News and opinions on situation in Iraq
Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter No. 37

February 22 2006

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Prisoner abuse
War and security
Daily life
Politics and economics
Troops out
Upcoming events

Prisoner abuse

British troops videoed ‘beating Iraqis’,,1708159,00.html
The Observer reports (February 12th): Details emerged of a shocking video which appears to show a group of British soldiers brutally beating and kicking defenceless Iraqi teenagers in an army compound. The footage shows eight soldiers pulling four teenagers off the street following a riot and dragging them into their army base, before beating them with batons, as well as punching and kicking them.

Outrage Spreads over New Images
IPS News reports (February 16th): New footage of British soldiers beating up young Iraqi men in Amarah city in 2003, and the release of more photographs of atrocities by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison has spread outrage across Iraq. “We in Basra have decided not to cooperate in any way with the British troops,” 43 year-old food merchant Ali Shehab Najim told IPS.

After footage of British troops beating young Iraqis with fists and batons was aired earlier, the Governorate of Basra announced it has severed ties to the British military. This included cancellation of joint security patrols.

“Iraqis suffered a lot during the past 35 years, but now they are tortured by foreigners who invaded our country,” said Al-Joubori, who was a city councillor in Basra for 40 years. “We can’t accept having them any more.” Far from cooperating, people in Basra are now prepared to fight the occupation forces, he said.

Video fallout hits UK Iraq troops
The BBC reports (February 19th): A second regional council has now ended all co-operation with the British Army. With Maysan council joining its counterpart in Basra in registering a protest over the footage, most of British-controlled Iraq is now not co-operating. All contacts with UK military and civilian authorities in Maysan have been suspended and the council has demanded the release of all the detainees from the province being held by the coalition.

The council in Basra, which has already frozen ties, has now warned its employees they will be fired if they have any involvement with the British forces.

Both councils are also demanding an immediate handover of powers from the British. The governor of Maysan told the BBC he intended to pursue the soldiers responsible for the apparent beatings through the British civil courts, if no criminal charges were brought by the UK authorities.

New inquiry urged over Abu Ghraib
BBC reports (February 16th): US civil liberties groups have called for an inquiry into treatment of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib after new images of apparent abuse were shown. Campaigners say they hope publishing the new images will spur government action against senior officials responsible for policy at the jail.

Australian TV aired previously unseen images of apparent prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in 2003. The images on SBS TV are thought to be from the same source as those that caused an outcry around the world. The new images show “homicide, torture and sexual humiliation”, SBS said.

Abu Ghraib leaked report reveals full extent of abuse
The Guardian reports (February 17th): Nearly two years after the first pictures of naked and humiliated Iraqi detainees emerged from Abu Ghraib prison, the full extent of the abuse became known for the first time yesterday with a leaked report from the US army’s internal investigation into the scandal.

It said the material, gathered by the army’s criminal investigation division, included 1,325 photographs and 93 video clips of suspected abuse of detainees, 546 photographs of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, as well as 660 images of adult pornography, and 29 pictures of US troops engaged in simulated sex acts. Based on date stamps, all were recorded between October 18 and December 30 2003, the same timeframe as the original scandal.

Activists call on army, police to respect women’s rights

IRIN reports (February 8th): NGOs are calling for the protection of women during military raids, accusing both the Iraqi army and police of humiliating female suspects and detainees. Since July 2005, the Women’s Rights Association (WRA) of Iraq has registered more than 240 cases of women. They say they have have suffered “humiliation” at the hands of the army and police during raids on their homes, according to Mayada Zuhair, a member of the association.

The WRA has also registered nearly 90 reports of mistreatment of former female detainees. WRA spokeswoman Sarah Muthulak noted that most cases involved sexual harassment or violence, including beatings.

War and security

Iraq Has Become the Deadliest Place for Journalists, Report Says

New York Times reports (February 14th): Iraq has become the deadliest country for journalists in the last quarter-century, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Twenty-two journalists were killed in Iraq in 2005, bringing the total to 61 since the American invasion in March 2003. A number of trends are identified in the committee’s report, from an increasing level of self-censorship by reporters afraid of violent consequences to the impunity with which attacks on reporters are carried out.

