Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Barzani: In Due Time Kurds are Entitled to a State

As reported in The Globe, the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani,” met with the administrative units and offices of Suleimaniya city in Qala Chwalan.” The report says that “the Deputy Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Nawshirwan Mustafa, Kosrat Rasoul and Imad Ahmed, all members of the PUK also attended the meeting.

Barzani “spoke of the previous achievements of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) saying, ‘all the achievements of the KRG are the outcome of the sacrifices made by the people of Kurdistan through the struggle and efforts of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and PUK.’” The report says that Barzani suggested that “the PUK and KDP should turn into two civil parties and melt within one government.”

Barzani continues with regard to the unification of the two Kurdish administrations, saying that “there should also be a unified and regular military force for the Kurdistan region so that no party can use force against the other.” Barzani said that “the Kurdish people were entitled to have a state of their own, but in due time providing the current KRG are able to gain support of outside and neighboring countries first,” The Globe reports.

Officials Suggest Sectarian Break-Up of Iraq is Inevitable

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent reports that Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki and Tony Blair are to meet in London “as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break-up of the country is inevitable.”

Cockburn reports that a Senior Iraqi official was quoted as saying “Iraq as a political project is finished, the parties have moved on to plan B.” The official said that “the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population.”

To read this article in full click here.

Christians in Cairo Show Support for Fellow Arabs

As reported by Joseph Mayton for the Middle East Times, “demonstrations against Israel have been an almost daily occurrence since its first incursion into Gaza more than three weeks ago.” Mayton reports that “the general mood among the protestors was that they wished to express support for their ‘Muslim brothers.’”

In his report, Mayton says that “Christians have protested on behalf of Lebanese victims while shying away from expressing outright support of Hezbollah.” Mayton says that, “in fact, Christians at demonstrations said that it was important not to give the impression that their communities support Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel.”

Magda, a demonstrator in Cairo, said that “we are here to show that we care about what is happening in Lebanon, yet I want to make it clear that we are not here to support what Hezbollah has done…they started the conflict in Lebanon.” Mayton says that Magda believes that the “Christian community should be against the Israeli action but should also help to make sure that the conflict does not spread and engulf the region.”

Cairo-based Coptic priest, Bishop Moussa, said that “Christianity had no real role to play in the conflict but that rather the notion of pan-Arabism was creating an up swell of support for Lebanon and against Israel,” Mayton reports. Moussa said that he “supports the demonstrations and solidarity with the Lebanese people because they are suffering for something they did not do.”

To read this article in full click here.

Women in Kurdistan Push for Change

As reported by Margaret Besheer for Kurdish Media, “the women in the city of Sulaimaniyah are trying to change the status quo and help women caught in difficult and often violent situations.” Besheer reports that “women in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq are represented in the new national assembly, but in the tribal, male-dominated society of rural areas, women are often treated as second class citizens.”

“The Asouda shelter for abused women opened five years ago in Sulaimaniyah,” Besheer says. “Since then, this independently-funded center has helped dozens of women victims of domestic violence, offering shelter, legal services and counseling.” The center also offers “literacy and sewing classes, with the aim of helping the women to help themselves,” Besheer reports. Khanim Rahim Latif, Asouda’s director, says “in many cases, Asouda is successful in mediating women’s problems, and they are able to return to their husbands and families.”

There are other women’s advocacy groups out there as well. Runak Faraj Rahim is a social worker and researcher at the Rewan Center for Women’s Issues. Rahim has “written extensively on the issue of honor killings in Kurdish society, women who are killed by their fathers or brothers, if they suspect she has had extra-marital relations with a man,” Besheer reports.

Rahim says that “after the 1991 Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein’s regime, women began to question how honor killings could continue when their society was supposed to be free. Women’s groups began to form to raise awareness of the issue and to advocate for new legislation to punish those who commit honor killings.”

According to Besheer, “women in the Kurdistan region are committed to improving their lives and their daughters’ futures, and they hope their work will be the catalyst for change.”

To read this article in full click here.

Among Troubled Youths, Church is Increasingly Present

According to AsiaNews via the Institute for Religion and Public Policy (IRPP), South Vietnam’s Catholic Church’s “pastoral activities have grown by leaps and bounds thanks to the work of laymen and women, especially among the young.” The report says that “they provide a moral compass to those who live separate from their families.”

The report says that “recently, in the southern part of the country, a Young People Conference was held in Phan Thiet that brought together thousands of young people.” Also, it says, “in Can Tho diocese some 50 street counselors operate among street kids,” and that “Catholic volunteers work with troubled children.” In most of these cases, “the kids come from broken homes, surviving shining shoes, selling lottery tickets or performing manual tasks for local store owners,” the report states.

Government to Recreate Taliban ‘Vice Squad’

As reported in The Australian, by Christina Lamb, the Afghan government in Kabul is set to recreate the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. This was “set up by the Taliban to enforce bans on women doing anything from working to wearing nail varnish or laughing out loud,” Lamb says.

