Monday, October 31, 2005

Do you know where you are heading Bashar?

The international community represented by the UN Security Council voted 15-0 for a resolution that applies more pressure on the Syrian regime to cooperate with the international investigation commission led by Mehlis.

I refuse to call it a resolution against Syria because I’m not unfamiliar with similar moments when resolutions were being made against Saddam’s regime and it hurt when we would hear the words “against Iraq”. Neither Saddam nor Assad represented their peoples and even if the UN failed to recognize this fact, this doesn’t change the fact that that such regimes are totally illegitimate and they don’t deserve the seats they occupy in the UN’s halls because they merely represent their families or the murderous cults they call political parties.

If we take a look at the statements and responses coming from the Syrian officials through Arab media we see that they all talk about legitimacy using this word and the seat they have in the UN to claim they represent the Syrian street.
The funny thing is that the Syrian regime and its supporters are still placing their bets on support from the Arab and Syrian public forgetting how Iraqi people abandoned Saddam when his end came near. Even if some Iraqis disagree with the US and the coalition it doesn’t deny the fact that they did not fight for Saddam. If we go back in time to spring 2003 we can notice that the provinces that surrendered without fighting were Mosul and Anbar.

Reality and history prove that tyrants have always failed to earn the trust or loyalty of their peoples or at least the largest parts of their peoples.
Anyway, what matters for us here as Iraqis is that this resolution and its aftermath is obviously going to have a significant impact on the situation in Iraq. It is well know that terrorism or insurgency in Iraq receives substantial material and logistic support from certain parties in Syria, so any pressure on the Syrian regime and its allies in this magnitude will most likely undermine the support these parties can provide the terrorists in Iraq and this can greatly accelerate the end of violence in Iraq.

Here in Iraq we remember how the Kurdish revolt collapsed in 1975 months after the Ba’athists made a deal with the Shah in Iran in which the central government gave away Iraqi lands to Iran in exchange for cutting Iran’s support to the Kurds.
Please do not think I am comparing the Kurds with the terrorists we are fighting now, I am only trying to point out one technical point that applies to this type of warfare.

Finally, if the regime in Syria complied with International legitimacy and gave up on supporting gangs operating against the peoples of Lebanon and Iraq, this will consequently have a positive effect on Iraq’s security but…if the Ba’ath regime of Syria decided to move on with their flawed plan and ignored the world then I think they will meet the same fate of Saddam’s.

I personally think they will commit one mistake after another.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A new liberal lobby emerges in Baghdad...

Today, Mohammed and I had the privilege to be invited to attend a conference organized by a group of civil society organizations to announce the launch of a new community under the name “Ahd Al-Iraq” or (the oath of Iraq).

The basic theme of the community is to take a promise from politicians, civil society activists and MPs (current or running for office) to preserve and protect the rights and freedoms every Iraqi citizen is supposed to enjoy under the new constitution and under the internationally recognized conventions and laws and to work to introduce amendments in the constitution whenever believed necessary for the protection of these rights and freedoms.
The founders of the community named five main points in the constitution that require urgent reconsideration:

1-Several articles in the constitution mention “public order and ethics” as limits to freedoms granted to the population.
The suggestion: These concepts must be defined by the judiciary and must not be left loose for whomever (clerics, executive authority, etc) to interpret as they like.

2-The personal affairs law:
The suggestion: to return back to the civil law legislated back in 1959 and to prevent Shareat laws from replacing that law.

3-The supreme/higher federal court in the constitution has to be formed from law experts and Shareat experts, number and nominations are to be decided by 2 thirds of the parliament members.
The suggestions:
a)All court members have to carry high degrees in law and first line judges.
b)Shareat experts must not outnumber law experts.
c)Women must be represented inside the court with no less than 25%.

4 & 5- Both related to the role of the higher human rights committee:
Several but the most important one is to allow the committee to a) review legislations and laws to ensure they do not violate the universal declaration of human rights b)verify the constitutionality of legislations.

This committee is founded by a group of well known Iraqi women activists including some who occupy important positions in the government namely, Dr. Azhar Al-Sheikhly the minister of women affairs, Iraq’s ambassador to Egypt Saiyah Al-Suhail Dr. Pascal Eisho, the minister of immigrants and displaced, Dr. Narmeen Othman the minister of environment and social affairs and Dr. Rand Raheem Iraq’s envoy to the US and founder of the ‘Iraqi Institute’ and others. However, these women didn’t participate as ministers but rather as individual Iraqi women working together to gather support for the cause of the community.

The event was attended by more than a few female Assembly members as well as several tribal sheiks and representatives of other political entities and organizations…one can fairly say that a wide range of social and political the spectrum of Iraq population was well represented in the event.

The general sense was that the constitution had to be supported to be passed but now, hard work and serious steps have to be taken to introduce the needed amendments to build the civil society where each and every citizen can enjoy his rights and his freedom like anyone else in the civilized free world.

The entire crowd welcomed the notes of one tribal Sheik from Sadr city who raised an objection to one clause in the punishment law which states that teachers and husbands should not be persecuted if they use disciplinary beating against their students or wives respectively. in his unexpected note, the sheik asked the committee to include correcting this clause in its agenda.

I learned that next week there will be a bigger conference with press coverage in the convention center and then participating politicians, activists and organizations will be asked to give their signatures and declare commitment to supporting the community’s efforts.

Through the window I could see one of Saddam’s ways of wasting Iraq’s money; work in this needless gigantic mosque started in 1990s during the sanctions but Saddam didn’t last long enough to finish it. (Any ideas for investment?)

The interesting thing about this meeting and similar ones is that civil society organizations began to modify their methods of applying pressure on the government and politicians, so instead of waiting for politicians and parties to present their platforms, now we have emerging organizations that decided to jump a couple of steps ahead and start telling politicians and parties what the people want to see in electoral platforms and what kind of a government people are willing support.

I wish them success in this campaign.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Today was the day for the official launch of electoral campaigns for the December 15 election when Iraq is going to elect its first 4 year term parliament and government since the fall of the dictator. The launch was marked by the two major blocs (I mean the united alliance and the Iraqi slate of Allawi) submitting their lists of candidates to the public after the lists were delivered to the IECI yesterday.

The media has extensively covered the press conferences of the big slates and it was easy to see the divisions that happened inside the united alliance because their spokesman today was Abdulaziz Al-Hakim instead of Ali Al-Dabbagh or Ahmed Al-Chalabi who were the usual spokesmen in front of the press but not anymore since they departed the alliance and formed their own separate slates.
Dabbagh announced the formation of a group of independent technocrats and emphasized that religion and politics have to be separated and that religion must take the role described in the constitution but that would be all and “policies and development plans should stay far from religious beliefs”.

At the same time the founder of the united alliance Chalabi and his INC pulled from the alliance too and I think Chalabi is expecting the alliance to lose its leading position after the government it led showed a lot of weaknesses in running the country’s affairs in the past several months, add to that, Ayatollah Sistani so far refrained from endorsing the alliance.

Chalabi is obviously dissatisfied with the places his INC was offered within the alliance (only 3 places) and that is certainly not equal to their influence and position. Anyway, I don’t expect Chalabi would get a lot more than the 3 seats he was promised by the alliance.

