Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Iranianization of Iraq

By: Ali Rawaf

After the Islamic revolution in Iran, many actions were taken to make the country more conservative. The new government at the time cracked down on Cinemas, theatres, music halls. The Khomeini government also shut down liquor stores, bars, and social clubs, all of which used to run freely under the Shah. I see similar actions being taken today in Iraq.  Previously, I have written about the Iranian influence in Iraq in politics. I have been reading news about several changes in the social aspects of the Iraqi community, ones that I link to a religious Iranian influence projected to change the structure of our society.

Today, a few Parliament Members who represent minorities showed their objection to a recent decision taken by local authorities to shut down social clubs, bars, and some restaurants that serve alcohol. Kenna, a Parliament Member who represent the Christians in Iraq said the decision punishes the Christian minority unjustly, “Just because a few people who are not supposed to drink go to those social clubs and drink alcohol, those social clubs shouldn’t be closed,” said Kenna criticizing the recent law. Another Member, Mehma Khalil who represents the Yezidi ethnicity in Iraq said the law will drive minorities out of Iraq, “Many minorities run such businesses […] these venues are sources of income to many of these people.”

The reality is Iraq used to be known in the Middle East for alcohol. Iraq’s secular society used to receive Saudis and Kuwaitis who cross the border to come drink in their venues. Shutting down these venues will not only have a negative impact on the society by driving communities out of the country, it will also be one more factor that is detrimental to the economy. Even when Saddam Hussein tightened social norms* to win tribal support in the early 90’s, liquor stores and bars were still open.

Babylon Festival Hall, Oct 2010. Picture by al-Arabyia
In 2004, Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army cracked down on theatres, music halls, and video/CD stores in the south. The southern region is known for its prominence in the field of entertainment, especially music. In October, Iraqis celebrated the Babylon Festival, an annual festival where famous musicians and actors perform. This year music was banned in the Festival because it coincided with one Imam's birthday. The ban, as al-Arabyia puts it, “[left] most of the performers hailing all the way from Algeria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Finland, Iran and Russia swaggering around the ruins of Babylon.

This is frustrating because the toppling of Saddam’s statue was a symbol to many Iraqis that there will be more freedoms, not less. We also hoped that the government wouldn’t align itself with religious factions and religious ideologies. All of this begs the question, if the government will decide what you drink to what one should listen, where do we draw the line? And when will the people of Iraq speak out?

*The Washington Post article that is linked in the blog talk about Abu Nawas. Abu Nawas is one of Baghdad’s most famous streets. It is filled with sea food restaurants, night clubs, bars, and music halls. The street faced some difficulties during Saddam Hussein’s era but not to the extent that it is facing today. In February of 2009, the street was reopened after the US funded efforts to restore it. Soon after, the Iraqi local authorities cracked down on all of these venues, putting down hopes of restoring night life to Baghdad. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Iraq Government Formation Sets a Bad Precedence for a Democracy

By: Ali Rawaf

It would have been great if I could start this blog by congratulating my people about the formation of the government. But unfortunately, what they portray to be the conclusion of a record_breaking and tumultuous eight months of negotiations is nothing but a magnified picture of the disarray of Iraqi politics that has been ongoing and will continue to take place in this government.

Iraqi politicians pay little attention to the fact that what early governments do in new democracies, sets precedence for future governments. The power-sharing deal on which the parties agree will only institutionalize the sectarianism and the division of the current Iraqi society. The presidency to the Kurdish Talabani, PM post for Maliki, a Shiite, and the parliament Speaker position was given to Nujeifi, a prominent Sunni leader in al-Iraqyia. The perceived amount of power vested in each position is supposed to reflect the percentage of population each sect posses. Sounds silly but sadly, it's true. This kind of power-sharing pays little attention to anything about any candidate other than his sect. So forget having professionals in government as long as they meet the sect requirement. Progressively, politicians elevated the rhetoric about sectarianism in respect to the positions in the new government. Maliki was the first when he told reporters that despite the wishes of having an nonsectarian political race, sectarianism will continue to dominate the process. Kurdish MP's said that the Presidency is a Kurdish right despite the elections results. This is similar to what happened in 2005 and 2006 and exactly how Maliki won his first term. The Parliament also agreed to establish A National Strategic Council which is presumed to be given to Allawi, the head of the Iraqyiah List. The latter position is supposed to check on the PM's powers, it will also have executive powers over security, economy, and foreign policy. Allawi is a secular Shiite.

While you might think that a power-sharing deal such as the one Iraqis figured out would bring about what Allawi calls "Devolution of power," it can tremendously stall the political process. Each of  these positions don't have clearly defined powers but each of them is supposed to have some sort of a check on each other. If there are four, heads to a government, how long will it take them to make a consensus on a certain issue? I predict very long, knowing that it took them 8 months to come up with this fragile deal.

Allawi's new council, under which the PM will serve as a member, will be very inefficient. Any decision made by the council has to win a vote of an absolute plurality and 80% of the vote in Parliament. Allawi is frustrated. I would too, how can you get 80% of a sectarian parliament to agree on a piece of legislation when they couldn't agree on making a simple majority to form a government for 8 months?

Arguably, it is good to have a long period of deliberation when introducing a legislation. But in a country that is desperately in need of rapid government actions to bring about basic services such as water, electricity, this kind of government dynamics can be a little early.

Above the Law
Before the elections, key members of al-Iraqiyah List were prohibited from running in the election by a Parliamentary commission responsible for running de-Baathification, a program set to oust former members of Saddam Hussein's party and his regime. The program goes after all kinds of public servants and even college professors. Part of the pact the party leaders signed to reach the agreement was the exclusion of key politicians in al-Iraqyia from the de-Baathification program and awarding them with positions in the government, after the elections. To be fair, some of these members were de-Baathified with no evidence. This tells other public servants, who were unjustly ousted from office due to the de-Baathification program, that politicians are simply above the law. This is another example of a bad precedence for a new democracy.

The Will of the Voters
When I voted, I voted for change. Many Iraqis did the same. Iraqis were fed up with the sectarian orientation of the former government. The US President said "the government of Iraq will be inclusive and representative." I beg to differ. Having a Shiite, a Kurd, and a Sunni hold key positions in the government doesn't make it representative of the will of the people. What we have in Iraq today is similar to what we had in the past four years, a bad government and a dwindling hope in the future of democracy in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Women's Role in Iraqi Politics Remains Inactive

By: Ali Rawaf

Though they make about a quarter of the newly elected parliament, their voices are unheard and ambitions of leadership remain unseen.Their role doesn't go beyond the fulfillment of the electoral quota. Today, however, one female politician spoke out. Safiya al-Suhail sent a letter to President Talabani asking him if he was "only a president for men and not women" referring to the dinner Talabani organized to break the deadlock in which only men were invited.

 al-Suhail, member of the State of Law bloc said that women in Parliament should be involved in the negotiations to for the net government but her comments showed no ambition. She followed saying, "We [women MPs] will be better at the negotiations because we are not looking to get any of the higher positions." 

Iraq was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to grant women equal rights but the norms of the society do not reflect so. The Iraqi government is dominated my men despite the presence of women in politics but this phenomena cuts across many different aspects of society which is unfortunate because the essence of democracy lies in the fact that all elements of society are represented and empowered. In Iraq, inclusion means the inclusion of other sects while women get overlooked. If we truly care about consolidating out democracy, we need to reevaluate the role women should play in society. We need to be inclusive not only of other sects but also of the other sex. Women must be empowered in all field such as education, work force, and at home. 

In the picture: Safia al-Suhail, Iraqi MP and member of the State of Law bloc.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is Iraq Falling Back Into Authoritarianism?

By: Ali Rawaf
     One sad fact about new democracies is that they might turn back into authoritarian regimes that ruled the country before those democracies emerged. Iraq's democracy might be one of those. Iraq is on the brink of falling back into an authoritarian regime, under Maliki's Dawa party.

We have witnessed Maliki's strong grip on his seat as Prime Minister. Though his term has constitutionally expired, Maliki and his cabinet still have full control of all three powers; executive, legislative, and judicial. The cabinet has signed contracts, appointed ambassadors, passed laws, all while the Parliament is not really in session. Maliki's powers are all unchecked. Maliki seems to have also manipulated Iraq's supreme court to rule in his favor several times. Furthermore, Maliki has been trying every way possible to somehow "legitimize" his bloc, which came in second in the elections, to form the next government. Maliki's bloc, State Of Law has formed an alliance with the National Alliance, the radical Shiite bloc. The alliance, was named the National Alliance hours before the first session of Parliament so al-Iraqyiah wouldn't enter the first session as the biggest bloc. Maliki's alliance with the  radical Shiite bloc had a bumpy start and remains in gridlock over which candidate they want for the Prime Minister post. The National Alliance remains under no leadership.

Recently, Iraqis marched down the streets protesting the lack of basic services such as drinking water and electricity. The protests, after taking place in five provinces, resulted in the resignation of the Minister of Electricity. The protests were seen by Maliki's State of Law as a movement to reduce Malki's popularity. Iraqi news networks reported today that Maliki  ordered to tighten security measures in Basra, the province where the protests started. The security forces have more presence in the province and their purpose is to "discourage" anymore protests. Deterring the protests doesn't remind me of anything but of Iraq's old days under Saddam Hussein.

Today, al-Arabiya news channel was raided be security forces from the Ministry of Interior. The channel staff was ordered to evacuate their office because of "threats that their office will be attacked." The staff was instructed to leave behind all their equipment and belongings in the office before the Ministry of Interior shut down their office. al-Arabiya has been known for its support of Ayad Allawi, the head of the winning Iraqyiah bloc and Maliki's rival for the Prime Minister post. al-Arabyia had interviewed Allawi a few days ago.

With one sign after the other, Iraqis are beginning to lose hope in Iraq's democracy. Maliki and his cronies have managed to take over all aspects of governance in Iraq. Their insistence on remaining in power has brought chaos back to the country and put the political process at stalemate. Almost four months after the elections, Malki still shows no signs of stepping down from his expired post and to transfer power peacefully. The change for which Iraqis voted is farther than it seemed on the night of the elections.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Contradictions of Maliki's Politics

By: Ali Rawaf

Over the past three months, Maliki has proved that rules, norms, laws, and the constitution can be boldly violated without any regards to the public sentiments. It also proved the immaturity of Iraq's democracy and the politicians who are still new to the democratic game.

First, Maliki openly supported the rise of the De-baathification committee in the Parliament, a toll that was used to "legally" disqulaify candidates before the elections and after the results came out. The commission, under its new name, Commission for Justice and Accountability, made decisions to disqualify, sue, and publicly question the integrity of candidates, even though its Parliament was not in session. Recently, the commission said it would stop disqualifying newly-elected Parliamentarians, as if they have done us a favor.

Then, Maliki ran on a secular campaign, promising Iraqis that the past of ethnic tensions was to be left behind. He also promised that the politics of confessionalism in Iraq is now an old practice. Once he found out that the results weren't in his favor, he sought Iraqnian support and quickly tried to make a coalition with the radical Shiite bloc, which came third in the elections after Maliki's 89 nine seats and Allawi's 91 seats. The Shiite "coalition" hasn't agreed on a leader of the coalition neither have they settled on a candidate for the prime minister's post, the two important features of a political coalition seem missing. But parties left and right don't like any of the other blocs' candidates(Top vote-getters) for the Prime Minister post, which is not respecting the new election law that calls for and "Open List," a term that refers to placing each candidate's name on the ballot so the voter will choose directly on who wants for the PM post.

Malki also criticized Allawi's visits to regional countries, claiming that the visits represent an invitation to those countries to interfere in Iraqi politics. In the past couple of days, Maliki sent delegations to Arab countries to garner their support for his second term, openly.

The State of Law, Nouri al-Malki's bloc rhetorically attacked Allawi when he said that a non-inclusive government will drag Iraq back into sectarian tensions and violence. Maliki, when he felt that the PM post was slipping from his hand, he claimed that Iraq will once again go back to sectarian violence if he is not to get a second term.

The State of Law's coalition with the radical Iraqi National Alliance, named "National AlLiance," declared the alliance within 48 hours of the date Parliament was set to convene and after Ammar al_Hakim, the leader of the Iraqi National Alliance met with Sistani, the Shiite Grand Ayatolla. This shows that religious authority can override the democratic process and norms and can still manipulate politics or influence it one way or another.

Maliki's government also is acting as it is the official government, not an interim one. The PM is writing laws, signing deals and contracts, and hiring ambassadors, all of which are non-constitutional.

In short, Iraq's democracy s fragile and its rules can still be bent by politicians. Once our politicians leave behind the past and the spirit of revenge and politics of confessionalism, elements of liberal democracy might be more tangible but if we keep the gridlock and bold violation of electoral rules, laws,the constitution, and proportionally distribute government positions, we will stay unconsolidated democracy, a picture that much looks like Lebanon, if not worse.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are Terrorists Getting Dumber?

Are Terrorists Getting Dumber?

