Protest the suffering of Iraqi Christians: No to terrorism No to state terrorism.Hands off our minorities. Hands off our people. Shame on the human rights violators on all sides. Assemble 11:30 on 28/7/14 near Parliament Square, near Westminister tube station London. For more past events click here
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Monday, April 26, 2010
This is the article published in Al Adab Journal in their 5-6 2007 issue.
One of the worst aspects of Arab cultural press and media has been criticism, in the name of “modern critical consciousness,” of backward traditional structures, Arab belief in the supernatural, nationalist tyrannical authorities, Islamic obscurantism, and despotic left…coupled with great praise for the (Saudi) Wahhabi and (Lebanese) Junblati moderation,Egyptian flexibility, Palestinian pragmatism, Western rationalism, and so on.
Thus we read Adonis [the Syrian poet and essayist] criticizing "rigid" structures and Arab fundamentalisms in an orientalist mode based on anecdotal generalities (a la Rafael Patai occasionally), to find out later that he is fronting an entire book on the thoughts of Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, choosing its texts and prefacing it (with Dr. Khalida Sa’id), as part of a series entitled "The Renaissance Series: Studies and Texts Representing a New Vision of the Arab Renaissance" (Beirut: Dar al-‘Ilm Li Almalayin, 1983). This was, therefore, how Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a dogmatic thinker, was transformed by a symbol of modernity (Adonis) into a pioneer of the Arab Renaissance!
By way of further example, though on a much lower intellectual level, we see Shakir al-Nabulsi, having emphatically divorced Marxism and Nationalism, praising the “poetry” (yes, poetry!) of Prince Khalid Al- Faysal of Saudi Arabia, and even presenting him as one of the "pioneers" of Modernism and Arab thought.
I have also previously noted how a number of modernist intellectuals in Lebanon have been transformed to serve the Hariri Industry. They have thus ‘mobilised’ their erudition and modernism to praise the late president Rafiq al-Hariri, his successor Sa’d al-Hariri, and their friend Prime Minister Fu’ad Al-Sanyurah.
Needless to say, every person has the right to praise whoever he or she deems worthy of praise. But to render [the multi-millionaire] R. Hariri "a poet of places" (according to the modernist poet, Paul Shawul, in "Stay at Home" programme on the Al-Mustaqbal Satellite Channel, winter of 2005); and to describe the same person as a “post-modernist” intellectual that possesses “complex, creative, multi-faceted thinking" (in the words of Ali Harb, an advocate of ‘transformative thought’ and a deconstructive critic of the “illusions of the elite,” on the same channel), would certainly raise doubts regarding the very modernist ideas those intellectuals have been expounding for decades. Such writings in fact could nurture in the readers’ minds fundamentalist and traditional thought which those same eulogisers had spent decades opposing (at times with great zeal). Imagine someone listening to liberal modernists praising Saudi "moderation" after cursing Ba’thist despotism: Wouldn’t he or she be inclined to support Saudi Arabia instead of modernist thought? Or consider someone reading a modernist writer praising Ibn Abd al-Wahhab: Wouldn’t he or she champion Wahhabi ideology instead of modernist thought?
In other words, if modernists, deconstructive “transformers,” and conscious critics applaud Wahhabism, Harirism and Mubarakism, why wouldn’t "ordinary" readers be drawn towards the object of acclaim rather than the acclaimer; to the celebrated rather than the celebrator; to the original rather than the copy?
Of course, this intellectual shift did not occur spontaneously. Rather, it is the result of decades of Arab defeats; of the left’s decline; of official Arab and Western awards to Arab intellectuals; of Arab and Western "receptions," first class travel tickets and five stars hotels. Such a shift has also been associated, in recent years, with tedious theorising against what neo-liberals describe as “empty rhetoric,” a term that is empty rhetoric itself, as Azmi Bishara once wrote. For, how can they describe an Arab regime like Saudi Arabia as moderate, when it allies itself with the most horrific mass murderer on earth (the USA), represses human rights, especially the rights of women and minorities and freedom of expression? And what credibility do the "moderates," "realists" and "pragmatists" have when they insist on the two-state solution (Palestinian and Israeli) if the bases of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza have been eradicated due to the Zionist brutality? What credibility have the critics of Saddam Hussein and his mass graves (the latter as horrendous as the former) when they praise Talabani and Barzani?
