Saturday, April 08, 2006
The following is from La Via Campesian.
International day of peasants’ struggle
In 1996 La Via Campesina April 17th the International Day of Peasant Struggle)* because of the Massacre in Carajas-Brazil. Since then La Via Campesina and its member organisations have worked together with other movements to organize strong mobilisations and actions against neo-liberal policies.
Last year in December, 2005, in Hong Kong we succeeded in applying much pressure on the WTO Ministerial through actions in Hong Kong and back home in our countries. The WTO achieved a minimal deal that represented much less than original expectations. Many organisations mobilised against Free Trade Agreements and in Latin America peoples’ protests successfully led to a stop of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
In March of this year in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the governments that came together for the International FAO Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development did not confirm the neo-liberal policies for Agrarian Reform put forward by the World Bank and instead, they opened up spaces for alternative approaches.
Also in March, 2006, the governments that came together in Curitiba – Brazil did not accept the introduction of terminator technology (sterile seeds) despite heavy pressure by the corporate lobby.
The destructive effects of neo-liberal policies are getting clearer and support for alternative policies is growing. Therefor,e our ongoing mobilisation and action is crucial and has to be strengthened. We have to continue to fight against the liberalisation of markets, the privatisation of natural resources, , and the introduction of GMOs and technologies such as terminator. We need to struggle for access to and control over resources such as, among others, land, water, and seeds.
Therefore, La Via Campesina calls for action and mobilisation around the following issues at the occasion of April 17th, 2006:
Implementation of Genuine Agrarian Reform programs in order to implement the decisions taken by the governments during the FAOConference. The final declaration of the FAO Conference committed governments to the « Establishment of appropriate agrarian reform mainly in areas with strong social disparities, poverty and food insecurity, as a means to broaden sustainable access to and control over land and related resources.” These and other parts of the official declaration oblige governments to implement effective programs for genuine agrarian reform. A first occasion where governments can take joint steps to concretize this agenda is September 2006 during the FAO Special Conference.
Derail the WTO and other Free Trade Agreements: put pressure on your governments not to accept any deal as any deal will be a bad deal! In the WTO governments are attempting to finalize the Doha Round the end of April or the beginning of May and to come together during the General Council Meeting in Geneva on May 15-16. At this stage it is crucial to increase pressure on national governments and demand that they protect domestic food production against low priced imports and to stop dumping practices.. This last point concerns especially the big exporters such as the European Union, the United States and Brazil.
Stop GMOs and related technologies: No GMOs in agriculture and a definite ban on terminator technologies. In Curitiba, a strong campaign against terminator stopped the governments from introducing this technology. Now we have to continue to push for a definite ban on terminator technologies and roll back on the cultivation of GMO crops. One of the key targets here is Monsanto. Monsanto must understand that they cannot continue to contaminate and destroy our natural resources!
Stop the criminalisation of, and violence against, peasant organizations. m. In Lombok, Indonesia, the local police shot at a gathering of 1000 peasants in order to disperse it; in South Korea police violence led to the killing of members of the Korean Peasant League; and in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the women’s organisation MMC is being criminalised for an action against the cellulose company Aracruz. And, after 10 years of impunity for the perpetrators of the massacre in Carajas, the MST is launching again a broad campaign to denounce this and to stress the importance of agrarian reform.
Let’s globalise the struggle,
let’s globalise hope!
INTERNATIONAL CO-ORDINATING COMMITTEE
OF VIA CAMPESINA
)* The massacre of 19 members of the Landless Movement in Brazil (MST) occurred on April 17, 1996, during the second International Conference of Via Campesina that was being held in Tlaxcala in Mexico. Each year around this date, all over the world, groups and organisations mobilize and stage actions in the struggle for peasants’ rights.
If you want to receive all the information on the 17th of April please subscribe to the list by sending a blank message to email@example.com
If you need more information for an action in your country you can also write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fore more information on the mobilisations and actions in
Hong Kong-WTO, Porto Alegre, Curitiba see www.viacampesina.org
Final declaration FAO Conference in Porto Alegre: see www.icarrd.org and for the final declaration of the NGO-CSO parallel Forum http://www.foodsovereignty.org/new/
For the campaign against terminator see http://www.banterminator.org/
More info from MST on Carajas : see http://www.mst.org.br/campanha/carajas/carajas.htm
For more information on WTO see www.ourworldisnotforsale.org and on FTAs see www.bilaterals.org.
As you know the struggle for democracy in Nepal has intensified again during the past few days. A general strike has received widespread popular support as rumors swirl that the King has issued shoot to kill orders.
Nepal's seven main political parties have joined with Maoist insurgents to call for a four-day nationwide strike from Thursday and a day of protest on Saturday, April 8, the day multi-party democracy was established 16 years ago in the Himalayan nation. The government of King Gyanendra has banned rallies in Kathmandu, the center of the campaign, and vowed to crush any protests.
The following comes from the blog Lokatantra (Lokatantra means democracy. This is a trilingual - English, Nepali and Japanese - blog dedicated to the aspiration of Nepali people for a lasting peace and an inclusive democracy).
Royal regime killed two more peaceful demonstrators
Nepal Solidarity Update 3, April 8, 2006
Pokhara - As the general strikes called by the Seven Political Party Alliance enters into third day, the royal regime is further intensifying its brutal attack to the peaceful demonstrators. This morning, one more pro-democracy activist was shot dead by the Royal Nepal Army in Pokhara (200 km west of Kathmandu). Bhimsen Dahal, 32 year old and a member of CPN (UML), was killed by the security personnel while he was taking part in the peaceful demonstration this morning. The military bullets killed Mr. Dahal at the spot and seriously injured six other demonstrators including Gangadhar Baral and it is reported that their conditions are serious. The shooting in Pokhara was taken place when king Gyanendra himself was in Pokhara.
Chitawan - a large demonstration was carried out in Bharatpur, Chitawan where security personnel indiscriminately opened fire and killed a women demonstrator and injured many. It is reported that around 100,000 people participated the protest march (it is reported that it was one of the largest demonstrations in these weeks) in Bharatpur which also broke the security obstacles in various places. When the marchers were reached at the main chowk, the security personnel opened fire without warning and brutally killed a women activist.
Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur - Defying the curfew order imposed by the royal regime in Kathmandu, a demonstration was held in Kalanki Kathmandu and Modanath Prashrit and Dr. Pushpa Kandel of CPN (UML) and one member of Nepali Congress were arrested from the demonstration. Similarly, demonstration was also carried out in Maitidevi where security personnel open fire and injured 55 demonstrators. Among the injured 15 were arrested from Maitidevi including Tanka Paneru. At Chabahil – Chuchhepati another demonstration was held and police used teargas and lathi to disperse the march and arrested Mr. Ram Babu three others. At Gangabu area large demonstration was carried out and police opened fire and arrested Ashok Ghimire, Nireshlal Singh, Ms Devi Phuyal and Prem Silwal. ANNFSU – one of the largest students organization of Nepal organized a demonstration at Bagbazaar to defy the curfew order this morning. 10 students leaders including president Khimlal Bhattarai, General Secretary Thakur Gaire, Secretary Yagya Sunwar, Secretary were arrested from the demonstration. Meanwhile, people of Patan today again chased away the security personnel from the inner city area and held demonstrations at Magnal Bazaar defying the curfew order. In Bhaktapur also demonstration is being organized challenging the government's curfew order.
Dailekh - Demonstration was also held in Dailekh where clashes occurred with the security personnel and 42 demonstrators were arrested.
Surkhet - Protest march was also carried out in Surkhet and clashes occurred where Distirict administration imposed curfew after the clashes.
Janakpur – Over 15000 thousand people took part in the protest marchin Janakpur where the marchers forced the security forces to retreat from their barricades in the city.
Nepalgunj - Thousands of people joined the protest rally in Nepalgunj defying the security restrictions.
Sunsari – Protest marches are also carrying out in Dharan this afternoon.
Jhapa – Demonstrations are being carried out in Damak, Birtamod, Chandragadhi and Dhulabari. In Dhamak demonstrations over 12 thousand people marched in the main city and broke the security barricades.
To mark the historic day (April – 8 democracy day), protest programs were also organized in Kavre, Parbat, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Hetauda and many other districts. Over thousand participants were arrested from those demonstrations.
Call for defy curfew: Meanwhile two parties – CPN (UML) and Nepali Congress of Seven Party Alliance have issued separate statements urging people to actively participate the protest march defying all the restrictions including the curfew order.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Hugo Chavez just drives the US Administration nuts. It's no wonder. He's helping out poor people and poor nations. We can't have that. Anyway, check out the article below which comes from Ted Rall Online.
The Danger of Hugo Chávez's Successful Socialism
NEW YORK--When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries' treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud's case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela's oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering.
As the United States and Europe continue their shift toward a Darwinomic model where rapacious corporations accrue bigger and bigger profits while workers become poorer and poorer, the socialist economic model espoused by President Hugo Chávez has become wildly popular among Latin Americans tired of watching corrupt right-wing leaders enrich themselves at their expense. Left-of-center governments have recently won power in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez's uncompromising rhetoric matches his politics, but what's really driving the American government and its corporate masters crazy is that he has the cash to back it up.
In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chávez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chávez's use of oil revenues is unfair--even cheating somehow: "With Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year," the paper exclaimed, "Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America."
Chávez, the story continued, is poised to become "the next Fidel Castro, a hero to the masses who is intent on opposing every move the United States makes, but with an important advantage."
Heavens be! A rich country using its wealth to spread influence abroad! What God would permit such an abomination? Notice, by the way, that the United States funds "development programs." Oh, and it's a "drug war"--not a bombing campaign against leftist insurgents who oppose South America's few remaining pro-U.S. right-wing regimes.
Quoted by the Times--which editorialized in favor of and ran flattering profiles of the right-wing oligarchs who attempted to overthrow Chávez in a 2002 coup attempt--is "critic" John Negroponte, whose day job happens to be as Bush's Director of National Intelligence. Negroponte complained that Chávez is "spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country."
Pot, kettle, please discuss the $1 billion a week we're wasting on Iraq while people die for lack of medical care and schools fall apart right here in America. Maybe Chávez should have found a better use for the money he spent on Rio's Carnival parade. On the other hand, at least it didn't go to bombs and torture camps.
Televangelist Pat Robertson's 2005 call to assassinate Chávez was criticized only mildly by establishment media, and primarily on the basis that murdering heads of state violates a U.S. law. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Chávez of a "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain." Which ones? Certainly not Venezuela itself, where a double-digit-GDP boom leads the region and new houses, $10 billion per year is banked for future anti-poverty programs and schools are sprouting like weeds.
Loaded language unworthy of a junior high school newspaper is the norm in coverage of the Venezuelan president. "Chavez insists his government is democratic and accuses Washington of conspiring against him," the San Jose Mercury-News wrote on April 3rd. Why the "insists"? No international observer doubts that Venezuela, where the man who won the election gets to be president, is at least as democratic as the United States. The 2002 coup plotters gathered beforehand at the White House. Surely the Merc could grant Chávez's "accusation" as fact. The paper continued: "He says the United States was behind a short-lived 2002 coup, an allegation that U.S. officials reject." He also happens to be right, though it's hard to tell by reading that sentence.
Eighty-two percent of Venezuelans think Chávez is doing a good job. That's more than twice the approval rating by Americans of Bush. He roundly defeated an attempt to recall him. So why is Washington lecturing Caracas?
"The [Venezuelan] government is making billions of dollars [from its state oil company] and spending them on houses, education, medical care," notes CNN. And--gasp--people's lives are improving.
What if the rest of us noticed? No wonder Chávez has to go.
(Ted Rall is the editor of "Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists," an anthology of webcartoons which will be published in May.)
