Million March in Iraq to demand "Out Now!"
By Shannon Bundock
"I want the occupation to leave right away. Now, no timetable. We want to be ruled by Iraqis only,"
Farhan Turki, Najaf, April 9th 2007
On April 9th 2007 an unprecedented explosion rocked Iraq. This time, however, the target was placed squarely on the occupation forces, and the blows were delivered via tremendous chants of, “NO, NO AMERICA! LEAVE OCCUPIER!” Nearly a million Iraqis filled the streets of Najaf with a single, united demand, “Yes to Iraq! Yes to Sovereignty! No to Occupation!” According to the New York Times, the numbers at the April 9th demonstration topped any protest since those during the US-led invasion of 2003.
A statement was read over loudspeakers at the rally, on behalf of Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, “Iraqi people, you are aware, as 48 months have passed, that we live in a state of oppression, unjust repression and occupation… 48 hard months – that makes 4 years – in which we have gotten nothing but more killing, destruction and degradation. Tens of people are being killed every day. Tens are disabled every day.”
The statement continued on, calling for unity in the face of the brutal occupation, “America made efforts to stoke sectarian strife, and here I would like to tell you, the sons of the two rivers, that you have proved your ability to surpass difficulties and sacrifice yourselves, despite the conspiracies of the evil powers against you.”
These same sentiments were reflected in the streets, “This demonstration is a friendly message to unite Iraqis on one common issue and that is end of occupation,” said Abdul Qadir Al Daim of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a powerful Sunni bloc.
“The fall of Saddam means nothing to us, as long as the alternative is the American occupation” said Interior Ministry employee, Haider Abdul Rahim Mustafa.
The April 9th demonstration was a great show of force by Iraqi people, and an inspiring reflection of the unity of the anti-occupation resistance in Iraq. While this rally was one of the largest in the past four years, it was by no means the only mass protest against the occupation.
On March 29th in Baghdad Iraqi women staged a protest rally in the Gazaliya district to demand the release of the detainees who were arrested by US Forces during military operations during the week prior.
For the US/UK occupation of Iraq, this should serve as a grim warning. Four years of bombing, torture, house raids, murder and suppression has not broken the Iraqi people. Now the question is; how much farther can the occupier go to establish stability for their occupation of Iraq?
Long-term Occupation; Long-term Crisis
On March 20th 2006, during a White House Press Conference, this question was posed to George Bush, “…will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?” His response was telling, “That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.”
While the invasion and take-down of Iraq was intended to be speedy, the plans for occupation were never so humble. The objective of this occupation is woven into the fabric of the new era of war and occupation. This era is characterized by the expansion of imperialist hegemony and the carving up of oppressed nations of the world, at the dinner table of the world’s powers. The plans of the US in Iraq include permanent bases, a permanent presence and turning the Iraqi government into a US-proxy.
The undying anti-occupation resistance in Iraq is unravelling this plan. April 9th was another gut wrenching reminder for the occupiers, that in four years, they still face a nation that refuses to lie down. Caught in a contradiction of their aims versus reality, the US/UK forces are left with little option but to turn up the dial on their killing machine and slaughter as many Iraqis as the possibly can.
Occupation Forces: The Source of All Violence in Iraq
At the same time as people were preparing the flood to Najaf to demand an end to the illegal, inhuman occupation of Iraq, US forces were engaged in their own actions. Operation Black Eagle, led by the US, included air strikes by US warplanes in Diwaniya, a district south of Baghdad. On Saturday April 7th a missile attack demolished a house in Diwaniya and attack helicopters hovered over the area.
“We can’t send our ambulances in to collect dead bodies or the wounded from the streets. And we are running out of essential medical items such as pain killer tablets, IV fluids, anaesthesia, stitches, antiseptics and things like bandages and cotton," said Dr Kamal Hussein of Diwaniya’s general hospital on April 11th.
On April 17th 2007 at least 25 Iraqis were killed in a town in the north of Wasit province according to Voices of Iraq news agency. The deaths were a result of a US operation to implement the Fard al-Qanoun (Law Enforcement) security plan launched February 14th.
These are only the latest – reported – instances of occupation violence in Iraq. However, the impact runs much deeper than these deaths alone. A survey of the damage brought by the invasion, war, and occupation is revealed among the most devastated layers of Iraqi society; women and children.
War on Iraqi Children
"Every explosion, air strike, fighting or targeting in Iraq makes a child injured. In addition, we cannot forget the remaining UXOs [unexploded ordnance] whose victims are mostly children… If you make a summation of all these children, they are going to be thousands and we cannot forget that the number of them killed since April 2003 by diseases, explosions or bullets, has reached 260,000,"
- Khalid Ala'a, spokesman for Keeping Children Alive (KCA), an Iraqi Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
There are an estimated 4.8 million children under five in Iraq in total. About one in five of them are thought to be chronically malnourished ("stunted") and about one in 10 are underweight, according to UNICEF.
“Iraq has signed the conventions related to the rights of the children, but their implementation is also much reduced now, certainly because of insecurity. So the main concern is the future of Iraqi children in general: what will be their future?”
- Cedric Turlan, information officer for the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (as told to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
War on Iraqi Women
Alongside the horrors that the war and occupation of Iraq has brought to the children, there is another sector of Iraqi society that is suffering gravely, the women.
It is not known how many Iraqi women have been imprisoned since the occupation began. In April 2006, Mohammed Jorshid, a representative from a network of human rights NGO’s, told the Asharq al-Awasat newspaper that 2,000 women are currently detained “for security reasons.”
At present, Iraqi women are facing the loss of a series of measures that had been achieved through the former Family Code, including the right to inheritance and divorce, and everyday the situation is deteriorating.
Up to half of the national population is currently unemployed in Iraq, where women represent almost 60 percent of the total populace. "Female unemployment is now twice as high as that for males, while female poverty has also increased,” said Iman Saeed, spokesperson for a women’s NGO in Iraq. “In addition, the number of widows – already high as a result of the Iran-Iraq war [in the 1980s] – has increased since the US invasion, making the situation worse.”
The tally sheet at the end of these four years reveals that this war and occupation has only brought hell to the people of Iraq. The Iraqi people have been relentlessly demanding that the occupation forces immediately leave the country.
All peace-loving people across the world must listen and learn from the words on the streets of Najaf on April 9th.
“In four years of occupation, our sons were murdered and our women widowed,” explained Ahmed al Mayahie, who joined the protest from his city, Basra. “The occupiers say that Iraq was liberated. What liberty? There is only destruction. We do not want their liberation. We are asking them to leave our land.”
In the face of the most brutal and savage military machine that the world has ever seen, the Iraqi people continue to stand up for their most basic right to life and dignity. It is up to the people of the world to stand beside them, to raise their voices, to march in the streets and to echo the demands:
“End the Occupation of Iraq!”
“Self-Determination for Iraq!”
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