Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Kofi Annan Is Disappointed

When I was young, I believed in the good will of an organization called "The United Nations." That belief lasted until the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Iraqi people after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. From day one, those sanctions hurt ONLY the people of Iraq. It took us, the Iraqi people, a while to adjust our taste to the dark colored bread made of unknown ingredients. Did those sanctions hurt Saddam or anyone around him? No. It actually helped him make more money as we've all seen by following the Oil-For-Food scandal.

It hurts more when you read of the different parties involved in this scandal. The name that's been appearing in the news lately is Kojo Annan, son of U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan. The Associated Press reported:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was unaware his son received $30,000 a year for more than five years from a Swiss-based company under investigation in connection with suspected corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.
...

Annan told reporters Monday that he had been working on the understanding that payments to his son, Kojo Annan, from Cotecna Inspection S.A. stopped in 1998 “and I had not expected that the relationship continued.”

But on Friday, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Kojo Annan’s lawyer had informed the independent panel appointed by the secretary-general to investigate allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program that the younger Annan continued to receive monthly payments through February 2004.

...

Asked whether he was disappointed and angry with his son for taking the money and not disclosing it, Annan replied: “Naturally I was very disappointed and surprised, yes.”

The United Nations may come up with something to clear Kojo's name. But, damage has already been done to the Iraqi people. The sanctions left millions of Iraqis scarred physically, psychologically and emotionally. The distrust you witness from many of us toward most nations is because we suffered deeply from those sanctions. We were left to think the whole world wanted to punish us for something we didn't commit ourselves.

But, let's forget about the past. So, here are my Christmas wishes this year:
  • I wish to see the United Nations genuinely help the Iraqi people prepare for the upcoming elections in 2005.

  • I wish to see the United Nations act quickly to help African women infected with HIV/AIDS. I wish it can help Princess Kasune Zulu from Africa, who argues that we are failing the African girls.

  • I wish to see the United Nations stop condemning and start acting effectively to protect people of Darfur.

Until my wishes come true, I won't have much faith in this organization.



Post Links:

Annan ‘disappointed’ with son over payments
'Why we are failing African girls'
The Tragedy of Sudan

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Salute To an Iraqi Catholic Nun

When I was a kid, I feared nuns. My fear continued until the early 80s when our neighbor died and left his house to the Catholic nuns in Basra. Me and my mom visited them a few times. That's when I realized they were not aliens from another planet. I realized it's fun to be around them. OK, maybe not during their work hours.

So, today I present the story of a Catholic nun from Baghdad. Sister Beninia Hermes Shoukwana has been the headmistress of Ibtikkar Public School in Baghdad for the last 30 years. The school has 3,000 students and the number keeps growing. Parents want to put their kids in her school because of the school's disciplines.

The terrorists don't want to leave Sister Beninia alone -- do they leave anyone alone? They have been distributing leaflets asking the parents to withdraw their kids from the school. She has been accused of trying to convert her Muslim students to Christianity, which is the most ridiculous accusation I've heard against Iraqi Christians. If you grew up in Iraq, you know this accusation is false. Iraqi Christians are NOT missionaries. We're the oldest inhabitants of Iraq. We lived side by side with the Muslims with full respect for their religion. The Iraqi Muslims know this very well. That's why I'm convinced most of the dangerous criminals running the show in Iraq are NOT IRAQIS.

Many people wondered why Iraqis didn't try to stop the looters after the collapse of the Iraqi regime in April 2003. Well, that's not true in Sister Beninia's case. Borzou Daragahi, reported to the San Francisco Chronicle:

After the breakdown of law and order following the government's fall, she spent the entire spring and summer of 2003 holed up at Ibtikkar to protect it from would-be looters.

"I wasn't armed, and I was vulnerable," she said, "but I confronted the thieves, and they went away."

Despite increasing prejudice against her faith and threats against her school, the numbers of parents trying to get their children into her school continues to grow. Some classrooms are jammed with as many as 60 students. The school is in the process of building an annex.

The report ends with a good message from the courageous nun:

Sixteen of her charges, mostly Christians, recently left the country. Every day desperate parents visit her office, telling her they are frightened and are thinking of abandoning Iraq. She urges them to stay.

"I try to explain to them that wherever they go, they'll always be immigrants," she says. "Iraq is like our house. It's our duty to try to clean up our house."

She is one of a kind.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. The food was really good today. My stomach is full and happy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

World Vision Organization Is Leaving Iraq

Sorry for not posting lately. I was living in the fantasy world of Wizards and Muggles. I finished reading the 700+ pages of "Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire." So, before I talk politics and in case you're a fan of Harry Potter books and movies, read 101 Ways to Annoy, Harass, Confuse or Generally Scare Lord Voldemort. The list won't make much sense if you haven't read the books yet.

