From WEEKLY MDS No.884, April 22, 2005 issue logo

Stand in Solidarity with Students' Strike in Basra, Struggle to Open Future for Iraq

Protest against murder of a student

Basra in southern Iraq, the second largest city of the country, is seeing a surge of a struggle of students and citizens for freedom, equality and secularism.

This struggle was triggered by a murder of a student by political Islamists on March 15. A group of Basra University students were outing in a park. An armed militia belonging to the al-Sadr group came and attacked them, destroyed their belongings and tore clothes off female students. When one Christian female student became a single focus of the attackers, a male student tried to rescue her and got shot to death by a militia soldier. Moreover, they held about 20 other students hostage and tortured them.

On the following March 16, students declared an open-end strike. In the face of besieging national guards, students of the university courageously mounted protest demonstrations, which swelled into mass actions of several thousand protesters, including high school students and other citizens. Their demands include punishment of the criminals, withdrawal of the armed group from the campus and separation of religion from the state and education. Their actions have created enormous sympathy among the young in particular.

Aiming for a secular rule

Basra has been subject to strong influence of political Islamists from the beginning of the occupation. The students' brave actions to say "No to the al-Sadr group!" in that very city definitely mark "a great start for more organized struggles against political Islamists and for secularism" as Houzan Mahmoud of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) observes.

Two years after the toppling of the Hussein administration, it is already clear that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been providing "the magnet that attracts Islamist terrorism globally" as pointed out by Yanar Mohammed, president of the OWFI.

Since last summer, at least 12 barbers were threatened not to provide shaving services and got killed eventually. Bombing of beauty parlors still continues. Working women are being persecuted, and humblest street stalls run by women are driven away. Liquor shops are either attacked or demanded to pay "guardian fees" by religious forces. (The Asahi Shimbun, April 8 issue)

Women are under pressure to carefully select what to wear so that any part of their body is concealed as much as possible, and now even refrain from letting their hair flow. University/college students are gender-segregated, deprived of joy of music, and forced to attend religious events instead. (Abstracted from a diary of Riverbend, a woman living in Baghdad)

That is the reality of the daily life for Iraqi citizens at large. No freedom, no liberation from dictatorship, nor democracy. What the occupation has invited - it is raging violence, unchecked infringement of human rights, discrimination against women, and a reign of terror in the name of "God."

Students at Basra University stood up to deny all of those. Theirs is a struggle for recovery of ordinary life that has been severed into pieces by the occupation and for restoration of the trodden rights for decent life that human beings deserve. Here in their struggle resides the hope of the Iraqi people.

Convey worldwide support and encouragement

Over April 6 to 7, the president, vice president and prime minister of the Iraqi Transitional Government were appointed. However, it is an essential mistake to evaluate this phase as a step toward construction of a new nation as The Akahata April 9 issue renders. The appointed respectively represent certain religious sectors or ethnic groups. They are nothing but puppet politicians that are trying to extract interests for themselves or the sects they belong to. They cannot be representatives of the Iraqi people, in any sense.

The force that can shoulder the mission of democratic reconstruction of Iraq is nowhere but in the Iraqi Civil Resistance front that has joined Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC), a newly launched organization. The IFC's Manifesto consistently advocates thoroughgoing democracy, people's sovereignty and humanism. The students' strike in Basra represents a struggle toward embodiment of this Manifesto. Let us convey overwhelming support and encouragement from Japan and from the world. (April 11)

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