“The decision has provoked an outcry among women and human rights activists who fear a return to the days when religious police patrolled the streets, beating or arresting any woman who was not properly covered by a burka or accompanied by a male relative,” reports Lamb.

According to the report, “President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet has approved the proposal to re-establish the department, and the measure will go to Afghanistan’s parliament when it reconvenes.” Lamb says that “the conservative complexion of the assembly makes it likely to be passed.”

Nematullah Shahrani, the religious affairs minister who will oversee the department, claims “it will focus on alcohol, drugs and corruption.” However, “critics say that Afghanistan’s criminal laws already address these issues and claim that once the department has been re-established, it will be easy to misuse.”

In her report Lamb says that “Afghan women recall with horror the department’s religious police who ruthlessly enforced religious restrictions through public beatings and imprisonment under Taliban rule from 1996-2001. She also reports that “the department banned women from educating their daughters in home-based schools as well as working or begging, leaving thousands of widows with no means of supporting their families.” Lamb says that “they also beat men for trimming their beards, which had to be at least the length of a fist.”

To read this article in full click here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Iraqi FM Zebari Speaks Out; Iraq’s reconciliation Committee to Meet; The Oil for Food Scandal Yields its First Conviction

As reported by the Washington Kurdish Institute, “Iraq’s Foreign Minister, the Kurdish Hoshyar Zebari, offers a familiar perspective on the current volatile situation in the Middle East. Zebari says that “what is happening at present is a war by proxy and the beginning of a wider regional confrontation.” He warned of “countries that seek to control the Arab region and discussed the situation in Iraq, where Arabs should play a significant role in limiting Iranian influence.” In a discussion on Iraq, Zebari said that civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites “is the biggest problem that we are facing at present. The increased violence and sectarian frustration is threatening the entire Iraqi state and subjecting it to great danger.”

In other news, WKI reports that “a government committee to try to unite Iraq’s sectarian and political groups will hold its first meeting Saturday.” The Prime Minister will head the first meeting, “which will put in place an organizational framework and ask political and dialogue committees to contact armed groups.” Another mission the committee wil have is to “hold a reconciliation conference.”

“Last Thursday South Korean businessman, Tongsun Park, was convicted in the Southern district of New York of conspiracy to launder money and act as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” According to WKI, Mr. Park “used his foothold to help Saddam corrupt the 1996-2003 Oil for Food program from the start, the aim being to undermine the UN sanctions and ultimately remove them altogether.” The reports says that, “in return, Mr. Park received at least $2.5 million from Iraq, with a promised millions more to come.”

To read more from the Washington Kurdish Institute click here.

A ‘Run Down’ On Kurdistan

As reported by the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI), “Turkey’s patience is running out and it will no longer be satisfied with words but wants action.” According to the report, Turkey has “expressed their desire for concrete measures against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq” and they expect the United States to either, “act immediately in the zone it has taken the responsibility of providing security for, or should not lift a finger if Turkey undertakes such an action to ‘defend itself.’”

In another WKI report, “a senior Iraqi-Kurdish official accused Iranian forces of shelling Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq.” The report said that “there was no immediate comment from officials in Iran,” and that “Kurdish officials have previously accused Iranian forces of shelling Iranian Kurds based in Iraq.”

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) “has accepted to hear the application made by the Volunteers of Hasankeyf group consisting of journalists, scientists and jurists to stop the construction of a major dam in southeast Turkey that will immerse the historical town of Hasankeyf under water,” WKI reports. The application stressed that Hasankeyf was ‘unique’ and it needed to be ‘preserved in its natural form.’”

According to WKI, “Turkey’s parliament has approved changes to an anti-terrorism law despite concerns that they will place new limits on free expression.” The report says that “the amendments to the Law on the Fight against Terrorism, passed on 29 June, could lead to arbitrary prosecutions of journalists covering ‘terrorist organizations’ and will particularly impact pro-Kurdish media.”

WKI reports that there is a language divide between northern Iraq and the rest of the country. “The Arab majority in Iraq doesn’t speak Kurdish and few Kurds—particularly the younger generation—speak Arabic.” The report says that, “even though Kurdish and Arabic are both listed as official languages of Iraq, few can speak and read both languages.”

“Security and economic growth have created a boom in the beauty business in Sulaimaniyah,” WKI reports. The industry has been fuelled by the increased earning power of women, who hold many of the civil service jobs in a public sector that is the largest employer in Iraqi Kurdistan.”

“The conflict that has been percolating in Kirkuk remains dangerous and dangerously neglected,” says WKI. The report says that “the international community cannot afford to stand by, allowing the situation to slip into chaos by default,” and that “it needs to step in and propose a solution that addresses all sides’ core concerns without crossing their existential red lines.”

To read more from the Washington Kurdish Institute click here.