Salam Dahr* / Occupation Watch – 2004-12-07 23:19:48
BAGHDAD (November 22, 2004) — For over 100 years Iraq was under the leadership of a small group of people. Sometimes the leadership depended on political ideology to make decisions, but the leaders never forgot to pay attention to the tribal community and the community’s influence on the people and Islamic ideas, whether they are Sunni or Shia.
Even before the 35 years of Baathist rule, small group leadership was the means by which the government controlled Iraq. This method can be traced to the British occupation of Iraq after the First World War. Saddam Hussein’s regime was the last example of small group leadership, exemplifying how the process can be converted to a savage dictatorship.
We have had a fast-changing Iraqi leadership during the US occupation. In less than two years, this leadership has changed from ORHA, CPA, and a short-lived Iraqi Governing Council, all of which the US selected and controlled. Because of these changes, many Iraqis did not understand what kind of leadership they would have.
Ahmad Shehab is a 24-year-old student in the Technical University. He expressed his concern about creating a new dictatorship in Iraq: “I started to be afraid of saying my free opinion especially when Iraqi police detained five of the university students just for being at a demonstration condoning the raiding of Fallujah. It will not be easy for me to say what I think again because it appears to be the beginning of the same old regime, using the same argument (Democracy).”
New terms started to appear in the media with speeches by government officials. The similarity with the old regime in explaining repressive actions by using democratic ideas can be seen in Prime Minister Allawi’s explanation in closing the Al-Jazeera satellite channel office. He said, “According to the national security law, we decided to close the Al-Jazeera satellite channel office in Baghdad.”
Using Democracy as a Tool of Repression
There are many other examples of using democratic terms to justify repression, but the application of this method to judges and courts is quite new for Iraq. For example, the interim government transferred Judge Zham Al-Mahky, the judge of the Iraqi resuming court, to other small courts in Sadr City. According to Al-Mahky, “I got direct instructions from the government to choose between suspension or switching to another small court, because I summoned some of the new Iraqi intelligent services (Mokhbrat) to my court when an Iraqi accused them of illegal detention and abuse.”
Seeking to protect Iraqi rights, the Iraqi Parliament asked to question the Minister of Interior about security and high-ranking Iraqi police breaking the law. The Minister admitted the suspension of around 50 policemen but he did not inform the public about whether or not this was permanent.
Most Iraqis seem keen to spot the threat of another dictatorship already. “[It is the…] same as many dictatorships around the world…the ways the government finds these words,” said a man in a public café in Baghdad, “But the hope is that I don’t think many people believe…[the government’s] words.”
*The names of the correspondent and the people whom he/she interviews are pseudonyms.
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