2 November 2001, Volume 4, Number 35
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES IRAQ. Amnesty International's annual report on Iraq this year concludes that "hundreds of people, among them political prisoners including possible prisoners of conscience, were executed. Hundreds of suspected political opponents, including army officers suspected of planning to overthrow the government, were arrested, and their fate and whereabouts remained unknown." And it adds that new punishments have been introduced, including beheading and amputation of the tongue. Also noted in the AI report was the large-scale application of the death penalty, the extra-judicial executions (especially the beheading of women accused of prostitution in Baghdad under the supervision of the Ba'th Party and the Iraqi Women's General Union), the widespread use of torture, the arrests of suspected political opponents, and the forcible expulsion of Kurds, Turkmens, and Assyrians from the Kirkuk region.
In April of this year, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution condemning the "systematic, widespread, and extremely grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the government of Iraq." Moreover, the UN extended the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq for another year.
The Iraqi government has not yet responded to Amnesty International's report. (David Nissman)
EXECUTION OF DISSIDENTS SAID TO SPARK ANGER WITHIN IRAQ. "Iraq Press" on 26 October said that the most recent round of executions of dissidents has sparked a great deal of anger inside Iraq. The nine dissidents executed were accused of being members of a Syrian branch of the ruling Ba'th Party in Iraq. They were executed in Mosul. Some of those executed reportedly worked in the regime's security services. Residents of Mosul said that the charges were not serious enough to justify the executions.
On 28 October, "Iraq Press" reported a tenth execution of a dissident belonging to a clandestine political party, a Nasirite organization adhering to the thinking of the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasir. Last December, authorities had executed four leading members of this group. And last week UN Special Reporter Andreas Mavromattis, who monitors human rights in Iraq, accused the authorities of human rights violations regarding the rights of women, religious persecution, torture, and degrading punishment. He also said there has been no let-up in extra-judicial killings and arbitrary executions on account of political opinion and ethnicity. (David Nissman)
IRAQI OIL SMUGGLING EXAMINED. Two companies have been identified as being smugglers of Iraqi oil, the "Oil Daily" of 29 October reported. Although the companies -- U.K.-based Trafigura and the French-based trader Ibex -- handle regular crude exports from Iraq under UN oversight, they also allegedly handled an additional 500,000 barrels on the side. Trafigura bought 3.6 million barrels in official Iraqi crude. The smuggled oil was transported on the vessel Essex. The UN has discovered that two shipments on the Essex, on 13 May and 27 August, were topped off after UN inspectors signed off on the regular intake.
The value of the smuggled 500,000 barrels was $11.7 million. The proceeds from the smuggled oil ended up in bank accounts controlled by the Iraqi government, in violation of UN sanctions.
A subsidiary of Trafigura, Roundhead Inc. bought the 500,000 barrels from an Ibex subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands. Payments also went through the Virgin Islands.
Diplomats at the UN Sanctions Committee expressed concern that this method of smuggling, by topping off vessels, has been going on for much longer. "It was by pure coincidence that we found out, and only because the captain of the ship alerted the UN, a diplomat said. Another diplomat said that the smuggling "raises questions about the UN control in Iraqi harbors." (David Nissman)
IRAQIS TO MARCH IN SUPPORT OF TALIBAN. Iraqi authorities are mobilizing their media and trade unions in support of Taliban Afghanistan, according to "Iraq Press" of 26 October. A campaign to donate money and other forms of assistance is now under way in the country, and state-run unions have organized demonstrations against the U.S.-led war against the ruling Taliban. In universities across the country donations are compulsory as each student is compelled to donate 10,000 dinars (roughly $5) to a fund established for Afghanistan. Five dollars is equivalent to a month's salary for a civil servant. Iraq is among the few countries of the world that have not officially denounced the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (David Nissman)
A REALLY BIG SHOW IN BAGHDAD. A major theatrical event is shortly to take place in Baghdad. A novel, allegedly by Saddam Husseyn, "Zabibah and the King" -- a potboiler about a commoner who falls in love with a king, and vice versa -- is about to be staged in Baghdad, according to "Iraq Press" of 17 October.
A million copies of the novel have already been printed, and now, "Iraq Press" says, "the Baghdadis have been asked to buy tickets for a new theater show for which the powerful Ministry of Culture has mobilized all its resources."
Adib Nasir, "a poet known for his panegyrics of Saddam," has transformed the novel into a play, and a well-known actor is directing it. Nasir has succeeded in turning the 160-page novel into a 160-page poetical play. Nasir is quoted as saying about the novel, "it is miraculous, full of heroism and great deeds."
"The play, like the novel, is causing a stir in Iraq despite its hackneyed and tragic plot of a loveless marriage, rape, and death," says "Iraq Press." The authorities are planning to send about 1 million people with many bussed in from the provinces to see the production.
The staging of the show will be a major event, the news service said, topping even the 15 October celebrations when ceremonies marking the anniversary of a referendum in which Saddam won 99.99 percent of the vote and was declared president for life. (David Nissman)
SADDAM ORDERS GUARDS TO WEAR BULLETPROOF VESTS. Saddam Husseyn has ordered that the guards charged with his immediate protection wear bulletproof vests, reported "Iraq Press" on 27 October. Also, liaison officers in the force were ordered to leave their offices and go to unspecified locations. Saddam's orders came amid mounting fears of a possible military strike by the U.S. and its allies in their war against international terrorism.
Abid Hamid Mahmud, Saddam's secretary, issued the orders. He also ordered that ranches and houses belonging to the bodyguards and situated mainly on the Baghdad outskirts be refurbished as alternative locations for high-level meetings in case of war.
Mahmud has also ordered that fuel tanks be constructed in various areas within reach of security services, special forces, and emergency troops.
A state of high alert, declared last month, is still in force. Residents say the rising tension and talk of imminent air strikes have led to a steep rise in prices of essential foodstuffs and commodities. In addition, Saddam's guards have banned boats and ferries from sailing in the Tigris River close to the main presidential complex. (David Nissman)
FOREIGN DELEGATIONS ARRIVE FOR BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL FAIR. Baghdad Television reported on 29 October that foreign delegations had begun to arrive for the opening of the Baghdad International Fair, opening on 1 November., Moroccan Minister of State for Foreign Trade Abd-Al-Karim Al-Atiq has arrived in Baghdad with an accompanying delegation, and a delegation of the Egyptian holding companies led by Adil Al-Shahawi, manager of the Holding Company for Food Industries, arrived on the same plane as Al-Atiq.
Also coming to the fair are 12 Bahraini commercial and industrial companies for the first time in more than 10 years. Bahrain's participation is being coordinated by the newly formed Bahrain Committee for Trading Promotion. Samih Rajab, committee vice president, said: "This is a very important exhibition for us because it comes after a 10-year absence from the Iraqi market. We are looking forward to establishing new contracts as part of the oil-for-food and medicine program," according to a report in the Manama "Gulf Daily News" of 29 October.
Also, 325 Palestinian companies will participate in the fair. A Palestinian trade delegation headed by the Palestinian Minister of Trade and Economy Maher Al-Masri will visit Baghdad during the fair to discuss with Iraqi officials the prospects for improving trade and economic relations between the two countries, reported the "Saudi News Digest" of 30 October.
Turkish Foreign Trade Undersecretary Kursad Tuzmen will open the Turkish stand at the fair, which will be attended by almost 200 Turkish companies and 350 businessmen, reported Anadolu news agency on 29 October. (David Nissman)
ALGERIAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT. Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika received Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan on 29 October, according to Baghdad Television of 29 October. Ramadan said that the two sides discussed means of developing cooperation and fraternal relations between the peoples of both countries. He also said that this visit will witness the signing of a protocol for establishing a free-trade zone between the two countries to open the way for trade and eventually form an Arab common market. He added that these meetings and future ones will witness the birth of other agreements. When Bouteflika was asked by the Baghdad correspondent when he would visit Baghdad, Bouteflika replied: "Soon." (David Nissman)
RUSSIAN TRUCKS TO BE SHIPPED TO IRAQ IN NOVEMBER. The Russian-Italian joint venture company Iveco-UralAZ announced that the company plans to send truck to Iraq in November, Interfax reported on 25 October. Deliveries are expected to be completed by January 2002. Iraq will receive 60 Ural-Iveco-6429 trucks with a 35-ton carrying capacity. The trucks will be delivered together with semi-trailers produced by Uralavtotrailer. The contract for the trucks was signed in January 2001, and is part of the oil-for-food program. Iveco-UralAZ is working on another contract to supply parts and cabs to Iraq. (David Nissman)
RUSSIA'S TATNEFT TO BEGIN DRILLING IN IRAQ. Tatneft says it intends to send equipment to Iraq in November to drill 45 wells in the northern Saddam and Bai Hassan fields under the framework deal signed by Zarubezhneft in 1999, according to the "Oil Daily" of 29 October. Tatneft officials will leave for Baghdad in December, when the aim is to ship more equipment to drill an additional 33 wells under a contract that Tatneft signed with Iraq's Northern Oil Company last year.
Tatneft, the primary oil producer in Tatarstan, is also developing links with Iran and the Sudan. It has signed a service contract with Iran and is thinking of supplying Iran with technology. Chechen administration head Akhmed Kadyrov also recently visited Iraq. Kadyrov said that Chechnya also intends to open a representative office in Baghdad and take part in the UN's oil-for-food program.
Also, Slavneft, the Russian-Belarusian state-controlled oil company, has signed a contract with Iraq's Oil Ministry to develop the Luhais oil field in southern Iraq, according to TASS on 29 October. Slavneft plans to start Luhais operations in the second half of 2002. The contract has yet to be approved by the UN Security Council. Under the terms of the contract, Slavneft will drill 25 operating wells at Luhais, and then start exporting oil via southern Iraqi ports. (David Nissman)
KIG LEADER: ISLAMIC LAW WILL PREVAIL IF WE HAVE AUTHORITY. Ali Bapir, the emir of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), paid a visit to the Sulaymaniyah headquarters of the KIG on 19 October. He then gave the Friday sermon in the "Jihad" mosque, according to a report in the Sulaymaniyah newspaper "Komal" on 25 October. In the course of his sermon he said: "We have come to establish Islamic rule in Kurdistan and so that the Islamic law will prevail if we have the authority to do so. However, we shall not forcibly convert anybody to Islam." He added: "...we took part in the liberation of Kurdistan. We have the right to a share in the revenue and nobody is donating charity or alms on us. We do not impose Islam on anyone. However, we refuse anyone's imposing atheism on us." (David Nissman)
IRAN PRESSURES TALABANI ON ISLAMIC GROUPS. According to the "Kurdistan Observer" of 20 October, a Kurdish source told them that a meeting was held recently between Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and a high-ranking Iranian government official. The Iranian government strongly denied claims made by the PUK that the Jund Al-Islam is linked to and funded by bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization. The Iranian officials charged that these suggestions "were baseless allegations that had been fabricated by Israeli agents."
According to the source, the Iranian officials persuaded Talabani to agree on their terms that called for the return of the Islamic groups, the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) and the Kurdish Islamic Group (KIG), to return to Halabcha and giving in return the PUK a symbolic presence in that region. The Iranian officials also asked the Jund al-Islam to dismantle their group and return to the IMK and KIG.
Despite the Iranian attempt to defuse the situation, KurdishMedia.com of 30 October reports that the Jund al-Islam has opened a number of checkpoints on main roads connecting Tawila and Biyara with other PUK-controlled areas. At these checkpoints, Jund al-Islam militia are collecting customs fees from the limited commercial traffic passing through the area on the way from Iran. KurdishMedia.com says, "This seems to be a financial privilege given by Iran to Jund al-Islam in an effort to indirectly support Jund al-Islam militia by proving them with access to financial revenue."
In a meeting with representatives from the Halabcha, Tawila, and Biyara areas, Talabani expressed the determination of the PUK to uphold the rule of law and the overall jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), reported the "Kurdistan Observer" also on 20 October.
Talabani disclosed plans of the Jund al-Islam clique to assassinate prominent members of the Kurdish leadership, and named names. He also pointed out that the Kurdish Islamic Movement, led by Mollah Abdul-Aziz, is a coalition partner in the KRG with two ministerial portfolios and other posts.
A stronger position was taken by another member of the leadership of the PUK, Mele Bakhtyar. He said that "if Jund al-Islam believes that the battle for Mount Shinirwe was costly for them, they have seen nothing yet." He added that they have two choices: either give up to the PUK or die by the PUK, reported KurdishMedia.com on 21 October. (David Nissman)
KURDISH DELEGATION MEETS WITH SWEDISH OFFICIALS. A press release from the Nordic representation of the Kurdistan Regional Government � Kurdistan Democratic Party (KRG-KDP) announced that a delegation headed by Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the KRG-KDP, met with senior Swedish officials who reaffirmed their commitment to continue their political and humanitarian support of Iraqi Kurdistan through their UN and European Community membership and welcomed closer contact in the future. The Kurdish delegation included Dr. Shafiq Qazzaz, minister for humanitarian aid and cooperation; Safeen Dizayee, the KDP representative in Turkey; Fawzi Toma, member of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Taha Barwary, KRG representative in the Nordic countries. (David Nissman)
KRG-KDP DELEGATION MEETS WITH UN AUTHORITIES. Members of the KDP International Relations Bureau and the KRG representative in the United States visited UN headquarters in New York, the Office for the Iraq Program, and several missions of the UN Security Council on 24-25 October, according to a press release dated 26 October. The Security Council is preparing for the November-December review of the "smart sanctions," now called "targeted sanctions," which were proposed by the U.S. and the U.K. and rejected by the Russian Federation, and also the renewal of the oil-for-food program.
The delegation met with Benon Sevan, director of the Iraq Program (OIP). Hoshyar Zebari, chief of the International Relations Bureau of the KDP, expressed the appreciation of the KDP and KRG for the efforts spent by UN agencies and the OIP for the benefit of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. The coordination and consultations between the UN agencies and the KRG in addressing the successes, problems, delays, and related challenges were discussed. The delegation presented suggestions and working solutions in capacity building, electricity generation, agricultural disincentives, and the manner of optimizing expenditure of the accumulated funds in the 13 percent escrow account.
The delegation then attended meetings at the permanent mission of the Security Council members the United States, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland (Security Council president for October), and France. Discussions included questions related to the oil-for-food program, progress in the peace process in Kurdistan, the political status of Iraq, the region, and the area, and the future of the review of the targeted sanctions and its intended effect on the economy of the region. (David Nissman)