Children’s mental health affected by insecurity, say specialists

IRIN reports (February 7th): The Association of Psychologists of Iraq (API) has released a report stating that the US-led invasion and occupation of the country have greatly affected the psychological development of many Iraqi children.

“Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions,” said API spokesman Maruan Abdullah. “In some cases, they’re found to be suffering extreme stress.”

According to Abdullah, the survey was undertaken after a noticeable increase in the number of children seeking psychological counselling, many of whom were found to have learning difficulties.

“It was incredible how strong the results were,” said Abdullah. “The only things they have on their minds are guns, bullets, death and a fear of the US occupation.”

Iraqis probe apparent death squad

Knight Ridder reports (February 16th): The Iraqi Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into an alleged police death squad. Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority has claimed for more than a year that members of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-dominated security forces intimidate, kidnap and murder Sunnis, but the probe was triggered by Iraqi soldiers’ chance discovery of 22 Iraqi men in police uniforms allegedly preparing to kill a Sunni man.

Last June, Knight Ridder documented several instances in which Sunni men who’d been detained by uniformed men in police vehicles later were found dead. The Interior Ministry denied any involvement. Although there’s never been any proof that Interior Ministry forces were involved, suspicions ran high, in part because the interior minister, Bayan Jabr, is a leading member of the Shiite-led Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has close ties to the Badr Organization, a prominent Shiite militia group that’s linked to Iran.

Daily life

More belt-tightening in store for Iraqis

Azzaman reports (February 8th): Iraqis will have to do without their almost free food rations and stand yet another spiral of hikes in fuel prices to meet conditions the World Bank and international creditors and donors have set for the country.

Fuel prices will have to be raised to levels comparable to those in neighbouring countries, according to the deal. Any further hikes in fuel rates are bound to backfire on the new government and are very likely to lead to large-scale rioting. But the scrapping of food rations will have far graver consequences as millions of Iraqis will find it almost impossible to make ends meet without them.

About half of all Iraqis unemployed

Reuters report (February 9th): Unemployment in Iraq stands at about 50 percent, kept high by relentless violence and little economic progress since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago, a senior Iraqi official said this week at a meeting with U.S. executives.

The official, who is in the Iraqi planning and development ministry and asked not to be identified by name for security reasons, said more than 60 percent of the country’s population depends on government rations to survive.

Occupation increasing poverty
Green Left Weekly reports (February 8th): The number of Iraqis living below the poverty line has increased since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to one-fifth of the population, according to figures released by Iraq’s labour ministry on January 25.

“A study conducted by the ministry in coordination with the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] shows that 20% of the population is affected by poverty”, Leila Kazem, director-general of the department of social affairs at the labour ministry, told Agence France-Presse. “Some 2 million Iraqi families live under the poverty line, as defined by international criteria, which is fixed at one [US] dollar per day per person.”

The decline in living standards is caused by “the rise in unemployment, violence, and the decline in public sector and civil service jobs”, Kazem added.

Politics and economics

Influential Iraqi cleric Sadr rejects constitution

Reuters report (February 19th): Influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he rejects the Iraqi constitution backed by his partners in the biggest parliamentary bloc, threatening to re-ignite one of the country’s most explosive issues.”I reject this constitution which calls for sectarianism and there is nothing good in this constitution at all,” he told Al Jazeera television late on Saturday.

Sadr, a rebel leader turned political kingmaker, said the charter was unacceptable, complicating efforts to form a government more than two months after parliamentary elections. If there is a democratic government in Iraq, nobody has the right to call for the establishment of federalism anywhere in Iraq whether it is the south, north, middle or any other part of Iraq,” said Sadr.,,1713335,00.html
The Guardian adds (February 20th): “There is nothing good in this constitution at all,” he told al-Jazeera. He added that the withdrawal of foreign forces “should be the priority of the future Iraqi government.”

US fast-tracks Iraq into WTO
Focus on the Global South report: Iraq is now well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged member of the World Trade Organisation. On February 11, 2004, less than a year after the US invasion of Iraq, the country was granted observer status at the WTO. Four months before the US handed over “sovereignty” to an interim government in Iraq, the occupied territory had already taken the first step of accession into the WTO. According to one trade publication, Geneva based analysts were taken aback by the quick move.