The parties that remained in the alliance’s slate are the SCIRI, the Da’wa (two branches), the Sadrists, Fadheela party, Iraqi Hizbollah and some other smaller parties like the Islamic Turkmen union. This shows that this slate has assumed a pure sectarian identity after the few relatively liberal elements that used to be part of it decided to leave.
Al-Hakim promised his supporters a majority in the parliament but I actually doubt; things are much different now and no one slate can form a majority by itself.

This religious trend is facing stronger competition from the growing secular that absorbed the lesson from last time and are uniting themselves in one broad front announced to the public this morning by Allawi. This launch was prepared for by numerous press releases and conferences and the slate succeeded in adding more parties to the original one that entered the January elections, most important of these news members are the bloc of former president Al-Yawir, the communists led by Hameed Mousa, the Independent democrats led by Pachachi (both are former GC members) as well as many other smaller parties and independent figures.
The competition will be strongest between these main slates; that’s the two mentioned above and the Kurdish one that only lost its Islamic element (the Kurdistan Islamic Party) and the Sunni Concord front formed by the Islamic party and the national dialogue council.

The results in the Kurdish provinces are predictable but elsewhere in Iraq things are different and not easy to forecast; the Sunni parties think they can win most of the seats in the 4 provinces with Sunni majority and so do the Sheat parties when it comes to provinces with Sheat majority but the question that remains is how many votes Allawi can steal from sectarian based alliances in their expected areas of influence.

On the other hand, Baghdad will be the main battleground for the competing slates and everyone will try hard to win as many votes as possible to win a bigger chunk from the 59 seats allocated to the mosaic population capital.

I hope these parties will rise to the level of responsibility and present to us an example of fair competition through offering their views and platforms and leaving the choice to the people without any pressure or intimidation.

As a matter of fact, it has to be acknowledged that the political experiment in Iraq has matured by far during these two and a half years and the political language slowly began to take more realistic dimensions and we can sense a growing faith in the ways of democracy giving some sort of special divinity to the ballot box which shall remain the only base for building a new Iraq.
The more Iraqis believe in elections and in voting as a way to express themselves, the weaker violence becomes and the more isolated the terrorists will be.
Iraqis will prove that they do believe in democracy and they do want liberty and justice and the will show the region an example of how partners can work out their differences in spite of all the hardships.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fuel prices in Iraq to be increased by January:

The government made a decision to cut back on subsidizing fuel for the domestic consumption. According to the announced plan, super gasoline price will rise from 50 to 150 dinars/liter, regular gasoline will rise from 20 to 50/liter also and kerosene will rise from 5 to 10 dinars/liter while the cost of refilling a propane canister usually used at homes for cooking and heating will increase from 250 to 500 dinars.

Although the prices will be at least doubled, this will not be enough to discourage smuggling activities that cost the economy billions of dollars a year.
The price of one liter of gasoline in neighboring countries will still be twice-five times as much as in Iraq and this will still encourage smugglers to continue their activities unless further decisions to increase the prices are made in future steps.

It is expected that people will start complaining from the sudden increase of prices but I don’t think it would take long before they get used to the new rates and here the government should start a campaign to educate the consumers about the actual reasons behind the increase and should explain its new economic policy to a peoples who are very skeptical about a free market.
Most Iraqis right now think about the immediate effects of such moves which are obviously more pressure on their households’ budgets and they do not see the catastrophic impact of continuing to subsidize fuel and other services.

Some time ago I got to read a little about the state’s budget for 2005 and I found out that more than 75% of Iraqi’s income goes to paying salaries (mostly for idle employees), subsidizing fuel and food rations leaving less that 25% (a little less than 7 billion $) of the income to provide funding for all other items. And with over 30 ministries in Iraq, most ministries get less than 1% of the allocations and this includes the ministries of education, higher education and health. This renders these ministries unable to implement their projects and execute their plans.

It is easy to conclude from this that Iraq cannot be rebuilt and developed without a comprehensive plan for privatization and endorsing the ways of the free market and it seems that the government and economic institutes are trying to put such a sequence of plans but the question is: why isn’t this being explained to the public? And how are the people expected to back decisions made according to undisclosed plans?

The longer the government waits to get their message to the people, the more credibility they lose, and that’s the thing that can be afforded the least right now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Following Saddam's steps...

Ahmadinejad warns Israel and the Muslim and Arab countries from the fire of the Islamic nation:

President Ahmadinejad declared Wednesday that Israel is a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map…”
Ahmadinejad also condemned Iran’s neighbors which seek to break new grounds in their relations with Israel “"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury…”

Yeah right and Saddam said once that he was going to burn half of Israel, only some idiots do not seem to learn from history!
I don’t know exactly what he was referring to when he spoke about attacks on Israel, maybe he was talking about the recent rocket attack launched by Hamas and Jihad.
If that’s so, Nejad should hear Abu Mazin when mentioned today that out of 25 rockets that targeted Israeli lands, 23 hit Palestinian homes in Bayt Hanoon.

No second reading is needed to find out that the threat was addressing anybody who recognizes Israel and that as you know includes many Arab and Muslim brother countries, I wonder if it includes the Palestinian authority too.

Anyway, this could be good news too because the more enemies the mullahs create for themselves, the closer their end is.
By the way, it is clearer now than ever that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to disperse raw nuclear energy burning nations rather than to collect more electricity.

The constitutions passed, more elections soon...

As most of you have probably seen in the news yesterday, the constitution has been ratified after 78% of votes were found to be ‘yes’ and no three provinces turned it down by two 3rds of the votes.

I know I was supposed to comment on this sooner than now but honestly I didn’t feel like it because the news didn’t make me feel in any special way and I assume many Iraqis felt the same since the public didn’t show a significant reaction. To be more accurate, there were a few celebratory gatherings in the south but nothing major and especially no riots or anti-constitution rallies in the usual hot spots.
After all, we've written a ton about this subject in the past several months so my conscience isn't going to torture me if was a day late this time!

On the other hand, politicians are more excited who. Of course Kurdish and Sheat politicians praised the approval of the constitution while some Sunni ones expressed doubts about fraud in counting the ballots in provinces with Sunni majority but even politicians cannot afford to waste much time to either lament or celebrate since there’s another decisive electoral race coming and they are more interested in spending the next 50 days campaigning and getting publicity for their slates.

Actually the Sunni parties have already started working on that; today spokesmen of three Sunni parties announced that they intend to enter the December elections as one body.
The three parties are the Islamic Party, the Ahl Al-Iraq Council and the National Dialogue Council. This came only two weeks after the Islamic Party made a deal with the Kurdish and Sheat parties to back the constitution. This deal was strongly criticized by the other two Sunni parties mentioned above and this indicates that they want to put their differences behind their backs for a while and watch for the coming elections.
Watching this, one can predict that the new parliament will have at least 4 major blocs instead of 3 and this will certainly reduce the possibility of having the decision making power monopolized by one bloc, which is good in general.

I have explained before that I’m personally not so excited about the document itself and therefore I view the approval as a step that allows us to introduce amendments.
Anyway, it was a positive step that brought a sense of relief to the majority of our people.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Okay pals, go take a look at our profile over at Pajamas Media website.
Once you are there, you will also find many interesting profiles of many fine bloggers.

Polls: can we rely on them?

