Friday, February 29, 2008

Angelina in Iraq

She is smart AND beautiful. She also has lots of courage. She has called on America to keep US troops in Iraq and increase aid to Iraq. When's the last time a big actor went to Iraq in a serious effort to help the Iraqis? Who has the courage to say that US troops should stay in Iraq and help the Iraqis? I respect Angelina for going to Iraq, meeting with US and Iraqi leaders and encouraging them to help Iraqi refugees. I respect her for saying that US troops should stay in Iraq to help Iraqis.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arba3een in Iraq made possible by USA

Update (March 1): I found this photo on Wikipedia. The photo was taken by a US Defense Department employee:

After thinking about Arba3een the last few days, I couldn't help but conclude that it is somewhat ironic that Iraqis are now allowed to make the pilgrimage to Karbala thanks to the USA. I just read this article, which Maury linked to in a comment: '"Under Saddam, those who went to Karbala were killed or had their legs shot so they could not walk again," said Hussein Hamad, 74, one of the pilgrims in the giant procession snaking towards the city.'

Also Abbas Hawazin has just published a good post about Arba3een and the Shia. If you want to see what a Shia shrine looks like, inside and out, watch this video, which I shamelessly stole from Abbas's post. Thanks Abbas!

PS (March 2): I should have said "it is somewhat ironic that Shia are now allowed to make the pilgrimage to Karbala thanks to the USA."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Iraqi Diaspora

Today I was thinking about all the Iraqis who left Iraq, back to the 1980s when my family left and before. I remembered a post by Baghdad Treasure about the "Farhood al Yahood", during which Iraqi Jews were persecuted. Most of my relatives left Iraq in 1991, after the Gulf War. Most of them fled immediately after the bombing and stayed in Amman for up to 18 months before moving to the UK. The flight from Iraq began long ago, but in the last four years the number of refugees fleeing Iraq has risen dramtically. The largest number of Iraqi refugees today are in Syria and Jordan, two countries that have what can be described as love-hate relationships with Iraq.

A few weeks ago I read a story about an Iraqi Christian family that moved to New Hampshire recently. When we moved back to the US in 82, we all knew English pretty well. The family in New Hampshire knows NO English or very little, and that must be very difficult. A few Iraqis have come to America on student visas, like my father had in the 70s. When we returned to Iraq in 1980, it was a culture shock for us kids. We got used to America, and Iraq was a totally different world when we arrived in 1980. I remember one incident, a few days after moving into our house in Baghdad, when a bunch of kids had gathered around me to ask about America. One of them asked me which is more beautiful - Iraq or Colorado. I was 11 years old at the time, and I simply told the truth - I said Colorado. Immediately upon hearing this, another kid named Muhannad, which happens to be my first name too, karate kicked me in the crotch! That was a surprise, and I struggled to defend myself while the other kids watched - I seem to remember one of them trying to help me, until finally my dad came out and broke it up. One week later Iraq invaded Iran, and it all went downhill from there. Later I learned that Muhannad was the youngest son of a hardcore Ba3thi family. I wonder what happened to Muhannad. Anyway it was difficult adjusting to Iraq, but eventually I got used to it, even with the air raids and news of abductions and imprisonments, even with the new TV, constantly adorned with Saddam's image. They did show a foreign movie (usually American) every week. Iraq toughened me, taught me how to study hard, sometimes in candlelight. When I returned to the states I was a good student compared to others and I excelled. We were very happy to return to the US. Every year we count our blessings. I celebrate every Thanksgiving in commemoration of our immigration to America, a great country. God help the Iraqis who face having to go back to Iraq in the current situation, or the horrible state Iraq was in 2006.

The Iraqi Diaspora is huge, and Iraqi refugees need help. One of my cousins has been stuck in Amman for more than a year now after being promised a visa to the states. She had to leave her job in Libya and go to Amman to pick up a visa to the US, but Homeland Security is holding it up for some reason. Now she is running out of funds, and she has two kids and no husband. After reading about the Christian Iraqi family in New Hampshire I wondered if INS takes a closer, longer look at Muslims before giving them visas.

