Sunday, July 31, 2005

Constitution update.

It was expected that the suggested draft of the constitution which I posted several day ago would fuel arguments and serious discussions in the corridors of the National Assembly and the government and from what I heard and read in local media and from some information that leaked from some politicians, I learned that some of the upsetting articles of the draft have been changed or omitted while some other articles are still being discussed.

First of all there's the clause that says "5-The Iraqi state is part of the Islamic and Arabic worlds or (the Iraqi state is a founding member of the Arab league and the Islamic conference organization)" and this one is more likely to be omitted after strong opposition from the Kurdish block as well as clear public disagreement with this clause.
Actually the observer now can see a growing interest in the concept of "The Iraqi Nation" among the people here as this concept gives better guarantees for equality among citizens regardless of their ethnic, religious backgrounds and consequently empowers patriotism which is so needed in Iraq at this stage after Iraqis lost the sense of patriotism after decades of living like strangers and 3rd or 4th class citizens in their own country.

Then there's the clause that suggested the addition of Persian as a main ethic component of the Iraqi society and this one has been omitted after objections from many MPs including many from the She'at coalition block.

And regarding the most critical issue which is defining the role of religion in the constitution, there's also a good possibility for changing the part that said "2-Islam is the official religion of the state and it is the main source of legislations…" to something like "Islam is …..and it's a main source of legislations" or "…is one of the sources of legislations" and either way is going to somehow protect the rights of women and human rights in general and at the same time satisfy the demands of religious parties and frankly speaking I don't think it's possible at the moment to have no mention of Islam in the constitution.

Another controversial point was the distribution of revenues of important resources (mainly oil money) among the federal counties (or provinces) and the central state and apparently they have settled on a resolution that assigns 90% of these incomes to the central state while the remaining 10% would go directly to the province to be invested by the local authorities in projects that focus mainly on the infra structure or according to the needs of the province.

And regarding the question of whether an Iraqi citizen has the right to carry another nationality in addition to his Iraqi one, it's been agreed upon that it is possible to have two nationalities but that citizen will not have the right to become president or Prime Minister of the country.

Anyhow, tomorrow is going to be decisive and tomorrow we will get to know if additional time is needed or not and perhaps we will see more parts of the draft being affirmed, changed or argued about.
It's only a matter of less than 24 hours till we get to know what's really going to happen.

Some security-related news.

Multinational forces and Iraqi forces have together prepared a "well studied" plan to seal the exits of Baghdad and other provinces and provide security for Iraqi voters on the day of referendum on October 18; the plan came under the name "The bolting bobcat" said the commander of the 256th brigade of American troops.

The American officer also said that American troops have absorbed the lessons from previous experiments especially that of the January elections and he pointed out that Iraqi forces are now more capable of handling more sophisticated security tasks than they were before after substantial improvements in quantity and equipment.
"Areas around Baghdad like Abu Ghraib and Doura will take higher priority in our operations" said the officer who also stated that sharing intelligence and establishing good communications among the units of the multinational and Iraqi forces were the main focus of the plan.

Meanwhile, local police force in Falluajh is back to action after 18 months of absence.
Brigadier Salah Al-Aani from the Fallujah police force announced that a first group of 240 policemen have started conducting security tasks in the town and he encouraged the residents to cooperate with the this force and help his men stabilize the town.

Translated from Al-Mada.

In another development, Iraqi Army is about to receive the 1st 5 T-72 tanks which are part of a total of 77 main battle tanks of the same model.
These tanks are going to be the main power of the Iraqi Army's armored division

Friday, July 29, 2005

Are we going to let them win?

Did Syria and Iran win in their indirect war on Iraq?
This question has been occupying my thoughts in the last few days and to reach an answer, we should first know the goals of the US in the region and whether these goals have been failed or they're merely witnessing slow progress?
And are we going to see some determination on reaching these goals or are we going to see strategic changes from offense to defense in the plans?

I think the changes in the Middle East do not originally represent an American desire but they're more like a need that imposed itself on the US and the world as instability in this region negatively affects many parts of the world.
Troubles have spread from the Middle East to get on planes and hit targets in New York, and wore explosive belts to blow up trains in Madrid and London and some have even went as far as hitting targets Indonesia.
The reasons (and theories) that explain the spreading (or export) of these troubles may vary; some say that the West's policy toward Israel is what inflamed the situation.
Ironically, the same people who adopted this theory a few years ago now say that war in Iraqis the main reason.

But I do believe that dictatorships are the main reason; the Arab regimes didn't accept Israel as a neighbor, of course not because they care about the Palestinians and their interests as everyone knows how Palestinians are treated in Arab countries and how many thousands on them were killed in Jordan and Lebanon and perhaps Arabs killed more Palestinians than the Israelis did.
Obviously, Arab regimes and leaders didn't like Israel because it's a democratic state and its presence in the region can threaten their thrones.

Actually I think that Arabs who live inside Israel and the Joulan heights know this better than I do and I don't think they'd like to replace their Israeli passports with passports from any Arab country; they know the difference and even people living inside Arab countries began to see the difference after the revolution in communications and news flow.
In the last 50 years, Israelis went to the ballots more than ten times and 'faces' change there all the time while we are still facing the same faces that took over power thirty years ago.
What I wanted to say is that after the fall of Saddam, Arab regimes began to look at Iraqi as a second threat; as another emerging democratic project that must be foiled and stopped from growing.

So, the dramatic change that took place in Iraq was seen by the neighboring regimes and their terrorist allies as an imminent disaster; it hit their theory in the heart.
They were thinking that the US would not have the will or courage to attack but they discovered shortly after that the US was so determined to do the change and that's why their counter attack had to be a fierce one because it became a matter of existence to their regimes and their age-old ideology which they thought no one would dare to mess with.

Sadly enough, these regimes and terrorists were more prepared for the post-war phase than the US was and they the roles distributed and everyone knew his duties even before the fall of the statue.