American Indians face racism every day. Towns that border reservations (left) can be some of the worst bastions of anti-Indian bigotry.
Reporter Jodi Rave recently wrote , "Hundreds of border towns surround the 300 reservations in the United States. These towns wouldn't survive without the millions of dollars pumped into the economy from nearby tribal governments and reservation residents. Tension often runs high between Indians and non-Indians in these areas."
Rave cites the town of Winner which is just east of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation as typical of such border towns.
"The treatment received by Native American students in Winner and throughout the region is completely different than that of their white counterparts," said Jennifer Ring, executive director of ACLU of the Dakotas.
"These experiences demonstrate the reasons why Native American children so often fail to reach graduation -- hostility of peers, discrimination of school officials and knee-jerk police involvement."
In these towns Indians of all ages are treated like second-class citizens. They get shabby service at restaurants. They get followed around stores. They get arrested more often. They get kicked out of school more often.
The following article was printed in the Missoulian. The second article is from Montana Kaimin On Line.
Conference explores racism in cities near reservations
By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian
It's an equation that makes sense only in a perverse sort of way: The more Indians exercise their sovereignty and civil rights, the more racist backlash they receive.
And nowhere is that more true than in the so-called border towns that lie on the outskirts of America's Indian reservations. Towns like Rapid City, S.D., and Farmington, N.M. Towns like Missoula, Billings and Great Falls.
“When you exercise your rights, that's when you're most often subject to backlash,” Stephen Pevar, a national staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday at a Missoula conference put on by the Blackfeet nation.
Even worse, Indians who live in those border towns often suffer from what one speaker called “abused community syndrome.”
“If you live in Yuma, Arizona, for instance, you don't expect to have the same rights that people have elsewhere,” said John Dulles, regional director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Denver.
And once that expectation takes hold - that you are a second-class citizen - it starts to become true, Dulles said.
“You expect to be hassled, and you are,” he said.
The civil rights conference, which runs through Friday, is the first of its kind in Montana and looks to illuminate the problems of border-town racism and find solutions. One of the conference's organizers, Rodney Gervais, called it “a new beginning for Indians.” And keynote speaker Iris Pretty Paint, who works in research and development at the University of Montana, said the job of fighting racism is “work that will never be done.”
Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger attended the conference early Wednesday and told conference attendees that “there is a place at our table for you.”
Racism, Bohlinger said, “is a crime against all of us, and we should all be offended.”
Though many see racism in its most obvious incarnations - offensive comments, violence, isolation - it exists in more subtle and sometimes more powerful forms. For instance, said Ray Cross, a professor at the University of Montana School of Law, consider the current discussion of limiting the rights of Indians to lobby Congress on gambling issues.
That's a direct response to the Jack Abramoff scandal that has targeted the misdeeds of lobbyists and members of Congress, but now also threatens Indians' very right of petitioning the government, Cross said.
Indians, Cross said, might be seen as the canary in the coal mine of civil rights. If Indians' rights, treaty agreements and overall aspirations are seen as too burdensome, “they will be the first to be shed.” Protecting those rights will require constant vigilance, Cross said.
But he also urged a more powerful sense of independence for Indians, a return to the power tribes held before they found themselves disenfranchised by the federal government. He urged Indians to exercise their political, economic and social freedoms by being true to their cultures, by being educated, by being politically active.
Dulles picked up the economic theme, talking about the power Indians can wield in border towns that happily take their money yet still mistreat them. He said, for instance, that 93 cents of every dollar spent by residents of the Navajo reservation is spent off the reservation. What if the Navajo used that economic power to reconfigure the balance of power in those towns? Dulles said.
“What you find in the border communities is an inequality in the balance of power,” Dulles said. “Indians don't feel important in those towns.”
But they could be, if they wielded their economic and political power, he said. A boycott of stores in border towns might be effective, Dulles said, because Americans understand the power of the pocketbook.
Dulles said reservations should have a place where residents can leave reports about their interactions with businesses and other organizations off the reservation. Then, on a regular basis, tribes could report on the issues their residents face when they leave the reservation, Dulles said.
Although Dulles said racism is still a huge problem in border towns, he finds a sense of hope in changes he has seen in some of those towns. Farmington, N.M., suffered a major tragedy when three Navajo were beaten to death by white high school students in 1974. Faced with the magnitude of what happened, Farmington set itself on the slow road to better relations between the town and the reservation.
“I think towns that have had to confront these problems directly have found reason to change,” he said.
In fact, most of Wednesday's speakers found reason for hope.
“I really believe that you're onto something here,” Dulles said.
Said Pretty Paint: “That hope, that optimism, is here. I can feel it.”
The conference continues on Thursday and Friday at the Holiday Inn Parkside.
Missoula conference to address racism
Contributed by Zachary Franz/Montana Kaimin
It’s an ugly idea, and something we’d like to think doesn’t exist in Montana. Or, at least, not in the liberal, cosmopolitan bastion that is Missoula.
But American Indians face racism every day, especially in towns near the state’s seven reservations, said Rodney Gervais, who lives on the Blackfoot Reservation in northwest Montana. And Missoula — 25 miles south of the Flathead Reservation — falls into that category.
Gervais is the chairman of a conference addressing that very issue. That conference, “Border Town Racism: Bringing Civil Rights to Indian Country,” begins today and continues through Friday. It includes a full slate of lectures and presentations by prominent Indians and civil rights experts, and will be held in Missoula’s Holiday Inn Parkside.
Discrimination Gervais experience in Cut Bank spurred him to plan the conference, he said. After being pulled over by non-native officers in that town, his car was confiscated and towed away because the officers did not believe it was properly registered, Gervais said. He eventually filed and won a lawsuit based on the incident, but a bitter taste remained in his mouth.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was the victim of discrimination,” he said.
Gervais went to college in Missoula, and enjoyed his time here.
“Missoula was a model for the rest of the state,” he said.
Though he still considers Missoula a relatively tolerant community, he said there is some concern in the American Indian community that things are getting worse, especially among law enforcement.
“Some racial profiling has come to our attention,” he said.
Specifically, Gervais pointed to the case of Wilbert Fish. Fish, a Blackfoot Indian, was charged with rape after an officer reported seeing him sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at a Missoula nightclub. Fish was later exonerated, partially because of what Gervais considered overwhelming video evidence demonstrating Fish’s innocence.
“His rights were clearly violated,” Gervais said. “We’re standing back and looking at (the case) real close.”
Fish’s father, Wilber Fish Sr., agrees. He believes his son was targeted at Club Cabo because he was the only American Indian there. Because of the perceived injustice, Fish Sr. has planned a protest march in conjunction with the conference.
Though difficult to quantify, racism is alive and well even in Missoula, said Kathryn Shanley, University of Montana Native American Studies chair and an Assiniboine Indian.
“The kind of discrimination that occurs in those towns around reservations is probably worse than anywhere else,” she said. “And Missoula is a border town.”
Shanley’s own experience with racism has been close to home.
“My son is a student at Hellgate High, and he tells me about the fights he sees and the things people say to him,” she said.
Furthermore, American Indians who face criminal charges are more likely to be convicted, receive longer sentences, and serve more of their sentences, she said.
“They tend to be guilty until proven innocent,” Shanley said.
Such institutional racism is difficult to prove, but it does appear to exist, said Maylinn Smith, director of the Indian Law Clinic at UM.
“That would be my assessment, but statistics are hard to come by,” she said.
Though racism may exist in Missoula, Loren Lewis, who hails from the Fort Belknap Reservation, is happy the conference is here.
“I love Missoula,” he said. “It’s liberal. It’s cool.”
Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about FEMA along comes this release from the American Federation of Government Employees.
FEMA Workers Union Fights to Protect Whistleblower
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has filed a Whistleblower Protection Act complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel because of threats to terminate an agency employee who recently leaked an internal agency memo to Congress. Last month AFGE Local 4060, which represents employees at FEMA headquarters, provided members of the House and Senate with an internal FEMA memo indicating racial bias in the agency's hiring and promotion practices. A senior FEMA official subsequently told AFGE that the person who leaked the memo would be fired.
"Harassment and intimidation of whistleblowers is a violation of federal
law. AFGE is a protector of those courageous government employees who step
forward to challenge wrongdoing and hold our government accountable to the
people," said AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Andrea
AFGE Local 4060 President Leo Bosner called the threats "shameful" and
"wrongheaded." Bosner long has been an advocate for decisive action to
correct problems within FEMA and reestablish deteriorated capabilities.
Following Hurricane Katrina last year, Bosner worked as a whistleblower
himself, providing the public with an invaluable perspective on what went
wrong with the preparation for and response to Katrina.
"FEMA's problems must be corrected, not covered up. FEMA needs to promote
the most capable employees to key positions and hire experienced emergency
management professionals to reduce the number of vacancies. Personnel
decisions must be based on merit, not on connections and irrelevant factors.
Didn't we learn from Katrina that competence and ability matter?" said Bosner.
Bosner says the union also will file charges with the Federal Labor
AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in
the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. AFGE
represents the largest constituency of DHS employees, including personnel
comprising Customs & Border Protection, Border Patrol, Citizenship and
Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center, FEMA, TSA and U.S. Coast Guard.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
There is an odd side battle going on in the middle east between Hamas and Al Qaeda. In a video aired not long ago by Al-Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahri called for jihad, or holy war, to reclaim Palestinian lands and implied al-Qaida’s support for Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel despite international pressure since the militant Islamic group swept parliamentary elections in January.
However, in what was seen by some as criticism of Hamas for running in elections, al-Zawahri said: "Entering with those who have sold Palestine, the legislative council, and recognising their selling, stands against Islam."
Zawahiri chastised those in Hamas who might seek compromise for political gain, even if the compromise is only temporary. His alternative? “Well,” he said, “it is the path of the prophets and messengers, the path of da'wah [Islamic call] and jihad; da'wah for the pure faith and jihad in its name until the land is liberated and the Muslim caliphate emerges, God willing.” Meanwhile leaflets were scattered across southern Gaza by “The Army of Jihad and Preventing Corruption” that praised Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
A Hamas official in Gaza, speaking on condition of anonymity because the movement did not want to formally respond to al-Zawahri’s support, said: “Hamas believes that Islam is completely different to the ideology of Mr. al-Zawahri.”
Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, said, "We are not a movement that labels people infidels or that abandons them. We are a movement that lives the realities of the people and that uses wisdom ... to turn them to Islam," he said.
Hamas has been viewed by Al Queda according to some, as part of Palestinian nationalism, conducting a “Jihad for the Homeland” instead of a “Jihad for Allah.” They say that for many supporters of global Jihad, Hamas is also an obstacle in the way of infiltration of Al-Qaeda to the Palestinian Authority. It is a movement that cooperates with Shi`i Iran and Hizballah; that defended Yaser Arafat until his death in November 2004; and that, more recently has shown signs of regression in its policy by accepting and keeping its promise of a period of truce with Israel. Hamas is also an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood, a harsh rival in the eyes of Jihadists like Al-Queda, with a political and social doctrine that some call “evolution, not revolution.” The Brotherhood also has a strong tendency to support, at least tactically, democratic processes in the Arab world in which its prospects to win look promising.
Sounds like there is no love lost.
The following story is from the DEBKAfile. I am printing it just because I found it interesting. Make of it what you will.
Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s Gaza cell is gearing up for a major terrorist attack against Palestinian target
The cell, whose penetration of Gaza DEBKAfile first revealed last September, now numbers 10 operatives. Al Qaeda took advantage of Israel’s pull-back to establish itself in the Gaza Strip. Zarqawi’s agents from Jordan and Egypt are positioning operational cells on the West Bank too, ready for strikes against both Israel and the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority. Jordanian prime minister Maarouf Batiah and intelligence chiefs warned PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas of this threat in a four-hour conference they held in Amman on April 3. In consideration of the Palestinian leader’s passive tendencies, Jordan made sure the warning would appear publicly by releasing some details to the London Arab daily Al-Hayat. DEBKAfile discloses some high points of the Amman conference: 1. The Iraqi al Qaeda chief has appointed an emir for the countries west of Iraq, the Palestinian areas, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. 2. Zarqawi no longer relies on local Palestinian groups for strikes in Israel and Palestinian areas. He is deploying terrorist manpower from Iraq. Syria, and Jordan, who enter Gaza freely through the Rafah crossing, with Egyptian border officials turning a blind eye. 3. The al Qaeda chief has decided to hit Gaza ahead of Israel for two reasons: he wants to put his oar in the affairs of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian government. He also calculates a devastating attack in Gaza will strike fear in Israel. 4. Al Qaeda has launched a drive to recruit terrorists for operations against the Palestinians and Israel. Volunteers with family ties in the West Bank are sought because they can more easily access the territory for “family reunions.” 5. Al Qaeda now targets Hamas and Abu Mazen equally. Since taking office, Hamas is perceived as weak for shelving its war option against Israel in favor of an informal truce.
There is a boom going on in Mongolia. At least, for big business anyway.
The capital city of Ulaanbaatar (UB for short) is experiencing a building explosion, with apartments, restaurants, offices and Internet cafes under construction and real estate prices on the rise.
According to World Bank figures, economic activity grew over 10 percent in 2004, and 6 percent in 2005. Foreign investment is coming into the former backwater, particularly into the banking, textiles and mining industries.
Deposits of coal, copper and gold, along with investment-friendly regulations, are attracting attention. One mining executive at a multinational business conference called Mongolia "the best-kept secret in Asian emerging markets."
But who is watching out for the interests of the people. It doesn't seem like the government is (which is no surprise).
Which leads us to the articles below.
The first article below is from the UB Post. The second is from the Toronto Star. The third is a report from the blog NewEurasia.
Opening of spring Parliament session marked by protest
Hundreds of protestors marched at the Parliament House on April 5, the first day of the spring session of the State Great Hural's (parliament), demanding the resignation of the government, which they claim is conspiring with Ivanhoe Mines to make a stability agreement disregarding the interests of the public.
The protest was organized by several civil movements and political parties including the Just Society Civil Movement, Resolute Reform, Green Party and Minii Mongol Gazar Shoroo. They accused the government of having no strict and transparent policy towards the percentage of shares that the government should retain in its strategically significant mineral deposits in Omnogobi aimag.
The government is not rushing to sign the stability agreement with Ivanhoe Mines, and will wait until after the laws on tax and mineral resources are discussed at the parliaments spring session, according to Finance Minister N.Bayartsaikhan who spoke at a media conference held on April 4. "National security is our key interest" he said. He also did not deny the possibility of hiring a foreign independent mining contract consultant.
"The company understands that the position of the Government of Mongolia is such that the Oyu Tolgoi Stability Agreement will be concluded after the Minerals Law and Tax Laws are discussed and amended during the spring session of the Parliament," Ivanhoe Mines stated on the same day.
Mongolia's government is holding to the position that shares of foreign invested mining companies must be traded on the Mongolian Stock Exchange, available to the people of Mongolia to buy.
"The company deeply regrets the fact that civic movements are misleading the Mongolian public by misrepresenting the real facts in order to further their own political interests," said Layton Croft, Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs for Ivanhoe Mines.
"As a public company listed and traded on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges, Ivanhoe Mines respects the independence and sovereignty of the countries where it operates. To this end, Ivanhoe has not and will not interfere in internal Mongolian political affairs," he said.
The Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker has interfered disrespectfully into internal Mongolian affairs by demanding that government members speed up a stability agreement, said S.Ganbaatar, a leading activist in the Resolute Reform civic movement. He went on to say, "The government has accepted that demand and unfortunately is about to sign a contract to give the wealth of Mongolia, which is estimated at US$300 billion, to a Canadian company. In this agreement, the government has sold our motherland. This government must step down."
In a prior press conference, Martin Klein, a project coordinator from the Washington-based Earth Rights (www.earthrights.org) international organization which has a large human rights project in Burma, said Ivanhoe Mines has done a lot of environmental destruction in Burma. "I would encourage the people of Mongolia to clearly understand what type of company Ivanhoe Mines is. Skin, respiratory and other types of diseases and sicknesses are common among local people who live near the copper-site that Ivanhoe Mines owns. They operate a modern form of slavery," said Martin Klein.
In his letter demanding the government resignation, S.Ganbaatar argued that the government has violated the 1st paragraph of Article 6 of the Constitution of Mongolia, which says, "The land, its subsoil, forests, water, fauna and flora and other natural resources in Mongolia shall belong exclusively to the people and be under the State protection." The letter was delivered to Prime Minister M.Enkhbold. "If we can force Ivanhoe out of Mongolia, that signifies that we are a democratic nation. If we can't, we will become the next Burma," Ganbaatar said.
Ivanhoe beset in Mongolia protest
3,000 seek better terms from Vancouver firm
Dispute continues on use of nation's mineral resources
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia—About 3,000 protestors clashed with police yesterday, demanding that Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and other officials resign in a dispute over a contract with a Canadian firm to mine a huge copper deposit.
Protestors gathered in the capital's central square and tried to march to the adjacent Government House, but the way was blocked by about 300 police officers.
The protestors want Enkhbayar's government to get better terms from Ivanhoe Mines Co., a Vancouver-based company that wants a concession to mine the Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit Ivanhoe discovered in the country's south.
Ivanhoe has not been accused of acting improperly.
Copper mining is a major part of the economy of this impoverished former Soviet satellite, a sprawling grassland where many people are traditional nomadic herders of cattle and sheep.
Politicians have clashed repeatedly over how to exploit the country's mineral resources. The opposition accuses the government of giving away Mongolia's wealth and wants the national minerals law changed to give the government a large share in any foreign-owned mine.
"We are demonstrating against foreign mining companies getting too much of our wealth," said B. Batdorj, a university student who took part in the protest yesterday. "Mongolian people should get more benefit from the natural resources of Mongolia than foreign mining companies."
Protestors included members of Mongolia's Green Party and the Radical Reform, Just Society and Our Mongolian Land civic activist groups.
Protests in Mongolia, Day 2
by Luke, posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2006 at 6:09 pm
Last night the protesters set up a ger (more common russian word: yurt) in Sukhbaatar square just north of the Sukhbaatar statue. They are still fighting for the President to leave his post and for the government and parliament to be “dissolved.”
Today there were two more gers set up next to the first one, and the protesters raised their flags on the flagpoles and put up all their protest signs on the outsides of the gers. According to the “Onoodor” news the people are staging a hunger strike until their demands are met. However the protesters are still made up of 4 different political groups as well as traders from the SAPU trade center, which burned last winter, who still haven’t been reimbursed for their losses.
The 1990 hunger strike that was also held on Sukhbaatar square led Mongolia to democracy, but these protesters might not understand that this isn’t 1990 and the current government will not easily budge. This afternoon there were around 100-150 people standing around the gers and listening to leaders of the small political factions give speeches. The police were not out in force today as they were yesterday, however there were still a few hanging around the edges of the square, but none in the immediate vicinity of the protesters. (I didn’t have my camera with me today, but I will try to take it tomorrow)
What follows is a letter from our old friend Lance down in New Orleans concerning the true impact of absentee balloting there.
I read your column on absentee balloting today. I have not seen the instructions for absentee ballots, but I do have a copy of the Mail Voter Registration form which first-time voters have to use to register absentee, and I can't imagine that this process wont have a profoundly racially discriminatory effect. Consider the following: A 2002 U.S. Department of Education study concluded that 40% of adult New Orleans residents read at "level one literacy," which is below the 6th grade level, and a disproportionate number of these low-level readers are African American and poor. The criteria used to define "level one literacy" includes the inability to perform reading tasks such as locating an intersection on a street map or filling out a social security card application. If a voter applicants living in New Orleans has reading problems, they can register in person at the Registrars office and an election official will assist them in reading and filling out the application. In contrast, a voter applicant living in another city must fill out the Louisiana Mail Voter Registration Application form without any assistance from election officials. The registration form has 19 separate instructions and includes the following language (my emphasis added):
AFFIRMATION: "that I am currently not under a judgment of full interdiction or limited interdiction where my right to vote has been suspended, that I am a bona fide resident of this state or parish...If I have provided false information, I may be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 ($2,500 for subsequent offense) or imprisonment for not more than 1 year (5 years for subsequent offense), or both. Any false statement may constitute perjury."
The vocabulary it this excerpt (including Latin phrases) would challenge most college educated readers (I have no idea what "full or limited interdiction" means), yet the applicant, who could be as young as 17 years old, is asked to sign the "affirmation" at the risk of fine and imprisonment. Elsewhere on the application, the 40% of the New Orleans residents who lack the reading skills to find an intersection on map are asked:
"If you use a rural route or and box number, draw a map in the space labeled 'Give Location.' Write the names of the crossroads (streets) nearest where you live. Draw an X to show where you live. Use a dot to show any schools, churches, stores or landmarks near where you live and write the name of the landmark."
Good luck. Like most voters, I'd rather wait in line at a voting poll than have to decipher this form and risk a stretch in Parish Prison.
The net effect of "correspondence voting" is that a large percentage of poor African Americans will be discouraged from voting because of past inequities in education.
Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Southern Institute for Education and Research
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Germany, the host nation for June's World Cup soccer final, has around 10,000 hardcore skinheads determined to smash up the tournament, according to German police.
And their friends in other countries may join in.
"Inside the [neo-Nazi] scene, ways of exploiting the World Cup are being considered," said Wolfgang Schaueble, Germany’s interior minister responsible for security at the event.
The far-right NPD party and other neo-Nazi groups apparently also want to stage a "freedom of speech" march in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr Valley, and further demonstrations in Leipzig, Berlin, and Nuremberg, to show solidarity with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has openly denied the Holocaust and suggested that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
The NPD is also already actively fomenting soccer xenophobia by offering a World Cup match fixtures guide that calls for Germany to field only white-skinned players.
According to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, far-right German extremists intend to link up with anti-semitic hooligans from neighbouring Poland at the World Cup events.
In January, the Sunday Times of London reported that skinheads from Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia and the Czech Republic were planning racist abuse at the World Cup.
"We will be coming together to fight in Germany,” said Rdi Jiricna, organizer of the United Fascist Brigade in the Czech Republic.
“Germany will be one big battleground this summer,” said Dragan Banovic, head of a Serbian fascist group. “This is an opportunity for our groups to shout our message and to know people will hear it.”
The following report is from Der Spegel.
Germany Admits Neo-Nazis May Try to Disrupt the World Cup
German officials have admitted for the first time that members of the far right may try to cause trouble when the World Cup soccer final takes place here in June. But Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says his security forces are ready -- for foreign hooligans, too.
At a conference on security just 10 weeks before the world soccer championship, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble admitted on Thursday that neo-Nazi groups were planning to "use the World Cup as a means of raising their profile." Tournament planners had previously downplayed the risk from the German far right, but the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported on Thursday that neo-Nazi groups were planning to hold street demonstrations during the World Cup.
"The right-wing extremists believe that German police will be 'a weakened opponent' under the strain of policing the tournament," wrote the paper.
The far-right NPD and other neo-Nazi groups apparently want to stage a "freedom of speech" march in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr Valley, and further demonstrations in Leipzig, Berlin, and Nuremberg, to show solidarity with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has openly denied the Holocaust and suggested that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig, Berlin, and Nuremberg will all host games in the tournament, which opens in Germany on June 9.
