Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guerilla Footwear

By Joseph El-Khoury

Muntadar Al Zeidi did what many Arabs could only fantasize about: Giving George Bush a piece of their mind. The shoe throwing incident coupled with a traditionally crafted verbal insult (You dog!) pretty much summarises the general mood in the Middle East in response to the relentless patronising and misleading discourse of the Neo-Conservative administration for the past 8 years. It is no coincidence that the action of Mr Al Zeidi came at the moment that Mr Bush was praising the achievements of years of occupation, as if relating the completion of a chemistry school project, with complete disregard to the suffering they had sown in Iraq. Even for those uninterested in the political context, the video clip of the shoe throwing incident, was funny: A respectable man in a suit ducking from a flying shoe aimed at his face. Substitute anyone with status to GW Bush and the scene is still YouTube worthy. It has the pulling power of a video on Pandas cuddling or cats fighting, retaining an entertaining quality no matter how many times you watch it.

There is a strong argument for peaceful shoe throwing (the soft sole version) to be upheld as a genuine guerrilla tactic across cultures and settings. Imagine a shoe being thrown, for example, at Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Thabo Mbeki, King Abdullah of Jordan or Hugo Chavez. All would be justified for one reason or the other and certainly as funny to watch. This technique could even be adopted by the most unconventional of leaders such as Mr Ahmadinajjad of Iran or Muaammar Kaddafi of Libya to settle disputes. It would not the first time in history that a shoe is used to affirm a political point of view. On October 12th 1960, The Soviet Leader Nicolas Khrouchtchev banged his shoe against a desk to silence the Filipino representative to the UN general Assembly. He also called him ‘a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of Imperialism’. At the time, no cultural dimension was attributed to the use of the shoe, although it was followed by a dissection of the personality of Khrouchtchev and the Communist regime behind him.

As the first shots of the incident in Iraq were beamed around the world, so called experts on Middle Eastern customs sought to highlight the cultural significance of shoe throwing. Whether well meaning or not, their attempts seemed a blunt misuse of cultural contexts to distract from the core issues at stake. The best insight came from the victim, President Bush himself, who likened it to having the middle finger waved at you. Other Western equivalents could also be: heckling, throwing eggs or rotten tomatoes or running naked across a football pitch. We will soon find out whether this was a clever plan cooked up by radicals with Iranian connections or just a spontaneous display of emotions. Whatever Muntadar’s motivation, the message was a universal one and did not require the elaborate cultural interpretations clumsily thrown in by the Foreign press, as if discussing the strange rituals of an obscure Amazonian tribe. Having gone through rigorous search, the shoe was probably the safest option available, easy to take off and with limited potential for serious damage. It is a civilised expression of extreme disgust and an ethical advancement on suicide bombing and plane hijacking. I echo Dean Obeidallah who wonders sarcastically in the Huffington Post whether shoe throwing is perceived positively in any culture. At this rate Lonely planet and other travel guides will be warning backpackers travelling through the Middle East to steer clear from irritable Arabs in a solid pair of Timberlands.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November Blog of the Month: Neurotic Iraqi Wife

On Arabdemocracy, we will be featuring on a monthly basis a chosen blog from the Arab world that we believe has contributed to the promotion of debate and a democratic discourse in the region. The focus will be on overall quality, style, content and originality.

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The Editors @ Arabdemocracy

Self confessed Neurotic Iraqi Wife (NIW) is Iraqi-British and in her thirties. She started blogging in August 2004 and her journey since then has taken us from London to Abu Dhabi through Baghdad. From her privileged position as the wife of an Iraqi expat involved with the American administration of Iraq, her story is also that of the country since the 2003 invasion. Her early posts are dedicated to and indeed dominated by HUBBY (husband). He remains anonymous to the readers, although the idiosyncrasies of Arab manhood are exposed with remarkable humour. A recent bride, NIW draws us into her world, comfortably sharing her anxieties over their young marriage with a wide and varied audience. The themes, taking into account the cultural context, are universal: The tension between career and family, the compromises to be made in a marriage and the stress of a long distance relationship. Mixing the personal with the mundane and the political, NIWs is observant and witty, commenting on everything from Iraqi elections to cosmetic surgery. We frequently accompany the couple on their R&Rs (Rest and Relaxation) around the world, from Amsterdam to Hong-Kong, as they do their best to defy the circumstances and strengthen their relationship. With the years NIW comes of age, in blogging terms and probably personally as well. She slowly redefines herself from a wife to a stand-alone commentator. This is very noticeable with her move to Baghdad in May 2005 after 15 years of exile. Her observations become more personal and she stops being the mouthpiece for her husband on Iraqi politics (Something that was unavoidable until then given the pressure from her readers for inside information).Despite the obvious relief of being with her husband, new tensions arise linked to the unique environment of the Restricted area at the heart of Baghdad known as the Green Zone (GZ). Judging from her writings, her mood states also closely mirror the ups and downs of the occupation, as experienced through the selective lens of the expats. From interaction with colleagues and fellow residents from all walks of life, all stuck in ‘EYERAK’, one cannot avoid connecting with the overwhelmingly claustrophobic atmosphere. She is not afraid to venture into other Middle Eastern issues, touching on the Israeli assault on Lebanon in July 2006, that she lives through the plight of her sister, trapped in Beirut under fire. She is also critical of prejudiced tendencies that she witnesses first hand within Emirati society. An unashamedly ardent Obama supporter over the past few weeks she makes a more tempered (and realistic?) assessment over his likely impact on the Iraqi situation. In a recent post she states her frank pessimism about Iraq in the short term, predicting an inevitable downturn of events that the US presence is only delaying

