Vidéo d’une interview (en anglais) de Yanar Mohammed, présidente de l’Organisation pour la liberté des femmes en Irak, sur Democracy now! qui faisait le 20 août dernier une émission sur le départ annoncé par Obama des dernières troupes américaines d’Irak (émission entière ici).
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.
Yanar, usually you’re in Iraq, but right now you’re in Toronto. Your thoughts on this moment, how important it is? What is happening on the ground with women?
YANAR MOHAMMED: To tell you the truth, if I wouldn’t have seen it on CNN, I wouldn’t have been aware of it at all. And it’s only two weeks since I’ve left Baghdad, and I’m going back in a few days. You don’t see the US troops on the streets anymore. They are in their bases. They are running the politics totally on their own terms, for their own interests. But they don’t have—they don’t need to have their troops on the ground. They have trained the Iraqi army to do the same oppressive acts that they do to the people on the ground. The number of detainments, the oppression against people everywhere, the Iraqi army is doing a very good job at that. They are representing the same tactics, so the US troops don’t need to be there, as long as the US politics have been put in place.
So, what do we feel about that? Well, we have heard in the report earlier that it was called Operation Iraqi Liberation or Iraq Freedom. In our opinion, we are back to point zero now. At this point, organizing—freedom of organizing does not exist, because as—I don’t know how many people in the US have heard that workers are not allowed to organize. Unions have been banned to organize in some of the ministries in Iraq. Civil society organizations are also being harassed by some facilities put in place by the government. And the democracy that has been imposed on Iraq by this occupation has brought forward a prime minister who runs prisons. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison, and everybody knows that. The Human Rights Watch has written a report about it. He runs a prison where hundreds of men have been tortured. And I’m not speaking five years ago, six years ago; this was found out in April 2010. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where hundreds of men have been tortured Abu Ghraib-style. And we all know where those lessons have come from.
So, the fact that the troops are leaving is good, by itself, if you look at it as a separate fact of what’s happening on the ground. But what’s happening on the ground, there are no freedoms. We are back to the same dictatorship that we had in Saddam’s time. No freedom to organize for workers. Women are afraid to speak out. We are being harassed by some facilities of the government. And when we go back home to hide, trying to get some security, we don’t find electricity. We get water a few hours a day. And to tell you the truth, I ran from the heat in Baghdad, because I couldn’t tolerate it anymore. And that’s why I’m here in Toronto now. And it’s very hard to live an ordinary life if you are in Iraq now.
All stories of democracy—excuse me, we do not feel them in Iraq. And we are working in organizations. We are sometimes speaking politics. We are not ordinary people. We are a good gauge for these things. We don’t feel any of this. The Prime Minister, when he is the head of a prison, this is not a democracy to have. And the deadlock that’s on the dysfunctional government, it was expected. Nouri al-Maliki, having been prepared for—to take over in the last four years, would not let go of his chair easily. And what he said over the interview, there was a part that was missed in the translation. He says that a weak man cannot take over. When he says a weak man cannot take over, he means he is the strong man, because he is supported by the US policies. That’s the message in there. That’s his message to his colleague, Allawi—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed?
YANAR MOHAMMED: —that he is the one who’s chosen.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed, I’d like to ask you—here in the United States, obviously, the media coverage is suggesting this is the end of the Iraq war that began with the invasion of 2003. But obviously you are aware, as millions of Iraqis are, that the conflict between the US and Iraq now is almost twenty years old from those days in ’90, ’91, with the—Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Your sense now, twenty years later, of the overall impact of the US hostilities—the bombing campaigns, the sanctions and then the invasion—on life in Iraq?
YANAR MOHAMMED: You need to have a cameraman visit Baghdad and see how destroyed the city still is. All the buildings look like they are thirty years old. And the streets are—the way I go from my house to my work, all the streets are bumpy, and none of them is fixed. The corruption, the level of corruption in Iraq is one of the highest in the world. The amounts of money that have been lost, meanwhile, in the last seven years and a half, I cannot even say the number. I cannot imagine it. So, using false words of democracy are good for the media in the US, but in reality, in our lives in Baghdad, level of unemployment is so high. And if CNN says it’s something around 60 percent level of employment, well, most of those are in the army, are in the police—young men who have to get some kind of job and later on get bombed while standing in a lineup. Level of unemployment among women is, I would say, 80 percent. How are we living? Scarce electricity, services, and everything is so expensive.
AMY GOODMAN: When you say « scarce electricity, » Yanar, what do you mean by « scarce electricity »? How much electricity do you have a day in Baghdad?
YANAR MOHAMMED: In my home, which is central Baghdad, I get almost three hours of electricity a day, and I have to pay somewhere between $150 and $250 for the guy who sells electricity next door. It means that the government finds herself not responsible of providing me with electricity. In the time when the temperature is 55 Celsius, you cannot stand in the street, you cannot sit in a room. You’re sweating. And the levels of deaths that happen with this high temperature is no concern of the Minister of Electricity, who is busy oppressing the workers who work in his ministry. He has banned unionizing, and he has been put on—he has two ministries. So, to make a long story short, our lives are so difficult in Iraq. And the confrontation with the US policies, for us, are getting harsher every—day after day. And we find out that we have to buy the oil that comes out of our own ground in a very high price that is not our—that isn’t proportional with the level of pay that we have. Unemployment is so high.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, just for the record—
YANAR MOHAMMED: And the other thing, as a women’s organization—
AMY GOODMAN: —for the US audience—just for the record, for the US audience, when you talked about 55 degrees Celsius, that’s, what, about 131 degrees Fahrenheit, is what Yanar Mohammed is talking about.
The presence of the US, the embassy—eighty (80) football fields—the private security, the private companies. You know, Erik Prince, who’s the head of Blackwater, just moved to the United Arab Emirates. They don’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, as Blackwater is embroiled in various charges about its involvement in murder and torture. Can you talk about what the presence of the private security firms mean—they’re going to be doubling—and what this massive, the largest US embassy in the world means still in Iraq?
YANAR MOHAMMED: In what used to be called in Iraq the presidential palace, now there is a zone that none of us regular people can reach to. It is surrounded by almost five high concrete walls. And among these concrete walls, you have to be searched almost five times before you go inside. And if you don’t have three IDs on you, you will not reach into that zone. So the American embassy is something that we have not seen. I’ve just read about it in the magazines. You may know more about it than I do, while it is in our country.
As for what the—what we call—you call them the private contractors. We call them faraq al-qadera [phon.], which means the dirty gangs or dirty mobs, who are giving—I think most of them are working as bodyguards for the parliamentarians and for the VIPs in Iraq. And you have to be real careful when you see one of those convoys in front of you, because they have no problem shooting anybody in their way or hitting your car or jeopardizing your life. They are the ones that you need to be careful from. And you cannot stop them and ask them, « What’ss your ID? Are you American, or are you Iraqi? » because they have employed a big number of Iraqi young men who cannot find any other jobs, and they have taught them their same ways, unfortunately.
This point brings me to another conclusion. After seven-and-a-half years, we have a big population of young men who can work only as military. They are very good at killing. And after seven-and-a-half years, we are very aware who are the Sunni and who are the Shia. We are very aware who are the Arabs, the Kurds and the Turkmens and the rest of the ethnicities. We are very aware of all the reasons that could fight—that could start a civil war at any point. We have been given very strong lessons in the so-called democracy. They have very good reasons to kill each other for no reason at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you for being with us, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. And, of course, we’ll speak to you when you’re in Iraq, as well.