The newspaper also reported that some elements of the far right want to hand out a CD of songs with the face of Fritz Walter, captain of Germany's world-championship 1954 team, who fought for Germany during World War II. Walter isn't a typical neo-Nazi symbol; former Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder called him an "embodiment of the impeccable and fair sportsman," when the athlete died in 2002. But he's considered a hero for lifting German spirits with a World Cup victory less than a decade after Hitler fell from power and Germany was left in ruins.
Schäuble promised to make the tournament safe without turning it into "a security World Cup." But he also has foreign hooligans to worry about -- especially from Poland, where soccer fans might want to pick a fight with German skinheads. Germany is considering suspending an European Union agreement providing for passport-free travel, Schäuble said on Thursday, in order to weed out potential hooligans.
"Those who want to cause disturbances," he said, "should just stay at home."
Can't find much more about this anywhere at the moment, but I'll keep looking.
The following is from CBS4 News in Miami, Florida
Police Brutality Claimed In Gables Melee
(CBS4 News) CORAL GABLES The parents of a Coral Gables High student have hired an attorney, and are considering legal action, amid allegations that Coral Gables police officers used excessive force trying to arrest a student, and then, arresting students who came to his aid. One student’s cell-phone camera caught what appears to be a beating by police officers as angry students tried to intervene.
Coral Gables Police were trying to arrest Curtis Miller, a student who had allegedly been involved in a fight a few weeks ago, when some students at the school objected to the way police were handling the arrest.
As one student grabbed his cell-phone camera, other students boiled across the street to surround the police officers. Coral Gables Police spokesman Mike Frevola said “Several other students who didn’t want us to arrest him jumped four of our officers, attacking them, and bloodying several noses.”
Gables police arrested 4 students who intervened, and called for backup from other police departments, creating a scene which when captured on the cell-phone camera looked like a free for all.
The cell-phone cameraman admitted students moved in around police officers, but he claims they did it to stop what they felt was unrestrained brutality. “All the kids were walking up, pulling them off, trying to get the cops off. And the cop starts punching him in the face, and hitting them with a night stick.”
A parent who spoke with CBS4 Reporter Gary Nelson, who did not want her name used saying she feared reprisals, said she didn’t blame the students for taking action. “That’s why you hear the children in the background screaming,” she told Nelson. “And a lot of them were crying, because they kept begging the police to stop, and they wouldn’t stop, and they were hitting the kid on the floor.”
A student witness who gave his name as Kevin said “He was already under arrest, hands behind his back with handcuffs, four different knees on his back from four different cops, and still tasering him. They didn’t have to do that.”
Coral Gables police say they used the force necessary to subdue people resisting arrest. The Miami-Dade Schools Police officers who responded to help Coral Gables suffered a broken finger arresting one teenager. Their supervisors say the whole incident is now under investigation.
“We find out the facts, what occurred,” said Miami-Dade Schools Police Detective Ed Torrens, “..if they acted appropriately.”
Despite the fracas, only Miller, the student police were trying to arrest, was held in jail because of his past record. Tuesday, a judge refused to allow him to be released, causing him to break down in tears.
The other students who arrested were released into the custody of their parents.
Members of Arizona Interfaith Network gathered on the Capitol lawn yesterday to denounce remarks made by host Brian James during a March 8 broadcast on KFYI-AM (550). The group was considering filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
On the show host Brian James said, "What we'll do is randomly pick one night - every week - where we will kill whoever crosses the border. Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it's your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun."
But folks, that ain't nothing. Take a look below.
The following is from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Extremists advocate murder of immigrants, politicians
by Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse
March 30, 2006 -- Neo-Nazis and anti-immigration extremists responded to a highly publicized wave of immigration reform demonstrations in major U.S. cities with open calls for terrorist violence, including truck bombs, machine gun attacks, and assassinations of U.S. senators and members of Congress.
"All of you who think there's a peaceful solution to these invaders are wrong. We're going to have to start killing these people," neo-Nazi radio host Hal Turner posted to his website the day after 500,000 immigrant rights activists marched through downtown Los Angeles.
"I advocate using extreme violence against illegal aliens. Clean your guns. Have plenty of ammunition. Find out where the largest gathering of illegal aliens will be near you. Go to the area well in advance, scope out several places to position yourself and then do what has to be done."
Turner linked the post to a website titled "Ka-Fucking-Boom!" that provides detailed instructions on constructing pipe bombs, ammonium nitrate "fertilizer bombs," car bombs, chlorine gas bombs, and dozens of other homemade explosive devices.
"We are headed for civil war, folks. Are you ready?" wrote a neo-Nazi using the pseudonym "Mr. 88" (88 is movement shorthand for "Heil Hitler") in a post on the white supremacist website Stormfront. "We have to start killing in massive numbers so that the savages of the world have fear of the almighty white man again! Killing is the only way to cure these ills!"
Elected officials were also targeted for death after a U.S. Senate panel backed President Bush's guest worker plan on March 27, the Monday following a weekend of pro-immigrant street demonstrations including 20,000 people in Phoenix, 50,000 in Denver, and 50,000 in Detroit.
Hal Turner promoted a survey on his website that asked, "What method of 'communication' would be best understood by members of the United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate so they know not to give ILLEGAL ALIENS Amnesty?"
The response options included, "Pull a fire alarm in the U.S. Capitol and Machine gun them to death as they evacuate?" (earning 22 percent of more than 1,000 votes, according to Turner); "Fire Bomb their District Offices as a warning; then their private homes if they go ahead with the plan?" (31 percent); and "Park several Timothy McVeigh type truck bombs next to the House and Senate Office Buildings and Detonate them?" (13 percent).
Members of the California-based, anti-immigration hate group Save Our State added their voices to the bloodthirsty chorus. "I see people with vans driving by, gunning them down on street corners, and leaving them to feed the buzzards and worms," wrote Save Our State activist "Cazamigrante" ("Migrant hunter"). Another Save Our State member posted, "Just a friendly reminder: There is no Brady Bill on bow and arrow. There is also no report or muzzle flash to give away position."
Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the "citizens border patrol" Minuteman Project, stopped just short of calling for his followers to pick up their guns.
"I'm not going to promote insurrection, but if it happens, it will be on the conscience of the members of Congress who are doing this," he told the Orange County Register ."I will not promote violence in resolving this, but I will not stop others who might pursue that."
The same day the Senate panel voted, more than 40,000 Los Angeles high school students walked out of classes to protest a bill in Congress that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally (it's now a federal infraction). After several hundred of the students blocked a freeway, anti-immigration hardliners posting to the "Close Borders" Yahoo user group advocated killing the young protesters by running them over with cars. "If I was on that freeway, there would be some flattened kids," wrote "GoHomeIllegals."
Another Close Borders user wrote, "When violent responses occur, the amount of support they receive will amaze you. Furthermore, when people see how utterly unable to stop them the government is, it will incite further acts, and so, until it snowballs into a full-scale shooting war. Picture every major city within 500 miles of Mexico turned into Beirut in 1983. All that's missing is the spark, and it won't be long in coming."
Extremists of many stripes interpreted the widely broadcast images of hundreds of thousands of mostly Latino demonstrators marching in the streets as unmistakable evidence that a long-awaited race war had finally begun.
"The bad news is many whites will die," wrote one neo-Nazi on Vanguard News Network. "It is imperative that you make proper connections NOW and form networks of like minded armed whites to defend yourselves... It will be grand. More exciting then the Zombie flicks. If you have a good defense line and lots of ammo the carnage will be orgasmic."
Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse are writers for the Intelligence Report.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The decades long struggle in the Western Sahara has suddenly broken in to the international (though not the US) news.
The first article is from MISNA. The second is from the Sahara Press Service. The third article is from Reuters AlertNet.
POLISARIO FRONT: UN SHOULD ENSURE HUMAN RIGHTS OR RETREAT
The head of the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguiat el Hamra and del Río de Oro’, known as the ‘Polisario Front’, Mohammed Abdelaziz, at the end of a meeting with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked the UN to protect and guarantee human rights for the Saharawi people. Otherwise, it should retire the ‘Mission for the referendum in Western Sahara’ (Minurso). “I told Annan very clearly that if Minurso is not capable to fulfill its mandate to oversee the convening of a referendum for the self determination of the Saharawi and is not even capable of protecting our human rights, then its existence has no sense. They should pack their bags and leave”, said Abdelaziz during a press conference at UN headquarters in New York. The head of the Polisario Front also complained to Annan about the repression to which the Saharawi people have been forced to endure during the visit of the king Mohamed VI, which occurred more than a week ago: “All this happened, in a very unpleasant manner”, he said while noting that he asked for the extension of the mandate of Minurso, such that it might dedicate itself more to defending the rights of all Saharawis”.
Smara considers the Moroccan Government as "accountable" for the victims of the repression
Smara (occupied territories), 03/04/2006 (SPS) The Saharawi citizens in the occupied city of Smara considered the Moroccan Government as "accountable" for the victims of the Moroccan repression against Saharawi civilians last week, causing many dozens wounded, many of whom were evacuated in emergency to the hospital of the occupied city of El Aaiun.
"We express our unconditional support and solidarity with all the victims of Smara", underlined a press release publicised Monday by the Saharawi citizens of the occupied city of Smara, of which SPS received a copy.
"We reaffirm our determination to continue the peaceful resistance until the liberation and independence", rejecting "the preposition of autonomy" presented by Morocco, which "aims to consolidate the illegal occupation of the Western Sahara, and which is contrary to all international resolutions that stipulate the holding of a just and transparent self-determination referendum" in the Western Sahara.
The Saharawi citizens of the occupied city of Smara also reiterated their "attachment to the legitimate right of the Saharawi people to self-determination" under the auspices of the UN, African Union and conforming to the international legality, the press release underlined.
Smara was the theatre, last week, of a wide campaign of repression committed by the Moroccan forces of repression against the Saharawi civilians, causing more than 130 wounded persons and many dozens were arrested, it should be recalled.
Polisario Front called on the UN’s Security Council to send a UN’s mission of the High Commissioners for human Rights to investigate on the Moroccan human rights violations in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara.
INTERVIEW-Polisario presses UN on rights in Western Sahara
By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS, April 4 (Reuters) - The head of Western Sahara's independence movement accused Morocco on Tuesday of repeatedly barring U.N. human rights experts from visiting the resource-rich region which it claims as part of its territory.
Mohamed Abdelaziz, secretary-general of the Polisario Front, said in an interview with Reuters and the Spanish news agency EFE, he urged U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday to crack down on human rights abuses in the northwest African territory of about 260,000 people.
Abdelaziz said Annan had told him a delegation of rights experts had failed three times so far to gain access to the territory and he would now push for a fourth attempt.
Asked about Abdelaziz's remarks, a U.N. official said the two men had discussed human rights in Western Sahara and Annan was "looking into the issue."
Moroccan diplomats in New York had no immediate comment.
Amnesty International this week expressed serious concerns about Morocco's detention of human rights activists and critics of its policies and security practices in Western Sahara.
Numerous cases of apparent intimidation and harassment of rights defenders took place around the time of King Mohammed VI's visit to the territory in late March, the London-based rights group said.
Morocco, claiming centuries-old rights over the territory rich in phosphates, fisheries and possibly offshore oil, annexed it after former colonial power Spain withdrew in 1975.
That triggered a low-level guerrilla war with the Algerian-backed Polisario, which seeks an independent state.
A U.N. cease-fire agreement in 1991 promised residents the chance to vote in referendum on independence. But the vote never took place and Morocco now insists the most it will offer is regional autonomy.
Annan is due to submit a progress report to the Security Council by April 20 on diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute. The mandate of the peacekeeping operation there, the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, expires at the end of this month and some Security Council members have suggested the force be scaled back if the deadlock continues.