-First there was the terrorist organizations that lost an important source of support when Saddam fell and thus they had to do a great deal of the fighting so they joined the remains of the Ba'ath and hired mercenaries to prepare for a long war with the US and the Iraqis that favored the change, So Al-Qaeda had a big role in recruiting suicide bombers and fighters and worked with some Iraqi groups to organize shelters and logistic support for the fighters.

On the other hand, the Syrian-Iranian alliance didn't stand idle as well as other Arabic regimes; every party had its role in the war and they were all more prepared than America was.

-Syria provided funds and logistic support for the Iraqi terror groups, the regime there offered them shelter and training facilities and also facilitated their passage to/from Iraq and the Syrians actually didn't have to pay a penny as Saddam and his gang had smuggled billions of dollars to Syria months before March 2003.

-Iran is planning to foil the democratic process in Iraq taking advantage of democracy itself "Okay, you want to play democracy? We're in"
So Iran decided to provide full support to the She'at religious parties and help these parties reach power and perform a coup on democracy using democracy itself and in some cases there have been some limited military interventions too.

-The rest of dictatorships used directed biased media to make the change look like a total evil plan that destroyed Iraq and will extend to become a war against Islam and Arabs.
The most effective message they sent was "People, this change is against your interests and it will bring catastrophic consequences upon you".
The reactions of the dictatorships and the terror organizations was massive and well organized and they frankly succeeded to some extent in hindering the progress in Iraq and changing the direction of the democratic process.

These partial successes encouraged Bashar Asad and some others feel victorious and say things like "we don't think that the US would repeat the Iraq scenario in other places, this seems far from possible at the moment because the US has failed in Iraq".
He actually wanted to say "We made the US fail".
Is this really the case now?

I would say that the war in Iraq would not stop unless it is taken to another front and our strategy must focus on chasing terrorism and striking its bases and strongholds instead of waiting for it to strike.

The objectives of our mission cannot be accomplished without changing the Syrian and Iranian regimes in any possible way because the battle in Iraq will not stop until guns are heard in Syria and Iran.
These two regimes are looking for half-solutions that prolong their stay for several more years and of course they've learned from Saddam who managed to stay in power for 12 years after 1991 by making full use of half-solutions.
Our current situation cannot tolerate further postponement and every delay will reflect negatively on democracy in Iraq and peace in the Middle East and I fear that the signs of changes that are emerging in Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt would be buried in their cradle before they see the daylight IF the regimes felt safe again.

Bottom line is and to answer the question I put in the beginning of this post I say; No, they haven't won yet but if these two regimes cannot be changed soon (whether on the hands of inside or outside powers) then their chances of winning will be much greater.
While the world has to fight the terror-supporting regimes we will keep fighting terror inside Iraq and only this level of cooperation can save Iraq, the region and the world from the counter attack of the terror-dictatorship axis.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Big Pharaoh and the Egyptian Sandmonkey are preparing for an anti-terro protest and a 'candle light vigil' for tomorrow in Cairo.
I hope the turnout will be really big this time.

An emergency conference...

Iraq's constitution drafting committee called for an emergency summit for the leaders of political parties and religious factions in Iraq in order to override the remaining obstacles that are hindering finishing the final points of the constitution.
The chief of the CDC, Humam Hammodi mentioned that they hope that the final draft will be available after the proposed Saturday conference which will be attended by Iraqi president Jalal Talbani and the president of the Kurdistan region Masoud Barzani.

This piece of news was mentioned this morning on several Iraqi newspapers and this call for a big conference obviously came after the semi-complete draft was released last Tuesday which was faced by a lot of disagreement and objections in the Iraqi street and from several political parties especially those of minorities.

The main points that are going to be discussed in this conference will-in my opinion-include the shape of the federalist system of the state, the issue of considering Islam the main source of legislation, the name of the state as well as case of considering Persian ethnicity among the components of the Iraqi society.

I have expressed my disagreement with the draft in the last post and actually I noticed that most of the people I met in the last couple of days share the same concerns I have and many people are disappointed by the weak performance of the CDC.
Let's not forget that many of the public opinion polls that were conducted in Iraq in the past two years showed that a maximum of 15% of the voters would favor an Islamic state, so if the Saturday conference failed in dealing with the above points I mentioned, then I expect this constitution will be rejected by the voters.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

If this is going to be the final draft, then I'm going to say "NO".

This morning, Al-Sabah had the exclusive right to publish the current draft of the constitution.
This draft will be submitted to the national Assembly to get the Assembly's approval before putting it to the October referendum.
Of course the draft is tool long to fully translate and it would've taken me a few more days to do that so I have chosen the most important parts of it and translated them.
Here are they for you to read:

*Words in between brackets are still not agreed upon by all members of the CDC.
*My comments are in Italics.

Section One:
Fundamental principles:

1-the republic of Iraq (the Islamic, federal) is a sovereign, independent country and the governing system is a democratic, republican, federal one.

The Islamic republic of Iraq!? NO WAY.

2-Islam is the official religion of the state and it is the main source of legislations and it is not allowed to make laws that contradict the fundamental teachings of Islam and its rules (the ones agreed upon by all Muslims) and this constitution shall preserve the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people (with its Shea't majority and its Sunni component) and respect the rights of all other religions.

This is the deadliest point if approved; Islam or any religion cannot and must not be the main source of legislation.

3-The Iraqi community is made of two main ethnicities; these are Arabic and Kurdish and of other main ethnicities; these are Turkmen, Chalideans, Assyrian, Armenian, Shabak and (Persian) and Yazidi and Mendayeen, all of which are equal in rights and duties of citizenship.

Why is it that no one heard of this ethnic component before? Or at least lets say that no one heard them (if they exsited) say that they want to be recognized as Persian Iraqis!

4-Arabic language is the official language of the Iraqi state and Kurdish language is (together with Arabic) the official language in the region of Kurdistan and for the central government, regions and provinces have the right to choose any local language as an additional official language if the majority of its citizens approved the choice in a referendum.