Through Gateway Pundit, I learned this morning about some poll results that were published by the Daily Telegraph. I still have mixed feelings about this poll and the way its results were reported and these feelings drove me to the conclusion that we should neither believe nor entirely discredit the report. Here are my thoughts and observation:

First let’s take a look at the way of presenting the results; it begins with “Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.”
Now one of the basic principles of reporting poll results is that they’re reported in terms of percentage of interviewed sample and not by turning these percentages into counts of the entire population.

Then there’s the “suicide attacks against British troops” well, as far as I know, there have been many against American troops but none against British ones and even the link provided in the report leads to a report about a roadside bomb attack and NOT a suicide attack. This makes one think that the results are being used to promote a wrong idea, i.e. we have a twist of bias here.

We also have this secret poll thing; I can understand that the poll was conducted by an Iraqi institute secretly in Iraq for security reasons but there’s no mention of the source through which the results have leaked to the paper, not even a vague note.
The other thing that makes such results unreliable is that the methodology of the poll was not revealed so was the wording of question as well as the scores of other choices of the answers, for example saying that “82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops” is a pretty much tricky sentence because while I do think that maybe even 90% of the people in any country do not want foreign troops on their land, it remains important to state whether a time interval was included in the question or not. If not, then the question was designed to give a misleading result and if there was one, then it should have appeared along with the results.

I mean it could be true or close to the truth that 82% of Iraqis do not want the troops to stay indefinitely but if it was meant to say that 82% want the troops to leave now then I assure you that the results have been forged.

Moreover, there are some contradictions among the results, look at this one closely “43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened” this means that 57% of the answers either indicated that stability and peace have improved or they have not changed and this contradicts the other statement that says “less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security” especially that everyone inside and outside Iraq knows that coalition forces are involved directly in all the training and equipping processes of the Iraqi security forces. Mohammed objected to my latter sentence as he thinks that the population is unaware of that role of the coalition forces but wait a minute! At least Iraqi police and soldiers know that and some of their families and even this small fraction is greater than 1%.

After all, I think this 43% is rather an optimistic estimate but it also gives an impression that the bulk of the poll was conducted in relatively safer places like the southern provinces rather than nationwide as the report mentioned.
Now let’s take a look at this statement:

Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province
Ironically, Maysan has one of the lowest levels of violence in the middle and southern parts of the country and practically speaking if we put aside the clashes with Sadr’s militia’s last year there have been very few attacks against British troops during 30 months of their presence in the province and that certainly doesn’t go along with the results shown by the poll or we would have seen daily attacks and violence like we do in Baghdad, Anbar or Mosul, well maybe the results of some provinces got mixed up!

Some might object to my last sentence with something like “Just because it is believed to be justified doesn’t mean that translates into actual attacks themselves”
Well, if it doesn’t mean that this translates into actual attacks then what are we supposed to get from this poll? That Iraqis do not like the British and they want to see them bombed yet they wouldn’t do it? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

And by the way, I almost forgot to tell you this; when Iraqis are performing a poll they tend to do so while trying to keep as low a profile as possible for concerns about being misidentified as spies or intelligence gatherers for the coalition, the terrorists or even the government so they try to interview the first person they meet and think is safe to interview forgetting about all the known standards and requirements of correct sample choosing. This alone is enough to weaken the validity of the poll results.

Bottom line, I will personally ignore the results as a whole as I think it cannot add anything of value to a view of the situation here in Iraq, which is a shame, as it might have done so, had they framed the questions in a more scientific manner. I tend to recommend that you not take it seriously as well for these reasons.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Between Al-Mansour and Bamyan...

Two incidents have been bothering me in the last few days and I started o worry more about the way some parties are dealing with things they don’t agree with creating another form of terror. What’s dangerous about this is that the people behind these incidents are not only from inside but also are connected and backed by parties in the government.
I’m not accusing anyone in particular but the doings lead to the affiliations of the doers.

The two incidents I’m talking about here are the assassination of the lawyer and the bombing of Abu Jaafar’s statue in Baghdad (Fayrouz has details about the statue).

That statue is a symbol for Al-Mansour district of Baghdad which is named after the caliphate who first built Baghdad some twelve hundred years ago. Regardless of the history of that caliphate and what different people think about him, we cannot deny the fact that he put the foundations for the city we’re living in today so even if we disagree with what he did centuries ago but blowing up a statue was sort of an execution without a trial; the act was made without going back to the authorities or the city council of that district. We have established these councils and elected them to make decisions on our behalf and run things in our neighborhoods in a civilized manner.

The destruction of the statue reminds me of the Taliban when they blew up the Buddha statues of Bamyan because this caliphate died more than a thousand years ago and he no longer affects our lives and is now merely a part of our history whether we liked it or not.
And if we wanted to cut all our connections with our history we should then destroy everything related to Hamurabi who-in today’s standards-would be considered a brutal dictator claiming to be representing the Gods.

This is way different from when we pulled down Saddam’s statue; we did that in day light and we didn’t hide from people’s eyes and it was a natural reaction for the atrocities committed by Saddam till the last days before his regime collapsed.
If we move to the second incident where the lawyer defending one of Saddam’s aides was assassinated we’ll see that the doers have-assuming that they did that for revenge- assumed the ways of the murderous Ba’athists and this would only be like admitting that what Saddam and his gangs did to their opponents was justified.

The presence of such armed militias which unfortunately have support from parties and organizations regardless of their sect or ethnicity represent a serious threat to the new Iraqi state and this is actually one of the points in the constitution that we need to go over and review real soon because the constitution stated that forming armed militias is forbidden but there is no mention on how existing militias are to be dealt with and this-in my opinion-is not helping in enforcing the law but it’s more like settling accounts between different parties.

What happened is obviously a partisan militia work and not a people’s job and that is totally rejected. It is true that we’re optimistic about the progress of law in our country but I feel that we need to voice our concerns when we see groups backed by this or that party from the government deliberately ruining our history and our city.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The trial, as some Iraqis see it...

The hot topic in Baghdad today is Saddam’s trial and one can easily see opinions divided about it; some see that it is a true victory for justice while others think the trial was seriously weak and in my opinion this is not unexpected from a people living the transition from a totalitarian regime to a state of law and institutions thus why some (or actually many) still think that the trial has to be repressive so they didn’t like the calm behavior of the judge especially when he addressed Saddam using the word “Mr”.

One friend siad to me “I was shocked when I saw Awad Al-Bandar (the chief of the former revolutionary tribunal) who sent countless numbers of people to execution and who broke world records in trials’ duration, sometimes as short as two minutes” as a matter of fact the man had to be fast because the lines of defendants awaiting their trials was endless!
This former “judge” complained to the court demanding his igal (traditional headwear) which he described as his identity to be returned to him and said that he won’t speak until he has his igal on his head again…my friend wondered “were victims of that very man allowed to do the same?” one columnist commented on this issue in a newspaper by saying “defendants in the past wouldn’t demand any headwear because after all what’s the benefit of one if the head itself was going to leave the body in a matter of a few hours?!”.

Of course opinions vary when ages vary as the age more or less determines how much suffering the person had to go through. Today I was talking to victims of Saddam who are friends of the family; a mother (52) and her daughter (25). The rest of their family was exterminated by Saddam; the daughter lost her grandfather, father and uncle.

