"Behind the facade of post-election political process, despite Tony Blair's desire to move on and George Bush's attempt to mend fences with Europe, in Iraq the atrocities continue to mount. Some, like the Hilla attack, are Zarqawi-style, with hundreds dead and wounded. Others are more mundane and sustained, like US warplanes bombing suspect houses in Ramadi, Hit, or Mosul, roadblock killings in Najaff, or post-curfew hunting by snipers in Sammara.
Despite all the rhetoric about "building a new democracy", daily life for most Iraqis is still a struggle for survival, with human rights abuses engulfing them. A typical Iraqi day begins with the struggle to get the basics: petrol, a cylinder of gas, fresh water, food and medication. It ends with a sigh of relief: Alhamdu ilah (thanks, God), for surviving death threats, violent attacks, kidnappings and killings.For ordinary Iraqis, simply venturing into the streets brings the possibility of attack. Most killings go unreported. With no names, no faces, no identities, they cease to be human beings. They are "the enemy", "collateral damage" or, at best, statistics to argue about.
In March 1989, Iraqi and Arab writers contributed to a book called Halabja, to condemn Saddam Hussein's regime for using chemical weapons against civilians in the city. At the time of the attack, Saddam was still the darling of the west.
In my introduction to the book, I wrote: "They say 5,000 people died. Others say 10,000 died. We say: in Halabja, within minutes, Rasul, Piroz, Ahmed, Khadija, Sardar, Amina _ have been killed. In Halabja, eyes no longer shine."
Now, we continue to watch life draining out of our country. Almost two years on from the beginning of the occupation, eyes no longer shine in many Iraqi cities. Thousands of civilians have been killed. One of them was Hazim Ahmed al-Obaidi. On January 16, Hazim, 57, left his house to go to work. He had a cash-and-carry shop, for fruit, vegetables and dates, in Mosul.
Before leaving, his wife reminded him to get some paraffin, if possible. He laughed loudly, hugging his four-year-old daughter, Manar, who wanted to go with him. He waved goodbye to his mother and his children: Dalal, 17, Shahad, 12, Maha, 9, and Zayed, 11.
Hazim never came back. He was shot, according to eyewitnesses, by a US patrol. His car was burned and, because of the curfew, his family had to wait until the next morning to start looking for him. Two days later, his charred and barely recognisable body was found. To the bewilderment of his family, US troops stopped them after they had collected the body, uncovered it and took photos.
Hazim was not a "terrorist"or a "Saddamist". He was a cheerful family man who was wounded in the Iran-Iraq war, and survived the harshness of the sanctions years by selling fruit and vegetables. Who is going to investigate his killing, compensate his family, and help his children to make sense of their tragedy? Will it be the Iraqi interim government, or the US-led occupation? Judging by the human rights records of both, the answer is that neither of them will investigate Hazim's killing, or any other. Human rights under occupation have proved to be a mirage similar to WMD.
In his message broadcast to Iraqis last April, Tony Blair said: "Our aim is to help alleviate immediate humanitarian suffering, and to move as soon as possible to an interim authority run by Iraqis ... which represents human rights and the rule of law and spends Iraq's wealth not on palaces and WMD, but on you and the services you need." So much for illusions.
Charred bodies, the massacre of children in a wedding party, the killing of detainees, shootings at demonstrations, kidnappings of civilians - these are the features of that "better future".
Occupation troops are responsible for an increasing list of abuses, including the torture and killing of Iraqi prisoners. Seeing a corpse photographed with grinning US soldiers at Abu Ghraib shocked the moral sensibility of people around the world. Taking snaps of Hazim's charred body has shaken his family's belief in the humanity of the Americans, as well as the British and the Iraqis working with them.
Following the US and British governments' line on human rights, members of the interim Iraqi government have sought to play down the violations committed by occupation troops - either by recalling that similar abuses were committed under Saddam's regime or by labelling the victims as terrorists.
