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Iraq Update: 19-24 September 2005

5 October 2005
Monday, 19 September

Nash and Holmes visited the Baghdad morgue and spoke with the director to
set up a date for a delegation visit. The director reported that an average
of thirty bodies per day come through the morgue. Most have gunshot wounds.
The morgue sends about 100 unclaimed bodies to Najaf for burial in the Shi`a
cemetery every week.

Tuesday, 20 September

Fox and Beth Pyles interviewed a detainee who had been released from Abu
Ghraib prison after more than eighteen months in detention. During his
capture in 2004, a U.S. soldier struck him on the head with the butt of an
automatic weapon. As a result he became partially paralyzed. He still
needs a crutch to walk and he wears a brace on one arm. He reported that he
did not receive medical treatment or physical therapy after the first two
weeks of his capture. The ex-detainee thinks he is being followed, and said
that soldiers forced him to sign a paper saying that if he talked to human
rights organizations or media, they would arrest him.

A CPT delegation of five persons arrived safely from Amman, and went to
visit a prominent Shi`a cleric. He said that the new draft constitution
made many concessions to the Kurds and the Sunnis, but that he believed it
would unify Iraq. He felt that wise Iraqis of all persuasions should vote
for it.

Wednesday, 21 September

The CPT delegation went in the morning to the al Dora electrical plant.
Although they had the required permission from the Ministry of Electricity,
the U.S. soldier guarding the entrance said, `We are in charge here, and we
decide whether you go in or not.`

A former plant manager met with the delegates, who learned that there are
three electricity grids in Iraq-- north, middle and south and some power
comes from Syria, Turkey and Iran. The economic sanctions after the 1991
Gulf War stopped all building and hampered maintenance. Production before
1990 was 9,600 megawatts, and is now 5,000 megawatts. The country needs
10,000 megawatts. The demand is 60% higher today than it was before the
U.S. invasion in 2003.

In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Muslim Scholars Association, a
group made up mostly of Sunni Muslims. A representative said he believes
that the U.S. strategy is to divide Iraq and destroy the national unity, by
means of the Shi`a political parties that `came with the U.S. tanks.` He
felt that the new draft constitution is an American ploy to divide the
country, and that a federal system is bad for Iraq. He offered the
delegation a video CD with photos of an Iraqi Police attack on a village,
and asked for help locating persons detained by the U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Sheila Provencher went to the shop of a young Iraqi woman, who shared her
feelings about the U.S. presence in Iraq. `I heard on the news the other
day that President Bush is drawing terrorism into Iraq, in order to fight
the terrorists here,` she said. `Why is he doing this? We have suffered
enough! I have suffered from wars my entire life and I am twenty eight
years old. Now, I do not feel secure, I do not know if one day I will be
blown up, or kidnapped, or robbed, or lose my legs, my hands, or my life in
an explosion. I believe that most of the terrorist actions are from people
who come from other Arab countries. Most are not Iraqi. Why does President
Bush want to draw terrorists into Iraq to fight them here?`

A friend of the team who works for human rights visited to make the final
changes to a recent testimony about torture. He said he would probably not
be working in the human rights field anymore. The danger to him is
significant, and he is weary of this difficult and painful work.

Thursday 22 September

In the morning, the delegation went to Sadr City and met with the governor
of half of Sadr City. The governor spoke about the situation regarding
health, education, and security. He started by saying that Sadr City is the
safest place in Iraq to live, because it is a tight-knit community. The
Mehdi army and the Iraqi police work together to provide security. There
are problems at times, but nothing significant.

Delegates asked him to describe the relationship that exists today with the
U.S. military. He described the history of the past two years, saying that
relations between Sadr City residents and the U.S. army were good for the
first eight months of the occupation. Then, violence began, sparked by an
incident in which a U.S. soldier deliberately tore a banner that celebrated
Imam al-Mehdi, a famous religious figure. The governor did not elaborate on
the current relationship, although the delegates observed the presence of
U.S. soldiers inside the building.

In the afternoon the delegates visited the Iraqi Assistance Center (IAC.)
They met with Colonel Thomas Eichenberg (military officer now in charge of
the IAC) and other IAC workers. He gave them a detailed account of the
structure and work of the IAC, which includes the following sections:
medical, women`s issues, NGO coordination, employment, claims, and detainee
issues. The medical section is by far the largest part of the IAC`s work.
Personnel attempt to get medical treatment for cases that cannot get
appropriate treatment within Iraq. They currently have a case load of 2000
patients, but very few have actually been able to go out of country for

The delegation also asked about the compensation and detainee sections of
the IAC. They found that the IAC only pays about 20% of the compensation
claims it receives. If the IAC deems the incident `combat related,` no
compensation is available. Regarding the detainee section, the IAC workers
reported a 50% `hit rate,` meaning that when families inquired about the
whereabouts of their detained loved ones, the IAC was able to give the
families some information 50% of the time.

Friday, 23 September 2005

The delegation toured the Al-Dora oil refinery on the outskirts of Baghdad.
They met with the general manager of the plant. He said that much of the
energy consumption problem facing Iraqis simple mathematics. The three main
refineries in the country can produce 16 million liters a day if they all
are operating at 100% capacity. The current oil consumption in Iraq is 24
million liters a day. Since the price of gasoline is fixed by the
government not to exceed fifteen cents a gallon, the government does not
have the economic resources to offset the current world market price to
import the amount needed to cover the shortfall. He also noted that, three
times in the last month, insurgents have attacked the one pipeline into his
refinery from the oil fields near Basra.

Saturday, 24 September 2005

The visiting delegation met with Emmanuel Delhi, the Chaldean Patriarch of
Babylon, Iraq. He noted that Chaldeans comprise about 75% of the Catholics
in the country. He said he very much feels for the suffering of the people
of America due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also said, `We are
suffering from the equivalent of ten Hurricane Katrinas and Ritas.` He felt
that if the U.S. government really wanted to bring security and peace to
Iraq, it could.
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