Here I come to the crux of the matter, since Iraqi Kurdistan offers a perfect case study of the emptiness (hollowness) of the "empty rhetoric" itself. It shows the basic contradictions of the neo-liberals (let us call them: the neo-conservatives), or more precisely, their apathetic attitude to analyse and demystify the illusions of the new “Iraqi” democracy, after having published hundreds of articles cursing Saddam's Iraq.
* * *
Between April 29 and May 6, 2007, the fifth Mada Cultural Week took place in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in Iraq. All official newspaper editors in the region were invited to attend. Royalty-worthy praise and adoration were presented to the festival, its sponsor (‘president’ Talabani), and manager, our colleague publisher Fakhry Karim, who alone “equals a complete workshop” according to Ahmad Bazzun ofAl-Safirnewspaper. Only few mild criticisms surfaced, such as the grumbling by some journalists (Bazzun) regarding the lack of organisation, and the absence of Arabic signs on the streets of Arbil. Wa’il Abd al-Fattah also reminds us that Al-Mada Cultural Week was sponsored “by a regime whose path was paved by American tanks,” and that Karim “courted political and intellectual controversy before the demise of Saddam’s regime” years prior to his arrival at his new post.
Aside from such exceptions, however, media coverage of the festival failed to accurately depict the state of affairs in Kurdistan and the “handlers” of the Iraqi intellectual scene as a whole. Much fuss was made about the number of the guests (800 Arab, Kurds and foreign) and how the festival was multi-faceted (cinema, theatre, art exhibition, book fair, traditional costumes, singing, politics and economic). All this, according to the media coverage, was spiced by Talabani’s democracy, his sense of humour, the security and economic development in Kurdistan. It is as if most of the guests have done what conventional Orientalist travellers do upon their arrival to a new place; they take a tour and get their information from the official channels [rather than find out the realities from the local population].
Now I am not claiming this was a deliberate conspiracy against truth.(Like yourselves, I am no fan of harping on about conspiracy theories-not that I do not think they exist, but because they have been staring us in the eye). What this reveals, however, is a chronic laziness on the part of Arab journalism in general. Thus it seems sufficient for a journalist to read a poem or two by a great Kurdish poet such as Sherko Bekes, or learn a couple of Kurdish words such as (Kakeh/brother and Mam/uncle), or read an article about Saddam’s crimes, and all of a sudden he or she can write like experts on the Kurdish region and on the whole of Iraq! Allow me to ask you, colleagues: Where is the critical mind with which you have been pounding our heads for years? Do you really know how things are in the Kurdish region? Do you know about Kurdish women’s status and honour killings? Do you know about the Israeli Mossad’s activity in the region? Do you know about the conditions in Kurdish prisons? Freedom of expression? Arbitrary arrests? Do you know how the Kurdish region became, if true, a “safe haven” in Iraq? Do you know the conditions of non-Kurdish Iraqis there? Do you know who spurred Saddam to destroy swathes of Iraqi Kurdistan during the Iran-Iraq war? Do you know the extent of destruction the two main Kurdish parties inflicted after the 1991 war? Do you know who Mas’ud Barzani invited to destroy his Kurdish rival (PUK), and with whom Jalal Talabani cooperated to fight his own rival (KDP)? Do you know the history of the festival’s manager whom you praised as alone “equals to a complete workshop”? Have you read anything about the social conditions in Kurdistan before you travelled to this “oasis of democracy,” including what a great poet you undoubtedly respect, Saadi Youssef, has written?
