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2010-03-19

Seven Years of War: On Anniversary of US Invasion, Iraqi Feminist Yanar Mohammed Says Iraq Is No Different Under Obama than Bush

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Today marks the seventh anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. We go to Baghdad to speak with Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. "Privatization, no security for the working class, much investment for multinational companies," Mohammed says. "We have a democracy which has brought forward groups which are transformations of the first political forces...militias [that are] now politicians...sitting in the Green Zone." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Today marks the seventh anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. On March 19, 2003, the United States began dropping bombs on Baghdad as thousands of US forces poured across Iraq’s borders. Seven years later, the occupation continues. In that time, over 4,300 American soldiers have died. Many thousands more have been wounded. As many as 650,000 Iraqis have been killed, with the number of wounded unknown.

Meanwhile, Iraq is suffering the worst refugee crisis in the world today. According to the United Nations, more than 4.2 million Iraqis have fled the country, many of them to neighboring Jordan and Syria. Another 1.9 million are internally displaced.

And seven years after the invasion, the US occupation of Iraq continues. Last month, the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said the US is preparing contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of all combat forces in Iraq if violence or political instability increases in the aftermath of this month’s parliamentary elections. Under President Obama’s current band, the US has vowed to cut the number of troops in Iraq in half, to 50,000, by August. A full withdrawal is scheduled to occur by the end of 2011.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to mark the seventh anniversary, we turn to a perspective rarely heard in the US media: an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad. Yanar Mohammed is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. I reached her by phone yesterday in Baghdad and began by asking her to describe the situation in Iraq seven years after the US invasion of her country.

    YANAR MOHAMMED: The situation now, after the end of seven years of invasion, is at a point where we have many questions at hand. The first one is we are waiting now every day for the final result of the elections. And there is some competition between the Prime Minister’s list and Iyad Allawi’s and other groups. But mainly they are mostly the same groups that had started off in the first place.

    The other side of the issue, which not many people are talking about, is the economic agenda in Iraq, the privatization, the heavy privatization, that’s happened in Iraq in the last two years, where tens of thousands of workers have been laid off, with no work to go to, with no social insurance to support them, while in the same time there is an economic agenda of supporting foreign investment in a way where there is protection for foreign investment, but there is no labor law, no unemployment insurance for people. And in the same time, we are being surprised by the Ministry of Finance telling the Iraqis that we need to have a loan from the World Bank, which will put the Iraq policies under such pressure, and it is a surprise to everybody because the revenues of oil are so high that we do not really need a loan from the World Bank. So, economically, it’s a rollercoaster here in Iraq — privatization, no security for the working class, much investment for multinational countries, and, in the same time, a democracy which has brought forward groups which are transformations of the first political forces that started off with militias, but now they are politicians and they are sitting in the Green Zone.

    So it’s a very strange scene that we are in Iraq now. High poverty among women, very high poverty, especially among the millions of population, the millions of widows of war and orphans of war, who do not have sufficient social insurance to support them. And there are no social programs to tell us what to do with these millions who do not have a place to go or a economy to support them. And in the same time, the oil law has been signed already, big investment for foreign companies. We do not have any promises of a good labor law.

    And the Constitution has established a state of inequality for women. There is an article in the Constitution, Article number 41, which has cancelled, almost cancelled for good, the civil rights, the minimal civil rights which women had under Saddam, under what was called the personal status law. And it is these civil rights are being substituted with Islamic sharia and other religious laws that are of minorities in Iraq.

    There is a quota for ethnicities, according to ethnic groups, some for Christians, some for other religions, for Assyrians. And this was a message to the Iraqis that representations are upon religions, upon sectarian lines and upon ethnicities, and not upon political affiliations. So it’s finally, after eight years, the Bush’s agenda of representing the Iraqis upon very backward representations has become a reality. And it’s a very bad form of democracy that we have to live in in Iraq. The ethnicities has grouped us all upon ethnic lines, and it only — such a situation needs only a little bit of sparkling to start a civil war anytime, could happen anytime.

    AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, can you compare the war under Bush and under the current president, Obama?

    YANAR MOHAMMED: Inside Iraq, a citizen, a citizen inside Iraq, a woman in Iraq, or a worker or even an official, you would absolutely see no difference. We did not feel any difference inside here. People are so exhausted economically that there isn’t much hope that something very good could happen soon. There are hopes that maybe on the long run we could — our struggles could get us something, but for the time being, the extreme privatization of Iraq, the oil revenues that go to places we don’t know where they are, 80 percent unemployment among the women of Iraq, the extreme poverty that’s pushing women to being trafficked and prostituted, it’s all a situation that’s overwhelming. It would be hard for me to have a very clear vision right now.

    We just want to have some relative security to us to organize our ranks for the coming times. And we are optimistic that if the American — if the US Army leaves us, we may be able to have the dynamics of the people and to make the wheels go the other way around to the way that will help us have — claim our resources again, our oil again, and our lives again.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. We were speaking to her in Baghdad. When we come back, we’ll go to Cindy Sheehan in Washington, DC. Stay with us.

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