Many bloggers have predicted that Iraq is inevitably, uncontrollably headed toward civil war. Personally I hope that Iraq will avoid civil war, with the help of the US, and I pray that the violence subsides and eventually disappears, so that US troops can come home, and so that Iraqis can live normal lives in Iraq.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Make them work together

Nir Rosen gives a bleak outlook on Iraq in his new article, published in Rolling Stone, a very cool magazine. Way to go Nir! I feel sorry for Arkan, the Iraqi National Police officer who wants to do the right thing, but might be killed for it. If there is any good in the Iraqi police today, it is Iraqi officers like Arkan.

Perhaps this is an example of why US troops should stay in Iraq for a while: Osama himself makes no secret of his hatred for the Shiite government and its security forces. As we walk by a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi National Police, which is comprised almost entirely of Shiites, Osama looks at the uniformed officers in disgust. "I want to kill them," he tells me, "but the Americans make us work together."

Well there you have it, folks. As long as US troops are in Iraq, they should try to make the Iraqis work together, and they should continue to encourage the Iraqi government to hire more Sunni Arabs into the National Police.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Turning the Resource Curse into a Blessing

Today Dr. Muhammad Ali Zainy sent me an essay titled Iraqi Oil: Turning the Curse to a Blessing, which he wrote for the upcoming Conference on Iraq Oil Policy in Paris. I thought about posting the entire essay, but it's 22 pages long, so I'll just post the conclusion along with this very interesting graph showing Iraqi real GDP from 1969 to 2007:
Conclusion: "The resource curse could be true in many ways. One way is to produce spoiled governments and spoiled peoples. Spoiled governments are produced in the sense that, having secured a large source of unearned income (oil rent in the Arab case) sufficient – and often more than sufficient - to finance its activities, the government of a rentier state has a propensity to become autocratic, unaccountable and dissociated from the interests and aspirations of its people. Additionally, such government will keep dragging its feet and will not sincerely endeavor to build a successfully diversified tax-based economy as long as its unearned income keeps flowing. Also, in a rentier environment, spoiled peoples are produced in the sense that, enjoying the overflow of a natural resource bounty and, at the same time, not having to pay taxes, the people of a rentier state become inclined to be lax and tolerant of autocratic traditions, and sometimes even complicit with their government by looking the other way when transgressions against the people and the state are committed.

In the case of Iraq, however, to use the word spoiled is to be most charitable. From the beginning of the formation of the modern state of Iraq, the successive governments of this country, regardless when Iraq was resource-poor or after it became resource-rich, had always been undemocratic and often ruthless, and when Saddam came to power his government became criminal in the full sense of the word.

When Saddam took over absolute power in the summer of 1979, he presided over a rich country with wonderful infrastructure and good public services, a strong and healthy economy expanding at a fast rate of 8% per annum in real terms, and a treasury of foreign exchange reserves of $35 billion. All of that was dissipated in a matter of two decades of tyrannical rule and foolish military adventures, which left Iraq under a huge burden of $120 billion foreign debts, battered infrastructure, rampant unemployment, collapsed services system and a crippled economy.

All of this tells us that, yes, it is quite prudent to have a proper oil law whose mandate would be to protect the country’s oil riches and maximize their monetary value to the Iraqi people. However, maximization of the value of oil revenues to the country is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The end, broadly speaking, is to build the country. In order to achieve this noble cause, those Iraqis in charge must devote their sincere efforts to prepare the conditions for a blessing, in the way described above."

Update (Feb 23): Harry Barnes commented that it would be helpful to see a graph of real GDP per capita. I'm sure such a graph exists somewhere on the web, but in this article the last graph shows Iraqi income per capita in 1980 prices, showing the effect of the population doubling between 1980 and 2007, along with war and sanctions. Click and zoom in on Figure 10 at the bottom to view the graph:

Alcohol was purified first by Muslim chemists

I was doing some research for work and came accross this interesting info:  "Ethanol has been used by humans since prehistory as the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Dried residues on 9000-year-old pottery found in China imply the use of alcoholic beverages even among Neolithic people.[1] Its isolation as a relatively pure compound was first achieved by Muslim chemists who developed the art of distillation during the Abbasid caliphate, the most notable of whom were Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber), Al-Kindi (Alkindus) and al-Razi (Rhazes). The writings attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan (721-815) mention the flammable vapors of boiled wine. Al-Kindi (801-873) unambiguously described the distillation of wine.[2]"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maliki should learn from Lincoln

"At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to speedily reunite the nation through a policy of generous reconciliation."