Enter the world of Neurotic wives...with a distinct Arab flavour

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The New Middle East

By Bachir Habib

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem warned on Monday of military retaliation in the event of future cross-border American raids, saying: "If they do it again, we will defend our territory."
Why didn’t they retaliate this time? Why didn’t they retaliate after the bombing of what the US and Israel pointed at as “nuclear or chemical facility under construction” in September 2007. Why didn’t the Syrian – Iranian mutual defense agreement apply in both cases? And where do we go from here?
Ever since the invasion in 2003, Iran has had the upper hand in Iraq. The “Democratic” elections brought to power an Iraqi establishment close to Teheran and somewhat “Made in Teheran”.
Is it a coincidence that the so called Surge strategy is succeeding and the level of violence in Iraq has reached its lower records since American ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi–Qomi held series of meetings in Baghdad discussing “exclusively” the security issue in Iraq? Although the invasion of Iraq probably had ideological roots in terms of “spreading the Western model of Democracy and creating a New Middle East”; on the ground this war has evolved in a more pragmatic direction. Washington is now seeking a safe exit for its troops, and on the other hand an Iraqi-American Agreement that will preserve its interests. The negotiations over that agreement were conducted by the Iraqi government, meaning an Iranian approval is implicitly given.
There is an Iranian American diplomatic tango going on, and it is at times getting quite intimate: In May 2008 reports revealed how Washington blocked an Israeli decision to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. More recently the Israeli press publishes a report titled: Bush to declare renewal of ties with Iran (Haaretz, 25/10/2008).
Americans are apparently acting as if nothing is possible in Iraq without the help of Teheran. And it is only a matter of time before the American implicit recognition of the Iranian role becomes a formal and declared one. The price is going to be paid in Iraq, by Iraqis. It may have the face of an American brokered “Iraqi Taef” (in reference to the Taef conference that ended the Lebanese civil war in 1989) where Washington will recognize an Iranian role in Iraq, similar to the one Syrians used to have in Lebanon.
In exchange, the Iranians have established themselves as the only de facto power able to provide security guarantees to Israel: On the nuclear level, an Iranian agreement with the International community is the only nuclear security guarantee for Israel worthy of notice. On the northern Israeli front, Iran is the only actor able to ease Hezbollah’s pressure in south Lebanon and pacify the border. On the Palestinian front, Teheran has a very crucial role in guiding Syria’s policy towards radical Palestinian factions. All this comes at a time Damascus is desperately trying to reintegrate the International community after years of isolation, and when indirect Israeli Syrian peace negotiations via Turkey seem to be on a positive track.
There is a serious chance the next phase opening with a new US administration in office from November will be characterized by a climate of pragmatic negotiations. The re-defining of roles and shifting alliances will all be paving the way for an honorable and safe exit of the US Army from Iraq.
Finally, regarding Washington dropping its traditional allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the pragmatic Americans will find a very diplomatic way securing arms selling to the Arab Gulf Monarchies and other Arab countries, and on the other hand making them smoothly understand that Teheran is capable to give Israel in terms of security what they were never able to provide.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Iraq and the US New Balance of … Terror


Everyday, Western newspapers are full of reports from Iraq, about Iraqi fighters who changed camps from fighting US troops with Al Qaeda to fighting Al Qaeda alongside the American army. The US army succeeded in creating a new military actor or proxy on the battlefield. It is called the “Awakening groups”. This new Sunni militia succeeded relatively in improving security in many parts of Iraq.
But the issue is elsewhere. American troops, suffering on one hand from the Sunni pro Qaeda insurgency and on the other from the grip of Shia militias on the Iraqi reality, created a new balance of … Terror in this country while preparing their withdrawal.
They can pullout in the near future, but what they will leave behind is a reality of sectarian well armed militias, prompted by a fresh history of killing and revenge proving that peace is definitely not round the corner.
Below an interesting report by
Deborah Haynes published in the Times on the 15th of March 2008. It’s about Abu Abdullah who is now fighting alongside the US troops.
By the way, a few weeks ago, I was buying a phone in central London, the salesman happened to be Iraqi. When he knew I’m Lebanese his first question was: Are you Shia? And my reply was: “This is a trademark Lebanese question, apparently we lost the exclusivity of what cost us a 15 years civil war and maybe a new one on the way”.

Bachir Habib

I fought for my land against the US
Now I fight alongside them

Deborah Haynes, Baghdad

As a loyal officer under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi major never imagined that one day he would become an insurgent, but when Iraq fell five years ago he was left bitter, jobless and desperate to drive the invading forces out.
“I saw my country collapse right in front of my eyes,” said Abu Abdullah, who has since orchestrated countless attacks against the US military, spent time in the notorious Abu Ghraib detention centre and briefly joined forces with al-Qaeda.
Recalling the invasion, he told The Times: “I felt as though my freedom was being snatched from me. It was one of the darkest moments of my life.” In many ways Mr Abdullah’s story is the story of the insurgency in Iraq, where the changing allegiances of Sunni Arab fighters has dictated the pace of a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 2003.