I was one year old when that happened and I didn’t realize the situation until years after but I tell you one thing, I never said ‘DAD’ in my life…

Why do you think the trial was fine? It was pathetically weak and you cannot imagine the pain I felt when I saw the bloody murderer being allowed to speak and to defy the court. I could see the smiles on the faces of the Ba’athists and the Arab mercenary who speak of Saddam as a brave lion, haven’t you heard what Raghad said on Al-Arabiya? She said: I never saw a greater or a braver father.

She killed me again, killed me and my mother whom Saddam stole her life. I was small when my dad was murdered but I see sadness in my mother’s eyes everyday, that woman had to bury her father, brother and husband.
I cannot celebrate justice now because to me justice means that Saddam must be cut into pieces and burned with his gang and family…justice means that the suffer like we suffered.
I am so depressed today, he ought to be kicked, slapped and humiliated in front of us. Where was justice when my grandfather, my dad and my uncle were murdered just because they had a different opinion that that of Saddam!!

I stood silent and I couldn’t answer back, I just told her that Saddam stole my life too but she wouldn’t listen, she was only crying and repeating her words…
The mother who lost her father, husband and brother was calmer and actually she sounded happy when told me “yesterday we avenged the blood of our martyrs, I can’t say how happy I was to see fear and anxiety in Saddam’s eyes. You don’t know how much I awaited this moment, only yesterday I felt safe and I don’t really care if they hang him or leave him to rot in jail, all I care about is that this time HE is in the cage, isn’t that great?

I don’t have much time left son but you and your children shall harvest the fruits of this victory…

If you’re interested in knowing about the background of this family’s story, I’d like to include snapshots from it:

Back in 1972, the Ba’ath created the “National Patriot Progressive Front” in order to attract the opposition parties, especially the communists, the Kurds and the pan-nationalists. These parties didn’t realize that it was a trap designed by the Ba’ath to infiltrate the parties and identify their cadres. So after the Ba’athists seized control over the country they thought it would be a good idea to eliminate those in the opposition who naively thought the Ba’ath fascists wanted to share governance.
My guest begins telling her story:

It started first when they executed 34 members from the leadership of the communist party and this forced the rest of the higher ranks to runaway and hide. One woman activist (Ayda Yasin) sought refuge in my father’s clinic (he was a dentist) and he did hide her there until she was spotted by the Ba’thists.
He was attacked and arrested in his clinic and then taken to some unknown location.
We were scared and we felt the family was being watched including my brother who carried a PhD in geology.
We kept a low profile waiting for news about my father but then we were fired from our jobs and the pressures increased upon us. Then came the horrible news that my father was executed and that the rest of us were on the hit list.
We decided to head north to the Kurdish region; me, my husband and brother joined the “Ansar” movement and we fought for years defending ourselves in the mountains that were besieged by the government’s army.
I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter and I had to leave the mountains and escape to Syria and in 1983 I learned that my husband and my brother among 94 other heroes fell in a battle in the mountains outside Erbil.

The world became black in my eyes, I lost everything and I’m responsible for two babies who know nothing about the disaster that fell upon us.

You know, we never thought of carrying arms and fighting, we were good citizens serving the country with the knowledge and degrees we earned with hard work and we never imagined we would be forced one day to carry arms and battle the Ba’athists in the mountains and deserts but it’s Saddam and his oppressive regime that left us with no other choice…
I’m telling you this and I’m free again and I’m proud of what I and my family did while that miserable coward is sitting in a cage and about o beg for mercy.

Yes I do feel that justice is winning….

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Let justice be served.

While Baghdad’s streets were nearly empty, most Iraqis were glued to the TV and I bet many Arabs were as well.
Our place was full of full of friends today as we decided we would watch the trial together just like we lived what led to this day together; the first thing we noticed was that electricity was much better today and I don’t know if that was an exceptions made to allow more people to watch the awaited show but anyway we already prepared for outages and stored enough fuel for the generator.

We all sat in front of the TV; there were 8 of us hushing each other as we didn’t want to miss a single word of the conversations and we wanted to catch every small detail of the trial just like we suffered every small detail of the disasters brought upon us by the hateful tyrant.

Does he deserve a fair trial?” this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes…he wasn’t the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.
Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it’s more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah…

Why do we have to listen to this bull****?” said one of my friends.
I prefer the trial goes like this:
Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?
Then take this bullet in the head

Everyone could find a reason to immediately execute a criminal who never let his victims say a word to defend themselves “let’s execute him and get over this” sentiments like this were said while we watched the proceedings which were rather boring and sluggish for the first half of the session.
At the beginning we were displeased by the presentation of the prosecution which was more like a piece of poetry in the wrong time and place and this is what encouraged the defense to give us a worn out speech about objectivity and how the court must not go into sideways; the thing which both the prosecution and the defense were doing.

Anyhow, the prosecutor began reading the facts and figures about what happened in Dijail. The defendants went silent but Saddam objected on some details and then prosecutor said “Do you want me to show the film where you said and did that?” Saddam stopped talking and the prosecutor asked the court to allow showing the film, we don’t know if it was played there as transmission was paused for a while.

As the prosecution went deeper into details and facts, the way we viewed the trial began to change an d those among us who were demanding a bullet in Saddam’s head now seemed pleased with the proceedings “I don’t think I want to see that bullet now, I want to see justice take place as it should be”.
We were watching an example of justice in the new Iraq, a place where no one should be denied his rights, not even Saddam.

We smiled seeing the news anchors lower their voices and nodding down when the prosecution grew stronger and more reasonable and convincing and they also abandoned the previous poetic sentimental tone that couldn’t stand in the face of facts and figures.
I think today’s session has also proven the independence of the court in making its decisions; while skeptics accused the court of being manipulated by the government which wants to get this done in 30 days, the judge set the date for the 2nd session 45 days from now with probably more sessions to come.

We’re drawing the outlines of a change not only for Iraq but also for the entire region and I can feel that today we have presented a unique model of justice because in spite of the cruelty of the criminal tyrant and in spite of the size of the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people, we still want to build a state of law that looks nothing like the one the tyrant wanted to create.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I want to say that we’re sorry for the lack of updates yesterday and the day before; I’ll explain the reasons below but first of all Mohammed and I would like to thank everyone who’s been sending e mails and comments of encouragement and support on the great event of the referendum and also big thanks to fellow bloggers who’ve been generous with links sending traffic to this blog.

The situation of electricity has worsened lately in Baghdad; we mentioned earlier that terrorists have sabotaged power lines that transfer electricity from the northern power plants to the capital on the refrendum eve but yesterday there was another bad attack that targeted electrical installations that serve at supplying Baghdad with electricity from the southern power plants; both attacks combined left Baghdad with very few hours of electricity/day.
This led to an increase in demand on gasoline and diesel fuel thus prices have jumped from 4000 ID to 10000 ID for the 20 liters of gasoline (that’s if one could find it at all!).

This is what kept me away from blogging and…okay, I’ll stop whining!