Monday, February 18, 2008

National Song of Iraq (Maw6ini)

OK I watched this video a second time, and then a third time, and in the end I decided that it rivals, maybe even beats the orchestra version.

Arab National Anthem

I was going to write a post about the closest thing to the Arab national anthem, Mawtini, and I wanted to post the YouTube video of Iham al Madfa3i singing it with the support of an incredible orchestra, but the video has been removed. I wanted to use it to show how Iraqis, including the Iraqi Shia (I do believe Ilham is Shi3i), have always embraced Arab nationalism. I did find this video (broadcast on Al Iraqiya) of Ilham doing a guitar solo of Mawtini, and it's pretty good, but I think the orchestra version is better. If anybody finds the orchestra version, please link to it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The New Iraqi Army

As I discussed Iraq with some good peeps last night, I mentioned something that I think is very important, something the media has forgotten or ignored completely: the new Iraqi Army is an all-volunteer force, unlike in Saddam's time, when Iraqis were drafted to fight and often died in wars they didn't want to fight.

Iraqi Goodfellas

I had dinner last night with an Iraqi woman, half Shi3i, half Sunni, and really cute. She lived in Baghdad in the 80s, not far from Izzét al-Douri's house. She said she saw Uday drive to Douri's house several times, and said that her sister met Uday and thought he was handsome! This surprised me. She and her sisters hung out with their kids. She went on to describe them as a normal family, and she told me it was kind of hard seeing photos of Uday's and Qusay's bodies. She knows about Saddam's crimes and agreed that he deserved to be overthrown, but I was somewhat surprised by the way she described the families. It reminded me of the Sopranos and a scene in Goodfellas in which wiseguys were making spaghetti, handling family affairs and doing the business that pays the bills. In many ways they are just normal people.

PS: My friend told me that Saddam did some good things for the Iraqi people. She said he made education free. I told her that education has always been free in Iraq. She said yes, but Saddam kept it that way:) It seems that some Iraqis respect Saddam, despite his crimes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Amazing Coincidences

Update (2/15, 10 am EST): The last line is not true. Marilyn Monroe died before JFK's assassination. Thanks David All for pointing it out.

Update II (2/15, 2:45 pm EST): This Monday, Feb 18 is Presidents' Day in the USA.

I have to wake up in six hours and I have a long day ahead tomorrow, but I can't sleep.  All kinds of stuff was going through my mind as I tried to sleep, and I remembered this email which I received from my friend Nor. I decided to get up and post it.  These are some amazing coincidences that have to do with Lincoln and Kennedy and the similarities between their lives, and their assassins, assuming that Lee Harvey Oswald really did assassinate JFK.

Have a history teacher explain this----- if they can.

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.
Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Now it gets really weird.

Lincoln 's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's Secretary was named Lincoln .

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln , was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln , was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Now hang on to your seat.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named 'Ford.'
Kennedy was shot in a car called ' Lincoln ' made by 'Ford.'

Lincoln was shot in a theater and his assassin ran and hid in a warehouse.
Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin ran and hid in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

And here's the kicker...

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe , Maryland
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

Accusations of Bribery

Dr. Muhammad Ali Zainy of CGES sent me an email (below) regarding the upcoming Paris conference on Iraqi oil, at which recommendations will be made to the Iraqi government in passing a just and equitable oil law.  Baath party leaders (Izzat al Douri) have accused conference participants of being bribed by Total Petroleum into passing an oil law that would allow international companies to steal Iraq's oil.  The accusations are interesting, given that Dr. Zainy has criticized previous versions of the draft oil law and has repeatedly cautioned the Iraqi government to not pass a law that would give too much control to oil companies.  It seems that Baath party leaders will attack anybody who is willing to help the new Iraq make positive steps towards economic progress.
Dr. Zainy to me: There was a scathing attack (in Arabic) on the upcoming 25-27 February Paris conference on Iraqi oil, which I am attending. They are accusing us that the French oil company Total is behind this conference in addition to some "Jewish elements!!!" all in order to "steal Iraq's oil" and that we are being bribed one million Euro each after we agree to "pass the Iraqi oil law". The attack was made by the Baath party, branch of Izzat al-Douri (father of ice). Down below was my response to Issam Chalabi (former Iraqi oil minister) who brought the attack to our attention. My response also encouraged another colleague of mine to retort with a harsh response, which I will forward to you.
Dr. Zainy to former Iraqi Oil Minister Issam al Chalabi:

Dear Issam,

I sent the attached Arabic article of mine, which was circulated to all of you a few months ago and also got published, as you know, in Al-Sharqiyah newspaper and the Internet, including the Iraqi Parliament's website, to Dr. Hosham Dawod, a key organiser of this conference and who got attacked by this shameful article shown below which you kindly circulated to us. Dr. Hosham was very happy to receive the article, and he informed me that many copies of it will be printed and distributed to the guests, given that this article speaks bitterly of the proposed oil law and the Iraqi constitution itself. Besides, I can claim that almost all Iraqi invitees outside of the government are, in one way or another, against the draft Iraqi oil law and the Iraqi constitution the way they were written. The Paris conference would, indeed, be a very opportune forum for us to express our views frankly and boldly to all those high-ranking Iraqi politicians and decision makers concerning the drawbacks of the draft oil law and the crooked constitution that was trashed in the dark on the Iraqi people. For this writer to accuse people in this cheap manner and circulate laughable material cannot but harm our cause – and maybe his cause. I don't know when will some Iraqi politicians start behaving rationally and in a trust-worthy manner. It would at least be for the benefit of the cause they claim they are defending, if they tone down their rhetoric a bit and start speaking some sense. God help Iraq!!!



Dr. Kamil Al-adhadh's response to the accusations:

Dear Issam,

Dear Colleagues,

This is to comment on the circulated statement, issued by the so called Rafidayn Net . This, to me, is an evident case of prejudice and prejudgement; none of us have any relation, whatsoever, with the Organizers of the forthcoming Conference on Oil Policies, to be held in Paris. But whoever the Organizers might be, we do need a platform to refute their case for the Draft Oil & Gas Law as it stands. What matters is to present your case in an objective, scientific and patriotic exposition, defending the constitutional and sacred rights of our people! Now, it is really cheap to write from a conspiratorial mind; we are too mature and honest to be fooled by any one. Why don`t they wait till they read our papers, then judge if they are put to pass any explicit or implicit solicitation to so called " imperialists". Let them know that this way they practise terror, and indulge in the most backward form of dictatorial whip lashing which had always been inflicted upon us, all through our history . Let them know that we are incorruptible and we shall defend the legitimate rights of all our people; Arabs, Kurds, Turkuman, Assyrians, and others of all religions and sects; this we will never compromise , not for trillions of dollars. This is cheap propaganda! Anyway, we have addressed  the Iraqi Government and Members of Iraqi Parliament before; more so, some of our colleagues attended the Dubai Seminar; but that did not make any of us corrupted agents, etc. If those who make such claims are truly patriots, then they must stand by those who devote their knowledge, expertise, and venture their livelihood to stand up against all exploitation and foreign domination. Whoever issued that deceptive and false statement must be absolutely bankrupt. We will never waiver, we shall defend our national and just case anywhere, even in the USA itself. We,  (and I speak for myself and for those who I know of my colleagues), are not afraid, because we know, we are incorruptible and honest. So be it!!

Kamil Al-adhadh.


KSA bans the color red

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in its efforts to limit western influence and keep the Saudi people in line with their vision of how life should be lived, has banned the color RED.  Saudis caught with red roses may be punished.  I doubt the punishment would be severe, but the act of banning the color red for whatever reason seems incredibly silly to me and shows where the Kingdom's priorities are.  I feel sorry for ordinary Saudis.

Saudis Ban Red Roses Ahead of Valentine's Day

Morning Edition, February 12, 2008 · The "morals police" in Saudi Arabia are cracking down on the color of romance. As Valentine's Day approaches, authorities have banned all things red, especially red roses. The Saudi Gazette reports florists have been delivering bouquets under the cover of darkness to avoid being caught.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reinterpreting the Qur’an and Jihad

The Jihadists “Extrapolate” Islamic teachings

'Now those calling themselves “Jihadi Muslims” in Iraq, and some other places, are killing many innocent lives (without guilt according to the Qur’an), and they are killing other Muslims (Shiites) calling them apostate and giving themselves the authority to punish them and their relatives by death! More than that, these Jihadis, who are called terrorists by others, are killing themselves and therefore placing themselves face to face against the rules of the Qur’an which, as we have seen, prohibits the killing of self in very strong terms. How can they justify all these acts of murder?

