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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 31
November 29, 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.

New offensive

Attack on Dowr

IRIN reports (November 16th): US-led forces and the Iraqi army launched an operation in the city of Dowr, some 150 km north of the capital, Baghdad. According to local witnesses, Iraqi soldiers used torture in some cases to obtain information from residents.

A United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq report noted that, “Massive security operations by the Iraqi police and US Special Forces continue to disregard instructions announced in August 2005 by the Interior Ministry aimed at safeguarding individuals during search-and-detention operations.”

100,000 flee al-Qaim

IRIN reports (November 16th): The number of refugees fleeing the western Iraqi town of al-Qaim and surrounding villages in the wake of US-led military offensives launched earlier this month has reached some 100,000 persons, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS).

According to witnesses, nearly 40 percent of the residents of al-Qaim are living in the nearby city of Rawa, in improvised camps organised by the IRCS.

According to IRCS officials, some displaced families have as many as 13 members sharing single tents. Meanwhile, medical volunteers say that many children and elderly people are suffering from increased instances of diarrhoea and dehydration.

And in Yosfiya…

Iraqi Journalist Sabah Ali reports (November 20th): Nasser village looked completely deserted. Most of the houses were burnt out. We were filming, when a young man, covered with dust, appeared from nowhere and began relating what happened on November 5, 2005.

The Iraqi police Special Forces, Al-Hussein Brigades, came at dawn. There were around 20 pick-ups full of them. They were hit on the highway very badly from a place behind the Yosfiya Water Project, east of the village. Tens of them were killed. The battle went on for 3 hours. In the afternoon, the same day, more forces returned back accompanied by the American troops and helicopters. They evacuated their dead, raided the houses, killed and arrested the men, humiliated the families, killed the cows and chickens, destroyed the yards, and set the village on fire.

“They dragged one of the men, more than 70 years, and beat him to death. Two other man, were arrested. Their bodies were found three days later in Baghdad. Both were savagely tortured, their bones, backs, and arms were smashed. They believed that the village was colluding with the resistance.”

Ali Nasser’s house was completely destroyed, burnt to skeleton. “Why were we treated like this? The police brigades broke even the electricity converters, we do not have power for 40 days. Our animals were killed, our women humiliated. They ask the women where did you hide the men, they grabbed the children from their hair and throw them to the ground. Riyadh’s mother was crying and begging them to leave her son; they hit her with the gun’s end, they smashed his head with a brick in front of her eyes, now she is dying. When his body was found it was skinned... Abbass was so old that he could not even walk, how he would be a terrorist!! He was beaten to death on the spot and his body was thrown in the drainage.”

Iraqi detainees tortured

UN official calls for inquiry into Iraq torture

The Guardian reports (November 18th): The UN high commissioner for human rights called for an international investigation into Iraqi detainees who showed signs of torture. US forces found around 170 mainly Sunni Arab prisoners - some of whom had apparently been abused, beaten, starved and tortured - at an interior ministry bunker in the Jadriya district of Baghdad.

A Pentagon report revealed that 13,814 people are being held in US custody in Iraq out of a total of more 80,000 people detained in facilities from Afghanistan to Cuba since the September 11 2001 terror attacks attacks on New York and Washington.

The Guardian reports (November 17th):Since a new Iraqi government was established in the spring, several accounts have emerged of arrests, abuse and extrajudicial killings by paramilitary forces linked to the ministry and dominated by Shia Muslims.

Manfred Novak, the UN special envoy on torture, based in Geneva, yesterday called for an independent inquiry. He has received various allegations of torture and degrading treatment by both US and Iraqi forces in Iraq. “That torture is still practised in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is no secret,” he said.

An Iraqi law student, who would only give his initials, MI, said yesterday he had been among those detained at the interior ministry. He had been arrested in August and released six weeks ago. Interviewed by Reuters at a Sunni party office, the 22-year-old said he had been blindfolded, his hands bound and hung from a ceiling hook. He was whipped with metal cables.

