Press conferences details abuse and torture by Iraqi security forces

The Common Ills


March 15, 2011

Kutaiba Hamid (Al Mada) reports that a press conference was held yesterday by the February Youth Movement (young Iraqi activists) at the Women’s Association Hall in Baghdad to detail the way Iraqi forces are torturing protesters and journalists. Journalist Ali Abdul-Zahra was taken by Iraqi forces after covering the protests earlier this month. He and three youth protesters were taken to the Eight Brigade’s Baghdad headquarters where they were all four tortured with wooden sticks and electrical wires. Hanaa Edwar noted that if they do not stand up to it now, it will be the normal and it will effect every Iraqi. Youth protester Shawkat al-Bayati stated that the press conference was not about demands but about putting into the light these abuses. He likened the current conduct to that of the previous regime (Saddam Hussein’s). New Sabbah covers the press conference and notes that the activists called for an end to silence. Youth activist and bodybuilder Mohammed Kazem David spoke of how he was pounced upon by two security forces who stated they were with the intelligence division of the Ministry of the Interior and they forced him to sign a statement after they tortured him, doing damage to his leg, to his ear and tearing ligaments in both of his hands. In another report, Kutaiba Hamid (Al Mada) details Ali Abdul-Zahra’s statements which note, “Without any charge against me and without any court order, I was held just for covering the demonstration, being present as a reporter. At half past noon, I was detained on Saadoun Street and after I had identified myself and explained I was a journalist, I was informed this would not help me.” Along with others, he was taken to the Eight Brigade-Third Regiment and then to another regiment. “They beat us and they took photos of us and a colonel told the soldiers to get the [electric] cables while the soldiers beat us on the sensitive parts of our bodies and insulted us in vulgar terms, calling us homosexuals. The Colonel told us, ‘You want democracy and freedom, I’ll show you democracy and freedom.'” And the beating continued.

I’m confused. Where is the US press? Why is this not on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, et al?

In other Iraq protest news, New Sabah reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared yesterday he will not meet with any government official until the demands of the protesters are met. He did meet with a member of the National Alliance on Friday; however, that visit was supposed to be based on passing on medical news. Al Mada adds that al-Sistani reportedly refused Ibrahim al-Jaafari (also of the National Alliance and a former prime minister of the country). Meanwhile Ali Hussein (Al Mada) pens an opinion piece warning that Saleh al-Mutlaq (Iraqiya) cannot be trusted and that, basically, al-Mutlaq offers meaningless crocodile tears for the protesters because he is part of the problem that created Iraq’s current climate.

As you read about the torture of protesters and journalists by Iraqi forces, you may wonder why the hell the US is still in Iraq? You may wonder it more if you read this article from Al Mada which explains that Mark Meevid with the US Embassy in Baghdad has explained on Al Sumaria TV that the US will do nothing to protect Iraqis from arrests or torture.

Why is the US staying in Iraq?

Why are Robert Gates, James Jeffrey, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama insisting billions are needed for this year (and for the next ten — though the press has trouble reporting that, doesn’t it?)? What’s the point of it?

Is the US supposed to be propping up a government they know is guilty of widespread abuse?

Are US tax payers supposed to pay for that?

The Beggar Media’s just not interested in Iraq. The corporate media appears to have largely given up as a result of not having any thing they can even spin into good news.

Egyptian protesters get press coverage, fawning press coverage, from the US. They get congratulated and praised. All three commercial broadcast networks send reporters (and anchors!) to Egypt. PBS and NPR send correspondents (Steve Inskeep is currently in Egypt). Cable news sends in the press.

But in Iraq, occupied Iraq where the illegal war continues, when Iraqis try to stand up against corruption and torture and secret prisons (torture and secret prisons were the reasons the original protests took place in Iraq this year), they’re on their own. They don’t have the mighty US press backing them up. They don’t have anyone congratulating them. And Nouri can order them tortured and imprisoned and get away with it as a result.

Egypt was America’s feel-good moment as a bunch of worthless arm chair zealots self-stroked for days and days over the easy press. In Iraq, a non-stop human tragedy, people show much more bravery, much more courage and are attacked for it and no one’s interested.

How very fortunate, as Helen Thomas pointed out last week, for Barack.

Well maybe there’s good news out of Parliament? New Sabbah reports that the Parliament has just discovered 22 billion dinars has vanished in various cities in various provinces. David Ali (Al Mada) reports that bickering plagues Parliament. Zainab Suncor (Al Mada) adds that the al-Sadr bloc in Parliament is blocking the move to create three vice presidents. Iraq still has no official vice presidents. An attempt by Jalal Talabani to create four positions was blocked by the Parliament (his fourth would have been a female Turkman). With that shot down, now it appears the three vice presidents plan is shot down as well. Which may mean that they will stick with naming just two. You would think this could have been established long ago, during the long, long political stalemate, for example.

More bad news. While Nouri’s denied repeatedly the existence of secret prisons, Dar Addustour reports that members of Parliament’s Commission Human Rights visited a secret prison in the Green Zone and are calling for it to be closed — many of the prisoners have been held for years. AP reports that the Minister of Justice’s spokesperson is stating that “Camp Honor” will be shut down. New Sabbah quotes the spokesperson stating that the prison runs “contrary to international human rights standards.”

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:: Article nr. 75887 sent on 15-mar-2011 22:06 ECT



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