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  May 28, 2010

Iraqi workers and occupation Pt. 4

Amjad Ali: The Iraqi Freedom Congress wants to expel US forces and dismantle US created institutions
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Amjad Ali is the International Representative of the Iraqi Freedom Congress & General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (GFCWUI).


Amjad Ali Interview (Part 4 of 4)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Toronto. Joining us again is Amjad Ali. We're discussing the situation in Iraq. And he's a representative of the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC). Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So let's talk a little bit about the plan or objectives of the Iraqi Freedom Congress. And I'm going to read just a little bit from your statement. So the aims of the Iraqi Freedom Congress are, number one, "End the occupation of Iraq—the US forces must leave Iraq immediately; end the interference of the Islamic currents from people's lives; guarantee the right of the Iraqi people to make an informed and free decision on the future of their political system"; and "restore civil life to Iraq." And they go on to say, "The immediate goal of the IFC is to seize power and establish a provisional secular and non-ethnic government," which includes again getting the US forces out right away, dissolving all the political, economic, military, and the military institutions set up by the US in order to control Iraq militarily, politically, economically. That's a pretty big agenda. I mean, you're talking about dismantling the current government, essentially, and seizing power, which means you don't think these elections—you didn't run in the current election. So how do you achieve all of this?

ALI: When we presented our manifesto in 2005—that was when we presented back then—they said, well, this is a very hard agenda; you cannot do this to the Islamic currents; you cannot do to the US-established institutions. Right now, after five years of—or seven years of that occupation, people tend to realize that what we're saying is absolutely what they want. They want the Islamic currents or the religious currents to be off their life; they don't want them to be imposing their agendas on the people.

JAY: But there's clearly a lot of people voted for religious parties in the last election, I mean, millions of people, and they're able to mount demonstrations and marches with millions of people in the streets. So you can't say there aren't people that don't support them.

ALI: The result, or the [participation] of this current—the recent election was not up to the same as in 2005 what happened. They said 50 percent. It is less than 50 percent. We know for sure that it's not—it's not—it's less than 50 percent.

JAY: But still there's a significant section of Iraqi society that supports the religious parties.

ALI: It is significant, but [inaudible] most of the people who voted for Allawi, for himself, is just because he said, "Well, I'm not a religious; I'm a secular."

JAY: That's right, and he actually won the most votes.

ALI: Exactly, and that's why they got all these votes. So we are—again, we are relying on that 50 percent who did not participate in that election, and we heavily rely on them. And part of them, like a huge segment of them, these are the workers who can do most of the work. And what we're talking when we talk about the American interventions in Iraq, Iraq today, they do have huge resentments [towards] the American presence there in any type of presence, militarily or—.

JAY: But you want the US troops, like, out tomorrow, or do you want them to stick to the timetable?

ALI: No, actually. We want it today, not even tomorrow. We know this is for a fact that the resentment is there. The resentment is not only towards the US presence, but actually towards the Iranian presence there and Iranian interference, towards the Syrian interference, towards the Saudi [interference]. Right now all these countries who are surrounding Iraq, they are participating one way or another into Iraqis' business. They are interfering there. They want to establish something there that serves their interests. And we want all these countries to be out of Iraq with their agendas.

JAY: You say you want to disarm the armed paramilitary groups.

ALI: Yeah, this is what we believe in. And the paramilitary, as we mentioned, it's—we call a militia there in Iraq—we want to disarm them, we want to stop them from interfering into the ordinary life of peoples. And this is—it's been happening for, like, a few years now. And they established their own district [inaudible] in their own district they imposed their own law. And it happened with the al-Sadr militia, with the Islamic Supreme Councils, with the Islamic militias that belong to Tariq al-Hashemi. These people, they have their own districts, they impose their own law, and they don't care about the government law, which is—it's pathetic anyways. But they impose their own law into those districts. We want those paramilitary to be dismantled and people themself to come up and say, no, we don't want you; we are going to [inaudible]

JAY: You say you want to confiscate and repossess all the properties in the states belonging to religious foundations and utilize them to meet social, recreational, and political needs of the people. So what are you talking about in terms of these religious foundations?