5-The Iraqi state is part of the Islamic and Arabic worlds or (the Iraqi state is a founding member of the Arab league and the Islamic conference organization).

Do we really need to put that in the constitution? After all, our "Muslim and Arab brothers" brought us nothing but troubles.

6-Sovereignty is for the law and the people is the source of authorities, practicing it through direct general secret voting (or by secret direct voting and referendum) and through its constitutional institutions.

8-The Iraqi state is one entity in land, people and sovereignty.

9-The family is the bas of the community and the state preserves the family's genuine Iraqi identity that is based on patriot, religious and ethical values and the state also is responsible for protecting maternity and childhood and looks after the youths and provide the appropriate environment to assure the development of their skills and capabilities.

I don't know for sure what they mean by saying "the state preserves the family's genuine Iraqi identity that is based on patriot, religious and ethical values" but it doesn't sound great anyway

10-Basic freedoms and rights that are stated in the constitution are granted for everyone and no law that undermines them shall be made (to be attached to no 2).

11-All ideologies that include racism, terrorism and "takfir" (or promote or publicize these concepts) are banned and especially the Saddmist Ba'ath and this one cannot be part of the political plurality of the state.

12-Internal and foreign relationship of the Iraqi state are to be built on principles of peace and cooperation with all nations, especially the neighboring ones.

13-Iraqi state commits to the international treaties unless if this could result in a conflict with this constitution.

14-Iraqi armed forces in all their forms and systems are part of the Iraqi people resembles it ethnic, religious and sectarian composition.
These forces are under the command of the civil authorities. Its duty is to defend the Iraqi state and must not interfere with political affairs and has no role in transition of power.
Using these forces in oppressing the Iraqi people is banned.

15-the religious references (the clergy) enjoys its independence and advisory position as a highly valued religious and national symbol (there are some reservations on this clause).

16-Holy places and shrines in the Iraqi state possess a legal character for what they represent as religious and cultural beings and the state has to preserve their sacredness and to protect the freedom of practicing ceremonies in these holy places.

17-the center of Baghdad is the capital of the Iraqi state.
Designating another city as a capital is possible under a special legislation.

18-The flag of the state, national and religious holidays are to be chosen and identified according to a law.

Section Two
Basic rights and public freedoms

1-All Iraqis are equal before the law regardless of gender, race, color, opinion, religion, sect or belief and discrimination based on these differences is prohibited.

2-Every Iraq has the right to live and be safe and enjoy freedom and privacy and it is not allowed to deprive any individual of these rights unless in accordance with the law and after a judicial order from a specialized judicial authority.

3-All Iraqis are to have equal opportunities in accordance with the law.

4/a-Iraqi nationality is a right for every Iraqi and a citizen may not be stripped of this nationality for any reason.
It is the foundation of the individual's citizenship and the source of his rights and duties and a citizen has the right to claim it back if it was taken from him.
Having more than one nationality is allowed.

4/b-The Iraqi is everyone born for Iraqi parents and a non-Iraqi women married to an Iraqi man has the right to claim Iraqi nationality after staying for 5 continuous years in Iraq after the marriage.

4/c-Iraqi nationality must not be granted for political reasons or in any way that could change the demography of the state.

4/d-The related processes are to be regulated by laws.

5-It is not allowed to exile an Iraqi citizen from his country and he cannot be prohibited from traveling inside or inside Iraq.

6-The state protects the basic rights of women including equality with men in accordance to the Islamic share'at and the state helps the women in creating balance between their duties within their families and their duties within the community.

Equality according to Islamic Share'at? Thia is totally new to me!

7/b-It is prohibited to employ children in demeaning jobs or in any job that does not suit their ages.
The state has to take enough measures to protect children

8-Private property is a protected right and every Iraqi has the right to use, invest and benefit from this property according to the law.
Private property cannot be confiscated unless for a case that serves public benefits and only after paying a fast and sufficient compensation.

9-Human freedom and dignity are protected by the law and no one can be arrested or interrogated unless by judicial orders.
All sorts of physical and mental torture or inhuman treatment are prohibited and any confession made under torture or threats is of no judicial value and those who have their rights violated have the right to as for to be compensated for the damage that was inflicted.

10-Papers of preliminary interrogation must be submitted to the specialized judge within 24 hours after the arrest is made and this 24 hour period is subject to renewal for one time only and for the same duration.

11-Every person has the right to express his opinion in any means granted by the law provided that order and ethics are not breached.
The state provides the following:
a-The freedom of press, journalism, advertising and peaceful demonstrations.
b-The freedom to establish organizations, political parties and union as well as the freedom of joining these entities.

12-The freedom of belief and religion is protected and so is the freedom to practice them in accordance with the law provided that the practice does not violate order and ethics.

13-Every person has the right to enjoy personal privacy and this includes:
a-The privacy of homes is protected and it's forbidden to search or enter homes unless in accordance with the law.
b-Conventional mail, E mails, faxes and phones are to remain secret and private and they must not be monitored unless there's a judicial or security need for that.

14/a-Crimes and punishments are to be defined only by the law.
b-The judiciary is independent and is liable to nothing but the law.

15-Every one has the right to claim justice in a court of law.
16-The right of defense is protected in all stages of trials.
17-The defendant is innocent until he's found guilty in a court of law.
18-Trilas are public unless otherwise stated by the court.
19-A defendant may not be tried for the same charge more than once unless new evidence appeared and no punishment harsher than the one valid at the time of committing the crime can be imposed.
20-Punishment is restricted to the criminal.
22-No law functions in a retrograde way unless otherwise stated by the law.
23-the defendant may not be forced to give a statement for any reason.
24-The court appoints a lawyer for the defendant and on the state's expense if the defendant was not able to pay for a lawyer.
25-The best law for the defendant is to be used.

27/b-The establishment of civil society organizations is prohibited if these organizations could harm the community.
The formation of militias or paramilitary organizations is prohibited whether they were in secret or in public.

Full document in Arabic.