World Vision Australia, a nonprofit relief organization, which operated in Iraq since April 2003 is pulling its relief workers out of Iraq and closing its offices inside Iraq. Geoff Shepherd, World Vision Australia's director of emergency relief, stated:

"The move follows violent activities across Iraq, the death of Margaret Hassan and the previous death of World Vision's own head of operations in Iraq."

Mohammed Hushiar, World Vision's Iraqi head of operations, was killed in Mosul on Sept. 29, 2004 by unknown gunmen.

Tim Costello, head of World Vision Australia, said in an interview with ABC Australia:

We were working mainly in water and health rehabilitation and sanitation, we were in hospitals and started there in April 2003 and estimate that over 600,000 people were benefited from what we were doing. It's work that now has to be handed back to the local ministry of health and the local government bodies there.


I contribute monthly to World Vision Australia for their relief work in Africa and other places. That's why it's sad to see them leaving Iraq.



Post Links:

World Vision Australia
The News Tribune: World Vision pulls relief workers out of Iraq
ABC Australia: World Vision Australia pulls out of Iraq
Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire
101 Ways to Annoy, Harass, Confuse or Generally Scare Lord Voldemort

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Red Crescent and Falluja

Today, The Iraqi Red Crescent changed their statement regarding not being allowed to enter the city:

Ismail al-Haqi, director of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, said he had decided it was too dangerous for the convoy to proceed.

''I can't sacrifice the lives of the volunteers; it is very dangerous to go inside Fallujah now and we preferred not to enter,'' al-Haqi said.

He denied an earlier statement by the Red Crescent that U.S. forces and Iraqi officials turned back the convoy.

Then you read the following in the same report:

Muin Kassis, ICRC's spokesman in Amman, Jordan, said the agency planned to send investigators to two Fallujah suburbs, Karma and Assaklawia, Tuesday to check on the condition of hundreds of displaced families there.

Kassis said the ICRC was concerned about people living in tents and other makeshift shelters in the cold weather, and had preliminary reports of fever, diarrhea and other illnesses in the camps, especially among children.

Kassis also said the ICRC had reports that people in areas of Fallujah not under the control of the U.S.-led forces had no access to medical care.

''We urge all parties, either the American forces or the Iraqi government, to secure the lives of people of Fallujah; this is very important,'' Rawi said.

We can argue all day about the situation in Falluja depending on which side we're taking. I'm taking the side of the poor people, who were trapped in the middle of the conflict.

Eric, thank you for the report you've sent me. To you and others, you need to read my story on how I was trapped in Ammara during the Shia uprising in 1991. That way, you may understand how hard it is to live in the middle of a war zone.



Post Links:

Red Cross: Relief convoy turned back from Fallujah
Falluja Fighting Persists; Aid Convey Rejected
1991, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Margaret Hassan Is Gone

I wished for the story of the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan to have a happy ending. Unfortunately, her kidnappers didn't have a nano-drop of mercy in their hearts. They decided to end her fruitful life to serve their bloody hearts. Her spirit is free again.

Her family issued a statement today. Their words are very touching:

For the past 30 years, Margaret worked tirelessly for the Iraqi people.

Margaret had only goodwill towards everyone. She had no prejudice against any creed.

She dedicated her whole life to working for the poor and vulnerable, helping those who had no one else.

Those who are guilty of this atrocious act, and those who support them, have no excuses.

Read the full statement.

My condolences to her family and friends.

Iraq lost an angel.



Post Link:

Kidnapping of CARE Charity Worker
New video shows Hassan murder
Aid worker's family 'heartbroken'

Monday, November 15, 2004

Residents of Falluja Need Urgent Aid

COULD SOMEONE PLEASE DO SOMETHING TO HELP THE LOCAL PEOPLE OF FALLUJA WHO WERE TRAPPED BETWEEN THE INSURGENTS AND AMERICAN TROOPS. THEY NEED URGENT SUPPLYS OF WATER, FOOD AND FIRST AID. WHY ARE THE MARINES NOT ALLOWING THE RED CRESCENT TRUCKS TO ENTER THE CITY IS BEYOND MY UNDERSTANDING. IF AID DOESN'T REACH THE POOR PEOPLE OF FALLUJA, THEN AMERICANS SHOULD BE PREPARED TO LOSE MANY HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE -- IF THERE ARE MANY LEFT.

