Bill Weinberg of the ww3 report posts transcripts of two interviews that explore questions of alternative politics in Iraq.
This is an article-style summary of the first interview with Khayal Ibrahim of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and Samir Noory of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI). For complete transcript see http://ww3report.com/iraq1.html
Both OWFI and the WCPI were founded amidst the anti-Saddam uprisings in Kurdistan that were first encouraged, then betrayed, by American operatives following the First Gulf War. Both movements were shut down by the Kurdistan nationalist parties, KDP & PUK. The women were threatened with “honor killings,” says Khayal Ibrahim.
OWFI set up offices at Sulliymaniah and Erbil, publishing a newspaper called “al-Mosawat” or “Equality.”
The present leader of OWFI, Yanar Mohammed, who fled to Canada about 8 years ago, has returned to Baghdad, where she works despite threats on her life. On March 8 she led a street protest in Baghdad against the adoption of religious law, Shari’a, into the Iraq Constitution. Accounts of the protest, with pictures, may be found in newsletters posted at the OWFI website, equalityiniraq.com
The proposed law, Article 137, which was defeated by OWFI and a coalition of 85 organizations, would have eliminated women’s rights to child custody or choice in marriage and divorce.
Says Ibrahim of Article 137, “Girls just 12 years old can be married against their will with an older man, with no right to say no–her brother or father can say, ‘you are going to marry.’ She has no right to education, she has to wear the veil, she is not allowed to leave the country, she has no civil rights, no human rights. She has none.”
WCPI arose from worker councils that were organized, for example, at cigarette factories in the northern towns of Sulliymaniah and Erbil. In addition, WCPI was active in Dahuk and published a newspaper called “ash-Shuyu’iya-al-Umalliya” or “Worker Communist.”
In 1995, when WCPI protested “fake elections,” some of its members from Najaf and Nasiriya were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.
Today, says Samir Noory, the worker council movement “is very strong in Baghdad and Kirkuk now, and we still have a presence in Suliymaniah and also in Erbil.” The newspaper is back in print.
“Our leader in Iraq is Rebwar Ahmed, and we have links with the Worker Communist Party of Iran, founded by Mansoor Hekmat, who died of cancer two years ago,” says Noory. (The new communist pary in Iran is different from the old Soviet-linked Tudeh Party. And the ideology of the new groups tends toward Lenin, rather than Trotsky or Mao.)
The office in Nasiriya, however, was shut down by Italian troops. When Noory organized a protest at the Italian consulate in Toronto, he recalls: “I think they said, ‘We don’t need any problems here, and you are communists and the Islamic forces don’t like it.'”
“Political Islam” is the ascendant power in Iraq, protected by occupation armies. Says Noory, “This occupation brought all the forces of political Islam back.”
Noory was born in Kirkuk “the old city” but moved north to Erbil in 1983 where he lived under a fake name until 1998, when he fled to Toronto.
Ibrahim is from Dahuk, where she lived until 1995. With the rise of the Kurdish Nationalist parties, seventy percent of the girls were discouraged from going to school, veils were made compulsory, and “honor killings” were used to further terrorize women. After a friend of hers was killed, she fled with her husband throughTurkey to Toronto.
Saddam contributed to the oppression of women through the promulgation of Article 111, which reinstated “honor killings” and resulted in the immediate massacre of about 200 alleged prostititutes during one week.
Says Ibrahim: “Saddam’s Fedayeen. He beheaded more than 200 women in Mosul and Baghdad especially. Sometimes they allowed the brother or father or husband to kill, the do the honor killing. They could kill any woman in the family without punishment.”
And regarding the new regime? “The Governing Council is a lot worse–instead of having one Saddam Hussein we have about 25 Saddam Husseins with a much more restrictive Islamic political program. And every day there is a bombing in Iraq, by some kind of reactionary movement trying to impose the same Islamic rule,” says Ibrahim.
Says Noory, “First, before the war started, we said this is the dark scenario. Right now it has become darker. Everyone can see–explosions on the street, kidnappings, especially of women–gangs take women and kids, in Baghdad, and sell them in Arabia, in Jordan… All this has never happened in Iraq.”
Quoting from the transcript:
BW: OK, so how is some kind of democratic secular state going to be established in Iraq after the US pulls out? How do you envision this happening? Who can we concretely loan solidarity to here in New York City and the US?
SN: We believe there is a strong movement–the women’s movement, labor movement, the radical leftist and communist movements, the democratic movements–they can establish a secular country in Iraq. A lot of people! The majority of people in Iraq, they want a secular country. They don’t want a religious or ethnic state. They do not want that.
BW: And you feel the US occupation is collaborating with the fundamentalist elements?
SN: I don’t use this word “fundamentalism,” I use “political Islam.” I don’t divide political Islam into good and bad–I think all of them have the same idea, the same goal. The US doesn’t like bin Laden, so they go with Sistani, they sit down with him and they give him power, they give his people a council seat and everything, just like the US supported political Islam in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. They say “this is fundamentalism,” “this is terrorism,” this is good, this is bad. I don’t know, there is no good and no bad with political Islam–there is just political Islam, they all want Shari’a, they want an Islamic republic like Iran, like Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia. And everyone knows that means stoning, that means cutting off hands, that means no freedom of expression, no freedom of speech, no freedom to publish…
Postscript: An article by Fahd Nasir posted June 2 at the WCPI website alleges that Shi’a rebel Moqtada al-Sadr is no freedom fighter, but an accomplice in efforts to bring Iranian-style rule (shall we say “Political Islam”?) to Iraq.
Worker Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI)
See also, April 10 statement of the WCPI:
Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)