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Iraq: Activist Discusses Democratic Future Of His Country

  • Antoine Blua

Prague, 10 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Bakhtiar Amin is the executive director of the International Alliance for Justice, which coordinates a network of 275 international NGOs calling for the establishment of an international tribunal for the Iraqi leadership's crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Amin, who has two decades of experience in the field of international human rights and humanitarian work, spoke to RFE/RL about the democratic future of Iraq.

Question: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday said that there will be a meeting between U.S. and Iraqi opposition officials on 12 April in Nasiriyah to discuss an interim government for Iraq. What do you expect to come from this meeting?

Bakhtiar Amin: What will come out of that meeting I do not know. But it's hopeful that the coalition forces are cooperating more and more with the Iraqi opposition, with the Iraqis.

Question: The U.S. says it plans to establish an interim government that represents the Iraqi people. How and where can the people be found with the legitimacy to represent the Iraqi people?

Bakhtiar Amin: The only legitimacy is when one is winning through ballot boxes the trust of the Iraqi people. That is the only way to say that this group, this person is legitimate. The Iraqi people have to decide through elections. [But] this is [part of] a process: we are still in a war situation, where you need to secure the country, to protect the people, to look for weapons of mass destruction, to destroy them, and to address the humanitarian relief needs of the population. And [we also have] to deal with the infrastructure of the various services to make sure that the Iraqi people get these services again, and to start the de-Ba'athification of the administration, various ministries, and to get rid of these people and to put good people in administrating these various services, whether it's in the field of health, education, etc.

Question: How would you describe the process to establish a democratic Iraq for the coming two years?

Bakhtiar Amin: As I understood, after the period of the establishment of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance [ORHA, which will work alongside coalition forces to bolster security and infrastructure in Iraq], there will be an Iraqi interim authority, which will be [constituted] of 22 people. That should be broad-based, and representing all ethnic groups of the Iraqi society, [including] Iraqi opposition inside, [and] Iraqi exiled expatriates from outside. That would prepare the terrain for a constitutional assembly and a constitutional government, which will prepare the terrain for elections. Elections will lead to the establishment of a national assembly in Iraq, which will produce or prepare a constitution and establish a new government.

Question: Do you think that a quick push for democratic transformation in Iraq can explode into sectarian violence? Do you think the emphasis on religious and ethnic identity in the future democratic Iraq might be counterproductive?

Bakhtiar Amin: This is a reality. This is [also] the beauty of Iraq, that it's a multiethnic and multireligious society. The future government of Iraq has to reflect the ethnic and religious composition of the Iraqi society: a government which embraces all its citizens, all its various ethnic groups, and religious groups, and respects this diversity and specificity of each one. I don't see any risk of explosion or Balkanization of Iraq, or civil war in Iraq, if we do things correctly, and don't repeat errors of the past. We have to embrace all groups of Iraq, and live together in a pluralistic, constitutional, parliamentary, democratic, federal Iraq. That would be the solution, that will be the remedy.