“They called us Sunni dogs and thieves or friends of Saddam Hussein.” He said he had been in a room with 100 others, and that sometimes the captors used drills against people. "They put me in a barrel full of cold water during questioning and gave me electric shocks," he said.

Further documented cases from Human Rights Watch

State denial adds insult to torture victims’ injuries

The Times reports (November 18th): The discovery of a clandestine Interior Ministry prison in Baghdad, holding scores of tortured detainees, came as no surprise to Abu Ali. What shocked him was the minister’s angry insistence yesterday that the claims of abuse and torture were exaggerated and involved only “criminals and terrorists.”

“There are dozens of people I know it happened to because it happened to me,” he said. Abu Jamal, a Sunni bookseller, is certain that the Americans know about the torture inflicted on his son after he was arrested by Interior Ministry commandos. When he eventually tracked down Jamal Hamdani, he was being treated in a US military hospital in Camp Bucca, Umm Qasr.

The 30-year-old was left impotent and paralysed on one side of his body after repeated electrocution of his spine and genitals during two months in detention in a secret prison in Kadhamiya, Baghdad. In addition, an electric drill had been used on his chin.

See also: Torture photos fuel scandal at The Times

US and UK avoided public criticism of police abuses

The Observer reports (November 20th): The new trend in violence is one that Dr Alaa Maki of the Iraqi Islamic Party is familiar with. A month ago his bodyguard, Alaa al-Azawi, was taken from his home with his two brothers by police at midnight. The family were told the men were being taken for investigation. The following day his body was dumped in the street.

Eight days ago, another of Maki’s friends was being treated in the Yarmouk Hospital, Iraq's second- biggest, in the western suburbs of Baghdad. His relatives, Muamir Saad Mahmoud and Ali Mahmoud, went to visit him. Instead they met men in the uniform of Iraq's police waiting for them. Ali was later released in the vast Shia slum of Sadr City after a violent beating. Muamir has not been seen.

And it is not just in Baghdad. The home of Khalid Ahmad Harbood, a resident of the Alkadisia neighbourhood of Madain city, was raided at midnight on 13 October by the Alkarrar brigade, commandos of the Ministry of the Interior. Harbood was tortured so badly over the period of a week that he died and his badly battered body was dumped in Sadr City.

According to human rights organisations in Baghdad, “disappearances” have reached epidemic proportions in recent months. The emergence of a culture of pernicious violence at Iraq's interior ministry blossomed in the face of repeated warnings to US and UK officials over the past year and a half, under an apparently deliberate policy by London and Washington to avoid public criticism of the country’s new institutions.

British-trained police in Iraq ‘killed prisoners with drills’

The Independent reports (November 20th): British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, admits that he knows of “alleged deaths in custody” and other “serious prisoner abuse” at al-Jamiyat police station, which was reopened by Britain after the war.

Iraqis protest detainee abuse

Al-Jazeera reports (November 20th): Hundreds of Iraqis have marched in western Baghdad demanding an end to the torture of detainees. The protesters on Sunday also called for the international community to put pressure on Iraqi and US authorities to ensure that such abuse does not recur.

Iraqis Say Lions Used in Torture

The LA Times reports (November 15th): Two Iraqi businessmen who were arrested in Iraq in July 2003 but never charged with crimes say U.S. troops put them in a cage with lions, pretended that they were going to be executed and humiliated them during interrogations at multiple detention facilities.

“They took me behind the cage, they were screaming at me, scaring me and beating me a lot,” Thahe Mohammed Sabbar said in an interview. “One of the soldiers would open the door, and two soldiers would push me in. The lions came running toward me and they pulled me out and shut the door. I completely lost consciousness.”

