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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30,000 Iraqis Imprisoned Without Trial

Amnesty International released a new report on Iraq today: New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq. After the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq, the majority of Iraqi prisoners captured by the US army have been transferred to Iraqi custody, joining those who were in jails before the US invasion and others who were captured by the Iraqi security forces after 2003.

Many prisoners have not gone on trial and as a result have no charges against them. Others have release orders that have not been enforced. Thousands have been tortured, held incommunicado and have no access to their lawyers. Their families were not informed of their detentions or allowed to visit.

In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which is run by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and where the security situation has generally been better than in the rest of Iraq, similar abuses have been reported.

For example, Walid Yunis Ahmad has been detained without trial for ten years.  He was arrested by men in civilian clothes, believed to be Asayish officials, on an Erbil street on 6 February 2000. He disappeared. His relatives began looking for him and sought information from the authorities but they received none. Three years later his family learned that he had been detained and discovered his whereabouts, when they were notified that he was being held at the Erbil headquarters of the Asayish, where they were then able to visit him.

Walid Yunis Ahmad had worked for a local radio and TV station linked to the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. He was held in solitary confinement and probably tortured. When his family visited him on 23 November 2008 they found him in poor health following a 45-day hunger strike. At the end of March 2010 he was questioned twice and told that he was accused of trying to revive Ansar al-Islam from prison and that he is considered a danger to the security of the Kurdistan region. On 1 April 2010, he was questioned about his past activities with a legal Islamist political party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union. The Director of the Asayish in Erbil told Amnesty International delegates that Walid Yunis Ahmad was “too dangerous to be freed” but gave no details.

Please urge the Kurdistan government to give Walid Yunis Ahmad and other prisoners a fair trial, to investigate allegations of torture and to release those who have release orders. You can also order pre-addressed postcard actions that you can mail on behalf of Walid Yunis Ahmad by sending your mailing address to [email protected].

Visit Amnesty International’s page on human rights in Iraq for further information and to take action on other human rights issues in Iraq.

Four days to more deportations from Europe to Iraq

On Wednesday 60 Iraqis were forcibly returned to Baghdad from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Next Wednesday more asylum seekers will be flown back to a city where, according to the UNHCR, their lives will be in danger. Please take action now to stop these deportations!

Displaced Iraqis, whether inside or outside Iraq, are continuing to face great difficulties. The following short documentaries, created by Refugees International, show the dire circumstances under which Iraqi refugees live.

Khaled’s Story

Dispossessed: Iraq’s Squatter Settlements

Iraqi Refugees: The View from Syria

European governments forcibly return asylum seekers to Iraq

Today 60 Iraqis were forcibly removed from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. They had applied for asylum and were denied. Ten Iraqis who were in the UK, 28 in Sweden and the rest of the Iraqis were flown today to Baghdad, and more are scheduled to be returned to Iraq next Wednesday.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that the Iraqis who are forcibly returned to Iraq are at grave risk, but Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, said “We are determined to remove those with no right to be in the UK,” according to BBC News.

About 2.7 million Iraqis are internally displaced, 1.5 are refugees in neighboring countries, and more are scattered in Europe and other parts of the world where they face being forcibly returned to Iraq.

The human rights situation in Iraq remains precarious, with suicide bombings, kidnappings, violence by militias and other armed forces taking place in most parts of Iraq every month.

Please join Amnesty International in calling on the British, Swedish, Norwegian and Netherlands governments to stop the forcible return of Iraqis.

Demand Clean Air and Water for Iraq

Iraq’s historic and cultural treasures have been looted, its infrastructure destroyed, and Iraqis continue to face violence, persecution and harassment. Yet one area of damage that has been discussed very little since 2003 is the state of the environment in Iraq and its associated health risks. The location of the biblical Garden of Eden has been ravaged by large-scale pollution, some of which is caused by war, the rest by the lack of government regulations regarding where and how industrial waste is disposed of.

After eucalyptus and palm trees were chopped down for war after war, by Saddam’s government and then the American army, dust storms are now stronger than ever, and more frequent. Without electricity and in 100 F degree weather, Iraqis are unable to take shelter from sand storms even in their homes, where they need to keep windows open because of the heat, inviting the dust and respiratory hazards it causes. Hundreds of people flood emergency rooms which are no longer capable of helping them.

The pollution of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has caused a variety of health problems to people, from skin and kidney diseases to cholera. Sewage and chemical waste dumped in the rivers have also caused diseases among cattle and killed off crops and fish.

Below is a call to activists worldwide to work together to restore Iraq’s destroyed environment. Written by Burhan Almufti, an Iraqi environmental specialist, activist and writer, it was first published on July 3, 2009.  It has drawn the attention of Middle Eastern media and environmental activists across the globe. It is translated from the Arabic by Michele Henjum:

To All Those Concerned for the Future of the Earth’s Environment

For some time now the sky has rained fine red dust on the people of Iraq. The particles are so small they enter through the pores on the leaves of the trees and plants remaining in the dry Iraqi fields and kill what was left of the trees in the green belt, which is made up of the coniferous Cedar tree and the Eucalyptus with its delicate flowers. These areas have been destroyed or are being eliminated due to drought and the trees’ inability to photosynthesize after having been covered by a viscous layer of red dust.


Iraq: Civilians Under Fire

Seven years after the US invasion of Iraq, violence is still taking the lives of countless Iraqis. Amnesty International’s new report Iraq, Civilians Under Fire exposes the ongoing violence inflicted on minority groups including women, gay men, religious minorities, and human rights activists, journalists and refugees.

Kidnapping, torture and murder are used by militias, terrorist organizations and occasionally the government itself, often with impunity.

An Iraqi man sits in the ruins of a Kurdish village after a predawn suicide truck bombing in Wardek

An Iraqi man sits in the ruins of a Kurdish village after a predawn suicide truck bombing in Wardek

Women who are abused are not safe even in the few shelters that exist. Honor killings are rampant and those who perform them are not punished. Forced marriages, forced veiling and rape are common across the country.

Gay men have been living in fear since political and religious leaders started issuing fatwas against them. In Sadr City and Baghdad gay men and men perceived to be gay were kidnapped, tortured and killed in large numbers.

Christian, Yazidi, Sabean-Mandean and other religious communities have been harrassed and brutalized since 2003, their places of worship bombed, their religious leaders systematically killed. Individuals are stopped on the streets by groups of armed men and asked for their identification cards, which indicate their religion. If they belong to the “wrong” religious group, they are shot.

Human rights activists in Iraq who try to protect abused women, gay men or religious minorities are threatened and killed by the same militias, many of which are affiliated with members of the Iraqi parliament. Journalists who speak out against the corruption in the government which has allowed the continued arming of these militias have also been threatened and killed.

With around 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis, 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries that threaten to send them back, 12,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq and 4,300 Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, the situation in Iraq is dire.

In the coming weeks Amnesty International will launch actions addressing each of these issues. As a new Iraqi government takes shape in the next months, it’s vital that we let them know that the world is watching and expecting them to take responsibility for the safety and security of all of Iraq’s civilians, regardless of religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or belief.