Iraq began to deteriorate after the invasion, the focus on women was lost amidst the violence and overall challenges faced by the country.”

Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.

“They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it,” she said. “Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognized by the Iraqi people.”

She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a “shame on Iraq”.

Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki’s national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women’s affairs.

“Yes, women have experienced conflict situations, war and terrorism, but security is getting better in Iraq, and based on that, the situation for women will also improve,” Zaidi said.

But she has said that violence is not the only threat to women’s rights, noting last month that one in five Iraqi women is subjected to either physical or psychological abuse, often inflicted by family members.

“One-fifth of Iraqi women are subjected to two types of violence, physical and psychological, constituting a very serious danger to the family and society,” Zaidi told a conference on fighting violence against women in November.

Anou Borrey, senior gender adviser at the United Nations Development Program, remains hopeful, despite the uncertainty over Iraq’s stability after the US military’s withdrawal from Iraq, completed at the weekend.

“There have been discussions about a possible increase in violence, but there’s also an understanding of the rule of law, and that people will get punished should women be harassed or hurt or violated,” she said.

Borrey added: “I think women are getting more and more organized, they recognize they have potential, they also know they have rights.”

In the end, though, Ibrahim said, the responsibility for improving women’s rights fell to women themselves.

“The US did nothing for the women in the country when they were here,” she said. “I think the struggles of women’s rights activists, and strong advocates for women’s rights, will change the situation in the country.”

“It is with Iraqi women that we will change things,” she said.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=49604.

Iraq’s weak ‘partners’ deal of Green Zone government crumbles

2011-12-18

By Salam Faraj – BAGHDAD

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on lawmakers on Sunday to withdraw confidence from one of his deputies, as the country’s political crisis deepened as US forces completed their withdrawal.

Maliki’s push for the ouster of Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni Arab who described him on television as “worse than Saddam Hussein”, came a day after the deputy prime minister’s Iraqiya bloc said it was boycotting parliament in protest at the premier’s alleged centralization of power.

The latest moves come with the US military having completed its withdrawal from Iraq on Sunday morning, nearly nine years after the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam from power.

“The prime minister sent an official letter to parliament, asking it to withdraw its confidence in Saleh al-Mutlak after his recent statements,” Ali Mussawi, media adviser to Maliki, said.

Mutlak, who had been accused of being a supporter of Saddam’s outlawed Baath party in the run-up to March 2010 elections that he was barred from standing in, told CNN on Tuesday that Washington was leaving Iraq “with a dictator”.

And in a separate interview with his own Babiliyah satellite television channel, Mutlak charged: “Maliki is worse than Saddam Hussein, because the latter was a builder, but Maliki has done absolutely nothing.”

Meanwhile, security officials said at least two guards of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also a Sunni Arab and an Iraqiya member, were arrested in connection with a November 28 attack on parliament.

Local Iraqi news outlets reported that an arrest warrant had also been issued for Hashemi himself, but judicial and police officials declined to comment.

On Saturday, Iraqiya, which emerged as the largest bloc in March 2010 elections and has 82 lawmakers in the 325-seat parliament, issued a statement saying it was suspending its participation in parliament to protest what it said was Maliki’s centralization of decision-making.

“We can no longer remain silent about the way the state is being administered, as it is plunging the country into the unknown,” it said.

Iraqiya, which garnered most of its support from Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, was out-maneuvered for the premiership by Maliki, who, after finishing second in the elections, struck a deal with another grouping to broaden his power base and lead the government.

The bloc, which controls nine ministerial posts, has not pulled out of Iraq’s national unity government, however.

Iraqiya said the government’s actions, which it claimed included stationing tanks and armored vehicles outside the houses of its leaders in the heavily-fortified Green Zone, “drives people to want to rid themselves of the strong arm of central power as far as the constitution allows them to.”

Provincial authorities in three Sunni-majority provinces north and west of Baghdad have all moved take up the option of similar autonomy to that enjoyed by Kurds in north Iraq, drawing an angry response from Maliki.

Key political issues such as reform of the mostly state-run economy and a law to regulate and organize the lucrative energy sector also remain unresolved, to say nothing of an explosive territorial dispute between Arabs and Kurds centered around the northern oil hub of Kirkuk.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=49557.

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