One must look at the broader scene to see how these young people, motivated by fanatic scholars, have come to interpret the rulings of self-defense in the Qur’an to justify their current practice of suicide missions. If the Muslims were strong militarily and able to face their enemies in battle, even these fanatic scholars would have had no justification to interpret self-defense to include suicide operations. If these young men were not under the sway of Wahhabism, which is the only contemporary doctrine that permits killing other Muslims, they would not have considered other Muslims (particularly Shiites) as apostates. But Wahhabis are so intolerant that they consider the flimsiest of practices (such as clipping the beard, let alone shaving it) as reason enough to make a person become a non-Muslim or an apostate who should be liquidated without further deliberation! Visiting graves of relatives or religious figures is another deadly sin. At this juncture one cannot stop marveling on how the Saudi Royal Family could be adherents to the Wahhabi creed and at the same time keep such strong relations to the United States and other “infidel” Western countries! There seems to be a dichotomy in Saudi Arabia between what the government allows the Wahhabi clerics to do and say and between what the government itself is practicing in foreign relations.'

--Munaf Yassiri, What Is Happening in Iraq?

Qur'an forbids suicide

'The Qur’an states in numerous places that the two conditions to live a good life in this world and enter paradise in the Hereafter are: 1) To believe and 2) To perform good deeds.

Belief in Islam consists of a number of elements: belief in God, His angels, His sacred revelations, His Messengers (Prophets) and the Hereafter.

The good deeds are many. Paramount among them are: the performance of prayers, giving the poor dues, being kind to parents, helping next of kin, reconciliation between people, removal of harm from the path of others, etc. One distinct good deed is the Jihad (striving or struggling to do the best). Jihad has two main components: the struggle against the militant enemies of the faith (the lesser Jihad) and the struggle against the demons of self (the greater Jihad).

It is quite well known from the Islamic culture that to “die in the way of God”, i.e. defending the faith and repelling aggressors is one good deed which is highly commended and is considered one of the means to obtain God’s approval and hence an entry to paradise. According to the Qur’an, death in battle against the enemies of the faith is rewarded with paradise: “God has bought from the believers themselves and their possessions in exchange for paradise, that they fight in the way of God and therefore they may kill and get killed. This has been a true promise by Him given in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an, and who is more fulfilling of his promise than God? So rejoice in your transaction (with God) and this is verily the greatest of success” (111, 9). Another verse in the Qur’an that has the same meaning is the following: “O’ you who believe! Do you want me to guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment? Believe in God and his Prophet and struggle in the way of God with your possessions and yourselves, this is better for you if you only know. He will forgive your sins and make you enter gardens under which flow rivers, and desirable domiciles in the Gardens of Eden. This is indeed the greatest achievement.” (10-12, 61)

There are a number of other verses in the Qur’an that confirm what has been mentioned in these two quotes. However, it is significant to mention here the existence of other verses in the Qur’an, which condemn in the strongest terms the act of suicide:

“And do not kill yourselves, God is merciful with you. And whosoever does that (kills self) with aggression and inequity, we will make them suffer in Hell fire, and this is easy for God to do” (29-30, 4). In fact there are numerous verses in the Qur’an that prohibits killing any innocent creature. The clearest example is given below: “He who kills a person without (the latter) having killed another person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity, and he who makes one person survive, it is as if he has caused all humanity to survive” (32,5)

To summarize, the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet of Islam leave no doubt that basically human life is sacrosanct and should never be terminated except for strong reasons that are essential for maintaining justice, social peace and collective survival. The Qur’an has also very strong words for those who reject the faith of other Muslims and consider them apostates or non-believers for flimsy reasons: “He who deliberately kills a believer, then his domicile will be in Hell fire for eternity, and God will be angry with him and will curse him by preparing for him a great punishment” (93-4).'

--Muhaf Yassiri, What Is Happening in Iraq?


On the flight back to Boston today I noticed in my backpack a book that I read last summer: What Is Happening in Iraq? by Munaf Yassiri. I pulled it out and read that last couple of chapters, which discuss Wahhabism and suicide bombing, among other things. The author is brutally honest and puts blame where it belongs, including with the Americans and British. He discusses the history of Iraq, Gertrude Bell and the Shia resistance against British colonialism after World War I. The Shia rebels called themselves the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the same name taken by the Sunni insurgent group that fought US forces until recently. Yassiri says that the Shia rebellion of 1920 is why the British gave the Sunni Arabs control over Iraq.