This was all I could translate in the time I had and I guess this is what Iraqis care about most.
The parts I left are talking about the relationship between the regions/counties and the central administartion and other subjects like the rules for nominating the members of the supreme court and the duties of the different components of the government and these I will probably translate later.

Now back to what I think of this draft,

Although this document will be subject to further negotiations and modifications, my first look at it made me decide that I'm going to say "NO" to this constitution.
Islam has been introduced in many clauses and not only Islam, sectarianism was introduced into the draft in a disgusting way and frankly speaking, such things will make me feel so unsafe if results of the referendum came positive for this draft.

However, what eases my worries is that we're going to have the chance to say "YES" or "NO" and all of us know that it's much better to allow this critical step to take the time it needs than to end up with a useless (or even harmful) constitution.
And anyway, even this draft is way better than the 'no constitution' state we lived in for decades.

The other reassuring factor here is that amendments can be done two years after the constitution is 1st approved and then once again four years after that.

We have fought for a long time to reach the point where we can write a constitution that serves our needs and protects our future from oppression and dictatorship.
I say it once again, we're practicing AND learning democracy at the same time and the people may be fooled once but they can't be fooled all the time.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Iraqi women discuss the constitution

Maysoon Damlooji, a secular member of the National Assembly

Day by day and as the deadline for finishing the draft of the constitution approaches, we see more hot debates and more active public activities and more interaction with this historic event that will decide the future of life on the lands of Mesopotamia and it's interesting (yet not surprising to me) that daily-life concerns couldn't stop Iraqis from engaging discussions and debates when it comes to writing the constitution.

In the latest episode of "Dostorna" (a program produced by the Iraqia TV and literally means "our constitution) an interesting debate took place among Iraqi women; they discussed constitution, Share'at and how these subjects deal with women rights and needs and the difference in view points was actually obvious between secular/liberal women and religious/conservative women.

The show was attended by an exclusively female audience and questions were directed to the main characters of the show (4 women; 2 secular and 2 religious sitting against each other to the left and right of the stage.
The debate was direct and frank and dealt with many hot topics in Iraq which included controversial topics like hijab, basic freedoms (according to civil constitutions), equality between men and women and the percentage of women's representation in the National Assembly.

Religious elements don't want to give up easily

Right now, there's a big argument about the "137" law (or the social affairs law) which the Islamists failed at passing once and now it seems that many Iraqi women are determined to stop the Islamists from passing this law this time and actually many of the secular women expressed their disapproval of the attitude and opinion of some female Assembly members who were accused of "acting against the interests of other women".
A female colleague told me this yesterday:

"How could female assembly members support law 137? They want a full vote in the assembly but they want other women (and themselves) to have only half a vote and be treated as half a person before law!!"
Her observation is very interesting and requires stopping at because frankly speaking, I see that some women are acting against women's interests to satisfy the parties they follow which are of course religious parties.

However, what's good here after all is that we can all share and exchange thoughts in public and without fear. We're learning democracy and practicing it at the same time and this can make our steps rather slow and confused but I believe that we have passed (forever) the times where a dictator can rule Iraq.
The people will rule from now on and although the people might make a wrong choice once, they cannot go completely corrupt.

Smaller rats are on the way to trial too.

Chemical Ali
Earlier today, Al-Arabiya TV exclusively broadcasted another hearing session for the "Iraqi Special Tribunal" and this time the judges interrogated a number of Saddam's senior aides and the questions were concentrated on a few main cases related to the massacres against Iraqis especially in the South and in Kurdistan back in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Sources from inside the tribunal declared that they're planning to put the defendants to trial within the next 4-6 weeks.
The group that was interrogated today included:

-Ali Hasan Al-Majeed (Chemical Ali) who confessed this time that he led operations against "political targets" in the south when he was in charge of the Ba'ath organizations in that region.

By the way, Ali was a sergeant before Saddam promoted him to general and appointed him minister of defense!

-Watban Ibrahim Al-Hasan (Saddam's half-brother; a cop who became a minister of interior!).

-Taha Yassin Ramadan (vice president tyrant).

-Samir Aziz Al-Najim (deputy chief of the military wing of the Ba'ath and a former assassin).

-Ahmed Hussain 'Kdhayir (secretary of the presidency).
Barazan Ibrahim Al-Hasan (Saddam's other half-brother and chief of the Mukhabarat).

Update: Iraqi Expat shares his thoughts on subject and provides some links too.
A great story of cooperation and friendship:

ALI BASE, Iraq – When a crew of instructors deployed here to teach Iraqi airmen the finer points of flying and maintaining a C-130 Hercules, they knew they had a monumental task in front of them. But what they found was something

Slowly over several months, Iraqi and U.S. Airmen have
developed life-long friendships with the very men they previously
called enemies. “Our instructors are more than just
a friend,” said Iraqi Air Force Capt. S., a maintenance officer
with Squadron 23. “We are like brothers...

Full story in pdf here (scroll down).
Hat tip: ITM reader.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Brave Iraqi female soldier patrols Haifa street on foot.
Isn't she amazing?
Story from Publius.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sharm Al-Sheikh attacks update.

Al-Hurra correspondent in Sharm Al-Sheikh said that he had exclusive information from trusted Egyptian security sources confirming that 9 men from Pakistan entered Sinai recently before the attacks took place and mentioned that contacts with the authorities in Pakistan have shown that the passports were forged.

Also it was reported that Egyptian police informed the British police that it's most likely that the explosives that were used in last nights' attacks were similar to those used in the 7/7 London's attacks.

From Baghdad to London to Sharm Al-Sheikh...

I woke up this morning to find myself facing the news of the latest attacks in Sharm Al-Sheikh.
What are the targets? What are the goals? And what should we do about this wave of terrorism that is plaguing various parts of the world east and west?
These were the questions circling in my mind this morning so I would like to discuss the matter with you in this post.

I see that the London attacks would have had more profound influence over the public opinion in the world in general and in the UK in particular but last night's came-in my opinion-as *another* reminder of the nature, ideology and goals of the terrorists.