He, like many Sunni Arab officers and other Saddam supporters, resorted to guerrilla warfare to kill better-equipped US soldiers but gradually found that his nationalistic resistance had fallen under the control of the militant Islamists of al-Qaeda.
Appalled at the cruelty of attacks sponsored by al-Qaeda, Mr Abdullah switched sides recently and is cooperating, albeit reluctantly, with the US military as part of a grassroots security drive that has spread across Iraq.
Five years ago, as Major Abdullah, he was holed up in the Iraqi city of al-Kut, south of Baghdad, listening to the sound of American combat aircraft dropping bombs on buildings and the thunder of invading tanks. “When the infantry entered al-Kut most of my soldiers stopped fighting. They realised that the US Army was much more powerful than ours,” he said. “We pulled out and returned to Baghdad. All my soldiers vanished. It was over.”
Mr Abdullah, a married father of one, drove his family to his parents’ house in Samarra, a predominantly Sunni Arab city north of the Iraqi capital, which eventually became a haven for al-Qaeda.
With the former army disbanded, he spent the next year at home defeated and with nothing to do – until he started meeting other former army officers at coffee shops in town.
“We started to discuss things and develop serious ideas. Eventually we agreed to form groups and start fighting,” Mr Abdullah said in a late-night interview at a Baghdad hotel, dressed in a maroon and blue tracksuit.
They were well prepared to begin an insurgency because, three months before the invasion, Iraqi military commanders had instructed all soldiers and officers to receive specific training in street fighting. Recruiting young men locally from April 2004, he started a branch of al-Tawhid wal Jihad, one of four main Sunni Arab insurgent groups that ultimately combined to become al-Qaeda in Iraq.
They had an abundance of rockets, guns, ammunition and bomb-making material, thanks to the many old Iraqi army warehouses dotted around the country that had been abandoned.
“Our objective was clear: to remove the occupying forces. We did not launch attacks in urban areas, just the outskirts of towns and on the main highways,” Mr Abdullah said, emphasising that his group also never targeted Iraqis.
They operated north of Baghdad up to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, firing rockets at American bases, planting roadside bombs against military convoys and, on occasion, following up with an armed ambush.
The first mission that Mr Abdullah planned, against a base in Tikrit, was a bit of a failure because he miscalculated the distance for a barrage of rockets to be fired. He became much more accurate over time.
“We had many successful operations,” he said, with a knowing smile when asked if he had killed any American soldiers. Mr Abdullah says that he lost 26 fighters. Over a ten-month period his men carried out attacks twice a day. Using their superior knowledge of the terrain they would creep down dirt tracks and hide in farm houses. “The Americans would never know where we were coming from.” Sharing intelligence at meetings with other insurgency groups, he recalled how praise was heaped on any fighter who pulled off a complex mission.
“That was motivational. When you heard of someone else’s successes you wanted to go out and do something better,” said Mr Abdullah, a tall, well-built man who used to be a boxer and is a martial arts expert.
The former officer’s attacking spree was halted when he was arrested by US troops driving away from the scene of his biggest mission – blowing up five American lorries with 12 roadside bombs as they travelled towards the once-restive city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in March 2005.
“The soldiers told us that they were going to execute us by pushing us out of their helicopter. I thought to myself that I was just defending my country and if you want to kill me then go ahead,” he said.
Thrown into Abu Ghraib, the US-run detention centre that become infamous after American soldiers were pictured humiliating Iraqi prisoners, Mr Abdullah said that he was kept in a box-like cell that measured a metre square.Forced to sit squashed up because of his large frame, he said that he was held in there for 29 days, allowed out for only four hours a day.
He also claimed that he was beaten and interrogated repeatedly. “In one of the worst moments, which I will never forget for as long as I live, I was handcuffed to a chair and a female soldier hit me across the head with a metal pipe. You might be able to see the scar,” he said, touching his hair-line. “I started to bleed and she hit me on the arm, breaking it. They left me for a week without medical attention. As I experienced all of this I kept thinking about two things: my son and my country. I felt really sad for my country.”
Mr Abdullah, who said that he never admitted to any crime, spent three months in Abu Ghraib before being moved to Camp Buka, a larger detention centre in southern Iraq, where he said that conditions were much better.
After another six months he was released, but his time in captivity left him even more embittered towards the US forces and he vowed to return to the resistance. “When I arrived back in Samarra I found that a lot of things had changed. My group had become part of al-Qaeda and was killing members of the Iraqi security forces and even civilians,” he said.
Most of the people he had fought with had fled to Syria, being replaced by hired guns who were working for an influx of new commanders, many of them foreign. Mr Abdullah said that other Arab countries and Iran were helping to fund the operations.
Despite many misgivings, he rejoined the group at the end of 2005 but quickly regretted it. “I found out that my cousin had been killed because he had refused to join.” Mr Abdullah was also shown footage of two policemen being beheaded.
“I could not tolerate or accept how they were working, so in the end I fled to Syria. I felt quite disappointed with the way that the resistance had become.” After only a week Mr Abdullah returned to Iraq and took his family to Baghdad, where he used his car to work as a taxi driver. Leaving al-Qaeda meant that his life was in constant danger. Twice gunmen tried to shoot him and he was forced to move house four times.
Still opposed to the US military and increasingly against the Shia-led Government of Iraq, Mr Abdullah dreamt of starting up a fresh resistance. But in late 2007 he was approached by two uncles and a cousin who had joined a new security movement, which was established by Sunni Arab tribes who had turned against al-Qaeda in Anbar province, once the heart of the insurgency. The concept – arming local people and charging them with security for their neighbourhood – appealed to Mr Abdullah even though the group’s members, which number at least 90,000, were under the payroll of the US military.
“I started to feel that the Americans were better than the Iraqi Government at that moment. I still look at them as occupiers. My feelings towards them have not changed. But my main concern is to stop the Iraqi people’s suffering,” he said. Agreeing to help to set up branches of the so-called Awakening movement in Samarra and other towns north of Baghdad, Mr Abdullah attended his first meeting with the US military just over a week ago – something that he had resisted for months.
“When American soldiers turn up I feel very sad for myself, my country and the fact that I have to sit down and deal with them. I feel like wolves are eating my flesh during the meeting,” he said.
Mr Abdullah, however, believes that the largely Sunni Arab Awakening groups lack support from the Government, which has pledged to find all members jobs in the regular army or police or a civilian role.
Asked what would be the outcome if the Government failed to create new employment opportunities, the former insurgent responded: “An uprising.” As for his future, Mr Abdullah just wants security for his son, now 6, adding: “I am determined to raise him to be a fighter like me.”
Word for word
“We promise God that the dog Bush will not enjoy peace of mind and that his army will not have a good life as long as our hearts are beating.”
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi April 29, 2005

