Iraqi Marsh Arabs Take Over Security in Maysan Province
British forces turned over security operations this week in Maysan Province, the home of the Marsh Arabs.
Haider Ajina sends more information on Maysan Province in Iraq. This southern province took over security operations this week from the British forces. This is also the home of the Iraqi Marsh Arabs, a group that was brutally assaulted by the Hussein regime.
Starting shortly after the end of the Gulf war in 1991, Marsh Arabs have been singled out for even more direct assault: mass arrests, enforced “disappearances,” torture, and execution of political opponents have been accompanied by ecologically catastrophic drainage of the marshlands and the large-scale and systematic forcible transfer of part of the local population.
The repression against the Marsh Arabs since 1988 has been motivated by a combination of factors. In addition to the fact that Marsh Arabs are Shi’a, Iraqi authorities have targeted them because the remote terrain of the marshlands provided refuge for political
opponents of the regime and because, in 1991, Marsh Arabs themselves took part in rebellion against the Baghdad government. The marshlands also contain great wealth: they are today recognized as the site of some the richest oil deposits in the country.
But, those days area over…
This week Maysan Province took over responsibility for its own security.
And… Iraqi-American Haider Ajina sends the following translation of a press release from the Iraqi Prime Minster’s office via his website.
Obviously, this was not something that was such a big concern during the Hussein era:
Iraqi PM (Al-Maliki) forms a special committee to investigate the conditions and process of prisoner and detainees.
The Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) announced that he has formed a special committee to investigate the affaires of those imprisoned, detained and arrested in Iraqi jails and facilities of the Multi national forces (MNF). He also requested that the judiciary review all the files of those arrested or detained but not charged, and to either charge them so they may have their day in court, or release them.
In the same press conference the PM announced that, during the weekly session of his cabinet, he has apportioned 25 million dollars to assist displaced Iraqis outside the country. We will open offices in all the countries with a large Iraqi population. These offices will distribute help to those who need it. I ask the international community to help with providing humanitarian assistance to these displaced Iraqis in need.
The PM added that he has formed another special committee from the Ministries of Industry, Development and Housing. This committee is chaired by the office of the deputy PM and is charged with rebuilding the Sarrafiah Bridge, redesigned and rebuilding of Mutenabi Street and to allocate funds for these projects.
Security progress in Iraq since 2006. (Department of Defense)
Haider Ajina comments on this and the transfer of power in Maysan this week:
Another province is turned over to full Iraqi provincial control. This makes the fourth provinces in eight months to take over full control of its area.
In September Muthanna province received its full responsibility. This is a province of 32,150 sq mi and a population of little over half a million.
In December Nejaf (Najaf) province received full responsibility of its affairs. Nejaf is a province of 11,129 sq mi and a population of almost 1 million.
Also in December Dhi Qar province received its full provincial responsibilities of its territory. Dhi Qar is a province of 4980.7 sq mi and a population of 1.5 million.
Now in April Missan (Mayssan-Maysan) province receives its full provincial responsibility for its territory. Missan is a province of 6205 sq mi and a population of approximately half a million. Most of the population of Missan province are ‘Marsh Arabs’. These people were displaced when Saddam dried up the marshes. Then chased the Marsh Arabs out of their area (in which they have lived for over 5000 years) after the failed uprising in the early nineties after the Kuwait war.
This was one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. Since the liberation of Iraq the marshes have been restored to over 85% of their former glory. Many of the Marsh Arabs have and are returning to their lands. These Marsh Arabs live a lifestyle little changed since Iraq’s ancient history. Many academics theories that the Marsh Arabs are the descendents of the original Sumerians.
The provinces now under full Iraqi provincial control come to a total of 14% of the Iraqi population and 32% of Iraq’s territory. Iraq is a country the size of California and a population of about 25 million.
For the article from the PM’s website:
The Iraqi PM announces the formation of a committee to investigate the condition of those detained. This is (I believe) the first such action by any leader in the Arab world.
In most Arab governments once one is arrested or abducted by the security forces, especially for political reasons, they tend to either disappear or show up many years later with no one knowing what has happened to them.
Here we have a government executive setting up an oversight and investigative committee, to assure fair treatment of prisoners and detainees, and making sure that due process is followed for those charged. Those charged of course are innocent till proving guilty in a court of law. The concept of due process, while familiar to the people of Iraq, has eluded Iraqis in the recent history of Iraq.
What is even rarer in the recent history of Iraq is a government calling for action to reinforce and implement the concept of due process. The concept of a government serving its people, representative of its people and the rule of law which applies to every one is a concept not unique to the west. Early attempts of rule of law or the ‘commitment to the protection of the weak from being brutalized by the strong’ goes as far back as Hamurabi’s code of Law from latter half of 1700 BC. All Iraqis who go to s
chool study this in the fifth grade and in more detail in Junior high.
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