The humanitarian situation in Falluja is not acceptable. Put yourself in their shoes. Stop telling me there are few families left in the city. Even if there's one family left, they should have received help by now.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Happy Eid

Today is Eid Al-Fitr for Muslims. Even though I'm a Christian, I grew up in Iraq and this Eid is special for me too. It reminds me of the Iraqi harmony, which existed among Iraqis for many years.

This Eid, most Iraqi bloggers are not in a celebratory mood. To my fellow Iraqi Muslim bloggers, I have the words below for you. They were written by Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf at 19 months of age:

One day I asked a friend of mine who had just returned from a long walk in the woods what she had seen.

She replied, "Nothing in particular."

How was possible? I asked myself, when I, who cannot hear or see, finds hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I felt the delicate shape and design of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly over the rough bark of a pine tree. Occasionally, if I'm lucky, I place my hands on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.

All this convinced me of one thing:
The greatest calamity that can befall people is not that they should be born blind. But rather that they should have eyes and yet fail to see


Folks, we're young, healthy and educated. We can't let a bunch of terrorists ruin our hope in building a beautiful Iraq. If you give up, what's left for the Christian minority in Iraq? We find our strength in your support and strength. If you lose it, we lose it too.

Free Iraq

I found a new Iraqi blog from Baghdad. It's called "Free Iraq." It's written by Saleem Andraws Hanna. He's a dentistry student at the University of Baghdad. Here's his view for a best Iraq:

To have a clean Iraq from terrorists, we must build it with one hand and defend it from any attacks of the terrorists. We must do as America does fighting any type of terrorism and hitting and let everybody live his own life as they wish without hurting another.

The freedom of a country starts from the freedom of the people of the country. So we must fight to have an Iraq free from enemies and foreign fighters.

It's a wonderful view from someone whose second or third language is English.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Crying Without Tears

Najma posted some bad news from Mosul. Her oldest sister lost her father-in-law. Things are getting REALLY bad in Mosul. Someone needs to pay attention to what's happening there before it becomes another Falluja.

Please, visit Najma's blog and leave her an encouraging message. She needs our support during these times.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Falluja and The Sunnis

First, my condolences to the Palestinian people for the death of Yasser Arafat. Most of the world may dislike him. But, we shouldn't ignore his importance to the Palestinian people living in the West Bank. He was their hero. I have high hopes in the new leadership of the PLO. I hope the peace process will resume soon. Both sides of the conflict need to live in peace. I hope this happens during my lifetime.

Second, if you've sent me an e-mail lately and haven't received a reply, don't take it personally. You have no idea how busy I am. I told a cyber-friend it's not meant for me to live in any city for more than few years. It's not easy to live this way.

Now to the subject of Falluja. I'm all for cleaning this city of terrorists who slaughtered many Iraqis for the last 18-months. Period. The marines should've finished this job last April. It would've saved a lot of Iraqi lives. Our biggest problem in Iraq is having to deal with 23 million emotional Iraqis. It's always sad when I hear people -- Iraqis and non-Iraqis -- calling those terrorists "resistance." It's like calling Hitler a decent person.

Most of the Iraqi-Sunni population is obsessed in finding faults about America's role in Iraq. They forgot how much Iraq needs their positive support. The Iraqi-Sunni say America went to Iraq for the oil. They say Americans are deliberately killing Iraqis, which is the new rumor some Iraqis put in their heads and has become a fact for them. They say all the Satanic things about America.

You were Saddam's favorite minority when he ruled Iraq. Get over it. He's gone forever. The Shia and Kurds are not going to blame you for the massacres he committed against them. Join the rest of the country in rebuilding a beautiful Iraq. Very soon you'll find yourselves left behind with the least sympathy from most of the world.

The Iraqi elections will be held very soon. Organize yourselves and participate in these elections. You're the most secular Muslims in Iraq. If you want to make a difference, it's your chance to do so during these elections. Whining and complaining will not fix anything. The rest of the country is already gearing up for these elections. You know you can do it too. Show the world that you really care about Iraq.

Can you tell I'm angry? So, I'll leave you with this joke -- Thanks Hani for the joke:
In Jerusalem, an American female journalist heard about an old rabbi who visited the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a long, long time.

In an effort to check out the story, she went to the holy site and there he was. She watched the bearded old man at prayer. After 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview.

"I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN, sir, how long have you been coming to the Wailing Wall and praying?" she asked.

"For about 50 years," he said.

"50 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?" she asked.

"I pray for peace between the Jews and the Arabs. I pray for all the hatred to stop, and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and friendship," he said.