I could sense fear in the words of Britons mixed with serious thinking that the attacks were designed just to drive the UK of Iraq and I started hearing people considering compromising with the terrorists to get out of this bloody situation.
Unfortunately many people fail to realize (or remember) that terror is targeting the human civilization without discrimination and although some attacks may seem connected with specific conflicts, the reality remains that terror is waging a full scale war against our way of living whether we're actually living it or dreaming of it or in a broader way; any other way of living that doesn't match their vision.

Let's not forget that we're not living in isolated islands anymore, we all share the globe and our interests are connected in a way that makes it almost impossible to stay away from the effects of what's happening in other parts of this world.

Okay, suppose that the UK decided to leave Iraq, what's next?
Egyptians leave Cairo, Londoners leave London, or I leave Baghdad??

Apparently, we're facing the terrorists' version of globalization where every democracy is heresy and every man or woman smoking, playing soccer or not wearing hijab or a beard is infidel.
They want their dark culture to dominate the world and they know that the only they can do that is by destroying every other culture they don't agree with.

The threat is spreading and maybe faster that we were expecting and at this moment any appeasement or compromising with the terrorists will only give them the chance to grow more dangerous and gain more bargaining power.

What are we going to give up in the future?
Do you think paying a sustainable tribute can solve the conflict for good?
NO, there will be other *ambitions* in the future and those will be harder to satisfy.
The terrorists from all over the world are uniting against us, they have put a fixed goal and a clear enemy and that's us and our dreams.
Shame on us if we couldn't unite against them.

Who I pity most are the regimes and media that supported the terrorists and apologized for their doings.
They don't realize that eventually they won’t be able to keep themselves away from the fires of this war.
Their short sightedness is making them stand against their strategic allies and support the evil efforts of their inevitably future (if not current) enemies.

On the other hand I do believe that these waves of attacks in Egypt and London as well as Al-Qaeda's threat to Europe prove that their plans in Iraq are not working out.
Actually, terrorists in Iraq are paying a very high price but they're getting very little in return and their resources are being depleted while Iraq is getting stronger every week and whatever they're inflicting is not yielding the desired effects and in my opinion that's why they're trying to export their attacks to other targets they consider vulnerable or of high value.
This change in plans and tactics was made after the terrorists realized that their plans in Iraq have been rendered sterile and that was only because they were faced with tremendous determination and patience from Iraqis and their allies.

*Check out Big Pharaoh and Egyptian Sandmonkey for comments and updates.

Friday, July 22, 2005

This post has been updated with photograph that was taken by Iraqi blogger Sabah Jasim immediately after the terrorist attack that that killed a hundred Iraqi civilians in Mussayab city last week.

Take a look at the reality of the "resistance".

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Another trial update.

Half an hour ago, Al-Arabiya TV broadcasted a clip from the latest hearing session of the Iraqi special tribunal and this time the session dealt with another charge against Saddam; this time he was officially charged with forcing the "Faily" Kurds (the Shea't Kurds) out of the country and confiscating all their belongings.
The story is dated to 1980 after a Faily Kurd tried to assassinate Tariq Aziz and Saddam took revenge by forcing thousands of families to leave Iraq and confiscating their belongings and homes.

The families were abandoned near the Iranian borders and they had to walk through minefields and that was the way many of them lost their lives or got injured.
Moreover, thousands were thrown in Saddam's jails and till now, the fate of many of them is still unknown.
After they came back to Iraq they faced big problems with tracking their siblings who were put in jail and more problems in getting their homes and lands back as Saddam distributed them among his followers and by time these properties were sold from one owner to another and it's extremely difficult to ask the end owners who paid for these properties to give them back.

Back to the session, Saddam looked quite tired and his hair was longer than usual.
He started talking by accusing the tribunal of being "illegitimate because the government isn't legitimate" but the judge replied calmly saying "the current government was elected by the people".
Saddam didn't like this reply and mumbled some obscure words like "you're a man of law and you know this whether you're Iraqi or not…".
The judge continued reading Saddam his rights of remaining silent and appointing a lawyer and here Saddam complained again claiming that he didn't meet his lawyer except during sessions but not before that.

I recall that when I was a kid, I had a friend named Amjad and we used to play soccer together in the street in our old neighborhood but one day Amjad stopped showing up and I missed my friend who was the only son for his parents.
I asked about him but I didn't understand the answer when I was told that Amjad and his parents were "moved".
"Where to?" was my question, "to Iran" my father answered.

I don't know what happened to Amjad and his family after that but today, I'm sure they feel happy.

The countdown for the constitution continues.

Many statements from Iraqi officials and parliament members suggest that the work on writing the draft of the constitution will be done by the end of this month and that the CDC (constitution drafting committee) will not need to ask for an extra 6 months.
At the same time work has begun on preparing the country for the general referendum and just like the January elections, the IECI will also be responsible for making the arrangements and coordinating the process that is planned for the 15th of October of this year.

In this regard, Hussein Al-Hindawi from the IECI said that "there are 1,800 people working on the arrangements right now and this number will increase to reach 25,000 in October" to meet the needs of conducting a successful referendum.
While Ferid Ayar, chief member of the IECI said that he's "expecting no obstacles or problems like the ones we've seen in the January elections in some regions of Iraq" obviously in reference to cities like Mosul, Anbar and Samarra.

This expectation is obviously based on the fact that the most prominent Sunni parties and entities that previously boycotted the January elections (like the Islamic party and the council of Sunni endowment/property) have changed their minds recently and have declared their willingness to take part in the referendum and the next round of elections and even the hardliner association of Muslim scholars is now encouraging Sunni Arabs to take full part in the political process, yet the association itself had chosen to stay away from the political competition.

For the above reasons, the IECI is going to distribute 4,000,000 forms to update the voters' database and these shall be distributed mainly in Sunni regions where registration wasn't possible for too many voters back in January and the total number of voters is expected to increase by 2,000,000 due to the inclusion of citizens who were born in 1987 as well as to the vanishing of boycotting possibilities in some cities.

