Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Mohamed al-Daradji on The Fabulous Picture Show

In Iraqi films, Son of Babylon on April 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The segment on Son of Babylon starts around 6 minutes in:


Iraqi Kurds lay Saddam’s child victims to rest

In Anfal (1987-1989), Mass graves on April 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm

» Prime Minister Barham Salih (right) and former Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani carry the coffin of one of the children

* No DNA tests available to identify remains

* Most children died of hunger, disease
By Sherko Raouf for Reuters

CHAMCHAMAL, Iraq (Reuters) – The remains of more than 100 unidentified children who died of hunger and disease during a harsh crackdown on Iraqi Kurds by Saddam Hussein were buried on Tuesday in the Kurdish town of Chamchamal.

The children were detained with their families in 1988 in the town 65 km (40 miles) south of Sulaimaniya, which is 260 km northeast of Baghdad, and from surrounding villages during a wave of arrests made by the former government in April 1988.

In a solemn ceremony on a breezy, overcast day, Kurdish peshmerga fighters in full-dress uniform carried more than 100 small coffins draped in Kurdish flags and laid them in a cemetery created especially for the young victims of oppression. The bodies of two women were also buried.

Around 4,000 people attended and a brass band played solemn music throughout the ceremony.

The arrests were part of the “Anfal” campaign aimed at suppressing the Kurds, whom the regime regarded with suspicion.

The detainees were sent to prison in Dibis, northeast of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Many of the children died of hunger and disease and were later buried in mass graves. Their bodies were exhumed after Saddam’s fall in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Saddam’s ouster was followed by a bloody and devastating sectarian war. The country has been comparatively stable over the past year despite continuing bombings but there are concerns protracted coalition talks following inconclusive elections in March could push Iraq back into sectarian conflict.

A spike in violence could delay U.S. plans to end combat operations in August ahead of a pullout by the end of 2011.

The ceremony on Tuesday was attended by Barham Salih, the prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, other leading Kurdish officials, foreign diplomats and thousands of family members of Anfal victims.

Kurdish Health Minister Taher Hawrami told Reuters the regional government lacked the equipment to perform DNA tests on the children to ascertain their identities. None of the children had been identified.

“It is very difficult to identify the victims at the current time,” he said. “We will take samples from the bodies and we will make DNA tests” when testing facilities become available.

Zeinat Fatah, 59, said she was held in Dibis with her two sons, who were aged eight and four. Both sons died of starvation in 1988. Her husband was killed during the campaign.

“Who are my sons?” she asked, weeping over the fact that her children’s remains had not been identified.

“We were left starving with no food for about 10 days, she said. “Many children died. I am a widow with no sons. I’ll cry for them until the end of my life.”

New Amnesty report accuses authorities of failing to protect civilians

In Refugees, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

UK among countries defying UN over returning refused asylum-seekers despite violence

Amnesty International has today called on the Iraqi authorities to urgently step up the protection of civilians amid a recent surge of violence in the country.

Groups like religious and ethnic minorities, journalists, women and girls, and men perceived to be gay have particularly been targeted, said Amnesty, as it published a 28-page report – Iraq: civilians under fire – accusing the Iraqi authorities of failing to protect those at risk.

Ongoing uncertainty over when a new Iraqi government will be formed has led to a recent spike in attacks, with more than 100 civilian deaths in the first week of April alone.

The report also points out that the UK is among several European countries defying current United Nations guidelines over not returning refused asylum-seekers to extremely dangerous parts of Iraq. For example, in October the UK forcibly removed 44 Iraqis to Baghdad. In the event this led to a reported stand-off with Iraqi soldiers boarding the plane on arrival; 34 of the group were eventually flown back to the UK.

Son of Babylon director on Al-Jazeera’s The Fabulous Picture Show

In Iraq's Missing, Iraqi films, Son of Babylon on April 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm
Son of Babylon

Iraqi director Mohamed al-Daradji first appeared on The Fabulous Picture Show back in 2007, when we screened his first feature, Ahlaam, about three psychiatric patients in chaotic post-Saddam Baghdad.

It was one of the first films to be shot in Iraq after the American invasion began, and conditions could hardly have been more harrowing – the production team literally dodged bullets, and Mohamed was even kidnapped twice.

