Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 27
October 3, 2005
This IOF Newsletter is produced as a free service for all those opposed to the occupation.
In order to strengthen our campaign, please make sure you sign up to receive the free newsletter automatically go to:
Please also ask all those who share our opposition to the increasingly brutal US-UK occupation to do likewise.
People flee Baghdad district fearing imminent attack
Azzaman report (September 24): Many residents are fleeing Doura, a low-income district in Baghdad and scene of regular fighting between U.S.backed Iraqi troops and groups opposing them. Recently leaflets were handed out in the district, where an estimated one million people live, to evacuate their houses. Iraqi forces are massing in the district, setting up checkpoints and road blocks, prompting the residents to leave for fear that the troops would soon mount a major attack. The district's commercial centre has been set on fire several times and residents report random shelling with innocent people the main victims. Residents say Iraqi troops have occupied public buildings such as schools and administrative centers and turned them into military barracks with blast walls, blocks and checkpoints.
Iraqi judge: Re-arrest British soldiers
Al-Jazeera report (September 24): An Iraqi judge has issued arrest warrants for two British undercover soldiers who have been freed after a controversial British raid in the city of Basra. British forces mounted a bid to free the two soldiers by surrounding the police station where they were being held with several tanks and armoured vehicles.
Basra authorities had said British troops also killed two Iraqi policemen during the raid. Later, British forces returned and armoured vehicles flattened cars parked nearby as they broke down the walls of the police station and jail.
Iraqi authorities said the jail and the police station were demolished. Monday's flare-up has harmed the relationship British forces were able to build. Officials said the Basra's governing council stopped all cooperation with the British until they apologise, guarantee that similar actions are not taken again and provide compensation for the damage inflicted during the operation.
Scrap Basra police and start again orders MoD
The Scotsman reports (September 25th): Defence Secretary John Reid is planning to scrap the 25,000-strong police force in southern Iraq and replace it with a new military-style unit following last week's disastrous clashes between British troops and Iraqi police. The violence has also led to the scrapping of a detailed plan that could have seen UK forces withdrawn by May next year.
The sudden U-turn on Britain's military commitment to Iraq has caused anger
and despair in military circles. One former defence chief told Scotland on
Sunday the Iraq expedition had been a "colossal political failure".
A poll last night suggested most people want British troops to pull out of
Iraq. Some 57% said British forces should pull out, 27% said they should
not, and 16% questioned in the Five News poll did not know. YouGov asked
1,928 people between September 21 and 22 for the poll.
Arabic channel demands reporter's release
The Guardian reports (September 22): The Arabic-language channel al-Arabiya has demanded the release of a reporter who has been held without charge since being arrested at a family funeral in Iraq. It said that Majed Hameed was detained by US forces last week.
"Al-Arabiya considers the detention of its reporter to be a blatant violation of internationally recognised guidelines and regulations that safeguard press freedoms and freedom of expression," the Dubai-based news broadcaster said in a statement. Reuters said it was deeply concerned that another Iraqi journalist was being held without charge by US forces.
Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, a freelance cameraman who worked for the news agency in Ramadi, was arrested last month and is being held in Abu Ghraib prison.
Separately, two journalists with the Iraqi daily al-Safir were killed this week in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Firas al-Maadhidi, the head of al-Safir's bureau in Mosul, was gunned down by two men outside his home in the An-Nur section of the city. And Hind Ismail, a reporter who worked for Mr al-Maadhidi, was also shot dead in the city centre by men wearing police uniforms.
Press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres condemned the killings, which it said brought the journalists death toll in Iraq to 71. "Journalists continue to be preferred targets in Iraq," it said in a statement.
Second journalist probing Basra police killed
The Times reports (September 20): An Iraqi journalist investigating the infiltration of Basra's police force by extremists from the Shia militia was abducted and killed by masked men who identified themselves as police.
Fakher Haider, a 38-year-old Shia Muslim reporter covering Basra for The New York Times, was found dead with his hands bound and a bag over his head in a deserted area on the city's outskirts. He appeared to have been shot more than once in the head. His back was bruised, suggesting he had been beaten.
Officer's road led him outside Army
LA Times reports (September 25): When Army Capt. Ian Fishback told his company and battalion commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention, he says, they told him those rules were easily skirted. This summer, after weighing the possible effects on his career, he stepped outside the Army's chain of command and telephoned the Human Rights Watch advocacy group. He later met with aides on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Friday, he authorized them to make public his allegations, along with those of two sergeants, of widespread prisoner abuse they had witnessed when they served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.
Within hours, the Army announced it had opened a criminal investigation. The review is the first major investigation by the military of widespread prisoner abuse outside the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the first time such a review has targeted soldiers in the regular Army rather than the National Guardsmen and reservists in the Abu Ghraib case.
LA Times reports (September 24): In recent letters to several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Fishback said he witnessed detainees being stripped, deprived of sleep, exposed to the elements and "forced into uncomfortable positions for prolonged periods of time for the express purpose of coercing them into revealing information other than name, rank and service number."
New York-based Human Rights Watch said that one of the sergeants told the group, "We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day." The sergeant reportedly described the mistreatment at a base near Falluja as "just like" Abu Ghraib, saying, "We did that for amusement."
According to Human Rights Watch, the sergeants said they saw soldiers break prisoners' legs. The group said the sergeants had related that they watched and participated in some of the violence.
England convicted for Abu Ghraib abuse
The Scotsman reports (September 27th): Lynndie England, the United States soldier whose smiling poses in photographs showing the abuse of naked detainees at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad made her the face of an international scandal, was convicted by a military jury. The reservist army clerk was found guilty on six of seven charges at the court martial in Texas, including maltreatment of prisoners.