The general situation in Baghdad is very tense right now especially that tomorrow is going to witness another historic event, that’s the awaited Saddam’s trial.
It is air to say that this week is the busiest in Iraq so far since the 9th of April 2003 marking important key milestones for both, the end of whatever remained from the past regime and the birth of a new state in Iraq.
Of course these events do not appeal to a small segment of Iraqis as well as many Arab and Islamist extremists from outside Iraq so I’m afraid we have to expect a surge in violence in certain regions of Iraq like Saddam’s home town (Tikrit), Anbar and a few districts in Baghdad like Adhamiya which I passed by this afternoon to see an exceptional deployment for army units to be ready for any acts of violence.

Tomorrow’s trial is going to focus on the 1982 massacre of Al-Dijail and for those of you who are not familiar with this town or its story I suggest you go and take a look at this post from the early day of this blog when we interviewed one of the survivors who was personally affected by Sadddam’s crime against that town.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraqi men celebrate the success of the referendum in Mosul (Video: Iraqia TV).
This is the first time I try to publish a video so if it didn't work don't start complaining, okay?

Counting the votes has begun!

Battery lights are used since the electricial power lines that supply large parts of Baghdad were attacked by terrorists yesterday.
These are the turnout levels recorded in the 18 provinces in Iraq according to the electoral commission in the latest press conference:

High= more than 66%
Moderate= 33% - 66%
Low= less than 33%

Duhok: moderate.
Erbil: moderate.
Sulaymania: high.
Mosul: high.
Kirkuk: high.
Diyala: high.
Anbar: unknown.
Baghdad: high.
Babil: high.
Kerbala: high.
Wasit: moderate.
Salahiddin: high.
Al-Muthana: moderate.
Al-Qadisiya: low.
Najaf: high.
Thi Qar: moderate.
Maysan: moderate.
Basra: moderate.

Just said my YES...(updated)

Probably the worst thing today is the intense heat which was a little over 100f but that didn’t stop the crowds from walking in the sun to the voting stations, I personally had to walk nearly 4 miles in total but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The presence of Iraqi army and police units is heavier than it was in January elections and I also noticed that no multinational forces were on the streets and the only sign for their presence was the helicopters that patrolled the skies.

The turnout in our district looks quiet good and actually going to the voting office was a good opportunity to meet some friends I haven’t seen in months.
I met one friend on the way and when I asked him what would his vote be he said that he hasn’t decided yet “if I voted yes I would be approving some articles that I don’t agree with and if I voted no we would go back to where we started from…” he said and that was really refreshing because this guy who used to believe in conspiracy theories and stuff like “what America wants is what’s going to happen” now feels that his vote can make a difference.

Generally speaking, the process is going smoothly so far and this is encouraging because terrorists usually concentrate their attacks before noon so hopefully it will continue like this for the rest of the day.

Father and son, post voting.

Flyers encouraging the voters to vote in the referendum were distributed abundantly in Baghdad.

Traffic policeman watching kids play soccer in the cars-free street.

By the way, Sooni has more good photos.

Updates (2:45 pm local time):

-An official of the electoral commission announced that voters in any given province can cast their votes at any station within the borders of that province; this can make reaching the stations easier for some people who live far from their originally designated stations.

-Another electoral commission’s official in Erbil said that turnout in Erbil is light so far and he attributed that to the “concessions made by the Kurdish parties which Kurdish voters did not see appropriate”.

-170,000 votes were cast in the first 3 hours in Kirkuk, that’s around one quarter of the registered voters in the city.

-One attack was reported in Hilla; three armed men attacked a voting office but Iraqi security men were able to arrest the attackers. Nothing reported damaged in the office, one attacker was shot in the foot!

-Voting stations in Tal Afar are open but no reports on the turnout in the town, however the local officials of the electoral commission in Mosul said that the number of voters who turned out in the city is a “surprise”.

-(4:45 pm local time) Turn out rate in the Kurdistan region has exceeded 70% of the registered voters.
Sources: Al-Iraqia and Al-Hurra TV.

(5:01 pm local time)Time is up and doors of the voting centers are closed now and only voters standing in line will be allowed to cast their votes.
Counting the votes is expected to start soon and the results will probably be announced within 3 days acoording to sources in the electoral commission.
Okay, we’re about to go to cast our votes now and then we’ll hopefully be posting updates but for now, the spokesman of the Iraqi electoral independent commission said in a press conference a few minutes ago that no sizable attacks were reported so far except for some gunfire in Al-Dora district near one voting office.
Actually, Baghdad sounds so quiet so far.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Iraqi's preparing to decide...

Only hours separate us from a major historic day for our nation (too many historic days for Iraq in these two years!). Tomorrow will draw a line that would mark the beginning of a new era in Iraq; a constitutional Iraq will become reality.
It’s only a beginning since there will be more steps to go but it’s the right beginning because it’s a transition from temporary laws to a permanent-though amendable-constitution on which the people will assume control through their elected representatives and through their own direct votes.

It is really amazing how things have changed in Iraq; three years ago Saddam “won” 100% of the votes in a pathetic referendum that he designed in order to give legitimacy to his reign while yesterday even security detainees were allowed to express their opinion on the constitution through voting and the government and parliament are almost begging the 15 million plus voters to say ‘yes’!
And although many signs indicate that the document is on its way to be ratified, no one can say it is until the people decide which checkbox to tic tomorrow.
Some people would say “Is that all you won, after more than two years of war and violence? That’s only one basic right” well, that is the point; we’ve secured one key right that can help us secure the rest.

Approving this draft is not the end goal, it’s a step among others in this process of evolution in Iraq and it’s going to be the gate to more steps until we reach the day when we have a constitution that satisfies and serves the greatest majority of the people.

Now let me take you in a short journey in Baghdad; I woke up this morning and decided to take a tour to see Baghdad preparing for the referendum, first thing I saw and surprised me was a leaflet thrown in front of our door. It was calling for a ‘NO’ stating 10 reasons for doing that. I read the leaflet that had the Ba’athist tone with five out of 10 of the points said that approving this draft constitution is a Zionist goal. I tried hard to find a connection and of course there wasn’t any and it looked like a desperate attempt to use conspiracy theories.

To give you an example of the points in that paper I’ll tell you what one point was “what if an Iraqi woman married an Israeli man? Should we grant their children the Iraqi nationality!!!???” and yes, they used way too many exclamation points and question marks.

I walked away feeling more willing to vote with ‘yes’. Baghdad’s streets weren’t crowded as they usually are and checkpoints were everywhere and roads leading to the voting stations were mostly blocked. Most of these stations are located inside the buildings of schools and these in turn are inside residential blocks which makes them easier to protect.

People on the street, TV and radio are all talking about the coming historic event while papers went on hiatus since yesterday but many of them published the document on Wednesday to ensure that more people get to read it.
Although the distribution didn’t go perfectly, I doubt there are many who didn’t get the chance to take a look as the document was published many times on different outlets including websites and there were many discussions on TV where articles were discusses thoroughly. Add to this the thousands of workshops and lectures organized by NGOs. So I think it’s fair to say that only those who weren’t interested in the subject would say that they didn’t have the chance to read the document.
Of course SMSs on cell phones were also utilized for advertising this or that point of view. Yesterday I received an SMS from a Turkmen friend of mine asking me to vote ‘no’ and to forward the message to 10 other contacts!

