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An activist, clown, trainee lawyer and writer from England. I was in Iraq several times, most recently Nov 03 to May 04, still writing about Iraq and passing on my friends' stories from there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Please see:
http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=6#for news of Iraqi farmers being prevented from saving
seeds and forced to use genetically modified seeds
bought at huge cost from US / multinational
corporations.

Also:
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/11/301892.html
for a report on the dropping of charges against two UK
activists for disrupting the Iraq Procurement
conference in London earlier this year, on the basis
that it was plunder and illegal. The prosecution
accepted their not-guilty pleas after they stated that
they would contest the legality of the event they
disrupted.

Also this from Ewa Jasiewicz from Falluja contacts:

Fallujah News

Breaking News from Fallujah

Over half of Fallujah still un-pacified by Occupation
Forces. Aid Convoy
Fired Upon. Chemical warfare used against civilians.
Villages and towns
surrounding Fallujah under siege. 14-year-old boys
being arrested. House
to house fighting and house to house searches.
Witnesses fleeing
Fallujah report that Red Cresecents estimation of 170
families still
holding out in US Occupied areas in Fallujah is
inaccurate  they
estimate it as up to 3 times higher. Ramadi on Fire.

This is news gathered from a UK contact working for a
small relief
organisation based in Baghdad. He has been in regular
contact with
relief staff on the ground in Iraq who for the past
two weeks  since
November 10th - have been trying to get convoys of aid
into Fallujah but
have been prevented from doing so by Occupation
Forces. The first time
they tried to get a convoy in was June. The convoy was
halted and in
effect stolen, confiscated, by Iraqi soldiers under
the command of
Occupation Forces. The Iraqi soldiers confiscated
medical supplies 
penicillin, syringes, consumables, bandages, plastic
gloves, and
sanitary equipment. No reason given by individual
Iraqi soldiers was We
need it more than they do  these are the exact words
used. The soldier
then announced that the goods would be taken in the
name of the Ministry
of Health. The incident happened on the road between
Baghdad and
Fallujah.

The most recent Convoy was attacked by Occupation
Forces on Wednesday
24th November. It was part of 3 trucks laden with aid.
It contained
blankets, water, medical supplies, cooking gas, and
basic foodstuffs
such as rice, flour, sugar, salt etc. Troops fired on
the truck hitting
it 6 times. Noone was injured but the convoy was
forced to turn back.
There was no dialogue with the soldiers.

The NGO trying to carry out this work cannot be named
for security
reasons. Staff report a climate of fear where speaking
out about
occupation violations can result in targeting,
censorship and possible
shut-down of operations by the neo-Baathist Alawi
government. Staff have
been processing and supporting families fleeing
Fallujah and have been
listening to their stories.

There is a need for these stories and testimonies to
be heard but those
involved do not want their names revealed for fear of
retaliation. Such
constraints make journalistic reporting difficult.
Confirmation of
sources is hampered by a lack of personal access to
Fallujah and Baghdad
and the situation on the ground. Reliance on
testimonies through third
parties is also problematic yet this is the best that
can be done under
the circumstances. The news below is corroborated by
similar reports in
the Arabic and mainstream media.

Here are examples of reports from Fallujah as conveyed
to Iraqi relief
staff in Baghdad:

Hay Julan  residents of the Hay Julan area who were
able to flee
Fallujah described an apple smelling chemical with
which they were
exposed to before the main onslaught into Fallujah.
There was a break of
about half a day between the presence of the
gas/chemical and when the
main assault started. The chemical created open wounds
on the skin which
were very hard to treat. After a while all exposed
areas on the skin
were cracked and bleeding. People came out of Fallujah
with these
injuries. They described smoke, a sweet smell and when
they were exposed
to the smoke, they coughed up blood and had cracked
bleeding skin. Most
of these families were hiding. When they smelled the
gas they thought
this was a gas attack and fled their homes and made
their way through
small backroads unoccupied by Occupation Forces. This
happened at the
beginning of the attack on Fallujah  around 2 weeks
ago.

There were many families who left young people to
guard their homes  18
years old and younger, teenagers, people of not
fighting age who they
thought would be too young to be targeted by troops. A
common theme
running through each family grouping which fled
Fallujah is that they
elected one or two people to stay behind and look
after their houses.


One woman said she wanted to commit suicide as shed
left her son there
and her home was no longer there. A lot of families
said they could not
understand the figure of 170 families being put
forward by the Red
Crescent Society (Arabic medical relief agency). Their
estimation was
3-4 times larger. They were aware of a significant
number of families
left behind. The explanation offered by them was that
they must have
fled to another part of Fallujah or been killed.


The families said they were prevented from returning
to Fallujah to pick
up dead bodies of relatives. One family which had had
their home shelled
went to Saqlaawiya which is a village just outside of
Fallujah.
Saqlaawiya and Ameriyaht Fallujah (1700 families from
Fallujah are
living there in tents, provided by aid organisations)
are under siege by
Occupation Forces. This is where families are able to
go. In the
beginning of the invasion of Fallujah, there was a
missile attack on
Saqlaawiya. Noone knows what happened in the aftermath
of this. A group
of Saqlaawiya families have been trying to return to
pick up their dead
but have been prevented.

The main areas housing recent refugees (many of the
initial refugees
went to Baghdad) are: Saqlaawiya, Baquba, Ameriat
Fallujah, and Heed and
this is where the information is coming from.


Latest News

Conveyed today through the NGO contact in the UK:

There are systematic arrests by Occupation Troops of
boys aged 14-years
and upwards are taking place in Heed, Baquba,
Ahmeriyat Fallujah,
Saqlaawiya and Ramadi. House to house searches.

Ahdemeeya in Baghdad is a no-go zone. Pitched battles
are taking place
between the resistance and occupation forces. British
troops are
carrying out house-to-house searches in properties
along the Euphrates
River edging towards Baghdad.

Statement from NGO co-ordinator in UK after contact
with Baghdad office:

The situation is more volatile than previously
assessed. An Iraqi
journalist was trying to take pictures of our convoy.
A car pulled up, a
civilian car from Fallujah, and accused the journalist
of being a spy.
The driver pulled out a gun and pointed it at the
journalist and accused
him of working for the Iraqi Mokhabarat (Intelligence
services) and
threatened to shoot him dead. This happened in the
vicinity of Fallujah.
Had it not been for intervention from those
accompanying the aid agency,
the situation could have escalated.

Every day we are trying to send convoys into Fallujah
but we are being
blocked by occupation troops. The psychology of the
situation is very
dangerous. There is a ruthlessness and blind reaction
by people to
perceived threats, as the incident with the journalist
shows us. People
have lost their familes, their loved ones, their
homes. There is a lot
of psychological damage and instability.

Our co-ordinator has said that it is not safe to talk
to the media about
what is happening. (People are afraid of being accused
of scaremongering
and fomenting or inciting violence against the
government or coalition
troops which is an offence under Bremers Order on
prohibited media
activity
http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20030610_20030610_CPAPNOTICE_Responsible_Media.html.pdf)

The number of families which got out in the last few
days is 2-3 times
greater than previously estimated from all areas. At
first we had 150
families come out from Fallujah to Heed. Now we have
seen over 1000
families come to the Heed and Ameriyaht area. Now they
cannot leave
these areas. Americans control the whole area. Aid has
definitely been
let into Ameriyaht. But it has been limited in Baquba
and Ramadi. The
situation is a crisis.

The Americans have been allowing families out of
Fallujah. But there are
170 families remaining in the area controlled by the
Americans which is
only about 45% of Fallujah. This means that most of
Fallujah is still in
the hands of the resistance. Under US control are the
Al Wahde, Julan
and Hay Sinai areas in the North of Fallujah. But
there is still
sporadic fighting in these areas and all over the
place. The fighting
never stops. Guerilla fighters move from house to
house, they never
stop. And there are areas within these areas which are
still changing
hands. There was fighting in the Julan area today this
morning. All the
main roads are not safe. Water and electricity in the
city is still cut.
It is a bonus if people can move and survive.
Resistance fighters are
moving in and out quickly of areas as they know that
if the military
identifies those areas it will bomb them from the air.
They keep moving.
They can escape as they know every inch of the city.
This is the tactic.
Almost every house in Al Wahde, Julan and Hay SinaI
has been searched.

There are families trapped in the desert close to
Fallujah without
anything. They have no tents, nothing, they are just
in the bare desert,
these families are seen from Convoys trying to deliver
aid. If you stop
or leave roads already known then there is fear of
being targeted by US
snipers. The situation is not secure for vehicles to
break away from
Convoys to come out and deal with them as they are too
close to Fallujah
and this means people coming to them are perceived as
a security threat
to the Americans. There are 10s of families there but
there are no
specific numbers. We have managed to help families in
other parts of the
desert, further away from Fallujah itself.

This was put together by Ewa Jasiewicz, an activist
journalist with 9
months experience living in Occupied Iraq

For further news from the ground in Iraq see:
http://blog.newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches/

Thursday, November 25, 2004

For Immediate Release:
Friday November 19th 2004

Press Conference with Naomi Klein:
‘Now we’re taking you to court!’ - Protestors insist on trial as government and ‘plunder promoter’ drop charges

In what is believed to be a politically motivated decision, the Crown Prosecution Service has dropped charges of ‘Aggravated Trespass’ against two female protesters who demonstrated inside an Iraq privatisation conference last April.

Ewa Jasiewicz, activist Jounalist had recently returned from 9 months solidarity work with trade unionists, families, refugees and women’s groups in Iraq. Pennie Quinton is an Indymedia activist and journalist.

The Crown stated that ‘there is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction’.

Ewa and Pennie have been charged with intending to disrupt a “lawful activity” when they entered the Iraq Procurement Conference, unfurled banners, and addressed the delegates as collaborators in the daily massacres in Iraq. Their actions caused the conference venue to be evacuated and all activity to be suspended.

Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author of No Logo, had been scheduled to give evidence at the trial. She will take part in a press conference alongside the defendants and their lawyer at The National Union of Journalists, 308 Grays Inn Road, WC1, 4pm this Tuesday 24th November.

