Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Even though many of us thought the secterian hype wouldn't shape the upcoming election, the reality speaks a different story. The Shiites are trying to pass an Election Bill that marginalizes the votes of the Iraqis abroad. The Sunnis are objecting it because they believe believe they can gain more parliamentary seats through the votes abraod. The Kurds want more seats because of recent "census" and they are threating to boycott.
There are also disagreements over the recent contracts with the foreign oil companies the belittles the forthcoming government's ability of termintating any of the contracts. Though it sounds supportive of foreign investment and provide foreign investors security, it is a bit scary to.
The Iraqi government has also launched a Youtube channel. Apperantly it was a "priority" on the Prime Minister's Cabinet. The channel will provide edited videos of meetings, conference and such functions on Youtube. This is not different from the Iraqi Media Net, the State-owned TV channel, and Radio station.
On the same channel, an interrogation was broadcasted of the persons charged with carrying the major attacks in August and Ocotber. "They have caught them," some claim.
I see all of these changes are nothing but attempts of possibe candiates of campaigning throughout the making of essential public policy as elections regulation. It saddens me that Iraq's future, its consititution, and the key elements of its democracy are being shaped by greedy secterian men hiding in the Green Zone.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
A few days ago, I had an online interaction with a fellow Iraqi from Kurdistan. It was a series of heated responses to one another. I was frustrated through out the “conversation” because the Kurdish person (Who shall remain unknown) was constantly telling me that I appear to be supporting Kurdistan while deep inside that’s not the case. I have found that very hurtful from my Kurdish friends sometimes. No matter how friendly and how good my intentions are for the Kurds, I receive a negative treatment full of presumptions.
I understand what the Kurds have gone through. They have had their nation divided to be with countries that have not welcomed them and fought them. I know that Arabs have not been the most faithful and peaceful with the Kurds but I do know that when people like me recognize that, that itself is an improvement.
I often tell my Kurdish friends that I hope they get their own country one day and live in harmony, peace, and prosperity. I don’t think they believe me or think that my comments are sincere. It is saddening.
The problem is that people from my generation in Kurdistan have grown up to dislike non-Kurds in the rest of the country and to never trust them, the same as how Shiites raised their children telling them that Saddam is bad and associated that with being Sunni.
I am in favor of the establishment of a Kurdish country so long that it is what the people of the region want. I hope all my Kurdish friends and others believe that. Saddam Hussein is the one that gassed the Kurds and he is the one that persecuted them.
I would like to request from all Kurds to not generalize us, the people of the rest of Iraq. We were all persecuted under Saddam Hussein and he has been gone for a couple of years now. Why do I take the blame for what he had done?
Here is the exchange of words that I had with a Kurdish person a few days ago, it started after one of my friend’s fb status was making fun of an American who couldn’t recognize which flag it was when they showed him the Kurdish flag. (Sorry, it is a bit long)
Ali Rawaf: So you guys are all geniuses, now? It sounds as if you can tell every country's flag.
With all honesty, I respect and love people from Kurdistan and I wish them the best in their pursuit of their homeland, but you can't expect people to know the flag of a federal district such as Kurdistan. That would be exactly the same if an American asks you about his or her state's flag.
But I guess you guys are super smart and can name all the flags of all 50 states.
Sherwan (fake name): ali rawaf,
you are wrong if you compare kurdistan to a state in the usa.
the american states unified (came together) because they wanted to. the case of iraq is different, iraq is artificial. the establishment of iraq was the idea of british colonialism.
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hiroshima is more known than most american states. soon, halabja, kurdistan and the kurdish cause will become as known as hiroshima ;)
don't assess the kurdish cause by the knowledge of some young americans. the center of attention of the world is middle east and kurdistan is the heart of it, so those who are seeking knowledge out there they all know about kurdistan, whether it's in the states, france, brazil, australia, korea or egypt.
Ali Rawaf: Why do I always get attacked by Kurds even if I am NOT against them having their own country. I would be thrilled fo you guys but I feel like you are loosing it nowadays. You are too extremists with your cause. I truly truly hope that it work out for Kurdistan. But you can't treat everyone with negative presumptions like the way you have responded to me.
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I know that the Kurds didn't become a part of Iraq voluntarily. I don't need a history lesson. But you know that if Kurdistan's best interest, as Talabani says, is by staying with Iraq. So, don't blame it on me or other people who had nothing to do with what happened a hundred years ago. I didn't vote for Kurdistan to become a part of Iraq and I didn't participate in the massacre of Halabja.
I would like to invite you to walk down the streets of the United States, and ask them if they know Kurdistan and when they do, ask them if they know Halabja. I can almost guarantee you that they wouldn't know as much as you might hope.
Also, it would be nice if we can make famous of our cities by having something unique about them, things such as inventing something, a historical site, or recognizing arts and creativity. No one would like to boast about being persecuted except the week, and don't get me wrong all people in Iraq brag about being persecuted.
There were many Eropian cities that were bombed and their people were massacred and persecuted during World War II. I don't think they go everywhere in the world to blame things on Hitler, the dead person responsible for their persecution. Saddam Hussein is dead and with him died the hatred and the animosity of Kurdistan.
Ali Rawaf: "don't assess the kurdish cause by the knowledge of some young americans"
That has got to be the biggest nonsense I have listened to in a long time. I am glad you think that way, it must make you prideful and happy. Have fun living in your own bubble.
The middle east isn't the center of it. And Kurdistan have yet to be the heart of it. It will ... Read Morebe okay to say that when you want to separate and have your own country. Right now, you want to stay attached, so speak like you are attached and don't let the world make your cause a joking matter.
Sherwan: i'm not negative. since you're from iraq, i knew that you know more about kurdistan, more than you showed in your first comment. that's what plays with ones temper.
personally, i'm not an extremist, but to every action there's a reaction. don't come and speak of extremism, the way you express yourself is way more harsh though you showed yourself to be more understanding
what jalal talabani said does not represent the needs and wants of all kurds. in addition, talabani said that as the president of iraq. there are also others who make such statements in kurdistan region but that's to respect being a part of iraq.... Read More
first of all, you seem to act hood. second, i respect the streets. but as much as i know knowledge is to be rather found in schools. the same goes for kurdistan, ghetto people can't point out the states on the map. by having this said, i'm not expecting thugz to know about some place far from home, i'm rather expecting scholars to do so.
trust me on this, my bubble is way bigger than yours. for exmaple, i respect the right of every nation to self-determination (regardless the way they express themselves).
Ali Rawaf: By the way, saying, "my bubble is way bigger than yours" is not a positive thing to say about yourself. Also, calling people "hood" isn't either. Ask most English speakers, and they would tell you who says such words.
It is also sad that after a number of paragraphs that I wrote to explain how much I am for Kurdistan's independence, you still give me a comment like this, "trust me on this, my bubble is way bigger than yours. for exmaple, i respect the right of every nation to self-determination (regardless the way they express themselves)." To add to that, I also know that generalizing and stereotyping people based on their origin isn't the indicative of an educated person
I didn't comment to fight with you. I don't know you and I didn't know you. I simply wrote an objective opinion and you started rambling about Kurdistan and its independence.... Read More
Again, it is worthless to fight with you on facebook or to defend my stands o0n Kurdistan, I was simply expressing my opinion in a respectful manner without calling names or referring to stereotypes.
And believe me, just because I have an Arabic name, that doesn't mean that I am against the Kurdish cause. I believe that Kurdistan should be able to have their own country if they want to and I sure hope it will be a prosperous one.
Sherwan: we better skip who's right or wrong, let's leave it for others. i can tell you one thing, the way you speak now is pretty different than you did in your first comment. you say that you support kurdistan but what i read between the lines is whole another story. after all, i'm not asking you to support kurdistan, that's what you say, but i can tell ... Read Moreyou it's confusing.
Ali Rawaf: Who do you think you are that you believe I am not writing you my sincere opinion. I don't care if you admire my opinion.
Freud once said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," so have fun speculating and reading between the lines of what I wrote but believe me you will find nothing other that what I obviously said. I am not afraid of expressing my real opinion, one that I have made up for my self and not listened to others and learned it from them..
It saddens me that the conversation was so negative and heated but I hope that one day, this person and I will be able to have a friendly conversation and laugh about this one. I hope that as much as I would like to see my friend Tawan again.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What Ayad Allawi has been calling for over the past couple of years is reconciliation. That is the key to solving a lot of our problems. If you look at Iraq’s history, you will find that we have a pattern of revenge in our society and government and that pertains to the bedawin background many Iraqis have. This is an issue that Ali Al-Wardi, our renowned historian and sociologist has emphasized over and over throughout his publications.
We must reconcile with Baathists, especially those that have done no harm to Iraqis. Like I have said before on my former page on the blog Twenty Four Steps to Liberty, the current Iraqi government has made targets of all former Baathists. Baathists were involved in every aspect of our older lives in Iraq. They were teachers, college professors, engineers, policemen and in many many other fields. In order for many Iraqi to continue on with safer lives during Saddam’s era, they had to be part of the party.
We can’t lose our experts, we can’t lose our teachers, we can’t lose our doctors.
Even my father might disagree with me on this, but as Iraqis, we really have to this into consideration because we are dealing with the lives of three million (3,000,000) people.
It will affect the progress and development of our country.
We have all done out homeland some form of disservice but we don’t punish our selves. A population becomes oppressed because they are not willing to be outspoken against persecution and injustice.
We must leave the past behind and focus on our present and future. We must take advantage of this election. It is another chance given to us to improve our lives.
When we looked at the ballot four years ago, we could only see Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Kurds. We supported persecution of Baathist and former Iraqi army personnel. We have another chance to make a better choice, to vote for life against death, to vote for prosperity against persecution, to vote for a representative government against authoritarianism, to vote for peace against instability, for moderation against bigotry and extremism.
These are aspects that we look at the West and envy them for having incorporated them into their lives. We can do it.
We should all advocate for parties like Ayad Allawi’s and Mithal Al-Alusi, we need irreligious government officials who don’t include religion and sect as part of their political program and political campaign.
We need to support such parties and such candiates. The Iraqi Future encourages its reader to explore more about each candidate and learn about their future plans for Iraq.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
By: Ali Rawaf
A few days ago, I was listening to an NPR story on
Iraq’s Education System
That is exactly how I feel about
Saddam Hussein established the “Faith Campaign,” the project that made all school obligated to teach religion classes. In those religion classes, students are to memorize passages from the Quran along with attached “explanation” of every verse. No one discussed those verses, but everyone memorized them and memorized their “explanation.” This is very dangerous because it limits students from questioning and if we don’t question, we are not more than machines that operate on food.
In class, there wasn’t much of a discussion about the material. We were encouraged to know the “one possible answer” while there could have been many others. We were more trained than taught.
Getting Into College
Our future depends on how we score in the national standardized tests. We have one in each 6th, 9th, and 12th grade. The one taken in the 12th grade determines which field you can pursue in your studies.
If you have scored within high 90’s, you might be able to study engineering or medicine, the
It is sad to see that our society glorifies those two fields while it discourages studies in the fields of social studies, arts, and humanities. This point needs to be more emphasized, our education system –with the way it discourages the pursuit of such fields – is the reason why we have religious extremism and terrorism.
Many of those who have higher scores in the national exam and who have well spoken and written English, can be qualified to study abroad so they can bring something else to the table but it is rare to find the students who go back actually want to bring back what they learned abroad and make the changes on our education system.
Results of Having Such Education System
Just like it is in
That is why our youth can be easily persuaded by someone who clams to know the ‘right’ answer or path. That is why we now we have more extremism in our country than ever before. That is why when someone speaks of anything that doesn’t conform to the society’s general belief system, they get assassinated and tortured.
It is the reason why we clap for every one who is in power and boo every one whom the people who are in power tell us to boo. That is why we don’t stand up for our selves when we face government uprooting of our society, when we see terrorist beheading our people. We are afraid of questioning because we weren’t allowed to.
What Can Be Done?
There needs to be some fundamental changes in our schools, starting with elementary schools.
- Programs such as the “Faith Campaign” should be abolished* so students can have the opportunity to think about their beliefs and religion and told what to believe
- We need to have more proactive interactions between students and teachers, more than just I-tell-you-what-to-think-and-you-write-that-on-the-test-and-I-give-you-good-grade style.
- Our teachers and professors need to be trained to teach students to think not how and what to think.
- Our curriculum needs to be changed from boring, dry text books to become more interactive and accompanied computer programs and other activities.
- We need to take the turbans out of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education
- We need to employ the skills and the images of those who studies abroad and try to imply some of the ideas they learned at home.
- Also, we need to start questioning. We need to use the word “why” more often in our schools. We shouldn’t only address the “right” answer in class, we should discuss all possible answers.
- We need to change TV. We can’t let every turbaned head with a dirty broom hanging from his face teach our children how to live life properly every weekend mornings.
Is It Possible?
Yes, it is possible. It just needs a bit of time and assertiveness in our attitudes with our officials. If the Iraqi student body was to unite and ask for better schooling with higher quality and better style, we can.
If you are a student, talk to your friends about the issue. Ask for their opinion about it and discuss it with them. You will not believe how many you will find who believe in the freedom of education and in its advancement.
Changing our education and the way we think about life and society will help us in many ways to advance as a
people and a country. Yes, it might need some protests and demonstrations and writing to government officials but we can do it. Don't think that I am saying this because I live in the U.S and learned to talk their talk but if Saddam Hussein could make protest for useless issues such as
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Despite the corruption and the tumultuousness of its process, many Iraqis look forward for the parliamentary elections at the end of this year. After all, the practice of voting is a bit new to Iraqis. It is different than the way Iraqis used to vote. We had only one party and one candidate. The only choices on the piece of paper voters were given were “Na’am” and “La,” Arabic for “yes” and “no.”
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission had recently published a spread sheet with the names of political parties and individuals running for the parliamentary elections. Before I read the names of the parties, I scrolled down the screen to see how many parties and individuals are running. There are a number of 287 parties and individuals in the race so far. Bear in mind that the document was titled, “Political Entities Approved for Parliamentary Elections as of September the 12th.”
As you’d imagine, it is would be very difficult to have 287 entities on the ballot therefore, the parties will form “political lists,” a groups of parties that decide to be in one entity during the elections. Even though we vote for these lists, we don’t have a say as to who gets what. For a few days after the elections, the winning parties have long battles to decide which member gets which position.
Since Iraq has many of its citizens spread all over the world, we have the opportunity to vote in our embassies and some other designated voting stations such as one in Michigan and California.
Iraqis dip their fingers in ink that cannot be removed for longer than a day to prevent multiple voting attempts.
In the last parliamentary elections, Iraqis gave uneducated votes. Violence and religious interference in the campaign contributed a lot to the fact that people voted on sectarian basis rather than political programs. “Rabu’na,” or “our people,” many answered me when I asked them for whom they were giving their votes. While votes soared for sectarian and ethnic groups, secular and nationalist parties didn’t do so well.
I hope that Iraqis will realize the value of their votes and that a candidate’s religious or ethnic background will not be the scale on which candidates’ qualifications are measured. I also hope that Iraqi take the time to study about the political entities and candidates before making the choice in the voting booth.
*To learn more about the Iraqi elections, their procedure, and the campaign, please visit the website of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission.
Friday, August 21, 2009
By: Ali Rawaf
A few days ago, I was one of the students complaining when my Spanish professor turned off the air-conditioning unit in the classroom so we can hear her better, “It is too hot,” I said.
“Go live in a third world country and you will know what it’s like to be without air-conditioning at all,” she retorted. Her response reminded me of home. Don’t get me wrong, we do have air-conditioning units in
Baghdad before 2003
After the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein’s son in
As a result of American bombing to the power generating units in
We have named the different sort of electric power we get in
The government sometimes gives only one hour of power a day so that is why Iraqis rely on the owner of the “street generator.”
One of the wire webs caused by the street generators in a Baghdad neighborhood
Picture was taken from Energy Tribune
Dec. 1, 2008
The home generator is another story. It is one of the appliances that an Iraqi house must have. They run on gasoline. Even though, we have a big oil wealth in Iraq, Iraqi still have to suffer waiting in long queues in the middle of the summer to get some gasoline to run those generators. The generators are loud, disturbing, and cannot cover the basic electric need for an Iraqi home.
Picture was taken from Los Angeles Times
March 2, 2008
The government keeps announcing “buying electricity” from
We are an oil-exporting country and we suffer from power shortage and lack of gasoline. Yesterday, Fatima Kamal from the Iraqi newspaper, Azzaman titled her article, “Fuel consumption soars as power supplies dwindle in
Iraqi child studying under the "Lala" light. Lala is a little light lamp that runs on fire fuel.
Picture was take from FB group Iraqi Children
Friday, August 7, 2009
According to a research at the Hoover Institution, by 1990, 117 countries met Hunnington's definition of democracy." Political scientists today, have been using the term "Liberal Democracy" which under its definition, many of the 177 countries that are considered democratic under Hunnington's definition are not.
In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq claiming that one its main taks is to bring democracy to the country. Iraq is a democratic country now. By democratic, I mean that we have "elected" our last two governments, I certainly don't mean that we have a liberal democracy.
The Iraqi elections are different than those held in other liberally democratic countries. After the 2003 invasion, many of Saddam's opposition parties returned to Iraq . They Iraqi opposition formed about 180 parties. In the last election, in order to make the ballot shorter and with less names of political parties and candidates, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq used "electoral lists." Many parties who have some common goals and backgrounds would join in one list and under the later, they would run for election. To be clear, when Iraqis voted, they didn't vote for different candidates, they voted for the lists. The winning lists battled for a couple of days to figure out how they would distribute the parliamentary seats and who gets assigned to them. A few days later, the would announce the name of the person they chose to be the prime minister of the country. It wasn't the Iraqis choice to elect their prime minister, they just voted for the list of parties and those parties picked him out.
Liberal democracy is also free from religious influence on the elections and decision making process. Al-Dawa party, the party that won the last election and chose Nourli Al-Mailiki as their leader and Iraq's Prime Minister, ran the election using their religiuos ties. The party made it clear that its political program was approved by the religiuos leaders in the country and by Ali Al-Sistani, the grand ayatolla in Iraq. Many of the Iraqis voted for the Dawa party not because they read their political program nor because the candidates were highly competent. They simply voted because that is what Ali Al-Sistany "approved of" as many of them said. Before making their decisions, many politicians seek the approval of religius leaders which in a country as today's Iraq, it means the approval of the population. Maliki regularily visits Ayatolla Sistani, he is hovered by cameras on his way in to the Ayatolla's house since the Ayatolla doesn't like to be filmed or photographed. Then, Maliki would leave the house with a big smile claiming the Ayatolla's approval. That is how Maliki usually passes a contoversial legislation or "resolves" a vastly debated issue. Saddam Hussein him self hadn't used such techniques to manouver his way through the politicl spectrum.
Having an unpoliticized army is one of the main characteristics of a liberal democracy. During the first day of training the new Iraqi army, the Iraqi TV showed footage of the soldiers marching while calling, "Ya Ali, Ya Ali," a phrase used by Shiite Muslims to praise a major religious and historic figure. This intimidates the rest of the Iraqi population, one that consists of many different sects and religions. Many Sunnis, another sect of Islam, don't like the army because the see it as a representation of the Shiite dominance and as tool that the Shiites use to revenge against the because what Saddam Hussein, a Sunni has done to them and the way he persecuted them. In January of this year, Iraq held its local elections, where people vote for their city council, governors, and other public offices. A few days before the elections, Maliki set out the Iraqi army to march down the streets of Baghdad yelling out Shiite political slogans and carrying pictures of Ayatolla Al-Sistani, Nouri Al-Maliki, and other Shiite political leaders who are associated with the latter. Malki's party scored a landslide victory in the country. Many attributed the victory to the intimidation the army show caused.
Some American politicians would like to claim that the invasion of Iraq has brough us democracy. But many countries around the world have democracies, but many of them are not liberal democracy. Venezuela, for example, is considered a democratic country. Hugo Chavez, an army colonel, who won the election with 56 percent majority but eversince, the country hs been going down hill as Chavez became the sole arbitrator. Iraq has a similar case, where elecions take place and people vote but it is also where, the army and religion is used to arbitrate political agenda. What Iraq has today is a democracy but it doesn't have a liberal democracy.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I was born and raised in a decent sized town in mid-west Colorado, known simply as Colorado Springs. My town has lots of trees, lakes, and mountains, nothing of the desert scene. So when I joined the military and was told I would be going to Iraq to fight a war that I was unsure was necessary, it conflicted and scared me. I know nothing of that land or really of those people’s culture. What I did know is that I felt we had no business in that country to fight a war that had no real patriotic value to most. That going over there to help “govern” or liberate, heck or supposedly disarm the mass weapons of destruction that Iraq had stored up in warehouses, or underground caves seemed ludicrous to me, and a large portion of the country.
Being a disciplined Marine that I was, I kept my thoughts and feelings quite, packed up all my gear and prepared myself to invade this country full of terrorists, and brutish individuals that had not one decent bone in their bodies, or so I was told to think that. Because this “fight” was for my country, giving up my youth was to honor what had been done to our country on September 11, 2001. And to show the world that no one can dare come to our lands and kill our people, destroy one of our most loved cities, and still get away with it. So buying into the hype and propaganda I pumped myself up and was ready for action. You see, if I did not get my heart into it as much as I could that country would have destroyed me mentally and I knew that; even having to lie to the man in the mirror, to convince him this war had to happen.
Once we landed and got settled, this foreign land was exactly what we had been told it was going to be like, very hot very barren, no beautiful mountains, no crystal clear lakes, no fields of aspen trees, basically nothing like good old home that I took for granted. This was a place of death and terror, that needed us to liberate them, or so I had to tell myself endlessly. It got to the point where all I thought about was trying to convince myself that we had a true purpose being there, and to tell you the truth at first it was not too hard to believe that. I would look around and witness desolate cities, kids in rages, wild packs of dogs roaming the lands, desert creatures that still haunt my dreams. So yes being there to fight was the right thing to do, I bit into that lie for a little while anyways.
Now when someone’s heart knows that what is being done is not right, that life giving muscle will make believing things that are not true harder and harder. As it did to me, when I actually got to meet the people and get in close contact with them as if they were like old friends. They were not the brutish terrorists that I saw in hate videos, they are very curious compassionate people that have not just one decent bone in their bodies but many. They love to laugh and play soccer, yet have this shyness of young man afraid to ask the pretty girl to dance. My gear had to be something of wonder to them, it was for sure not the typical dress that they normally wore to battle the suns’ relentless assault. And not as you can imagine, we did not find these supposed “weapons of mass destruction”, what we did find were confused people torn by religious self-being, and a dictator that had a delusional image of world dominance.
What I came to learn was our Commander-in-Chief (also known as our President) had a nice huge claim in the black gold known as oil, which that country is full of, and that his father one of our former Presidents had unfinished business with the Iraqi dictator. That my feelings of discontent where correct. We had no business in that country. Yes it was amazing to liberate them from their leader, but I know in my heart that was not the main purpose of us inhabiting the lands they call home.
When you know something is not right in your heart, and you have looked at it from all aspects; it usually means that there is a good chance that what you are feeling is correct. As much as I loved seeing the peoples’ faces when that dictator was arrested, it did not make it ok in my mind that we are there or still are. The retribution of America being attacked was not being fulfilled, the individuals that attacked us did not reside in that land, nor did the people from Iraq have anything to do with the killing of hundreds of Americans, on that September morning.
As a warrior of this nation, and as a true patriot, my feelings of us invading a land that had no real threat to our country will never sit well in my stomach and soul. Defending America’s lands will be something that I believe in until the day I die, but it must be for that reason, not for financial gains, or to spread American influence around the globe, but to protect what is ours. I am ending with this thought, we are not the sheriff of the world, and basing our choices on gossip or desires is not what made this country so great. That is what will cripple us in the eyes of the world and worse in the eyes of our own people. And to the Iraqi people, I express my deepest apologizes for entering their homes and trying to change their culture. I can only hope that I represented America in a way that our Founding Fathers, and the generations to come can be proud of.
Mike is a classmate of mine. He was a marine who had two tours in Iraq. We have recently briefly talked about his experience in my country and mine in his. It is our responsibilities, mine and Mike's, to tell our people about the people of each others' countries and people and bring a clearer picture of the understanding that we are all people, we all value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as simply put in the U.S constitution, and we all yearn for peace. That peace will come when our people have better understanding of each other and focus on our similarities rather than our differences.
Wait for the follow-up interview with Mike Atencio.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Further, the Iraqi government would use its resources to fund scholarships for qualified Iraqis to study in Western Europe to acquire the up-to-date knowledge in their fields of study and then come back to Iraq and implement those skills in the Iraqi society. This endeavor has contributed to creating one the biggest, educated middle-classes in the Middle East by the end of the 1970's.
The question is what happened to all of those people? Well, to begin with, most of them left Iraq as the Baath-party took a major control of the country. It was the norm that if you don't become a Baathist, it would be very hard to advance in your career or even sometimes find a job.
Some of them were unfortunately killed due to their political beliefs. We all anticipated the return of this elite after 2003, but the instability has contributed to their continuing diaspora.
Nevertheless, we had better now think about the present and future of Iraq and think of new means to improve it. And the Iraqi government, among its current successful initiatives, committed itself to sending 10 000 Iraqi students to universities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK, starting with 500-600 students for the 2009-2010 scholastic year. This is hopefully going to serve as the key to renovating an educational system that is more than 25 years old, along with bringing up a learned people that can better rule itself and lead its country towards a promising future.
Just like any other new project, one might have some questions about it. Although the Ministries of Education and Higher Education have not yet declared the selection criteria and the selection process, there is a high chance that they are going to run into the problem of finding the required number of academically-competent students each year. Unless they implement some sort of an ESL program prior to college enrollment, this should no longer be an issue. And yet, the eternal problem of connections in Iraq might contribute to some undeserving students ending up in the scholarship. Fortunately, the big number of required students vilifies this problem as there is a place for many other qualified students.
Another concern might arise as the current situation in Iraq doesn't encourage many skilled people to go back to it after they finish studying in those developed countries. There definitely is some sort of procedure through which the government guarantees the students' return. Logic entails us to think objectively, and this leads us to conclude that there should be some students, regardless of the situation, that won't go back to serving Iraq. Hopefully, this would only be a minority.
In conclusion, this is a proud moment for Iraq towards getting rid of the dark past and initiating a striking future. I believe the government has just made a successful bargain in enlightening its people. As James Madison says ," Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
Saturday, July 25, 2009
As a result of the invasion of Iraq, more than five million Iraqis had to flee their homes. A million of the five, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refer to them, is internally displaced while about four million had to flee the country looking for safety and a better and more promising future. Because of Iraq's instability and its political disarrays, most Iraqis were rejected visas to most countries except for Syria, Jordan, and in special cases, Egypt and Lebanon, "More than 2.7 million people are now displaced inside Iraq, and over 2 million have fled to neighboring countries since the war begin in 2003," says Senior Advocate Kristele Younes (Refugees Intl.). Those countries took about 80 percent of the four million as the rest found their way to immigrate to Europe, Australia, and a few could make it to the United States.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees established a few programs under which many of Iraqis can immigrate to the United States and "Start a new life, a better life." Congress has approved to take 21 thousand refugees. Crowds rushed to the United Nations offices in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon, as they opened the doors for applications for the refugee program. Based on how much a family had been persecuted and whether it is safe for the family to return home to Iraq, the UNHCR prioritized the cases that were filed.
It has been twenety months since I stood at the Tucson International Airport welcome area to receive the first Iraqi refugee family that came to Tucson. I remember standing beside their caseworker, four members of a church and the Imam of the local mosque.I watched the father step off the escalator with his backpack and a briefcase in hand. He dropped his briefcase as soon as he knew who we were and ran to shake our hands, saying "Thank you" with a heavy accent.He, like every refugee, had a look of relief and a big smile radiating hope.After he learned I was an Iraqi student, he whispered in my ear, "We are the lucky ones."
A few months after, I realized why he had said that.He wasn't prepared only to be safe, but also had some inaccurate expectations about living in the U.S.
After having lost many loved ones and gone through many crises, Iraqi refugees come prepared to have an easy life here but Gabrielle Fimbres, in her Tucson Citizen article about Iraqi refugees, disagrees, "Adjusting to a new language, culture and community is challenging for these displaced and often traumatized people." (Tucson Citizen). They sign up to qualify for food stamps, health insurance for eight months, and rental payments and salaries for three months. But not often do they realize how long these privileges will last. Nor do they know what they should do in return, since most of them can't read the contracts they sign.
With limited educational programs and orientations, the refugees end up spending their money not carelessly, but rather extravagantly. After three months of being picky about jobs and chasing the same lifestyle they had back home, they find that their salaries and rent payments end. The problem is, the number of refugees is a lot bigger than the agencies can handle. The agencies are overwhelmed, so their performance is not as expected. This leads to misunderstandings and trust issues between the refugees and their sponsoring agencies.
Many Americans believe that it is the responsibility of the United States to bring Iraqi refugees but that is not the purpose that needs to be satisfied. The purpose is to have the Iraqis, who have suffered and continue to suffer, have a better life where their kids are able to receive proper education and they can find jobs to support their families. Sadly, they end up over here, with no money, no housing, no jobs, and no promises of getting jobs soon enough. I have heard many of them complain, "I would rather die in dignity rather than live with hopelessness," says Shaimaa, an Iraqi refugee who currently lives in Arizona
In order to have the Iraqi community become a productive, independent part of society, some steps should be taken. Cultural orientations should take place in the refugees' first stop - such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. The Iraqis should be taught about the difficulties they will face while resettling in the U.S. Once here, the refugees should be offered educational programs about how to handle work, school, housing and finances. There should also be consideration of allowing a reasonable number of Iraqi refugees. It is better to have 10 Iraqi refugees who are satisfied with their lives than having 100 angry ones with no life at all.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Iraqis couldn't easily get access to any book they wanted to read if this book contained material that didn't conform to the Baath party's visions. Television in Iraq was controlled by the ruling party and Iraqis had no more than 3 channels to watch. So was the case with the radio. The internet was almost useless since you couldn't access any website that had connections with Americans or even the Kuwaiti and the Saudi governments at that time.
The government's control over people's lives at that time didn't stop just at that point. Only landlines were allowed in Iraq since it could be accessed by the intelligence agency. Cell phones were forbidden for that reason. Regarding the newspapers and magazines available, they were only Iraqi (i.e. controlled by Saddam's people) and Pro-Baath. Overall, Iraqis suffered from the disconnection with the rest of the world and were anything far from the revolution in the world of communication.
After the war, the Iraqi mentality was freed from the tyranny of the Baath Party. People could gain access to the internet, cell phones; formerly-forbidden books and newspapers are available now at the disposal of people who have not witnessed such form of the freedom of thought before.These changes are signs of a healthy society since picking information for the readers should not be a responsibility of the government. They should only offer what the world has to offer.
Today, as I was reading the news, I came across this statement ," The Ministry of Culture prevents the import of pro-violence books into Iraq." It states that the Minister, Tahir Al-Hamoud, confirmed that the ministry intends to do its best to prevent the import of books that contaminate the Iraqi youth with ideas about suicide bombing, racial discrimination, and any material that opposes what the Iraqi Constitution holds. He also said that the Iraqi Government is not going to apply this policy against the books that support political opinions not represented in the current Iraqi governement, including other cultural values.
Now, what does this policy really mean? Does it mean that Iraqis will not be able to read books they like? Does it mean that Iraqis can't read " The God's Dilusion" by Richard Dawkins? or for that matter, any secular book? since secularism is not adopted by the constitution!? or does it just mean that books published by "terrorists" themselves won't be sold?
The Ministry says that they're going to make sure that the books on the shelves of Iraqi Libraries and book shops have no "negative" effect on the Iraqi Society! And that, in my opinion, is a tough job! How can you do that with much objectivity in prospective?! Are they going to hold a conference each time a book's liability is questioned? Or, I don't see how one person can decide what's good and what's not for a whole country?
However, It is a tough decision to monitor what Iraqis read! It's an indirect control on what Iraqis can get their hands on. Let's just hope that it's not the beginning of a tyranny over Iraqi youth and that no further steps will be taken regarding the control of culture on Iraq...Because the Ministry of Culture is supposed to enlighten people, not block their minds!
By: Fadi Al-Asadi
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Unfortunately, most of the programs were terminated a few year into Saddam Hussein's regime. By the beginning of the 90's, all the programs had stopped. It is around the same time when the country's quality ofeducation had deteriorated. AMID EAST, one of the main American organizations that coordinates exchange students programs for Iraqis to study in the United States, was active in Iraq during the 70's, had reopened its offices in Baghdad after 2003 and is currently operating under the permission of the MHER.
As of today, the MHER coordinates many study abroad programs, fellowships, and career development programs with Greece, England, Australia, Sweden, Germany, and a few Arab countries. Those programs give the opportunity to hundreds of Iraqis to travel to foreign countries, take a look at the areas where they are more developed, gain the needed knowledge and experience to transfer the ideas, and eventually applying them at home.
To be the first, the University of Tikrit has opened an International Office on the 6th of the current month. The University announced on the MHER website that the office will help students who are interested in studying abroad to find programs in Canada, Australia, The United States, and The United Kingdom. The office will also help the students with filing their applications and the admission process.
These, in my opinion, are very beneficial achievements. Change is best advocated and achieved through education. As an Iraqi studying abroad, I have already seen many areas of advancement that I can carry back to my country in the future. I am pleased to see some tangible progress; however, it is not enough.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
What the Iranians have done has not been done in the Middle East often. An oppressed society controlled through poverty and force raises against the "Supreme Leader" of the land, the "Guard Council," and Ahmedinajad, the head of one of the most oppressive governments in our days. It is impressive even though it wasn't successful as it was seen that the "Supreme Leader," Ayatolla Khamene'i, the highest ranked Islamic Clerk in Iran responded to the angry crowds by telling them that it was fair elections and the results are final.
The Iranians have broken out of the religion shell by opposing the Ayatolla, not an event that I can imagine happening in Iraq soon, Shiites protesting the streets against Ayatolla Sistani. It is neither soon to happen nor to hope for it.
As I was watching, I was very inspired by how determined and driven the Iranians were, but I was wondering if it was focused towards the right cause. Musawi or Musavi, as spelled on media sources, would have not really made much of a difference in the country, especially after the deterioration caused by Ahmedinajad's administration. It would have been the same horse but with a different rider.
The corrupt failing Iranians government is partially caused and started by Musawi. He put the country through a draining war with Iraq; however, he is given the credit for stewardship of the Iranian economy, an area where Ahmedinajad had failed but from a religious and extremism evaluation pint of view, Musawi would have not been better than Ahmedinajad which is a key feature needed in the country, which the Iranian society desperately needs.
As I look at Iraq, I wish that we are at this point, to be courageous enough to actually protest like Iranians did. I think once we break the bondage that the religious leaders have kept us in for a long time, we will be able to make a difference in our nations.
I believe the outcome of this mini-revolution is that it has sparked in our minds, the minds of the youth of the Middle East that we all need to voice out our opinions and to not bow down for oppression. This, I believe has lit the torch to light the way for the Middle Eastern youth to wake up and make a difference in the society.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The streets started getting more and more secure; people started getting back to their homes that they had to desert at some point; and everyone thought that it was the beginning of stability in Iraq.
Nevertheless, it is not. By the end of March this year, bombs filled the streets again, killing random people and targeting innocent lives in large numbers. We all stood waiting for the next step while wondering whether it is going to get worse or better.
"Worse" was the Answer to our inquiries! Since the relapse of bombings in Iraq in March, the situation just kept getting worse. Now, many people are dying , again , while shopping, going to school or work. The less-than- a-year period of revival has gone. And it has certainly become official as the Iraqi Prime Minister stated a week ago that we should expect the acts of violence to rise in the following months.
Yes, it sounds a bit ironic to hear the prime minister saying this, but it was not a surprise to hear that. It's not like we, Iraqis, were awaiting his statement to realize what's happening.
However, some people need some answers. They definitely need to know why on earth this started happening again!
Reviewing the changes in the government body over the past few months, nothing really huge happened. The "big guys" are still in power. So, there shouldn't be anything changing that much.
Oh, hold on! Didn't the Coalition Forces decide to leave the country by June 2011? Doesn't that mean less number of solders on the streets securing the cities? Doesn't that mean the Terrorists would resume their actions? Yes, Yes, and Yes! It's like handing your enemy your attack plan.
That's why it will never end unless the these really sensitive decisions become less obvious to the public, especially in a country not so strong. We're still healing our wounds from the non-ending war. We need to be following a specific secure discipline to re-establish our lives in there and then get to reveal the fate-determining plans to the world, not caring about the terror.
But for now, please be more discreet! We know you are working hard " not for sure, though", but your work won't pay off with this much transparency.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
My journey of investigating this channels credibility has started since 2004, when it played a very dirty role in agitating the so-called "civil war" in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites. It used to bring uneducated, naive extremists of both sides and have them argue vigorously live on air. It used to tell stories of after-the-war Iraq not on an impartial basis, but by making up reasons behind such events and attributing the incident to its unreliable causes.
One supporting example is that as explosions were happening all over Iraq, especially in Baghdad, Al-Arabiyah used to report them as being done by certain terrorist groups that no other channel has ever heard of, Not even the BBC or Al-Iraqia, which is the official local Iraqi Media Network. How did this channel come to know that this group of people were behind this act? How did they get to make sure that it was "Shittes" who have blown a "Sunni" neighborhood, or vice versa?
Moreover, it was only Al-Arabiyah that received recorded tapes of Saddam during the period of time between the entry of the Coalition Forces to Baghdad and his arrest. No other channel received such tapes. They also showed tapes of certain militias announcing their plans of destruction in Iraq or even people showing their disgust of the new Iraqi government. All that they said was " an unknown source has dropped off this tape or picture ..etc . at the Al-Arabiyah headquarters in Doha, Qatar." Why is it always Al-Arabiyah that gets these sorts of tapes and recordings?
After closing its offices in Iraq so many times due to its involvement in stimulating conflicts in Iraq, this channel persists to broadcast stories of a negative impact about Iraqis that has never ever been told in the Iraqi streets whatsoever. Al-Arabiyah didn't just start the fuss of homosexuals abuse in Iraq, but it stated that Homosexuality is a fast-growing phenomenon of the New Iraq and that it is the American-brought democracy that was behind it.
A few days later, they showed another report about Dog-eaters in Iraq. I have lived in Iraq for 19 years and I have never heard of such an issue in our society. All the religions and traditions of Iraqi society don't approve or recommend the consumption of such meat. In fact, many poor families in Iraq suffer from anemia and other diseases due to nonavailability of eaten-meat. Had they been used to eating dogs, you wouldn't find so many dogs on the loose! or they wouldn't have even suffered from such diseases!
The Obama speech to the Arab World has been welcome by almost all leaders and middle-easterns. Today, Al-Arabiyah features an article about how Obama's speech increases the tension between America and the Muslim World, which is quite the opposite of what was deducted from his speech.
In conclusion, this media network is definitely not trustworthy based on all the evidence that I mentioned earlier in this article. It has to have ties to specific people that fund its hatred-filled news. I know for sure that Al-Arabiyah can never be a trustworthy reference, and this is just one truth that has to be revealed.
By: Fadi Al-Asadi
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Ammar Al-Hakim is the son of Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, the president of the “Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council” and the leader of the “United Iraqi Alliance”, the largest block in the Iraqi parliament. Both are very extremist Shiites and have openly attached Iraqi from other sects.
The Belagh Media Center published an article under the title, “Four Corpses of Homosexuals Were Found in Baghdad.” The article says that the Iraqi security forces found the four corpses in the Sadir City, one of Al-Mahdi Army’s, Muqtada Al Sadir’s militia’s strongholds in Baghdad. The article also calls homosexuals with a demeaning slang from the Iraqi dialect, “Little dogs.”
The article expresses fear of the act being one sign of the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad, however, the author justifies, “Even though homosexuality is very spread in the Arab countries, but it is a phenomenon that is hated by Baghdadis.”
This is a media outlet that is followed by many Iraqis just for the fact that they are religious clerics. It is time for human rights organization to advocate against the religious extremism the country is moving towards by these clerics. It is time that the Iraqis live a more liberated life. That is a clear attack against homosexuals. Iraq has no specific laws against sex individuals’ sexual preferences. One might argue that it is too naive to be asking for gay toleration or even gay rights in the Middle East but even during Saddam Hussein’s era, homosexuals were tolerated in Iraq more than most other Middle Eastern countries. This act can be very well related to Iranian influence. Many were outraged by Ahmedi Najad’s comment in New York last year when he told the American public that there are absolutely no homosexuals in Iran and it is against the culture. Ammar Al-Hakim grew up in Iran, where he also attended several Islamic education institutes. Al-Hakims have very strong relations with the current Iranian government.
Homosexual might not be the most popular and most common label to have in Iraq, but to killing them was never common and is one more reason to make targets out of Iraqis.
This is one more example of the obstacles those political religious figures have set in the Iraqi society. If we are to be ruled by Islamic extremist demagogues, democracy, human rights, prosperity will never find their way to the life of the Iraqi individual.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
It has filled the newspapers and many other media sources that Iraq has a budget surplus of $79 billion . It is logical that a country would give a surplus estimate after providing the general and basic life requirements for its people. As of today, Iraqis don’t have consecutive hours of electricity, drinking water for all the population, and unemployment had reached its highest levels.
Today, the head of the Municipality of Baghdad, Sabir Al-Esawey has reached to the Shura Council of Bahrain to tell its members, “the importance of the participation of Bahraini companies to win investment projects in the country.” He continued by asking Bahraini business men and government officials who work in the field of construction services to visit the capitol, Baghdad and see the projects that the city has proposed to be done in order to rebuild the city.
This has been the reputation of the Iraqi government; its officials have always reached to foreign countries and their companies to invest the country in the same time that Iraq has an 18-30% estimate rate of unemployment in June, 2008 (CIA World Fact Book). Countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia have been, for a long time investing in Iraq but no real results of their work have been seen on the Iraqi streets.
Not to mention that many Iraqi officials are corrupt enough to steal some of the money provided for construction project, contractors of foreign countries too end up stealing big portions of that money. As Ali Allawi, former finance minister stated for ABC News in 2006, "The current machinery of state doesn't have the control or reporting systems to allow for the kind of detailed cost controls and budgetary controls.” About $500 million were stolen from a one billion budget to equip the Iraqi army after the other half of the billion was spent on outdated military equipment. Examples of corruption of Iraqi officials and foreign companies can be endless to mention.
In order to ameliorate the Iraqi economy, the government must look into the Iraqi federal and the private sector to offer them those investment projects. That way, more jobs will be created for many of Iraqis, and more opportunities for establishments of new local companies.
Instead of wasting Iraq’s money, the government should start looking into pumping the surplus money to the Iraqi private sector, Iraq has a very well educated population and hard work is valued in its culture, Iraqis’ money should not be wasted on foreign entities.