Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fresh wave of bombings kills dozens in Baghdad

A fresh wave of bombings in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas has killed about 30 people and injured dozens. According to police, the attacks have been a coordinated effort by the armed groups in the country.

Most of the attacks have taken place within a two-hour time frame. No militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The initial reports are unclear, but the death toll is expected to be higher.

Iraqi media reported that At least 21 people were killed and 39 injured as a result of more than 10 bomb blasts in Baghdad.

Two car bombs exploded this morning near Kahraman Square in Karrada, central Baghdad. A third car bomb explosion hit the same area, leaving more than 30 people dead or injured.

Another car bomb exploded near Arab Fares Square in Mansur district, west of Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding seven more.

A car bomb exploded in the Sunni-populated Aadamiya neighborhood, killing four people and wounding eight.

Two homemade bombs exploded in Abudishir district, south of Baghdad. The blasts in a public market killed six people and wounded 10.

Two bombs exploded in Sayediya district, west of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding five. The blast was followed by an armed attack.

Two people were killed and nine were wounded after gunmen attacked a police checkpoint near Sarafiya Bridge. Police officers were among the causalities.

A anonymous police source said twin blasts hit the area around a primary school in Baghdad. A car bomb parked near the school in Taji district, north of Baghdad, exploded followed by a homemade bomb blast.

Two other homemade bombs placed in a parked car exploded near a public restaurant in Mohit Square of Kadhemiya neighborhood.

Another car bomb exploded in Biyaa district, west of Baghdad.

A car bomb and a homemade bomb exploded near Ali Sajjad Mosque in the Maalef neighborhood of Baghdad.

The police source added that police are on high alert and strict security measures are now in place. More police officers have been deployed.

Today's explosions in Baghdad and several other Iraqi provinces occur only 37 days before the Arab League's summit in Baghdad.

Member of the Security and Defense Committee at the House of Representatives Shuwan Mohammed Taha said the vast number of terrorist attacks over the course of one day "proved that the Iraqi security forces aren't capable of providing stability for the citizens".

The attacks also proved that the intelligence service is a "loser" and unable to prevent insurgency. Taha believes that one of the reasons for this "failure" is that Iraq's security organizations are "monopolized by a certain political party and the other components are deprived of sharing the duty of protecting the country."

Taha's colleague in the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition Fateh Daraghayee believes insurgency has stepped up as a result of "the increasing political disputes which are impossible to resolve, serving the terrorist groups to prove their control and easily target any area they wish".

Daraghayee blamed the Iraqi government for the "deteriorating security situation", urging it to swiftly follow up the attacks "instead of letting parties incriminate each other".

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's advisor for Kurdistan affairs Adel Barwari said in the past few days the intelligence department received information that al-Qaeda militants and supporters of the fallen Baath party were mobilizing in preparation for insurgency.

He related the rise in attacks to disputes between the major political blocs - the Shiite-dominated National Alliance and the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya List.

Monday, February 20, 2012

TV station signal blocked while commemorating attack

SULAIMANIYAH, Feb. 20 (AKnews) - A TV station, commemorating it's torching by gunmen a year ago, stopped airing for more than an hour because of signal interference.

NRT TV , Nalia TV , SwtaniStrong interference signal interference disrupted the broadcasting of a documentary on satellite channel Nalia last night.

The program 'Who Torched NRT TV?' investigates the attack on the station last year after it's live screening of the anti-government protests that swept across Sulaimaniyah.

NRT TV was only three days old when around 50 gunmen stormed the station and showered all the equipment in the station with bullets before using explosives to torch the building.

The station re-launched on April 22 the same year.

The signal disruption began at 8.48 p.m. last night after which the station decided to cease broadcasting 'Who Torched NRT?'. Airing resumed after an hour and fifteen minutes.

Twana Osman, the station's director said: "The interference was very strong. We don't know the source yet. It is difficult to get to it, it will take a long time even for the largest TV corporations in the world to find out the source of interference on their airing."

He added that he thought there was a very strong likelihood that the interference was related to the airing of the documentary.

Authorities promised to probe into the attack last year, but no one has been charged.

An open letter to Nechirvan Barzani

By Judit Neurink

This article was published on AKnews

It is looking more and more like a power struggle. The relationship between journalists and police in Iraqi Kurdistan is a difficult one. After hundreds of incidents involving journalists over the two last years, the main question now is: How to keep journalists safe?

uditThe reasons for the incidents are many, as discussed during a meeting with Kurdish editors-in-chief in Sulaimaniyah, on February 15.

Some journalists feel they are a part of the political system, and do not realize their role as an informer to the people about what is happening in their country. They do not realize their power is in providing information, in a fair and unbiased way, so people can make their own choices.

Journalists in Kurdistan are often activists – not just in their work but also on the street. In some cases journalists are known to have thrown stones and shout slogans. They stopped being a member of the press and became an individual, as one of the participants in the meeting said. To the police, there was no difference between these journalists or other demonstrators.

I was sad that some journalists I respect very much, last year decided to become part of protest movements by holding speeches. That is not your job, I have tried to tell them, and it makes you appear to be onside with the demonstrators. Again, that is how the police saw them.