Hundreds flee Samara
IRIN reports (27 September): Hundreds of families have started to flee the Iraqi city of Samara, some 120km north of the capital, Baghdad, following a recent Ministry of Defense announcement that preparations had started for an offensive by Coalition forces against insurgents holed up there, officials said.
Hamad al-Kashty, governor of Salah al-Din province, said on Monday that nearly 500 families had so far fled the city. Many were presently in the outskirts, particularly around al-Dur, al-Salam, Baghdad and within empty schools and government buildings near the city of Tikrit.
Food programme shortfall
IRIN reports (27 September): The World Food Programme (WFP) has said that the operation to feed millions of people in Iraq is facing severe financial constraints.
According to Calum Gardner, WFP's Amman-based Iraq programme director, only 44 percent of the money required for the programme has been invested so far and he called on donors to make the rest of the money available. “Nearly US $66 million is required to complete the programme which ends in the December 2005,” Gardner said. “Until now we have only received around US $30 million and urgent action needs to be taken to preserve this important project.”
“Millions of Iraqis are dying and require urgent action and support from the whole world, but politics and security issues have caused people to forget the poor and those desperate for food,” said Ahmed Abdul Walled, a senior official in the ministry.
Medics fleeing Iraq's violence in their thousands
Reuters report (September 25): One of Iraq's most precious resources - doctors - are fleeing the country in increasing numbers, scared off by persistent. The Iraqi Doctors' Syndicate, the official medics' register, estimates 1,500 medical professionals - doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists - have fled in the past year alone, although precise numbers are difficult to obtain. Doctors have even gone on strike at hospitals in Baghdad and Baquba, north of the capital, after Iraqi soldiers overran their clinics, demanding at gunpoint that their men be treated first.
New Five-Star Hotel in Baghdad !
Iraqi blogger Baghdad Treasure reports (September 21st): While I was going over the local newspapers this morning, I read a shocking headline: "A 23-floor, 5-star hotel to be built inside the Green Zone". The article says "The Minister of reconstruction announced the approval of the Prime minister to build a 5-star hotel inside the Green Zone."
Isn't that ridiculous? What does it mean to spend millions of dollars in a place where no Iraqis can go? Why did Jafari approve spending millions of dollars on something that would not be used by Iraqi citizens? Didn't he think of the destruction that happened and still happening to Baghdad and Iraqi cities in general?
Iraqi women say freedoms are slipping away
Middle East online report (September 26th): Women's rights activists in Iraq say rising extremism is restricting their freedom. "Women cannot walk freely out in the street," said activist Ban Jamil, who directs the Rasafa Branch of Assyrian Women Union, a local non-governmental organisation in Baghdad.
"Women face lack of respect when they walk uncovered," said Jamil, a Christian, who said women are insulted if they show too much skin or walk in public without wearing the Islamic veil, or hijab, to cover their hair. She blamed "imported extremist doctrines, which were never experienced in the past" for the new restrictions.
US forced to import bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every rebel killed
The Independent reports (25 September): US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed - that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel.
A government report says that US forces are now using 1.8 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition a year. The total has more than doubled in five years, largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Big Antiwar Rallies Held in U.S.and U.K.
LA Times reports (September 25): Capping a summer of rising discontent with the war in Iraq, tens of thousands of protesters marched through cities across the US to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. Organisers said more than 200,000 people turned out in Washington for the peaceful event, calling it the largest protest in the capital since the war began in March 2003. The protest comes as polls show growing unhappiness with the war.
A CNN/USA Today poll last week indicated that 59% of Americans thought the war was a "mistake" — the highest figure recorded since the question was first asked in March 2003.
In Los Angeles, police estimated 15,000 people participated in a raucous march where speakers such as actor Martin Sheen and state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) took to a stage and railed against the Bush administration. Organisers said that as many as 50,000 protesters were on hand.
The New Standard reports (September 27th): Hundreds of activists participated in a staged act of collective civil disobedience in front of the White House on Monday to protest the ongoing occupation of
Around 1 p.m. on Monday, activists attempted to deliver one million reasons to end the war in Iraq from people all over the world to the White House. Once, as expected, the guards at the White House gates refused the delivery, hundreds of activists began to tie pieces of paper to the iron fence that surrounds the premises, each displaying the name of an American or Iraqi killed in the war.
Norwegian soldiers to leave
Relief Web report (September 15th): Norway's incoming premier Jens Stoltenberg has told U.S. President George Bush that he will withdraw the 20 Norwegian soldiers stationed in Iraq, the NTB news agency reported Friday. Stoltenberg made the announcement when the U.S. president rang him to congratulate him on his tripartite red-green alliance's win in Monday's parliamentary elections.
New DVD: TESTIMONIES FROM FALLUJAH
Created in Iraq by Hamodi Jasim and brought to the world by independent US
journalist Dahr Jamail, this 33 min film contains photos and footage from
last November's assault, as well as interviews with Iraqi survivors and
DVD's of the film, playable on computer or compatible (NTSC Region
1) format can be ordered from Voices for non-profit screenings, price £10
Cheques should be made payable to "Voices in the Wilderness UK"
and mailed to Voices UK, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX. Copies should be
available from mid-October.
23 October, LONDON: FREEDOM TO PROTEST CONFERENCE: To share experiences, and promote mutual aid and co-ordination among groups threatened by repressive laws and to develop effective strategies for standing up for our freedom to protest against injustice and oppression. 11am - 5pm, The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Rd, London N7. Admission free. Org. by the FTP Network. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.freedomtoprotest.org.uk
10 December, An international peace conference to bring together especially Iraqi, US and British campaigners to organise for troops out. Details on www.stopwar.org
And don't forget 26 November, London: International Teach-in: Voices from Occupied Iraq
For further details see www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk