Friday, December 26, 2003

The trip is over but I'm still posting things I receive from my friends in Iraq:

Human Rights Testimonies from Iraq - Christian Peacemaker Teams
#1 - Testimony of an Iraqi Minor Detained and Mistreated by US Forces
The following statement was recorded by CPT members Le Anne Clausen and David Milne in a neighborhood heavily affected by US house raids in Baghdad. The family has asked that the 16 year old youth who gave the testimony not be identified because his relatives are still detained.


"At 2:30am, US troops came to our house, and ordered our entire family outside. They ransacked the house searching for something, but they didn't tell us what they wanted. They broke the locks to our cabinet [a large storage chest and display case along one wall of the front room] and threw the contents onto the floor, even though our father gave them the cabinet key so they wouldn't have to do this. They took our money and a gold wedding necklace belonging to my mother. My father, cousin, older brother, and I were tied and taken away. We were not told why we were being taken."

"We were taken to the soldiers' military base at a palace within this district and kept in a small dark room. We were tied at our wrists with plastic ties behind our backs the entire night. In the morning, we were put out into the sunlight, as a type of punishment. The soldiers were verbally abusive towards us. We asked for shade, but the soldiers refused. We were squatting in the sun all day. [Temperatures at the time were 110-120F]. When I was taken, I was only wearing my underwear because I was sleeping. I was embarrassed. These were my only clothes during the time I was in custody."

"The first day, our hands were still tied behind our back with the plastic ties. Because of this, we were unable to drink any water. We explained this to the soldiers, and they refused to re-tie us so we could drink. We asked if just one of us could be re-tied with his hands in front of him so that he could help the rest of us to drink. The soldiers refused. The soldiers re-tied us with the plastic ties in front of us on the next day."

"The water they gave us for drinking was also kept out in the sun with us. This way it was too hot to drink. Another day I asked a soldier for water, because I hadn't had anything to drink for the entire day in the sun. He beat me on my back and chest, while another soldier kicked me in the back. Both were verbally abusive towards me during the beating."

"I was forced once to drink a strange kind of juice. I didn't like it, so I said, no, thank you. The soldiers then put the bottle in my mouth and forced me to swallow all of it."

"We were treated like animals. The soldiers would grab us by the head and shove us in the direction they wanted us to move. When we were beaten, I couldn't distinguish when it was from a baton and when it was with fists. We were forced to squat much of the time."

"One night my 18-year-old brother and I were kept in an open-air passageway, but we didn't know how large it was because we were blindfolded. We heard a tank approaching us. It was so close, the ground was shaking beneath us. The sound was deafening. We were screaming to each other and the guards, we were sure we would be run over and executed. Then the tank passed."

[The son asked his mother to leave the room so he can tell the CPTers something privately].

"My brother asked for some water. The guard gagged him and began beating him around his mouth until blood started flowing from his mouth. My brother screamed in pain. We also screamed in protest, and to encourage him to scream so they would stop this abuse. We were then beaten also, for advising him to scream. We were beaten in the neck, back, and behind." [The boy demonstrated how and where he was beaten. He indicated that his buttocks were held apart and he was kicked in the anus]. "It is because of this beating that my father is now suffering from a heart condition."

"I was released wearing only my underwear and forced to walk back to my home in broad daylight. I was humiliated. Also, everyone thought from my dress that I had been caught stealing. I was also badly sunburned from my time in detention without shade."

"The officers told me upon my release, Don't tell anyone about what happened here, or we'll come pick you up again. I was released at 3pm, and told to come back at 4pm to care for the other detainees - if they wanted clothes or food, I was to get these things for them. I protested, saying, 'This is not my duty.' A woman soldier screamed at me, 'Shut up! Shut up!' I left, and didn't return until the next day. At that time, the soldiers refused to let me into the base. I returned home."

"I am in shock now from this treatment, and I can never forget it until I die. When I got out, I behaved as though I was crazy, like I was lost."

The boys mother told the CPT workers, "When my son first came home, he was abnormal. We couldn't control him, he was completely changed. He has nightmares every night, and wakes up shaking and screaming."

A friend of the family, who was present during CPT's interview with the family, is a local human rights activist and attended a human rights conference organized by the Coalition Provisional Authority one month earlier. He said he raised this case with the sponsoring officials. The CPA sponsoring officials warned him not to discuss cases like these when the conference was over. The officials did not give any reason for their order.

The mother said, "The US has a hypocritical policy. They speak all the time about human rights, but they don't believe in it themselves. Since this happened, I am lost now. I don't know what I can do."

The family feels that the detentions were arbitrary. No soldier has returned to their home to tell them why they have been arrested or what they were searching for on the night the soldiers broke into their home. No receipts were issued for the money and jewelry confiscated and it is unlikely they will ever get these back, or receive compensation for the broken furniture. The family was only able to get information about their relatives' locations through lists provided by Christian Peacemaker Teams working with the mosque in their district. The three detained relatives still remain incarcerated at various prison camps throughout Iraq.

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Friday, December 05, 2003

DEC. 5, 2003
SUBJECT: James Baker goes to Iraq for Pres.

Lots of news today about James A. Baker III' s trip to Iraq. Just to clue you in, former Secretary of State Baker was one of those behind the rise of Nixon, Reagan, and the Bush family. He is deep in oil including lots of interest in Caspian Sea oil and ties to Azerbaijan, Western Sahara, etc.

for more:


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Friday, December 5, 2003 12:56 pm Austin Technology Incubator

We left Baghdad at 6 am on Weds. via GMC and arrived in Amman around 6 pm after spending 2-3 hours waiting for gas and at the border. For the past several days Iraq has suffered from a severe gas shortage and we weren't sure that we would be able to find enough to get to Amman, even though it's only 20 dinars (about 2 cents) per liter (about 7 cents per gallon) at the "official" government gas stations. Satar, our driver from before, drove us to Amman.

Once there we rested from the cold and damp (several of us had minor colds).

Thursday, we left the hotel at 6 am for an 11 am flight from Amman to Chicago. Everything went according to schedule and we arrived in Chicago about 5 pm where I caught a 7 pm flight to San Antonio, arriving 10:30.

It's nice to have returned. I've already received an email from Amal Alwan who was making sure that we arrived safely. The story of Thanks-giving in Iraq was published in the Houston Chronicle yesterday (12/4).

Next up: speaking, showing photos and videos to groups, writing additional articles, and involvement in the many activities over here to help bring an awareness of the current conditions in Iraq to Texans.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Contacts: If you have been reading this plog and would like to contact me for more information, its:

Charlie Jackson charliej@texansforpeace.org 210-492-8915 (San Antonio)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2003 2:23 pm Baghdad Internet Cafe

This is our last full day here in Iraq, we leave at 6 am tomorrow for Amman, Jordan. This will be my last blog from Iraq, but I will be writing more articles (with photos too!) on my return.

Having walked through the dark streets back to my hotel last night (around 10 pm) I realized that this place is STILL not as dangerous as many American Cities (ever been to D.C.?). However, things here do have the potential to become very messy with the possibility of an uprising of all Iraqis who are increasingly frustrated with the US and the too slow return to any semblance of normalcy (electricity, phones, police, jobs, etc.). As one nice man put it..."rest assured, every Iraqi has a Kalishnikov (rifle) and knows how to use it."

This morning we went to one of Baghdad University Campuses and met the Chair of the College of English, some teachers and students, and saw the looting that occured after the occupation in April. We also discussed the current situation and ways that Americans could help. They need to rebuild their English language library, electricity to conduct school and run their labs, textbooks, teachers, and a bit more.

Next we went to the Ministry of Human Rights, located in the Ministry of Oil Building. This ministry was protected by coalition forces. Others, like the Ministries of Culture, Education, Communications, and Trade, were all bombed. The Ministry of Human Rights has only been allocated enough money for a staff of 15 and their first tasks are to 1) register all HR violations that occured under the Saddam regime, 2) investigate and record the 260 mass grave sites scattered throughout the country, 3) develop legislation and framework for HR in Iraq. Their greatest need is help understanding human rights processes, training of personnel, and budgets to do their tasks. There are 35 local HR organizations throughout the country that work with this ministry.

The Ministry of Human Rights has not addressed current HR issues, such as detainees. They have been denied permission by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to even visit the prison camps to find out what is going on. Nor do they have the staff to investigate possible abuses, such as the ones that I blogged about yesterday.

This afternoon we will meet with a former UN ambassador, now head of C.A.R.E. in Iraq and others before we leave. Even though our delegation will return, the "permanent" members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) will continue to have an office here, continue to press for human rights (including the distribution of flyers to soldiers), continue to visit with Iraqi families and those "on the street", and perhaps - in ways great and small - help build the peace that must eventually come to this city.

Peace, Charlie

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Monday, December 01, 2003

Monday, December 1, 2003 8:28 pm Baghdad Time

Today we went to the town of Ramadi to meet with an Iraqi human rights attorney and learn about recent events in that city. The attorney, along with all of the men in his neighborhood, were rousted from their homes on Oct. 31, forced on the ground so their hands could be tied behind their backs, hooded, and taken outdoors aways from their families. Before he was hooded he saw at least 8 tanks filling his street (a neighborhood with about 100 homes). Someone opened fire from one of the homes and only a shell of a house was left after the tanks opened fire on it. This happened even after he showed the military his lawyer's card and Human Rights Organization credentials. His young daughter is still afraid of strangers (even us) who come to their home.

Worse still is the story of Al-Jazeer Abouasaaf, a small farming village west of Ramadi. We visited the home where on November 22 a lawyer, his brother, and guest we killed in cold blood. According to witnesses that we talked the men were just pulling up to their home after work and before they could get inside they we arrested and tied up and told to kneel on the ground. The troops (U.S.) split into two groups, one going around back and the other entering the front of this home. All was dark since the electricity was off. The women and children were in the kitchen preparing the Ramadan break-fast by lamplight.

Something went wrong and the soldiers starting firing on each other, thinking that the other group was insurgent. The result were 4 dead soldiers. But, then things got even uglier. The hype-upped military then went to the men outside angry about their dead friends and summarily excuted the 3 kneeling Iraqis - in cold blood. During this time they also bombed the house from the air and shot (and killed?) 5 bystanders who came to see what was going on. The result is that a 13-month old has lost his father, his mother is in the hospital with shrapnel and the brother's bride-to-be has lost her future husband. One person reported a soldier saying (for the festivities that were being prepared), "would you like cake with that?" to the injured mother.

They people said that the military came back the next day and said "we are sorry for the accident".

Despite all of this, the people of the village we very moved that the CPT was there to find out the truth and invited us to stay for lunch after we toured the home.

We haven't yet had a chance to hear the military's side of the story but if what happened is even close to the truth, war crimes need to be considered.

Sorry that the new wasn't more upbeat but sometimes the anger and frustration of the idiocacy and waste of the situation here overwhelms.

Peace, Charlie

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