On the other hands, there are some good efforts underway to include the people in the discussion and probe their opinions while the draft is being prepared, for example the CDC is preparing itself to distribute 5,000,000 copies of the draft once it's finished so that the people can study the draft before they head to the ballots.
Humam Hammodi, the chairman of the CDC said that they received over 6,000 written suggestions from Iraqi citizens in addition to 40 suggested drafts submitted by civil society organizations and political entities as well as more than 1,500 suggestions concerning the constitution via e mail.
Hammodi thanked the Iraqi NGOs for their role in constitutional education as theses organizations held over 80 conferences, workshops and lectures in the past few weeks.

Jalal Talbani, the president said that "the teams of the CDC are working hard on the draft and they've almost finished the work and after settling a few differences in opinions, the draft will be ready by the end of July".

Now it seems that technically the process is running as desired but that's not exactly the case when it comes to the content of the draft; what I'm talking about here in particular is the subject of adopting Share'at laws as the new law of civil affairs.
This topic surfaced for the 1st time back in January 2004 when 5 or 6 GC members suggested adopting Share'at laws in dealing with affairs like marriage, inheritance, the value of women's statements in front of courts and other family-related affairs in what was known as "law 137" but it was rejected after 2 thirds of the GC members and Paul Bremer refused approving the law and we had a post about this subject at that time.

Now that religious parties make up a high percentage of the parliament, they think they can try again to pass this law in the new constitution.
Such a law would seriously compromise the rights of 60% of the population (women) so Baghdad has witnessed protests organized by secular women groups against this law in the last few days and as a response, religious parties sent their women followers to the streets in support of the law.

Now it's up to the secular and democratic elements in the parliament to confront this serious threat to the hopes of building a modern society in Iraq.
The greatest concern actually is the possibility of having the religious parties use their power and militias to exert pressure on the people (especially in the south) to support this law and that's why I'd feel more comfortable if the parliament was able to kill this law before it's fixed in the final draft.

Another voting rule that I don't agree with is that voters are going to answer by "yes" or "no" to the whole draft and I believe this is not what fits our situation best and it's going to complicate re-writing the draft if the draft is rejected in the October referendum because no onle will be able to tell which clauses were the reason behind rejecting the draft.

I would prefer to have the ability to vote on different parts separately, I understand that voting on each single clause would be complicated and time consuming but voting on groups of clauses say the bill of rights, then the election laws, then the form of governance...etc. That will provide a clearer vision on what the people want to approve and what they don't.

Anyway, as long as there will be more elections in the future, I won't freak out if I had to tolerate something I don't agree with because I will have the chance to say my word later.

Statistics from Iraqi papers Al-Sabah and Al-Mada.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

No "official religion" was mentioned in the constitution of Al-Medina.

Iraqi blogger Samir Hassan (Arabic) raised a very important point that apparently most Muslims had forgotten; it's the important fact that the in 1st constitution written for a dominantly Muslim society (and by no less than the prophet himself) there was no mention of Islam as the official religion of the state!

Muslims somehow dropped this document from their history even though it was named the "Paper" - which suggests it was written to be declared and published, not ignored and forgotten.

This state established by the prophet at Yethrib was named "Al-Madina" (which means "The City") and was based on a kind of civil governance free from coercion or oppression.

The constitution protected this right for groups and individuals. There is no reference anywhere in the "Paper" to the state's religion or that of its ruler.

Full English version can be found here.

Not all but the vast majority of our religious parties, clerics and Muslim scholars (who are supposed to know everything!) deliberately ignore this fact when they insist that Islam has to be declared as the official religion of the state.
Now what's the right word to describe this behavior?
Ignorance? Or should I say hypocrisy? Or could it be that they want to say that what worked for Medina cannot work for Iraq!?

Anyway, I hope someone will pick up the idea and bring this discussion to the surface while our constitution is being drafted.

Monday, July 18, 2005

From Al-Sabah(link in Arabic):

Iraqi president Jalal Talbani apologized to the minister of higher education Sami Al-Mudhafar after a group of the presidential guardsmen broke into the campus of Baghdad University on Wednesday of last week.
Talbani promised the minister that he's going to make sure that the irresponsible doings of those guards will not go unpunished

What kind of a president Talbani is!!? Now I realize why some insist on calling him a puppet.
If he was a really strong leader, he should've promoted his guards to generals and thrown the minister in jail.

Just kidding pals!
Mohammed's been interviewed by Mister Ghost from Iraqi Bloggers Central.
It's now available for you to read.
More good news from Iraq collected and brought to us by Arthur Chrenkoff.
Don't miss it!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Not bombers or insurgents, they're terrorists.

More than a hundred victims was the result of yesterday's barbaric attack that targeted civilians.
All that death doesn't seem enough to wake some people up from their illusions and selfishness.

This is terrorism…and it brings nothing but death.

The government here announced Wednesday a national mourning day in solidarity with the families of the victims of the latest two massacres in Iraq.
But we hear nothing from our Arab "brothers" not even a word of consolation, rejection, condemnation; no nothing.
Even Annan condemned the attacks with a few words while the secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mousa didn't utter a word.

When Mohammed Al-Durra was killed by presumably Israeli fire, the Arab world got literally crazy and countless speeches, articles and protests were made in response to it but when Iraqi children are massacred by an Arab, Muslim jihadist then it's just another sad consequence of the American invasion!

It's not resistance, not insurgency and not guerilla war…it's terrorism.
Sadly, some stand reluctant and afraid of that calling things with their real names might approximate them with the side they oppose politically.
This kind of people usually find it easier to blame America or the Iraqi government as that would preserve their pride, and all we hear are things like "there would have been no terrorism if there were no Americans in Iraq….bla bla bla".

They hate to admit the fact that terrorism existed in Iraq long before America came to Iraq; terrorism and the regime were one hand committing a genocide against the people of Iraq, only it was broader and crueler than today's war but the difference is that no one could hear of that genocide; concrete walls and basements that housed countless torture chambers and the bodies were buried in secrecy and under the cover of the night.