I am aware that you are too busy with other persistent daily activities. Thus, I have done some quick reading to fill the gaps you’ve left. Below, I will outline a summary of what I have read – not as a way to convey the full truth, rather as a way to uncover aspects that go beyond the naive press reports, which suggest that there is economic development in Kurdistan simply because “president” Talabani said that Suliaymania [in the Kurdish region] now has one thousand millionaires as opposed to six during Saddam’s rule! Moreover, these reports hail democracy simply because Talabani said that Iraq contains “more democracy than any other country” - one of the pointers for this democracy being (believe it or not) “the right of 14 million Shi’a is...to wail!” Worst of all is the silence in your press reports on how this new Iraqi Kurdish democracy, which came on the backs of American tanks, hid itself behind the great poetic symbol, the late Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri, who was made a symbol of the recent Mada Festival even though he had previously opposed the American invasion on Iraq in 1991; in fact, according to the writings of Abd Al-Rahman Munif, Al-Jawahiri declared his readiness “to be among the first ten who will face the invasion on Basra.”
On the role of Israel in Kurdistan – Iraq: In June 2004, American journalist Seymor Hersh wrote in theNew Yorker about Israelis in Northern Iraq, dressed up in business suits, in order to recruit Kurdish agents to collect information in preparation for a possible Israeli–American operation against Iran. Last summer, Israeli Haaretzreported that Shlomi Michaels, an Israeli, was interrogated because his work in Kurdistan was led without Israel’s official permission. On April 11, 2007, Laura Rozen wrote about an investigation she carried out over the past year, whereby she discovered that Michaels and his associates, like ex-Mossad head Danny Yatom, “were part of an effort by the Kurds and their allies to lobby the West for greater power in Iraq, and greater clout in Washington, and at the same time, by a group of Israeli ex-security officials, to rekindle good relations with their historical allies, the Kurds, through joint infrastructure, economic development, and security projects.” And according to Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli paper, Michaels brought Israeli officers “toprovide counterterrorism training to Kurdish security forces at a secret camp Z in Iraq,” in return for “a few million dollars.” However, Turkish authorities, which the Israelis crossed using their passports, became aware of the situation, informed Israeli authorities, and conducted investigations with Michaels and others. Nevertheless, Israel agreed to send defence and communications equipment to Kurdistan–Iraq in order to “develop” Israeli presence “in the Kurdish area.”
The representatives of the Kurdish government do not deny Israeli presence in Kurdistan, though they claim it is only related to the private sector (as if this is a simple matter).This is what President Jalal Al-Talabini’s son, the representative of the Kurdish government in Washington, admitted to Laura Rozen, bragging that Kurdistan will be “the gateway to Iraq.”
But whose gateway, we ask?
As for Arbil, where Arab journalists went to cover the Mada festival, there is a Mossad office. The Mossad’s former Arbil station chief, Eliezer Geizi Tsafrir, admitted to reporter Rozen that the office has helped the Kurdish intelligence and Mulla Mustafa Al-Barazani: “They [the Kurds] approached us, saying they had nobody to help them in the world, and our people had suffered too. We supplied them with cannons, guns, anti-air equipment, all sorts of equipment, and even lobbying. The contacts between us, and the sympathy, will last for generations to come.”
We are told that Kurdistan–Iraq is an oasis for democracy and human rights. Let us, then, examine this claim promptly. For, what we have seen from the above is that it is, unfortunately, an oasis for Israeli businessmen and Mossad’s agents (and CIA agents of course) against neighbouring countries, and against the Iraqi people itself.
Human Rights and Women Rights in Iraqi Kurdistan
A United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) report, dated April 2007, has a special section on monitoring human rights abuses in the northern area of Iraq covering the early months of 2007. The report states that there are “serious concerns” on the questions of freedom of expression, [arbitrary] arrests, and the social status of women in the Kurdish area.
While officials of the Kurdish Regional Government that rules over Arbil, Suliaymania and Duhouk provinces deny the existence of such abuses, Kurdish activists in Arbil (where al Mada Festival was held) say that the UNAMI report was far too lenient and did not mention all human rights violations, only the “prominent and outstanding ones.” Rebin Rasul Ismael, a Kurdish human rights activist from Arbil, believes that "the current reality shows that human rights conditions (here) are very bad, and I am not optimistic about the future of human rights in Kurdistan and Iraq."
The UNAMI report focused on three aspects of human rights violations: 1) Honour killings; 2) conditions of detainees; and 3) freedom of expression.
On honour killings the report mentions that in Arbil province alone, under “increasing pressure from male members of the family,” 358 Kurdish women have “burnt themselves to death since 2003” (Did the Mada Festival’s guests visit the graves of any of these women?) and 218 others “attempted to do so.” This means that if indeed democracy exists in Arbil, it has not yet reached Kurdish women, without whose total liberation (as Arab modernist intellectuals rightly claim) there can be no democracy.
On the question of prisoners, especially those suspected of “terrorism,” the UNAMI report accuses the Kurdish local authorities of “torturing and ill-treating detainees.” The report asserts that “many have been held for prolonged periods without any charge.” Mr. Ismael, the aforementioned Kurdish activist, commented on this issue saying: “You cannot hold people behind bars for a couple of years just on suspicion of posing a threat to the political or social system.”
As to the “relative freedom of expression,” the report brings into question the veracity of the claims of the Kurdish officials: “Several journalists have been arrested by security services over the past few years. Others have been threatened or beaten by unknown persons.” Firhad ‘Awni, the head of Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, said: “We have a feeling that sometimes journalists are subjected to the political mood of the security services."
On the subject of human rights one must not forget the plight of Arabs in the Kurdish region (does this issue not concern the visiting Arab intellectuals?). Some reports refer to 150,000 Iraqi Arabs displaced in the Kurdish region, and how Kurds do not forget the oppression they suffered under Saddam (an Arab), hence their hatred for Arabs. Many non-Kurdish Iraqis feel “like second class citizens,” as reveals Wala’ Matti, an Assyrian employee in a hotel in Arbil who fled from Mosul: “I am Iraqi, this is my country, but here I feel as if I am foreigner.” Arab Iraqis also feel dismay (and grudge perhaps) when they hear about the Kurdish luxury tourist resorts like “British Village” and “Dream City,” while Baghdad and other Iraqi cities are being desecrated by the occupiers; they do not accept that the occupation be the price that Iraqis pay for the sake of the affluence of a few Iraqis - Kurdish and non Kurdish.
Responsibility for the destruction of Iraqi Kurdistan
It seems that the memory of neo-liberal Arab journalists has waned in the last two decades, thus forgetting who destroyed many parts of Iraqi Kurdistan. The fact is: Major parts were destroyed during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), which was indeed launched by Saddam Hussein but encouraged and supported financially and military by the US and its faithful Arab regimes in the Gulf and its allies beyond. In 1991, the US and its allies launched a war on Iraq; in its aftermath, the Kurdish region was turned into a “safe haven” (or rather an American protectorate), to be divided by two Kurdish parties (PUK and KDP). However, these two parties fell out and military infighting ensued. This lasted two years. The head of KDP Mas’ud Barazani then enlisted the help of Saddam Hussein to destroy his enemy Talabani. Meanwhile, Talabani, the head of the PUK, sought the help of Iran. Thousands of innocent Kurds suffered and died as a result of this civil war. Talabani, described by the Zionist Lebanese Fu’ad Ajamy as “a secular Kurd of great civility and learning,” (a description that echoes that of several Arab journalists who met up with Talabani in Kurdistan on a separate occasion), had collaborated brutally and openly with the ruling Ba’th party against Barazani. To add to Talabni’s glorious democratic record and “great civility and learning” is what the Iraqi poet Saadi Yuseef described in 2005 as the massacre of Pisht Ashan which took place in 1983. Talabani stands accused of complicity in “the killing of tens of communist rebels, both men and women, who were fighting the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The killing is said to have occurred on orders from Saddam himself.
