Towards an Iraqi Spring?

Can Iraq’s Sunnis fulfil their goals without taking up arms against the country’s Shia-led government, asks Salah Nasrawi

For some six weeks, Iraqi Sunnis have kept their anti-government protests peaceful by trying to air their grievances and press their demands while distancing themselves from violent insurgency groups such as former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s diehard loyalists and the Al-Qaeda terror organisation.
While they have risen up against what they consider to be their marginalisation by the country’s Shia-led government, the Sunnis have also reached out to disgruntled Iraqi Shias and dubbed their protests the “Iraqi Spring” in emulation of the 2011 Arab Spring that toppled autocratic and corrupt regimes in three Arab countries.
However, the clashes this weekend between protesters and army troops in which several people were killed, including two soldiers, have shaken the country and sparked concerns that the peaceful rallies could turn violent.
Worse, the showdown in the town of Falluja in the Sunni heartland of western Iraq, which has boasted of the use of force to fight government troops, has raised the alarm that Iraq could descend to the bloodbaths of the sectarian war that spiked in 2006 and 2007.
The details are conflicting about the confrontation in Falluja. Government officials said protesters had tried to cross an army checkpoint on the outskirts of the town and had thrown rocks at soldiers, who opened fire in response.
 Representatives of the protesters said the firing had been unwarranted. Later, two soldiers were shot dead at another of the town’s checkpoints, in apparent retaliation for Friday’s clashes.
The Falluja protest was one of several across Sunni-majority areas of Iraq that have raged in recent weeks, hardening the opposition to the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki amid political turmoil and a deterioration in security following the US withdrawal in December 2011, nine years after the beginning of its occupation.
The unrest erupted after security forces arrested members of Sunni minister of finance Rafia Al-Essawi’s security staff in December on charges of terrorism. The crackdown has enflamed Iraq’s lingering political tensions, which have been heightened since an arrest warrant was issued against Sunni vice-president Tarek Al-Hashimi, one of Al-Essawi’s political allies, in December 2011.
Al-Hashimi was accused of leading death squads and was later sentenced to multiple death sentences.
The protesters also claimed that thousands of fellow Sunnis, including women, were in prison accused of terrorism, some without being charged. They alleged that female inmates had been abused and even raped by prison or police officials, a charge denied by the government.
The protesters accused the government of sidestepping the Sunni minority in the country, which has been politically dominated by the Shia majority since the overthrow of Saddam’s Sunni regime. They also complained of poor government services and a lack of economic progress in Sunni areas.
Initially, the protesters denounced the crackdown on the Sunnis and then demanded the ending of what they described as their marginalisation and discriminatory measures against them, such as the de-Baathification law which bans senior members of the former Saddam regime from government employment.
They have also demanded modifications to the anti-terrorism laws and an amnesty for Sunni prisoners convicted on terrorism charges.
Al-Maliki has agreed to meet the Sunni protesters half-way and has promised to release some prisoners, but he has remained non-committal about the protesters’ demands to abolish the de-Baathification and anti-terrorism measures.
“If we did that, it would mean that the [former ruling] Baath Party would make a comeback, and we would find ourselves again in prison,” he told Al-Baghdadiya television on Sunday.
In return, the Sunnis have hardened their positions and called on Al-Maliki to resign. They also want to abolish the political process forged by the US occupation authority, which they believe has empowered the Shias at their expense.
In the face of the army intervention in Falluja, Sunni tribal leaders threatened to launch attacks against the army in the western province of Anbar, which has been the centre of the protests.
The leaders said they had given the government one week to arrest the soldiers responsible for opening fire on the crowd. On Sunday, eight missiles were fired on a military camp in the province.
The threats to resort to arms, whether real or rhetorical, have raised serious questions about what options the protesters have if the Shia-led government remains unwilling to make compromises on their key demands.
This is the nub of the issues that the Sunnis will have to address as they insist on embracing and defending their stated goals.
Many Sunnis resorted to arms after the overthrow of Saddam, only to abandon the insurgency later and become actively involved in the political process, raising hopes that the Sunnis would finally join in rebuilding the country following the US withdrawal.