Actually the Turkmen front decided to reject the draft some time ago and some Assyrian powers in Kirkuk joined them too so it is expected that we’re going to see many ‘no’ ballots in Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, some districts witnessed rallies celebrating the agreement between the Sunni .and the Kurdish and Sheat leaders on the constitution and people were flying Iraqi flags and firing fireworks.
The walls are covered by many of thousands of posters and banners; most of which encourage a ‘yes’ while some call for a ‘no’. The association of Muslim scholars accused the security forces of tearing their posters but in fact I saw many torn posters from both sides.

On the other hand, the Islamic Party is winning the respect of Iraqis for its courage and role in pushing the process forward; actually it’s a rare occasion where secular people thank and support a religious party for doing something. This can be understood when remembering that secular parties will be the ones to benefit more from the aftermath of this after the new parliament is elected.

In my opinion, this morning’s attacks on the offices of this party prove our idea when we said that no reconciliation is needed in Iraq and when we said that civil war in Iraq is not a strong possibility. It has shown that the conflict is not between the average citizens themselves but it’s rather a conflict between the average Iraqis and the terrorists and it has shown clear that this terrorism is not sectarian in nature but it’s in fact one of politics and interests.

I am so excited but a flashback from Saddam’s referendum three years ago still hurts; he wanted a 100% as the 99.96% of the previous one shocked the dictator. I was depressed that way and I decided not to go to the voting office and so did the rest of the family but my father was afraid that not going could be dangerous.
He said that maybe one member of the family could go alone and cast votes for the rest of us. We looked at each other thinking who’s going to volunteer to do this ugly job to protect the family. At that moment my father said “it was my generation that caused the misery we’re living in so I’m the one who should do this”.
I couldn’t stop him and I couldn’t utter a word but I felt sad for him; his sacrifice was big and I had teary eyes when I watched him taking our papers and heading out.

It is different this time father, no more 100% and a ‘no’ would make me happy just like a ’yes’ would do and no one ever will force us to do something against our will anymore.
Tomorrow will be another day for Iraqi bravery. May God protect you my people…you have suffered so much and you will still be suffering for some time but I am sure the future will be bright.
God bless you my people and all the freedom lovers who keep sacrificing to make this world a better place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Day of National Accord.

At this moment, the National Assembly is holding a ceremony celebrating the new breakthrough agreement on the constitution which President Talbani described as the “Day of National Accord”.
The ceremony is attended by the ministers of the cabinet as well as the presidency council and the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani.

In the same respect, the Board of Sunni Endowment, another important Sunni body that stands for the former ministry of religious affairs welcomed the Islamic Party’s decision to endorse the constitution.
Meanwhile, Ayad Al-Sammarrai the deputy secretary of the Islamic Party gave a statement in which he rejected the objections of the Conference of National Dialogue to today’s agreement “we were demanding for the transfer of 4 articles from the draft to the next parliament and that was in accord with the Dialogue Conference and the Muslim Scholars and today we got more than we asked for and the whole document will be subject to amendments…” said Al-Samarrai who considered this agreement a victory for the “marginalized” who should seize the opportunity and merge with the ongoing process.

It seems that nothing can satisfy the Muslim Scholars, not even changing the entire document because all they want is to carry out the plans of the neighboring dictators by putting hurdles in the way of democracy.

What happened today is a historic event that will isolate the enemies of Iraq and freedom and will pave the way for a clear future for Iraq after important Sunni groups decided to actively join the political process in Iraq.

There’s a visible feeling of relief on the streets and I think the constitution is on the way to be ratified…the process has come out of the emergency room and recovery will follow.

One last thing, in a nice change of protocol, the ceremony that was started with reading a few verses from the Quran was ended with a nice short piece of music!

A last minute agreement brings a more flexible constitution...

A surprising change of attitude by the Iraqi Islamic Party has dramatically shifted the balance towards ratifying the draft constitution.
An accord to approve the document has been reached and announced today in Baghdad between Iraqi Sheat, Kurdish and Sunni prominent political leaders after it seemed that all Sunni parties were going to encourage voters to vote ‘no’.

Iraqi Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni political leaders today said they agreed on changes to the proposed constitution, which may ensure that voters approve the document in the Oct. 15 referendum.

``All obstacles to the approval of the constitution have been removed,'' President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said at a news conference in the capital, Baghdad, carried live by al-Jazeera television. ``I hope this will be the beginning of a new kind of cooperation between all Iraqis.''

This move of the Islamic Party came as a shock to other Sunni groups especially the National Dialogue Conference and the Association of Muslim Scholars; Spokesmen of these two groups were interviewed by Al-Arabiya TV a few hours ago and they literally didn’t know what to say with confusion and denial clear on their faces especially that last week they signed an agreement with the Islamic Party to reject the constitution.

I think this breakthrough shows the difference between the way political parties deal with things when compared to clerics and ex-Ba’athists like Mutlaq of the Dialogue Conference who still adopt a stiff stand and apparently like to oppose just to stop things from progressing; the Islamic Party weighed things in a smart way and took the decision to change their attitude when the other involved parties showed active will to work things out and override obstacles.

What I consider most important and encouraging is this part of the agreement:

Under the agreement a panel will be created to propose amendments to the charter after elections for a new government in December. The panel will be appointed within four months from now and may give Sunnis, who said they were excluded from the drafting process, an opportunity to help redraft the document.

This will give hope not to the Sunni only but also to the secular powers and other minorities who feel they were marginalized during the writing of the draft.
This way, amendments will be possible to propose only two months after the December elections and not eight years as was written in the draft before this agreement.

I like this new rule and I think I will change my mind and vote with ‘yes’ as I wasn’t feeling prepared to accept the constitution as it is for whole eight years but now I feel much more hopeful.
The struggle for amendments will naturally be tough and tiring but no pain no gain they say.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Arab League solving Iraq's problems? Yeah sure...

The league of Arab tyrants, er I mean countries has sent delegates to Iraq to prepare for the expected visit of the secretary general of the league Amr Mousa.
The announced purpose of the Mousa’s visit is to arrange for a national “reconciliation” conference supposedly in order to bridge the gap between different factions of Iraqi community.

However, Iraqi MP Jawad Al-Maliki the 2nd man in Jafari’s Dawa party said that news has leaked telling that Mousa put paying Saddam Hussein a visit in his jail on the schedule of his visit to Iraq.
Al-Mailiki added that this visit to Saddam would aim at including Saddam and the Ba’ath in the “reconciliation” plan and Al-Maliki said that his bloc would probably be calling for a vote in the parliament to stop Mousa from coming to Iraq..!!
While there’s no way to verify these claims I wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out to be true.

I don’t know whose idea was it to invite the league into Iraq but it was a very dumb idea, that’s what I’m sure of; this league can do nothing good for Iraq and actually I’d prefer they leave us alone or even kick us out of their league of corruption and tyranny.
Iraq now isn’t qualified to be a member of the league (in the league’s standards of qualifications; that’s being pan-Arab fascists ruled by a mentally retarded sociopath) and I hope we don’t get qualified at all.

Can anyone tell me how are we supposed to believe that the ones who caused the trouble in the first place have the intention to help solve it now?
I don’t think the league is the least sad about the bad things happening in Iraq, I actually can pictures them laughing and celebrating each and every death in Iraq and they keep pouring more doom and gloom into the scene as that is what they really want to see. And I have what supports this attitude; since April 2003 and even long time before that, all Arab regimes (except for Kuwait) stood against toppling Saddam, of course not out of care for the Iraqi people but out of fear from seeing the same scenario happen again in their countries. We have a saying here that goes like this “if you see your neighbor’s bear being shaved, spray water on yours”.