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Doctor, The Patient and the Terrorist

Imagine this scene in Baghdad. Having just ended a lengthy phone conversation, the acting medical director of a mental establishment asks a nurse to bring two female patients into his office. The purpose is not a therapeutic intervention or a change in medication but the start of a process that will lead to two suicide bombings in a busy street market. The director is subsequently arrested and confesses to having been convinced by Al-Qaeda operatives of the use of mentally ill and vulnerable patients in terrorist attacks.

Obviously mental disability comes in different shapes and forms but on one extreme the possibility remains that these two ladies were either not given a choice or did not have the mental capacity to make the choice of martyrdom. Having committed their act under coercion, it cannot be reasonably recognized as holy even by the most reactionary religious expert and its only symbolic value resides in the level of desperation reached by those behind the attacks.

They say that the degree of civilization of a society is recognized at the way it treats its weakest elements. I fully agree with this statement and as a doctor feel strongly that the medical profession is in a privileged position to uphold this principle. According to the following report at least one Iraqi doctor failed at the universal duty of care embodied in the Hippocratic Oath while another paid with his life the price of safeguarding human dignity.

Joseph El-Khoury

From the Times February 12th 2008.

Hospital boss arrested over al-Qaeda attack by human boobytraps

Martin Fletcher in Baghdad

The acting director of a Baghdad psychiatric hospital has been arrested on suspicion of supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq with the mentally impaired women that it used to blow up two crowded animal markets in the city on February 1, killing about 100 people.

Iraqi security forces and US soldiers arrested the man at al-Rashad hospital in east Baghdad on Sunday. They then spent three hours searching his office and removing records. Sources told The Times that the two women bombers had been treated at the hospital in the past.

“They [the security forces] arrested the acting director, accusing him of working with al-Qaeda and recruiting mentally ill women and using them in suicide bombing operations,” a hospital official said.

Ibrahim Muhammad Agel, director of the hospital, was killed in the Mansour district of Baghdad on December 11 by gunmen on motorbikes. Colleagues suspect that he was shot for refusing to cooperate with al-Qaeda. Even before Sunday’s arrest, US officials believed that al-Qaeda was scouring Iraq’s hospitals for mentally impaired patients whom it could dupe into acting as suicide bombers. They said that al-Qaeda had used the mentally impaired as unwitting bombers before. “We have fairly good reason to believe this is not the first time they have recruited mentally handicapped individuals,” said one senior officer, though he did not think there had been more than half a dozen cases.

The attraction of mentally impaired women to al-Qaeda was obvious, he said. Being women they could get close to targets with less chance of being stopped or searched; being mentally impaired, they were “less likely to make a rational judgment about what they are being asked to do”.

The February 1 attacks were the deadliest – and most chilling – to hit the Iraqi capital in months. One of the women was given a backpack full of explosives and ballbearings, the other a suicide vest laden with explosives. They were sent into the middle of al-Ghazl and New Baghdad markets, which were packed with people. Their explosives were then detonated by remote control.

The Times was shown photographs of the two young women’s severed heads, which were recovered from the wreckage. One very obviously had Down’s syndrome. The other had the round face, high forehead and other features often associated with Down’s syndrome, but her symptoms were less pronounced.

An insight into the way al-Qaeda thinks came in a letter written by one of its leaders in Anbar province that the US military seized in November and released in part on Sunday. “It is possible to use doctors working in private hospitals and where the infidels/ apostates are treated who have serious conditions to be injected with [air bubbles] that will kill them,” it said.

The US military believes that al-Qaeda is adopting these extreme tactics because the prevalence of check-points and concrete barriers is making car bombings harder, and fewer foreign suicide bombers are reaching Iraq. The number of car bombs has fallen steadily from a peak of 112 last March to 27 last month. Conversely, there were 16 pedestrian suicide bombs in January – the second-highest total in 13 months.

Foreign jihadists – invariably male – used to carry out 90 per cent of the suicide bombings in Iraq, but the US military believes that tighter controls have halved the influx to 50 or 60 a month. The officer conceded that protecting public places against individual suicide bombers was almost impossible. “You really can’t stop a determined bomber from blowing themselves up,” he said. “The key is continuing to take down the terrorist network that conducts these operations.”

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sex Trade: Iraqi girls who Become Prostitutes in Syria

Maraba's nightclubs advertise services seldom on show in Syria (Picture: NY Times)

This feature, written by Lina Sinjab (BBC journalist in Damascus), was published on the Middle East page of the BBC website:

With their bright neon signs and glitzy decor, dozens of nightclubs line the streets of the Maraba district in the Syrian capital Damascus.
It's here that men come from far and wide - car number plates are not just from Syria but Iraq and Saudi Arabia - to watch young women dancing.
Most of the dancers are teenagers and many of them are Iraqi refugees.
They dance for the cash which gets tossed onto the stage.
The dancers are surrounded by bodyguards, to stop them being touched by the men. But the guards also arrange for their charges to be paid for sex with members of the audience.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have moved to Syria and Jordan during the past four years, escaping the violence and instability that followed the US-led toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Women supporting families face the greatest challenge.
The Syrian authorities and aid agencies do not know the exact numbers, but many of the women say they have little choice but to work in places like Maraba.

Lost innocence
Rafif is an innocent-looking 14-year-old, her long hair tied in a pony tail. She seems barely to understand the enormity of the crisis she is living.
"I have three sisters who are married and four brothers. They are all in Baghdad. I am here with my mother and young brother only. None of my family know what I do here."
Banned from doing regular work in Syria, she says their money ran out and her mother started looking for other means to survive.
She says she makes about $30 a night at the clubs, but when men take her to private villas she makes $100. She won't say what she must do to earn this money.
"A woman came and spoke to my mother, who agreed to send me to these places. We needed the money.
"I have already been arrested for prostitution and sent back to Iraq, but I came back with a false passport."
Not all sex workers went into the industry by choice.
Nada, 16, says was dumped by her father at the Iraq-Syria border after her cousin "took away my virginity".
Five Iraqi men took her from the border to Damascus, where they raped her and sold her to a woman who forced her to work in nightclubs and private villas.
She is now waiting at a government protection centre to be deported back to Iraq.
The government says police have arrested Iraqi girls as young as 12 working as prostitutes in the nightclubs.
"We are coming across increasing numbers of women who do not manage to make ends meet and are therefore more vulnerable to exploitative situations such as prostitution," says Laurens Jolles of the UN refugee agency.
"Intimidation and shame means the numbers of trafficking victims and sex industry workers in Syria may never be known by government or aid agencies."
Women picked up by the police are sent to protection centres, which they frequently escape from, or are sent to prison.
"Immediately after we get to them, or sometimes before, they are bailed out of prison, often by the same people who probably forced them into prostitution," says Mr Jolles.
Many of the young women who leave Iraq hoping for an easier, safer existence find what is in some ways an even tougher life in Syria.
At an age when life should just be beginning, Iraqi teenagers like Nada feel they have reached a dead end.
"Now they will send me back to Iraq, I have no-one there and in any case I am afraid for my life. I have no hope leaving here. I have told the government I don't want to go back. My family has abandoned me."

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Strange World of the PKK

Picture taken from
Article can be found on

The Worker's Party of Kurdistan better know under its Kurdish acronym PKK has been waging armed struggle against the Turkish state since the 1980s. Its stated aims have changed over time but focus around the recognition of Kurdish rights and a minimum of self-autonomy. Labelled as a terrorist organisation in many Western capitals, it is again the centre of attention following the resurgence of military operations on the Turkish Iraqi border and the threat of Turkish incursions in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. In her interview of a former militant Deborah Haynes reveals a personal account of life with the militia. As seen in many similar organisations such as the FARC of Colombia, The LTTE of Srilanka or the Moujahideen Khalq Iran, the PKK appears to have achieved an equality between the sexes in life and death. But all at a price. Inspired freedom fighters or Brainwashed fanatic terrorists...You make your own mind.


For her the war is over: the PKK fighter who wants to end killing
Deborah Haynes in Irbil, northern Iraq

With her Kalashnikov folded in half to stop it dragging on the ground and ammunition strapped around her tiny waist, Zerya was 12 when she became a Kurdish fighter in the Turkish mountains after running away from home.
Sixteen years later her body bears the scars of countless battles with Turkish soldiers and her eyes are haunted by the memories of friends she has lost. No longer a guerrilla for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), she is trying to fit back into society, using a mobile phone for the first time and discovering treats such as ice cream and pizza that she never had in the mountains.

Zerya’s experience of fighting against Turkey to secure greater rights for the Kurds, she says, has taught her that the problem can be solved only by agreement between both sides. “If the guerrillas decided to come down from the mountains and disarm, then Turkey would kill all of them,” she said, speaking to The Times at a secret location in the Kurdish north of Iraq.
“When it comes to Turkey you either submit or you fight – there are only two options,” said the 28-year-old, who has shed the dark green fatigues of the outlawed rebel group for a smart trouser suit and heeled shoes.
The PKK offered a new way for both sides to step away from confrontation yesterday. The group said that it was open to dialogue with Turkey that could lead to it laying down its arms, thus avoiding a war across the border of two of America’s strategic allies in the region.
Zerya’s life as a teenage rebel fighter began when she first heard about the PKK as a ten-year-old growing up in Hamburg, where her Kurdish family were asylum-seekers from the mountains of southern Turkey.
A talented musician and dancer, she became attracted to the organisation because it ran clubs that taught Kurdish songs and history. “Every song or poem taught us something about the Kurdish cause,” she said in a hushed voice to avoid drawing attention to herself. The PKK is now classed as a terrorist organisation by much of the international community.
Captivated by the plight of the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, Zerya yearned to help: “It was like an illness for me. I just wanted to go to Kurdistan and fight in the mountains.”
After a year of pestering PKK leaders in Hamburg she was given permission to travel on a fake Turkish passport to Syria, where she was meant to stay until she turned 16 and was deemed old enough to learn how to fight. She left Germany aged 12, without telling her parents. But instead of waiting in Syria she secretly followed a group of PKK trainees to Lebanon, literally tracing their footprints until she arrived at the Bekaa Valley.
There, she was allowed to join a six-month political and military training course with 300 recruits. “I remember walking along a path with a Kalashnikov over my shoulder but it was too long for me and would hit the ground,” Zerya said, recalling the day her training finished and she was sent to the mountains to fight. “That first day I felt I was free and in my home for the first time in my life.”
Instead of studying, gossiping about boys and listening to pop music, Zerya spent her teenage years fighting Turkish soldiers, living off scraps of food and sleeping wherever she found shelter. “We lived in caves or just used plastic sheets for cover. Sometimes if the weather was kind then we would live under the stars like birds.”
By the time she was 14, Zerya was commanding small groups of rebels on operations. Equality is a principle cherished by the PKK, which divides responsibility evenly between men and women fighters.
She recalled one occasion when her unit became encircled by Turkish soldiers. “I spotted a weak point in the Turkish line and started to lead my colleagues out but one young man panicked. I had to slap him to calm him down.” On another occasion, aged 16, a Turkish grenade exploded close by, sending a chunk of shrapnel deep into her left knee. “In the heat of the fight I did not feel the pain, but then I had difficulty moving so my male colleagues took me to safety.”
The guerrillas had nothing to treat Zerya with other than water and thread to stitch up her knee. She was forced to shelter in a cave for two months until she was strong enough to walk again. “It was winter and bitterly cold. It was too dangerous to light a fire because that would have drawn attention to our position.”
Sexual relationships, and certainly falling in love, are forbidden between PKK fighters in the mountains because the group feels that such a bond would distract a couple from the battle. Zerya spoke of one young man she grew close to. “He liked me and I liked him but we never told each other,” she said. The man was killed during a fight with Turkish troops.
Zerya had her fair share of injuries after 13 years in the mountains, including shrapnel wounds to the chest and thigh. She began to feel a burden on her fellow fighters so decided three years ago to leave the armed struggle to seek shelter in the Kurdish north of Iraq. Returning to civilisation was like stepping out of a time capsule.
Life is hard after the PKK because her past means that she has no official identity or nationality and no passport. “I would like to settle down and do some work to help women and children,” she said. She is trying to return to Germany, where her family is still living. Asked whether she would ever return to the front line for the PKK, Zerya says that her fighting days are over. “From my time in the mountains, I have understood one thing: killing is not the solution to this problem.”

Saturday, September 1, 2007

انفجـار العـراق واهتـزاز الأردن ..ومواجهـة فـي لبنـان

حلمي موسى - السفير

كشف المعلق العسكري لصحيفة «يديعوت أحرونوت» أليكس فيشمان النقاب أمس عن وثيقة أعدت في المؤسسة العسكرية الإسرائيلية، حول سيناريوهات الوضع المحتملة في العراق والمنطقة، وأوصت بوجوب التزام الصمت، والحفاظ على حضور متدن، من اجل عدم إغاظة الحلفاء الاميركيين بصورة أساسية، وعدم إثارة الانطباع الخاطئ بأن تل أبيب تتدخل في انتخاباتهم الرئاسية. وتحذر الوثيقة من أن يؤدي الوضع المتفجر في العراق، الى مواجهة داخلية في لبنان. وشارك في إعداد الوثيقة، التي سلمت لوزير الدفاع إيهود باراك قبل أسابيع، خبراء من وزارة الدفاع وشعبة الاستخبارات العسكرية وشعبة التخطيط في هيئة الأركان ومختصون من وزارة الخارجية ومجلس الأمن القومي.

وأوضحت «يديعوت» أن المداولات بشأن هذه الوثيقة امتدت على مدى ثلاثة اشهر، مشيرة الى أن الحديث بشأنها يتعاظم لأن الوضع يزداد توترا «ولا يعرف أحد متى وكيف سينفجر» . والوثيقة عبارة عن بضع أوراق خالية من التوصيات الحقيقية، بسبب تعلق الأمر «بمجريات ليست لنا أي طريقة للسيطرة عليها. الوثيقة التي وضعت على طاولة باراك تتعلق بحكاية كبيرة بالنسبة لحجمنا بمرات عديدة. وهي تتعلق تقنيا باليوم الذي يلي خروج الاميركيين من العراق. وعمليا، يتعلق الامر بشرق اوسط جديد. وبموجب الوثيقة، يحظر على القادة الإسرائيليين إعلان أي موقف بشأن الانسحاب الأميركي من العراق، لأن من شأن ذلك أن يشكل تدخلا في الشؤون الداخلية الأميركية، بسبب اقتراب موعد الانتخابات الرئاسية.