Many parts of the book, which was published in 2006, are now outdated because a lot has changed in the last year, but much of the book is important nevertheless, and it is well worth a read (only 113 pages) if you can handle blunt criticism of the US and Britain. I transcribed a few paragraphs I read today and will post them because they are relevant to the discussion that's been taking place in the comments section.

This is on the back cover: "Since the American-British invasion on March 20, 2003, Iraq has been in turmoil. The Iraqi people's suffering under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein has now been extended by the remnants of his regime. The Saddam Baathists have currently embraced openly the al-Qaeda Wahhabi terrorists ostensibly to fight the occupation forces, but, for the most part, they have in fact joined forces to intimidate and terrorize the Shiite population who constitute the majority of Iraqis. They are trying by all brutal means to prevent the establishment of a true democracy reflecting the will of the majority of the population."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"We thought there would be freedom and democracy..."

"There is only fear and horror"

This is so sad. I would love to find the perpetrators of these crimes and beat the shit out of them before sending them to meet their Allah in person. Also read Neurotic Iraqi Wife's latest post. This must be stopped.

Violations of 'Islamic teachings' take deadly toll on Iraqi women

By Arwa Damon

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of women killed in brutal fashion -- some strangled to death, their faces disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture.

The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other "rules" that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce.

"Fear, fear is always there," says 30-year-old Safana, an artist and university professor. "We don't know who to be afraid of. Maybe it's a friend or a student you teach. There is no break, no security. I don't know who to be afraid of."

Her fear is justified. Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, is a stronghold of conservative Shia groups. As many as 133 women were killed in Basra last year -- 79 for violation of "Islamic teachings" and 47 for so-called honor killings, according to IRIN, the news branch of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

One glance through the police file is enough to understand the consequences. Basra's police chief, Gen. Abdul Jalil Khalaf, flips through the file, pointing to one unsolved case after another. Watch Khalaf show evidence of the brutality »

"I think so far, we have been unable to tackle this problem properly," he says. "There are many motives for these crimes and parties involved in killing women, by strangling, beheading, chopping off their hands, legs, heads."

"When I came to Basra a year ago," he says, "two women were killed in front of their kids. Their blood was flowing in front of their kids, they were crying. Another woman was killed in front of her 6-year-old son, another in front of her 11-year-old child, and yet another who was pregnant."

The killers enforcing their own version of Islamic justice are rarely caught, while women live in fear.

Boldly splattered in red paint just outside the main downtown market, a chilling sign reads: "We warn against not wearing a headscarf and wearing makeup. Those who do not abide by this will be punished. God is our witness, we have notified you."

The attacks on the women of Basra have intensified since British forces withdrew to their base at the airport back in September, police say. Iraqi security forces took over after British troops pulled back, but are heavily infiltrated by militias.

And tracking the perpetrators of these crimes is nearly impossible, Khalaf says, adding that he doesn't have control of the thousands of policemen and officers.

"We're trying to trace crimes carried out by an anonymous enemy," he says.

Amnesty International has raised concern about the increasing violence toward women in Iraq, saying abductions, rapes and "honor killings" are on the rise.

"Politically active women, those who did not follow a strict dress code, and women [who are] human rights defenders were increasingly at risk of abuses, including by armed groups and religious extremists," Amnesty said in a 2007 report.

Sometimes, it's just the color of a woman's headscarf that can draw unwanted attention.

"One time, one of my female colleagues commented on the color of my headscarf," Safana says. "She said it would draw attention ... [and I should] avoid it and stick to colors like gray, brown and black."

This extremist ideology enrages many secular Muslim women, who say it's a misrepresentation of Islam.

Sawsan, another woman who works at a university, says the message from the radicals to women is simple: "They seem to be sending us a message to stay at home and keep your mouth shut."

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Sawsan says, the situation was "the best." But now, she says, it's "the worst."

