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To remember our Iraq: more soldiers' testimonies? No!!

March 19, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

 I do not know how Iraqis around the world are marking the fifth year of the US invasion, destruction, occupation of their land. I doubt that many even note the date. Surely we can hardly think beyond this morning-- will we return home alive from school, work, shopping, the hospital? Can we think beyond when a visa or travel document will arrive, or a phone rings with unpredictable news? Year "Zero +5" has nevertheless been a chance to remind Americans themselves of what kind of catastrophe this has been for their  country. Anti-war friends have been working for years, not without some success. With the US public, now weary of the war and expressing sentiments that it should somehow end, we need to continue the education, and support this movement. But oh, look at what tactics arouse their consciousness! Confessions of atrocities by war veterans.They are frantic to act, as with their desperate, meager, blighted support for the Palestinian struggle. For brothers and sisters in those occupied lands, all they can do is circulate reports about hunger, disease, and unschooled youngsters there. Yet. I have to object to the latest anti-war endeavor--a display. The movement has found a new tool to pry the American people out of their sofas and off their ski-lifts. The arrival of the fifth year of the US invasion of Iraq finds us watching organized confessions by traumatized paid murderers --our Iraq war veterans. One after another, they describe personal carnage they committed as soldiers against fellow human beings-- detainees and other citizens-- in Iraqi homes, cars, workplaces, checkpoints, neighborhoods. We've seen the photos of marauding American hordes moving through Iraq. Thanks to embedded journalists we've been with them on their patrols, witnessing their obscenities and war cries, their gung-ho raids, their assaults into bedrooms, their barked orders to terrified families, their brutish, ugliness in combat. We saw their uncovered faces smiling over naked prisoners and corpses of their victims. I myself need no reminders. We are now so accustomed to images of that brutality; we can hardly distinguish between TV games and news images. Our minds are numb to violence. We need fresh stimuli. I can hear the brainstorming at anti-war strategy meetings. "We've got to have something new for the 5th anniversary. What can we do?" So someone came up with a new spin: American confessions from war, not just their dirty deeds in combat action but from their torture duty too. Likable, soft-spoken (traumatized?) good American boys spill out details of deeds committed against fellow human beings over there. At some level, it may be moving. But it's not really new. Don't you remember the torturers from Abu Ghraib prison, some having served their months' punishment or discharged, spoke on TV, calmly sitting in the living rooms recalling what they were convicted of? Have we forgotten the Vietnam atrocities?     How do you really feel about these confessions? A day, a week, a month of displays? Who do you feel for? And will any American ensure that such a war is never, ever repeated, that your brother or son never, ever does this? [ To remember our Iraq: more soldiers' testimonies? No!! ]

Border Crossing Amman-Iraq ”Detained Again !! from Mohammed, Last of Iraqis Feb 12/08

February 18, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

"Detained Again !!" testimony from just one Iraqi leaving his nation, only to be returned - Mohammed, Last of Iraqis.

I'm writing this in Jordan, Amman, queen Alia airport, it's 8:15 am now and it has been 18 hours since we arrived and still waiting to get back to the great Iraq….I'm still waiting to get back to my country and my home after being rejected by Jordanian intelligence for no reason at all; when he interviewed us he asked us why do you want to get to Jordan? I showed him our invitation to UK and my wife's British birth certificate and told him that I want to travel to UK and my wife wants to issue a British passport from Amman, he asked me where would you stay in Jordan?

I showed him the deed of my father's flat in Amman, then he wrote something and asked me why didn't they let you in last time you came to Amman? I told him I don't know, they haven't told me anything. He asked me again then why do you insist on getting to Amman? I smiled and told him" I told you I want to get to UK and this is possible only through Jordan because the British embassy in Syria doesn't give visas" he told me ok, wait outside ………..it has been 18 hours without food or water...and there is no one to buy anything from…I'm ready to pay 100$ for a sandwich and a bottle or water or at least let us go back home.

They say the Iraqi airplane will arrive at 2 p.m. but from past experience I don't believe that will happen, I believe it will be later than that.

I don't know what to say or feel, I need sleep, I need a sofa or bed, my body is aching from laying on the ground and sitting on the metal chairs, I'm hungry and thirsty….I'm angry, so sad and so so tired, I just want to scream.

I didn't think that I will go throw this experience again…..It's so devastating, it destroys my soul and body, it kills me to see these real, classy and good original Iraqi men and women laying and sleeping on the floor for no mistake they have committed…only because of our original sin …..the sin of being an Iraqi...I remember how these Jordanian pigs used to welcome us before when we were in power…..and when we became weak and in need to get in their country they humiliated us and refused us…I remember how we used to welcome them….I remember how they studied in our universities not only for free but the government was giving them a salary in US dollars when majority of Iraqis haven't seen the dollar or dreamed of holding one…I remember how Iraq used to give them oil for free!! I remember how nice we used to treat them in our universities and in the streets…and I see how they are paying it back to us….things will change and we will be strong and powerful again if god wills….Iraq is great and real Iraqis are greater….it's only the era of idiots controlling a great country and I wish it will be over as soon as possible….it's like someone who doesn't know how to ride a horse and he rides on a mustang, that's how our puppet politicians controls Iraq.

I can't watch this old professor who studied in the USA and worked for many many years in Canada and USA and got back to Iraq to help in building the country he always loved, he got back to Iraq to rebuild it and here he is laying on the floor because he wanted to have a vacation with his daughter and see his other daughter whom he haven't seen since 5 years…

In the airport jail there are three small rooms….one was occupied by men only (men who came without their families) and the two other rooms are for families…we (the detained Iraqis) arranged them like this….In my room there are: a brother and his sister who got a scholarship in an American University and wanted to go to the US…the professor and his daughter…two women who were delegated from the Iraqi government bank (Al-Rafidain Bank)….a Christian girl who wanted to go to the Pharmacy college in Amman because all her family lives there, she was in Baghdad to finish her high school.

In the other families room there are a stewardess in the Iraqi airlines with her two children!! Imagine they didn't let a stewardess that worked on our plane to get to Amman, she was even wearing the uniform!!.....a women with her two children who are students in a primary school in Amman.

In the men's room there are about 13 men, 6 of them are delegated from the ministry of anterior, and one of them is a big merchant and the rest I don't know much about.

It's 9 am now….we are so thirsty ….it has been 19 hours and they didn't brought any water to us…if any one wants to drink water he must drink from the WC tub….the WC was so dirty and I can't believe that anyone can drink from that…we told them we want to buy water and the pig officer replied someone will come soon to take your orders just wait…we will bring you breakfast by the way!!

I told him I don't want your food or water, I don't want anything from you…I want to buy my food and I want to buy my water…you either let me go and buy or send me someone to take my order, he said someone will take your order soon, just wait.

In our room we were chatting all the night we couldn't sleep because it's so hard to sleep in conditions like this…the floor is so dirty and the blankets are dirty too in addition that so many people were using it! People that you don't know how are they or how dirty they are or what disease they have…there is one pillow in each room, it was the treasure at that time…although you can see how clean it is!?

I was talking with that professor who I really admired for the science and experiences he have. He is so educated and classy….I asked him if you were living in the USA and you career was going well why did you get back to Iraq? He said" first of all my mother was crying every time I call her and she was begging me to get back…and when the revolution happened in Iraq and Ahmed Hassan Al Bakir became the president…the Iraqi government asked the scientist to get back to Iraq and help in rebuilding it…they asked each one personally…so I got back and as soon as I got back they asked for me in the governmental palace…as I went there they said thank you so much for being the first to respond to the call of the revolution…….." he stopped and his voice chocked when he said that last sentence…I looked at his face and I noticed his eyes were filled with tears and he was looking so sad, I immediately remembered my father who was in UK and was working there in the 80s and wanted to get back to Iraq. when my mother asked him why he answered her" simply because my country needs me, I must get back to build my country."

…..he stopped talking for about 15 minutes and he changed to another story, the story of his threatening, he said" one of my neighbors have left Iraq and left his home, we live in a neighborhood controlled by AlQaeda and because he is a Shiite he decided to leave his home and head to Jordan before he is threatened, so he left his house and asked me to look after it…one day I saw some people trying to break into his house I went outside and told them stop what are you doing, he said this house is mine now, the prince said so, I laughed and told him are you Muslim?

He said sure, I said don't you know the Quarn verse (to the religious people, don't enter houses that aren't yours unless you ask for permission and greet its owners* this is a translation for the verse it might not be so accurate but I tried to give the meaning*)…and I told him let me talk to your prince…an hour later he came back with someone and he begun yelling and cursing and he hit me then I called the awakening and they resolved the issue…few days later I received a poem written on a paper that says (don't you think we forgot you or will forget you, we will kill you and if not then we must be dead).

I told him then why didn't you leave Iraq? He said I'll never be afraid of such low lives, it's my country and I will never leave it, I left everything for it, and I'm not afraid, when god wants me to die, I'll die no matter what I do.

It's 10:15 am they finally brought a small bottle of water for each one and the breakfast (fried chicken!!) and someone came to take the order I ordered some chocolates, water and pizza (which the only alternative for chicken) I paid the guy and the rest were discussing what they want, and the bastard officer said "leave them, they are acting like young stupid kids, they will never decide" that's when I said enough is enough….I told him "why do you say that…I don't allow you to talk like this about descent Iraqi men, he said can't you see it has been a long time and they haven't decided what they want yet, I told him" can't you see that they don't have Jordanian Dinars! Can't you see that you don't accept Iraqi Dinar! Can't you see that they only have 100$ banknotes!! Can't you see the way they have slept the night! I'd like to see how will you act when you sleep like this…then I turned around and left him.

It's 1:00 pm they asked us to get ready because the plane has arrived, we carried our handbags and waited for the plane which to my surprise came at time. We reached Baghdad and I was feeling some happiness because I'll be able to sleep on a bed, on my bed in my home without humiliation I reached home at 6 pm.

Now when I review my writings I feel so much pain and very very sad , it was a different thing last time when they didn't let me in, I was going for a vacation and this time it was to secure my future and try to make my dreams true, last time when they didn't let me in I immediately went to Syria and I had so much fun that made me forget what happened and it's effects, but now….oh now…I'm so sad, I'm so sad, I even don't have the mood to write a letter, I feel my chest is getting narrower on my heart everyday and my lungs are getting smaller every minute…when I open my bags to put my stuff back I feel the failure with every jeans and shirt I put back…I feel the disappointment every minute, a stupid low life intelligence officer destroyed my future and killed my dreams, a legal dream of having a secure safe future, a dream of becoming a dentist in a place that appreciate science and doctors, not trying to kill each one of them….a dream of trying to have a normal life and live like the rest of the world do….not living as a prisoner in my home…where there is no place I can go without endangering my life…and even at home I'm not sure of my safety…a stupid officer made me sleep on the floor and starve me!! A stupid officer prevented us from seeing our families whom we miss so much…a stupid officer destroyed our dreams….

this is what happened in one day…this is a story for one person…just imagine every day how many stories like this happens…every day…can you imagine? This is a serious issue….I don't know what the Iraqis are made of to stand these crisis? What happens every day in that cursed airport is something so important, where is the media from all of this? It really requires the media attention, the light must be spotted on this issue and I'm ready to help as much as I can to expose the truth. http://last-of-iraqis.blogspot.com/2008/02/detained-again.html

[ Border Crossing Amman-Iraq ”Detained Again !! from Mohammed, Last of Iraqis Feb 12/08 ]

Watching Gaza

February 03, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

 

We are all watching Gaza. Some fret, others send money to someone who might pass it to a family. We dare not send it to an organization that could lead to charges of supplying Hamas--a (US/Israel) banned 'entity'. (The T-list they assign Hamas to really scares us; have no doubt.)

The rest of us criticize the Arab leaders, the American leaders, the Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority itself.

Last week I read in a North African paper that because of Israel’s policy towards Gazans, Mauritania, one of a handful of Arab countries with official ties to Israel, was considering suspending their diplomatic relation. A few days later, we hear of an armed attack on the Israeli embassy in Mauritania’s capital. Now instability threatens the country and neighboring Chad.The  Saharan area, where the US desperately wants to impose its Africom base, is destabilizing!  Back to Gaza, if we can bear it.

We watched Gaza’s economy crumble. We watched Israel mercilessly attack its people. We watched the electricity go off, the streets fill with water, the dead laying in pieces, the crushed homes-- score upon score—blasted. We watched the tens of thousands of Gazans protest the Annapolis conference (while we ourselves remained mute). We hear UN administrators’ reports of scarcity and poverty, of its inability to feed its Gazan wards. We read of spreading hunger; we listen to experts warning of increasing disease and rising death and despair.

Maybe be a few of us write to a US official to plead for some respite for the Palestinians. Perhaps a few more write to an Israeli embassy demanding a change in their heartless, torturous policies.

But essentially we are all simply watching. At a certain point in the crisis, we have to look at the facts. We are not ignorant. We cannot pretend the treatment of Gazans, and all Palestinians for that matter, is anything but absolutely wrong-- morally and politically. But we are all rendered mute. We simply watch.

Anyone who once ventured into Gaza to offer moral support is now stopped. Anyone who sent funds to help rebuild hospitals and schools are now afraid to do so. Anyone who spoke for the elected Gazan government no longer does so.

When the wall at Rafah was broken and desperate people rushed into Egypt for supplies, we had new images. Still we simply watched. Some thought those forays into the markets on the Egyptian side of the border were a sign of the fortitude of the Gazans and cheered them on. Others saw the open border as a tactic by Israel to test if it might later dump the whole of Gaza onto the Egyptians. I watched, embarrassed.

Are we not all somewhat embarrassed by this? by our own cowardice and fear of Israel? by our reluctance and inability to take a stand for a banned people?

Surely we are not waiting for our chance to elect a new US president to represent our cause for Palestinians.

 

 

 

[ Watching Gaza ]

Dakar Rally Cancelled

January 20, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Should western sportsmen exhibit their prowess in the midst of regional wars and difficulties?

As 2008 Olympic event in China approaches, human rights advocates are using the high profile event to protest Chinese policies across the world. How can a nation with such a bad human rights policy be the host of a hallowed, clean-spirited event as the Olympics?” charge critics. Now we have another angle. Organizers of the Dakar Rally across desert stretches of Africa have called their race off due to security fears. “If you want to be worthy of club membership in ‘our’ great sports competitions, change your politics.”

The 20 year odd ‘tradition’ of the Dakar car rally, 2008, from Portugal to Senegal was cancelled on short notice, not by the African states involved but by its French sponsors. It is hard to know if the decision is due to terrorist fears as officials claim.

Rallies like Dakar are really part of the neo-colonial trend of making western sports events more exotic. A form of ‘extreme sports’. Heavily financed participants race across rich, poor and far-flung corners of the world where poverty, negligence or local conflicts cause havoc among nearby inhabitants.

Sports events on this scale have shown little respect for the ills of local populations. They ignore their politics? If some carrot is offered to leaders, these transient, high-powered sportsmen care little about any raging war just a few miles away. Take the new tennis and golf competitions now held in Dubai and other Gulf Emirates, hardly an hour by plane to Iraq. And did you hear any protests from mountaineers and hikers to Nepal during the last decade of war there? Few Himalayan enthusiasts were willing to jeopardize their holidays by protesting that nation’s royal dictatorship and abuses. During the 40 years that I have known Nepal, I heard not a whisper from Peace Corps volunteers, anthropologists, trekkers, or the high altitude elites, that the widespread poverty supporting their cheap holidays was in anyway related to visitors themselves.

But the Dakar cancellation does not seem to have deterred others. I read in a local Algerian newspaper that a Harley Davidson club is planning a rally across this country in May. Up to a hundred motorcycle enthusiasts will roar across the mountains of Algeria and into the Sahara towards the nomad camps of the fabled Tourag in the far south. [ Dakar Rally Cancelled ]

Looking for our leaders in the New Year

December 24, 2007

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

In case you did not notice, the real, principled, smart leaders of our US Arab and Muslim community are, one by one, disappearing. Many of them are in jail. And that’s enough to chill the zeal of any would-be leader who dares to vigorously challenge the status-quo, arouse our ‘ethnic’ American masses. No social critics needed, especially those of us bearing Muslims names, wherever they are born.

 

The latest American social advocate to find himself sentenced to prison is Abdelhaleem Ashqar. He’s a former professor of business at Washington’s Howard University. In November Ashqar was sentenced by a Chicago judge to 11 years in prison. Why? He, like Sami Al-Arian, Ashqar simply refused to testify before a federal grand jury in inquiries involving the Palestinian struggle for justice against Israel.

 

Never before has our community been so in need of articulate courageous leaders who may express sentiments of many of us. We have an abundance of directors of national organizations in Washington. They say they are concerns with human rights, to educating the public. Their real role increasing seems to be offering assurances that most of ‘us’ are ‘moderate’, that we are willing to sit with Zionists, break fast at interfaith dialogs, and affirm how proud Americans we are. They name our (economically) successful entrepreneurs and media stars. They help identify bright young Arabs for the US foreign and intelligence services. If they have critical words for US policies they keep them for private in-White-House sessions, as per Arab tribal traditions.

 

What did Abdelhaleem Ashqar do, or refuse to do? The Associated Press headlines on the day of Ashqar’s sentencing reads: November 21, 2007: A former professor accused of providing money to Hamas terrorists was sentenced Wednesday to more than 11 years in prison and fined $5,000 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. "Ashqar” the article continues, “was convicted earlier this year of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the Palestinian militant movement Hamas on June 25, 2003. But he was acquitted of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy aimed at bankrolling the terrorist group Hamas.

 

"Before being sentenced, Professor Ashqar delivered a nearly two-hour passionate statement describing the suffering of Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation and saying he would rather go to prison than divulge the secrets of Palestinian militants.

 

"The only option was to become a traitor or collaborator and that is something that I can’t do and will never do as long as I live," he told the court. After sentencing him to 135 months in prison, (Judge) Amy St. Eve ordered marshals to take Ashqar into custody immediately, saying that it wasn’t clear that he would not flee to avoid serving time. "A co-defendant of Ashqar, Muhammad Salah, was sentenced to 22 months in the same case after being convicted of lying under oath in a legal document. He also was acquitted of racketeering.”

 

Meanwhile in our papers and TV headlines one reads daily reports about deteriorating conditions and mass sufferings of Palestinians at the hands of Israel; bombings of neighborhoods and a virtual economic siege of the whole of Gaza. Among them are a few humanitarian appeals. None of these figures is contested. It’s all true. UN and other NGO leaders issue dire, urgent warnings, appealing for change, or mercy. They are supplemented with statistics quantifying the catastrophe. All this proceeds through a hugely publicized “peace conference” called Annapolis, then through another summit where billions of dollars are pledged to the Palestinian Authority. Smiles and handshakes galore while our Gaza sisters and brothers remain under assault and a siege of unparalleled cruelty and evil intent.

 

As for the pledged billions, while some of that may apply to NGO salaries to administer relief, the majority is in fact destined to Israel which has so crippled the Palestinian society, now a consumer economy, that Israeli itself is now the source of almost all Palestinian food, building supplies and other essentials.

 

So we collect money; we write reports; we pass on the sad news, month after month. But we do not do what Abdelhaleem Ashqar dared. As New Trend Magazine editor Kaukab Siddique notes, “He was opposed to Israel. This and this alone was his "crime". He has never broken American law. He never abused the hospitality America offered him. Accusations of sending funds to Hamas were disproved. When nothing could be proven against him, the puppet "justice system" wanted him to talk about the Palestinian community and to help incriminate and trap other Palestinian opponents of Israel. In the jargon of the American injustice system, this refusal to become a collaborator is called "criminal contempt" of the court and [don't laugh!] "obstruction of justice"! This is how the Zionists hide tyranny behind a facade of legal terminology. “It should be noted that Hamas is NOT an anti-American movement. It has been labeled "terrorist" purely to please the terrorist entity known as Israel. Hence any attempt to punish a Muslim for supporting Hamas is actually an Israeli move.

 

“Israel is striking at Muslims through the American injustice system. Ashqar's great sacrifice should be a rallying cry for the Muslims of America.

 

For two hours the condemned professor spoke to the court highlighting the suffering and sacrifices of the Palestinian people. Only one line of his speech was reported in the corporate media.”

 

OK. Ashqar was willing to go to prison. Under some circumstances, he could become an example, a model, a challenge to the US justice system that is clearly bent on serving Israel smother all dissent to its immoral policies. This American Muslim could, in ‘normal’ times be a badly needed voice and model around which our people could mobilize our common ideals and openly fight for the rights of Palestinians, and ourselves in the process. Are we up to it?

 

Or will we join the queue the of so-called educators to endorse the likes of a fraudulent Khalil Gibran school in New York calling itself an institution to serve our heritage and our people.

 

[ Looking for our leaders in the New Year ]


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