Only Al-Qaeda and a few other small groups said they would fight on to topple the Shia-led government.
Many observers believe that a large-scale insurgency now is not a viable strategy for Sunnis to achieve their goals of ending marginalisation and discrimination.
Genuinely standing up to the Shia-led government and its army militarily would require more than bombings and clashes with the security forces, since these may inflict deaths and destruction but they are unlikely to achieve political objectives and could draw sectarian reprisals.
Most Sunnis live in Baghdad and other ethnically mixed provinces where they are outnumbered by Shias. Sectarian strife could trigger ethnic cleansing that could drive them out of the capital to Sunni pockets in the provinces in a strategic muddle not guided by any clearly calculated long-term vision.
Also, if the government pulls out the army and federal police force from Sunni areas in response to the threats, Al-Qaeda and other hardline groups will return and gain control of them.
Since the start of the protests in late December Al-Qaeda has mounted a violent campaign against Iraqi military barracks, checkpoints, and security forces in Baghdad, Diyala, and Anbar provinces.
The attacks have reinforced the government’s claim that the protests have been infiltrated by extremists such as Al-Qaeda and members of Saddam’s Baath Party, who have been trying to steer them away from peaceful demonstrations and use Sunni areas to launch terrorist attacks against the government and security forces.
If anything has been demonstrated by the protests, it is that sectarianism and inter-ethnic conflicts have been major forces shaping Iraq and the structure and stability of the state since the US withdrawal.
Ten years after the US-led invasion of the country, the process had wound up almost exactly where it started — an Iraq embodied in a US-engineered structure, a divided nation, and a failed state.
Iraqi Sunni Arabs are strongly opposed to the federal system forged by the US occupation, which strengthened the hands of the Shias in the south and the Kurds in the north at their expense.
The Sunnis, who maintained political power in modern Iraq until the overthrow of the Saddam regime, may never feel truly part of the nation without the crucial first step of reintegrating them on a more equitable basis.
On the other hand, it is impossible to conceive of any sustainable outcome in Iraq without a political agreement based on recognising the Shias as the majority wielding power appropriate to their numbers and addressing their past misgivings and fears of marginalisation and accommodating Kurdish aspirations to self-rule.
Through their mass protests, Iraqi Sunnis have made their voices heard, but they now have to find an appropriate strategy to lure the Shias into broaching a new deal, one that begins moving in the direction of reforming the political process towards one based on citizenship and democracy and not sectarian power-sharing.

Change of landscape in Iraq?

Iraqi Sunni protesters have rejected concessions offered by the country’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and are pushing hard to change the political landscape, writes Salah Nasrawi

Angered by Iraq’s Shia-led government’s procrastination in ending what they consider to be their marginalisation and the exclusion of their sect, the country’s minority Sunnis have stepped up their resistance and after protests lasting several weeks are seeking to topple the US-engineered political process that they believe has empowered the majority Shias at their expense.
The Sunni protests erupted in late December after government forces arrested security staff of the country’s Sunni finance minister on terrorism charges. The protesters first denounced the crackdown on Sunnis and then demanded better treatment for Sunni inmates in government prisons.
They also complained of poor government services and a lack of economic development in Sunni areas.
Sunni demonstrators later came up with a host of demands, largely centring on ending exclusionary measures against them, such as the de-Baathification law which bans senior members of the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from government employment.
They also demanded modifications to the anti-terrorism laws and an amnesty for Sunni prisoners convicted on terrorism charges.
Sunni Arabs maintained political power in Iraq after the modern state came into being in the 1920s following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, marginalising Shia Arabs and Kurds.
Saddam’s Baath Party, most of whose members were Sunnis, ruled a single-party state for 35 years until it was overthrown by the 2003 US-led invasion. A federal system forged by the US occupation then strengthened the hands of the Shias in the south and the Kurds in the north, minimising the Sunnis’ overall influence.
A Sunni insurgency against US occupation troops turned sour after it was hijacked by Saddam loyalists and the Al-Qaeda terror group, pitching them against the country’s Shia-led security forces.
Over the past 10 years, the rebellion has pushed Iraq close to a bloody sectarian war many times following orchestrated bombing attacks on Shias.