Part of the problem lies with the fractures inside the Kurdish press. Many journalists work for party media, so they are aware of the policy of their party, and of their role in the media that only gives people information the party thinks is fit to read. Or - to make it more complicated - what they feel the party thinks is fit. Many party journalists censor themselves, when in fact the party would allow much more freedom than they think.

The other group is made up of independent journalists and journalists working with opposition parties. For outsiders, they are seen as equal. They are all against the government, they write against it and in some cases act against it.

There is a long way to go to make a change here. But we can start by making journalists understand their role during demonstrations. I was joined by a number of respected Kurdish journalists and opinion-makers when I asked editors-in-chief to instruct their staff on how to behave during demonstrations.

The key points were: keep out of the way, do not mingle with protesters, report from the side-lines, make yourself visible by wearing a special PRESS vest, be visible in other ways and stay safe.

When we presented the editors-in-chief with special orange vests with the word PRESS on them, some participants in the meeting called this naive. As if the police would act differently when confronted with journalists in orange vests? They said it would be even more dangerous, as journalists would become more recognizable - making it even easier to attack, harass and arrest them.

Partly true, we found. The meeting was held in anticipation of the anniversary of the bloody unrest of February 17. Everybody was expecting new protests, a year after the start of demonstrations that cost many lives and lasted for months. So did the police, who were out in force to prevent protesters taking to the streets. And when hardly any came out, they started harassing and arresting the photographers who dared to take pictures.

Image 100228

Amongst those arrested was photographer Rahman Garib, also from the Metro Center to Defend Journalists, pictured in the very first orange vest I presented him with during the meeting. In total, around ten reporters were picked up. Most were released a couple of hours later, but some only after being threatened severely.

Why? These journalists were doing their job. There is no law in Kurdistan that prohibits reporters from taking photographs during demonstrations. The Press Law says that journalists have the right to collect information. Well, some do it by writing, some by filming and some by taking photographs.

I try to get this message across to young officers in the police - those that are out on the streets during demonstrations. In my lectures I try to get them to understand that police and journalists both serve the people. That it is also their responsibility to make sure journalists can do their work.

But they receive different instructions from their bosses, who still consider journalists the enemy. Who thinks, in this day and age of internet, you can still avoid pictures being taken during demonstrations, which are important moments in democracy when people speak out and should be heard. These bosses get their ideas from the parties they belong to, or from politicians they are close to.

Therefore journalists in Kurdistan will only be safe and able to do their work when politicians speak out for them. When the new government, which will be formed in the next weeks, defends the rights of the press and openly supports measures to improve press freedom and prevent censorship.

When it supports the idea that journalists can make themselves visible, like during demonstrations, and play their role as a reporter without becoming involved, they will be allowed to do their work.

nechirvan barzaniI will be knocking on a lot of doors in the coming weeks to get this message across. But right now I knock on one door in particular: the door of the returning Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who is forming his cabinet at the moment. I have heard him declare support for the press more than once, saying that without the free (international) press the Kurds would have been lost in 1991, and that for that reason he supports an independent press in Kurdistan.

Mr. Prime Minister, show us you meant it. Help us to keep the journalists in Kurdistan safe. Stop police harassing them, and beating them up. Join us in our campaign to improve the situation of the press in Kurdistan. It will enhance your name, in and outside of Kurdistan, where criticism about the harsh treatment of the press is growing.

But most importantly, it will help to give Kurdistan the press that it needs and deserves: a responsible press that serves the Kurdish people.

Judit Neurink is an independent Dutch journalist residing in Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.


19/02/2012 11:36

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Women want greater participation in new KRG cabinet

ERBIL – Women activists say women participation in the government positions should be equal to their participation in the parliament of Kurdistan Region – 25 percent – as the region prepares for a cabinet reshuffle as part of a political deal between the two main ruling parties.

The current Prime Minister of Kurdistan  Regional Government (KRG) from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) submitted a letter of resignation to the President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani earlier this week and was approved by the President.

Nechirvan Barzani, a former KRG PM and nephew of the regional President from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been officially put forward by the KDP to head the new government and name his cabinet. Barzani, however, has not been officially charged by the President with forming the new cabinet.

The two parties have a "strategic Agreement" under which the two parties entered elections over the past 10 years and shared positions 50-50. The agreement also states that each party heads the government for two years during each electoral term.

Vian Sleman, secretary of Kurdistan Women's Union (KWU) told AKnews that "Women activists deem it the women's rights that in the next cabinet a number of the senior positions be give to women. And a formal request has been sent to Nechirvan Barzani for the purpose as well"

The women activists have called on Barzani to guarantee a 25% quota for women in his cabinet that is expected to be formed soon.

"Women are as educated as men and can manage the positions. We want not only some ministerial portfolios for women, but also other positions like undersecretaries, director generals, deputy ministers and governors also be given to women candidates" said Sleman.

In the outgoing KRG cabinet there is only one woman minister; the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Asos Najib Abdullah, in a 19-ministry cabinet.