The next time you go to US embassy to obtain a visa to fly over there with explosives, don’t arrive at the embassy with explosive residue on your hand. A Pakistani Tourism student in Chile was arrested after authorities were alarmed by their metal detector. Later authorities discovered that he was associated with al-Qaeda. This takes place only a few days after another al-Qaeda member of Pakistani origin was arrested in New York City, after he failed to escape and detonate his bomb; he locked the key to his escape car in the car bomb (Speaking about ulattiral damage). He was arrested at the JFK airport the next day. And let’s not mention the underpants bomber who also failed to bomb himself.

It is beginning to look like a pattern of highly unorganized attempts to attack the United States and the West. The United States government and experts attribute the recent al-Qaeda failure to the success of the United States and the world’s efforts to interrupting communication between the terrorist organization on the international level. It has become harder for al-Qaeda to organize its attacks from it headquarters in Afghanistan as well as from the Middle East. This is the result of the American recent attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the other hand, hundreds of Iraqi civilians and security forces were targeted by al-Qaeda. The US embassy and the American military stated that those attacks – took place in several provinces around the same time – were all linked and reflect a high level of coordination. These attacked were aimed at reigniting the sectarian violence as they targeted mostly Shiite civilians. Such a move doesn’t reflect an image unorganized terrorist network, on the contrary, it shows how active al-Qaeda is in Iraq. I attribute the failure of the Iraqi security forces to the lack of having intelligence and their inability to cut-off the communication amongst al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The secret behind murder of the two senior al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq last month was because the security forces found how the two communicated. Both men had a middle man who traveled across the country from Mosul to Anbar to Tikrit to Baghdad. After the security forces arrested the middle who eventually lead them to al-Masri and al-Baghdadi. The Iraqi government, instead of putting more military men inside the cities, need to invest in border patrol, not only borders with neighboring countries but also patrol of internal province-to-province level borders, something that doesn’t seem to take place as needed.

In short, while the terrorist are getting weaker around the world due to lack of communication, they are able to carry out heavier and more sophisticated attacks in Iraq because they are still able to communicate within the country. The Iraqi government and military need to put more focus towards monitoring and controlling the borders on the provinces-level.

Ali Rawaf

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Iraqi Elections: One Step Forward, Then Two Steps Back

A day before announcing the results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections- after knowing that his party didn’t win a majority – Maliki asked the Supreme Court about the interpretation of Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution.
The first clause of the Article reads:
The President of the Republic shall charge the nominee of the largest
Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers
within fifteen days from the date of the election of the President of the Republic.”
The question was specifically about the interpretation of  phrase “the largest
Council of Representatives bloc.” The Supreme Court ruled that it meant the largest bloc after Parliament is in session. That means that the Shiites, though didn’t win a clear majority as one entity can form a coalition to forge the next Iraqi government.
That will marginalize the Sunnis and moderate Iraqis who voted for the secular list of Ayad Allawi, Al-Iraqiya. Al-Iraqiya won 91 seats while Maliki’s State of Law won 89.
 Before the Supreme Court changed the interpretation of the first clause of Article 76, Shiite parties didn’t seem in accordance with Maliki’s State of Law, if otherwise, why didn’t they run as one entity? But now that the Shiites have the Prime Minister position, they are not willing to give it up at any expense.
The interpretation of the article is not fair. If the current interpretation of the Article prevails, that means that we have a problematic electoral system that doesn’t reward the winner of the elections with anything.  
Another major obstacle for Allawi’s Al-Iraqyia is the Ayatolla Ali Al-Sistani. While Sistani received representatives from other parties, he refused to receive representatives from Al-Iraqiya and when asked about what he thought of Al-Iraqyia, Sistani’s Aide commented they consider them as the Sunni party, “The marjaiyah (religious Shiite leadership) sees Allawi as the representative of the secular trend. We don’t see him as a representative of the Shiites,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share al-Sistani’s views with the media. –AP
This is dangerous because the Sunnis participated in the elections to be part of the government. Many of the Sunnis who used to fight gave up their arms for the sake of their votes and political participation. If the interpretation of Article 76 prevails, Sunni won’t have faith in Iraq’s democracy because the Shiites are always going to form a coalition to form the government whether they win the elections or not.
If my interpretation of this situation is correct, we will have a multi-ethnic Iraq with a Shiite-dominated government that reveres Iran, emphasizes its own ethnic solidarity (rather than national solidarity), politicizes the security forces, and gains “legitimacy” over and over through elections which they hold only for the sake of formality and nothing else.
How different is that from a Sunni-dominated government under Saddam Hussein?
I end my argument with the Iraqi proverb, “The horse remained the same, only the rider had been changed.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Voted With Pride

By Ali Rawaf

For the first time in my life, I had the honor of participating in an event that has impacted the future of my country tremendously; I voted in the Iraqi election.

I was still young when the American Humvees drove through my neighborhood telling us through the speakers that mounted their vehicles that the war was over and we should resume to our normal life. I saw the old man on TV, beating Saddam’s picture with his shoe, the crowd that dragged the head of a statue of Saddam Hussein. I realized that our lives would never be the same again. Despite what the dark time we went through, as people, we emerged together in unity showing the world and our nasty enemy (terrorism) that we are strong and capable of voicing out our will.

Ever since Iraq had its first election, I longed for the day I get to dip my finger in that purple ink, it was a symbol of patriotism but I didn’t quite understand it and realized the enormity of its impact, on an individual level as well as the society. I told everyone I knew that I wanted to vote in the next elections, no matter where I will be, under whatever circumstance, I knew I would vote.

Fortunately, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission added one more voting station outside the country, one that was close to me. It was in Irving, Texas, three hours away from my residence in Austin. I was thrilled.

A group of friends and I rented a passenger van on the morning of March 7th, decorated the car with a couple of Iraqi flags, and left Austin to go to the voting station. The ride wasn’t boring, we had a heated discussion about the candidates and why each of us would vote for them. Despite our disagreements, we had one thing in common; the pride in our country to undergo such a change in political system while staying strong, and the courage of our fellow Iraqis to go cast their ballots into the voting boxes. What my fellow Iraqis inside the country did was incredible and one of a kind. They challenged the terrorists and disregarded their attacks and marched their way into the voting stations.

After being lost for a longer than half an hour and mistakenly driving towards the gates of the local FBI building (in a white van with Iraqi flags stuck on the windows), we found the in-the-middle-of-no-where Crossroads Hotel, the Iraqi voting station in Texas. We rushed our way into the building to be shocked with a line of people that reminded us of the lines people would form waiting in government offices back home, “Just like back there,” said my friend. I nodded in agreement. The line was a little chaotic and as a result, we lost our spot in it to a couple of families.

While standing in the line, Iraqi IIHEC personnel approached us and started talking to us. “How did you get the job?” I asked, “I work for the parties.” He retorted, with a mischievous smile on his face. He had a leather jacket that went all the way to his knees, just like one of the kinds they make back home, and had a goatee of which you would see on a typical Iraqi bureaucrat’s face. He was not surprised to learn that we drove for three hours, “Some people drove from Nashville, ten hours away” he told us. He also said that a few party members intruded and asked certain voters to vote a certain way, “but they weren’t successful, and it has been going smoothly since Friday,” he said.

For the first time in my life, I felt as if I was – even if little – in control of my own destiny. I had a say in the political process, though it was more symbolic. I chose to declare my support for a political party, ideology, and candidate and I did it in a peaceful and civil manner. Though we voted for different candidates, we were all happy we had the opportunity to participate.

After a bad meal at a chain Middle Eastern restaurant, we drove back to Austin. Of course, we spent a big portion of our time discussing the elections. We took pictures of the whole trip and especially of us in the voting station. When I got home around midnight, I couldn’t sleep for quite some time, I was thinking of how proud I am to be part of the process while staring at my purple-inked index finger.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Iraq's Democracy: Signs of Consolidation

By: Ali Rawaf
As the elections approach, I am just more and more amazed at what has become of Iraq. Don't get me wrong, we don't have a complete democracy yet but it is consolidating.

If you have been following, parties are really competeing for people's votes. Though it is an old method of campaigning, Baghdad's streets are full of posters of candidates. The Iraqi TV and other Arab channels are playing campaign advertisements over and over. What is most interesting is how the society have really utilized technology in politics. Social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter are full of Iraqi politicians that keep reminding people to go and cast out their votes like this facebook status update from the Al-Iraqiya List Chairman, Ayad Allawi's Facebok page, "We urge all Iraqis to vote, every vote is a vital step on the road to real change and a brighter future for Iraq."

In retrospect, Iraqis, when asked about for which candidate they are going to vote, they used to have a ready answer that would pertain to basis of religiosity and sectariansim. When asked Al-Jazeera correspondednt, "For which candidate are you going to vote?" The Iraqi interviewee retorted, "I don't know yet, there are many of them." Watch the video here

Reprots state that the majority of Iraqis will vote this time as a apposed to last election round, where mostly Shiites and Kurds voted. This will of the Iraqi people to further and advance this democratic political process reveals how the country ha left behind ethnic division and sectarian violence in addition to their strong apposition to the terrorist groups in the country.

I hope that if there is one thing this election can show the world, it would be how determined and desperate people we are to have a states that respects rights, freedoms, and democracy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Persecution ≠ Compensation (Response to a Kurd's lawsuit of Iraq)

By: Ali Rawaf
If you have any previous blog post of mine about Kurdistan, you would've seen that I am a supporter of the Kurdish cause, you know, uniting their torn nation under one state unit. I also acknowledge that Arabs haven't been the friendliest to Kurds in the past few decades but I don't support anything that is irrational, illogical, or anything that would appear as boldly illegitimate.

Today, titled one of my article roundup that I read about Iraq, "Kurdish Genocide Survivor Sues Iraq." As I read through the article, it kept getting gradually offensive.

A Kurdish man, Taimour Ahmed claims that the State of Iraq (and the United States, since they supported Saddam Hussein with funds and some equipment) should compensate him for an organized mass murder of "Anfal." He is asking for 20 million dollars for every single one of the 10 family members he lost.

Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with Ahmed. I am sad that he had to experience extraordinary imprisonment situation but here is where I think the problem in this case lies: If Iraq was to compensate Mr. Ahmed, shouldn’t Iraq compensate the victims and their families of all of Saddam’s genocide, mass murders, and wars?

In addition, the person who was responsible for and lead these attack, was just executed a couple of days ago to after being convicted of several counts genocide.

If Iraq allows such claims to prevail, we will be hailed with hundreds of thousands of people who will want to do the same thing. Mr. Ahmed wasn’t the only person who was persecuted along with his family in Iraq, we all were and many of us continue to be persecuted under different conditions and situations as we see what happens in post-war-Iraq.

Mr. Ahmed wasn’t the only one who was persecuted, therefore he shouldn’t be the only one compensated. In fact, I don’t think anyone (except for those whose physical properties were damaged, demolished, or confiscated by the Iraqi government) should be compensated because they were executed in the State of Iraq under a different regime and era. Iraq cannot afford and will not afford to compensate the formerly persecuted one, including me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kurdish Ali and Chemical Ali

By: Ali Rawaf

In 1988, the whole city of Halabja was bombed with chemicals by the Iraqi government. It is in that time that Ali Pour was an infant and was taken by a group of Iranian soldiers to a hospital in Iran and was treated. Later, he was adopted by a sister of one of the soldiers who took him. A little over a month ago, he was awaiting a DNA test to see if the person he was told is his mother is actually his. The DNA proved that the female who appears to the right side of the picture gave birth to Ali 21 years ago. For two decades, Ali was away from his real family. For two decades, his mother thought she had lost her child. For two decades, Ali’s mother wanted to see the person who gassed her town and killed her husband along with most of her children pay for what had been done to her family.

Today, the person responsible for the shameful act of gassing the city received his sentence. After several trials, Chemical Ali was executed today for being convicted of 13 counts of genocide. Before 2003, neither of Ali and his mother thought they would see this day. Many Iraqis never thought they would. But it happened. I hope, if this can prove to us anything, it will show us that there is an end to anything and anyone, even tyrants and mass murderers. But I also hope that this will mark a day that we also forget the past and its misery and look forward to building and serving a country that has suffered from criminals like “Chemical Ali” and worse.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Iraqi Elections Bans: A Flashback from The Past

By: Ali Rawaf
It is no wonder that the recent election bans on a number of Iraqi politicians and parliamentarian are prejudice and illegitimate.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a big fan of Salih Al Mutlaq or many of the banned politicians but I do sense the tension that has risen from the ban.
If the Iraqi election commission truly believed that those politicians should be disqualified, why haven’t been any mentioning in November or December, a month or two before the Iraqi elections were originally set to be held.

Salih Al-Mutlaq, though has truly said many things that can be labeled as Baathist, has been a member of the Iraqi parliament for the past four years with being questioned about any of his Baath promotion. Shouldn’t we hold accountable of the elected officials just as much as we do the ones running to be elected.
The majority of the candidates in the banned list are Sunni. This can be very detrimental as we shape our government for the next four years. Though there is no real census, no one wants to be underrepresented.
We cannot afford to have a big sector of the Iraqi population as part of the voting population. This banning of candidates has truly reminded Iraqis like me that government officials are still holding on to the same issues with which we struggled in the past elections: sectarianism, animosity, and insecurity.
If the commission doesn’t truly take into consideration the appeals of the banned candidates and transparently reviews them, the elections in Iraq will be nothing but a recap of the former elections round.

*Picture is used from the Time Magazine website.