The tyrant in Iraq built his hopes on the Arab methodology of supporting God-like-rulers and he invested Iraq’s resources in this effort.
Perhaps you remember the corrupt contracts of the oil for food program with Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Jordan where billions of dollars were wasted on items that weren’t worth one third the amounts written in those contracts.

Saddam also hired the Arabic media to promote his regime and defend his position, and please I don’t want to hear anyone telling me that Arabic media is not biased; according to a research a read last week on the moderate Al-Sharq Al-Awsat it was found that 15 billion dollars are spent per year by the media while the incomes are just slightly above 1.5 billions!!
So who’s covering the 13.5 billion dollar difference?

Arabs have showed Iraq’s case to the public in a mutilated way and they sent murderers to kill us and recruited every terrorist against us and now comes the tyrants’ clown to say that he wants to help draw Iraq’s future. To hell with a future and a “reconciliation” planned by Mousa.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Zarqawi in defiance of his master’s warning…

Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq said in an audio tape dated October 7 that the militants under the principles of Islam have what justifies killing civilian infidels.

The audio tape thought to be by Zarqawi’s voice was published on website believed to be owned by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and it his speech, Zarqawi said that Islam doesn’t distinguish between people on the basis of civilian vs. military but on the basis of Muslim vs. kaffir (infidel) and that “an infidel’s blood should be spilled regardless of his occupation or position unless he had a treaty or a promise of peace”. Al-Arabiya reported.

However, Zarqawi had already declared that he believes the word “Muslim” doesn’t apply to Sheat Iraqis whom he described as "heretics collaboration with the infidel occupiers" and with he used that pretext to justify waging war on the Sheat.

The audio tape appeared one day after the pentagon released an intercepted letter that is believed was sent from Ayman Al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi warning him from undesirable consequences that might result from continuing some wrongful policies of “jihad” in Iraq like attacking mosques and civilians:

Zawahiri apparently warns tactics such as the killing of hostages and bombings of mosques may alienate the "Muslim masses," Mr Whitman said.
"In this letter, he talks about believing that the eventual governance of Iraq must include the Muslim masses, and that they are at risk of alienating those," he told reporters.

Zarqawi in this tape-other than rejecting the advice of his superiors-also contradicts himself and the principles of Islam twice and this is not unusual since he’s not an actual religious scholar:

The first point where his words contradict his doings as well as the teachings of Islam appears when he said “the blood of a Muslim shall be protected regardless of his work or position” yet in a previous audio tape he justified killing Muslims if they were standing between the jihadists and the enemy.
Add to this, he justified killing Sheats in Iraq because they continue to assist the occupiers and this contradicts his “regardless of work or position” in the latest tape.

The second contradiction lies in saying “an infidel’s blood should be spilled regardless of his occupation or position unless he had a treaty or a promise of peace” and here are two points of contradiction as well, the first is that Christians and Jews are not infidels under the principles of Islam and the second is that multinational troops in Iraq (considering that they’re infidels) are here according to a treaty between the native people of Iraq and the countries to which the troops belong.

Anyway, I think that this conflict between the higher command of Al-Qaeda and the regional command in Iraq represented by Zarqawi will result in decreasing the moral support Al-Qeada in Iraq receives from other "pure" jihadists but will not have an effect on the material support that comes from the neighboring regimes that want to destabilize Iraq; these regimes will continue to pump money and weapons into Iraq and they will continue to provide training camps for recruits and will keep facilitating their passage into Iraq but most likely the numbers of these recruits will decrease since they (the potential jihadists) appear to have more faith in the ideology of the higher leaders of the network rather than in Zarqawi who’s considered an executive or field commander rather than an ideological leader.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

School kids pay tribute to Iraqi soldiers and policemen, a nice gesture organized and sponsored by friends of democracy...

Details here.

And more photos here.
It was a positive step for the National Assembly to reverse their earlier decision of altering the voting rules of the referendum because that outrageous alteration raised intense contempt in the public opinion here that even those who were hoping to see the constitution pass didn’t like the alterations because they don’t want it to pass with cheating and I call it cheating because that’s what it would be and it took the Assembly down to a level that doesn’t reflect the huge national sacrifices that paved the way for this group of people to become the law makers of Iraq.
The National Assembly has lost a big chunk of its credibility and today’s correction cannot remove the scar caused by yesterday’s blunder.

Although I have my objections to several articles of the draft constitution, I will certainly respect my people’s choice and I do believe that half a step forward is still better than many steps backward.
I still see this constitution as an upgradeable project that can be improved for better performance in the future and it’s much better than the no-constitution-state and the chaos that would accompany that.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Iraqi National Assembly took a very worrisome step by abolishing the value of Iraqis’ votes in the upcoming referendum through giving two different interpretations of the word “voter” in the law that will govern the referendum and decide whether the draft constitution is ratified or not.

In response, the UN has refused this change in the referendum laws and asked the Assembly to take fast action to correct this contradiction:

We have expressed our position to the national assembly and to the leadership of the government and told them that the decision that was taken was not acceptable and would not meet international standards," Jose Aranaz, a legal adviser to the U.N. electoral team in Iraq...

The change that was introduced lately by the Assembly would call the draft constitution ratified if more than 50% of actual voters voted with “yes” but in another sentence in the same rule which states that the draft constitution would be considered rejected if two thirds of the voters in three provinces voted with “no” the word “voters” was interpreted as registered voters not actual voters.

Iraq's parliament made a ruling on Sunday determining that for the Oct. 15 referendum to pass only half of those who turn out to vote across the country would have to say "Yes".
But a clause setting a two-thirds "No" vote in at least three of 18 provinces as a veto on the charter would be interpreted to mean two thirds of all registered, rather than actual, voters.
In other words, the word "voter" in the interim constitution was being interpreted in two different ways in the same article.

The above means that the government is far more interested in approving the draft constitution than it is in having the people freely decide for their future and I frankly do not know how people are supposed to trust a government that is literally playing with words and planning to deny them their right to decide on a super-important issue like their nation's constitution.

I wasn't worried at all when the final draft came with several articles I didn't agree with since I thought my voice would count and could change things in either direction but now?
Now I feel like I'm facing a challenge of having my voice ignored and hijacked again and that is something I cannot accept.
The ministry of religious affairs in Saudi Arabia limited using loudspeakers in mosques to calls for prayers and the Friday preaching only as well as the two Eid prayers while using loudspeakers during regular prayers and sessions of religious studies in mosques has been banned banned.
In addition to that, the number of loudspeakers allowed in each mosque has been limited to four speakers only. This is what Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported yesterday.

The paper explains that this decision was finally made after people began to “increasingly complain from the loud noise of preachers” while they teach their students and because sounds of prayers in different mosques were mixing and thus distracting the worshippers who in some cases were praying in a mosque but listening to the Quran coming from another one!
The article tells a story about one Saudi resident who came home once to find that his children were crying and when he asked about the reason they said that the preacher in the nearby mosque was talking and crying so they cried with him because “his weeping was scary”…
In Iraq we have the same problem though not in the same extreme way as it is in Saudi Arabia because they have more mosques there and add to this that we don’t have electricity all the time so mosques cannot operate their loudspeakers at every prayer time and this spares us a great deal of the suffering and protects our eardrums!