If some Arab intellectuals have forgotten all these facts since they occurred long time ago, did they also forget that it was Talabani himself who, a couple of months into the invasion of Baghdad in 2003, signed the surrender document?
But is it really a matter of lapsed memory? Well, Saadi Yuseef tells us about the attempt of President Talabani to bribe Iraqi intellectuals living abroad, in order to prevent them from playing their critical role. This reminds us of Saddam Hussein’s attempts to do the same, but probably with far more money assigned to this project. Yuseef talks of cultural associations and unions which have been established in Sweden, Germany, Holland and Australia and funded by the Iraqi puppet government via its consulates. One can only wonder whether the Mada Festival might be another attempt by Talabani (and his intellectual advisors) to buy the conscience of Iraqi and Arab intellectuals and journalists, turning them into mere “soviet parrots,” reciting whatever they are told by the new king!
Finally, did the attending guests who went on to hail the achievements of “the Kurdish democracy,” know who Fakhry Karim, the Mada Festival’s organiser, is?
The Internet is clogged up with articles written regularly about this publisher colleague, many of which are in Arabic, just in case our intellectuals and journalists do not know other languages. If they still do not know how to use the internet (and this is doubtful indeed), it would suffice to contact any honest veteran Iraqi communist, true to the principles of Comrade Fahd, the founder of the Iraqi Communist party (ICP), in order to find out what happened to the ICP’s funds gathered from students, poor people and families of the party’s martyrs, in addition to the funds allocated for Al-Nahj magazine and Al-Mada publishing house. Perhaps those guests should have also investigated the links between some old/new Iraqi “communists” and Saddam’s secret services in the sixties and seventies, as well as the secret services of Arab countries, the UK and US in later times. Or is all of this of no significance so long as some Iraqi parvenus can organise cultural festivals, support popular culture by publishing a monthly book distributed in the millions free of charge, and help few old guard communists who decided to erase their past and to put Marx and Lenin “on trial” while eulogising the new Iraqi democracy?
We in the Arab world are living a real tragedy not only because we are living under oppressive regimes, compounded with imperialist’s designs and Zionist schemes, but also because of a major setback in genuine critical consciousness. Charlatan intellectuals practice double standards, by being selective in their critique, thus criticising one oppressor while turning a blind eye to another. Before 2003 they condemned both dictatorship and occupation; however, as soon as the dictatorship was replaced by occupation, they fell silent and now only criticise the already demised dictatorship. One of the “intellectual” attendees of Mada Festival, which took place in Kurdistan last year, proclaimed “I am happy now since I am attending a free conference on a free land.”
To hell with this freedom that has in the last four years devoured the lives of 700,000 innocent Iraqis, allowed the Mossad to infiltrate Iraq, caused internal division and strife, an increase in honour killings, and the deterioration of Iraqi human rights and freedom of expression in the ‘liberated” part of Iraq itself.
And to hell with this phoney critical consciousness!
 AL-ADAB journal was established in 1953 by the late Lebanese intellectual Suhayl Idris. It is considered one of the most influential literary publications in the Arab world. It is currently published six times a year, and includes files on politics, poetry, novels, cinema and public culture. Its current editor is Samah Idris, a writer and author.
 This text has been translated and edited from Arabic by Ali Issa, Nofa Khadduri, Namir Shabibi and Tahrir Nouman.
 Wahabism is a name given to followers of Imam Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th-century scholar who was born in Najd ( Saudi Arabia of today). He advocated that it was the duty of every Muslim to follow Islam strictly in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
 Junblatism, a term that refers to Walid Junblat, the leader of PSP (Progressive Socialist Party). He has been known for shifting positions every now and then: From pro-Syria to anti-Syria (and pro-Bush) and back again to being pro-Syria, from anti-privatization to pro-privatization and again to the old position, only in the last 5 years following the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. He is a symbol of opportunism in politics and the public sphere in general.