Abdelaziz said peacekeepers should "pack up and go" if they cannot deliver on their promises.
"The mission has a clear mandate to end colonization and organize a referendum on self-determination for the people of Western Sahara," he said. "This is the time to ask Morocco to respect the Security Council resolutions."
Brazil is a land of contrasts. According to the UN, it is the 4th most economically unequal country in the world. In the face of enormous productive capacity, a dazzling geographical landscape, awe-inspiring natural resources, and amazing cultural diversity, millions of Brazilians suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and lack of access to basic social services.
Unequal distribution of land - harking back to the Portuguese colonization of Brazil hundreds of years ago - is a signature cause of the human inequalities.
The Landless Peasants' Movement (MST), one of the largest social movements in the hemisphere, has organized over 1.5 million members in 23 states across Brazil.
They have successfully settled tens of thousands of families by taking over unproductive land and founding communities that work together to meet their own needs - not only cultivating food, but building water treatment systems, creating housing, and developing schools. You don't often get to read about these activities. And you won't in the article below either.
The following is from Reuters AlertNet.
Brazil protesters raid Cemig utility headquarters
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, April 4 (Reuters) - About 300 protesters from Brazil's militant Landless Peasants' Movement (MST) on Monday raided the headquarters of Minas Gerais state power utility Cemig causing damage to its offices.
Cemig press service said the protesters, whose invasion coincided with a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in the state capital, destroyed computers, office equipment and furniture. It did not provide an assessment for the damage.
Cemig said four people, including two police officers, were hurt. A group of families affected by the construction of hydroelectric dams financed by the IADB were among the protesters.
Land invasions are common in Brazil, mainly to demand that the government speed up the distribution of public land for settlement of poor peasants. But protesters have been targeting well-known companies lately in a change of tactics that caused concern among businesses.
In early March, about 2,000 protesters from a peasants' movement allied to the MST ransacked a plantation in southern Brazil owned by Aracruz the world's biggest producer of bleached eucalyptus pulp, and caused what the company said was millions of dollars of damage and losses.
Later last month during an international meeting on biodiversity in southern Brazil, the movement's activists invaded a farm owned by Switzerland's Syngenta AG alleging illegal tests with genetically-modified seeds there. The company has denied any illegal tests.
Monday, April 03, 2006
In October 1988 Gerard Casey's home in Rasharkin was raided by the RUC (Northern Ireland police). While there they removed a legally held shotgun and sketched an internal map of the home before taking him off to Castlereagh. On April 4th 1989 loyalists entered the home and shot dead Gerard Casey as he slept with his wife.
There was a strategy to murder family members of republicans as well as murdering republicans and nationalists. Charlie and Teresa Fox, Sean and Martin Lavery, Kevin and Jack McKearney were also killed in the reign of terror, which knew no bounds - the list is endless. The tactic often used throughout the 70's against an entire community was now being concentrated on republican families. Many lived under direct threat learning that their personal details were in the possession of loyalists.
In all of these killings South African weapons imported by British army agent Brian Nelson were used. Thousands of RUC/British army 'P' cards (personal details) went 'missing'. Restriction orders prohibiting any regular 'police and army' presence in the vicinity of some murders and attacks were issued. Those under threat were denied adequate security measures by the NIO on the advice of the RUC. Special Branch was behind every choreographed move.
On August 7th 1994 wife and mother of four young children, Kathleen O'Hagan, was shot dead in her home as loyalists smashed their way in, Kathleen was seven months pregnant. Her husband Paddy returned home to find his children huddled against their mother's body. Paddy O' Hagan was a former republican prisoner.
In many of these incidents there was no proper investigation to apprehend the culprits. The RUC attempted to put distance between themselves and the loyalists much in the same way they did concerning 'C' Company of the UDA during the Nelson trial. The RUC even abandoned its former policy of immediately issuing the forensic and ballistic history of guns and bombs used in loyalist attacks because they were traceable to the weapons imported by Nelson. And of course the authorities talked about 'arrests' but in many of the cases where there is clear evidence of collusion there is also an excessively high failure rate of arrest, prosecution and conviction. Those loyalists arrested had no idea of the origins of their weaponry or information or of exactly who was pulling the strings. As the saying goes the gunmen were a dime a dozen and expendable. Relatives are more interested in those who pulled the strings.
The following two reports were sent to me by a contact in Northern Ireland.
Fresh Calls for Independent Inquiry as Rasharkin remembers IRA Volunteer
For Immediate Release: 03/04/2006
Republicans from across North Antrim were in Rasharkin this weekend for a very successful series of events organised to commemorate the life of local IRA Volunteer, Gerard Casey. Local Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay opened the weekend’s events by chairing the 2nd Annual Gerard Casey Memorial Lecture that was held in the village on Friday night. He started proceedings by reiterating the need for an independent investigation into Gerard’s death.
Cllr McKay said:
“This weekend will not only be about celebrating the life of Óglach Gerard Casey and the sacrifices he made for his country and his community, it is also about highlighting the circumstances of his death, the fact that he was set up by members of the RUC and the fact that a full and wholly independent investigation has yet to be launched into the circumstances of his death.”
Just prior to Gerard’s murder the RUC raided the Rasharkin man’s home, drew a sketch of the outlay of his house and told him that he would be killed. After loyalists broke into his home and shot him dead his family were left in no doubt about who had set him up.
The Guest Speakers at this year’s lecture were Brendan Lynch and Paul McGlinchey, who spoke of their time as Blanketmen in Long Kesh and their experiences of the 1981 Hunger Strike.
They spoke in great detail about the camaraderie that existed at that time in the prisons and how the bondage that developed and existed between those on the blanket was something they had never experienced before or since and how this made it much more difficult to adjust to life outside the jail when they were released.
Both men spoke of the humiliation, the beatings and inhumane conditions they had to live through and how friendship, bravery and the personal sacrifices made by their comrades helped get them through the worst of these experiences.
Paul spoke of the great respect he had for Francis Hughes, a fellow Bellaghy man, and how his bravery and leadership inspired other POWs who were on the blanket at that time, “His courage and selflessness that made him such a legend in areas like South Derry & North Antrim where he operated, was just as evident when he was on the blanket.” Paul continued to talk about the other hunger-strikers and related to the audience the great personalities that they were and how they influenced the other prisoners not only through their bravery but also their sense of humour. He recalled how Martin Hurson had adopted the name ‘Arrachtach’, “His fellow comrades, with our blanketman sense of humour, had told him that this was his name in Irish. The name is of course Irish for ‘monstrosity’, something that we felt we had to tell him after he joined the hunger-strike. He was a bit angry at first, but then laughed it off and said that he would be proud to keep the name his comrades gave him.”
Brendan Lynch said that it was important for older republicans to realise that there is now an enormous amount of young people who consider themselves as republicans, and that it was important to ensure that they are educated and made aware of the Hunger-Strike during this year’s Celebration of their lives.
After the lecture had concluded there ensued a lively Question and Answer session and young and old alike addressed the 2 men with a variety of questions. In response to one question Paul McGlinchey criticised Richard O’Rawe for making spurilous claims last year in an effort to gain publicity to sell his book.
“The hunger-strikers controlled their destiny, not the IRA as O’Rawe claimed. The very fact these men broke Army orders and embarked on hunger strike showed how courageous and farsighted they were in their thinking that no one must be allowed to criminalise our struggle for justice, peace, equality and freedom.
“The responsibility of the deaths of the Hunger Strikers lies with no one but the British Government, who created the conditions to allow it to happen.”
After 2 hours of debate the talk drew to a close with everybody commenting on how insightful an event it had been.
On Sunday hundreds of republicans gathered in Rasharkin for Gerard Casey’s Annual Commemoration. Local people also remembered Gerard’s brother, Liam Casey, who was also a Volunteer and who had died in tragic circumstances.
On what turned out to be a glorious day, local Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay welcomed the crowd who had gathered from Counties Antrim, Derry, Tyrone and Donegal to attend the event.
Ógra Shinn Féin (Sinn Féin Youth) were the first to speak. Local Representative Laoi Áine Ní Pheacoig said:
“Gerard was a joiner by trade and also a talented footballer for Rasharkin. He had an active interest in GAA, which you would call ‘the norm’ for most Irish people. However Gerard stood out as a volunteer soldier of the North Antrim Brigade of Óglaigh na hÉireann. Gerard like so many others had seen enough of discrimination, imperialism and oppression and pledged to fight back. Gerard Casey served the community of Rasharkin well whether that was lining up alongside his teammates on the football field or lining up alongside his comrades in Óglaigh na hÉireann on the battlefield. Indeed the community here in Rasharkin and North Antrim are proud of and will never forget his sacrifice.
“Gerard was killed by a British funded policy of collusion in the north of Ireland. The British colluded with loyalist murder gangs to murder anyone who opposed British interference in Irish affairs.
“A few months before Gerard’s murder, Councillor ‘Big’ John Davey, who also had strong links with Rasharkin, was murdered in the County Derry village of Gulladuff, not too far from we are gathered here today. Indeed this area had the reputation as a murder triangle, which has seen a large number of British state sponsored executions.
“I’m of the generation who were not born when Bobby Sands, Mairead Farrell and Gerard Casey gave their lives for Irish freedom. But I am spurred on by their selfless courage and determination and I recommit myself here today to the republican objectives, which they gave up their lives to pursue. I urge others to do likewise
“It is my belief that the policy of collusion, which claimed the life of Vol. Gerard Casey, will not be ended in Ireland until we establish a 32 county republic in Ireland free from British rule.
“As an Irish republican youth I am prepared to do my bit for the freedom of my country. Padraig Pearse didn’t have to do what he did, Bobby Sands didn’t have to do what he did, Mairead Farrell didn’t need to make the stand she did, and likewise neither did Gerard Casey. But they stood up brave and noble and fought against imperialism and discrimination and fought bravely for the freedom of our Country.
“If this struggle is to succeed we need the involvement of many more people. In the prevailing circumstances of today you may not be asked to make the sacrifice which Gerard Casey made seventeen years ago but your contribution to the struggle is as important as ever. I urge you to join our struggle. Everybody has a part to play.”
The Guest Speaker at Sunday’s Commemoration was West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff. He spoke of how the Casey family, like the Harte family in Tyrone and many others has made a huge contribution and sacrifice for the republican cause and that the republican community in areas like Rasharkin will never forget that.
Mr McElduff, who is Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland spokesperson, criticised the Irish Government for dragging their feet on issues such as Presidential voting rights for Northern citizens and Northern representation in the Dáil. He said that the selection of the GAA All-Stars was a good example of this, “Its astounding to think that of those footballers being congratulated by President McAleese only 4 out of the 15 selected are allowed to vote in Presidential elections. There are no excuses for the Irish Government continuing to disrespect and ignore the rights of Irish citizens in the North.”
He concluded by saying that the now rapid growth of Sinn Féin in areas such as Ballymoney, Coleraine and Ballymena, was “testament to republicans in North Antrim who had defended this struggle during the most difficult times and circumstances.”
Speaking after the weekend, Rasharkin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay said: "On behalf of the Gerard Casey Sinn Féin Cumann Rasharkin, I would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who took part and contributed to what was a very fitting tribute to Óglach Gerard Casey.
"The message sent out by this weekend's events is that there are more republicans in Rasharkin than ever before and the massive crowds that continue to turn out for republican events throughout North Antrim shows quite clearly that republicanism is still continuing to grow unabated in this area, as it is throughout the island."