Now the country’s Sunnis hope that through the protests and sit-ins that have swept across Sunni provinces and Baghdad’s Sunni neighbourhoods they can abolish the political structure forged by the US occupation authority, allowing them to negotiate a more equitable governing system.
Six weeks after the protests erupted, the demonstrators have hardened their positions, and they are now demanding an overhaul of the political process, including drafting a new constitution and abolishing laws which they say were enacted to sidestep them. 
They have also called on incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to step down in order to clear the way for new elections and the restructuring of the government, the army and security forces to include more Sunnis.
On Friday, many protesters in Anbar, Mosul, Samarra and other Sunni areas shouted cries of “leave, leave” and “the people want to overthrow the regime,” a central chant of the 2011 Arab Spring that toppled three Arab dictators.
Many protesters also blasted what they called neighbouring Iran’s growing influence in Iraq and its support for Shia political groups. 
Al-Maliki’s initial response to the protests was defiance and arrogance, calling the demonstrators “a bubble” and scoffing at their slogans as “rotten”. He also accused them of harbouring foreign agendas and threatened to arrest the protesters if they tried to close down government offices.
But as the protests escalated and their demands snowballed, Al-Maliki named a committee to address the protesters’ demands, and ordered the release of hundreds of Sunni detainees in an effort to appease the rallies.
He also promised to consider an amnesty for prisoners if they were pardoned by the victims or their families.
The Shia Iraqi National Coalition that forms the backbone of Al-Maliki’s government invited Sunni and Kurdish politicians for talks in a bid to resolve the dispute that has already paralysed parliament and the cabinet. 
The Sunni protests show no sign of abating, and leaders insist they will not abandon their gatherings until all their demands are met. The protesters are seemingly receiving support from political and religious leaders who have been taking a back seat in the confrontations, allowing the protesters to make their voices heard.  
On Sunday, Sunni deputy prime minister and a top leader of the Sunni Al-Iraqiya bloc, Saleh Al-Mutlek, said that Sunni politicians would not meet again with their Shia counterparts if the government did not meet the protesters’ demands.
In further signs of the protesters gaining clout, the prominent Sunni cleric Abdel-Malik Al-Saadi turned down requests from government officials for a meeting to ask for his help in calming the protesters.
Instead, he told them to go to see the protests’ leaders and listen to their demands.
The protesters have also received backing from Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, who described the demonstrators’ demands as “legitimate”.
“The federal government… has increased the crisis through neglect and threats that have led to dangerous consequences,” he said in a statement issued late on Saturday.
Barzani, who has accused Al-Maliki of being a dictator, attempted last year to convince parliament to withdraw confidence in the prime minister but could not master enough votes.
Al-Maliki has also been facing challenges from inside his own camp over the way he has been handling the dispute with the Sunnis, and former vice president Adel Abdel-Mahdi criticised the way prisons in Iraq were run by the government.
“Obviously, thousands of Iraqis are subject to injustice,” he wrote in a syndicated article this week.
Mounir Haddad, a Shia judge in Iraq’s Special Criminal Court, accused prison officials of committing crimes against humanity. “Arab Sunnis are subject to injustice worse than that suffered by Shias under Saddam,” Haddad told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper on Sunday.
“Torture, abuse and murder by torture are common,” he said.
The Sunni protests are certainly not making life easier for Al-Maliki, but it is unclear if they can topple the Shia prime minister who has been able to outmanoeuvre his enemies with political monopoly and brinkmanship.
In addition, Iran, which considers Al-Maliki to be one of its staunchest allies in Iraq, has already stepped in and made it clear that he can depend on its full support.
“The Iraqi government is strong… and has reached power through the ballot box,” Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a Lebanese television station on Saturday.
“We know enemies of the Iraqi people will not stand idle, but the Iraqi government is quite capable of dealing with these enemies,” he said.
Al-Maliki is also using government resources to mobilise public support. Last week, a few hundred of his supporters who were reportedly brought in by government buses, held rallies across Iraq demanding that the government not give in to the Sunnis’ demands.