وأشار التقرير إلى أن وفدا «من دولة مجاورة» زار إسرائيل للتباحث في خطر سيطرة حركة حماس في غزة، على الأردن. ولكن الوفد تطرق إلى «الخطر العراقي» على الأردن، ليس فقط بسبب أعداد اللاجئين الحالية وإنما بتوقعات طوفان اللجوء العراقي في الأردن والخطر الذي يمثله. ويجري الحديث عن أن هذا الطوفان قد يغدو مسألة وجودية تهدد النظام الاردني الذي سيكون، اذا تضرر، قطعة الدومينو الاولى التي ستُسقط باقي القطع في الفسيفساء الشرق اوسطية كلها. ولذلك يتعين على اسرائيل ان تبذل كل ما في وسعها لتعزيز المصالح الاردنية في المنطقة. فالاردن يشكل اليوم، وفق التقرير، المنطقة الفاصلة الأهم بين اسرائيل و»الهلال الشيعي» والارهاب الاصولي من الشرق. وستتعزز أهمية السلام مع الاردن كذخر استراتيجي لاسرائيل، فقط بعد رحيل الاميركيين من العراق.

ويشدد تقرير المعلق العسكري في «يديعوت» على أن ثمة مدرستين في إسرائيل إزاء قضية «ما بعد العراق»: الاولى، وهي الأبرز حاليا، تقول إن الانسحاب الاميركي في الظروف الحالية سيئ جدا لاسرائيل، ذلك لانه سيُفسر كضعف ومن الممكن استشعار آثاره على المنطقة من ايلول الحالي. وفي ايلول ستبدأ ايضا سلسلة المساءلات الدراماتيكية في الكونغرس الاميركي حول «نجاحات» الاحتلال في العراق. ويلحظ الخبراء في اسرائيل الأمواج المتسعة التي ستنجم عن عملية المساءلة في الكونغرس. وبحسب تقديرهم، فإن الأمر قد يقود إلى توتر قد يصل الى حد التفسخ بين الادارة الاميركية والحكومة العراقية الحالية. أضف الى ذلك، يُعبّر السعوديون من الآن عن امتعاضهم من امكان رحيل الاميركيين عن العراق.

وبحسب التقديرات الإسرائيلية، «سيؤدي الرحيل الاميركي عن العراق الى حرب طائفية. هذه نقطة الانطلاق في المداولات الداخلية في اسرائيل حول مرحلة ما بعد الانسحاب، والاميركيون يخرجون من العراق تاركين وراءهم نظاما مناصرا لايران في بغداد. والسنة في العراق لن يقبلوا هذه التسوية، والمجابهة المسلحة مسألة لا يمكن منعها.

في هذه المجابهة سيقف السعوديون ودول الخليج والاردن، وربما مصر، وراء السنة. ومن الناحية الاخرى سيقف الايرانيون وحزب الله. السوريون سيعملون مع الجميع، فهم مرتبطون بإيران، ولكنهم يؤيدون المتمردين السنة الذين ينطلقون من سوريا لتنفيذ العمليات في العراق». ويوضح تقرير «يديعوت» أنه في ظل وضع تتدخل فيه ايران في القتال الجاري في العراق، «ثمة احتمال كبير بحدوث مجابهة بين القوى المختلفة في لبنان، الموجودة أصلا في وضع هش وقابل للانفجار». ويرى التقرير أن «الحكومة اللبنانية لا تتمتع بغالبية، كما لا يوجد رئيس للجمهورية متفق عليه.

صحيح أن السوريين لم ينجحوا في حرف حزب الله ودفعه لتنفيذ خطوة عنيفة تتجسد بالسيطرة على الحكم، إلا أن الاحتمال قائم، وما على الايرانيين سوى أن يعطوا الضوء الاخضر فقط». ويشير التقرير الى ان الايرانيين «لم يعطوا هذا الضوء حتى الآن لانهم مشغولون حتى رأسهم بإعادة بناء القواعد الايرانية في لبنان، التي ترمي كلها الى ردع اسرائيل والاميركيين عن الهجوم. الاستثمارات الايرانية الهائلة تتدفق لحزب الله. الاعمال التي يقوم بها حزب الله تثير الدهشة والإعجاب. يقومون في شمالي الليطاني ببناء مواقع محصنة للحزب بوتيرة جنونية. كما أن العلاقات العسكرية بين حزب الله وسوريا وصلت الى ذروة لم تصل اليها في أي وقت سابق». ويتابع التقرير انه «اذا كانت نيران المجابهة المسلحة في العراق ستنتشر لتصل الى العقدة اللبنانية، فستتطاير الشرارات نحو اسرائيل. سباق التسلح الاسرائيلي ـ السوري يمر أصلا في ذروته. وما زال من المبكر جدا تخفيض مستوى الجاهزية والتأهب.