CounterPunch reports, "Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo joined the US global "War on Terrorism", the Philippines has become the site of an on-going undeclared war against peasant and union activists, progressive political dissidents and lawmakers, human rights lawyers and activists, women leaders and a wide range of print and broadcast journalists. Because of the links between the Army, the regime and the death squads, political assassinations take place in an atmosphere of absolute impunity. The vast majority of the attacks occur in the countryside and provincial towns. The reign of terror in the Philippines is of similar scope and depth as in Colombia. Unlike Colombia, the rampaging state terrorism has not drawn sufficient attention, le3t alone outcry, from international public opinion.
Perseus Geagoni was last seen Dec. 5 at around 7:30 p.m. when he borrowed a motorcycle from his sister who lives next door. He said he needed to go to the office of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod City.
Geagoni’s wife Nieva and his sister Babeth said a few days before Geagoni’s disappearance, they noticed two unidentified persons on a motorcycle following him, asking neighbors about his activities and where he goes.
Fred Cana, national council member of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), said 10 organizers were already killed this year, nine from NFSW and one from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines). He believes the evidence points at the military and their allies.
The following article is from Bulatlat, a Philippines weekly.
Missing Negros Labor Leader in Order of Battle
The family of Perseus Geagoni, missing organizer of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), now strongly believes that the Army was responsible for his disappearance. His name is in the military’s list of “rebels” or “enemies of the state,” it has recently been found.
BY KARL G. OMBION AND RYAN B. LACHICA
BACOLOD CITY -- The family of Perseus Geagoni, missing organizer of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), now strongly believes that the Army was responsible for his disappearance.
Geagoni has been missing since Dec. 5 last year. He was last seen leaving his home at Talisay City to go to the NFSW office at Bacolod City but never came back since then. The NFSW since then had been accusing the Army’s 303rd Infantry Battalion of being responsible for his disappearance.
Just recently, the office of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano was furnished a copy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s 2005 order of battle. The document was said to have been acquired from military personnel.
Geagoni’s name was on the roster of those considered “rebels” or “enemies of the state.”
Babeth, Geagoni’s sister, said this only strengthens their suspicion that the Army was behind the disappearance of Perseus. “The list is a full-size basis that it is the Army that took away Perseus,” she said.
Nieva, Geagoni’s wife, appealed to his suspected captors to just surface her husband even if he is dead. “The children are still hoping he’d come back home,” she said.
Meanwhile, several militant groups in Bacolod City denounce what they described as a “systematic campaign” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which they say is backed by the administration.
Fred Caña, secretary-general of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)-Negros, said that the order of battle is a “death sentence” to all those included in it. “The military, through the list, would be given license to summarily execute anyone that was written in it,” he said.
He further said that the order of battle is unconstitutional. “Granting that the list contains the names of the alleged members of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army), they too have the right to due process and defend themselves,” he said. “This is not due process.” said Caña. He further added that this only proves that there is military rule at present.
Felipe Gelle, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Negros, meanwhile described the list as fabricated. “Even names of legitimate media (practitioners) and common farmers were included in the list,” he said.
Among those who were in the order of battle were Richard Sarrosa, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement)-Negros, and Julius Mariveles, a local journalist.
Sarrosa said the army included his name probably because of his active participation in opposing harassment related to land issues. “This is their way to stop and silence us, those who are fighting against repression,” he said.
He further added that his life now would be in danger. “Maathag kag klaro nga ang kabuhi ko ara na sa ila mga kamot” (It’s evident and clear that my life now is in the Army’s hands), he said.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
The Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC) is a new coalition, founded just a year ago, bringing together labor unions, student groups, women's rights organizations and neighborhood assemblies to defend civil society against the occupation troops and profusion of armed factions in Iraq. The IFC is working to establish a parallel structure to that of the US-backed regime and armed militias linked to ethnic and religious groups. Its working model for this program is a neighborhood in Kirkuk, which the IFC has established as an autonomous zone, dubbed Al-Tzaman (Solidarity).
The following is from World War Four Report.
HOUZAN MAHMOUD INTERVIEW
By David Bloom
Created 04/01/2006 - 00:30
The Iraqi Freedom Congress and the Civil Resistance
by Bill Weinberg
Houzan Mahmoud is a co-founder of the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), a new initiative to build a democratic, secular and progressive alternative to both the US occupation and political Islam in Iraq. Mahmoud, who fled Iraq in 1996 and is currently studying at the Univearsity of London, is also a co-founder of the Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition and editor-in-chief of Equal Rights Now, paper of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). A key representative abroad of the Iraqi civil resistance, she spoke in New York City on March 21 at a talk sponsored by the New School for Pluralistic Anti-Capitalist Education (The New SPACE). Later that night, she spoke with WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg on WBAI Radio.
BW: Welcome aboard, Houzan Mahmoud, of the Iraqi Freedom Congress and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. You were just speaking on the Lower East Side this evening and the night before at Queens College, to raise awareness in this country about the existence of a civil, secular resistance movement in Iraq—which shamefully, many people know nothing about, even people who are supposedly progressives and committed to the anti-war movement.
HM: Yeah, that's very true, unfortunately. So thank you very much for this opportunity, for me to be able to address the listeners about the resistance and the work we are doing to end the occupation.
BW: There's recently been an increasing, almost apocalyptic sense of the situation in Iraq, and there's more and more talk in this country that it's going to over the edge into civil war. Some of us have been arguing that it's already a civil war. It sort of depends on what your litmus test is for a civil war. Apparently the popular litmus test for the media is an actual fracturing of the coalition government which the US occupation has managed to assemble there. But if you apply another litmus test, of the actual level of violence in society, I think you could argue that there's already a civil war in Iraq.
HM: Yes, I agree with you. We have warned of this consequence from the very beginning, of this division that the US government has subjected the Iraqi people to, dividing them along lines of ethnic background, religious sects... What else could happen in Iraq that is worse than this situation right now? You can see all these armed militias that are killing innocent civilians, just for being labeled Sunnis or Shiites, which is really, really dangerous. Although the society as a whole is being dragged into this, I think ordinary people do not want to be part of a sectarian war. The armed militias are using the occupation as a golden opportunity to further their attacks on civilians and impose their poisonous politics on Iraqi society.
BW: You are originally from Sulaymaniyah, in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.
HM: Yes, I am
BW: Most recently, you've been living in London, England.
HM: I'm a student at the University of London, and I'm a full-time activist—24 hours, I can say, almost! Trying to support the women's movement in Iraq, the workers' movement, and recently we formed the Iraqi Freedom Congress, our alternative against occupation and against this ethnic division of Iraq...
BW: The Iraqi Freedom Congress was founded just about a year ago, right?
HM: Yes, almost a year ago. Basically I think that's an outcome of the struggles of women—namely Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, or OWFI. It is very widely known internationally throughout Iraq and the Middle East for its courageous work to stand up for women's rights, for freedom, for equality, for secularism. Also the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq, which is a strong labor organization, independent from the state, and which also advocates against occupation. It is for the rights of workers to organize, to mobilize, and to have a say and a role in shaping politics in Iraq. And there have been all these movements going on.
And we who are involved in these movements decided to form an organization that is more political and can attract many more people to its ranks. And we have student union that is also part of this, and other individuals and political parties that are part of Iraq Freedom Congress. And we have our own platform—we want an end to the occupation, we want an end to this ethnic and sectarian division of Iraq, and we want people to identify themselves on the basis of their humane identity, not this kind of degrading classifications such as being Sunni or Shiite or Kurd or Arab or you name it.
So therefore, I think Iraq Freedom Congress is a hope at this moment, and we are trying to mobilize people for this movement worldwide, as well as inside Iraq to create a civil movement, with a very clear vision for an egalitarian secular system inside Iraq to be established. Ending occupation is a very important aim. But—what's after that? What alternative? What is going on at the moment in the name of so-called resistance—it has nothing to do with people's desire for a better life, for peace, or any sense of democracy or freedom; they just want to Talibanize Iraq. We have a social program. We want people to have a better life. And that's what the story of IFC is about, basically.
BW: Unfortunately, the popular portrayal in the media in this country—and alas, I do not exclude the left media, or the alternative media—is that there is on the one hand the occupation and the collaborationist forces, and on the other the insurgents. And there is very little awareness that there is any other force in Iraq—and sometimes hostility to the notion that it exists. So the first question is going to be how much influence and support does the IFC actually have on the ground in Iraq?
HM: I think we have to take into consideration this chaotic situation in Iraq. We are organizing under occupation, we are organizing under the heavy presence of various Islamist armed militias who are highly brutal, who are killing and beheading and kidnapping people. So we are mobilizing amongst all this chaos and danger, standing up for secularism, standing up for women's rights, for workers' rights. There is a great potential in Iraqi society for these ideals. These are not new to our society. All of my comrades inside Iraq are risking their lives every moment to stand up for these principles, and for actually freeing Iraqi people from what we term the dark scenario that we've been subjected to. We do have grassroots support, we do have existence among the workers, among the women, and in the student movement particularly as well, after standing up against Moqtada al-Sadr in the city of Basra. Thousands of university students in Basra, took to the streets to demonstrated against Moqtada al-Sadr...
BW: This was when?
HM: This was March last year. So that led into the creation of a student union, which is progressive, which is in the same line with us...
BW: And what exactly were these strikes and protests in response to?
HM: One day there was an outing by the students, of the kind which usually takes place—you go to a picnic in a park, girls and boys, make some talk, listen to music, dance even. But nowadays they can't dance of course—so they were just in the park, talking and listening to music, and suddenly the militias of Moqtada al-Sadr attacked the whole gathering and they killed one student and they just humiliated all the female students. So that created a lot of anger among the students, and they just decided to strike for a few days on the campuses, and then they took to the streets to demonstrate against Moqtada's group. And Moqtada was actually forced to apologize to the students, officially.
HM: Yeah. So therefore they have now a student union which is strong, which is mobilizing students, and it's very progressive. And now they are part of Iraq Freedom Congress as well, because they find a platform suits them.
BW: So this mobilization against the Sadr militia was the founding struggle of a new student movement.
HM: Exactly. It's called Student Struggle Union. So, yeah, we have grassroots support, but that's not enough to be able to combat such difficult situations. We need to build up on it a strong civil movement inside Iraq as well as world wide—the Iraq Freedom Congress is open for membership from across the world; whoever agrees with the platform of the Iraq Freedom Congress, they can join, they can promote its activities. And I think it's important and it's needed. We need a very progressive civil movement world-wide against war—against the occupation of Iraq, and for promoting progressive alternatives throughout Middle East, not only in Iraq. At the moment, many of those who are in the lead of the anti-war movement are really reactionary, backward, and they're even using anti-war demos to propagate for things that have nothing to do with Iraq in my opinion.
BW: What do you mean?
HM: For example, in UK, where I live, left groups and Islamist organizations in the Stop the War Coalition ue all their efforts to get someone elected to Parliament, like George Galloway. And what the hell—this hasn't to do anything with Iraq.
BW: Well, I suppose they would argue that by getting their people in Parliament, they can get the UK out of Iraq.
HM: Well that's not how things work; you have to build up a movement for that. Through one MP or two MPs...
BW: Right, but I suppose they would argue that it's not mutually exclusive—that you can build a movement and at the same time try to get your people in Parliament...
HM: Well, I don't agree with that notion, because even having people in Parliament, if they are hypocritical, and if they are not really for the cause itself, how can they be any influence at all? And let's not forget who Galloway is and what he stood for in the past—saluting Saddam. For what? For killing people, for starting wars? They make heroes of such people, giving them platform. Whereas they are completely blind to the women's movement in Iraq, to the workers' movement in Iraq. They mention no word about these movements, they give no support to these movements, while in their official statements, they say, "unconditional solidarity with the resistance in Iraq" Who is this resistance? They mean Moqtada, they mean Zarqawi, al-Qaeda—who are terrorist networks, who are beheading people and on a daily basis creating more terror in our society. So I think really this is something that they have to be ashamed of. I think we need to build up a very progressive anti-war movement, a very progressive initiative world-wide, in support of the progressive movement inside Iraq.