Mohamed’s latest feature, Son of Babylon, is also set just after the fall of Saddam in 2003. It follows a Kurdish boy, Ahmed, and his grandmother on a macabre road-trip as they search for Ahmed’s father, a soldier missing since the first Gulf war.

Their quest leads them to some of the mass graves where thousands of bodies have been discovered, and continue to be found – chilling evidence of Saddam’s bloody legacy.

Mohammed has used the film to help launch the ‘Iraq’s Missing’ campaign, which aims to identify the countless bodies still lying in mass graves.

He talks to FPS about the cast’s profound emotional journey while filming Son of Babylon, and the importance of forgiveness in Iraq today.

This episode of The Fabulous Picture Show can be seen from Thursday, April 29, at the following times GMT: Thursday: 0600; Friday: 0030, 0830; Saturday: 2330; Sunday: 0630, 2130; Monday: 1430; Tuesday: 0530, 1230; Wednesday: 0300; Thursday 0030.

Fallujah: The Real Story

In Mass graves, Massacre of Fallujah April/November 2004, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

“It was billed as a resounding military success. Over 1,200 insurgents were meant to have been killed and another 2,000 trapped inside Fallujah. But now this version of events is being challenged. Far from being crushed, rebels claim they left the city in an organised withdrawal. “It was a tactical move,” explains insurgent leader Alazaim Abuthe. “The fighters decided to redeploy to Amiriya.” Before they left, fighters booby-trapped many bodies. People are too scared to move them so the corpses lie rotting all over the city. Rabid dogs feed off them and then attack returning residents. Far from stabilising Iraq in preparation for this month’s election, the assault on Falluja has fanned the flames of civil war. Today Fallujans are too busy trying to stay alive in freezing refugee camps to worry about ballot papers that haven’t arrived for an election they have no intention of voting in. As one resident comments, ‘We’re not interested in this sort of democracy.'”

Mobile cinema relief for Iraq

In Iraq's Missing, Iraqi films, Mobile cinema, Son of Babylon on April 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

What can you do when nearly all of the cinemas in the country have been destroyed by bombs and warfare, obliterating a flourishing film industry? When people can no longer go to the cinema, you bring the cinema to the people: that was the reasoning that inspired Iraqi film maker Mohamed Al-Daradji in 2007. Although people laughed at the idea at the time, this summer his mobile cinema is touring Iraq to bring films to various locations.

Read the full article @ The Power of Culture.

Quote of the day

In Mass graves, Secret prisons, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

‘In Iraq, we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East.  Together we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free institutions’, so declared President George W. Bush on 7 September 2003, six months into the occupation of Iraq. And yet, on 26 March 2010, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights has announced that that it unearthed 84 post-Saddam mass graves in the past year alone. Also, Human Rights Watch stated in a report published just over a year ago that ‘[a]buse in detention, typically with the aim of extracting confessions, appears common’ in the new Iraq. In 2009, the US State Department itself reported that it found ‘credible reports of torture, some resulting in death’ in the Iraqi penal system.”

Zaid Al-Ali, on

UN report on US secret prisons names six in Iraq

In Secret prisons, US-led occupation (2003-?) on April 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

In its most extensive study of secret detention practices to date, the UN released a 222-page report on the practice of secret detention in dozens of countries. The report was to be presented to the Human Rights Council in March but the Council has agreed to postpone the discussion until June. The detailed study conducted by four independent UN human rights experts accuses the Bush administration of utilizing practices in severe violation of international law.

Read the full post @ Amnesty’s Human Rights Now blog here.

Iraq’s refugee film-makers

In Iraqi films, Refugees on April 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

United Nations, February 2010 – Stranded in the desert, forgotten by most of the world, chased away by violence. That was the lot of several hundred Palestinian refugees who tried to flee the land they grew up in: Iraq. But the refugees found a creative way to change their lives for the better. Here’s their story.

Iraq’s food aid budget cut by half

In Food security on April 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm

BAGHDAD, 1 April 2010 (IRIN) – The Iraqi government has decided to cut by half the number of items in state food aid parcels – something that could affect roughly half the population, according to the Trade Ministry.

Iraq’s food rationing system, known as the Public Distribution System (PDS), was set up in 1995 as part of the UN’s oil-for-food programme following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but it has been crumbling since 2003 due to poor management, insecurity and corruption, a senior official said.

Read the full article here.

Roughly four million people in Iraq (15% of the population) are considered to be “food insecure”.