الجهات الاستخباراتية البارزة في اسرائيل تلاحظ لدى الرئيس السوري، على أساس تصريحاته العلنية، «شغفا» بخيار الخطوة العنيفة ضد اسرائيل. سنشهد في العام 2009 ذروة تعاظم القوة السورية حيث ستُستكمل صفقات السلاح مع روسيا، ويتم هضم ذلك داخل الجيش السوري، وسيصل النضج السوري للحرب الى ذروته. عموما، في العام ,2009 ستنضج سلسلة من المجريات المختلفة: الرئيس الاميركي سيتبدل، والسياسة الاميركية في الشرق الاوسط ستتغير، وسيبدأ الانسحاب الاميركي من العراق. وفي المقابل قد تصل إيران في تلك السنة الى نضجها النووي العسكري. حتى وإن لم تكن القنبلة بيديها، فستعطي الانطباع بأنها موجودة. كل هذه المجريات لا تُبشر بالخير لاسرائيل».

أما المدرسة الثانية في اسرائيل، فترى نقاطا مضيئة ايضا في عملية الانسحاب الاميركي من العراق، ويتركز اهتمامها على القنبلة الايرانية. أولا، يدعي أنصار هذه المدرسة أن الانسحاب الاميركي من العراق لن يكون فوريا بل على مراحل. في البداية سيخرج الجيش من المدن نحو المعسكرات الكبيرة، وينتشر ايضا في دول صديقة مثل الاردن وتركيا، الى أن يعود الاستقرار الى العراق. وعلاوة على ذلك، يعارض قادة الجيش الاميركي في العراق أي عملية ضد ايران بصورة حازمة، ذلك أنها ستتسبب بأعمال انتقامية ضد الاميركيين في العراق. من هنا يسهل الانسحاب الاميركي من العراق القيام بعملية عسكرية اميركية شاملة ضد البرنامج النووي الايراني. وللمناسبة، لا يصاب أنصار هذا المذهب ايضا بالذهول أو الخوف من المجابهة التي قد تندلع بين السنة والشيعة في العراق، أو بين العرب والايرانيين، بل على العكس.

السفير، السبت 01 ايلول 2007
Picture: Pro US withdrawal demonstration, source: the Washington Post

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

شرق اوسط جديد... حتما واقعي

بشير حبيب

ارادت واشنطن اطلاق "شرارة الشرق الاوسط الجديد" منذ العام 2003 حين ذهبت مع حلفائها لاسقاط نظام صدام حسين عسكريا وجعل العراق "ديمقراطية" تكون مثالا للانظمة العربية المترهلة في ما يشبه مقولة "تعالوا نرشدكم الطريق التي تدخلكم في القرن الحادي والعشرين وعصر ما بعد الحداثة"
في عام 2007، اليوم، وبعد اربعة اعوام ونيف على اطلاق عنان الحلم الاميركي للمنطقة، يبدو وكأن واشنطن
اصطدمت بواقع كلفة حلمها

اختتم شهر ايار 2007 وحده باكثر من 120 قتيلا في صفوف الجيش الاميركي في العراق، ويعني ذلك اكثر من 120 تابوتا حملوا الى القارة الجديدة في شهر واحد مع كل ما يمكن ان يترتب على ذلك من نتائج داخلية في الاشهر المقبلة، وبخاصة اذا قررت "المقاومات العراقية" جعل ايار 2007 رقما قياسيا سجل ليتم تحطيمه في كل شهر وتسجيل نقاط

انه لامر ممكن، فـ"مقاومات العراق" تعمل، كالجيش الامريكي ضمن منظومة حربية، قتالية (ولو بمنطق مختلف) بما يعني كل ذلك من مراقبة وتخطيط وتنفيذ ميداني. فما لم يكن ممكنا لمسلحي العراق عامي 2003 و 2004 اصبح اليوم بمتناول اليد لان الآلية العسكرية الامريكية الحديثة لم تعد فزاعة بل دخلت تفاهة الحياة اليومية العراقية ما يجعل قدرة تعطيلها بعبوة تزرع على جانب الطريق امرا واقعا. والجندي الاميركي المدجج بالاسلحة الجديرة بالظهور في افلام هوليودية ونظارات شمسية تليق بعروض موضة صيف 2007 لم يعد يرهب من يعتبره محتلا يجب طرده، بل صار يخاف ان ينتهي به الامر كفريسة سهلة بتفجير لغم او رصاصة قناص

هكذا ببساطة تكسر ويتكسر حلم "الشرق الاوسط الجديد" الذي حط بمظلات ومظليين اميركيين على الارض العراقية، دون الغوص بهوية المقاتلين في العراق اسلاميين كانوا ودعاة اقامة امارات او بعثيين قوميين ووطنيين او تقسيميين وانفصاليين، ودون الغوص كذلك بتشعبات العلاقات الايرانية الاميركية او الملف السوري-اللبناني او القضية الفلسطينية

لا شك ان حملة 2003 كسرت الـ"ستاتو-كو" الشرق اوسطي، وفتحت المنطقة على تجاذبات تحتم اعادة رسم الخرائط، ولكن وفق موازين قوى لم يتم الانتهاء من تحديدها بعد

اما الامر الوحيد الذي حسم حتى الآن فهو ان نشوء اي شرق اوسط جديد رهن بقدرة واشنطن على استيعاب تحطم حلمها لدى اصطدامه بالواقع السياسي للشرق الاوسط من جهة، وبنظرية الواقعية في العلاقات الدولية من جهة اخرى