SELF-DEFENSE NETWORKS, "HUMAN IDENTITY"
BW: Before we return to the international situation, why don't you tell us more about the actual work of the IFC and its member organizations on the ground in Iraq, and some of the victories they've achieved.
HM: Well, at the moment lack of security is a very, very major problem in Iraq. Imagine, you go out for two seconds, and you are not sure if you can get back to your door safely. If there is no basic security, how can people mobilize effectively, how can they bring about some sense of civil society? Therefore, one of the things that IFC is trying to work on is to respond to that particular demand and need for the people of Iraq—to bring about security, by people themselves. By creating a safety force in each neighborhood and district, for people from the neighborhood themselves to create committees of security, and to not allow militias and the occupying forces to enter their neighborhood and to turn it into a battlefield. Because this is happening. Armed militias can just go attack some people in the neighborhood, kill them or behead them, just because they're, as I said, Sunnis or whatever. We shouldn't allow this to happen, people should feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and that's the most important and crucial thing for people in Iraq—to believe in themselves, that they are powerful and that they can do things, they can provide security for themselves. What we say at the moment, our slogan, is "Our safety is in our own hands." The USA cannot provide us security, armed militias cannot provide us security. Because they come to the neighborhood, if you are not 100% like them, they will kill you.
BW: How are you organizing these public safety networks? How are you actually countering these heavily armed militias?
HM: There are people in the neighborhoods who are trusted, the key people in the area—they hold gatherings, they talk to the people on how to create these committees, to watch out what's going on in the neighborhood, and protect the people from anybody who wants to harm them...
BW: Are they armed themselves?
HM: They are armed. At the moment, in Iraq, every family, every household, has a gun. People have guns at home, to be able to defend themselves if someone is attacking them in the middle of the night. But we trying to make this more collective—to expand that protection to the whole neighborhood by preventing groups of armed militias entering.
And if they see that, if they see that everyone is united and are protecting the areas, they will not be able to attack one individual because they are weaker... And in two or three areas now we have started this initiative and it has been successful. And there's a lot of desire for the same model from other areas of Baghdad. But we need a lot of support, we need a lot of resources.
BW: Primarily, this model is in place in a particular neighborhood in Kirkuk, I understand.
HM: Yes, it's called Solidarity. It's a very ethnically diverse neighborhood—Kurds, Turkimans, Arabs, Christians. All these groups lived in Kirkuk for many years and the political groups want to create hatred between these people. And we are fighitng this. We have a campaign called "The identity of Kirkuk is a human identity, not an ethnic identity." And people live in Solidarity with peace, there's no problem, no attacks, nothing—because they are just looking after themselves collectively. So I think that works, and I think it's very important just to spread this principle, this idea that we're all humans, there's no need to attack each other, or to listen to these politicized religious groups trying to bring about this ethnic or sectarian division.
BW: Kirkuk is actually very strategic. We hear a lot more about Samara now, and last year it was Fallujah, in the center of Iraq, which is where the real violence has been recently. But the situation in Kirkuk is extremely tense, and there's a real danger of a social explosion there.
HM: Yeah, when you look at Kirkuk, it has always been diverse, as I said. There was a diversity. But Saddam's regime was a fascist regime. They started ethnic cleansing of Kurds; they have expelled a lot of Kurdish people from Kirkuk and replaced them with Arab families. After the occupation happened, the Kurdish nationalist parties wanted to do the same thing..
BW: Remove the Arabs and bring the Kurds back in...
HM: Exactly. The same model. You know, people have no hand in this. It's always the political people who are in power, they try to put the seed of hatred among the people. But in reality, Kirkuk has been stable for awhile, just because of our campaigning and ongoing intervention …
BW: So this neighborhood in Kirkuk, you call it Solidarity. The name in Arabic is..?
BW: Which means Solidarity. So you have these armed patrols to keep the ethnic and the sectarian militias out, but your strategy of resistance is one of civil resistance, rather than armed insurgency...
HM: Yes, because when you look at Iraq, now you have all these armed militias attacking everywhere—suicide bombers, terrorist attacks on civilian targets. That won't take us anywhere, it will just drag the society into much more chaos. I am not against armed resistance in principle. I am against this kind of so-called resistance that is going on in Iraq. What I believe is that you can organize people, you can mobilize people in a mass movement. But just turning people into killing machine—is that all what so-called armed resistance is about? Or is it about bringing about a better future for people as well as fighting in this battle? I think it's important to return the civil life to Iraqi society, because all the civil infrastructure has been destroyed, the state is not functioning anywhere—it's dysfunctional, because it's a puppet regime. People are shattered. People just want to see freedom, they want to see peace, and they want to live in a stable society, they don't want chaos and terrorism. And that's why we are different, we call ourselves a civil movement that believes in organizing people and mobilizing them—although using arms to protect people, for self-defense. Because at the moment, if you don't have arms, even as an individual, you are at risk. So that is what the philosophy is behind this issue.
FEDERALISM VS. SELF-DETERMINATION
BW: Alright, so what is your program for what a free Iraq would look like, and what is your strategy on how to get there?
HM: Well, it's a difficult one. It's not an easy task. It's a very, very difficult and dangerous battle in my opinion. Our alternative is for returning the power of people to have a say and choice and direct intervention into setting up any kind of society. We believe in, secularism, equality between men and women, abolishment of capital punishment, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of protest and strikes, labor rights, worker's rights. In our program, if the Kurdish people want independence, they should be able to. They have the right to determine this by themselves, not to have this dictated upon them by political parties.
BW: And yet, you oppose the Kurdish nationalist parties.
HM:: Yes, because the Kurdish nationalist parties are using the issue of Kurdistan. I'm from there, and I know that the majority of Kurdish people want independence, they don't want to be part of Iraq anymore—because they have suffered so much ethnic cleansing and oppression, and it's always a threat. Now, the Shiites in power just say Iraq is a Muslim country, Iraq is an Arab country—so when you say that, of course, Kurdish people will feel threatened, because that's exactly the same statement that Saddam was making: Iraq is an Arab country. So all the others are second-class citizens. People don't want to go back to that, because in 1991, when the uprising took place, a lot of people were killed. It was a big uprising, with so many people sacrificing their lives just to be freed from Saddam.
BW: And this is a cycle that had just repeated itself for the past 20 years before that in Iraq. There was the campaign against the Kurds in 1988 and then in the 1970's as well.
HM: So, yeah, that is one of the IFC's programs as well. If we manage to get into power, the Kurdish question needs to be solved.
BW: But do you see the potential for some kind of solution short of separatism for Kurdistan? You say, in fact, that you oppose a federalist solution for Iraq and that you prefer to see it as a unitary state.
HM: Federalism is a reactionary solution. Because that means that [local authorities] in their own areas can do whatever they want. If the Sunnis have their own area, the Shiites to have their own space, and Kurds in the North, they can just carry on with oppression of women, or killing workers, and killing socialists and activists, and just carry on with Islamic Sharia law and say, well, this is my culture and this is my area. I'm not for that, I'm against it. In my opinion, the best solution is to have a secular, egalitarian state system, whereby people—everybody, every person in Iraq—are considered equal citizens regardless of whatever their origins are. Then people will not feel so much degraded. You are not divided or classified as a second-class citizen because you are Sunni, or because you are Shiite you have more power. This is the problem, this is what creates inequality and problems.
BW: OK, so you do see the potential for a solution for Kurdistan short of secession.
HM: Well, with this current setting, in this puppet regime, there's no solution at all, and people are always threatened. There's a lot of protests in the North, in Kurdistan, and people are really angry...
BW: Big protests in Halabja recently, against the Kurdish nationalist parties which are in power there...
HM: Exactly. They are very unhappy with the way they are dealing with the issues of Kurdistan and using the oppression of Kurds just to stay in power. So I don't see any solutions with them. They have never represented the desires of Kurdish people anyway.
BW: But it the IFC achieves its aim of a secular state, you believe in the possibility that the state could include areas in the North?
HM: Yeah, but there should not be any force to keep them in Iraq. They just have to go ahead with it, and have a free referendum for the independence of Kurdistan. And that's what I think is the best solution, basically.
SHARIA AND THE NEW CONSTITUTION
BW: Let's talk a bit more about some of the member organizations in the IFC and what they've achieved. The Organization of Women's Freedom—OWFI—is the group you're most closely associated with of the IFC member organizations. They led a campaign which was successful against the measure in the interim constitution which would have imposed Sharia law. But now there are similar measures in the new permanent constitution which was approved by a popular referendum in December.
HM: Yes, This so-called constitution is very reactionary. It's totally based on Islam. It even says that the judges should have high command of Islamic Sharia law. This was never a requirement before. And even before writing up the constitution, they were practicing Islamic Sharia law—in Najaf and Karbala and Mosul and some parts of Basra...
BW: The local authorities were imposing it...
HM: Yeah, the Shiites in power are just imposing it, conducting everything on the basis of Sharia law. It is the forced Islamization of Iraq. And they just are trying to institutionalize women's oppression, and all kinds of discrimination against women. And that's what we are really up against.
BW: What does the new constitution actually say in regard to Sharia?
HM: Well, I'm sure people are very well aware if they know the history of OWFI, that two years ago, when they tried to pass Resolution 137 to implement Islamic Sharia law, we led a world-wide campaign against that, and so it was defeated.
BW: Right, that was in the interim constitution.
HM: Exactly. But in this new constitution they are not so openly calling for full Sharia law. They say the constitution and the laws of Iraq are based on Islam; Islam is the official religion of the country. When you say the country is based on Islam, that means Islamic Sharia law to us. So we kept going on and we keep opposing that constitution. We boycotted the referendum for the so-called constitution, because we thought this is just a piece of paper to legalize women's oppression, nothing else.
BW: So the constitution which is in place now sort of dodges the question, or it's a little bit vague on that point.
HM: It's vague on many points, actually; it's contradictory in many parts. And in reality, when you start reading the constitution, it looks like you are reading the Koran. It's written in a very religious way.
BW: How so?
HM: It starts with the name of Allah. A constitution is about law, not about religion. So why do they have to bring in these things about Islam? It's funny, and strange at the same time. And sad, of course.
BW: So even though the constitution is sort of ambiguous on this, you still see the potential for imposition of Sharia law in the courts at the local level.
HM: Yes, and as I said, in so many parts of Iraq it's already happening.
BW: Just recently, on March 8, International Women's Day, OWFI had a gathering in Baghdad, in spite of the extremely dangerous atmosphere there.
HM: Yes, it was held at our headquarters, in Baghdad. Almost 100 women took part; we had a press conference and an exhibition of art painted by women themselves, who have been imprisoned, who have been tortured, who have seen the torture of children, rape of women...
BW: By whom? By the local militias?
HM: By the local Iraqi police, as well as by the American soldiers. So it was a very important gathering, because recently, as you know, there has been a lot of sectarian religious warfare, and there have been curfews in Baghdad, a really, really chaotic situation. But the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq is determined to make women's voices heard all over. So they had a successful event to celebrate International Women's Day.
WORKERS LIBERATE POWER PLANT FROM OCCUPATION
BW: Another inspiring example that you mentioned earlier tonight is how in areas where there is insufficient electricity, the workers have in some cases actually taken over the generation plants, and got them going and supplied power.