"We thought there would be freedom and democracy and women would have their rights. But all the things we were promised have not come true. There is only fear and horror."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The US Occupation of Germany

Today I had lunch with an older German American gentleman named Klaus. What a friendly fellow. Klaus met his American wife in American-occupied Germany in the late 60s. I wonder how many people know that the US has occupied Germany since the end of World War II. I have known about the US base Ramstein since my high school days, but I never gave it much thought until recently, until the US invasion of Iraq. Klaus told me that there are three big US bases in Germany, and in a Google search I discovered there are many US air bases in Germany. I asked Klaus how the German people felt about the US presence in his country. He said that at first, many nationalists were very opposed to it, but they didn't do anything extreme, like blow up a marketplace or government building. Nazi members who were known to have committed crimes were prosecuted. Klaus said that many city mayors had no choice but to be a member of the Nazi party, but they did not commit crimes, and therefore they were allowed to keep their jobs after the war. Eventually the German people accepted the US presence and actually came to depend on it economically.

Klaus said that the American sector of Germany was the best part of Germany to live in after the war. The British sector was second, the French a distant third. He said the Soviet-occupied DDR was by far the worst part. I learned from Klaus that DDR stands for Deutsche Demokratische Republik. A communist democratic republic! Imagine that. Klaus and his wife visited his relatives in the DDR in the late 70s - he said his wife was nervous during the entire trip because she had never experienced such political control - she was not comfortable in the DDR, and she was very happy to be back home in the USA. I first heard the term "DDR" in the movie Gotcha! I asked Klaus if he has seen this movie, and he said he's never heard of it, so I hope he and his wife watch it because I think his wife could relate to the main character, especially in the last scenes of the movie.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AQI getting desperate

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been training children, some as young as 10, to kill people. I think that this evidence, along with their use of women with Down syndrome, is a sign of desperation.

The people in charge of this sick operation could be Iraqis. During my last year in school (7th grade) in Baghdad, young members of the Ba3ath party often stopped at our school (about twice a month) to teach us the ways of the Ba3ath. One time they brought a couple of AK-47s with them and taught us how to fire them.

PS: "A U.S. military description of the video provided by Smith said one of the trainers spoke with an Iraqi accent."

But non-Iraqi Arabs (advocates of mass murder, no doubt) are part of this evil: "The written description said a narrator at one point spoke with an Egyptian accent."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

God Is Great

You may know that a debate about the Iraqi flag has been brewing on the Iraqi blogosphere. Nibras Kazimi has saluted the new Iraqi flag, which the Iraqi government recently approved as a temporary flag until the Iraqi people choose a permanent one. On the new flag the words "Allah Akbar" are printed in Kufic script, which is much more appropriate than Saddam's handwriting, in my opinion.

I have always been amazed by the number of times Muslims say "Allah Akbar" every day. It is part of the salat (daily prayer) after all. Arabs say "Allah Akbar" as an expression of hope and Iraqis also say "Allah Akbar" in response to horror and sadness, in a desperate attempt to ask for help from the Almighty. Self-proclaimed Muslims have often said "Allah Akbar" at the most inappropriate times, like when beheading people, or when detonating explosives passed by US troops and Iraqi security forces. It seems so wrong to yell "Allah Akbar" when murdering people.

As a secular Shi3i Iraqi American I have mixed feelings about the words "Allah Akbar" printed on the Iraqi flag. The biggest problem I have is that Saddam Hussein added those words to the flag in his handwriting. Zeyad (the atheist?) has posted Saddam's flag with Saddam's handwriting. Also look at Konfused Kid's amusing post, and look at CMAR II's post to see what the Iraqi flag looked like before the Baath party took over.

I am not surprised that the Iraqi government has decided to keep the words "Allah Akbar" on the Iraqi flag, given that most Iraqis are Muslim, and the current government is composed of many religious Muslims. Nor should it be surprising that the three stars are gone, because they represented the "unity" between Iraq, Syria, and Egypt - a big lie unless the only Iraqis are Sunni Arab. I do not blame the Kurds for not wanting to fly the Ba3thi flag.

Iraq has been through hell in the last 28 years. I hope and pray that peace will soon come to Iraq. I salute the new flag because the script is Kufic and because GOD IS GREAT.

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Oil For Food"

I just noticed how many links I have on my blog.  One of them is - I must admit that I do not visit this site often, and in fact this is probably the second or third time I looked at their site, and I was surprised to learn that today is Monday, 28 Muharram 1429 H 4 February 2008.  Also I learned (from their "Today In Iraqi History" feature, which needs to be updated) that on February 1, 1998, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for an increase in the amount of oil Iraq can sell under the UN-sponsored "Oil-for-Food" program.  I wonder if Kofi knew at the time about the corruption that was taking place under his nose.  Saddam built palaces; the Iraqi people got food rations. It seems unfair to me. 