Pennie and Ewa are claiming their right to trial under Section 23 of the Prosecution of Offenses Act 1985. This means they are in effect, taking the government and event organisers Windrush Communications to court. Prosecution witnesses from Windrush have refused to attend the trial. They will now be witnessed-summoned. Windrush have failed to disclose evidence, in violation of repeated court orders, to reveal invitations, attendees, order of business and contracts procured, relating to the event. They will now be ordered to submit again.

The defence will continue to argue that the meeting was not a lawful event as it was facilitating acts in breach of the Iraq constitution - illegal under the Hague Regulations of 1907 and Geneva Conventions 1949. Britain and the US are signatories to both the Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions.

In a leaked memo dated March 26th 2003, UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith advised Prime Minister Blair that in his view, 'the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorised under international law'. (Source: Guardian, 7 November 2003, “Pillage is forbidden: Why the privatisation of Iraq is illegal“ Aaron Mate).

This case will be the first time the legality of the pillage of Iraq is challenged in court. The defendants hope the court will rule that the conference was unlawful as occupying forces must comply with international law.

Ewa and Pennie regard the prosecution’s climb-down as a victory and a total vindication of the validity and necessity of their actions and legal argument.

They state: ‘The decision undertaken by Windrush Communications to back down when faced with the legal consequences of their actions – in our belief, aiding and abetting pillage in Iraq in contravention of international law – is an open door to other activists to take further action to expose the ‘unlawful’ activity of companies and event organisers like Windrush’.

For information, contact the former defendants –
Ewa Jasiewicz at freelanceATmailworks.org or 07749 421 576
Pennie Quinton at pennieqATyahoo.com.


Related Information:

Iraq business deals may be invalid, law experts warn (Source: Thomas Catán, Financial Times September 30th 2003)

The US-led provisional authority in Iraq may be breaking international law by selling state assets, experts have warned, raising the prospect that contracts signed now by foreign investors could be scrapped by a future Iraqi government.

International businesspeople attending a conference in London October 2003 heard that some orders issued by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may be in breach of the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"Is what they are doing legitimate, is it legal?” asked Juliet Blanch, a partner at the London-based international law firm Norton Rose. "Most [experts] believe that their actions are not legal", she said. "There would be no requirement for a new government to ratify their [actions]."

International law obliges occupying powers to respect laws already in force in a country "unless absolutely prevented" from doing so.

According to international law experts, that throws doubt on the legality of the CPA's September 19 order opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment. In what amounted to a blueprint for transforming Iraq into a market economy, Order 39 permitted full foreign ownership of a wide range of state-owned Iraqi assets, barring natural resources such as oil.


Background

1 - Windrush Communications organised the Iraq Procurement Conference, bringing together:

“Over 200 companies and organisations from around the world … to discuss the wide range of economic opportunities available. The event was open to interested businesses and organisations from all countries, immediately following the awarding of up to $18.4 billion in contracts from the US Congress and prior to the handover from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the new Iraqi government on 30 June.” (Source: http://www.iraqprocurement.com)


1- On the Iraq Procurement Conference, Jasiewicz says-

The decisions which set the living standards and possibilities for generations to come; The decisions which determine who will starve and who will survive and who will live and who will die, are not made on the battlefield by people in uniform, they are made by people in suits behind closed doors, in soft-carpeted hotels and function rooms. They are made in private and demand absolute silence. They are made by the powerful and remorseless. They are made by those who legitimise theft, excuse crimes against humanity, and seal the fate of an entire country’s future with a pen’s stroke. There are made in events like Iraq Procurement 2004.

You make history, when you do business – Barbara Kruger

3- Relevant Links:

http://www.iraqprocurement.com/ - website of the Iraq Procurement Conference

http://www.cpa-iraq.org - website of the Occupation Administration - Orders can be found in the Documents section. Of particular relevance are Orders 30 and 39 plus Orders on Taxation Strategy

http://www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/ - Up-to-date info and analysis on the continuing occupation and traumatisation of Iraq

http://www.workersliberty.org/files/Occupied_Basra_19.pdf - Ewa Jasiewicz's 3 month research report on workers struggle in British Occupied Basra

http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=2180 SOC Workers Throw Out KBR, Reconstruct Their workplaces Autonomously article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.labournet.net/world/0312/Iraq3.html - Iraqi Workers Threaten General Strike, Armed resistance - article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/01/283668.html - Basra Braces Itself for Industrial Shut-Down - article by Ewa Jasiewicz on Electricity Sector workers threatening strike action

http://www.kclabor.org/occupied_basra_electricity_worke.htm - Update on Electricity Workers Strike article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/02/09/2722630 - Umm Qasr workers wrestle with the prospect of forming a union. There is now a trade union at Umm Qasr! International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, employed by SSA Marine (formerly known as Stevedoring Services of America), the company which has been responsible for Umm Qasr since the occupation began sent a letter of solidarity and encouragement to the workers at the key Port. It is thought this helped workers gain the confidence and build on the already existing desire to form a union.

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