Saturday, October 02, 2004

Kirkuk, Najaf, Nablus, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams

This is a very long posting, as much has come my way

today. If any of you are interested in a Chatham
House report on Iraq's future paradigms, please email

Also, please contact 60 minutes about a plan to
delay a broadcast concerning those forged Nigerian
docs about uranium until after the election. See for details.

1) New Yorker article on Kirkuk, current
Kurdification, & previous Arabization:

2) Najaf appeal [or American-style "urban renewal"
hits Iraq]:

Dear All,

Did you realise they are demolishing the old city of
Najaf, just like that?! This is an act of unbelievable
vandalism and ignorance, and it is
in the style of Saddam.

We all know the arguments about increasing visitor
numbers etc, but this is not the time nor the way.
There has been no investigation of alternatives nor
are there any mechanisms for consultation of the
population at large, let alone any structures of
democratic decision-making. There appears to be money
from Kuwait for an extensive development, and one
can legitimately ask why the Kuwaitis are being so
generous with this project at this very time, when
they continue to demand a pound of Iraqi flesh in UN
compensation and in Saddam's debts.

The destruction of Najaf which is now under way is
drastic and irreversible. Read the statement by
Hussain Al-Shami, the shi'i waqf head. Clearly, the
whole thing was a mere idea two weeks ago, and already
demolition has begun.

People should at least discuss the rights and wrongs
of such decisions. There is no such discussion. Is
this the so-called democracy all these people have
died and are dying for? If this is carried out without
an open and meaningful public consultation that takes
place in a rational atmosphere and in total
transparency, it will be nothing short of a
criminal assault on Iraq's heritage and on its
history. All over the civilised world, historic cities
are protected, preserved and developed in
ways that retain the character and identity of the
city and the integrity of its physical and social

We should ask the ministers of this Interim
Government, many of whom have travelled or lived
outside Iraq for decades. Have they not seen how
the rest of the world tries to protect its heritage,
and succeeds? Have they not seen services provided in
old cities and extended to old houses, and have they
not seen historic cities regenerated with modern
amenities? Other countries cherish their historic
cities for their great cultural roles and also for the
high economic value of their tourism. Such
cities are a repository of the nation's memory and are
symbols of the shared experiences of the people of the
land. Even after wars, people try to rebuild them with
painstaking attention to historic detail. With all the
manifestations of civil conflict we witness in Iraq
today, we Iraqis should be the first to realise the
importance of national symbols
that bring us together. The old city of Najaf is not
the cause of the conflict that took place there. On
the contrary, destroying it will encourage more
extemism among the young who will lose cultural
reference points.

Major "redevelopment" must not be allowed to go ahead
Saddam-style. The action appears to be motivated by
security concerns and by highly questionable financial
considerations. Economically, it is not in the
interest of the people of Najaf to destroy the old
city. All of the old city can be attractive to
visitors, not just the holy shrine, and there is
plenty of space for commercial and industrial
development elsewhere in Najaf. Rushed "development"
of the kind being undertaken is frequently
accompanied by greed and financial corruption. It will
benefit big contractors and absentee landowners, and
the losers are usually the people who live in the city
and those who value it, that is all of us Iraqis.

Where are those ministers who have allegedly been
selected for their professionalism? It is not
acceptable to allow this to go ahead under the
pretext that there is a need to expand the shrine. The
timing suggests that this is a dishonest pretext. In
any case, most visitors will want to be close to the
tomb itself, so the crowd will always be at the
centre. Expanding the outer perimeter would not
necessarily solve any problem. Besides, the expansion
means that the space will only be used in a
few major religious occasions each year, instead of
being used all the year round if the old city is
developed. What is needed are measures that might
include regualtion of visits, and that are based upon
careful study, long-term planning and gradual
implementation. There has to be a clear rationale for
any action, and development must be to the highest
professional standards with plans that must be
publicised beforehand and that must be open to the
scrutiny of other professionals, with the involvement
of UNESCO, ISESCO, ALESCO and all those who are
concerned with world heritage and with Islamic

We Iraqis are engaged in a terrible internecine
conflict. Outsiders have divided us and are
increasingly waging their campaigns through Iraqis. In
these circumstances, we can at least unite to defend
our heritage? We cannot pretend that the destruction
of Najaf is being done by the
local Najaf administration alone, without outside

Sayyid Sistani and the other ulema must speak up
against this vandalism. We all condemned Saddam for
destroying the centre of Karbala. How can we keep
quite about the same being one to Najaf? The people
who are destroying the old city of Najaf are
destroying the livelihoods of thousands of families in
the area, and future generations will never forgive
this barbarism.

