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Iraqi Expat

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Problem is not Islam

There is a misperception in the west that Islam promotes terror, women repression and backward thinking. I don’t blame westerners for viewing Islam the way Muslims portrayed it; I blame Muslims for misbehaving in the name of Islam. There has never been a greater enemy to Islam than Muslims themselves; Muslims misrepresented Islam and made it look like that.

I believe that one of the lessons that a lot of people missed, is that religion evolves. Two examples to point out; first, Muslims believe in all prophets from Abraham to Mohammed - including Moses and Jesus - and the revelations given to them by the one God (Allah). We know that it’s all about good and evil, and we also know that the rules and guidelines changed – or to be more specific, increased - from one prophet to the next depending on the circumstances, but why? Since God knows everything, the rules and guidelines could have been given more or less the same to all of them! But the rules change with time and depending on the circumstances; i.e. they evolve.

Second example is alcohol. God banned alcohol in stages; first, Muslims were not allowed to pray while drunk; but then after that rule was broken, God forbidden alcohol. It could have been easily banned in the first revelation; but it had to evolve. These are clear indications that Islam - or any religion for that matter – should evolve, as long as it doesn’t offend God (Allah).

It’s all about interpretation! The rules and guidelines can be interpreted differently, as we have different sectors within Islam that have different interpretations, depending on the way it’s been look at and who looked at it. Therefore, these rules and guidelines should also be interpreted differently depending on the time and place.

There are three factors that contributed to Islam’s bad image:

1. Tribal culture

The tribal culture is a serious problem; albeit, many Arabs have been urbanized, their culture is derived from the tribal culture, especially when it comes to women and honour. Women were repressed before Islam; but many were also repressed after Islam! The reason is not Islam, it is the tribal traditions!

Islam advocated equality between human beings regardless of race and gender. But because the gender issue can be argumentative, I will say - for argument sake - that Islam differentiated between men and women; but even then, Islam undoubtedly gave women more rights than what women had anywhere else at that time - 1400 year ago - which should’ve been embraced and progressed not regressed; only tribal mentality didn’t give up all traditions that easily. Female infanticide was one of the tribal traditions that Islam prohibited!

Honour killing is not an Islamic practice, it’s a tribal tradition to preserve the honour of the tribe/family; yet many justify this act as an Islamic law! Islam does not distinguish between men and women when it comes to punishment, whether it’s for unlawful sex or any other reason. But to justify honour killing as an Islamic law, all you need to do is to look at the rules and guidelines with a tribal mentality.

Therefore, it is important to differentiate between Islamic culture and the Middle East culture. For example, Islam prohibit sex before marriage for both men and women; whereas the ME culture only prohibit women! Non-Muslims in the ME are part of ME culture which is influenced by tribal culture; therefore, they consider honour - and other values - same way their Muslim neighbours consider it.

2. Fundamentalists

If you accept that Islam can be interpreted differently depending on how you look at it; then you will accept that fundamentalists can justify what they advocate! To be honest, I find it hard to understand how they justify killing innocents in the name of Islam!

The problem of many fundamentalists is that they are retrogressive; now that makes all the blinded followers retrogressive too. They either look back at the Caliphate's era or the Prophet’s era, and they dream of making today look like centuries ago! Therefore, their actions and interpretations are not of today, but of centuries ago. For example, Wahhabists want to make today’s world look like the Prophet’s era, they want to make it look like 1400 years ago and they don’t want to move on!

There is no need for me to talk about the roots and reasons for terrorism as it is irrelevant to this subject; however, what is relevant is the damage caused by terrorism. Terrorism damaged Islam and Muslims more than anything else; the impact of 9/11 on the Muslim community around the world was gigantic; Muslims became target of racism and hatred; Westerners looked at them differently after that day; Islam became a feared religion, a religion that export terrorism and oppress women! And I don’t blame westerners because they love their freedom and democracy and want to protect it, I blame the fundamentalists and their followers who don’t want to evolve!

3. Leaders of Muslim countries

Most of the leaders don’t care about Islam more than they care about their own people! However, what they care about is the chair and for that they need to justify their existence, the emergency laws, the oppression, etc; and what can do the job better than pro-Arabism, anti-Imperialism and anti-Zionism!

Pro-Arabism, anti-Imperialism and anti-Zionism, that sounds like the Islamic fundamentalists agenda! Exactly! They have the same agenda and for their survival, they have to encourage the retrogressive fundamentalists! Could that backfire?

Furthermore, they persecute, oppress, torture and unjustly kill their own people; women - and human - rights are appalling; justice is merely a tool used to protect themselves and Islam is the excuse!

I think history repeats itself; I always compare the Arab Muslim world today with the European Christian world few centuries back, i.e. in the Middle Ages. The Church was powerful then, and later were in a power struggle with the state; but what happened when the church was powerful? Were there any human - and women - rights? How about anti-Semitism? What about justice? Sort of similar to what we have now in the Muslim world! We are just few centuries behind! But it looks like we are catching up.

Islam is being abused by Muslims and that’s why it has a bad image. Justice for Muslims and Islam would be served best if we get rid off tyranny, fundamentalism and tribal mentality and replace them with secularism, freedom and democracy.

An Unholy Alliance

Aryan Nation leader reaches out to al Qaeda
SEBRING, Florida (CNN) -- A couple of hours up the road from where some September 11 hijackers learned to fly, the new head of Aryan Nation is praising them -- and trying to create an unholy alliance between his white supremacist group and al Qaeda.

"You say they're terrorists, I say they're freedom fighters. And I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples' heart, in the Aryan race, that they have for their father, who they call Allah."

Kreis wants to make common cause with al Qaeda because, he says, they share the same enemies: Jews and the American government.

As we ended our interview, we asked Kreis if he had any message for Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants.

"The message is, the cells are out here and they are already in place," Kreis said. "They might not be cells of Islamic people, but they are here and they are ready to fight."
What is WRONG with these people?

Could someone please get him a ticket to Guantanamo? I think he could use a break!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq

There is a long history of disagreements, conflicts and repression between Sunnis and Shiites in general; but I am not going to talk about that. If you are a Sunni or Shiite, then I am not going to convince you that the other sector is more right; and if you are not a Muslim and interested, then I am sure that you will find a lot of online resources that covers both point of views and you will also find some impartial ones to understand it more clearly.

The Sunnis of Iraq are unlike the Sunnis of other Arab nations, they are more understanding and respectful of Shiites; e.g. Sunnis of Iraq wouldn’t use the name Yazid, who sent an Army that killed Imam Al Hussein in Karbala; however, in Jordan they have a road in his name. Sunnis in many Sunni-dominated Arab nations (even not Wahhabists) consider Shiites as kuffar (unbelievers).

I lived in Iraq for 24 years and I had many friends, Sunnis and Shiites. The fact that someone is a Sunni or a Shiite was irrelevant; however, the fact that someone is related to Saddam, his thugs or the government was very much relevant. We lived together as Iraqis and I couldn’t care less if my friend was a Shiite or a Sunni; however, I would care if that friend – whether Shiite or Sunni - is extremists and or discriminates.

