Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Iraq News Update

Iraqi Lawmakers End Months of Deadlock

April 22, 2006

Iraq's president formally designated Shiite politician Jawad Al-Maliki to form a new government Saturday after months of deadlock. Now there is a process of healing all of the wounds in Iraq, especially the ethnic and religious wounds. Violence continues, however and stabilizing the security situation remains the first priority.

According to AP and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, that in addition to the appointment of Al-Maliki,

“Parliament elected President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to a second term and gave the post of parliament speaker to Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab. Al-Mashhadani's two deputies were to be Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, and Aref Tayfour, a Kurd.”

“‘Those who will join the new government should realize that they are the ministers of the people and the homeland, and not the party. Second, ministers should have great efficiency, sincerity, and honesty in order to work as part of a team that will confront the developments and challenges’ of the government, [Al-Maliki] said. Al-Maliki added that he will choose ministers according to their relevant qualifications and professionalism.”

Human Rights Threats against Assyrians in Iraq

Dutch Parliamentarian Attiya Gamri was in Iraq two years ago to survey the human rights situation for Assyrians there; this year she went back with the hope of an improvement. However, she reports that the human rights situation has worsened.

According to the Women’s Alliance for a Democratic Iraq (WAFDI):

“A delegation of five Assyrians from the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands visited North Iraq last week in a fact finding mission to ascertain the condition of the Assyrian community. Spearheaded by Attiya Gamri, a member of the Dutch Parliament, and coming two years after her last visit, Gamri desired to see what the regional parliament of Kurdistan has done since the elections and to hear from Assyrians about their human rights situation in the region where the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has political power.”

“Gamri, an Assyrian from Turkey, met with officials of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the principal Assyrian political party in Iraq, as well as 21 NGO's in the province of Nineveh, and asked them to collect facts about the human rights of the Assyrians in the province of Nineveh. She said, ‘I need a letter from every Assyrian village in Nineveh province about how many, where, why and whom has been discriminated against; we need this every year.’”

“In a meeting with Fuad M. Hussein, the KDP presidential chief of staff in Arbel, she communicated what she has seen and heard from the Assyrians. A few of the issues Ms Gamri discussed with Mr Hussein were:
  • Land problems in Sarsang, Dohuk and Arbil
  • Membership in the KDP required to secure government services
  • Assyrians are fearful of openly speaking or writing
  • Administrative rights of the Assyrians denied
  • Coercive and illegal treatment during the elections
  • A perception that a "new Saddam" in the person of Barzani is rising in Northern Iraq

Ms. Gamri asked Mr. Hussein how the KDP would address these issues; Mr. Hussein promised that he would bring them to the attention of President Barzani.”

New York Times: Iraq “In Search of a Secular, Nonsectarian Time”

April 23, 2006

Paradises in bloom inside high walls of Baghdad, a garden where people can socialize, dance, listen to music and have fun. The men and women are dressed in Western clothing, smiling, laughing and having fun while their children play. Outside of the walls more than 200 people have been killed in the city in the last week, mostly by suicide bombers. But inside of the gates of the Hunting Club there is love and happiness. And it was going to be like that forever, so they thought…

Robert F. Worth weaves an incredible story of two Iraq’s in the New York Times magazine. Below is an excerpt:

“In a sense, it is the members of these clubs — the residuum of Iraq's well-educated, relatively secular, Western-leaning professionals — on whose leadership the American invasion of 2003 was premised. These people did not identify themselves as Sunni or Shiite. They would re-emerge to form the core of a new Iraqi civil society, propelling the country toward democracy and away from religious extremism. Or so the theory went.”

“What has happened over the past three years is very nearly the opposite. To spend time at the clubs today is to witness the slow disintegration of Iraq's secular class. Energized at first by the fall of Hussein's police state, the clubs expelled their Baathist members and began luring back the old, aristocratic Baghdadi families who once dominated them. But now, with sectarian killings growing worse, the old all-night parties end at dusk. Some members have started defying the ban on carrying guns inside. More and more of them are fleeing the country for the safety of Jordan or the Persian Gulf states or Europe. Those who remain complain that the clubs — once the preserve of Baghdad's proudly cosmopolitan culture — are being taken over by a thuggish new generation of war profiteers. At the same time, the clubs are facing a new threat from Islamist politicians who see them as sinks of alcohol-fueled decadence and are trying to put them under strict state control.”

“It was Muala who led the effort to reclaim the club after the American invasion. In the first month after the Americans arrived, Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon-backed Iraqi exile, commandeered the grounds as a base for his political party. But he relinquished it after Muala and his friends, all of them longtime club members, showed up. (In December, Muala ran for Parliament with Chalabi's political party but failed, like Chalabi, to win a seat)”

“The club has already spent more than a billion dinars, or about $700,000, on rebuilding, money raised mostly through membership fees (about $700 a year per member). Muala is now planning to build a new outdoor restaurant, to replant all the gardens and to replace with something more tasteful the gaudy salons where Uday Hussein and his henchmen once partied. He is also hoping to expand the row of shops that already stand at the edge of the main lawn and add a bank branch. In the end, the club could become almost a self-sufficient world, sealed off from the madness in the streets outside.”

“To its members, the club is a unique refuge, a walled fortress with 22 armed guards in Mansour, Baghdad's wealthiest and best-protected area. To help insulate it from the violent currents of Iraqi life, Muala has applied strict rules. ‘No politics, no religion,’ he said. ‘We are not associated with anyone.’ It is one of the very few places in Iraq where sect really seems not to matter. The one thing the members all share is a more or less secular outlook.”

Click here for the full piece.


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