Saturday, September 17, 2005

Back to the Future

Back in the days of Saddam, religious and ethnic persecution was commonplace. Shi’as were subjected to detention and harassment by Sunni led police and military and in some cases injured or killed simply because of their religious tradition. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 there are allegations that Shi’a organizations such as the Al Dawa Party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq create arrest lists (with no charges listed) that have 97% of the names listed being Sunni. These lists are handed over the Sh’ia led military and police commandos who detain individuals without any due process. Human rights groups have alleged that many Sunni’s who have been found murdered execution style are individuals who are victims of this process.

Back in the days of Saddam, there were periodic shortages of fuel, which resulted in a rationing system of only driving your car on alternate days depending on the last digit of your license plate. It was not unusual for a home to be without electricity for four to six hours a day. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 driving on alternate days has returned to a country with 23% of the world’s know petroleum reserves. It is not unusual for a home to be without electricity for up to 12 or 14 hours every day.

Back in the days of Saddam, there were a number of secret police organizations that operated without oversight from any government agency. They would detain, torture and sometimes kill Iraqis who were seen as posing a threat to the continued authority of Saddam and his cronies. Back to future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 the secret police organizations have returned. One such secret police organization is called the Wolf Brigade. In May of 2005 there was a car bombing at a bus station in Baghdad. The Wolf Brigade made a raid on a Palestinian complex the same night and arrested four Palestinian men. A neighbor said he overheard one of the brigade members say, “Is four Palestinians enough?” They were taken to a prison and tortured and then shown on television the next day, confessing to the car bombing. A lawyer hired by their families was able to visit them several weeks later (after paying a bribe to prison officials). He found them in the same clothing they had been arrested in, with burn and bruise marks over much of their bodies.

Back in the days of Saddam there was such a multiplicity of ministries and bureaucracies that even Confucius would have been astounded. Back to the future of Iraq in Sept. 2005 the Christian Peacemaker Team must renew its official NGO status every three months. There is a new ministry, the Ministry of Civil Society (MoCS), which now handles NGO issues. The team went to the MoCS with its quarterly report but was told by the MoSC that foreign NGOs must now get a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) that recognizes them as a legitimate foreign NGO. When the team went to the MoFA to get such a letter the team was told by officials at the MoFA that first they needed to get a letter from the MoCS authorizing the MoFA to write the letter requested by the MoCS.

A friend the team summed up the “new” Iraq by saying, “We’ve seen all this before.”

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