When I lived there, i.e. 70s to mid-90s, there were few fundamentalists and they were more likely to be Shiites than Sunnis. I remember I heard a Shiite saying that he would rather marry a Jewish girl - with all due respect - than a Sunni girl! There few who have strong views about Sunni / Shiite split. There were some Sunnis who don’t like Shiites, and some Shiites who don’t like Sunnis; but that was not a general view.

However, in late 90s Saddam encouraged Wahhabism which changed that, since Wahhabists are the very extremists and they are very hostile to Shiites; they basically consider them Kuffar. But then again, most Iraqis didn’t become Wahhabists and they continued their normal (if it was considered normal) lives.

Since most Baathists - including Saddam, his thugs and government - were mainly Sunnis, as well as most of the beneficiaries; less Sunnis and more Shiites were oppressed. But that doesn’t mean Sunnis were not oppressed, the rules applied to every Iraqi citizen! Saddam ordered the killing of his Sunni sons-in-law and cousins, he crushed the rebellion in Al Anbar in 1995, he ordered the execution of thousands of his opponents and hundreds of businessmen (Sunnis and Shiites). He was the law and no one was above the law!

Nevertheless, there was prejudice, especially when dealing with the government; e.g. if a Sunni commits a minor error, he/she will be forgiven; but a Shiite will be given a lesson so that he/she won’t repeat the error. Hence, the massacre of Shiites in 1991 to crush the uprising and give them a lesson. The Shiites also struggled during the Iraq-Iran war, they lost many men as most of the front lines where Shiites and they lived in a bad conditions. Naturally, the Shiites felt discriminated against by the Sunni government; the Sunni government even encouraged discrimination, but that doesn’t mean they were discriminated against by all the Sunnis.

After the war, people wanted to play down the Sunni / Shiite split, thousands of Sunnis and Shiites demonstrated to show unity; but the MSM kept using that card. I bet you if you can find a news a broadcast that mentioned Iraq and didn’t use the word Shiite or Sunni! They wouldn’t say two Iraqis died in Baghdad, but they say two Shiites or Sunnis died; they wouldn’t say a bomb exploded in a residential area in southern Baghdad, they say the bomb exploded in a Shiite residential area and so on.

That created or widened the rift which was small at the end of the war and it was easy to repair, or at least that’s what I think. After the words being mentioned so much, some Sunnis became defensive; they say they hate Saddam, they were oppressed, etc. like they have to prove that they want the change and that the government did not discriminate. The government did discriminate, but it didn’t spare anyone from persecution and hardship, as well as the damage inflicted on the whole country!

Then came the Wahhabism and Saddam loyalists, and they targeted more Shiites than Sunnis, which was not helping, but Sunnis were also getting killed! Then Al Hakim - ridiculously - offered Iran 100 billion in compensation for the Iraq-Iran war which made the Sunnis afraid of his loyalty and an Iran-Style Iraq; but the Shiites were also afraid of Iran-Style Iraq! Then Al Sadr and his thugs rebelled!

All this widened the rift and some Sunnis and Shiites start using the words Sunnis and Shiites indiscriminately. Prejudice is very dangerous; Sunnis attack Shiites and their Mullahs to show because they are afraid of Iran-Style Iraq, which most Shiites disapprove; Shiites attack Sunnis and Wahhabists to show their disapproval of the insurgency, which most Sunnis disapprove too.

Just like Al Sadr has supporters, the insurgency has supporters; just like the Wahhabists want a Taliban-Style Iraq, some Shiites want Iran-Style Iraq. But those are not the majority of Sunnis or the majority of Shiites; those are few fundamentalists and we shouldn’t consider every Shiite an Iranian and every Sunni a Wahhabist. The majority of both sectors want secular government.

I hate Al Thari and his terrorist; I hate Al Sadr and his thugs; and I don’t like Al Hakim and his theocracy and loyalty to Iran; but I respect Al Sistani and Al Jaafari, even though Al Jaafari wouldn’t be my first choice. So, what does that make me? A Shiite? A Sunni? A Secular, I say!

I left Iraq in mid-90s, and at the time the rift wasn’t this bad. I don’t know what happened between the time I left and the war; but I know that we all want the same things. We all want freedom, democracy, security, prosperity, etc. Why do we have to be so doubtful of each other? So afraid of each other? There will always be someone who will misbehave, why do we generalise? I know it will take time and education and I know that not all Iraqis do generalise their views; but there are those who do, and we mustn’t let them, Sunnis or Shiites.

If someone asks me where are you from? I say Iraq. What’s your religion? I say Islam. I never say I am a Sunni or a Shiite, unless being asked specifically, which is rare! Aren’t we all Iraqis? Isn’t Iraq what we all care about? Isn’t freedom and democracy we want?

In the long term I hope that a person will not be in a certain job because he or she is Shiite or Sunni, but because he or she is the best qualified person for that job. I know this will not be easy and it is not possible now; but with time and education, I hope that we will somehow be as close as possible to achieving it.

Prejudice is cancer, if we let it, it will destroy us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terrorists are Losing

Keep your champagne on ice its too early to celebrate, but there have been a lot of good signs in recent weeks and here are some more. Iraqi troops seize a training camp and kill 80 terrorists:
At least 80 insurgents have been killed by Iraqi special forces backed by US troops in a raid on a training camp near the city of Tikrit, officials say.

An Iraqi commando unit engaged in heavy fighting before seizing control of the camp, 160km (100 miles) north-west of Baghdad, on Tuesday.

Iraqi officials confirmed that at least seven Iraqi commandos died, alongside insurgents from a number of countries.

Spokesman Maj Richard Goldenberg said Iraqi forces now had complete control of the site.

"An early assessment of the site indicates a facility for training anti-Iraqi forces," he said.

In a separate operation on Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul, the US military said, 70 suspected insurgents were arrested by Iraqi forces.

Iraqi special police units have been stepping up operations against insurgents in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, US troops killed up to 26 insurgents after an ambush south of Baghdad.
Seizing a training camp and killing and arresting that many terrorists is a major blow to the terrorists in Iraq. The Belmont Club has drawn my attention to the article in New York Times by Eric Schmitt who has more good news:
The top Marine officer in Iraq said Friday that the number of attacks against American troops in Sunni-dominated western Iraq and death tolls had dropped sharply over the last four months, a development that he called evidence that the insurgency was weakening in one of the most violent areas of the country.

The officer, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, head of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, said that insurgents were averaging about 10 attacks a day, and that fewer than two of those attacks killed or wounded American forces or damaged equipment. That compared with 25 attacks a day, five of them with casualties or damage, in the weeks leading up to the pivotal battle of Falluja in November, he said.

In a wide-ranging, 45-minute telephone interview from his headquarters just outside Falluja, General Sattler said temporary checkpoints set up by Marine patrols had disrupted insurgent activity.