No suicide bombers were needed because the regime was able to take anyone whenever and wherever they liked to torture and kill silently and without making any noise; no media was there to cover beheadings or to tape blowing up people or catch them being fed to the wild dogs.

But when the coalition came and freed Iraq from the head of terror and organized murder, the liberation was considered outrageous.

And then more terrorists started coming to Iraq announcing shamelessly that they want to avenge their master and help their "brothers" after they lost a key supporter who provided them with much of what they needed to spread their evil in the world.

Wake up people; they terrorists are declaring their intentions without fear or shame, so why do you try to ignore what they are not ashamed of declaring?
Terror had come here to rescue its base and leader, so don't stand against the people of Iraq and unite against this evil even if you had some differences among yourselves.
Let's unite our efforts and fight terror together; that's our only way to win.

Saddam's trial update.

The latest announcement from the special tribunal in charge of suing Saddam and his aides was on air a few minutes ago.
The announcement was read by 'interrogation judge' Raed Juhi who considered this announcement as the actual beginning of Saddam's trial.

Juhi stated that investigations are going on according to the schedule and the deadline will not be exceeded.
He added that investigations will be completed within the next few weeks and that will include the cases of mass murders during Al-Anfal (in Kurdistan 1988) and following the 1991 uprising and other cases concerning eliminating political opposition parties' members.
The sources for information that are adopted by the court are mainly the following:

1-Official documents that belong to the ex-regime which are more than 2,000,000 in total.
2-Testimony from witnesses, more than 7,000 in total.
3-Evidences collected from over 200 mass graves after inspecting and analyzing samples of human remains to identify dates and reasons of death.

It is time to see justice rule…and the sooner the better.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The curfew concert!

I read about a great story in Al-Sabah two days ago.

It was Friday night last week when hundreds of Baghdadis and a bunch of famous Iraqi artists worked around the curfew to enjoy a night full of music and joy.
The event took place at Al- Jadiriyah Club that lies along the Tigris in the eastern side Baghdad.

The planners arranged the schedule so that the concert lasts through the duration of the curfew, so people started flocking to the club a few hours before the curfew starts (used to be at 11 pm, but a few days ago it was moved to midnight) and then the concert lasted for several hours through the curfew till the early hours of the morning, i.e. after the curfew was over!

What added to the spirit of the event was the presence of the famous Iraqi Artist Fo'ad Salim who's been out of the country for nearly 25 years as he was "wanted" by Saddam's regime and this concert was the 1st time for Salim to perform in such a big concert in Baghdad since then.

It's really amazing how Iraqis can come up with creative ideas to override obstacles in order to live and enjoy their lives.
Anyway, I wish I knew about this concert earlier. Well, maybe next time!
Michael Yon is writing from Mosul again.
Always a good reading!
Communities United Against Terror:

Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya, Israel, on July 12 ended five lives, including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13, in Iraq, suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers, hand holding hand, from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror....

You can read the rest of the statement here and you can sign your name too.
Lots of people are talking about this story and especially the video that came with it but my stubborn computer is refusing to play it; I'm getting the sound but no image at all.
After 3 or 4 trils I gave up. I hate that!
AYS over at Iraq at a glance is posting again, hopefully on more regular basis this time.

Friday, July 15, 2005

This is what empty slogans led us to...

Yesterday was the 14th of July; on the same day back in 1958 the nation that was moving towards becoming a modern and civilized nation was crushed under the tracks of a tank lead by a young officer.

Sadly, the Iraqi political spectrum is still divided over whether what happened in 1958 should be considered a good revolution or a bad coup.
One of my friends told me yesterday that he was invited for two ceremonies arranged for by two different parties; one is a sad memorial event mourning the monarchy and the other one is a festival celebrating the anniversary of the revolution!
I asked him "which one are you going attend?".
"Is that a question! Of course not the celebration. Weren't 47 years enough for us to realize the misery that coup brought upon Iraq!?" was my friend's response.

However, the reality is that for 47 years, Iraq is still suffering from the aftermath of that day when the British decided to stand by and watch allowing the military coup to take over and bring death and blood to Iraq, handing the country from tyrant to another.
With the presence of "patriotic governments" we descended from an upper developing country with considerable potentials to wreckage resting at the bottom of a deep valley that needs extraordinarily big efforts and resources to fix what had been destroyed by the outlaw tyrants.

My father tells me about the slogans of the communists and pan-nationalists at that time calling for the withdrawal of British troops and accusing the government of collaborating with the colonial west.
Unity, freedom, socialism, liberating Palestine and a dream of unifying the Arabs and bringing back the control over the oil to the people; these were the slogans of that time.

Noori Al-Sa'eed (Iraq's PM at that time) used to call those nationalists the "za'ateet" (an Iraqi term which means the ignorant children) who are good at doing nothing but to chant big empty slogans and dream of seizing power… and so it was and Noori couldn't protect himself from the "za'ateet" when they dragged his body in the streets of Baghdad in a bloody barbaric scene that marked the appearance of the concept of "revolutionary violence" in Iraq.

Now let's take a look at some material and economic factss; the construction council was dismissed after the 1958 coup; that council was comprised of the best planners of their time and the oil revenues ended up in the in the hands of dictators.
A quick look at the facts now tells us how big the catastrophe was and here I'm directing my words to the slogan holders of today whether west or east.
Iraq was an exporter of wheat and other grains but after the officers took over, the country had to import wheat from outside.
The countryside was deserted and the fields were abandoned and Baghdad became surrounded by a poverty belt formed by the immigrants from the rural areas.
Baghdad became the one and only center in Iraq with the rest of the country devastated and greatly underdeveloped.

