Monday, July 10, 2006

Iraq: Raped



(UPDATED2: Abir's ID was uploaded by Reuters, you can check it here)(thanks Jon and Eli)

A few months ago, Abir was just another 14 year old Iraqi girl in a small town called Al-Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. Both of her parents are from the Al-Janabi tribe, one of the biggest tribes with Sunni and Shia branches.

Omar Al-Janabi, a neighbor and relative of Abir, was informed by Abir's mother that the young girl was being harassed by U.S. soldiers stationed in a nearby checkpoint. That is why Abir was sent to spend the night in her neighbor's home. The next day, Omar Al-Janabi was among the first people who found Abir with her 34 year old mother Fakhriyah, her 45 year old father Qasim, and her 7 year old sister Hadil murdered in their home. Abir was raped, killed by a bullet in her head, and then burned on the 12th of March, five months before her fifteenth birthday.

Muhammad Al-Janabi, Abir's uncle, reached the house shortly after the attack as well. Iraqi police and army officers informed him and other angry relatives that an "armed terrorist group"; was responsible for the horrifying attack. This is exactly what the angry relatives of the 24 Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha four moths before this incident were told as well; In that case, U.S. officials initially claimed that a roadside bomb planted by terrorists had killed the 24 Iraqi civilians and one U.S. soldier in Haditha.

Unlike the case of Haditha where Iraqi public opinion was furious about the massacre months before it reached to the U.S. mainstream media, the Iraqi press had not even heard of Abir until the U.S. army accidentally found out information about her while investigating another incident. This raises questions about the number of other similar cases that were never investigated and were blamed on non-occupation parties instead.

According to Iraq Body Count, a credible project documenting Iraq's civilian casualties, the occupation armies are directly responsible for killing more than one fourth of civilians in Iraq since the beginning of the war. This makes the assumption that Abir's case is just one of many even more plausible.

The "Hadji Girl" song is yet another indicator that what happened to Abir is most like not an anomolous case. "Hadji Girl" is a videotaped song about killing Iraqis written and performed by U.S. Marine Corporal Joshua Belile while he was at the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. The song became controversial a few weeks ago when the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) discovered it on the internet and objected to its lyrics. The lyrics, accompanied by loud laughter and applause, include lines as such as: "So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me. As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally. Then I hid behind the TV, and I locked and loaded my M-16, and I blew those little fuckers to eternity. And I saidÂ… Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad, Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah, they should have known they were fucking with a Marine". A two-week investigation held by the U.S. army ended with no punishment for Corporal Belile. Furthermore, according to the spokesperson for the Mike Church Show, the host is planning to record and release "Hadji Girl" and give royalties to Belile. The right-wing presenter will sing and release the song on air this week.

But even if Abir is the only Iraqi girl raped, murdered and burned, this is not just another abuse scandal. Issues relating to honor are even more sensitive for the Iraqi public and government than the ongoing daily civilian murders. The first Iraqi governmental reaction came when an Iraqi female member of parliament asked for an urgent session for which Mr. Al-Maliki was called back home to attend. The Iraqi parliament described the rape as a crime against "the honor of all Iraqis". As a result, Al-Maliki asked to review laws of foreign troops' immunity from prosecution in Iraq, which seems to be an Iraqi public demand. Iraqi tribal leaders had a number of meetings across the country last week on the anniversary of "Thawrat Al-Eshrin", the 1920 revolution against the British occupation. The largest meeting was that of the mostly Shia Middle Euphrates Tribes. During this meeting, they threatened to initiate a full scale revolution against the occupation, similar to what had happened in 1920, unless the U.S. army hands all soldiers accused of raping the "Al-Mahmudiyah Virgin" to them.

Iraq is reaching one of the last crossroads before the collapsing itn complete chaos. The Iraqi Prime Minister has proposed his comprehensive 28 point package for Iraqi reconciliation and end to violence. The plan was warmly received by different Iraqi political, religious, and even insurgent leaders after it was published in The Times and in one local Iraqi newspaper called Az-Zaman. But the U.S. embassy turned that 28 point package into a weak 24 point plan that was rejected by everyone. The four dropped demands were: putting a timetable for pulling out the occupation troops, amnesty for anyone who has not killed civilians, compensation for civilian victims, and an immediate halt of all raids on homes and cities without Iraqi court orders.

The Bush administration does not seem to understand the size of frustration and anger in Iraq, and does not seem to care that giving Iraqis their four demands provides an historic opportunity for ending the cycle of violence in Iraq. The Brookings institute recently published a poll conducted by Global Public Opinion earlier this year that showed 87 percent of Iraqis supporting their government's demand for a timetable for pulling out the occupation troops from Iraq. The Iraqi President, Vice-President, and National security advisor have asked publicly for a time table for withdrawing the occupation troops, and so have most of Iraq's elected and religious leaders. At the same time, a Washington Post / ABC poll in May showed that only 32 percent of U.S. tax payers approve of the way President George Bush is handling Iraq.

Putting a timetable for withdrawing the U.S. troops, as have most of the other countries in the U.S.-led coalition, will be the first step in the right direction to follow the demands of both the Iraqi and U.S. people to stop the war and deal with its consequences.

What is happening in Iraq is a rape of a nation, not just a rape of a 14 year old girl, and it has to be stopped as soon as possible.

R.