ALI: For example, there is a foundation today—it's called the Shahid el-Mehrab Foundation. Shahid el-Mehrab Foundation, this is belongs to Islamic Supreme Council, which is al-Hakim, Ammar al-Hakim—he's the president of that. And this foundation owes millions, billions of dollars worth of assets and valuables. They are in Iraq. And, in fact, they are not spending it on the housing or employment or the civil services; they are just giving this money or these are salaries for their own militias who serve their interests. And this is one foundation. There are so many foundation, religious foundations. They teach people how to march in certain religious celebrations. Millions and millions of dollars were spent on these. But people actually needs housing, need money to work, need employment, all these things that—this is what we're trying to do.

JAY: Well, let me read just a couple of other things: facilitate the provision of empowering people to defend their freedom and expel and suppress any aggression and assault directed against their rights and freedom; complete separation of religion from state and education; revoke all religiously derived laws and legislations; declare freedom of religion and atheism; full and unconditional freedom of expression of belief, press, assembly, organization and the right to demonstrate. And we'll put the rest of the program up on the website below the player so people can see it includes freedom for all political prisoners, abolition of the death penalty. You're also in favor of a referendum for the whole of Kurdistan to decide if they want to stay in Iraq or not. So it's a very broad-based, some people would call secular democratic agenda. Do you achieve this through elections? I mean, how do you see this coming to be? You now represent unions, you say about 50-60,000 people. If they're active, that's actually quite a few people if they're active.

ALI: Sure. Oh, yeah.

JAY: But you didn't participate in these elections. So how do you get there from here?

ALI: In our statement, the last statement prior to the election, we said, well, what we want right now is a provisional government; dismantle or dissolve this current government.

JAY: Okay, but you're not getting it because you say that.

ALI: We are working towards that. We are not sitting and waiting for the election to bring us up there to the government. We are working. We are working among people, among ordinary people; we are working among the workers, the women, the students.

JAY: But do you imagine at some point you will have candidates in elections?

ALI: Well, nothing impossible. This is politics. And one day, for example, al-Maliki, he was working as a sidewalk vendor in Syria, and now he's a prime minister. So there is a huge difference in the, like, shifting, the power-shifting. And this is what we can see in Iraq. It depends on how much work we could do, how much we could achieve, how much support we could get. Right now we do have a lot of support, moral support. We don't have financial support, unfortunately, because our agenda's totally different from what is they have in the government. We don't have that financial support. But we do have moral support. We are working towards people. We are establishing our own agenda in different neighborhood right now. At some point in 2005, when in the sectarian war in Iraq, what happened is we had our safety forces—we were able to control our neighborhood. We did not let sectarian forces to come invade our neighborhood and impose their agenda. We were able to protect Sunnis from Shiite armed group. We were able to protect Shiite from Sunni armed groups and whatnot. This is what we did, and we gained a lot of support back then, and we're still working among people. As I mentioned, this is an organization that wants to seize power. This is not just a few demands that we are putting towards people and either you ratify it or not. This is—if we want to be a part of this government or to be in government one day, these are the things that we want to achieve for all people. When we talk about religious, the secular, ending the interference of religious, if you take a look at the Iraqi Constitution, you'll find out that it is mainly a religious constitution. The rights of Christians, the rights of ["savvy"], Yazidis, the rights of Bahá'ís, the rights of atheists, it's not there. They are not considered. They are considered like individuals, but they are not considered as human being. And we want those people to have their rights in Iraq as human beings in Iraq, just like in Europe and in North America. Even the gay rights and that is not there. The people who are gay today in Iraq, they get not only prosecuted [sic], actually; they are getting assassinated in massive numbers. Nobody knows about them. The government does not want to publish anything about them, because the government itself is a sectarian religious government. They don't want to publicize anything about it. So what we want to do, okay, this is Iraq, and these are human beings who live in this particular geographic area. They need their rights. They have the right to live as human beings.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.

ALI: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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