In Baghdad, demonstrators carrying the prime minister’s picture decorated with slogans hailing him as a Shia hero, demanded that Al-Maliki be elected to a third term.
Al-Maliki is also benefiting from Sunni divisions. While moderate Sunnis want to work with the prime minister to improve power-sharing agreements, hardliners are calling for escalation, including a civil-disobedience campaign that would feature strikes and the boycott of the government in Sunni provinces.
Two tribal leaders believed to support a peaceful resolution of the crisis were killed last week. On Sunday, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the assassination of Ifan Al-Essawi, a moderate Sunni lawmaker believed to be mediating between the protesters and the government.
The group said in a statement that its fighters had killed Al-Essawi because he was a “dog of the Americans” and a “tail of the Shias”.
Such murders and intimidation by Al-Qaeda will certainly raise concerns among moderate Sunnis that breaking with the central government will embolden the terror group at their expense.
It is not clear, however, if Iraqi Sunnis will be able to topple Al-Maliki or drastically change what they perceive as the country’s unequal political structure.
However, one lesson they can extract from the protests is that they have been able to give themselves a leg up and make their voices heard.

                       الربيع العربي بين اليأس والأمل

خلال الايام القليلة القادمة سيقف الكثيرون من العرب لكي يتأمل كل منهم في ذاته في ذكري الوثبات التي انطلقت قبل عامين في بعض بلدانهم والتي تمكنت من الاطاحة ببعض اعتي انظمة الاستبداد والقهر والفساد التي تربعت فوق دست السلطة فيها لعقود طويلة.سيكون هناك بالتأكيد تقييمات متفاوتة بين من يري في الثورات ربيعا اشرق علي العرب بعد طول سبات وبين من لن يراها الا علي هواه من مرتابين ومشككين وموتورين وذوي رؤي قاصرة.

كشخص عاش في ظل تلك الانظمة وحلم بهذه الثورات مبكرا, وعاصر بعضا منها في بلدانها, منذ ان بدأت ارهاصاتها الاولي, بل أسهم بقدر ما يستطيع في التحريض عليها, فأني أعرف تماما مشاعر القلق والحيرة, وربما ايضا خيبات الرجاء, التي تنتاب الناس بسبب ما يرونه من المسارات المتعرجة التي مشت فيها الثورات العربية, وايضا مخاوفهم من ان موسم حصاد ثمارها قد طال انتظاره.  لست منزعجا من حالة القنوط والاحباط ومن فقدان الصبر الذي اجده لدي الكثيرين وهم يعبرون عن فداحة خيبة املهم بالثورات نتيجة لما يرونه من مآلات الامور, ابتداء من سوء الاوضاع الاقتصادية, وتدهور الامن وتعثر الثورات, بل سرقتها, او انهيارات في اسس الدولة والمجتمع, فتلك كلها أعراض جانبية عرفتها الثورات العالمية.غير ان ما يضايقني فعلا هو تلك التحليلات التي تقطع بان طريق الثورة لم يعد سالكا وان الاستثناء العربي لايزال هو القاعدة التي لا فكاك منها.
لا أحد بالسذاجة التي يمكن أن يبرر بها الانتكاسات التي تواجهها الثورات العربية, وخاصة التهديدات والمخاطر بانحراف مساراتها الي نقيضها, فتلك شواهد عيانية ماثلة في حياتنا, ولكن ليس بامكان احد كذلك ان يبخس منجزاتها وخاصة تحطيم جدران الخوف والتردد واللامبالاة, والكشف عن أثمن ما كان مخبوءا في دواخلنا كبشر من معادن, وهو رفض التسلط والتهميش وامتهان الكرامة والتشبث بقيم المساواة والحرية والعدالة.
ما أريد قوله هنا هو أن التقليل من قيمة المكاسب المتحققة من الثورات امر غير ممكن فهي ولدت سلوكيات وعقليات مختلفة تماما عما ساد خلال عقود الدكتاتورية واصبح للناس ارادة حرة, يدركون من خلالها ان ما كان مستحيلا امسي الان ممكنا, كما اصبحوا يعون حقوقهم ويعرفون كيف يحرسونها, وبالاقل فانهم يعرفون الان ان الطغاة الذين يحتمل ظهورهم في السياق الجديد سيدركون فداحة الثمن الذي يتعين عليهم دفعه فيما لو حاولوا اعادتهم الي القن من جديد.
كذلك, لاغرابة في اننا نعاني من مصاعب جمة نستطيع ان نحصي الكثير منها, لكن ادراك جملة اسبابها سيساعدنا حتما علي فهم المرحلة وتجاوزها.هناك اولا الارث المهول لمراحل الاستبداد والخراب الذي عشناه, والذي يصعب ان نزيله بين ليلة وضحاها,وهناك ايضا مشاكل المرحلة الانتقالية واخطاؤها, كما ان هناك بالتأكيد من يحاول استثمار منطقة الفراغ للاستحواذ علي السلطة وتسخيرها لاهداف مبتسرة, دون ان يمتلك الحد الادني من برنامج التوافق الوطني الذي يحقق احلام اي ثورة, والمشروع الحداثي الذي تمثله قيمها النبيلة.بالاضافة الي ذلك فإن هناك قوي اقليمية ودولية متضررة توفر عقاقيرها السامة وتحاول التلاعب والضغط لحرف الثورات عن مساراتها واغراقها بالدسائس في وحول الفوضي والصراعات.
من هنا فان توجيه سهام النقد الي الثورة ذاتها لما آلت اليه الاوضاع في بلدانها يبدو بعيدا عن الانصاف, أو تقييما ساذجا وسخيفا, ان لم يكن أمرا ينطوي علي سوء نية, فالاحري ان نتمعن كثيرا في مظاهر التجربة ذاتها وان نوجه ذلك النقد للقوي السياسية والنخب الفكرية التي لايبعث اداؤها علي الحسد لعجزها عن الارتقاء الي مستوي المهمة التي اوكلت لها, او اوكلتها الي نفسها, في قيادة عملية التغيير وتسخير العقول والطاقات لتحقيق اهداف الثورة, وانشغلت عوض ذلك في صراعات وصفقات متوحشة من اجل الحصول علي النصيب الاوفر من الكعكة الثورية.
اننا في الحقيقة امام مجموعات من القوي تتحمل النصيب الاكبر من وزر الحالة المستعصية بغض النظر عن موقعها من الثورة, بعضها دوغمائي سلاحه كومة من عظات جذابة لكنها طوباوية او غير واقعية, بل حتي مضللة, وبعضها الاخر حالم ومشتت ينتظر ان يصعد علي اعتاب الفشل الذي سيصيب التجربة, وبطبيعة الحال هناك جزء اخر هي القوي المعادية للثورة في الداخل والخارج التي أخذت ترتدي ثياب الحملان.هؤلاء هم من يقف اليوم امام تأسيس مشروع الثورات العربية وتأمين وجودها وتحويل حلم الحرية والعدالة والعيش الكريم الي واقع.
اعود لاقول ونحن نقف جميعا لنستذكر تلك الايام الخالدة للثورات في تونس ومصر واليمن وليبيا وسوريا إنه ليس هناك بالتأكيد عصا سحرية, لتحطيم القوقعة التي عشنا فيها زمنا طويلا ولا لازالة الحواجز الشاخصة في طريق الثورات, كما ان من التفاؤل المفرط الاعتقاد بامكان ان تتحقق جميع اهدافها بين ليل وضحاه.لكنا بالاقل بتنا اكثر ايمانا بان العجلة لن تدور الي وراء, وهو ما سنبقي بحاجة اليه لتذكير اولئك المتهافتين علي وراثة السلطة بان الثورة ليست مجرد تغيير للنظام, او حتي بديل افضل, بل هي صراع وجودي من أجل واقع مغاير تماما يجد الانسان فيه حريته وكرامته وسعادته وعيشه الرغيد.
كاتب عراقي مقيم في القاهرة


No culture of rape in Iraq?

Sunni uproar over their alleged mistreatment has highlighted the tragedy of women raped in Iraq, writes Salah Nasrawi
For nearly a month now, Iraqi Sunni Arabs have been pouring into the streets across the country to protest against what they perceive as their unjust share in the country’s wealth and power and marginalisation by the Shia-led government in Baghdad.
Although Sunni demands have centred on ending what they say is their discrimination and exclusion, the tipping point for the protests, which have triggered the country’s worst political crisis in years, were allegations of the rape of Sunni women detained in Iraqi jails.
The row started on 29 November during a parliamentary debate on violence against woman when some Sunni lawmakers presented a report claiming that there had been systematic violation, torture and rape of female inmates in Iraqi jails and demanded that the Iraqi government and judiciary put an end to the abuse.
A heated parliamentary conversation later turned into fistfights, as Shia members accused their Sunni colleagues of fabricating the report and attempting to defame the Shia-led security forces.
The row later moved outside the parliament, as Sunni politicians, media and clergy demanded the release of Sunni women prisoners and the bringing of the alleged offenders to account.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the country’s police, and the Ministry of Justice, in charge of prisons, denied the accusations. The Ministry of Justice also prevented a team of lawmakers from visiting prisons to probe the allegations.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who scoffed at the charges, promised scrutiny of prison officials and punishment for any found guilty.
After the Sunni protests, Al-Maliki named a committee that included two key Sunni clerics to investigate the allegations. A committee member later said they couldn’t find evidence of rape inside the prisons, but he didn’t rule out that some cases could have occurred during the investigation process.
The government says there are some 1,000 women prisoners in Iraq who were lawfully arrested with legal arrest warrants issued by the judiciary. It says that many of the jailed Sunni women were charged with terrorism, such as attempts to carry out bomb attacks.
Some Shia politicians have even blamed the victims for their “increased libido” inside the prisons, suggesting that they may have seduced their interrogators and guards.
On the other hand, Iraq’s Sunni Arab politicians have attempted in the past to increase public criticism of the Shia political class as a result of what they have described as attempts to whitewash the government’s indifference towards abuses carried out by Shia security forces, charges which Shia politicians dismiss as fabrications.
There is a growing fear that both sides are trying to manipulate the public clamour over the rape cases in the political contest ahead of the local elections in April.
During Iraq’s worst period of civil strife in 2007, a Sunni woman identified by the pseudonym of Sabrin Al-Janabi, told Al-Jazeera television that four Iraqi officers had raped her over a four-hour period after accusing her of aiding insurgents.
The claim, which had the potential to drive Iraq to a full-scale sectarian war, later turned out to be untrue.
While the ongoing sectarian row has raised fears of communal tension, it has also turned the spotlight on the rape of women as a vile crime that can hinder nation-building or the establishment of a value system that reflects human rights principles and gender equality. 
Under the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, rape cases were not unusual but offenders also received harsh punishments, including the death sentence.
Nevertheless, among the shocking stories of brutalities committed during Saddam’s rule were rapes committed by his associates, including his maverick eldest son Odai.
During the US occupation of 2003-2011, Iraq struggled with stories of human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, and reports of rape and sodomy carried out by US soldiers.
Some of these acts, committed by US military personnel or governmental contractors in Abu Ghraib prison, came to public attention. On 12 March 2006, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl was gang-raped and killed by US army soldiers in Al-Mahmoudiya, a town south of Baghdad.
The soldiers also murdered her entire family and burned their house. Five soldiers were charged with the crimes.
There were also several cases of the reported rapes of US female soldiers by their colleagues in Iraq. While most of these cases were hushed up, US army reserve staff Sergeant Sandra Lee, raped twice while serving in Iraq, shared her story in interviews with several US media.
Beyond this handful of publicised cases, there is also ample anecdotal evidence that Iraqi and American troops raped women and men during the period when Iraq was under US occupation.
Reports have said that the Iraqi authorities that took over power after the Americans left the country continued the same policies as the US occupiers. Some of these reports have suggested that the Iraqi authorities have used the same excuses and tactics as the United States in order to evade their responsibilities.
Publicised rape cases and growing fears among many Iraqis of such a mentality and culture of impunity back up such a conclusion.
Last year, there were several cases of rape that made the headlines because of their brutality. In Basra, a four-year-old girl, Banin Haider, was raped and murdered. A few weeks later, a five-year-old girl, Abeer Ali, was also raped and murdered in Thiqar north of Basra.