He said that several hundred hard-core jihadists and former members of Saddam Hussein's government and security services were still operating in Anbar Province, but that the declining frequency of the attacks indicated that the rebels' influence was waning.

"They're way down on their attempts, and even more on their effectiveness," General Sattler said.

General Sattler, who said on Nov. 18 that the offensive in Falluja had "broken the back of the insurgency" there, said Friday that the remaining insurgents in Anbar Province, a region the size of Rhode Island, numbered in the hundreds and were rapidly losing public support. He said about one-third of Falluja's 250,000 residents, most of whom had fled the violence, had returned.

A year ago, just before an aborted April offensive in Falluja, General Sattler said there were virtually no competent Iraqi security forces in the region. Today, he said, there are 5,000 Iraqi soldiers and police commandos in and around Falluja and Ramadi. "By putting Iraqi capability on the street, it's earned people's confidence," General Sattler said.
And John F. Burns has more (New York Times):
In the first 18 months of the fighting, the insurgents mostly outmaneuvered the Americans along Haifa Street, showing they could carry the war to the capital's core with something approaching impunity.

But American officers say there have been signs that the tide may be shifting. On Haifa Street, at least, insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, and with less intensity; mortar attacks into the Green Zone have diminished sharply; major raids have uncovered large weapons caches; and some rebel leaders have been arrested or killed.

American military engineers, frustrated elsewhere by insurgent attacks, are moving ahead along Haifa Street with a $20 million program to improve electricity, sewer and other utilities. So far, none of the work sites have been attacked, although a local Shiite leader who vocally supported the American projects was assassinated on his doorstep in January.

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country's own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Last month, an Iraqi brigade with two battalions garrisoned along Haifa Street became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq. The two battalions can muster more than 2,000 soldiers, twice the size of the American cavalry battalion that has led most fighting along the street. So far, American officers say, the Iraqis have done well, withstanding insurgent attacks and conducting aggressive patrols and raids, without deserting in large numbers or hunkering down in their garrisons.

If Haifa Street is brought under control, it will be a major step toward restoring order in this city of five million, and will send a wider message: that the insurgents can be matched, and beaten back.

In recent weeks, with the new Iraqi units on hand, the Americans have sent up to 1,500 men at a time on sweeps, uncovering insurgent weapons caches and arresting insurgent leaders like Ali Mama, the name taken by a gangster who was once a favored hit man for Saddam Hussein.

He is now in Abu Ghraib; others who have become local legends with attacks on the Americans have been killed, including one who used the nom-de-guerre Ra'id the Hunter, American intelligence officers say.
I have said earlier about how Iraqis are becoming more confident and less afraid of the terrorists - especially after Al Iraqiya TV showed their sick and immoral behaviour - which resulted in more Iraqis reporting suspicious activities to the authorities. Iraqis are more determined today than before to end terrorism; and with the hard work of Iraqi Forces and US Army, the terrorists will have less public support and or sympathy and will be unable to move or attack.

Infact the Iraqis will turn against the terrorists and attack them back as Robert F. Worth reported in the New York Time that ordinary Iraqis wage a successful battle against insurgents (Hat Tip: Arthur Chrenkoff):
Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon today, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming towards his shop and decided he had had enough.

As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their own AK-47's and opened fire, police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's young nephews and a bystander were injured, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. "We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them."
Arthur also reported two more incidents and criticised NYT!

Having said that and as General Sattler said, there is still much to be done to end the violence and bring stability; there are so many challenges ahead, but one must say that progress is being made on all fronts. Everyday we are getting closer and closer to have a stable, fee and democratic Iraq; and it is not because of the work done by the US Army nor the work done by the Iraqi Forces nor the politicians nor the people; it is because of the hard work and dedication, determination and patience of all of them working together towards a common goal.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Barbers being targeted by fundamentalists

I heard yesterday that barbers are being targeted by fundamentalists. I was shocked. So, today I decided to look it up and I found an Arabic article that confirmed it.

In southern Baghdad fundamentalists are warning barbers for the sins of shaving beards and cutting hair in a western fashion! So far 12 barbers have been killed by fundamentalists. Therefore, barbers are refusing to shave beards and cut hair in such style, and are placing banners on the windows of their shops to indicate that.

Women wore hijab to cover their hair because they were afraid of these crazy fundamentalists. Churches and Christians were targeted, as well as alcohol stores! And now barbers seems to be the target! And for what? Shaving? Looking clean? Looking good? Since when shaving and cutting hair is a sin? Where does it say in Islam that you shouldn't shave or cut your hair?

This is outrageous! Who the hell these fundamentalists think they are? Is this the "Jihad" or the "resistance" they want people to believe in? Or is this the type of theocracy they want people to vote for? Either way, Iraqis will never accept it. Iraq has always been - and will always be - a secular country. They are disgrace to their families, clans and religion. There is no place in heaven for these murderers, but there will be a big nice lounge for them in hell.
"Whoever kills a human being unjustly is as if he had killed all of humankind; and whoever saves a human being is as if he saved all humankind" Al Quran, Surah al Ma'idah, Ayah 32.
It is time to stop all this nonsense.

Iraqi Terrorists Propaganda

Two day ago I was working when I heard something strange, something I never heard anything like it before! It was on Al Arabia Channel. They reported that the "resistance" in Iraq have kidnapped an Iraqi and later released him without demanding a ransom! Once I heard this, I stopped working and give Al Arabia my full attention.

The kidnapping business in Iraq is well known and I know many who've been kidnapped. Of course most of those won't make it to the news, but kidnapping is common these days in Iraq and many Iraqis have fled Iraq - after the war - either because they are afraid of being kidnapped or because they've been kidnapped and their captors told them to leave Iraq after the ransom was paid.

I heard many stories about these kidnappings and I know people who've been kidnapped, but there was never a contradicting story. When foreigners are being kidnapped, its about publicity and making political demands; however, when Iraqis are being kidnapped, its about money. They watch the hostage, they know what he/she does, they know how much money he/she has and they know how many bodyguards he/she has. I.e. they study the hostage and plan their wicked attack carefully.

It started against well-known doctors in Iraq, then they expanded their operations against repatriates and any Iraqi who might have money whether working with the coalition or not. I know people who've been kidnapped and who would be considered in the eyes of the terrorists as "collaborators", but when they kidnapped them all they asked for was money! And when the hostage ask, why you are doing this? The answer is "Jihad"!

One of the practices of those evil kidnappers is to beat the hostage. I know someone who is now a member in the National Assembly, he got kidnapped last year and was beaten till one of his eardrums was torn! A famous female doctor was kidnapped and beaten badly, after the first night, they saw her bruises and were surprised! They asked her: didn't your husband beat you before?! As if it is normal practice for the wife to be beaten by the husband. And so many other astonishing stories.

The other fact about those kidnappers, and I heard this from many and the latest was last Saturday from someone who came from Baghdad, is that when someone get kidnapped, his family will have to approach Sheikh Harith Al Thari, chairman of the Muslim Clerics Council in Iraq, to negotiate. Apparently he can approach the kidnappers and can speak on their behalf! This is another reason why this wicked Sheikh should be arrested.

Therefore, when I heard Al Arabia say that the "resistance" in Iraq have kidnapped an Iraqi and later released him without demanding a ransom, I was speechless and I had to listen. They showed the Iraqi guy who was kidnapped and he said:

I was being kidnapped by the "resistance" and they released me after they inquired about my conduct, and they realised that I am an honourable, patriot, nationalist person who didn't collaborate with the Americans.

Apparently he is a member of some political party, National Front for Iraq Unity or Liberation or something. Then the reports asked him who did the "resistance" ask about your conduct? He answered:

I don't know; Harith Al Thari, the Muslim Clerics Council; I don't know!

Then I realised what was going on and I smiled! I realised that the Muslim Clerics Council had to have their own propaganda after Al Iraqiya TV showed all their terrorists confessing live about how sick, immoral, lowlife criminals they are. How they killed innocent Iraqis for $100 or $200! After they showed a paedophile homosexual Sheikh confess about his sick behaviour.

After all that they had to have their own propaganda! They want to show that they only kidnap the so called "collaborators", that they are "resistance" rather than terrorists, but who will believe them? I am sure a leftist like Giuliana Sgrena (2) would, who said her kidnappers treated her well! But I ask all those to talk to the families of those kidnapped and or killed by these terrorists first.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Road to democracy

I have been asked about my thoughts on the current political process in Iraq. To appreciate the current process, one must understand the problems that Iraq is facing today. So, I recommend that you to read - if you haven't read it yet - my previous post "effects of a troubled 45 years".

Iraq has a long way to go before it can achieve democracy. I have always believed that one can not make democracy work in a year or two nor make people become democratic by telling them to be so; however, what can be done in few years is paving the way for democracy, which is exactly what is happening in Iraq today. Those who believe Iraq is democratic are mistaken, Iraq is merely on the road to democracy.

There have been many problems in the last two years and we still have problems. Terrorism is one of these problems, which is caused by Islamic fundamentalists, Arab Nationalists and Saddam loyalists; but there have been other problems and mistakes too. Having said that, one should not expect that a process of change can run without problems. Change is always difficult, there are always people against it and others for it.
"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one." Niccolò Machiavelli
One of the problems facing Iraq - and the Arab world - today is Arab Nationalism and its legacy. Arab Nationalism has failed because of its Nazism ideology; but many Arabs still believe in it because they were taught so and because of its anti-Zionist, anti-Imperialist stance. The problem is that those who still believe in Arab Nationalism are against democracy in Iraq, they think that terrorism in Iraq is resistance, they think that what is happening in Iraq is their business, they love Saddam and they love to see him or the Baath Party back!

This is a problem, it is a problem when someone support the terrorist because of this ideology, it is a problem when some non-Iraqi Arab think that he should join what he thinks is resistance. That said, Arab Nationalism is dying and more and more Iraqis and Arabs are abandoning this ideology. The demonstrations in Iraq against Jordan and the demonstrations in Lebanon against Syria is one of the signs! If you are interested in Arab Nationalism, read Tony's post on the irrelevance of Political Arabism.

And with the all problems, the Iraqis bravely voted on 30 January 2005, which was a historic day. It was the first real step towards democracy. The elections wasn't perfect, but it was good, in fact it was great and successful. There is no perfect elections and one shouldn't expect that the first elections in any country would be as good as the 50th elections in democratic countries. And for those who claim that it was illegitimate, I ask why? Was it because of the occupation? If so, shouldn't the Palestinian elections be called illegitimate to?

Today we are one step closer to democracy because of the bravery and determination of the people in Iraq. Iraqis are determined to make this work. They went out and risked their lives to vote. They said 'YES' to freedom and democracy, and 'NO' to violence. Anyone who has doubts about what's happening - about this process - should ask the eight million Iraqis who risked their lives to say 'YES'. And from what I hear, more and more Iraqis are going to the police to inform about suspicions activities. Terrorism has no chance of winning against such determination and conviction.

Ethnicity was a problem in the elections, but it will also be a problem in next few elections. Iraqis due to oppression and mistrust have voted according to their ethnicity to secure their rights and because they don't trust others. It is a problem, but an acceptable one. It is understandable that Kurds will vote for Kurds and Turkmen will vote for Turkmen, etc. However, this problem will lessen after education and gaining the trust of each other, but it will take time.

I previously ruled out the possibility of Iraq-Style Iran and Ali reported earlier about students demonstrating in Basra against the self-imposed radical religious guardians. Ali's report confirms two things; one, is that the religious groups will lose popularity after people trust them, i.e. they will abuse the powers given to them by the people and enforce their believes on those people; therefore, people will reject them and less people will vote for them. Second, is that the Iraqi people have to choose wrong to know what is right (trial and error). This trial and error process will also play a small part in solving the ethnicity problem.

I always believed - and I might be wrong - that there is a dictator and or an arrogance trend inside most of us, especially the Iraqis. The Kurds are known to be more arrogant than others. But I also believe that anyone who has these trends can change.

Negotiation skills are talents that not everyone possess but it can be learned. To be a negotiator is to know when to play hard and when to play soft, when to dictate, when to give and when to take, and to know how to give little but show that you gave a lot and take a lot but show that you took little.

Our politicians need to learn about democracy just as we do. They are as new to democracy just as we are. One of the problems Iraq is facing today is our politician's negotiation skills. I personally have doubts about our current politician's negotiation skills. In fact, I can not rule out the fact that our politicians might possess some dictatorship and or arrogance trends; and if they do, does that make them a better or worse negotiators?

That said, our politicians - just like the people - are learning and will learn more. No one said it was easy, but with time, hard work and determination problems will be resolved, progress will be apparent and there will be a time when those against democracy will realise the inevitable and join the process.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Headlines from Iraq

[news in Arabic]

Three western Sunni counties - Al Anbar (Al Rumadi), Saladin (Tikrit) and Nineveh (Mosul) - have decided to form a federation according to the interim Constitution. Al Anbar governor, Fasal Al Ke'od, confirmed that they decided upon this unity due to the similarities in their culture, economics and the relationships between their tribes.

The good news is that it looks like the Kurds and the Shiites (UIA) are have reached an agreement and are close to signing it. However, the details are very sketchy at the moment, here are some of them:
  • Kirkuk will be dealt with according to the interim Constitution, i.e. returning all the Kurds who were forced to leave, but there is no indication on whether it will be part of the autonomous area or not.
  • Peshmerga will be integrated into the Army, Police, National Guard, etc.
  • More revenues from oil will be allocated to the 18 counties of Iraq without discrimination to improve their conditions.
  • The new constitution must respect Islam as well as other religions.
  • Arabs and Kurds form the majority of the Iraqi people and they must respect each other, love each other and respect and love other minorities (Turkmen, Cheldeans, Assyrians, etc.).
  • Respect of Human rights, ethnic minorities, etc.
  • Elimination of the residues of Saddam's era.
Two terrorists were arrested in Baghdad. They were responsible of yesterday mortar fire that was dropped close to where the first National Assembly session was being held.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pathetic anti-Bush anti-American comments

How sad and pathetic can someone be? And for what? To prove themselves right? Or just to satisfy some pathetic sad desire inside them? Or maybe they hate the US some much that they will be happier to see a nation ruined than to see the US succeed!

Some of the comments posted on the BBC News site, "What are your hopes for Iraq parliament?":
I hate to say this to Iraqis, but I pray for chaos and civil war: it's the only way to stop Bush's policies and show that peace can never come through force. If Iraq gets peace, Bush wins credibility. It cannot be allowed to happen.
Nina, Toronto Canada
Nina, you are sick! Seriously, you need to see a doctor! Something bad must've happened in your childhood!
What parliament? A puppet government under an occupation. What hopes can we have? Iraqis need to understand this is a cover to provide cover-up to the corrupt Bush administration. Americans, please wake up and see how greedy you are.
Sahil, Sydney, Australia
Sahil, they select a government, you say puppets! We elect a government, you also say puppets! What do you want, Saddam? In your dreams!

But there were also some good comments:
My hope is that Iraq becomes a democratic, federal, pluralistic society that respect human rights, freedom expression, women's rights and all minorities. If democracy succeeds in Iraq it will spread the same to the whole of the Middle East who are very thirsty to taste it.
Ary Hassan, Kurd living in Norway
And some constructive ones:
I hope that the new parliament gets formed quickly. We Iraqis who risked our lives to vote deserve to have representation. To my fellow Kurdish brothers that posted here, I ask them to understand the basics of democracy. It is not getting everything you want, and it is only through constant negotiations that we would be able to solve this process. As for others, I am sorry to hear that Iraq has become a war zone for Bush-whacking. If being liberal means you are peace loving, then maybe you should study what is happening more clearly.
Ali Isam, Baghdad, Iraq

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Kurds and Iraq today

Until recently, I was a bit naive regarding the issue of Kurds. I love the Kurds, I have many Kurdish friends and I have Kurdish ancestors. But most of the Kurds I know are those lived in Arab areas (e.g. Baghdad); and therefore, they are well integrated and they think slightly differently from the rest of the Kurds. That's why I was a bit naive about certain things.

To look at the Kurds and be fair to them, you have to acknowledge their history. They inhabited the area which is now part of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Armenia about 3000 - 4000 years ago. So to think that they could just forget their history and become Iraqis in a day is a bit naive. Having said that, they are Iraqis, but they were Kurds before they became Iraqis; like we are Arabs before we were Iraqis. The only difference is that they were oppressed throughout history by many nations including Arabs; of course they have their own culture, language, etc.

When the enemy was Saddam, there was a common goal that united all those who were against him; Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, etc. And today, as we stand facing one of the toughest test in implementing democracy in Iraq, we stand not as united as we should've been. Ethnicity dictated the elections and ethnicity is dictating the future. Of course it is understandable and expected after all the suffering caused by Saddam's regime. But things will change when real democracy prevails and people are more educated.

As an Iraqi, what would one wants from this process? In general, we want freedom and democracy where there is security, justice and protection of minority rights; this plus many other reforms including education will lead to a prosperous Iraq.

As a Kurd, what would one wants from this process? Wait a second, you might say; the Kurds are Iraqis, which means they would want the same things! Well, yes but their ethnicity and their history make them want more!

The Kurdish authority made an error of judgement when they conducted a poll to find out whether the Kurds preferred to be part of Iraq or have their independence. Having been oppressed for so many years, of course most of them would choose independence; but when there is no chance of that happening, why conduct a poll that serves no purpose? I blame the Kurdish authorities for conducting the poll in the first place.

There is a much larger population of Kurds in Iran and Turkey than in Iraq, which means that they [Iran and Turkey], especially Turkey, will not allow the Iraqi Kurds to have their independence, at least not now; even if Iraq granted them their independence. Turkey has voiced its concerns regarding this issue many times and the US assured Turkey that this will not happen.
During the flight to Ankara from Poland, Ms Rice told reporters: "I'm here really in part to say to the Turks that we are fully committed, fully committed, to a unified Iraq."
However, I doubt that there are many Iraqis who would object to the Kurds having autonomy; its only fair and right that they have it after they managed themselves for 14 years. Even Turkey wouldn't object to that:
Turkey has officially accepted the establishment of a federal structure in Iraq. Officials including Turkey's Special Envoy to Iraq, the General Staff, National Intelligence Branch and representatives Foreign Affairs Ministry have accepted the federalism article, the most important article in the Iraqi Temporary Administrative Law that until today had not officially been accepted. An official statement released today says: "We respect the decisions of the Iraqis. We will not object if the majority of Iraqis demand federalism."
When I heard that Jalal Talabani is nominated to be the president of Iraq, I thought; yes, let him be, let them have it and let them feel part of the new Iraq. Let them know that the new Iraq excludes no one from any posts, its an Iraq that we should all be proud of. They have suffered and they came second in the election; so it is just fair that they get one of the main posts in the new government. It is a good thing, because now they will feel more Iraqis than ever; Jalal Talabani said:
Reassuring Turkey about the territorial integrity of Iraq, Talabani said his Iraqi identity would appear after he became president. "Iraq's territorial integrity will be more in favor of the Kurds. The Kurds can play a more active role in an integrated Iraq. There are some tendencies for Independent Kurdistan, but I believe that I will overcome these as our influence increases. I was a Kurdish Iraqi, now I will be an Iraqi Kurd," Talabani explained.
Abraham Lincoln once said:
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
The Kurdish leaders are being tested today after they gained more power than their share, because of lack of participation from many due to various reasons. They are being tested and unfortunately they forgot that together we are shaping a country which is fair to all, which they are part of and that they shouldn't be afraid of the future. They forgot that today they have 25% of the votes, but tomorrow they will have less (probably less than 20%). I believe that if you are reasonable and fair when you are powerful, you will be treated within reason and with fairness when you are weak (not applicable in tyranny, of course).

So far in what I mentioned above, the Kurdish leaders have only made one error, which is the unnecessary poll for independency. But during negotiations, other misjudgements took place!

Kurdish leaders want the Kurdish paramilitary, known as the Peshmerga, to be controlled by the Kurdish authority and paid for by the Iraqi government! And for the Iraqi Army to enter the Kurdish autonomous area, they would require a permit from the Kurdish Parliament!

In simple terms, in federalism the central government would be in charge of defence, external affairs and federal budget! So, if the Peshmerga to be controlled by the Kurdish authorities how can the central government be in charge of defence? How does that work? Is there a Florida Army? No, there is an American Army. Is there a Scottish Army? No, there is a British Army.

I understand that they want to protect themselves, but why not have the Peshmerga as part of the Iraq Army, paid for by the Iraqi government and stationed in the Kurdish autonomous areas? Wouldn't that be more logical?