Runak Faraj, a woman activist told AKnews that "we have to make efforts to bring this number to two at least women ministers"

She said women had to be part of the decision-making in the semi-autonomous region, therefore "it is not enough to secure 25% of the positions for women, but also think of whom to place in those positions."

According to Faraj, the women candidates have to be chosen based on their qualifications, "women who think like women and can give women a better image so that they can obtain the trust of the society"

The call for the 25% share was also sported by the High Council of Women's Affairs (HCWA) in the region.

Pakhsahn Zangana, Secretary of the HCWA  said: "It is true that there are women in the government institutions, but they are not seen as decision-makers and prominent figures in the political arena and leadership"

By Rebin Zangana


Armed groups backed by Diyala official captured

Three armed groups involved in organized crime and financed by a local official have been disbanded, Diyala police announced today.

The 36 captured men, who police say were financed by the Diyala Governor's Deputy for Arts Affairs, Ghadhban al-Khazraji, were responsible for several armed attacks and assassinations.

The video-taped confessions were shown during a police conference today, in which the militants admitted to belonging to armed groups such as Ansar al-Sunnah and the Rijal al-Naqshbandiyah and receiving payments from the official for assassinations since 2006.

The groups used silenced guns to assassinate members of the Dawa Party led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Shiite groups of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq and the Badir Organization.

Khazraji is a member of the Accord and Reform Front, which is part of the Iraqiya List.

He was arrested on terror charges on Jan. 20 by a special force working under the command of the prime minister.

Date for controversial national conference to be set on Sunday

ERBIL – Political leaders in Iraq are expected to finally set a date this Sunday for a much-debated and anticipated national conference that is hoped to put an end to political dispute in the country.

malikiSpokesman for the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC) in the Iraqi Council of Representatives Farhad Atroushi said the political parties in the country will hold a meeting on Sunday to decide on the date of the conference.

The meeting is expected to include 15 representatives from the major political blocs: seven from the National Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, five from the al-Iraqiya List led by rival leader Ayad Allawi, and three Kurds.

Iyad Allawi, ayad alawiThe conference was originally the idea of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, where all political parties negotiate to find solutions for the issues facing Iraq following the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq in December last year.

Relations between the National Coalition and the al-Iraqiya blocs - two major blocs who have 180 seats together in the 330-seat parliament - deteriorated after attempts by the Shiite-dominated authorities in Baghdad to arrest Sunni leaders on terror charges.

According to observers, the attempts were used by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a pressure card, especially after Sunni leaders in Diyla and Salahadin provinces announced plans for creating federal autonomous regions in their provinces and accusing Baghdad of repression against the Sunnis.

Jalal TalabaniThe news follows the return of Talabani on December 28 following surgery in Germany. He returned directly to Baghdad because the long-heralded conference "depends on his leadership", said senior Patriotic Union of Kurdistan member Fuad Masum.

The KBC previously stated that it feared the conference may fail or not even go ahead in light of the intensifying war of words between the State of Law Coalition and Iraqiya List.

Moqtada al-Sadr,Muqtada al-SadrMeanwhile the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr rejected any idea of holding the conference outside of Baghdad, noting that the KBC agreed on holding the conference in the capital. An official source in the presidency office of the Kurdistan Region previously said President Massoud Barzani will not participate in the conference if it is held in Baghdad.

Massoud BarzaniThe debate over where to hold the conference arose after the leader of Iraqiya List Ayad Allawi preferred to hold it in Kurdistan. Barzani later announced that he will not boycott the conference if it is held in Baghdad, but stated he will send his representative in his stead.

The Sadrist movement's Ahrar bloc then launched a fresh effort at mediating between the State of Law Coalition and Iraqiya List in the run up to the conference.

Victims of Turkish airstrike commemorated in Erbil

ERBIL – Victims of a Turkish airstrike exactly 40 days ago in Sirnak province, south east of Turkey, in which 36 civilian Kurds were killed, were commemorated in a ceremony in Erbil city, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkish authorities announced that the Kurdish civilians who were working as smugglers were mistake for Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels who have been fighting the Turkish states for three decades for the rights of the Kurdish minority in the country. Turkish authorities later offered apologies.

The event on Tuesday was organized by a number of NGOs but was also attended by representatives of the political parties in the region as well. Participants lit 40 candles in commemoration of the death of the 36 Kurds 40 days after their death.

Bilind Mustfa, speaker of the ceremony said "our goal in this commemoration is to reiterate our concern about the Sirnak tragedy, as well as our support for the just cause of the Kurdish nation in Turkey"

Falakadin Kkayi attended the ceremony as special representative of the President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani.

"IT is over 30 years that there is war between the Kurds and Turks in northern Kurdistan [Turkey's Kurdish region], and the continuation of war will inevitably result in tragedies like that of Sirnak. Therefore, the best solution is an end to this fighting and the Kurdish question in Turkey be solved through dialogue and democratic solutions" Kakayi read Barzani's speech.

"We hope that instead of fighting, a different circumstance come forward that will bring reconstruction and development in the Kurdish question in Turkey, in addition to building peace and democracy on the basis of human rights and Kurdish rights"