Nightmares in Baghdad
IT is not easy to get the truth these days about what's happening in Iraq. The US and British media are inclined to give us what they are told by the governments and the military. Independent journalists who tried to get closer to what was really happening have been targetted.
Iraqis who have been invited to address western audiences have difficulty getting visas, and if they do get here, don't get the kind of media coverage or hearing they deserve.
The huge anti-war movement has been weakened in response by leaders' reluctance to go beyond simple slogans and raise awareness (starting with their own) about the different political and social forces unleashed in Iraq. This has been exploited by US and British imperialism's camp followers among the union bureaucrats and professional chatterers, particularly deserters from the liberal left, to smear the peace movement as "Saddamists", "Islamo-fascists" etc while prettyfying the imperialist occupation, claiming it has delivered "democracy" to Iraq.
Three years ago, before the invasion began, the Observer columnist and one-time left Nick Cohen wrote challenging peace campaigners to explain to Kurds and left-wing Iraqis why they must continue to suffer under Saddam Hussein. The left was saying nothing of the sort of course; and I wrote to the Observer and to Cohen pointing out that if he had come down to the street he could have spoken to plenty of left-wing Iraqis and Kurds on the march that weekend, and learned that they were against their country being bombed and invaded, and also against Saddam Hussein. My letter was not printed and nor did I get a reply. (I did hear from Cohen since then, asking if I would be willing to help with a book he was writing about the Left. I told him he'd have to do without my help).
As Oscar Wilde said, the truth is seldom plain and never simple. If we want to know what's really happening and who is doing what, we have to use our intelligence, to be alert, and take every opportunity to learn from those who know, and have no reason to hide the truth. That means particularly Iraqis, those whose aspirations for their people are not that different from ours, and who are neither compromised by the previous regime or the collaborationists installed now.
Iraq Occupation Focus, with scant resources and no full-time workers, has done much to facilitate visits and spread awareness in Britain, bringing Iraqis like oilworkers' leader Hassan Jouma'a (as well incidentally as US military families and veterans against the war).
At a recent IOF meeting Hani Lazim spoke about "Democracy in Iraq and the Scheme for Continued Occupation', and revealed some interesting facts about so-called "sectarian attacks" and provocations, such as the Samarra mosque bombing and its aftermath, that have not made the British news media.
Besides its valued teach-ins, IOF is holding a major public meeting in London on June 16.
Among Iraqis living here who make a special contribution to our understanding is writer Haifa Zangana, who spent time in prison under Saddam Hussein's regime, but has no illusions about the 'freedom' Iraq is supposed to be enjoying now. A Channel Four documentary last week showed Iraqi women suffering hardships and terror even in their own homes.
Here is a comment from Haifa Zangana that follows up:
The nightmares that fill the Baghdad night
May 10, 2006 06:15 PM
Iraq: the Women's Story was shown on Channel 4 last night. To protect the identity of the filmmaker, who lives in Baghdad and fears reprisals, she was given the name Zeina. Zeina had sent me an email before the film was shown, saying:
I hope this letter finds you very well, also your family. I am writing to tell you that the film on the Iraqi woman is going to be shown today. I am interested in your opinion.
Best and greetings, Zeina.
Immediately after watching the film, I emailed her my opinion. I received
two replies. The first was brief:
I am happy you find it excellent. Thanks, Zeina.
PS: Intisar's brother was killed. She found his body in the hospital's fridge. He was slaughtered. She said that she is leaving. Well, sorry to tell you this, but you know how the situation is.
Intisar is the pharmacist who accompanied Zeina while shooting the film in Qaiem. I did not reply. I could not. Words, just like Iraqi young men, went missing. Kidnapped, shot in the head, killed, slaughtered , tortured, drilled, bound and gagged, bodies, disappeared ... Silence replaced emotions. Silence became our way to mourn our dead: brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands and children; our unnamed, uncounted dead. Unless ...
Despite my silence, I received her second email this morning:
Thank you, Haifa, I am happy that you still have hope. The resistance, and the spirit of resistance, will go on. History says so. But it tears my heart every moment to see the wonderful Iraqi young men slaughtered like sheep - even worse, like insects. It tortures me, like all Iraqi mothers, to wait by seconds for my daughters to come back home from college. Nightmares fill our nights. And what is there on the horizon? Nothing. Just dark, bleak pictures of smaller, powerless, backward entities controlled by you-know-who ... This is the future of Iraq ... Actually, there will be no more Iraq: they have to find another name. I wish I could have more hope; at least to feel better than I do. But I read almost all the Iraqi papers every day. I listen to people talk, and I watch. It is difficult for me to find hope in what I see. As a woman, I can tell you that we have no hope, no matter what. Sorry again for this very down feeling. I wrote this reply yesterday very late at night but decided not to send it. I thought that maybe I would feel better in the morning and write in a better way. But it was not the night: it was the reality, which is darker than Baghdad's night these days.
Well, I think you already know what I've just said.
Despite her "very down feeling", I know that Zeina will continue her work. She is one of the few independent journalists still working in Iraq defying the occupation forces as well as their puppet regime, with its sectarian and ethnic militias. More than 100 Iraqi journalists have been killed since the invasion in March 2003. Women journalists, academics, and doctors have not been spared. Sabah Ali, an independent Iraqi journalist who reports occasionally for the Brussells Tribunal, wrote on May 8:
The Iraqi journalists union published a report and lists of the Iraqi journalists killed in the last three years. The list took five months of working on the ground, documenting when, where, how and by whom the journalists were killed. It is as follows: 69 journalists were killed by militias or unknown armed men; 21 were killed in explosions or fighting; 17 were shot by the American troops; and two were shot by the Iraqi troops.
Sabah Ali also provides us with a list of names of the killed journalists with detailed information regarding the circumstances of their deaths.
On October 27 2004, Liqa Abdul Razaq, a newsreader at al-Sharqiya TV, was shot with her two-month-old baby in the Aldoura district of Baghdad; Layla al-Saad, dean of law at Mosul University, was slaughtered in her house; Maha Ibrahim, editor in chief of Baghdad TV, was killed on July 3 2005, shot by US military gunfire.
The Iraqi journalist Raeda Mohammed Wageh Wazzan of the regional public TV station Iraqiya was found dead on February 25, five days after masked gunmen had kidnapped her and her son in the centre of the northern city of Mosul. She was shot in the head.
The cruel murder of Atwar Bahjat, one of the country's top television journalists, was the latest.
Those women were killed for giving a voice to the voiceless, but other women are differently abused in the "new Iraq". Under the democracy that is still so highly acclaimed by Bush and Blair, women face arrest just for complaining.
Here is an example: On May 3, US forces arrested Sanaa al-Badri, a woman doctor, in Dhuluiya, 25 miles north of Baghdad, a day after she accused US forces of stealing $4,000 (£2,145) in gold during a raid on her house, officials said.
- Iraq Occupation Focus public meeting on Friday 16 June at 7pm will feature Anthony Arnove, author of The Logic of Withdrawal, with writer and activist Tariq Ali and Glen Rangwala who exposed the Blair government's 'dodgy dosssier' on WMDs. (last speaker to be confirmed).
- The meeting will be in the Main Hall at the Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, nearest tubes Warren Street or Great Portland Street.