The two Iraqis are in the United States this week to talk about a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First filed on their behalf against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

MPs call for tighter rules on battlefield use of phosphorus

The Guardian reports (November 17th): MPs urged the government to seek tougher international rules against the use of chemical weapons in warfare after the United States belatedly confirmed that its forces in Iraq used white phosphorus to flush out opponents during the 2004 siege of Falluja.

Uproar at Threat to Kill Extremist Sympathisers

Institute for War & Peace Reporting reports (November 15th): A political storm continues to rage over the Iraqi defence minister’s recent threat to kill people helping insurgents and destroy their properties. Sadun al-Dulaimi said the security forces would “demolish the homes of people sheltering terrorists and kill all owners of the houses … including women and children”, provoking a wave of Sunni Arab anger and condemnation.

Iraqi Islamic Party politburo member Ala al-Maki said Iraqi leaders may claim they fight terrorism but actually launch attacks on “our Sunni Arab sons and families … driving them away from participating in politics”. He and many others have said they do not believe it a coincidence that US and Iraqi forces launch major operations in Sunni areas shortly before elections and referendums, suggesting such actions are meant to limit turnout in the regions.

Conditions “worsening” despite expenditure

Azzaman reports (November 13th): The engineering corps from the U.S. occupation troops in Iraq say they have spent $14.5 million to improve education, electricity supply and sewage facilities in the southern city of Diwaniya. However, residents from Diwaniya said official figures were highly exaggerated. “All this talk of reconstruction does not bear a grain of truth and contradicts the situation on the ground,” said Ammar Jaber. “Conditions are worsening and not improving,” he said.

Another resident, Hayder Abedali said he believed most of the allocations were wasted due to rampant corruption.

Residents from towns other than the provincial center of al-Qadisiya had a darker picture of conditions. “These statements are false and contrary to the situation on the ground,” said Qassem Mansour from al-Hamza town. “There is large-scale deterioration of an already collapsing infrastructure. All those in charge of the situation in the country are to blame,” said Mansour.

In Diwaniya, mounds of garbage dot city center with untreated water inundating the streets.

Iraq Under U.S. Occupation: "It Was Never As Bad As This"

Anthony Arnove writes in Zmag (November 16th): Life in occupied Iraq today is so grim that many Iraqis say it was better during the deadly years of United Nations sanctions. In much of the country, there is less electricity than before the March 2003 U.S. invasion – with predictable consequences, including “patients who die in emergency rooms when equipment stops running,” the New York Times reports.

“Nearly half of all Iraqi households still don’t have access to clean water, and only 8 percent of the country, excluding the capital, is connected to sewage networks,” USA Today reports. Hospitals in Iraq are a shambles.

“At Baghdad’s Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the floors,” Jeffrey Gettleman reported in the New York Times. “The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived.”

Dexter Filkins of the New York Times opened a window into the reality of occupation in an October 2005 profile of Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, an aggressive Army captain of the Fourth Infantry Division's 1-8 Battalion. After the death of a soldier in the unit, Sassaman declared that his unit’s “new priority would be killing insurgents and punishing anyone who supported them, even people who didn’t.”

As Filkins wrote, “On a mission in January 2004, a group of Sassaman’s soldiers came to the house of an Iraqi man suspected of hijacking trucks. He wasn't there, but his wife and two other women answered the door. ‘You have 15 minutes to get your furniture out,’ First Sgt. Ghaleb Mikel said. The women wailed and shouted, but ultimately complied, dragging their bed and couch and television set out the front door. Mikel’s men then fired four antitank missiles into their house, blowing it to pieces and setting it afire.”

U.S. soldiers have also taken to quartering troops in Iraqi homes and schools. “They broke into my house before Ramadan and they are still there,” Dhiya Hamid al-Karbuli recounted to a reporter. “We were not able to tolerate seeing them damage our house in front of our very eyes...I was afraid to ask them to leave.”