HM: Yeah, that's true. There was a power station that was actually being used by the occupying soldiers, at al-Musayib just outside Baghdad. And the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions led a protest of the workers in that power station—hundreds of workers, among them women. And they were treated very badly, they were assaulted by the soldiers because they were protesting. So it took a long time—they were on strike and in protest for several days. We had a campaign for them internationally to make the issue known, and Falah Halwan, the president of the Federation of Workers Councils, had a very important role in leading this. And the workers in that power station, found that they can deliver electricity to the people, 24 hours a day. It was just because the occupying soldiers were there, they were not allowing them to go and do their work, and as a result, people had just five hours a day of electricity. So you can see the occupying soldiers are turning the factories and working places and the schools into a military zone.
BW: What were the US troops doing there? Were they supposedly providing security for the plant?
HM: Not at all. They were just there...
BW: Just using it as a barracks, so to speak?
BW: And they finally did leave?
HM: Yeah, because the strike continued and there was a lot of pressure, and even the man who was in charge of the police forces in al-Musayib town was very grateful, because he could never ask the US to leave that power plant. It was our federation who actually brought this about.
BW: And when did they finally leave?
HM: Just a few months ago the whole thing happened. I think the soldiers left around September, October...
CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
BW: I should ask you some Devil's advocate questions now—because these are the questions which a lot of activists here in the United States are concerned with, in terms of the notion of supporting a civil resistance movement in Iraq. And one is the fear that after the US pulls out, it'll just be like a house of cards and society will collapse into ethnic and sectarian warfare. A lot of people are afraid to take a position of immediate withdrawal of US troops. They're afraid that will plunge Iraq into the abyss. So, I'd like to hear your response to that.
HM: I think it's already there. Iraqi society is already being smashed up—by the occupation itself, by the chaos that has been created, by the lack of security and stability for the Iraqi people, by imposing a puppet regime on the Iraqi people which is heavily divided on the basis of sectarian lines. And you know, so many of them are criminals, they have to be brought to justice, but instead they are actually being imposed on us. And you have all these armed militias on the ground, they have just brought a civil war, a sectarian civil war, a religious war. We have seen the occupying forces there for the last three years. Every day we see the situation is getting worse; I think we haven't seen any week or any day in a month that there haven't been hundreds of people killed—suicide bombings, terrorist attacks—and they are using occupation as a pretext to justify those criminal acts. Having the occupation there is not solving any of this, actually. It's just deepening the problems, just deepening the division among people. So therefore, I think the withdrawal of troops, actually, is going to ease a lot of problems. The majority of Iraqi people want to see every troop to leave Iraq. And you know, these armed militia—what other excuse will be there to terrorize people or to kill them or to kidnap them? What other excuses will they have? It's occupation. So therefore I think it's wrong, that notion that pulling out will create more problems. I think it will not. It won't be as worse than this, in my opinion.
BW: So you think a US withdrawal will actually open more space for the existence of some kind of secular civil alternative?
HM: I think it will then be us and them.
BW: And who are the "them" that you mean?
HM: Armed militias and Islamists, terrorist networks, who basically have no other excuses to be there, apart from using the occupation as a justification for their criminal acts, as I said.
BW: Well, again playing Devil's advocate—You say it would just be you and them. Is that necessarily a good thing? No mediating force?
HM: The US and the occupying powers, in my opinion, are protecting terrorist networks, rather than secular, progressive movements inside Iraq. The occupying forces were the first to prevent Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq from having a demonstration against the rape and abduction. We were told that we are not allowed to have a demonstration without their permission. The first Union of the Unemployed in Iraq sit-in strikes in Baghdad, in the very beginning of the occupation—its leaders were arrested by the US occupying powers. So they don't want to see any progressive, militant, secular, egalitarian movement inside Iraq which have a vision for a better future, for an alternative, for a government that is not a puppet of the US They just want to put puppets there, they don't care what's happening to the society... what they care is just their own interest. We are not protecting their interest, we are protecting the interest of the Iraqi people; that's why they don't want us to grow and they won't be any support to us at all.
BW: The second argument which I frequently get, is that we have to support the insurgents, because the insurgents are the actually existing resistance to US imperialism. That supporting a civil or secular movement is a distraction, and that we have no right to tell the Iraqi people what form their resistance will take.
HM: I myself have been told so many times abroad in various meetings and seminars, "Why you are not allying with the so-called resistance, and fighting together against occupation?" I think this question is either very naive, or it's actually stupid, just to think about that. They are Islamists who are killing women and beheading them for not wearing the veil. How can I, in any sense, as the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, go into alliance with the enemy of women in Iraq? Or, those Islamists who have no eye to see a secular person, who consider anyone who is secular as infidels who therefore they have to be killed? How can I form any alliances with these kind of people? And plus, what is their social program? You need to have a social program to agree on—is just fighting occupation everything? I have to sacrifice women's rights, I have to sacrifice workers' rights, secularism, I have to sacrifice my rights as a human being to fight the occupation? I don't. I think it's a historical mistake and it's suicidal for my movement inside Iraq to go that route, just to please some marginalized leftists in the US or Europe, for their fantasizing or romanticizing the issue of resistance against imperialism.
These Islamists have no sense of anti-imperialist vision. They have no sense of working class struggle or any kind of anything like that. They are people who have primitive notions of running societies, you know? The Talibanization of Iraq, that's what they want—I don't want to be part of that destructive agenda. The best thing in Iraq that has ever happened are these movements that we are leading. I think if we are progressive people, if we are from an egalitarian point of view, we have to promote something that is for women's rights, for workers' rights, that promotes secularism—and we shouldn't support bigots, we shouldn't support reactionary movements who are oppressive in any way.
BW: Well you say that the leftists who are taking this line are marginalized, but unfortunately, they're not all that marginalized. I mean, they're in positions of leadership in some of the major anti-war organizations in this country.
HM: But in reality again they are marginalized in daily politics, in the struggles that are going on in society. Where are they when the workers are going on strike? Are they doing anything? Do they have any women's movement? A lot of violence is going on in this country against women as well, it is not only intrinsic to the Middle East. There are a lot of working class struggles here too, that they have nothing to do with. These leftist organizations have turn so far right that they ally with Islamists, under the umbrella of multiculturalism, cultural relativism. They actually betray their own principles...
BW: I would take issue with the notion that multiculturalism and cultural relativism are synonymous. I support multiculturalism in one form or another, but I would not support cultural relativism in the sense in which you're using it. Those are distinct things.
HM: I agree with you. But for example, let's take the case of London. London is a multicultural city, people are living here with different cultures. But I don't want to see backward cultures. I don't want to see oppressive cultures. It has to be challenged. That is my difference on this issue. It's racism to say, "Oh, it doesn't matter—honor killings, for example, is part of the culture for Middle Eastern people." It's not a culture, this is a political, criminal act. Beating up your wife in public—this is your culture? No, anybody has to stand up against this. So I look at it as racism. And for people who call themselves socialist—they shouldn't be like this. They should stand up for freedom, for human rights, for everybody.
BW: Another concern which has been raised is that your call for international solidarity could paradoxically hurt you in Iraq, that you could thereby be portrayed as not truly indigenous, as the pawns of outside forces.
HM: No, that's not the case. Why don't they say that about the government being installed by US and UK? Why don't they say that about Zarqawi, bin Laden, Moqtada al-Sadr? They have all this support from people in Europe...
BW: I would imagine al-Sadr would have more support from Iran, and Zarqawi from Saudi Arabia...
HM: But still...these are not from Iraq. Why not see them as that? And plus—if there are any movements in any part of the world, there is international solidarity coming in from different people across the world. This has been part of the history of our universalist movements. They say unconditional support for the so-called resistance? Why are they not saying the same to the progressive movements in the Middle East, why not unconditional support for us?
BW: Well, it's different people who have raised this criticism. People who are not supportive of the insurgents in Iraq have also expressed to me concerns that international solidarity could paradoxically harm your cause.
HN: I think it's just an excuse not to give support, that's what I believe. It comes from prejudice against progressive movements in the Middle East. Because they just have this media portrayal of the Middle East and Iraq as ignorant, uneducated people who have no sense of struggle, people who have no history of a women's movement, no history of working-class struggle. And that's very untrue. In Iraq, there has been a very strong workers' movement, there has been a women's movement. It has been repressed, but then it comes back into force, you know, that's how it works. And I think it has to be viewed in this way—that there are progressive movements, socialist movements, throughout the Middle East. People have to open up their eyes and accept the concept that yes, the Middle East is like any other part of the world, there are different movements...
Like in US, you have fundamentalist Christians who are blowing up abortion clinics; that's not everybody in the USA who is doing that. And you know, in the Middle East is the same. I think supporting the so-called resistance is like supporting Christian fundamentalists because they are blowing up abortion clinics... I think people have to stand up to these reactionary ideas and to start thinking about bringing about a progressive movement, and reviving the sense of internationalism and unconditional solidarity for the progressive socialist movements throughout the world...
BW: Meanwhile, you are calling for international support for the Iraqi Freedom Congress. And you're calling for people to join it, it's actually an international organization....
HM: Definitely. Yes.
BW: So, what kind of concrete support are you looking for, and how can people join? What does that entail?
HM: Well, whoever is going to read our literature on our website will see how our organization functions, what its platform is, and how to become a member. They can have rights and participation in everything that's going on in the IFC. It's a transparent organization. And they can create branches, they can fundraise for our activities. Because one of the major problems that we are facing is lack of resources, to be able to expand our work throughout Iraq—and to have a media, to have a satellite television station, to be in every house, to mobilize people...
BW: That's a very ambitious idea.
HM: And all these reactionary forces, they each have their own TV channels and they are trying to engineer the minds of people in this way. So as a progressive organization we need to have our own independent voice.
BW: So the Iranian state satellite network is supporting the Shiite forces in Iraq, and I suppose al-Jazeera is supporting the Sunnis...
HM: Exactly. All of them have their own strong media, and even the Western media is behind them in so many cases. But we need to have our own independent media whereby we can mobilize people. So we want people to support us politically, morally, and financially.
BW: Any other closing words, here just mere days after the third anniversary of the initiation of hostilities against Iraq? Any words on where the political situation in Iraq stands, and what are the prospects for bringing about some kind of civil alternative, some kind of secular democratic anti-imperialist alternative?
HM: I think these three years have been one of the most difficult times in our contemporary history. And this doesn't only affect Iraqi people—the issue of the Iraq occupation is an international issue. It is very important for us to avert this dark scenario from going on, and to bring about our own alternative. Because that will have a very important impact on the Middle East and in the world as well. America, by attacking Iraq and invading it, and now occupying it for the last three years, wants to implement its own project and to impose its supremacy all over the world. Its models in Iraq, if they are successful, will have a very negative impact on the world. And I think the defeat of the occupation, the defeat of America in Iraq, by the progressive secularists, socialists, leftists in Iraq, is very, very, very important, to everybody in the world. I think if the political Islamists, these reactionary forces, defeat the occupation in Iraq it will be a major setback for progressive forces in Iraq and the Middle East. It will be another disaster for at least the next few decades to come. And I hope we don't see this. We are determined in our movement to bring about our own alternative and to free the Iraqi people from this disastrous situation. I think this is important for people in the world, especially in the US, where the government is engaged in so much destruction in Iraq, and where the soldiers have no idea why they are there—soldiers who have been recruited because of poverty, the sons and daughters of the working class people in this country. Killing them will not solve any problem for me in Iraq. But the best thing is, to mount the pressure, to mobilize this international world-wide movement to end the occupation. And it's important for people in the US to have a direct intervention in ending that. That's what I want.
Transcription by Melissa Jameson
Iraqi Freedom Congress
Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq
"From Baghdad to Tokyo: Japanese Anti-War Movement Hosts Iraqi Civil Resistance," WW4 REPORT, February 2006
"The Civil Opposition in Iraq: An Interview with Yanar Mohammed of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq," WW4 REPORT, Aug. 9, 2004
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, April 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution