The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
News, 23-30/4/03 (3) NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN * PUK head pledges to intercede on behalf of MKO members * Kurdish Fighters Face Deadline in Mosul * Troubles in Kirkuk * Rival Iraqi groups strike deal on Mosul government NERVOUS NEIGHBOURS * Exclusive Interview With King Abdullah * A Turkish Special Forces team is caught by U.S. troops in Kurdistan * Turkey denies Iraq incursion * Turkey,US share strategic vision * Political Experiment Stumbles in Turkey OLD IRAQI ORDER * In a Rush To Kill: Sufi Muslims resisting regime slain in a final purge * Iraqis dig up corpses in search of the missing * Parallels in the past * Iraqi graves end years of searching * U.S. Troops Say Kill Six Iraqi Fighters in Mosul * Barzani Says U.S. Forces Should Leave After Iraqi Govt. Takes Over NORTHERN IRAQ/SOUTHERN KURDISTAN RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003 * PUK HEAD PLEDGES TO INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF MKO MEMBERS by Kathleen Ridolfo PUK leader Talabani has reportedly responded to a plea by some 30 former members of the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO) to help prevent attacks against MKO members in northern Iraq, "Kurdistani Nuwe" reported on 22 April. The MKO has been targeted in U.S. air raids in the past few weeks, due to its link to the deposed Iraqi regime, most notably during the 1991 Kurdish uprising (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003). "The Kurdish people have no intention to avenge the past crimes of the leadership clique of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization on those innocent and deceived young people of today who have been brought to their current sad fate by the wrong policy of their leadership," the daily quoted Talabani as saying. Talabani reportedly also said that he would make serious efforts to save the lives of the MKO militia members. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/apr/27/042704121.html * KURDISH FIGHTERS FACE DEADLINE IN MOSUL by David Rising Las Vegas Sun, 27th April MOSUL, Iraq (AP): Kurdish paramilitary forces have been given an ultimatum: Halt armed patrols around Mosul by Monday, or the U.S. Army will stop them by force. Col. Joe Anderson, commander of the 101st Airborne's 2nd Brigade, said his troops are prepared to enforce the edict against fighters from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Militia members will be allowed to keep their weapons at their headquarters or militia compounds but will be banned from bringing them on patrol, Anderson said. Anderson said Kurdish patrols carrying weapons after 10 a.m. Monday will be forcibly disarmed. Militia leaders may keep small groups of armed bodyguards for protection. Since the fall of Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with 700,000 people, tensions have escalated between Arab residents and the large Kurdish minority. Kurdish forces beat American troops into Mosul after Iraqi defenses collapsed. Many Arab residents blame the Kurdish forces for a security vacuum that touched off looting across the city. The flexing of military muscle by Kurdish militias in northern Iraq has also been a potential flash point with neighboring Turkey. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2003/04/30/ED184733 .DTL * TROUBLES IN KIRKUK by Hania Mufti, Eric Stover San Francisco Chronicle, 30th April Since the fall of Kirkuk, Iraq's third largest city with about 500,000 people and the center of the oil-rich north, long-simmering ethnic tensions between the city's Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman groups could quickly spin out of control. As members of a Human Rights Watch investigation team in northern Iraq, we witnessed a confrontation that suggests just how that may happen. The evening of April 13, a vehicle pulled up in front of the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, where dozens of its members, many of them bearing arms, had gathered. A man descended from the vehicle carrying the body of a young boy. The left side of the boy's head was shattered, and his left leg bore what appeared to be a gunshot wound. Holding the corpse aloft for all to see, the man swung through the crowd shouting, "Look! Look! This is what the Kurds have done!" Within seconds, the crowd began calling for revenge and for the Turks to intervene to take control of the city. Despite our repeated attempts to conceal the body, several men pushed us away and draped a small Turkoman flag across it, calling on photographers at the scene to photograph it. Later in the evening, members of the Turkoman Front put the body on display in front of a hotel housing foreign journalists. The following morning, we set out to investigate the incident. Having learned the night before that the boy's father and several other men had also been wounded in the same attack, we went to the recently renamed Azadi Hospital (formerly Saddam Hospital) where the boy's father, who was suffering from gunshot wounds and a broken arm, had been admitted. The boy's father, Muhsin Jalal Tahsin, 35, told us that on the afternoon of the day before, armed men wearing traditional Kurdish clothes and driving five pickup trucks had drawn up near a crowd trying to retrieve gasoline from a depot left behind at a government building. He said the armed men fired over the heads of the crowd. When he confronted them they threatened to kill him. He was frightened and returned to his car and drove away from the scene. His 8-year-old son, Hussain, was with him, sitting in the back seat. The father said he was pursued by two of the pickup trucks until they caught up with him on the Baghdad Road near a sweet shop. His car skidded and he thought one of the tires may have been shot. He then got out of the car and started running. He told us, "I don't know what happened to my son. They say he is dead." At the reported scene of the shooting, we found the father's car, a Toyota Corona, parked outside a branch office of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, a short distance away from the sweet shop. The rear left tire was punctured and there were four bullet holes in the rear window. What appeared to be blood and brain tissue was splattered across the back seat. We photographed the car. One eyewitness told us that the previous day, two pickup trucks without license plates had driven past the ITF office and the passengers of the first car sprayed bullets in the direction of the office. That same afternoon, representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, some of them bearing arms, had served the Iraqi Turkoman Front with an eviction notice, giving them until 7 p.m. to vacate the premises. Indeed, one of these KDP officials arrived while we were there. He confirmed that there was indeed a dispute over the property, and that he had come to find out whether the ITF had left the premises, and told us that if they did not, there would be "further trouble." Soon thereafter we had to leave because of an armed altercation at the scene, and we were unable to complete our investigation. When we first got to Kirkuk on April 10, Kurdish peshmerga were patrolling the city streets and an uneasy peace prevailed. Those Kurdish fighters have now withdrawn and U.S. forces, though few in number, have taken their place. The responsibility of U.S. forces doesn't end when they defeat opposing troops. As the occupying power in Iraq, the United States has a responsibility under international law to restore and ensure public order in the territory under its control. It also has an immediate duty to take all feasible steps to prevent acts of violent reprisal. To this end, U.S. forces should: -- ban political and ethnic groups from dispatching armed foot patrols into the city; -- call for an end to forced expulsions and property seizures and establish procedures to try and punish those responsible for these acts; -- locate and put in the hands of the U.S. military weapons and unsecured ordnance left behind by Iraqi troops; and finally -- establish a commission to secure property deeds and to oversee the gradual and orderly return of internally displaced persons to the city. Without these measures, serious ethnic clashes could easily break out in Kirkuk. We have seen with our own eyes how this begins. We don't want to see how it ends. Hania Mufti is London director of the Middle East and North African Division of Human Rights Watch. Eric Stover is director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=834&ncid=731&e=10&u=/nm/2003 0430/wl_india_nm/india_113967 * RIVAL IRAQI GROUPS STRIKE DEAL ON MOSUL GOVERNMENT by Kieran Murray Yahoo, 30th April MOSUL (Reuters) - Rival religious and ethnic groups said on Tuesday they had reached a breakthrough deal backed by the U.S. Army to set up a new government in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Although critics fear corrupt officials who served under Saddam Hussein and new leaders with little or no popular support will squeeze their way into power, senior U.S. officers are upbeat about their ability to put in place a clean and representative government within a week. Major General David Petraeus, who has led negotiations in the divided city, said over 200 delegates from rival groups in and around Mosul would elect 23 members of a city council on May 5 and the councillors would then immediately pick a mayor from a list of independent candidates. Mosul is dominated by Arabs but it also has a strong Kurdish population as well as Turkmens, Assyrian Christians and several small tribes. There were widespread fears the city would collapse into factional fighting after the fall of Saddam, but Petraeus said the rival groups were working together and seemed committed to putting together a government that represented all. "They were united in opposition against Saddam. And now that Saddam is no longer here, they still have a sense of common purpose to make the most of this opportunity," said Petraeus, commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Petraeus has held almost daily meetings with representatives of the city's groups and they have designed an elaborate voting system to pick the 23 elected representatives, who will be joined by the heads of six government departments and two retired military officers to make up a council of 31. Only the 23 elected members will vote for the mayor. Political leaders, even among the majority Arabs, insist they are not looking to dominate the local government. "The mayor will be independent. We are all working together in this and it is working. We have had success and every day it is getting better," said Major General Mahdi al-Afandi of the Arab-dominated Iraqi National Congress who recently returned to Iraq after spending six years living in Germany. "We need to show everyone we are working together. The people need to feel safe and have a secure city," said Mashaan al-Juburi, a controversial figure who declared himself Mosul's governor earlier this month but has since been persuaded to drop his claim to the city. But many local residents remain convinced that the U.S. Army removed Saddam's Baath Party loyalists only to bring some of them back in and give power to a new generation of corrupt politicians prepared to follow American orders. "They are all thieves. All these men who are talking to the Americans are corrupt. The Americans do not understand but they are all thieves," said Abed Jabori, a local teacher. Petraeus conceded genuine democratic elections would take "months, if not years" to organise, and all sides say the U.S. military will still play a central role, especially in security issues, once the new city government is put in place. NERVOUS NEIGHBOURS http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/04/23/60II/main550705.shtml * Exclusive Interview With King Abdullah CBS News, 23rd April [.....] Dan Rather: Your Majesty, you met with President Bush in August of last year. There's a story I'd like to have you confirm or tell me it isn't true. That you walked into that meeting, and basically said, 'Is there any way that we can prevent this war?' And that the President said, 'No, it's going to happen, so, let's talk about what you can do to help us.' Is that pretty much true? King Abdullah: I came in to the meeting to say, "Is there anything that we can do to avert this war?" The President said, "I have not decided that there's going to be a war with Iraq. And when I make, and if I make that decision, I will let the international community know." But he obviously was very clear about his position and his feelings towards the regime. And I basically said that then, you know, our job, as part of the international community in Jordan particular, is try to find any avenue that we can for a diplomatic solution. And he did say, he said, "We have to give the United Nations a chance. We have to give the international community a role to try and find out a way to solve this problem. But he was very skeptical, from his point of view, whether the Iraqi regime would comply. Dan Rather: Let's talk about Syria for a moment. It's obvious the United States government, with the British, they are increasing the pressure on Syria quite a bit. There's even talk about a possible invasion of Syria. Can you put that into context of ... King Abdullah: I would be very surprised if there is a cause of for alarm, for a military confrontation between coalition forces and the Syria government. The Syrians do have some issues with the international community that they have to answer. But I don't think we're at anywhere near the point of an armed conflict between Syria and the coalition. Dan Rather: When you say issues of the international community, one of those is that they're listed by the United States government as a terrorist state. King Abdullah: Well, these are issues that, and also, the possibility of weapons of mass destruction. This is something that the Syrian government is going to have to solve well with the United States, and with the international community. But I would be very, very surprised if we're in an atmosphere now of potential armed clash between Syria and the United States. Dan Rather: Is it your judgment, or not, that some members of the Ba'ath party, high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's regime, are hiding in Syria? King Abdullah: Well, I, there was a report that Saddam's wife, and Usay's wife, and Barazoni's (PH) wife were in Syria, just before the war started, or a bit before that. But senior-ranking officials, there's a lot of rumors that there was a lot of movement across the borders. But I haven't seen anything to confirm. There is speculation. But I haven't seen anything across my desk that says there is any members of the top 50 in Syria at the moment. Dan Rather: You think Saddam Hussein is still alive? King Abdullah: That's the $1 million question. I mean, I heard a rumor that as we just saw the breaking news, I heard this about four, five days ago that he was seen on the Friday, last Friday, in Baghdad. But if that's the case, I don't know. Nobody knows. A lot of people have been asking the question. I think it'll take coalition forces, with the Iraqis themselves, to find out what happened to him, and a lot of other people who are on that list. Dan Rather: Does it matter whether he's alive or dead? Or that, or does it matter whether we know what's happened to him? King Abdullah: It'll matter; for all of us need to know what's happened to him, and his clique. But what impact it's going to have on the future of Iraq, is I think, going to be irrelevant. He's out of power, if he is still alive. And there's nothing that he can do. It's not the similar to Osama bin Laden. That was more of a loose organization that could still use it's influences and some of it's terrorist organizations across the world to create problems. But the Iraqi regime is now dead. And well, whoever has survived from the regime is not going to be able to make any impact, I don't think. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,446392,00.html * A Turkish Special Forces team is caught by U.S. troops in Kurdistan by Michael Ware Time, 24th April Even as the U.S. works to stabilize a postwar Iraq, Turkey is setting out to create a footprint of its own in the Kurdish areas of the country. In the days after U.S. forces captured Saddam's powerbase in Tikrit, a dozen Turkish Special Forces troops were dispatched south from Turkey. Their target: the northern oil city of Kirkuk, now controlled by the U.S. 173rd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade. Using the pretext of accompanying humanitarian aid the elite soldiers passed through the northern city of Arbil on Tuesday. They wore civilian clothes, their vehicles lagging behind a legitimate aid convoy. They'd hoped to pass unnoticed. But at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kirkuk they ran into trouble. "We were waiting for them," says a U.S. paratroop officer. The Turkish Special Forces team put up no resistance though a mean arsenal was discovered in their cars, including a variety of AK-47s, M4s, grenades, body armor and night vision goggles. "They did not come here with a pure heart," says U.S. brigade commander Col. Bill Mayville. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk." The presence of the Turkish soldiers highlights the increasing possibilities of instability in the region, which has a sizable Turkoman population that has clashed with the Kurdish majority since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. In the first days after Kirkuk fell to allied forces on April 10th, Turkoman families and political parties were attacked by bands of Kurdish looters. In a dramatic display on April 11, an enraged group of Turkoman men dumped the body of a small boy, perhaps seven or eight years old, in front of the Daralsalum Hotel where international journalists had taken rooms. He'd been shot through the waist at close range by a PK light machine gun. The 7.62mm round travelled up through his torso and exited through his skull, leaving a hollowed shell where his little head was supposed to be. American commanders in the city believe the covert Turkish team was meant to inflame these kind of tensions. "These [Turkish] forces are tied in to Turkoman groups in the city," says Col Mayville. The 173rd Airborne commanders suspect an amalgam of local Turkoman parties under the banner of the Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITF) were to be used by the covert team to wreak havoc. "In this first convoy was real aid. They'd do this two or three times then money or weapons would have started flowing in. We suspect their role was to strongarm or discipline the members of the ITF. What they're doing is crystallizing the ITF along the Turkish agenda," says Col. Mayville. By Wednesday U.S. paratroopers were holding 23 people associated with the Turkish Special Forces team. Some were drivers and aid workers. But a dozen of them, says Col. Mayville, were identified as soldiers. "We held them for a night, brought them in, fed them and watched their security. After all," he says wryly, "they are our allies." Early Thursday morning American troops escorted the Turkish commandos back over the border. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,6346355%255E17 02,00.html * TURKEY DENIES IRAQ INCURSION The Australian, 27th April TURKEY has denied it had sent special forces and arms into Kurdish-held northern Iraq in a bid to fuel unrest and pave the way for a Turkish peacekeeping mission. Time Magazine on Friday quoted US military sources as saying that they had earlier in the week intercepted a unit of Turkish commandoes attached to a humanitarian aid convoy in a bid to reach the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The sources said that the mission of the commandoes - caught with an arsenal of automatic rifles and grenades - was to increase tension between the Turkmen and Kurdish population in Kirkuk to justify a Turkish military intervention in the area. But Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said today security officials, and not special forces, were accompanying aid convoys crossing into Iraq from Turkey. "To provide the security of the convoys, there was an accompaniment of officials and people were aware of this," Gul told reporters here. He also denied that they had a large cache of weapons with them. "There was no weapons inside the aid material apart from the weapons the officials carried on their persons," Gul said. A story in the New York Times today said that US soldiers who stopped a Turkish aid convoy at a checkpoint Wednesday found several dozen AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, grenade launchers, pistols, and night-vision goggles hidden inside the vehicles. Twelve of the two dozen men in the convoy identified themselves as Turkish special forces and were escorted back to the Turkish border, the paper said. US sources told Time that Turkish forces infiltrating northern Iraq would in the long run try to smuggle in weapons and money to give to the Turkmen minority, which has often clashed with the Kurds. Turkey has threatened to send in soldiers to northern Iraq if Kurds try to seize Kirkuk and the oil-rich city of Mosul, whose revenues may inspire them to declare independence. Turkey categorically opposes a Kurdish state next door, fearing that such a move could reignite insurgency among its own Kurdish population in southeastern Anatolia. Turkish officials were greatly agitated when Kurdish fighters seized Mosul and Kirkuk earlier in the month, and put pressure on the United States to force them out. US forces are now in control of the two cities and Ankara has sent military observers to the area, under a deal with Washington, to observe the situation on the ground. http://www.dawn.com/2003/04/24/int15.htm * TURKEY,US SHARE STRATEGIC VISION by Recep Tayyip Erdogan Dawn, from The Washington Post , 24th April ANKARA: The role that Turkey could, or should, play in Operation Iraqi Freedom has been much debated in both Turkey and the United States. Unfortunately, in the course of the debate, some pessimists have even called into question the relevance of the strategic partnership between our countries. Just as the fate of Saddam Hussein is critical to US national security, the fate of northern Iraq is critical to Turkish national security. Turkey and the US share concerns about the impact of the Iraqi conflict on the activities of terrorist organizations, about the humanitarian crisis caused by Saddam's policies and about the region's long-term political and economic stability. As a global leader, the US must address these issues. As a regional leader, Turkey must address them also as it contends with the conflict just across its border. While this fact, and Turkey's legitimate need to respond accordingly, should be obvious, some have attributed a hidden agenda to Turkey's involvement in the conflict. For decades Turkey and the US have cooperated closely on many issues. This has been possible not only because we have similar goals and priorities but also because we have been able to transcend differences when facing common threats and risks. This resilience has allowed our alliance to endure, and it will enable us to prove the critics wrong. But why should Turkey have concerns about the military operation in Iraq in the first place? Why the hesitancy in abandoning diplomatic efforts for military action, a hesitancy displayed by Turkey's democratic parliament? Because we have lived through similar experiences before. Although we supported the Persian Gulf War, it was devastating for Turkey, precipitating an economic crisis from which we have only recently begun to recover. A half-million refugees poured across our borders in need of humanitarian relief. Acts of terrorism by separatist elements that entered Turkey after the war claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives. Nevertheless, Turkish support for both US and UN efforts to confront and disarm the Iraqi regime after the 1991 war was considerable and comprehensive. To its own detriment, Turkey meticulously honoured the UN economic sanctions against Iraq. Turkey allowed Incirlik Air Base to be used for refugee assistance in Operation Provide Comfort, and later for enforcement of one of Iraq's two no-fly zones in Operation Northern Watch. These activities protected the Kurdish factions in northern Iraq from the wrath of Baghdad and enabled the ethnic groups in that region to experiment with democracy and achieve some freedom and prosperity. Our cooperation is evident in many vital domains, particularly in the war on terrorism, and also in common efforts to bring stability and security to the Balkans, to Afghanistan and Central Asia, and to the Caucasus and the Middle East. Turkey has for years been an understanding friend of America.The US in return has been a steady strategic partner for Turkey. Successive US administrations have supported Turkey through economic and security challenges and in Turkey's own fight against terrorism. Underlying this enduring partnership has been our embrace of democratic principles, for which our troops have fought and died together in the past. As leader of the governing party and now prime minister, my role has been to try to reconcile this respect for democracy and the understandable sensitivities of Turkish public opinion with our desire to support the US and safeguard our national security interests. After much deliberation and with 94 percent of the Turkish public opposed to a new war against Iraq, my government was able to secure approval for the use of Turkish airspace by allied forces entering Iraq. As for Turkey's own role in the Iraqi conflict, the concerns we share with the US about terrorism, refugees and long-term regional stability have shaped our approach. First, we are securing our border against a new incursion of terrorist elements. Second, we are preparing to respond to a possible refugee crisis in a way that permits effective delivery of humanitarian aid inside Iraq with minimal impact on other populations. And third, we are encouraging the preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity and the establishment of a framework whereby all Iraqis can share in their country's natural wealth. My government is committed to cooperating with the US and other coalition members. In confronting common challenges, we share the same strategic vision - not just on Iraq, but on many issues. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is prime minister of Turkey. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42727-2003Apr26.html * POLITICAL EXPERIMENT STUMBLES IN TURKEY by Philip P. Pan Washington Post, 27th April ANKARA, Turkey, April 26 -- The parliament speaker's reception last week was supposed to be a festive event, a chance for Turkey's ruling elite to make a show of political unity on a national holiday. But then the main opposition party declared a boycott. The president indicated he too would skip the reception. The military's top generals also decided not to go. What prompted this crisis? The host suggested he might bring his wife. Like many women in the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, the speaker's wife wears a head scarf in public because she believes her religion requires it. But in Turkey, where the secular state has viewed Islamic headgear as a symbol of extremism for nearly a century, an official function co-hosted by a woman in a head scarf is too much for some to bear. "Shall we dress our wives in chadors and take them?" one senior military commander was quoted saying scornfully, referring to the traditional full-length shawl worn by many Muslim women. The episode highlights the challenge facing the upstart Justice and Development Party, known in Turkey as AKP, which rode a wave of voter anger into office in November and promised to overhaul Turkey's corrupt and moribund political system. At the time, the party presented itself as a new kind of Islamic political movement, one that embraces secular democracy as the best way to guarantee the rights of devout Muslims. Now, nearly six months later, this experiment in reconciling Islam and democracy is struggling to produce results. Dogged by internal divisions, inexperience and the lingering suspicions of the political establishment, the AKP has made little progress so far toward its goals of far-reaching reform. Meanwhile, relations between the secular state and Muslim society have become more strained. The party's inexperience also was evident when a split in parliament led to rejection of the U.S. request to deploy troops in Turkey for the war against Iraq. The party's biggest problem is the continuing hostility of Turkey's bureaucracy and its powerful military, both of which are wary of democratic reforms that would weaken their influence, and suspicious of the AKP because of its roots in political Islam. The military sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular tradition. On a series of domestic and foreign policy issues, these institutions and others in the establishment have resisted change, often portraying AKP's proposals as part of a hidden, Islamist agenda. Despite a huge legislative majority, the party has generally responded by backing down, worried that a divisive showdown could drain its public support and provoke the army to intervene and oust it from power, as it did to Turkey's first Islamist government in 1997. So the parliamentary speaker, Bulent Arinc, eventually announced his wife would not attend Wednesday's reception. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior party officials also promised to leave their head scarf-wearing wives at home. But the opposition, the military, the president and several senior judges still didn't show up at the event. "If there are sides that want to create tension, we will never respond to them," Erdogan said afterward. "We have an understanding of the sensitivities of society. . . . We will always pay attention to these sensitivities." In recent months, that has meant retreating from plans to expand academic freedom by reshaping the university system, to grant women the right to wear head scarves in schools and public buildings, to limit the army's power to expel soldiers accused of religious extremism and to adopt a softer position in negotiations with Greece over the fate of Cyprus. The party has also been unable or unwilling to force the bureaucracy to implement new laws aimed at granting the minority Kurdish population greater cultural rights. Cengiz Candar, a liberal newspaper columnist who once was blacklisted by the military and had supported the AKP, predicted Erdogan would end up leading "the longest-lasting caretaker government in Turkish history," because he has been so careful about not offending the army that he is unlikely to accomplish anything significant. "They don't have the courage," he said. "They can't even bring their wives to the VIP halls." Murat Mercan, deputy chairman of the party, said Erdogan is still determined to bring "radical change" to Turkey, but has decided to follow a long-term strategy aimed at easing people's fears about the party and gradually winning over opponents. That means putting off the most divisive problems for later, he said. "We need at least 10 years," Mercan said. "We've been saying that politics in this country is going to change, and the bureaucracy and others must adapt to these changes. But change doesn't come that easy. . . . These problems eventually must be solved in such a way that it doesn't disturb anybody." The problem with the go-slow approach is that the party risks alienating voters who expect faster progress. At the same time, the military appears unwilling to cut the government much slack, and has already issued several direct and indirect warnings. According to local media, the army plans to confront Erdogan at a key meeting this coming week about "ongoing Islamic reactionism" in his appointment of civil servants and management of the economy. Some critics say the party has already lost credibility by failing to keep a promise to repeal criminal immunity for lawmakers. Another issue was an attempt to pass legislation that would allow the party to direct contracts to favored businesses. The party has also sought to replace senior bureaucrats across the government with their supporters, who are often less experienced. "It's more of the same corrupt politics, and worse," said Burat Bekdil, a journalist who writes about government corruption and faces a prison term for criticizing the Turkish courts. Erdogan and his colleagues "are very scared of the state apparatus. They think the only way to deal with the state apparatus is to ally with it," said Cuneyt Ulsever, a prominent writer and economist who supported the party. "So they end up doing what the establishment tells them to do." In many ways, Erdogan is haunted by the failure of the Islamist movement led by his former mentor Necmettin Erbakan. When Erbakan was elected prime minister in 1995, he too promised to respect Turkey's secular system. But he angered the military by championing increasingly radical policies, and was ousted two years later. During the crackdown on Islamic activism that followed, Erdogan is said to have concluded that only democratic reform in Turkey would guarantee the rights of devout Muslims. He and others abandoned Erbakan and established the AKP to pursue that path, which they said would include securing membership for Turkey in the European Union -- a position at odds with Erbakan's anti-Western views. In his first months in power, though, Erdogan has emerged as a cautious leader of the government that once jailed him for reading a poem with religious undertones at a political rally. A major challenge has been holding together a party that remains more of a coalition of different interest groups than an organization united around a coherent political philosophy. "We are a new party, and we trying to build an identity," said Zekeriya Akcam, an AKP legislator. "It's gone slower than I had hoped." The strains are most apparent on foreign policy issues, with one wing of the party favoring stronger relations with Muslim neighbors and another emphasizing ties with the United States and Europe. There are also differences between those close to Erdogan and others who advise Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who served as prime minister during the party's first four months in power. Another faction supports Arinc, the outspoken parliamentary speaker. In addition, party officials said they also have to worry about the potential defection of lawmakers back to Erbakan's Islamist party. These rifts burst into the open on March 1, when nearly 100 AKP lawmakers -- including several cabinet members -- bucked the party line and narrowly rejected Erdogan's proposal to allow U.S. troops to use Turkish territory for an invasion of Iraq. "That was a real turning point for this party," said one senior party official, who asked not to be identified. He said Erdogan "realized how fragile the party really was, and decided to be much more careful after that." OLD IRAQI ORDER http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/ny wobagh243251510apr24,0,3364244.story?coll=ny%2Dworldnews%2Dheadlines * IN A RUSH TO KILL: SUFI MUSLIMS RESISTING REGIME SLAIN IN A FINAL PURGE by Matthew McAllester Newsday, 24th April Abu Ghraib, Iraq - At least some of the men lying in a shallow grave within the walls of Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad were victims of a last-minute purge of the minority Sufi Muslim sect by the regime of Saddam Hussein, friends and relatives of the men said yesterday. Some members of the sect were secretly resisting the regime in its final days, using Thuraya satellite phones to contact opposition forces in the autonomous Kurdish region in the north of Iraq, they said. It remained unclear last night how many Sufis had been arrested and killed in the sweep by Hussein's intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, but relatives and friends said that from one Sufi mosque, or takyia, in Baghdad, between 40 and 70 members of the congregation were arrested in the first days of the war. Five are dead, they said, and at least three are still missing. As it happened in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo, the end of the war in Iraq has marked the start of a new period of grief and remembrance and revelation. Rumors of hundreds or thousands buried under the topsoil of Abu Ghraib mix with the very real smell of death inside the prison, but the American soldiers guarding it say they have very little idea how many people may be buried there. For a second day, they did not allow journalists access to the huge prison, whose walls stretch into pin-pricks in the distance. But relatives and friends continued to show up at the gates demanding to be allowed to reclaim the bodies of their loved ones. "The intelligence men promised my brother that they would set him free after two days, but we didn't get him back," said Kassem Taha, 39, a laborer, who was there with two of his brothers, hoping to find a fourth, Mohammed. Other Sufis gathering at the front gate of the prison, which was the most feared place in Hussein's Iraq, said the arrests happened around the same time at takyias all over Iraq. "They thought the people in the takyia helped the Americans," said another brother, Ibrahim Taha, 49, a petroleum engineer. "They just had satellite phones." At a makeshift office for a previously unknown underground Sufi group calling itself the Collection of Iraqi National Unity, officials offered a less innocent version. Most of the men arrested, they said, were working in the underground organization in a bid to destabilize the Hussein regime. For years, they said, the clandestine group had avoided detection by the intelligence services. It was exposed a few days before the war started, when a courier was captured by the Mukhabarat carrying incriminating letters to the north of Iraq, they said. In the days that followed, the Mukhabarat arrested an unknown number of Sufis around the country. Some were released. Others have not been heard from since. Sufis have navigated a precarious course for centuries as a small minority between the dominant Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, not only in Iraq but in other countries around the Middle East. Practicing a humanist, mystical form of Islam, they have been the repeated objects of persecution in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. Officials from the Collection of Iraqi National Unity said their members had not died in vain and that each had known death at the hands of the Hussein regime was likely. The group, however, made some bold assertions that cast a shadow over their claims to have been a genuine threat to Hussein. Through highly placed agents in the government, they helped disable the regime's communications systems and weapons of mass destruction, said Amer al-Hadithi, a leader of the group. He and other officials would not make available these well-placed agents or give any details about weapons of mass destruction. But what remains clear is that some members of their tight-knit community were risking their lives by using satellite phones, which were declared illegal by the Hussein regime in the last days of its control over the country, and their brothers are now showing up each day at the gates of Abu Ghraib in the hope of retrieving their bodies. They were among the last Iraqis to die at the hands of Hussein's henchmen. http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=272 984 * IRAQIS DIG UP CORPSES IN SEARCH OF THE MISSING by Michael Georgy Reuters, 27th April MADAEN, Iraq: Iraqis heard terrifying stories about Saddam Hussein's death squads for years but never dared ask questions. Now that he's gone, some are digging up their country's violent past. Just past the once-dreaded Madaen intelligence base beside thick shrubs, men with shovels uncovered what they said were mass graves of executed civilians and renegade soldiers. Iraqis hope to confirm what they have feared all along -- that Saddam's agents killed hundreds, if not thousands, of their relatives, friends and neighbours and then hastily buried them. As workers turned over mounds of dirt, residents of Madaen, just south of Baghdad, looked for clues; a bone, a sandal, some clothes. Suddenly the remains of a hand appeared, protruding from the moist sleeve of a civilian shirt. People covered their noses as the stench of rotting flesh filled the air. "I think they were killed recently. It is hard to say who these people are. They have no identification cards. We want to show the crimes of Saddam," Awfa Yassim, 23, told Reuters. They have been digging for days. Workers found what appeared to be a soldier's corpse a few days ago. They said he was shot through the back of the head. "We think there are over 50 bodies here. Dogs dug up the area," said Waleed Faisal, a teacher who has been using a tractor to look for bodies. Mass graves have been discovered in other parts of Iraq, including the north where most of the country's Kurds live. The Kurds suffered harsh oppression under Saddam. It was not easy for the people of Madaen to dig up the dead, something that is frowned upon by Islam. But they persuaded the local cleric that doing so would provide evidence of Saddam's crimes and help come to terms with the past. Civilians were strictly barred from the intelligence headquarters area, which locals say was also used as a training ground for guerrilla fighters. Facilities included obstacle courses and a large aircraft, which appears to have been used to train would-be plane hijackers. "If you even drove your car in front of the gates and had to turn around for some reason the guards would arrest you. If you were foreign then you just said goodbye to life. If you were Iraqi you would be sent to an underground prison," local resident Sadiq Jassim said. As workers kept digging, a group of men cursed Saddam. One engineer complained Iraqis had been banned from listening to foreign radio stations. "My daughters were told in school that their parents should not listen to foreign radio. It was as if they were spying on their own home," he said. Another man from the Shi'ite community repressed under Saddam said his cousin had been executed. "Killing was the easiest thing for Saddam. If your relative was killed you were then banned from travelling," said Ali, 36. The people of Madaen may never know who was buried in the suspected mass grave site -- the only evidence dug up so far is a few bones, civilian clothes and pyjamas and some sandals. But they seem more concerned that the world should know how much they suffered under Saddam, who disappeared after U.S. troops defeated his army in the three-week war that began on March 20. Some Iraqis will not be able to bury decades of fear while Saddam's fate remains a mystery. "We are still scared of him. I try to stay home because if I talk to people and say bad things about Saddam he could come back and slit my throat," said one man who asked not to be named. http://flonnet.com/fl2009/stories/20030509004601700.htm * PARALLELS IN THE PAST by Prakash Karat Frontline, 28th April [.....] The colonial set-up in Iraq drew much of its personnel and experience from the officers who manned the empire in India. Like in India, the chieftains were made the owners of land, where land was formerly held in common. They were now made the property of the chiefs. By the 1950s, 55 per cent of the cultivable land was owned by 2,484 individuals. The sheikhs and the aghas lorded over the peasants and had to keep them down with armed gangs. The saga of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) mirrors what happened with the Anglo Persian Oil Company in Iran and the Aramco in Saudi Arabia. The unbelievable oil riches of Iraq fell into the lap of the British oil companies and their counterparts in France. The U.S. muscled in later in l928. The IPC shares were owned by the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. (23.75 per cent), Shell (23.75 per cent), Compagne Francaise (23.75 per cent), the American Near East Development Corporation (consisting of Exxon and Mobil - 23.75 per cent) and an individual who originally thought up the idea of such a company, Gulbenkein (5 per cent). The British and American companies together held a three quarters share. Iraq was shackled by the Anglo-American Treaty of 1922, which legalised the British military occupation, and the 1925 oil agreement, which confirmed its vassal status. Said Aburish, a writer on Arab affairs and a former consultant to the Iraqi government, noted: "The agreement between the British and Iraq regarding the rights to the oil of the country is one of the most criminal documents I have ever read in my life. It is aimed at keeping Iraq in the dark ages." All through the colonial occupation, the Iraqis kept fighting. According to the historian Hanna Batatu, between 1921 and 1958, there were no fewer than 30 significant violent revolts of one sort or another. It was the 1920 rebellion by the Arabs, both Shia and Sunni, which began the shaping of the Iraqi national identity. Like in many other colonial countries, Iraq began the tortuous process of forging its nationhood through the bitter and protracted fight against the imperial power and its puppet regime. In the present-day world, when Pax Britannica has become Pax Americana, every effort is being made to foster the divide between Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Kurds. Iraqi history is replete with such tactics of divide and rule from the early decades of the 20th century. For the Iraqi people, who valiantly and without respite fought their colonisers, the new occupation will not be tolerable. The protracted struggle against the new colonisers is about to begin. AS for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his pious cant about liberating the Iraqi people from dictatorship, it would be instructive to study the role of past Labour governments towards Iraq. The Labour government elected in 1929 reviewed the 1922 treaty and got a new one signed in 1930. It made vague promises of independence for Iraq in the future but extracted concessions that only underlined the subjugated status of the country. This was followed by the Portsmouth Treaty 18 years later, which was negotiated by another Labour government in 1948. It was this agreement when signed, but not ratified, that sparked off the Al-Wathbah, the biggest mass insurrection against the puppet regime in which the Iraqi Communist Party played a prominent role. After days of mass protests, Nuri Said ordered the police to machine-gun the people. Three hundred to four hundred people died in the streets of Baghdad on January 27, 1948. Tony Blair seems to have forgotten what happened when the British experimented with providing democracy to Iraq. Under a constitutional monarchy, a bicameral Parliament was set up in 1924. But it was a farce. Under Nuri Said's dictatorship even as late as 1954, 122 out of 135 seats were won unopposed, half being filled up by semi-feudal landlords. In 1958, The New Statesman gave an accurate description of the Nuri Said regime as one with "a very efficient, British trained police force, innumerable spies and agents provocateur, a controlled press and a complacent Parliament dominated by the big southern landowners who are his main national supporters". Blair had railed against some of the similar anti democratic features of the Saddam Hussein regime, which the British could tolerate and protect in the 1950s. But there is, of course, an important difference. Unlike Nuri Said, the Baathists had nationalised the oil industry in 1972. The build-up towards the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 has a historic parallel in the past. For the first time, Iraq became an independent state and a republic in July 1958. The popular upheaval that overthrew the Nuri Said regime was a revolutionary step. General Abdul Karim Kassem took power with the support of all sections of the people, except the feudals and the compradors. Nuri Said, who sought to escape, was caught and executed. How did the Americans and the British react? By gunboat diplomacy. The U.S. landed 5,000 marines in Lebanon and the British sent its paratroopers into Jordan. The British were indignant that the Iraqi people could be presumptuous enough to decide who would run their country. The Times wrote on July 15: "If the revolt succeeds it could be a disaster for the West. Britain and the NATO powers might well be deprived of their important staging rights through the Iraqi aerodromes.... Iraq, besides being itself an important supplier of oil to the United Kingdom, is the lynchpin on which the whole British position in the Persian Gulf, her main source of oil supplies, depends." Rajani Palme Dutt, the prominent British Communist, wrote in the Labour Monthly, which he edited: "How will the Western powers react? Already before the revolution in Iraq they were engaged in massing their forces for their counter-offensive in the Middle East, specifically with relation to Lebanon and Jordan. The massive British airlift to Cyprus had already stationed there the great part of Britain's mobile strategic reserve in readiness for action. The American Sixth Fleet had been moved into position; the marines had been dispatched. The unstable puppet rulers in Lebanon and Jordan, faced with the implacable hostility of their own peoples, will only too eagerly, if occasion arises, offer the Western powers the pretext for intervention." He warned that the British and Americans would seek to legitimise their military intervention as an act of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Invoking Article 51, the right to self-defence as a pretext for aggression, was what Dutt then termed "the new fashionable imperialist interpretation of the Charter". It is still in fashion today. For it is precisely this "right of self-defence" that U.S. President George W. Bush and his cohorts cited to launch their pre-emptive military attack. Self-defence in the face of the imaginary threats from the terrorist groups linked to the Iraqi regime or from its weapons of mass destruction. If the July uprising of 1958 succeeded, it was because the world situation was radically different from what it is today. British and American military intervention was stayed by the existence of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union recognised the Kassem government on July 19. It conducted military exercises in Transcaucasia and Turkmenistan to counter the Anglo-American mobilisation. It proposed an early end to the confrontation. The matter eventually went to the U.N., but imperialist intervention, in the face of a Soviet veto, was not possible. After the Second World War, the decline of British imperial influence set in, accompanied by the ascendance of U.S. power. The Baghdad Pact was formed with the blessings of the U.S. to counter the Soviet threat. It consisted of Britain, Iraq, Persia and Pakistan. The headquarters was in Baghdad and the General Secretary was an Iraqi. The 1958 revolution took Iraq out of the imperialist orbit. THE wheel has come a full circle now. After being an independent state since 1958, Iraq will be reintegrated into the imperialist chain as an American protectorate. The U.S. has replaced Britain as the hegemon of the region and the arguments set out in 1958 for gunboat diplomacy were trotted out to occupy Iraq 45 years later. Britain is a very junior partner in the Iraqi enterprise of the U.S., a pathetic parody of its imperial role in the heady days of the early 20th century. Ghosts of empire seem to haunt the successors of Ernest Bevin and Hugh Gaitskell in the Labour Party leadership. The record of chicanery and loot that marked the British suzerainty over Iraq is going to be surpassed by the new imperial warriors of Bush. Lieutenant-General Jay Garner is not just the chosen man of U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He is also a representative of corporate America and its arms manufacturers. Garner is on leave from the company he works for, L-3 Communications, which is a defence contractor for the Pentagon. It has an annual revenue of $4 billion. Some of the precision-guided missiles used to attack Iraq had technology supplied by Garner's company. This is what the American occupation is all about, combining military power with profits. In one sense, the American occupiers are different from the earlier British ones. Some of the key figures in the British imperialist enterprise in West Asia were acutely conscious of the grand history of Mesopotamia. Gertrude Bell was one of them. She was an Arabist, linguist and worked for British intelligence during the First World War. She helped draw the boundaries of Iraq and became an adviser to King Faisal. She was also deeply interested in archaeology and founded the first archaeological museum when she was the Honorary Director of Antiquities. Her grave lies not far from the National Museum in Baghdad. As the treasures of the museum were looted and vandalised, the precious legacy of Iraq that extends back to the earliest centres of human civilisation disappeared in one stroke. Gertrude Bell would have been horrified and inconsolable at such destruction. Not so the American occupiers, who stood by and watched the pillage. It happened again with the National Library. The new barbarians have truly arrived. Prakash Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=274 379 * IRAQI GRAVES END YEARS OF SEARCHING by Michael Georgy Reuters, 28th April ABU GHRAIB, Iraq: Hadi Qassim disappeared in 1981. His brother only found him a few days ago when names were finally matched to the numbered graves of executed Iraqis in a cemetery outside Baghdad. "For 20 years I had no idea that Hadi had been executed," said Mehdi Qassim, his eyes welling with tears as his brother's coffin was tied to the roof of a car. More than 100 people have removed the remains of their loved ones from the Al Khirka Islamic Cemetery over the past few days. The victims were executed by Saddam Hussein's regime and buried with no trace of their whereabouts. Only Iraq's shadowy intelligence agencies had the records. Many families feared they could risk their own lives if they asked questions so they suffered in silence. Workers said more than 900 people had been buried in the cemetery, about 30 km (20 miles) west of Baghdad, since 1981. Their relatives only learned the truth after U.S. troops toppled Saddam's rule. A group of 20 Iraqis with missing relatives raided intelligence agencies and found and distributed lists of people who had been executed. Now the relatives stand watching cemetery workers drive shovels into graves with numbers like 642, 744 and 765. That's only in one cemetery in a country where human rights groups and ordinary Iraqis say Saddam ordered thousands of summary executions. Many of those buried at Al Khirka had spent time in the nearby Abu Ghraib prison, notorious for its brutal conditions. Some prisoners were hanged in a dark room on a metal platform with levers to open trap doors. Iraqis said families of those executed by firing squad had to pay for each bullet used. Some, like Hadi, a father of three, were charged with plotting against the state after delivering a Shi'ite sermon in a mosque. Saddam brutally repressed Iraq's Muslim majority sect. Others were executed on charges of insulting Saddam. Kathim Muhammed watched workers dig up a grave and retrieve the remains of his nephew, Kathim Abdel Naby, arrested in 1998. They slowly removed his pelvis, arms, legs and skull and placed them on a white sheet. "They said he cursed Saddam. That is all we knew," he said. Kathim's friend Ahmed turned away his head in disbelief. "Not even Israel would do this," he said. Other mourners failed to find their relatives after years of wondering. Muthfar Kathim had uncovered what he thought were the remains of his brother Mudhafar, who worked for Saddam's presidential office. "I could tell from the teeth that it was not him. First Saddam was cruel to us. Now the world is so cruel. I wish God would just destroy the world," he said. Nearby, beneath a wooden sign marking grave 795, flies buzzed over yellow clothing that had been found with remains of a corpse. Relatives of the dead softly chanted "God is Great". Clad in a black shawl, the widow of Saeed Barzani explained how he had called for an independent state for the Kurds, a dream that had invited attacks by troops in Saddam's Iraq. A family friend pulled out a government document on the case as workers started digging. "Hanging until death," read the green piece of paper. http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2644864 * U.S. TROOPS SAY KILL SIX IRAQI FIGHTERS IN MOSUL by Kieran Murray Reuters, 28th April MOSUL, Iraq: U.S. forces fought suspected paramilitaries loyal to Saddam Hussein in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Monday night and said at least six Iraqis were killed. Heavy gunfire erupted as night fell on the western side of the Tigris river that splits Mosul down the middle, and U.S. officers said two of their positions in the city came under sustained fire. In the heaviest fighting in the country for days, U.S. units hit back with heavy machine guns and lit up the night sky with red flares to direct their fire before calling in helicopter gunships. The shooting subsided after about 45 minutes but U.S. officers said at least six Iraqis were killed, including five, who allegedly opened up with AK-47 assault rifles from in and around a crowd. The situation was confused by wild gunfire across much of the city, apparently from Saddam supporters marking the toppled president's 66th birthday. "It was Fedayeen paramilitaries or Ba'ath Party loyalists making a statement against the United States," said Captain J.P. Swoopes of the 101st Airborne Division, which took over control of the city last week. But another officer said it was possible the initial firing was celebratory and had been mistaken for a coordinated attack on the two Army camps. Army units had received reports from civilians and intercepted radio communications earlier on Monday that paramilitaries loyal to Saddam Hussein might be preparing an attack. It appeared to be the heaviest gunfire since U.S. troops first established control in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, more than two weeks ago. The city, which lies 240 miles north of Baghdad, is divided between Arabs and Kurds. U.S. officers are brokering negotiations on setting up a new local government and also began disarming Kurdish fighters in the city over the weekend. http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=4/28/03&Cat=2&Num=8 * BARZANI SAYS U.S. FORCES SHOULD LEAVE AFTER IRAQI GOVT. TAKES OVER Tehran Times, 28th April DUBAI -- Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said Saturday there would be "no justification" for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq once an interim Iraqi government has taken over ahead of general elections. It should be recognized that it was the U.S.-led coalition which toppled the regime of president Saddam Hussein, Barzani told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel when asked about his recent meeting with Jay Garner, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq. "What we discussed with Garner is that the opposition leadership council would meet in Baghdad very soon, to be followed by a broader meeting of all Iraqi parties, forces and figures," he said. "The Iraqi national interim government will be formed during these meetings, paving the way for general elections. Up until then, we do not consider the presence of coalition forces to be an occupation. "But if matters stabilize and the national authority takes over and fills the security and administrative vacuum, there will no longer be any justification for the coalition forces to remain, and their (presence) would then be regarded as an occupation," Barzani said. Barzani gave no date for the opposition meeting, but a KDP official told AFP in Iraqi Kurdistan earlier Saturday it would be held in Baghdad on Wednesday and bring together five of the six members of an opposition leadership council named in February. Agreement that the Iraqis would be "their own masters" and pick their interim government had been reached with the Americans before they launched the war that ousted Saddam April 9, said Barzani, whose fighters aligned themselves with the coalition. Garner promised that the United States would deal with that government as "the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people," he added. http://www.jordantimes.com/Tue/news/news7.htm * IRAQI WRITERS TELL OF PERSECUTION UNDER SADDAM Jordan Times, 29th April BAGHDAD (AFP) ‹ Some of Iraq's most celebrated writers and thinkers met openly for the first time here Monday since the fall of President Saddam Hussein and told of how the ousted regime treated them as criminals. More than 50 writers, poets and intellectuals gathered at the shabby one-room building which formerly housed the official writers' union to elect a committee to make contact with colleagues across the country. ³We are here to revive the writing and the poetry that was banned by the regime,² said the white-bearded and bespectacled playwright Aziz Abdul Sahib at the building they have renamed the Union of Free Iraqi Writers and Thinkers. ³The writers who praised Saddam would get treated well. The members of the Baath party were always watching the others. There were always security members at my plays and sometimes they (the plays) were not allowed,² said Sahib. Sahib said he had been selling his writings at a public market once a week ³just so I could eat.² But he said he never thought of faking praise for the dictator. ³I saw all these crimes and I would feel I was part of it,² he said. Poet Imad Kadhum told of how he went underground for seven years after he ran away from Iraq's compulsory military service and his wife, a telecommunications engineer, supported their family. He said he had been terrified that Baath members would inform on him and that several friends were arrested for offending Saddam, who was himself credited with penning several self-aggrandizing novels. ³All the writers here refused Saddam Hussein and many were in trouble if we did not praise Saddam in our poetry or stories,² he said. ³We never accepted that we were criminals. If our work was disliked by Saddam or (eldest son) Uday, then we would be placed in jail.² ³A lot of (writers) may have been killed, and to this day we don't know what has happened to them,² Kadhum said. He said the new grouping would remain above the political fray as the country struggles to regain its feet after the ousting of the regime and the installation of the US administration running postwar Iraq. He added that Iraqi writers would now likely find a new subject for their work: ³We say thank the USA for liberating the Iraqis, but they should leave our country.² _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk