Iraqi women demand "US out"
Susan Webb As Iraq moved to take back political sovereignty, Iraqi trade unionists and women's organisations condemned bloody terrorist attacks that killed some 300 people and wounded many others at religious observances in Baghdad and Karbala. "These are acts of violence against innocent people, terrorist acts of mass murder", said Abdullah Muhsin, Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions international representative. The attacks are aimed at destabilising the situation in Iraq, Muhsin told the People's Weekly World, speaking by phone from London. They can be used by the US occupation to suggest that Iraqis are not capable of self-government, providing "a pretext to stay longer", he said. In fact, Muhsin said, the US occupation has failed to provide security. "Let us do this by ourselves", he said. "We will prove that we are capable." The bloodshed is "the responsibility of the occupiers", Clair Meshal, a leader of the Iraqi Women's League, Iraq's oldest women's organisation, told the World in a phone interview. Meshal, a longtime political refugee living in London, charged that the US has freed top-ranking "Ba'ath fascists" including Saddam Hussein's propaganda chief, without trials, allowing them access to media and putting many in important administrative positions. The deadly attacks came one day after the Iraqi Governing Council announced agreement on an interim law to govern a transitional Iraqi administration after the US occupation hands over power June 30. The Transitional Administrative Law guarantees a broad range of civil rights and liberties, including freedom of expression and opinion and the rights of assembly and due process. Although it terms Islam the official religion, it guarantees freedom of religion and says Islam is "a source" of the country's laws rather than the sole source. It also guarantees social and economic rights that many Americans would like to have, including health care, education, and the right to strike. The interim constitution is a compromise among the widely varying political trends represented on the Iraqi Governing Council. It sets forth a federal structure for Iraq, giving significant authority to individual regions, but leaves many details to be ironed out later. It makes Kurdish and Arabic official languages. Between now and June 30, in a process yet to be worked out, an interim Iraqi administration will be formed. The transitional law says elections for a new government must take place by January 31, 2005. That elected government will oversee the drafting of a permanent Iraqi constitution. The transitional law sets a goal of having women comprise at least 25 percent of the new legislature. Muhsin welcomed the new law as a positive step, giving "a chance of rebuilding a new sovereign Iraq". Building trade unions and other civil society organisations are crucial to building democracy, he said. Two key challenges face Iraq's union movement in the coming period, said Muhsin. One is waging "an enormous struggle in the face of uncontrollable market forces". The other is educating Iraqi workers about the need to build a powerful trade union movement. "After 34 years of oppression most Iraqi workers don't know what a union is", he said. Today, they suffer mass unemployment or wages that do not even cover rent. In order to move forward, Iraq needs new technology, re-skilling of workers, new kinds of jobs, Muhsin said. "For this we welcome foreign investment." But, he emphasised, "foreign investment does not mean privatisation". Iraq's public sector, which includes the country's oil riches as well as water, electricity, health and education through university level, should be off-limits to privatisers, he said. Iraqi women are continuing to organise for their rights and for greater representation in the new Iraqi government. The Iraqi Women's League, which worked underground during the Saddam Hussein regime, has branches in every town and village. People's Weekly World, Communist Party USA, (abridged) http://www.pww.org