"February 1, 1998 U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls for an increase in the amount of oil Iraq can sell under the U.N.-sponsored "Oil-for-Food" program"

PS: Compare the plight of the Iraqi people in the 1990s to the plight of Saddam Hussein: "A 1999 State Department study reported Saddam’s regime had spent $2.2 billion building about 48 palaces since the 1991 Gulf War. Some estimates put the total number of palaces between 70 and 80."

Sentenced to death for downloading women's rights report?

I saw this on lelly's blog: "He is going to die for downloading and reading an article on womens rights." Sign the petition"

I expect this kind of thing from the Taliban, not the Afghan Senate and a key ally of Hamid Karzai. "The Afghan Senate yesterday backed the death sentence handed to Mr Kambaksh. The motion was proposed by a Senator who is a key ally of President Karzai"

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Is suicide bombing not sectarian violence?

On Friday night while driving around Boston I was listening to NPR, and Terry Gross (I think) interviewed a BBC reporter in Baghdad to discuss the horrific bombings in which two women with Down syndrome were used to detonate explosives among dozens of innocent Iraqis. Terry talked about the changing tactics by insurgent groups. Terry said that suicide bombings have not killed nearly as many people as the sectarian violence has. I asked myself (I have asked this before) if suicide bombings are not sectarian violence. Is suicide bombing not the worst form of sectarian violence, since the victims always include women and children? Or does suicide bombing not fit the definition of "sectarian violence" because the victims may also be Sunni Arabs? Certainly there were Sunni Arabs (CHILDREN) among the dead and injured. Or is it sectarian violence only if the Shia militias strike back, killing innocent Sunni Arabs? No, I still contend that this is an example of sectarian violence. I still wonder what people are thinking when they say that the sectarian violence started after the bombing of the Askariya shrine.

PS: I just realized that the bombings at the pet markets were not suicide bombings - nobody actually committed suicide! I guess this was not clear at the time Terry did the interview Friday night. Still it is an example of sectarian violence, in my opinion, and so are most suicide bombings in Iraq.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The "resistance" strikes Iraqis

I wonder if the suicide bomber was "Safavid".  I wonder if her handlers are Shia. Do the bombers realize that this only prolongs the occupation?  Or is their goal only to make Iraqis hate the current government and long for the days of Saddam? Or is this just another strike at "apostates" on the anniversary (on the Islamic calendar) of the bombings of the Askariya shrine, similar to what happened last year?

Update: The AP reports "Remote-controlled explosives strapped to two mentally retarded women detonated in a coordinated attack on Baghdad pet bazaars Friday, Iraqi officials said, killing at least 73 people in the deadliest day since the U.S. sent 30,000 extra troops to the capital last spring."

Update II: Alaa the Mesopotamian has also posted about this horror.
Two bombs in busy Baghdad animal markets have killed at least 64 people.
The blasts, at least one of which was detonated by a female suicide bomber, came within 20 minutes of each other.

Friday morning's death toll was the city's highest since violence fell in the wake of a US troop surge in the second half of 2007.

Correspondents say a fragile sense of normality in the capital had followed significant security improvements since the troop surge.

A ceasefire announced in August by the Mehdi Army militia of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, as well as the emergence of local Sunni militia armed by the US military that took on al-Qaeda in Iraq, have also contributed to the sense of security.

Confidence shattered

But that renewed confidence could be shattered by Friday's deadly bombings, the worst to hit the Iraqi capital since three car bombs killed 80 people last 1 August.

The blasts came shortly before the call to Friday prayers when many Iraqis were out shopping or meeting friends.

The first device was detonated by a female suicide bomber at around 1020 local time (0720GMT) in the popular Ghazil animal market, killing at least 46 people and injuring a further 80.

A popular spectacle for Baghdadis, the animal market only opens on Fridays and regularly draws large crowds, despite having been targeted by bombers twice in 2007.

Piled into wheelbarrows

Just 20 minutes after the first explosion, a second bomb tore through another crowded market in the Jadida area of east Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and injuring 30.

Map of Baghdad city

Police and medical officials piled the dead and injured into wheelbarrows, cars and the back of pick-up trucks to be transported to five hospitals across the city.

An official at the capital's Kindi hospital said at least 30 bodies had been received.

"We have a disaster here," he said. "There are too many bodies to count."