As you see from the attached files, there is no time
to lose. It is the responsibility of those of us
outside Iraq to expose what is happening and to demand
an immediate halt to the demolition. What is needed is
help to the people of Najaf who have suffered so much,
not wholesale destruction.

Kamil Mahdi
University of Exeter

[Arabic] Links concerning this issue:

3) NOLAPS [NOLA Palestine Solidarity] Posting:

Greetings from NOLA Palestine Solidarity. Thank you
to everyone who came out yesterday to hear from the
delegates of the New Orleans Human Rights Delegation.

Below is a link to a story about the event from
today's Times-Picayune:

Also, here is another first-hand report from Rebecca,
a New Orleans resident currently living in Palestine.


"Lucky Jeans"
Balata Refugee Camp

After finishing my talk via the telephone for the New
Orleans event last night, I couldn't sleep. I stayed
awake until 4:00 am drawing. Sadness, fear, sympathy,
and rage fed my art like I've never experienced. I
drew a soldier with the two striped, beige insignia on
his left shoulder aiming his M16 from a Palestinian's
window. I drew the man I saw with nothing left to the
back of his head being carried off by a wailing

In spite of absorbing the courage I feel emanating
from every Palestinian, I still have fear that these
images will keep repeating themselves not just in my
head, but in reality. Today, this fear came true.

After no sleep I received a very early phone call that
Balata was occupied and that every entrance to the
camp was blocked off. Only one ambulance was
allowed entry while the rest had to standby near the
roadblocks. The situation was the same at other camps
in Nablus. I was hesitant to get out of bed, but I
did. And for the first time I decided to wear the
t-shirt honoring Hussam Khader--the imprisoned
Palestinian activist. My energy was revived with his
portrait on my chest, and I headed towards Balata
where I was stunned by the gigantic boulders
blocking the entrances. Marching over them, cursing
the soldiers with every profane word I could summon I
ended up in our new apartment waiting for the
other internationals--mostly Buddhists from
England--to arrive. None of them had ever done direct
action before coming to Palestine and really didn't do
it here. They had also planned to leave that morning,
but they agreed to partake in the "occupied house
routine." Strangely enough, the house we went to was
right next door to the very first house I had ever
"deoccupied" and entered--the one with app. 25 people
in one small room.

I explained the necessary steps to try and gain
contact with the family or get the soldiers to leave
with anticipation that a Jeep would pull up and
try to FORCE US to leave. After about 20 minutes of
trying to negotiate with invisible soldiers, shouting
and finally banging on the doors of the shop below,
a Jeep did arrive and parked about 100 feet from where
we stood. We saw soldiers feet step out of the back
and then of course, he took aim with what appeared to
be tear gas. We didn't move and continued to shout
that we were unarmed internationals and medical
volunteers and only wanted to assure the
family's health inside. He retreated to the back of
the Jeep but continued to do this about six times
until he shot tear gas right over our heads.
Fortunately, we were down wind and it had no effect.

Three of us--myself, Lisa, and Aaron--stood still in
front of the house as the Jeep pulled up thinking we
would have the opportunity to negotiate face to face.
But what we didn't expect were three soldiers jumping
out and grabbing each of us claiming we were under
arrest. They nearly ripped Aaron's shirt completely
off of him; luckily it wasn't stitched very well
because it gave us the time needed to dearrest him
with bear hugs. We all dropped to the ground, Lisa
underneath and Aaron sandwiched in the middle. The
soldiers continued to yell in our faces and grab
us but we kept saying back that they were hurting us
and we posed no threat to them.