Kirkuk is a critical issue for two reasons: One, for its multi-ethnic population mostly Kurds and Turkmen; and Turkey want to ensure the safety and rights of the Turkmen living in Kirkuk. Two, because its oil rich. Therefore, I will leave this issue for now and I hope they do the same! However, I do have one question which I don't have an answer for, why the US/UN didn't give Kirkuk to the Kurds in 1992?

I love the Kurds and I feel like their leaders are damaging the relationship between Arabs and Kurds; and I am afraid of the consequences. Their leaders are trying to get as much as they can while they have power! But, there are more important issues to deal with at this point. You are negotiating and you have the right to make demands, but be reasonable and remember that the tyrant is gone; and those critical issues that have a long lasting impact, such as Kirkuk, shouldn't be dealt with in such a haste.

Monday, March 14, 2005

New arrests

Iraqi National Guard arrested Faisal Al Delaimi, member of Islamic Clerics Council in Iraq, and 57 others [news in Arabic]. They also arrested three Afghans on their way to Mousel to join the terrorists.

Also arrested [news in Arabic] Abdullah Mahir Abdul Rashid, Qusay's brother-in-law, and Marwan Tahir Abdul Rashid, Saddam's bodyguard, in Tikrit. Abdullah received money from Quasay to support terrorism and Marwan is accused of attacks against Iraqi security forces.

There are other arrests being made everyday, so lets hope that we get them all!

Update: Iraqi National Guard arrested Sheikh Yunis Mahdi Alekaidi, the representitive of the Islamic Clerics Council in Al Dewanya [news in Arabic].

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why Al Thari is not being arrested?

Rage is an understatement of how I feel. All those killings! Innocent Iraqis dying and for what? What was their crime? Going to a funeral? Or trying to serve their country and their families by being policemen? I tell you one thing, this is one sick world we are living in; and I can think of nothing other that the people living in Iraq, may god be with them and help them pass this safely.

Every country has to defend itself when its being attacked, even if that attack came from within. It is a matter of national security. The US introduced Anti-Terrorism Laws including The Patriot Act 2001 when it was needed. The UK introduced The Terrorism Act 2000 and Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. I know about all those who will claim these acts or some of them violate civil liberties and privacy; but when national security is involved and the lives of thousands of your fellow countrymen and women are at stake, there is hardly any justification for those arguments.

It is a crime to incite hate, violence and terrorism in most countries. So, why should it be different in Iraq? Iraq did ban Al Jazeera for inciting hate and violence; UK did arrest Abu Hamza because he conspired with terrorists, aided them, preached, etc. Shouldn't Iraq also arrest individuals who do so? Shouldn't clerics be arrested for inciting violence? Why not, because they are clerics? Does that mean they are above the law? I believe because they are clerics, then they have much bigger responsibility than average Joe. What they preach will influence many people, and those will commit crimes against innocents!

The Wahhabi Harith Al Thari and his son Muthana of the Sunni/Wahhabi Islamic Clerics Council in Iraq have been inciting hate, violence and terrorism for a long time. He encourages the so called 'resistance', but its actually more like terrorism to me; killing Iraqis everyday can not be resistance! He never condemned any attack on Iraqis. He boycotted the elections and ordered others to do so. And he said that he can call the so called 'resistance' off! So how come after all that he is still free and not being arrested? This Islamic Clerics Council of Iraq should be called the Terrorism Clerics Council! I don't mean that Sunni represent terrorism, but this council does. And all clerics and any group, Shiite or Sunni, Muslim or Christian, should be responsible for what they say and should be brought to justice if they incite hate and violence.

What we need now is some swift actions, tough laws, fast-track courts with capital punishment or at least to be held without trials under some terrorism act. And for those who disagree on capital punishment; I don't think you can deter these people with prison sentences, and for the crimes they did and are doing, capital punishment seems lenient to me!


Some people might say this is risky because you might do what Saddam did in 1991! He crushed the uprising and now you want to crush the so called 'resistance'. Let's compare, shall we? Saddam killed indiscriminately; he and his thugs, many of whom are somehow working with the terrorists now, killed everyone they saw in streets of Iraq's southern cities. They killed and buried innocents in mass graves. Those involved in the uprising didn't kill innocent Iraqis, Baathists did and some of them are still doing. Saddam wiped out the population of Halabja killing every man, woman, and child.

However, what I am calling for now is justice, nothing more! Justice for those innocents who died for no reason, died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time going about their daily life or doing their duties. Justice in any form or shape, through a trial or killed resisting arrest. Justice is all I am asking for.

And as for those policemen who conspired against their colleagues, who murdered innocents... What can I say? Is there any punishment greater than capital punishment? The time for forgiveness and reconciliation has past, its time for justice and deterrence.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New joke from Beirut

There are five differences between Syria and E.T.:
  1. E.T. looked better
  2. He learned to communicate
  3. He came alone
  4. He had his own bike
  5. And he wanted to go home!

The truth about the Pro-Syrian demo in Beirut

I have been talking to a friend of mine in Beirut and I have asked him about the situation and the demonstrations. This is what's happening:

People are scared! The saving interest rate on the Lebanese Lira jumped from 5-6% to 20% and now its 15%! The exchange rate is stable due to the billions of dollars that the government has been injecting in the market to save the Lira.

Now comes the real question; was the Pro-Syrian demonstration for real or just another Baathi-Style demonstration? Well the simple answer is that it was a Baathi-Style demonstration, i.e. very similar to the demonstrations we had in Iraq during Saddam's rule! Basically, there were three types of people at the demonstration:
  1. Hezbollah
  2. The one million plus Syrian workers in Lebanon who want Syria to stay to keep their jobs
  3. Syrian army dressed as civilians
Also some reports suggest that some of the demonstrators were brought from Syria; which I find more logical than the army, but what do I know, they are Baathists!

So how big is Hezbollah in Lebanon and how much support from the general public do they have? Well, Hezbollah is about 300,000 - 400,000 with a considerable fan base in the south. The reason for the fan base is because when the government neglected the south, Hezbollah came in and built schools, hospitals, roads, etc! I am sure many of you know or have guessed this by now; Hezbollah is funded by Syria and Iran.

Lets wait and see who will President Lahoud and the parliament appoint as the new PM ahead of next May elections. But can they be that stupid and appoint PM Karami who resigned? Well at least that's what the Lebanese people think!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Effects of a troubled 45 years

If we look back at Iraq's last 45 years, we would have a much better understanding of current situation and future of Iraq. Iraq's best era is considered by many to be the 70s; however, I believe the monarchy era and specifically the 50s before 1958 were Iraq best years. I will not discuss why I think that, maybe some other time, but I will talk about how Iraq deteriorated since 1958 and how its relevant today!

In 1958 a group of Army Generals and Officers, led by General Abdul Karim Qasim, rightly or wrongly thought that they know what is best for Iraq and therefore had the right to rule it. Though, their intentions might have been honourable and probably were influenced by the coup in Egypt in 1952, the result was a military coup that overthrew the monarchy, killed the royal family and started of a new page in Iraq's modern history filled with back stabbing, political assassinations, conspiracies, coups and an endless number of injustices!

This also created a platform for political parties to fight each other and fight themselves for power. Four presidents in the 60s! Qasim (58-63) executed; A S Arif (63-66) killed in helicopter crash; A R Arif (66-68) forced into exile; and the fourth Al Bakar lasted till 1979 before being forced to resign and put under house arrest. I believe this era set an example of what a people can achieve when they have some support and how they can be hungry for power.

I believe that some of the so called 'Iraqi Insurgents' wishes to achieve similar results; they want the Americans to leave so that they kill all those who stand for freedom and democracy (i.e. stand against them) and then they assume full powers, because they are well aware of the fact that they can't assume these powers in a democracy and they don't want to lose what they once had!

In 1968 when the Baathists came to power they left no room for conspiracies and coups; they were ruthless and they got rid of all their opponents even those within their own party! That's how they managed to stay; torturing, terrorizing and killing! So, the effect of that was the elimination of all the political minds of the country; and therefore, the current political environment is lacking the minds of the younger generations and there are some unsuitable politicians.

You have to remember that Iraq produced very few politicians in the last 30 years; most of the politicians you see today are either the few old ones or those who lately became politicians to rebel. Having said that, there are few outstanding politicians; but until there are more outstanding ones, we will have to be patient with the current ones and help them do a better job.

After the Baathists came to power, well they did so many things a book will not be enough to list all the terrible things they commited. But of things, they changed people moral values, living standards and way of thinking! They messed up the socioeconomic classes, they brought an uneducated low-class and pushed them up and made them superior to the educated class. They basically turned the socioeconomic classes upside down. They encouraged people to become informants and to turn against their own, against their friends and even against their family, for money and or for career opportunities. Here is an example; Saddam once honoured a father for killing a son because he defected from the army; only the son did not defect, but the father had a crush on his daughter-in-law and had a fight with his son and killed him!

The bad examples we see today in Iraq are not examples of the Iraqi people; but are the remnants of the Baath, they are the students of the Baath School that encouraged them to be low-life criminals and taught them to do anything and everything for money.

The effects of those teachings were boosted in the 90s. For example, in the 80s we used to sleep at night without locking the doors, whereas in the 90s we had to install metal sliding doors (like those you see in shops) on all the doors and windows of the house! It was safe to leave the car unlocked in the 80s, whereas in the 90s locking the car only is not safe enough!

You might wonder how the Baath taught people to steal or how it got boosted. Well, in Kuwait, the looting was an order. Of course, Uday and Qusay and all the big shots, had the items they want reserved and nobody can touch them, in fact they had buildings and institutions reserved for them to loot! You might not believe this and think this is outrageous, but I have a personal experience! I had a flat in Al Najaf during the uprising in 1991, were few republican army privates stayed, I was in Baghdad and they broke the door and used the flat. They stole items, broke what was left and tore all the clothes that didn't fit them. However, I found a note in one of my book, apologizing for their actions, saying it was an order and they had to do it.

When you talk to people who lived in Iraq in the 50s, you will know that Iraq was so much more advanced and opened to the world then than any other period after that! Do you know that back then people were capable of ordering the playboy magazine and get it by post? And what did the Baath party do about that, they closed Iraq and imprisoned its people. If you grew up in Iraq in the 80s and 90s, you know very little about the outside world; I left in mid 90s and I realised how little I knew about the outside world.

Now think about all that, the turbulence of 60s, the elimination of the politicians from the 60s onward, the uneducated low-class that became the masters, the low life criminals that became common, the immorality that were taught and the imprisonment that made the people unaware of how people live outside Iraq's borders; all that takes time to repair, it is damaging and it is slowing the realization of freedom and democracy, but it will not stop it.

These are only few of the continuing effects of the Baath rule.

Having said all that, I am very optimistic about the future and to be optimistic is not to close your eyes, but to understand the obstacles and try to remove them. Even though these obstacles exist, most Iraqis are against those obstacles and are for freedom and democracy. And there are so many educated and intellectual Iraqis, and you don't have to go too far to see this, just go to the Iraqi Blogs (ITM, Free Iraqi, Healing Iraq, Democracy in Iraq, etc) you will realise it. So it will happen, in fact it is happening and they wouldn't be able to stop this dream, only it will take time! In my opinion, the key to speed it up and to remove all these obstacles is education, education and more education.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Iraqi Expats

I've heard so many times, that there are people in Iraq who feel hostile to the Iraqi Expats! While this might be a view of few, I feel like I have to talk about who are the exiles, why they left, what they do, how they feel, etc. However, don't take what I say as a fact that can be applied to all, its just my view and I've seen many exceptions!

I will start with myself. I am 32 years old and have spent the first 24 years of my life in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad. I've spent the 70s, 80s and half of the 90s there; and I've spent time in the military camps, I had to as a student! So I know Iraq, I know its people and I have seen the wars and sanctions. However, I must say, even though I hear and read a lot about the current situation there and I have relatives and friends there, I know that people have changed and I can only imagine how it feels to be there now.

As you can imagine, it is not easy to classify or describe the expats! They are so many, left Iraq at different times, for different reasons, have different believes and they are of all age groups with different level education and background. However, I will try to summarise in general.

The expats can be classified into three major categories; those forced to leave before the Gulf war (50s - 90s); those choose to leave or stay after they came for education before the Gulf war; and finally the biggest group are those left after the gulf war.

Those forced to leave before the Gulf war, are those who were persecuted, tortured, lost members of their family, deported and left Iraq with nothing (everything they owned were confiscated)! Some of them didn't go through all this but some did, and all had to or forced to leave with or without losing everything. Depending on their struggle and pain, some of those don't wish to go back to Iraq not even to claim what was confiscated by the Baathist, but others do! Most of them have established a life and don't wish to risk losing everything again. Those who do wish to go back or claim what they lost are very much attached to Iraq and to the Iraqi society, basically they still care.

Part of those who were deported are the Iraqi Jewish community. And those left of them, who lived in Iraq (i.e. not their offspring) still think about Iraq, love Iraq, cook Iraqi food and dream of going back! This might sound strage, but they are more loyal to Iraq than some Arab Iraqis.

Those chose to leave Iraq or stay out of it after they came for education before the Gulf war have done so to seek a better life where they enjoyed freedom and democracy, and they realised the dangers of the Baath party; so they didn't want to go back, or had an opportunity to leave and did so.

Most of those well established and have achieved that better life they were after. They did well for themselves, but most of them still have relatives in Iraq and still attached to Iraq. Many of those who came in the 80s, have been here before probably during the 60s and got further education and went back to Iraq, to serve Iraq! But then found an opportuinity to leave when there was war and left.

In general, all those who came before the Gulf war; their offspring who were raised from childhood in exile are less attached to Iraq, less aware of its problem, less concerned about it and many of them even don't speak Arabic. Now those are not a lot and most of them are in there teens now. Having said this, I have met Iraqis who were raised here and they are in there early 20s and are very much concerned about Iraq and following the situation!

As for those who left in the 90s, well we are talking about the majority as most of the exiles have left after the Gulf war! And all of those either have families or at least relatives still back home. They have seen two wars and lived through the sanctions, depending on when they left. Those are very much attached to Iraq and very few of them have lost the Iraqi identity. Those have left because the living situation in Iraq was getting worse and they had the opportunity to leave. Many of those have struggled to reach their destination; and by struggle, I am not comparing their struggle with that of the Iraqis who stayed in Iraq, but some had to go through a lot before reaching a safe heaven.

And as for this group (who left after the Gulf war), well you see people who have done well and others who are still trying. There are those who wishes to go back, and others who don't. Some left because they had to, others because they had an opportunity.

Example, my parent were in England in the 60s, they got their post graduate studies and went back to Iraq. They left again in the 90s when they had the chance! It would have been much easier for them to stay in England when they were here in the 60s, only they believed in Iraq and had to go back and give it what they learned. Many educated people left Iraq because of Saddam; all those who had the opportunity to leave have left. Some of them are still struggling to make a living others have established themselves. But all of those are Iraqis who care about Iraq and its people, and many of those who are in there late 20s, 30s and 40s wishes to go back and give Iraq the experience they have; not to tell Iraqis how to live, but to simply share with them the knowledge, to help rebuild a better Iraq. Most of those, are like my parents who went back in the 60s and 70s to give Iraq their knowledge and experience. Only its harder to go back now while the security is not so great and they have some sort of a life established here.

As for how people think, well as you can imagine or maybe not, you can find all sorts of people (exile Iraqis). You can find those who supprots Iran Style, those who supprot the Baath, those who support Saddam! And you can even find people that support a Wahhabi style Iraq! You might find it hard to belive, but it is true; and the question that always comes to my mind when I see such people is: Why are you here? Why did you leave Iraq? Why are you not in Iran? And so many other questions.

I must say that it is disturbing to see such people, especially those who still support Saddam; but the majority believe one way or another in freedom and democracy, even though each express their views in a different way.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Iran-Style Iraq

Iran-Style Iraq has been the worry of many Iraqis and non-Iraqis. However, in my humble opinion, for this to happen a revolution and a new dictator will be required. As for the dictator, I am sure that there are many willing candidates; but a revolution? I don't think so.

Let's look at the facts and judge accordingly whether this is a well founded worry or not. The spiritual leader of the shia in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, is an Iranian and he is in Iraq because he is in disagreement with the Iranian government. He believes that religion should be separated from politics. Mixing religion and politics is a recipe for corruption, dictatorship, oppression, etc. What happens is, if the religious leader is strong, he will push the politicians to do what he likes; and vice versa, if the politician is strong, he will force the religious leader to legitimise his action and so on. Therefore, this separation is essential and Al Sistani believes in it.

Having said that, if Al Sistani approves of such integration or if he loses control over the Shia Alliance; then these Islamic law and structure must somehow be written in the new constitution, which we the people have to approve! And for that to happen they need 183 votes; which means they are 43 votes short, assuming all those in the Shia Alliance will vote in favour of these laws, which I doubt because this list also contains women and some secular men.

Of course, many elected members of the Alliance will try and push for some Islamic laws in the constitution, and there will be tough negotiations and compromises, but I am certain that anything ridiculous that has no regard for other religions, minorities and human rights (especially women) will not pass.

If Al Jaafari, who is religious but not fundamentalist, becomes PM and he could well be, then there will be an Islamic touch in his ruling. Ministries that will be headed by religious people will become more religious; like it is now (or so I was told)! This means, Islamic banners, pictures, more women with scarves, more men with long grey beards, etc, but Islamic Iraq, I don't think so.

I personaly prefer Alawi, but Al Jaafari is a decent and reasonable man; we've heard him talk and he gained some popularity for his ability debate and negotiate. Both have pros and cons, but I don't want to get into that now, I might do later though.

People, rightly, fear that Iraq might become like Iran; but this fear must push us to not allow it, and we have to remember that we are not like Iranians. And at the end of the day, we will vote on the constitution and we will choose the next government or assembly.

But to look at it from the bright side, Iran-Style Iraq is much better, more liberal and more democratic than a Taliban-Style Iraq which is what Al Zarqawi wants :)

For more: US Officials Discount Risk of Iran-Style Rule

Friday, March 04, 2005

No Al Jazeera

Ali said Al Jazeera has a good effect on the Arab street! Well, I can see his point, and I agree on many issues, which is basically being an independent channel it showed the demonstrations in Iraq and showed how democracy being formed in Iraq; and that had a good effect on many Arab countries where people became aware that they have to ask for more and they started demonstrations, etc.

But, even for that reason, I think we don't need Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera has pros and cons; but unfortunately, its cons outweigh its pros. Other than what Ali has mention, Al Jazeera has no more pros!

Whereas if we look at Al Jazeera's cons, we have many! For me, mourning the death of Uday and Qusay and making them martyrs, is all I need to never watch that channel again. But I am sure that won't be enough for all, so how about promoting terrorism? Encouraging young Arabs to go and fight in Iraq! Showing falsely, that the Iraqis are against everything good that is happening and they support the Arab fighters! Showing constantly a negative image of the situation in Iraq! Al Jazeera paid people money to show that the Americans were hurting and humiliating the Iraqis! Etc.

Even before the war, Al Jazeera was a tool that helped Saddam. It was Saddam's international propaganda channel. Al Jazeera was always on Saddam's side, it never was an impartial channel, and it was always against the Iraqi people!

Yes, we need independent channels, we need channels that promotes democracy, freedom and human rights, but they must be impartial and honest. We don't need another channel that twists facts, play dirty games and supports whoever pays more even if that was a dictator like Saddam. We need channels like Al Arabia after it changed. Al Arabia was like Al Jazeera but slightly better; then it changed and I will be very happy to see Al Jazeera change and I hope it will, but until then No Al Jazeera.

All Iraqis against media policy of Al Jazeera TV Petition

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Democracy Lesson 1: Accountability

Wrongdoings are part of human nature, no one is capable of living a life without doing anything wrong; however, in democracy you will be accountable for these wrongdoings, but of course, you need to get caught and there are evidence against you first.

Sometimes people get the wrong idea about democracy thinking that people in democratic societies don't do anything wrong and that they are some sort of extraordinary humans. Well, I can say for sure that they are not and that they are just human beings; but I guess people who think so, only think like that so they can criticize!

Rumsfeld being sued over prison abuse. Now that says a lot about democracy and accountablity; however, I am certain that people already have conspiracy theories to explain it.

So, how about we look at the Arab world? Can you imagine a Defence Secretary getting sued for anything? Hell no! Well how about Saddam, his family, relatives or any of his puppets (and they were the REAL puppets)? Exactly!

Don't assume that shit doesn't happen in democracy, cause it does; but if you have the right establishments, you can reduce it and hold those responsible to account.