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U.S., Iraqi govt’s kill, torture unarmed civilian protesters

Published May 15, 2011 8:48 AM

Protest in Baghdad, Feb. 25.

"If you don't stop your political opposition activities, we will kidnap you, rape you and videotape the rape." This threat was made against Fatima Ahmed, a political activist, by armed men who came to her home during a "Day of Rage," a kind of mass outpouring which has characterized many of the revolutions taking place across the Middle East and North Africa. (Amnesty International Report, April 2011)

Unlike others, this uprising and the merciless repression which has followed it have been virtually ignored by the mainstream media. It took place in Iraq, a country which is still occupied by tens of thousands of U.S. troops, and whose puppet government is completely under the thumb of the United States.

A survey of media coverage of the protests in Iraq found that since February most of the world's media "forgot about the country. Today, there is hardly anything about the demonstrations that continue in Iraq." (blogspot.com, May 6)

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets since early February 2011 to protest against the lack of water, electricity and other basic services, rising prices, unemployment and endemic corruption, and to demand greater civil and political rights. Major protests were held throughout Iraq on Feb. 25, centering on the nation's high unemployment, corruption and poor public services.

During the protests, crowds stormed provincial buildings, freed a number of political prisoners and forced local officials to resign. At least 29 people were killed as a result, with the deadliest repression of protests in northern Iraq.

In that northern Kurdistan region of Iraq, demonstrators protested against the two main parties that have dominated local politics for decades and monopolized state resources. From the beginning of the invasion, these two parties were friendly to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Protesters carrying a banner with the slogan “Iraqi Rage” held a demonstration on Feb. 25 in Mosul calling for better services and an end to corruption. The successful popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 encouraged Iraqis to defy new restrictions imposed by the puppet government and to come out into the streets.

Since then, there have been scores of protests all over Iraq calling not only for civil and political rights, but also for an end to the U.S. occupation. On March 8, thousands gathered to celebrate International Women's Day. Almost without exception, these peaceful protests have been met with vicious repression, torture and threats warning demonstrators not to protest in the future.

The AI report found evidence that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police and armed forces "contravened international standards, most notably the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Basic Principles) and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials ... and used excessive force, in some cases leading to deaths.”

They also engaged in systematic torture. Dr. Pishtewan Abdullah, an Iraqi Kurdish medical doctor with an Australian passport and a resident of Australia, was visiting Kurdistan in February when he was arrested and tortured in Erbil. On Feb. 25 he was wearing a T-shirt with “No to corruption, yes to social justice” written on the front and “The demands of people should not be answered by bullets” on the back.

“The [attackers] put me in a car and drove away. There were many Asayish [Special Iraqi police trained by the U.S.] officers, and they started kicking me and beating me. I was taken to a small room. Every five minutes two or three Asayish officers came to the room and beat me. I was kicked and punched for about four hours. There was blood coming from my nose, ears, arms, back, thighs, my right eye. Every five minutes they would have a break, and then two different officers would replace them. … They were swearing at me, swearing at my wife and kids.” (Amnesty International)

The U.S. government, which claims to be so concerned about civilian deaths in Libya and elsewhere, should be exposed for its repressive role in occupied Iraq.