A soldier was later arrested in connection with Banin’s murder. He was later tried and found guilty and sentenced to death for abusing and killing the child.
A few days before the latest controversy started, the governor of Nineveh, Atheel Al-Nujaifi, revealed that an underaged girl had been raped by an army officer in the outskirts of Mosul, the provincial capital.
He said that the army had refused to hand the officer over to the local police for investigation and warned of discontent in the province.
These rape crimes by sometimes off-duty soldiers, such as in Banin’s case, and reports of rampant corruption in the security forces, have led many Iraqis to worry about what might be happening inside the country’s prisons.
Regardless of the sectarian brawl in Iraq, the news of women being raped in prison is alarming. Many Iraqis believe that these are not isolated incidents, and that they could be related to a culture of indiscipline among the highly unprofessional security forces.
During the Sunni protests and in broadcasts on Sunni-run television stations, activists have given horrible accounts of the rape of female inmates held in secret prisons. Among the secret prisons named was the Al-Muthanna Airport Prison.
In their 2011 reports on Iraq, the international NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch stated that the Al-Muthanna Prison, a disused airport, was reportedly controlled by the office of Al-Maliki, a charge denied by his office.
Remarkably, there has been no independent inquiry into the allegations of rape in Iraqi prisons, indicating insensitivity and inaction on the part of the government. Neither the United Nations nor respected human rights groups have indicated they are taking any action to probe these accusations.
In a country where violence is the norm and sentiments can be superheated, there are concerns that the abuse of women and even rape could be overlooked as only the temporary side-effects or unsettling consequences of the political climate.
Rape may not be endemic or a cultural phenomena in Iraq, but the rhetoric triggered by the Sunni accusations should be a wake-up call for the Iraqi authorities, civil society and the religious establishment to launch a national debate about violence against women, causing the state to take the necessary measures to stop such heinous abuses.

تدخل القضية العراقية مع عام 2013 وبعد عشر سنوات من الغزو الامريكي منعطفا جديدا بسبب تفاقم الصراعات السياسية المستمرة والتهديدات بالتصعيد العسكري بين الاطراف المتنازعة والانهيار الامني والخراب الاقتصادي وسوء الخدمات وتغول الفساد وانتهاكات حقوق الانسان مما ينذر باحتمالات خطيرة على مستقبل البلاد والشعب العراقي برمته.
لقد اشرت سلسلة النزاعات الحادة التي شهدها عام 2012 المنصرم بين الفرقاء المشاركين بالسلطة والتي وصلت الى مستوى المواجهات العسكرية والتهديدات السافرة التي مست صميم الكيان العراقي والحقت المزيد من الضرر بالتعايش الوطني الى وصول العملية السياسية الجارية الى طريق مسدود تماما والحقت ضررا بالغا بجهود اعادة بناء الدولة والمجتمع.
كما كشفت الاحتجاجات الجارية في محافظات عدة على خلفية شكاوي التهميش والاقصاء وما رافقها من احتقانات طائفية والتهديدات بالحرب الاهلية عن عمق الازمة الوطنية والمخاطر التي تحدق بمصير الشراكة الوطنية بل بمصير الوطن ذاته.  
وفي الوقت الذي تتحمل فيه الاطراف المشاركة في الحكم المسؤولية الكاملة عما آلت اليه الاحوال المآساوية في بلادنا لاسباب تعود اساسا الى الفساد والتخبط وسوء الادارة وانعدام الرؤية وغياب القيادة فان نظام المحاصصة الطائفية الذي اقامه الاحتلال الامريكي يتحمل دورا كبيراً في فشل العملية السياسية ذاتها بما فيها الشلل الحكومي والجهاز التنفيذي وتعطيل دور البرلمان التشريعي والرقابي وعجز القضاء عن اقامة نظام للعدالة النافذة.