The value of the Dinar decreased from 4 US dollars to 1/4000 US dollars in that era.
From 30 million cattle heads to only 3 million heads and from 30 million date palms to less than half of that number and one can easily notice that most of the infrastructure in Iraq was built or planned by the construction council before 1958; 90% of the railways, bridges, dams, oil producing facilities…etc.
And Iraq turned from a constitutional state with free press, a parliament and elections to a state of repression, secret police and public executions and laws that change overnight.
We lived in a state of confusion; between what the governments telling us that everything before the "revolution" was bad and after it our lives began to improve and between what the people themselves remember of those times.

The military regimes tried to forge history and used the meanest ways to do that and eliminated anyone who refused to have his memory manipulated.

An Iraqi historian who witnessed the time of the monarchy told me once that the only Olympic stadium in Iraq was gifted to Iraqis by a foreign oil investor after his contract ended and he put a sign in front of the stadium that said "this stadium is a gift from Mr. Kolbinkiyan (not sure of the spelling) to the people of Iraq".

The old man said "I told him that the sign isn't a good idea; someone will come and remove it and no one will remember your gift after a few years. And I advised him to write what's in the sign on the stones of the stadium. He answered my saying that didn't care if people remembered him or not, it's a gift and it's a symbol of my appreciation for this country".

And it happened, after one of the coups, the new authorities removed the sign and changed the name of the stadium; the "revolutionists" didn't think about building a new stadium, the only cared about changing the name of the existing one and hijacking what others had achieved.
In the same manner, they would not pave a new street; instead they would only rename it.

Today, the same scene is being replayed and the "revolutionists" are chanting the same old slogans of ridding the country of the colonial occupiers and protecting the culture and religion of the community from the evil west.

I remembered all this while I was watching TV and there were 83 assembly members announcing that they signed a document that demands the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops and there's another guy who's trying to collect a million signatures for the same reason and there are people out there in the west who share the same ideas.
At the same time, those people are preparing themselves to topple the existing administration and they claim that they're capable of securing the streets while the commanders of the organized police and army say they need a long time before they can secure the country!
But gladly we have more reasonable people than crazy opportunists in the assembly and that's why 70% of the MP's rejected that document.

Another interesting and logical voice appeared a few days ago, one of the assembly members spoke to the assembly clarifying that the issue of the presence of the multinational forces is actually a technical case rather than a political one; he emphasized that replacing one force with another and preparing qualified troops is a highly specialized process and only experts can talk about it.

In the present just like in the past we find ourselves standing between slogans and facts, between reason and ridicule and between the rational understanding of history and the chaotic ignorance that ignores history and reality.
How much time and effort was needed to stabilize Europe and stop the neo-Nazis, communists and chaotic groups from ruining everything and how many times did evil attack a new born legitimacy that looked like an easy prey?

The new democracy in Iraq needs a power to protect it from the "revolutionists" and this is a fact that we see and live in; we're not seeking a dictatorship backed by the west, we're pursuing protection for our legitimate elections.
And we need protection for more than one election, we will need protection until we're capable (not only material wise) but also knowledge wise to fail any attempt to take us back to the dark past and we need no more empty slogans; as we've had enough of them for 50 years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The "patriotic resistance" struck another strategic target in Iraq today.
They attacked Iraqi's hope and Iraq's reserves and future; they murdered Iraqi children again.

Those pathetic terrorists are afraid of the future and of the children that are going to grow up to build, plant, serve and protect their country.
No words can describe the ugliness of the massacre, no words can wipe the tears of the mothers who lost their loved ones today and no words can describe the difference between those handing sweets to the children and those handing death and pain.

The insane murderous servants of the tyrants think they can defeat us and protect their evil masters this way but they're wrong, the hand of justice will reach them just like it pulled their master from the rat hole.
The blood that was spilled today shall not go in vain and terrorists will lose and that is not going to be far from now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hi again and sorry for the long absence, I spent the last couple of weeks wandering around in the cities of Kirkuk, Erbil and Sulaymania.
I've been to the 1st two cities more than once before but this was my 1st time to be in Sulaymania.
The main reason I made this trip was to get away from the elevating heat in Baghdad but I found that it's not that much cooler than it is in Baghdad, maybe only Sulaymaniya had temperatures lower than 40 centigrade which is good in our standards!
Anyway, the electricity was better than it is in Baghdad so that together with the slightly cooler weather made me feel that the trip was worth it.

I've been hearing a lot about how beautiful and quiet the city (Sulaymania) is and it didn't disappoint me at all; the city is living in peace and a great degree of order.
The funny thing is that in Kurdistan you can find restaurants and shops named after American cities like Washington Restaurant or Miami Jeans Store and stuff like that, you can even find American flags at jewelry shops along with crosses, Quranic verses, hearts and evil-kicking turquoise stones!(Click to enlarge)

It was obvious that Sulaymania is a more modern city than Erbil or Duhok but the most impressive thing I saw was the amount of construction taking place over there; it was literally enormous and it was as if there is a building rising between every other two buildings.

I find it interesting that I took this bunch of pictures within less than one mile in the same street.

(The heat was telling me I should try these slides and take a dip in the pool! unfortunately they close on Friday mornings).

One very interesting thing I saw in Sulaymaniya was that I could find liquor at groceries; something extremely rare in Iraq as liquor is usually sold at specialized stores.
I have to admit that this is the highest rate of construction one can find in the whole country and the streets and market places were so busy and crowded especially in the late afternoon and early evening when the sun starts to go down and the weather cools down a bit.

(I don't for sure who the gypsum guy is but prople seem to like hanging out in the grren garden that surrounds the statue).

As a matter of fact, the city looked dusty with all the piles of bricks, cement and steel rods lying in construction sites but my estimation is that within a year or two when all these works are done, the city will look just great!

Now let's turn 180 degrees and move to take a look at the very southern parts of the country; the marshes I mean; I found this update about the status of the marshes from Azzaman paper they mention that nearly half of the old marsh lands that were drained by Saddam are now covered with water again.
Click the link to get the full report.

I guess that's all I wanted to say for now.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hello my friends, I don't think I'll be posting anything this week.
Please keep your e mails coming and, stay around.