Under Iyad Allawi's regime, the newly trained Iraqi police are torturing detainees. Last week, leaders of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq accused the police of torturing and killing three of their members because of their political and religious affiliations, and demanded an immediate investigation.
Facing these daily atrocities, what do we expect an oppressed Iraqi to do?So much for illusions by Haifa Zangana
, March 7, 2005 ( Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi-born novelist and former prisoner of the Saddam regime)
"I now live with no more certainties. I find myself deeply weak. I failed in my belief. I had always claimed there was need to go tell about that dirty war. And I had to decide whether to stay in the hotel or going out and chance being abducted because of my work. "We don't want anyone any more," the abductors told me. But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Falluja through the refugees' tales. And that morning the refugees and some of their "leaders" didn't listen to me. I had in front of me the evidence of what the Iraqi society has become with the war and they threw their truth in my face: "We don't want anyone. Why don't you stay home? What such interview can be useful for?". The worst collateral damage, the war killing communication, was falling on me. On me, who had risked it all, challenging the Italian government that didn't want reporters gong to Iraq, and the Americans who don't want our work that gives witness to what that country has really turned into with the war, despite what they call elections.Now I wonder. Is their refusal a failure?"My truth (La mia verità), by Giuliana Sgrena
March 6, 2005
"When an Italian journalist was driven up Baghdad's airport road toward an American military checkpoint on Friday night, she was driving into a situation fraught with hazards thousands of Iraqis face every day.
The journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, 56, ran into fierce American gunfire that left her with a shrapnel wound to her shoulder and killed the Italian intelligence agent sitting beside her in the rear seat. She had been released only 35 minutes earlier by Iraqi kidnappers who had held her hostage for a month, and the car carrying them to the airport was driving in pitch dark.
But the conditions for the journey, up a road that is considered the most dangerous in Iraq, were broadly the same as those facing all civilian drivers approaching American checkpoints or convoys. American soldiers operate under rules of engagement that give them authority to open fire whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks.
Next to the scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis, judging by their frequent outbursts on the subject. Daily reports compiled by Western security companies chronicle many incidents in which Iraqis with no apparent connection to the insurgency are killed or wounded by American troops who have opened fire on suspicion that the Iraqis were engaged in a terrorist attack.
Accounts of the incidents vary widely, as they have in the incident involving Ms. Sgrena, with the American command emphasizing aspects of drivers' behavior that aroused legitimate concerns, and survivors saying, often, that they were doing nothing threatening. Since few of the incidents are ever formally investigated, many families are left with unresolved feelings of bitterness. "U.S. Checkpoints Raise Ire in Iraq
March 7, 2005In the meantime:
""We have 10,000 of them in detention," joint chief of staff General Babakir Zebari told AFP on Sunday without providing details.
According to US military figures, as of early January more than 7,000 detainees were being held in US-run prisons in Iraq including the notorious Abu Ghraib facility in Baghdad and Camp Bucca in the south.
But this number rose as security was stepped up in the runup to the January 30 elections with the arrest of hundreds of suspects throughout the country.Iraq's top general says 10,000 insurgents in detention
March 6, 2005and also American Jails in Iraq Bursting With Detainees
March 4, 2005How will the occupier alter these detainees' 'hearts and minds', after having stuffed them with American fried (rather burned) 'Freedom' and 'Democracy'?With the increasing daily spread of 'insurgency' over the past two years, the occupier better build many more prisons, quickly, and bring in thousands of body bags. If the occupier intends to stay. What was it that they came for in the first place and obliterated Fallujah in the west, Najjaf (and parts of its cemetry that holds the remains of millions of Shiites) in the south and Talafar in the north; and are now currently savagely attacking (no news media allowed) Ramadi, Hit, Al-Husaiba, Haditha, Qaim, Samara (again), etc... to the west of Iraq ? These children's children will still be fighting the occupier, if they are still around ....