Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Human rights (II)

"The U.S. official involved in the inspections, who would not be identified by name, described in an e-mail the abuse found during some of the visits since the Nov. 13 raid: "Numerous bruises on the arms, legs and feet. A lot of the Iraqis had separated shoulders and problems with their hands and fingers too. You could also see strap marks on some of their backs."
A neighbor of mine was, nine months ago, detained for about a week. Till now he shows strap marks on his back. He is an engineer, in early thirties, newly married and had just had his first child when he was detained. Because of the bad economic conditions in Iraq, he does simple works to make his living. He was painting a house gate when a group of Iraqi commandos raided the street he was working at. He describes what happened: "I couldn't understand what was going on. A soldier ordered me to go inside the house. There was lot of gunfire hitting a palm under which I was hiding. Several soldiers broke into the house dragged me and took me to their officer who slapped me on my face. A soldier kept on hitting me with the rare part of his machine gun; another searched me taking away my keys, cell phone, and wallet. Someone thrust his hand under my overall quickly tearing my flannel shirt, using it to fold my eyes. They handcuffed my hands and put me in a pickup with several other persons, whom I managed to recognize some of them as they were store owners and some neighbors of the house I was working at. They took us to their unit headquarters detaining us in a small room which was mainly crowded before our arrival. Fortunately, one of the detainees managed to keep his cell phone with him, so we started to call our families. The investigation performed by people whom we couldn't see their faces. It was either to put us on the floor facing a wall with our hands backward handcuffed, or the investigators put on masks. There, one can discover the sectarian discrimination which the Iraqi society does not suffer from.

On knowing my full name, they discovered that I'm a Shiite and "Sayed" (A Sayed is claimed to be a descendant of Prophet Mohammed). They scolded me for living in, what they called, a Sunni neighborhood, which looked very weird language for me. People with IDs of towns west to Baghdad were treated badly. The essential matters needed by every man (food, rest rooms, bed…etc.) were very miserable. There was no place to sleep, no mattress to sleep on except a blanket; though it was very cold days."
He remained in detention for about a week. His way of viewing the 'New Iraq' has changed completely. Each time he hears news of detaining a group of terrorists, he comments "Don't believe it. They are not terrorists; they are nothing but people like me". He quitted his work, closed the small workshop he had saying "From now on I'm a suspect for the terrorists who would consider me as a cooperator with MNF, ING, IP…etc which makes me a nominee to be killed"

A Sudanese, who has been living in our district for more than 15 years, is another example of inhuman treatment. An explosion took place in the street where he lives and he was immediately dragged from home to detention. In detention, one has to know that he must not ask about his cell phone, wallet or any other things in his pockets after being set free. He remained in detention for five days. His family provided him with meals during detention in the police station. Each meal has to be sufficient for at least three people since the guard at the main gate takes one part, the warden takes the other, and the third is supposed to reach him.
He suffers a lot because of the color of his complexion. Wherever he goes, he is asked the same question "Sudanese?" and a series of investigations begins. Every check point asks him to get out of the car and treats him as a suspect. The man uses the public transportation and when he gets out of the car, the men in the check point order the car to move on and leave him to be checked. In Baghdad one might face a check point every 2Km, so for our Sudanese friend 'How many cars he has to change to move for, say, 10Km' and 'How much unpredictable time he has to add to get on time to his target'.

To be continued…

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Human rights (I)

I believe that Iraqis are lucky to have the Americans in their country. One of the benefits of having them in Iraq is to enforce human rights. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference Nov. 29 with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld,

"It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it."

Turning to Pace, Rumsfeld responded:

"I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."

For me, as an Iraqi looking forward to a better future, whether the Americans intervene directly or keep a continuous pressure on the Iraqi authorities to adhere to human rights regulations, the most important thing is to maintain an atmosphere of protecting creative Iraqis. These will boost new way of thinking. One of the stark images of oppression, nowadays, is the almost daily killing of journalists. For this, our media is not completely free to say everything. Any journalist has to create his own self censorship to avoid saying a word that might irritate an influential figure or a terrorist.
Iraqi media is still unqualified to take its assumed role of monitoring and pinpointing faults in different fields. Till it happens, I think that international media of free world have to intervene in the Iraqi live and reveal issues that Iraqi media cannot speak about. Every Iraqi is a death nominee, so a journalist has to take the risk of doubling his nomination. Not every journalist is ready to do so and if there is any, hush-hush money can keep them silent.
Even those, who are working to institute a new era of respecting human rights, are vulnerable. The Iraqi official familiar with the joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers is described by the Washington Post as:
“the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because, he said, he and other Iraqis involved with inspections had received death threats.”
The Americans seem to be intimidated by Iraqi officials as the Washington Post states:
"After the Nov. 13 disclosures, the highest-ranking U.S. officials in Iraq -- Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. -- issued rare public rebukes to their Iraqi government allies."
"Khalilzad's calls to rein in Shiite security forces and militias have put him on increasingly prickly terms with some members of Iraq's governing coalition of Shiite religious parties."

