Sophia's Peace Work

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Salam Al Jabouri is released and ok ...

But another Iraqi friend, Ali, has been detained by the Jordanian Police and deported for overstaying his visa in Jordan. As I write this now, the Jordanians have just dropped him off past the Jordan-side of the border and have told him to walk over to the Iraqi side.

I met Ali before the war when he was working in the restaurant where I was staying. He has been helping internationals working in his country for some time but finally it became to difficult for him to stay and he was in Jordan working with a Canadian sponsor to travel as a refugee to Canada.

My understanding is that the rules are, if you are seeking refugee status, you can't return to your own country. But the process takes so long and Jordan, as well as many of the surrounding countries, don't really care if you are a refugee or not ... they will just deport you if they find you over stay your visa.

I have heard from many Iraqis the the UN High Commission on Refugees will, after a long process, register you as a refugee, which is supposed to help you from being deported but these same people tell me that the Jordanians don't really honor this registration. As a result many Iraqis are here illegally, trying to keep a low profile. Realizing this the Jordanians have many checkpoints and often do spot checks in certain neighborhoods. Ali was taken at one near the airport when he was traveling with a friend on the airport road.

Of course, I understand why the Jordanians are acting this way, considering the bombings they have experienced in the fall ... but right or wrong, it's also innocent people that get hurt by such policies.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why is Salam Al-Jabouri still being held?

An Iraqi friend and peace activist who as acting as a translator for a british journalist, Phil Sand, was kidnapped (along with Phil and their driver Abdullah) sometime (as I understand it) in December. They were freed in a U.S. raid that took place (as I understand it) in early January. Phil was immediately released but the Iraqis were not. The following is a letter sent to Phil by a LTC Guy Rudisill, a press official for "detainee operations."


I wanted to let you know about your interpreter, Salam, and driver Abdullah.

Your interpreter, Salam, was picked up and detained during your rescue. He is currently at Abu Ghraib.

An investigation is ongoing about the incident. Based on this investigation, a determination about Salam will be made. I will inform you when the investigation is complete.

As to Abdullah,‌ we (MNF-I) does not have this individual in custody.

Salam is in good health and is being treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

I hope this information helps.


LTC Guy Rudisill
Public Affairs Officer
Detainee Operations
Multi-National Force Iraq
Iraq Cell ++ 964(0) 7902 253 033
DSN (318) 822-2911
VOIP 242-0719

Given the lastest (though old) pictures from Abu Ghraib, this statement of "being treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions" rings a little hollow. I bet they SAY that all the time.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Fight against Terrorism becomes an excuse for everything ...

The following is a excerpt from a Christian Peacemaker Team update ... despite the fact that they still have four team members who remain kidnapped, CPT is still trying to continue its work in Iraq. This includes documenting what is happening to detainees in both U.S. and Iraqi detention camps and helping family members find information on their loved ones. The "[ ]" are my corrections or comments.

Monday – January 16, 2006

David, Pyles, and Gish [the CPT Team members] accompanied an Iraqi human rights worker, an Iraqi filmmaker, a lawyer and an elderly Iraqi man to the Kadhamiya Iraqi army base. The elderly man was looking for members of his family, including his wife, young daughter-in-law, and four sons who were all arrested in a raid at their home.

U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out the raid based on a tip that the men had kidnapped the Minister of Interior's sister. The women were supposed to be held briefly for questioning, but were detained for five days. After talking with a number of people at the base, the group was told to come back the next day to speak with officials.

Tuesday – January 17, 2006

David, Pyles, and Gish returned with the Iraqi group from the previous day to the Iraqi military base in Kadhamiya where they met with Major General Meh'di. After the General gave a discourse about the Iraqi army's need to fight terrorism, David spoke to him of the many problems the US had caused in Iraq, especially the abuse of

Then [the General] brought in the two women and said they had been detained because they had information about violent acts, but refused to give it. He then brought in two of the sons and accused them of killing many people as part of the resistance, and of their involvement in kidnapping the sister of the Minister of Interior.

One was accused of killing his own sister [I assume here they mean the officer's sister?] for political reasons. The team saw signs of physical mistreatment of the oldest son who had difficulty walking. He said quietly to the team that his feet were swollen because of beating, and that he was beaten all over. The team saw scars and marks on his hands and wrists and forehead but he said out loud to the people in the room that he had just scratched himself.

When Pyles took off his hood to look at his head, the General got angry and said that it was illegal to examine a prisoner without permission. He also asked his interpreter to look at the notes Gish was taking, but the interpreter seemed not to hear him and didn't do it. The General refused to let the team talk with him or the women alone and later changed the reason for detaining the women, saying it was to protect them from the family who might harm them. He promised to release them in two days.

Apparently all you have to do is make a speech about how you are fighting terrorism ... couple that with a few accusations against someone for participating in criminal acts ... and you can do whatever you like to your prisoners. Who needs this pesky notion of "providing proof" or "innocent until proven guilty?" Those ideas are easy to forget ....

And the idea that we shouldn't commit criminal acts against criminals because we don't want to become the very thing we stand against. Well, our Major General probably doesn't even trouble himself with such notions.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Danish Cartoons

Several people have talked to me about the Danish Cartoons here in Jordan. I have met muslims who are deeply offended (I got a text message in arabic from my former neighbor giving me a list of all Danish products to boycott) and others who think it is wrong to be so upset about it.

Personally, I feel that any word or picture that spreads hate and bigotry shouldn't be tolerated ... though I would stop short at calling for the heads of the cartoonist! As a westerner, I'm not sure I always understand this rule against showing images of the prophet. I fully admit that I only have a basic understanding of the religion of Islam (I think I would have to get to the level of reading the Koran in the original Arabic to make that claim). Part of this ban against images of the Prophet seems to come out of a deeply held belief that one needs to venerate the message (the word of God) and not the messenger (the Prophet). The Buddha is a good example of this problem ... he'd be spinning in his grave to see that people now worship him like a god. Buddhism wasn't meant to be a new religion, like a new flavour of the month.

I recently saw the movie The Message by Moustapha Akkad on TV here in Jordan. There were two versions made of this movie, one in Arabic and one in English with Anthony Quinn. Moustapha Akkad was a successful filmmaker known in the West more for his Halloween horror films. He was killed in the terrorist bombings here in Jordan last year.

In the movie, the character of the Prophet is never seen or heard on camera ... bowing to this belief that no images of the Prophet should be shown. When he is supposed to be present in the scene, he acts as the camera's eye. There is an interesting scene where Anthony Quinn and others are building a brick wall. Quinn's character (Hamza), talks to the camera, admonishing Mohammed to take rest.

(As an aside, this reminds me of a friend's comment upon seeing Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. My friend was upset by the movie. Her main problem? Jackson's selection of Elijah Wood as Frodo as well as other actors in the movie, just didn't fit with the image in her head for these characters. Having seen the movie, the 'taint' of Elijah Wood would forever haunt her once pure imagination. Perhaps this is another, unspoken reason for not showing images of the Prophet?)

There have been many films and cartoons of figures from other religious traditions. As a Westerner, I have often seen humorous images of Jesus or even God used to make social commentary. We generally don't have a problem with this. Afterall, if God created everything, than "she" created humor as well and you would expect "she" would enjoy a good joke just like anyone ... still, in the case of atleast some of these cartoons today, the humor seems to be vicious and mean-spirited ... and I don't see why these should be printed anywhere.

Yes, speech should be free and if you really want to make images the are hurtful, that's your choice ... but my question is, why would a newspaper want to publish hate?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Various perspectives

The following are two very different statements made in relation to kidnapping and the four CPT kidnap victims ... The first an excerpt from an email of a friend of mine on the CPT team in Baghdad. The latter is from a former Iraqi student of mine at the University of Baghdad's College of English (with only slight English correction ... he was a good student). This person is now working as a translator/reporter for a western news agency.

Today I bring you no new revelations of my own, no startling theological clarity. Rather, I bring you a bit of my day, spent mostly thinking about my 4 CPT colleagues still held in captivity by their kidnappers, praying for them, planning what we will do when they are released, entertaining all sorts of rumors about where they are/what their fate has been, talking about what we can do (tacitly acknowledging that there is very little we can do but wait).

Some see their captivity as directly linked to the United States occupation. I understand the thinking, but I am much more simple. All violence has a context; every violent act has a reason or justification. 'Because he/she made me' is as old as the school yard or perhaps even the womb. Cain's anger was its own justification; and how many sermons admit that it is far easier to understand Cain than God in the Genesis account of the death of Abel. 'Why did God favor Abel?' we ask, as if somehow the life of Abel can be accounted for, the violence and its injury erased by looking elsewhere than Cain's hand for our answers. I am, as I said, simplistic (also, I am an only child :-)

Would my friends have been kidnapped if the United States had not invaded Iraq? The truth is probably not. Does that vitiate the very real violence that was done to them at the hands of their captors by their taking? No. What do we do with that?

Falling down and getting up, time after time after time, we pray and we wait. It is the waiting that is hardest of all.

Please keep Tom Fox, Jim Loney, Norman Kember and Harmeet Sooden, their families and friends, along with all those held in captivity of various kinds and their families and the people of Iraq who continue each day in the captivity of war and violence, in your prayers. We have seen Tom and Jim, Norman and Harmeet in recent video footage, confirming that they are alive, an answer to our prayers; but they are very thin and threats against them continue.

And this is from my former student:

Did you see the videotape of the American female journalist, Jill Caroll yesterday night? Oh God I can't beleive it. She was wearing a white Islamic scarf and she was weeping. I can't bear this. I have a feeling that they will release her. I hope this (by the way, I liked her and I can't see her crying). But the thing that made me feel that they will release her is that why [would] they dress her like a Muslim lady? This sign made me draw [the] conclusion that she will be released and I am praying for this...

... I hope that [something will happen for] Tom Fox and the other guys in CPT but in my view they are idiots because how can a foreigners drive out in the streets without guards?!! I hope they will be o.k.

I'm not sure about this but I believe that the female journalist was also without a guard ... I think she had only a translator and driver with her? But perhaps her translator was armed? Even so, it didn't do them much good to resist, as he was killed trying to protect her. I know that CPT, as a peace organization, would reject traveling with armed guards. It goes against their philosophy. Idiots or not.