They left us lying on the ground and shouted for us to
leave, but we refused until they got back in their
Jeeps. That statement apparently made one soldier very
angry because he came back to us and grabbed me by the
seat of my pants, but again, luckily, the stitching on
my belt loop wasn't strong enough
to withstand his pull. It broke, and then he got
inches away from my face screaming to go away.(might I
add here that these are my "Lucky Brand" jeans that I
bought on St. Patrick's day of this year). As he moved
back to the Jeep, I noticed the two-striped, beige
insignia on the passenger soldier's shoulder and was
reminded of my drawing the night before.

The saddest thing for me at that point was that I
recognized all of the soldiers, and they recognized
me. Yet, they continued to be abusive and ferocious
with their orders. We slowly got up and began to walk
away but they threw a sound bomb into the metal shop
that was open behind us. It caused a small fire in
the front, so we had to put it out. There was
nothing more that we could do because at the time
there was no media around and our detention or arrest
would do nothing productive. We did, however, manage
to capture it on film -- thanks to our Swedish friend
who slowly backed away with my camera even though he
was still being targeted. In that respect, a
Palestinian cameraman was also beaten by the
soldiers in the morning.

Taken aback the whole episode, we went back to the
flat to regroup. There we decided that the soldiers
were out to get us and without the appropriate
numbers, our efforts would be futile. We settled on
monitoring the situation and continuing with our media

Later in the day, as we were preparing to fulfill such
goals, Hana and a Palestinian went to the internet in
the camp. It was closed, but they
said hello to some friends having coffee. Just minutes
later, after Hana's return, two of those men having
coffee were shot in the head and heart and killed.
Their names were Amr Nafize, 24 and Mohammed Aqel, 20.
Those men won't be going home to there families
tonight. They may have only been getting coffee and
chatting about their day, but they did it
in the wrong place at the wrong least
according to the soldiers. I believe the funeral just
passed as I'm writing this.

We are full of despair. Because it is now just me and
one other international here in Nablus, we are
struggling to figure out what to do in this
situation. I can't believe that out of 6 billion plus
people in the world, there are only two of us
participating in this movement from within. There is
only so much we can do; the most difficult statement
to come to terms with. Perhaps I'm due for a good long
cry, perhaps I need to paint murals on the walls
telling the soldiers to leave, PERHAPS I NEED TO BUY
MY OWN NEWS STATION. I don't know. All I can do is
continue to make phone calls, to write emails, and to
draw. I believe with all of my conscious that my
presence here is important to show the Palestinians
that people do love and care about them and to bring
back their stories, but sometimes my thoughts about
the situation are a revolving door and the two
options of escape are both bleak--much like our
upcoming elections which I have to figure out how to
participate in from here.

To continue on the status of Nablus, there is rumor of
a 200 hour invasion. For the sake of the people in
Nablus and its neighbors, I hope and pray with all of
my heart that this isn't true. The Palestinians cannot
afford to give another person to God. This night is
still young for Nablus; being only 7:30 pm here, there
is still anxiety and tension building throughout the
streets fearing what the night and tomorrow may bring.
Insha'alah I will have nothing but positive news to
share with you tomorrow, like the soldiers are gone,
the occupation is over, everyone can sleep safely

Again, thank you for letting me participate in the
event yesterday and for seeing my helping me with my
travels through Palestine. I hope you don't mind my
"diary" approach to these reports...I just can't deal
with facts only in these situations.

Take care...

4) 'To be worthy of the God we worship'

In a landmark speech at Al-Azhar Mosque last week, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, boldly
addressed some of the most delicate issues in
Christian and Muslim theology. Below is the text of
his speech

5) Insurgents Are Mostly Iraqis, U.S. Military Says.

Bush, Kerry and Allawi have cited foreign fighters as
a major security problem.

By Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writer,1,6562024.story?coll=la-headlines-world

6) Here's a website begging Europe not to allow Turkey
into the EU, in the midst of several rather
anti-Islamic sentiments:

7) Kerry campaign volunteering:

8) Presbyterians and Jews to Meet on Mideast

Published: September 28, 2004

Leaders of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the
country's largest Jewish groups are meeting in New
York today to discuss a rift touched off by
resolutions that the church adopted this summer
regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most
notably one that calls for selective divestment in
companies doing business in Israel and the occupied

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