The US has been able to push Iraq’s accession so successfully that the members of the WTO and the secretariat itself overlooked the fact that Iraq does not even pass the first requirement of accession.

The US says it’s the way to fight terrorism. However, what they’re not saying is what’s in it for them and their corporations. The real winners of this will be the US oil giants, who have been eyeing Iraq’s sea of oil even before the invasion.

Troops out

After Killing Families, U.S. Bars Iraqi Women from Visiting
The New standard reports (February 17th): Earlier this month, the US State Department denied the visa applications of two Iraqi women who intended to participate in a speaking tour of the United States. Both women say that US troops killed their families. The US Embassy in Amman, Jordan said it could not guarantee that the Iraqi women, Vivian Salim Mati and Anwar Kadhim Jawad, would return to Iraq after their visit.

“It’s appalling that the US military killed these women’s families and then the US government rejects their visas on the grounds that they have no family to return to in Iraq,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said.

Code Pink member Jodi Evans said she met Jawad in a 2004 visit to Baghdad, a year after US troops killed the woman’s husband and three of her children as the family drove down a Baghdad street. In Mati’s case, US tank fire took the lives of her children and husband as the family fled the shelling of her neighbourhood. She said she has received no compensation for the killings from the US.

Japan to withdraw troops from Iraq
The News reports (February 6th): Japan will pull its troops out of Iraq within the next few months, a top government minister was quoted as saying, in the first such indication of a timeframe for withdrawal.

The Japanese troops are tasked with helping reconstruction efforts while British and Australian forces maintain security in the area. Their deployment has been controversial at home, since Japan’s pacifist constitution adopted after World War II bans the use of military force to settle international disputes.

U.S. religious group condemns Iraq war
Reuters report (February 18th): The U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches condemned the U.S.-led war in Iraq for “raining down terror” on helpless Iraqis, and criticized Washington’s policies on the environment and poverty.

“We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,” the Conference said in an emotional letter released during the World Council of Churches Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The World Council of Churches represents Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and other Christian churches in more than 100 countries.

Iraq War a Mistake for 55% of Americans
Angus Reid Global Scan report (February 15th): More adults in the United States believe their federal administration was wrong to order military action against Iraq, according to a poll by Gallup released by CNN and USA Today. 55 per cent of respondents believe the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, up four points since late January.

Upcoming events

23 FEB, MERSEYSIDE: PUBLIC MEETING with Chris Byworth, previous Cannon of St Helens, Bruce Kent, Alice Mahon MP and Lindsey German.
7.30pm, United Reformed Church, King Street and Ormskirk Street, St Helens City Centre.

24 FEBRUARY, BRISTOL: PUBLIC MEETING with Tony Benn, Kamil Mahdi (Iraqi Democrat & peace campaigner) and Lindsey German.
7.30pm, Victoria Methodist Church, 1A Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 1 NU See

28 February 2006 (7.30pm) LONDON: Lambeth Stop the War Coalition public meeting. Speakers include Jeremy Corbyn MP. A speaker from Justice for Jean Campaign has been invited.
Venue: Stockwell Resource Centre 1 Studley Road (just behind Stockwell tube).

1 MARCH, TYNESIDE: REPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE CONFERENCE with John Rees (Socialist Workers Party). Contact Debbie 01661 836793.

2 MARCH, BRENT: PUBLIC MEETING with Jeremy Corbyn MP, Haifa Zangana and Peter Brierley (Military Families Against War).
Pakistan Community Centre, Marley Walk, Station Parade, London NW2 (near Willesden Green tube). See

3 MARCH, YORK: TROOPS HOME, NO ATTACK ON IRAN. Public meeting with John Rees (Socialist Workers Party) and others.
7.30pm, Priory Street Community Centre.

11am – 5pm, The Front Studio, Diorama 1, 34 Osnaburgh St, London NW1 3ND (nearest tube Great Portland Street).

7.30pm, Friend’s Meeting House, Quakers Society, Court Road (near Fire Station), Southport City Centre. Organised by Merseryside STWC.

Assemble 12 noon, Parliament Square. See

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