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‘Maliki is a liar’, Iraqis have been chanting in their demos for years now, showing their displeasure with the Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Now he has gone to the United States asking for weapons and intelligence support, insisting that outside terrorists are jeopardizing the peace, prosperity, and democracy of both Iraq and the United States. But it is Maliki’s own government that is the greatest threat.
Iraq under Maliki’s administration has become one of the most dangerous places on earth, especially for journalists anda professionals. Around 7,000 civilians have been killed in the first ten months of 2013; triple this number have been injured and maimed. Maliki claims that terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda are responsible for these massacres. While it is true that post-occupation Iraq has become a haven for different armed groups, pro-government sectarian militias are wreaking havoc against Iraqis in broad daylight.
Armed men with sectarian insignia patrol Iraqi streets. There are at least five armed militias working in collaboration with the Iraqi security forces, apart from the special units that are directly connected to the prime minister’s office. Even Maliki’s son, Ahmed, has his own armed men and conducts military operations, although he has no police or security portfolio.
According to Navi Pillay, the UN high Commissioner for Human Rights, there are massive human rights violations in Iraq. The Iraqi legal system under Maliki does not comply with the simplest global norms. From January-October 2013, 140 Iraqis have been executed by the Ministry of Justice, in defiance of the calls by many international human rights organizations for an immediate death penalty moratorium.
“The law has become a sword held to the necks of Iraqis,” said Osama Nujaifi, the Iraqi Speaker of the Parliament.
Iraqi government sources confirm that there are some 30,000 Iraqis in prison; 17,000 languish there without trial. Arbitrary arrests are common practice in Iraqi streets. Documented and filmed horror stories of torture and death in Iraqi prisons make the infamous Abu Graib abuses look like child’s play. Many of the detainees disappear, their families unable to ascertain if they are dead or alive.
Maliki claims that he leads a vibrant democracy, but he heads an authoritarian regime and monopolizes six high governmental posts: chief of staff, minister of defense, minister of interior, chief of intelligence, and head of national security. Even his partners in the Shiite alliance have been excluded, let alone his Sunni opponents. He is supported by the theocracts in Iran and he has supported the Syrian regime, one of the most notorious autocracies in the region. In a televised interview, Maliki threatened to liquidate those who demonstrate for justice and better services, and described them as a ‘stinking bubble’. Indeed, his SWAT forces used lethal weapons against peaceful protestors several times. In the town of Hawija, for example, at least 50 unarmed men were slaughtered last April. In other cities, such as Basra, Nassyria, Fallujah, and Mosul, protestors have been beaten, arrested and killed.
Iraq ranks at the bottom of the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption has been institutionalized in all walks of life through nepotism, blackmail, bribes and kleptocracy, a term that has become recurrent in the Iraqi media. Scandalous stories of billions of dollars disappearing in a dizzying array of fake or fishy deals – from building schools to buying weapons – have also become commonplace. Even prisons have turned into a prolific business where security personnel blackmail inmates’ families for thousands of dollars.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the dean of the Faculty of Journalism in Baghdad University said that government positions are reserved for people who are related to sectarian parties and militias, like the reserved seats on airplanes. According to Transparency International, every week 800 million dollars are transferred outside the country. Most alarming is Maliki’s repeated acknowledgement that he knows all about these corrupt deals, and their relation to violence and terrorism, but he chooses to ignore them in order to maintain the political stability!
One of the Maliki’s biggest lies is that the economy is growing by almost 10 percent due to efforts to rebuild the infrastructure, education and health care systems. There is little data available to refute his claims, but the bleak reality of Iraq today tells a different story. Mothers sell their children for a pittance; prostitution, begging, and child labor flourish; unemployment is over 30%; illiteracy is higher than it has been in half a century; and the health and education systems are in shambles. Even Iraq’s social and cultural fabric has been shredded, as you can see from the ghetto walls that now divide Baghdad into different sectarian communities.
The simple fact is that Maliki’s sectarian regime is responsible for this free fall, and Maliki is now cynically using his failure as an excuse to ask for more US aid. Believing his lies and militarily supporting him would simply mean allowing these violations to continue. And for what? Hasn’t the US already done enough damage in Iraq?
Eman Ahmed Khamas is an Iraqi journalist. She was coordinator of Iraq Occupation Watch, a project of CODEPINK, from 2003-2007.