Professionals on a Death Row - 03.01.2006

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, Feb 28 (IPS) - Professionals like doctors and teachers are being targeted particularly in the crime wave sweeping Iraq.

“Really we don’t know exactly who they are, but I am sure these criminals are not normal and they get training in other countries,” Dr. Ali Al-Obeidi, a doctor in Mosul told IPS. “They know very well what they are doing. Their purpose is to destroy Iraq from the inside.”

It is not just the U.S. forces that Iraqis blame for these crimes. They see also an influence from Iran. Dr. Isam Al-Rawi, member of the Association of Muslim Scholars and head of the Teachers Association of Iraqi Universities suggests that Iran is involved in assassinating educated and influential Iraqis.

Since the end of the Gulf War and the beginning of the sanctions regime academics, doctors and other professionals in Iraq have experienced hardships because they are professionals. Scholarly journals, research equipment, and medical tools were all banned from shipment to Iraq under the sanctions.

The limiting of these and other “dual-use” items devastated academic institutions and stunted Iraq’s progress in keeping pace with other nations in technological advancement. Literacy in Iraq dropped from over 90 percent before the Gulf War to about 50 percent today, and much less in the outlying provinces.

But now Iraqi professionals are facing a newer, deadlier difficulty. Since the occupation began in 2003, Iraqi professionals have been regularly killed, sometimes on a daily basis.

“This is tyranny, we live in the worst tyranny in all of human history,” Dr. Al-Rawi told IPS.

“Every hour in Iraq there are killings, kidnappings, arrests, house raids and more. And all of that is because of occupation and our weak government. When I say that I don’t mean Saddam was good leader. No he also was bad but Iraqi streets were clean from these crimes, especially the crimes against professionals.”

Al-Rawi said, “I charge occupation forces and the Iran government because both want to destroy Iraq. The Iraqi minister of interior helps Iran to do their crimes, and the Iraqi government hides the statistics of assassinations, but we have our statistics.” The Shia-led government in Iraq is close to Iranian religious and political leaders.

The accusation that the minister of interior is involved in these assassinations is in line with findings by the U.S. military. Twenty-two men were arrested recently for running a death squad in Baghdad. They have repeatedly claimed that their actions were carried out under the orders of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr.

The Association of Muslim Scholars says only about 2,000 Iraqi doctors are still working in Iraq, and that more than 300 professionals have been assassinated since the occupation began.

Al-Rawi and other officials from the Association are calling for civil disobedience actions to draw attention to this issue.

“We don’t have enough power to stop these crimes because we don’t have the guns of the military forces, but we try to make pressure on the government and U.S. troops to stop it. We must be careful, and work very hard to stop (the assassinations) by demonstrations, sit-ins, and civil disobedience.”

Disobedience actions have begun already in an effort to force the government to take these concerns seriously. Doctors in Mosul joined a large demonstration Feb. 14 to demand security. They warned of civil disobedience action throughout the city.

“We don’t know what we can do to protect ourselves,” Dr. Ali Al-Obeidi told IPS. “Every day people are killed and kidnapped. I wish this disobedience will make enough pressure on our government to find a way to protect us and all professionals.”

As in Baghdad, citizens of Mosul say they never saw crimes like these before the occupation began. Many say the occupation bears a large responsibility for the assassinations of doctors, teachers and other professionals in the Mosul area.

Al-Obeidi was born in Mosul and has been a doctor since 1990. “For many years I didn’t hear about any accidents happening to doctors. This problem started after the war. It became bigger and bigger over these days; two of my colleagues were killed. I don’t know when I will get killed. Many doctors have left Iraq to go to another country, and one day soon it will be very difficult to find doctors in Iraq.”

On the day before the demonstration in Mosul, Haitham Al-Azzawi, a teacher from the Islamic University in Baghdad was killed. His death brought the number of professors and teachers killed since the beginning of the occupation to 182.

“Dr. Haithem was my close friend, we were friends for 15 years,” Dr. Omar Abdul Rahman told IPS. “He was a teacher at the Islamic University, he was 35 years old, married and he lived in Habibiya area in southeast Baghdad. On the13th of this month, when he finished his work at the University he was on his way back home when some armed men stopped him and killed him on the road to his house.”

Dr. Abdul Rahman said Haithem Al-Azzawi had no longstanding problems with anyone in his neighbourhood. “He was a quiet man and everyone liked and respected him. The criminals who killed Dr.Haithem are the same criminals who killed the other doctors and scientists. Really it’s a secret organised war. Many different sides work in this war against Iraqi professionals, for many different purposes.”

Dr. Isam Al-Rawi says the goal of these assassinations is the eventual destruction of Iraq.

A former general in the Iraqi army, who would only give his initials, A.R., said the killing of professionals was intended to have a long-term impact.

“Occupation forces focused on Iraqi scientists who worked in military plants, they arrested many of them, and some of them were assassinated,” he told IPS. “That’s why Iraqi scientists sent an appeal for help over the Internet. They are asking the UN to help them with their situation in Iraq and to save them from the arrests and raids by occupation forces.”

There is a clear design behind the killing, the former general said. “Many of them get killed near their houses or on the way to their work, and others get kidnapped, and we find their dead bodies in the street. When you follow these crimes you will be sure that the criminals have special training and their purpose is to make Iraq empty of any professionals.”

Many such killings in Mada’ain, Al-Shula and Al-Iskan have gone virtually unreported in the western press. (END/2006)

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