"And how do you feel, sir, after doing this for 50 years?" she asked.

Without hesitation he said, "Like I'm talking to a f**king wall."

That's how I felt while writing this post.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Iraqi Elections

I'll write my opinion about Falluja in my next post. But first, I wanted to talk a bit about the upcoming Iraqi elections.

On Nov. 6, 2004, the Independent High Commission for Elections in Iraq accepted five Iraqi parties as legimate parties. The accepted parties can run candidates in the upcoming elections. These parties are:
  • Islamic party: The Islamic Da'awa Party led by vice president Dr. Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari.

  • Nationalist party: The Assembly For Republic Party led by Raad Mawlood Muklis.

  • Libral party: The Centrist Assembly Party led by Mahmood Mohammed Jawad.

  • Islamic party: The Islamic Virtue Party led by Nadim Isa Al-Jabiri.

  • Islamic party: Islamic Work Organization led by Ibrahim Al-Mutairi. The spiritual leader for the party is the religious merji' Aya Allah Al-Said Mohammed Taqi Al-Muderesi.

On Nov. 7, 2004, the Commission considered the applications of six more parties. Nothing has been announced yet about their decision. I'll try to keep you updated.

The Iraqis living abroad will be allowed to vote after showing proper documentations. That's good news for the 3-4 million Iraqis who are scattered around the world.



Post Links:
المفوضية العليا المستقلة للأنتخابات في العراق
الموافقة على مشاركة 5 احزاب ودراسة 6 اخرى
Overseas Iraqis to Vote in Poll

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Iraqi-American Voters

Alaa, The Mesopotamian, wondered how much influence the Iraqi-American voters had on the American elections. I can answer his question as both myself and my family live in America.

The Iraqi-American voters were divided between the two candidates. It didn't come as a surprise to me. It's actually normal if you live in America. In the same family, people may vote for two different candidates. This holds true in almost every American family regardless of background. It's what we call "democracy." The rest of the world would give it other names.

But, that doesn't mean Iraqi-Americans, who voted Democrat or Republican in 2000, did the same this year. Yesterday, I asked my sister, who voted for Gore in 2000, how she voted this year. She said she voted for Bush. I asked her why not Kerry? Her answer was, "Kerry kept talking about having a plan to fix Iraq. He never told us what his plan was. At least Bush is clear in his views, and we know where he stands."

I'll bet most of the swing voters, who voted for Bush, will give the same answer. Iraqi-Americans, like the rest of Americans, wanted to hear a clear message from Kerry. Something we didn't hear during the whole campaign.

Personally, I still support Winnie The Pooh. He's the best candidate for the presidency.



Post Links:
The Salute
Iraqi Americans waver on Bush
Pooh The Bear

Jobs In Hollywood

Universal Studios contacted APAAM, Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military, to find Arabic speaking men of Middle-Eastern descent for a major motion picture. The film is an account of a U.S. Marine's life during the Gulf War in 1991 -- there are no combat scenes, unnecessary violence or nudity.

The movie, "Jarhead," is based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best-selling book, "Jarhead." It's directed by Sam Mendes, director of "American Beauty" and "Road To Perdition."

Universal Studios is searching for Arabic-speaking men of Middle Eastern descent, ages 18-65, to portray Kuwaiti nationals, Iraqi troops and Egyptian merchants. No experience is necessary.

If interested, e-mail APAAM here or call 818-425-7389 for more information.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

American Elections

I guess I need to write a post about the American elections now that they're over. I thought it would be wise not to write my thoughts about the subject until after the elections. I'm not an American. So, it's not my business to endrose any candidate on this blog. If I did, my endorsement would have gone to Micky Mouse or Winnie the Pooh. Most likely to Winnie the Pooh. He's very cute.

There were no surprises with the Texas results. The only surprise was voting "Yes" for the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Jerry Jones is wealthy enough to afford building the new stadium instead of putting the burdon on the people of Arlington. But, it's the city's choice. I see things differently.

The most interesting and cheerful result was California's "Yes" vote to fund the embryonic stem cell research in the Golden state. Someone had to break the chain. The Terminator did. Good for him.

I'm happy we didn't have a lot of drama during this election. I went to bed hoping Ohio wouldn't become another Florida. I got my wish. I would like to stress what Kerry said in his conceding speach, "Let's begin the healing." That's what America needs right now.

And last, could we move onward to rebuild Iraq and restore its security. Please?



Post Links:
Arlington to help fund Cowboys stadium
World's Richest People - #552 Jerry Jones (Jones, Jerral)
Key Ballot Measures Go Governor's Way
Bush wins a second term in office