Monday, March 26, 2007

De-Baathification (I)

The US administration and its Iraqi allies seem to have dissimilar approaches to the de-baathification law. The Americans want to go much further than the Iraqis in easing rules barring former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from government service.

I was a member of the Baath party till overthrowing Saddam. My story is similar to those of the vast majority of Iraqis who were members of the party. Bear in mind the difference between two terms, I'm going to use here, 'Baathist' and 'Member of the Baath party'. Rereading a previous post (Rambling Post) could be helpful; from which I'll continue.

The Baath party was exploited by the US during the cold war. The communists became very active in Iraq after the coup of 1958 and they represented a real threat to the west interests in this country. The Baathists managed to seize power on the 8th of February 1963. The general secretary of the Baath party at that time, Ali Salih As'sadee, said literally in a famous statement 'We came to power on an American train', as a figurative reference. They ruled for ten bloody months ended by another coup.

On the 17th of July 1968, they regained power. A new policy started to emerge beginning with a famous declaration made by Saddam in 1970, stating that "Iraqis who are not members of the Baath party are barred from joining the army". This exclusion was expanding year after another. It included the police, security forces, the judiciary, educational system…etc. In general, it was very difficult to get a governmental job without being a member of the Baath party. Iraq was ruled through a very centralized totalitarian regime, so no many jobs were available out of the government grip. Day after another it became a firm rule absorbed by the community which says "To achieve one's goals in life, it is obligatory to join the Baath party".

The Baath party represented a security buffer body through which loyalty of people could be verified. Certain individuals are chosen to certain positions according to rules of validation. For example, allowing a young man to join the Iraqi air force as a fighter pilot requires him to be of Arab ethnicity, Muslim, Sunni, of certain bunch of tribes. Moreover, his relatives and friends must not have anti-Baath ideologies or feelings! All this could be probed through the security buffer body, mentioned above.

Baathists keep on putting pressure on the members of the party, through its hierarchy, to force more Iraqis to join the party. Such conduct on the ground begins with teasing and goes as far as detention, torture, and may be execution for those who insist not to join the party.

On joining the Baath party, one must sign many forms. One of these forms states that you have not been a member of any political party, not a member currently and you won't join a one in the future even if you would manage to quit the Baath. If one breaks any of these 'vows' he/she will be executed (according to the signed form).

Another form states that non of your relatives and friends has any kind of relation with other political or religious parties, and one must report to the comrade in charge of the party cell on noticing a member of the family, relatives, neighbors, friends, colleagues who might have such relation. Information forms are to be filled periodically (every six months or annually) to confirm the previous. One has to declare the position of his/her parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, brothers & sisters in law, father & mother in law, friends. Their position means whether any of them had been detained or executed for political reasons, fled the country without informing the authorities, had any non-Baathist political activity, been a deserter…etc.

Depriving the people of their basic rights made many of them ready to stoop to nose out information about their families, relatives, friends, colleagues. The regime encouraged people to do such vile practice by rewarding them. 'Secret report' is a well known term for the Iraqis. 'Break one's neck' a famous reference to the act of writing secret report against somebody.

To be continued…