 Sabri hafiz, “Our, or Adonis’s, Current Issues?”, Al Adab 3-4, 1995, P 34-37. And Subhi Hadidi, “Adonis and Poor Argumentation”, Al Adab, Issue 7-8/ 1995, in response to Adonis’s reply to his critics in Al Adab 5-6 / 1995, P 4-8 entitled “Culture, Crime and Entertainment”.
 Shakir al-Nabulsi is a Palestinian literary critic who was very pro- resistance in Palestine and elsewhere. In the last decade or so, however, he has been coined as a "liberal Arab", adopting pro-Bush and anti resistance stands.
 NBN Lebanese satellite T.V interview with Shakir al Nabulsi, who has of late described himself as “liberal” (first week of May 2007).
 A Palestinian politician who was a member of the Israeli Knesset from 1996 until resigning in April 2007. He is the author of many books and numerous articles dealing with nationalism, Islam, democracy, the Palestinian issue, and minority rights.
 Azmi Bishara, “ Empty Rhetorics Being itself an Empty Rhetoric,” Al-Akhbar, 2/4/2007.
 Ahmad Bazzun, “ Talabani in a Meeting with Arab Intellectuals,” Al-Safir, 4 May 2007.
 Wa’il Abd al-Fattah, “We Went to Kurdistan and Saw,” Al-Akhbar, 21 May 2007.
 Some of his best poems, entitled The container of colours, were translated from Kurdish into Arabic by Shahoo Said and published by Dar Al-Adab in 2002.
 Al-Safir, 9 May 2007, P 18.
 Abd Alrahman Munif, Al Tariq Magazine, Issue 6, 1991, P 101.
 Laura Rozen, “Kurdistan’s Covert Back – Channels,” Mother Jones, 04/12/07www.motherjones.com
 Mohammed A. Salih, “Iraq: UN Report Sparks Uproar in Kurdistan,”http://ipsnews.asp?idnews- 37630
 Andrew Lee Butters, “Kurdistan: Iraq’s Next Battleground?”, April 12, 2007,Time,www.time.com/time/printout
 Husayn Al-Kurdi, “The CIA in Kurdistan,” Dec. 1996,www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/dec96kurdi.htm
 www.iris.org.il/bt09/archives/2335-The Great Circle-of-Enmity.html
 Husayn Al-Kurdi, op.cit
 Saadi Yuseef, “Bring Jalal Talabani to International Criminal Court at the Hague,” 18 Feb 2005.www.rezgar.com
 Saadi Yuseef, “ The Colonial Deployment of Iraqi Intellectuals in the Diaspora” October 2 2006،www.saadiyousif.com/Syasa/21.html
 The poet Abbas Baydhun in a statement which was distributed on line by Iraqi opposing groups.
المقالات المنشورة على هذا الموقع لا تعكس بالضرورة آراء منظمتنا أو أعضاء منظمتنا
While the point itself may not have more than Abbasid houses under the ground, it is adjacent to the palace of Sur Isa, the remains of which can be seen in the photo. While the initial construction might or might not touch the palace, accompanying activities will certainly spread over it.Sur Isa can be identified with the palace of al-Burj, built by the
Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil, probably in 852-3 (Northedge, Historical Topography of Samarra, pp 125-127, 240). The palace is said to have cost 33 million dirhams, and was luxurious. Details are given by al-Shabushti, Kitab al-Diyarat.
Samarra was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO at the end of June. The barracks could easily have been built elsewhere, off the archaeological site.--
Alastair Northedge Professeur d'Art et d'Archeologie Islamiques UFR d'Art et d'Archeologie
Universite de Paris I (Pantheon-Sorbonne) 3, rue Michelet, 75006 Paris
tel. 01 53 73 71 08 telecopie : 01 53 73 71 13 Email :
Alastair.Northedge@univ-paris1.fr ou email@example.com