ان احد تجليات الازمات المتالية والمتفاقمة هو التنازع بين اهل الحكم والفرقاء السياسيين على الادوار في السلطة وعلى الثروة  ومحاولات الهيمنة والاقصاء والتهميش التي الحقت اشد الضرر بمبادئ الدستور التوافقية والديمقراطية وبمدأ الفصل بين السلطات وشرعت المجال لاقامة الدكتاتورية من جديد في العراق.
ان عشر سنوات من الاحتلال الغاشم ومن نظام المحاصصة الطائفية البغيض لم تفلح في وضع لبنة حقيقية لاعادة البناء، بل ادت على العكس من ذلك الى تدمير كامل في البنى المادية والبشرية في العراق مما يستوجب عقودا طويلة وجهودا جبارة واموالا طائلة سوف يتحمل عبئها اجيال عديدة من العراقيين في المستقبل.
ومما يزيد الامر سوءا تفاقم التدخلات الاجنبية في الشؤون الداحلية العراقية والتي اسفرت في الفترة الاخيرة عن مشاريع شيطانية بدت بوادرها في الافاق ضمن المخططات الجارية هدفها زج العراق في المزيد من الصراعات الاقليمية المذهبية والقومية وتحويله الى ساحة حرب بالنيابة عن دور الجوار وغيرها من القوى الدولية تمهيدا لرسم خرائط جديدة للمنطقة.
وفي ظل التدهور الحاصل والاحتمالات الكارثية المتوقعة من استمرار الازمات فلم يعد الصمت عما يجري خيارا، خاصة وان هناك فى الافق ما يشير الى ان الفرقاء المتنازعين يستغلون حالة الاستقطاب المذهبي والقومي التي تفجرها صراعاتهم في تهيج الشارع خدمة لاغراضهم الانتخابية وادامة لعبة السلطة التي ادمنوها الامر الذي يتطلب العمل ليس على ادانة وفضح هذه الممارسات فقط وانما ايضا مواجهتها بكل السبل السياسية والسلمية الممكنة.
انني ومن هذا المنطق اتوجه مرة جديدة كما توجهت في السابق الى كل قوى شعبنا  السياسية والاجتماعية المؤمنة بخيار دولة المواطنة الديمقراطية، دولة العدل والحرية والمساواة والرخاء، بالشروع الفوري للتكافل بالعمل على تغير نهج الحكم والعملية السياسية القائم عليها وابعاد المتسلطين عليها بغية فسح المجال للقوى والتيارات الوطنية لممارسة دورها في بناء هذه الدولة قبل ان تعصف بها السياسات الطائفية والممارسات الديكتاتورية.
ان اولى الخطوات في هذا المجال تستدعي نبذ كل من شارك في ايصال هذه العملية الى نهياتها الكارثية وذلك من خلال مقاطعتهم في جولتي الانتخابات القادمة المحلية والتشريعية والعمل على الدفع بوجوه جديدة تلتزم ببرنامج سياسي واقتصادي واجتماعي شامل للانقاذ واعادة البناء على اسس وطنية متينة.ان عدم فسح المجال لمثل هذه الوجوه والقوى الجديدة والتضيق عليها يعني ضرورة الدعوة الى مقاطعة الانتخابات والعمل على نزع الشرعية عن الطبقة السياسية المتنفذة التي تعمل على الابقاء على الاحتكار والتهميش والاقصاء.  
كما يتطلب الامر اطلاق حملات شعبية ودولية واسعة لمناهظة الفساد بانواعه وانتهاكات حقوق الانسان والارهاب وجرئم تخريب الدولة والعمل على ملاحقة مرتكبيها وتقديمهم الى القضاء المحلي والدولي بما فيها محاكم جرائم الحرب والجرائم ضد الانسانية من خلال تفعيل بنود قرارات الامم المتحدة بهذا الشأن وفق الباب السابع الذي لايزال العراق خاضعا له.
لقد حان وقت العمل من اجل انقاذ العراق من مصيره الحالك الذي يدفعه اليه البعض ممن شاءت الاقدار وارادة الاحتلال الامريكي ان يتبؤ المشهد السياسي وان يعمل على تحقيق اجندات طائفية وفؤية ضيقة تتعارض مع المصالح الوطنية واهداف بناء عراق موحد  وحر ومستقل ومزدهر ولجميع ابنائه.