Still what makes things unbearable in some cases is the ugly voices of some preachers, yet they insist on shouting through loudspeakers; I still remember one mu’athin (the man who reads the call for prayers) who used to call for the dawn prayer in the mosque that was a few hundred meters from our house and man! He had one of the ugliest voices I’ve ever heard; something very close to an air-raid siren.that was a real pain in the neck for the entire block for several years.

Anyway, this step in Saudi Arabia marks a significant change in the attitude of the community and I’m sure it took a lot of courage from people to publicly complain from the inconvenience caused by mosques and preachers; entities that were considered so holy and divine for centuries. I guess the idea of what-gets-abundant-loses-respect applies to the mosques here.

Unfortunately in Iraq, we seem to be trying to “reinvent the wheel” like we say here and I really don’t know some parties want Iraq to go through the whole mistake of letting religion interfere with every aspect of life before the society revolts to put things right and give everything what it really deserves.
It’s not the issue of loudspeakers that I’m concerned about, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as most of you know.
Wisdom says smart people should learn from others’ mistakes and I frankly don’t think our leading class has absorbed this part.

Monday, October 03, 2005

God curse your moustache you Bedouin on a camel!!

The Iraqi government right now is facing so many hardships in the last few months of its age until the elections come. And while the officials are trying hard to prove their administrative and functional control over government institutions, challenges are escalating which render the government almost paralyzed between old and new problems and upcoming challenges represented mainly by the success of the constitution in the October referendum.
It’s noticeable now that people inside the government seem more concerned about internal conflicts than they are about real major concerns like securing the country; the arguments and so visible between the parties involved in the alliance that has proven to be brittle and probably the Kurdish-Sheat dispute that surfaced lately was more like a result of the building differences resulting from fighting over power and influence in the government.

The two memorandums sent recently from the Kurdish leaders to the PM Jafari were-despite their demanding nature-were an attempt to get over the dispute but the memorandums were totally ignored and that made the Kurds so pissed off to the extent that Talbani Asked Jafari to step down!
The dispute exploded when violent clashes erupted between the guards of president Talbani and those of PM Jafari over a presidential palace that American troops decided to evacuate a few days ago, of course the news weren’t reported in the local media but it circulated in the streets.

It seems that we’re standing before a situation that made the involved parties feel ashamed of the dispute that descended to the level of fighting over a house more or less and this resulted in loss of trust and confidence in the current government and for the first time we see Jafari on TV looking so embarrassed when asked about details of the incident and his answers were tense and diplomatically unacceptable especially when he said ”I do not have the time to respond to personal claims such as these..” in reference to Talbani’s accusations to Jafari of having violated his authorities.

It looks clear now that the export-the-crisis is still considered a valid policy for Iraqi politicians and that’s in my opinion why interior minister Bayan Jebor made his inflammatory statement against the Saudi foreign minister so that they shifted attention away from the Kurdish-Sheat conflict.

As a matter of fact, Jebor’s statement was welcomed by some Iraqis who to whom this statement came as some sort of “anger relief” against the negative attitudes of Arab countries and maybe his most influential and controversial line was “A Bedouin on a camel cannot teach us democracy and human rights…” and “let Saudi women be allowed to drive cars first before Saudis can talk about Iraq’s internal affairs…”.

These lines have become common in daily conversations among Iraqis (in refusal more than applause) but at least here in Baghdad and the south some seem to like it, however I don’t think they were met with the same enthusiasm in the western and northern regions where Jebor is thought of as nothing but an agent for Iran and people over there do not see him qualified or fit for a sensitive post like the interior ministry. Let alone that comments like Jebor’s reminded many Iraqis of the way Saddam and his aides talked to others, one famous example happened in early 2003 when Ezzat Douri siad “God curse your moustache” to the Kuwaiti foreign minister in an Arab League summit.

There are even rumors circulating in the Sunni areas that Jebor came to office in a mission to eliminate Sunni scientists, clerics and figures and while these are rumors far from being confirmed they show how Jebor is viewed by a considerable segment of the people.
As a response and an attempt to attack Jebor rather than to please the Saudis, Hoshyar Zibari said that Jebor’s statements were “regretful and inappropriate” and he apologized to the Saudi minister for Jebor’s words.

Right now most Iraqis are looking forward to a new government with greater hopes since it’s going to be there for whole four years and this shall give people the impression that we have the time to improve the situation and would be telling the terrorists that “we’re here for four years and you’ve got to realize that we’re ready for a long battle, are you ready for such a long battle too?”.
Electing a new government for a four year term in which the Sunni will probably be fairly represented would be a powerful strike to those who believe in violence and these will find themselves facing a more legitimate government that cannot be easily discredited and they will also lose the pretext of fighting to defend the “oppressed” Sunni who are preparing very well for entering the elections.

In the January elections we had 111 competing parties and alliances but this time the number has greatly increased to around 190 and it is encouraging to know hat most of the new 80 registered parties come from regions of Sunni majority.
The pointers now give an advantage to Allawi’s new alliance over other alliances because of the increased Sunni inclination to join him, while other blocs like the Sheat alliance has witnessed at least one crack in its lines when Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh who is so close to Sistani’s office and a former spokesman of the alliance announced his departure and the formation of a new party of his own.

This comes while Chalabi is trying to keep the different parts of the bloc together but he doesn’t seem to be making big successes since the poor performance of the government will force a change in the for and strategies of the alliance.

Actually the entire scene changed when the Sunni entered the arena and even the Kurds who had a strong political establishment began to modify their ways and are now trying to convince Arabs to join them to guarantee a percentage of the parliament seats that preserves balance in the after the new elections; so far the National Democratic Party of the former GC member Naseer Chaderchi (after it was thought that he joined Allawi) have joined the Kurdish alliance together with the Qasimi movement, the Iraqi Communist Party and the Arabic Socialist movement.

The feeling that the road is going to be rough and costly is growing but hope isn’t lost though and I have seen this clear in the eyes of an Iraqi who talked on TV, this man lost two brothers in the Balad massacre a few days ago yet he said “freedom isn’t for free”.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A Baghdad night of poetry...

Yesterday the "Baghdad's lovers" society held the last of its summer nights which included among its activities a session of literature and poetry in one of Baghdad's old and famous social clubs the "Hunting Club".
I was glad that I received an invitation to attend the event and actually I wasn't surprised to see the size of the great crowd of interested people who challenged night and terror just to listen to a few poems and critique them.

The hall got full of people and we lived a few hours completely far from every day's pain and worries though pain and sorrow were part of the poems that our brilliant lecturer read which also included many verses that were written for our adored Baghdad.
At the end of the evening, a woman from the audience seized the microphone and spoke to the rest of us:

We must keep up the constructive activities of art, literature and poetry and show the terrorists that they can never steal our humanity or kill the spirit of creation inside us….

His words kept ringing in my head while I was on my way out of the club; the sound of bullets was loud out there but I didn't care just like that brave women didn't care and Baghdad's nights shall always inspire the creative.
I told myself then; they're losing and we are winning.