About Shatha Almutawa

Her report on women's rights in the United Arab Emirates was the first ever to be published on this issue. It appeared in the book Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice in 2004. She also produced the radio show Conversations with Arab Activists on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago in 2006 and 2007. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, where she studies Muslim and Jewish intellectual history and philosophy. She has an MA from the University of Chicago and a BA from Mount Holyoke College. She is a native speaker of Arabic and a student of Hebrew, German, French as well as Greek and Latin.
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Iraq Is Not Shining Example For Middle East

© Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

It’s rare to hear Iraq described as “heaven,” but that is how a Christian Iraqi described his hometown in northern Kurdistan after returning to the US from a trip to visit his family there. Electricity, food and clean water are in abundance, and Christians live in peace with their Kurdish neighbors.

In his speech last week, President Obama stressed the United States’ support for universal rights, including the freedom of religion “whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.”

Later in his speech, he presented Iraq as an example of how other countries in the Middle East should proceed:

“In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.”


Iraqi Government Sends Mixed Signals as Protests Continue

On Friday Iraqis will take to the streets again in mourning over the 29 peaceful demonstrators who were killed last week in Baghdad’s Day of Rage. Among the protesters killed was a 14-year-old boy. As in previous protests, demonstrators will also demand political reform, an end to corruption, and jobs as well as clean water, food and electricity.

In an effort to prevent demonstrators from reaching Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25, bridges and roads leading to Baghdad were closed off, a curfew was set in place and Al-Maliki said on television that Al-Qaeda operatives might be shooting people at the protests. Thousands of soldiers and riot police were deployed in the streets of Baghdad on the days of protests. Later “forces fired water cannons, sound bombs and live bullets to disperse crowds,” according to the Washington Post.

As February 25 approached Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called on the Iraqi government to respect the rights of protesters to assemble peacefully. Protesters who demonstrated before the Day of Rage had been attacked, beaten and stabbed by gangs. Besides the beatings, detentions and killings of protesters, Al-Maliki’s government detained around 300 peaceful demonstrators.


We Stand For Justice In Libya

Colonel al-Gaddafi has publicly made clear his readiness to kill those who oppose him in order to stay in power.

My Twitter feed was a string of indictments on Monday. Libyans were telling the world that they are being massacred.

On my screen were the names of Libyans’ killed friends, new ones appearing every few hours. Messages in Arabic and in English all said the same thing: It seems that the world is not watching, that Arabs are looking the other way, and that the Libyan people have been forsaken by human rights organizations, the United Nations and all the countries and peoples of the world, western and Arab.

On February 17 Najla Abdurrahman wrote an article for the Foreign Policy website entitled, “What If Libya Staged a Revolution and Nobody Came?” Its subtitle: “Libyans are giving up their lives to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi. But is anyone paying attention?”

Najla Abdurrahman describes the failure of the international news agencies, including the Associated Press and Aljazeera, in covering the Libyan revolution accurately. In the following days images of the dead in Libya have been shown on different Arabic television stations, but not all of them, and few, it seems, are watching.

Libyan activist Fathi al-Warfali, based in Switzerland, asked Reuters “where is Amnesty International?”

As Amnesty has been scrambling to prepare a public statement and an action, it was and still is unclear that world leaders would heed Amnesty’s call to act immediately to stop the bloodshed, or that news organizations that have not been covering the Libyan government’s violence would change course now. In a press release today Amnesty described the UN Security Council’s response as falling “shamefully below what was needed to stop the spiralling violence , and called for concrete action, including an immediate arms embargo and assets freeze.”

Our Chicago protests are a response to this. It is to tell the Libyans who feel alone that they are not alone. That we stand in solidarity with them, calling for the end of bloodshed, using the means available to us. We stand for justice in Libya as we stood for justice in Egypt. We acknowledge that as peaceful protest is a human right here, it should be there.


Join Demonstrators in Chicago – Call for an end to Violence!

Death tolls continue to rise in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and other Arab countries as protesters demand their rights. Join demonstrators in Chicago and call on all governments to stop the violence every day until the violence ends:

6:30 – 7:30 pm at Daley Plaza
Dearborn and Washington, Chicago

Updates are on Facebook.

As Iraqi Demonstrations Continue, Protestors are Killed and A Governor Flees

On Thursday nine Iraqis were killed and 47 injured at a protest against corruption and unemployment in Sulaimaniyah, a Kurdish city.

Earlier this week Latif Hamad al-Turfa, the governor of Kut, a city south of Baghdad, fled his office to police headquarters as 3,000 protesters stormed his building. Police then opened fire on the demonstrators, killing one and injuring 50.

Protesters across Iraq have taken to the streets demanding electricity, clean water, food and an end to government corruption. Widows and orphans demonstrated in Kirkuk, calling for government assistance.

According to Reuters, “The government has delayed the purchase of F-16 fighter jets to put $900 million of allocated funds into rations and bought 200,000 tonnes of white sugar this month to support the plan.”

In the meantime Iraqi youth are continuing to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to call for more protests. A demonstration is planned in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25.

Iraqi prisoners on hunger strike demand better conditions

Dozens of prisoners at Al-Hilla Prison in Iraq went on hunger strike on Sunday demanding better prison conditions including a solution to overcrowding, according to Al-Sharqiyah Television. Conditions of other prisons across Iraq and Kurdistan are not much better, with shortages of clean water and inadequate sanitation facilities, as well as poor ventilation, all of which continue to cause serious health risks.

Al-Hilla prison’s capacity is 750 but it currently holds over 1500 prisoners. This is a recurring problem in Iraq. In 2008 one prison was so overcrowded that detainees had to sleep in shifts. In 2010 about 100 detainees were crammed into two windowless vans designed to carry 20 people each, for a trip that took about one hour. As a result 22 detainees collapsed and seven died of asphyxiation.

In addition to poor prison conditions many prisoners report that they have no access to doctors or to needed medications. One example is Ibrahim ‘Abdel-Sattar who died in al-Kadhimiya prison on 29 October 2010. He was not treated for stomach cancer and was only taken to the hospital the day before he died.

Take action to improve prison conditions in Iraq by writing to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Send letters to the Iraqi Embassy at 3421 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.

Thousands of Iraqis Demonstrate on Thursday

In Baghdad and outside it, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets yesterday in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution, and to demand that the government supply basic needs to Iraqi citizens living in poverty as unemployment reached 45%.

About 1,000 Iraqis demonstrated yesterday at Al-Hamza, a town south of Baghdad, protesting food, water and power shortages. In Kut, also south of Baghdad, protesters called for the resignation of the provincial governor Latif Hamed. And after 3,000 protested at Al-Diwaniyya, authorities called a curfew in effect starting at 2 pm Thursday.

Religious leaders across Iraq called for social justice, reminding the Iraqi government that Iraq is not immune to the events that have swept other Arab countries.

In the meantime the Iraqi House of Representatives announced its support of the Egyptian people and its demands for democracy yesterday, according to a Radio Sawa reporter in Baghdad.

Amnesty Calls on Iraqi Government to Protect Christians

As Christmas draws closer, Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi government to protect the country’s Christians who have been threatened, bombed, and displaced since the US invasion in 2003.

In February this year Christian families were killed in their homes in Mosul by unidentified armed groups. Later this year, on October 31, gunmen held worshippers hostage at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. After the Iraqi army stormed in, the gunmen detonated their explosive belts, killing more than 40 worshippers, including a priest.

Other places of worship have been bombed as part of the rampant sectarian violence since 2003, such as the attack on the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in 2006 and the targeting of various shi’ite shrines across Iraq. Not a month goes by in Iraq without suicide bombings taking the lives of tens of Iraqis of all religions, and injuring hundreds more. In August 60 army recruits of different religions were killed in a suicide bombing at the Baghdad Ministry of Defense Building. In February of this year 40 shi’ite pilgrims were killed, and in July another 28 pilgrims were killed in a suicide attack. More than 400 people were killed in bombings at Al-Qahtaniyya and other Yazidi villages in 2007.


37 Iraqis at risk of imminent execution

On December 16 Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said in an interview that Iraq will execute 37 people who have exhausted all legal remedies and their death sentences have been approved by the Presidential Council. He also said that Iraq has executed 257 people, including six women, since 2005. Last Monday Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said that 835 people are presently on death row in Iraq.

Amnesty International and the United Nations have repeatedly called on Iraq to abolish the death penalty, to give fair trials to prisoners, and to investigate allegations of torture. UN envoy Ad Melkert said on International Human Rights day, “We would like to reiterate our universal call to refrain from carrying out the death penalty and would encourage Iraq to consider banning this instrument as a fundamental feature of applying justice in a new Iraq.” Amnesty International considers the death penalty to be a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Please write to the Iraqi government asking that the authorities not proceed with the executions of the 37 people currently reported to be at imminent risk, to commute all death sentences and to declare an immediate moratorium on executions.

Send letters immediately to the Iraqi embassy, 3421 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007, and address letters to His Excellency Nuri Kamil al-Maliki Prime Minister, Convention Centre (Qasr al-Ma’aridh), Baghdad, Iraq. Copies should be sent to The Minister of Justice, Judge Dara Noureddin and Minister of Human Rights, Wajdan Mikhail Salam.

Or you can take action online right now to stop the execution of Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah.

Iraqi Government Responds to Amnesty Report on Detentions

In response to our new report detailing the plight of about 30,000 Iraqis imprisoned without trial, Aljazeera spoke to Talib Alhamdani, of the Iraqi Council of Ministers; Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, and David Pollock, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  Watch Aljazeera’s Inside Iraq as the discussion unfolds:

Inside Iraq includes a clip from a press conference in which Dara Nourredine, Iraqi justice minister, said, “Gone are the days when prisoners are treated inhumanely.” This was in July of this year, after the transfer of Iraqi prisoners from Camp Cropper to the Iraqi authorities. “We no longer have any detainees in Iraq without proper warrant,” said Wijdan Salim, Iraq’s human rights minister. However Talib Alhamadani admitted during the interview with Aljazeera that prisoner abuse does take place.

Alhamdani told Aljazeera, “We need to change the culture of oppression.” He also said that the Iraqi government will study the report, investigate the allegations with the Justice Department and the Security Council, and hold the necessary trainings.

Make sure the Iraqi government follows through — urge them to immediately resolve the case of Walid Yunis Ahmad, who has been held without trial for over 10 years.