After Ambassador Khalilzad had made notes about the ING & IP performance, and the necessity to nominate nonsectarian ministers to the defense & interior ministries, lot of offensive banners could be seen in different places of Baghdad describing Khalilzad as a Taliban sympathizer.
I go with:
"I want them to do what General Pace said," the Iraqi official said. Interior Ministry forces and allied Shiite militias have become more adept at hiding detainees and they kidnap victims from inspectors, he said. Iraqis "are looking for some of the Americans to do the right thing," he added. "Don't be intimidated by the Iraqi politicians."
As for becoming "more adept at hiding detainees", I heard once such a story from an Iraqi police officer who is, ironically, a Sunni. He was complaining of the Americans who keep on releasing detainees from the Iraqi's custody. To avoid releasing the most dangerous detainees, they put them in police cars under their feet so the Americans won't notice them and send these cars to tour the streets till the American inspectors end their raid. I argued for the American inspection. I told him it is a good way to urge you, Iraqi investigators, to follow lawful procedure. It is the best way to protect innocents from being detained for endless time. He confirmed that they gather each day at the judge office to issue warrants for the detainees to avoid releasing them by the Americans.
To be continued…

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mutual Understanding

Mainly, this was to be a reply to a comment made by Original_Jeff about the previous post. On second thought, I decided to post it here. First, I’m not considering any of my ideas an ultimate one. Sometimes, it is not nice to keep on criticizing without introducing an idea. What I’m trying to do in this blog is ‘Thinking Loudly’, introducing a perspective and, the most important thing, to learn something about the world.

A good point made by Original_Jeff, that’s
“some of the leaders of radical Islam and of al-Quaeda spent quite a bit of time in western countries”.
But one should question the number of these radicals compared to more than a billion Muslims in the world. Should all Muslims be viewed through a bunch of deafening radical Islamists or several criminals who committed one of the most aggravated crimes on 9/11? Would it be fair to view all Americans through what happened in Abu Ghraib or through an irritated soldier kicking Iraqi civilian cars or shooting at them?

Another point by Jeff says
“Almost all Americans have the belief “that if they only knew us better, then they would not hate us”—which is what you are suggesting.”
Yes, and I would counter back the belief. What we need is mutual understanding. It is essential, as an American president once said (I think JFK), since we share the same planet.

Having first-hand experience of oppression, I can say that terrorists work hard on impairing the social ties which is the same policy of Saddam. Broadening the concept leads to impairing the ties between different societies. It helps in sowing fear, mistrust, uncertainty, hatred, confusion…etc. These elements are the most suitable tools for terrorists and Saddamists to create the appropriate environment for their activities. So, suspicion and mistrust should be stirred up every where and every time.

To break this closed circle of continuous bilateral misunderstanding, something should be done. It is not necessarily what I’m suggesting; others may have brilliant ideas better than (the naïve of) mine.

Mtnyogi made good remarks, but a direct human experience is much more beneficial than seeing people on screens or chatting with them through internet or phone. Al-Hurra TV (sponsored by the US gov.) introduces a program called (Americans) which shows some aspects of the American people’s life. Still, the American individual looks ostentatious and has nothing in common with Iraqi or Arab individuals. An Arab proverb says “To truly know someone; travel with him/her” which means to live with him/her round-the-clock. So, it is either Iraqi tourists to visit the states (which is impossible because most of Iraqis live on the edge of poverty & tight US security regulations), or American tourists to visit Iraq (which is also impossible for the known circumstances).

As for writing a book, I don’t know how to do it since I have no idea about how books are written or published. And if I manage in doing so, I’m sure no one would read it. A book is the last thing an Iraqi thinks about because of low personal income which makes buying a book a matter of luxury. The new Iraqi generations were brought up in a society adores weapons not books. Even the most needed books are not easy to buy. The other day, a cousin of mine was telling me how a book of anatomy is expensive. It costs $49 which may give you an idea about the world of books in Iraq.

My (naïve) suggestion is built on the idea that although few Iraqis have the experience of traveling abroad, one can still listen to their repeated stories about the vast world filled with amazing people. Stories about how Jordan or UAE, whose peoples the Iraqis used to look at as inferiors, have made an enormous achievements are passed from mouth to mouth with a sense of criticism and comparison to the bad situation of Iraqis for more than a quarter century. So, I believe this “just a small group coming to the U.S.” as described by mtnyogi would have a greater influence on the Iraqis than a book or a TV station.

Finally, I am not suggesting that other ideas won’t be helpful, but I am trying to say let different peoples know each other. Don’t put barriers with media holes which don’t show the whole story.

One last word: Thanks to Noah & Louise for commenting.