Iraqi children losing their innocence in the violence of the war

Knight Ridder reports (November 17th): Khaldoon Waleed, a Baghdad child psychologist, said that a generation of children is growing up with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD, a result of witnessing life-threatening events, is commonly associated with soldiers, and Waleed said it could cause everything from nightmares to an inability to connect with people.

Toy-sellers say that while traditional favorites such as dolls and race cars do little more than gather dust, realistic toy guns fly off the shelves. In school, childhood art commonly is violent these days, featuring tanks and gun battles and blood and dead bodies.

Poor Iraqis face struggle for survival

Al-Jazeera reports (18 November): Unemployment runs high and bloodshed is keeping investors away from the battered economy, forcing some Iraqis to eke out an existence by sifting through garbage for scraps of food. With no electricity, such families seek refuge from winter cold and blistering summer heat in small huts made of cooking oil cans, bits of drift wood and mud.

Water is gathered from dirty, leaking pipes nearby and carried in plastic jugs on donkeys. “I work with my parents collecting garbage,” said eight-year-old Saad Hassan.

Iraq's oil: The spoils of war

The Independent reports (22 November): Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year.

According to the report, Crude Designs, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed, it said.

The report said the use of production sharing agreements was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. “The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law,” the report said.

Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable

The Guardian reports (November 22): Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq’s opposition had a “legitimate right” of resistance. The communique – finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders Monday – condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The leaders agreed on “calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation” and end terror attacks. The preparatory reconciliation conference, held under the auspices of the Arab League, was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers as well as leading Sunni politicians.

Children killed as US troops fire

The Times reports (November 22nd): US Five members of the same Iraqi family, three of them children under the age of 4, were shot dead yesterday when US troops opened fire on their minivan outside a military base, fearing a suicide car bomb attack.

“The soldiers started shooting at us from all over,” Ahmed Kamel al-Sawamara, 22, the driver, said at the hospital where the dead and three wounded were taken. “I slowed down and pulled off the road, but they continued firing. I saw my family killed, one after the other, and then the car caught fire. I dragged their bodies out.”

Police, Civil Servants in Iraq Punished for not Voting

Institute for War & Peace Reporting report (November 18): Dozens of policemen and government employees in Suleimaniyah province have been reprimanded, fired or imprisoned for not voting in the constitutional referendum.

Civil servants and police officers said they had no idea their decisions not to vote in the October 15 poll might cost them their jobs or land them in jail. They cried foul, noting that the punishments violated democratic principles and their civil rights.

In Kelar Province, about 35 officers in the Garmian police department were interrogated – and some jailed for five to six days – because they did not participate in the ballot. “I did not believe in the constitution so I didn’t vote,” said one officer who'd been questioned. “How can a human being be punished for his opinions and beliefs?”

Upcoming events

Saturday 03 December 2005
LEEDS: 'Give Peace a Chance', LCAW benefit.
Venue: The Mixing Tin, Leeds.
Leeds Coalition Against the War, PO Box 192, Leeds LS16 5WS. Phone: 07875 666239

Monday 05 December 2005 (6.30pm)
LONDON: BOOK & FILM LAUNCH OF 'AMERICAN VOICES OF DISSENT' with George Galloway, Ken Loach, Hilary Wainwright and Haifa Zangana.
Venue: Event Theatre, Keyworth Centre, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, SE1 0AA.
Free entry. Organised by The Cat's Dream

Wednesday 07 December 2005 (8pm)
BRADFORD: Bradford Stop The War Party with bands.
Venue: The Love Apple, 34 Gt. Horton Road, Bradford admission £5/3.

Saturday 10 December 2005 (12noon)
BRIGHTON: MASS DEMONSTRATION – DISARM EDO! “an arms components company that makes bomb parts that were used in the Iraq war” (Guardian, 11 Apr). Home Farm Road.
See or tel. 07891 405923. Meet Churchill Square.

Saturday 10 December 2005
Royal Horticultural Hall, Central London.
Organised by the Stop the War Coalition