Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Iraqi Election in the air (March 7th)

This is in no way an endorsement but I was recently channel flipping in Sulaimani when lo and behold, an Iraqi election advertisement pops up for the Ahrar Party and there is Ayad Jamal Aldin on the television.

I had been introduced to Ayad in the spring of 2004 by another friend and told that he was interested in learning English. I was teaching English at the time at the University of Baghdad and he asked if I would come over and teach him at his huge house along the Tigris River. I went a few times and he offered to allow me to stay in the house in a separate part of the building. I have to say, he was a rather resistant and poor student ... seems he thought he could learn by sheer absorption, just from being around me (if that were true I'd be fluent in Arabic by now and that is soooo not the case!).

I quickly realized that he was very much a political animal (shi'a cleric background notwithstanding) but I was unsure of his politics and of who were all the people that gathered to speak with him in his garden at night. I was used to meeting so many dubious characters back then. So I told him no, I wasn't interested (I'd come to Iraq with a peace group afterall and thought it just wouldn't 'do' to stay in that big, posh house) ... but that was before the heat of summer hit with the force of a semi-truck and, one day, after spending one too many nights in my room at the University campus melting into a puddle, I saw Ayad again and he repeated his offer. Upon which I very gratefully accepted. It proved to be a very interesting time (I organized the Tigris River trip while at his house to look at pollution issues with the Ministry of Environment and Ayad graciously let me end the trip at his home ... very impressive with its reed mudhief and formal hall inside a walled compound along the river). I later learned that a number of friends, including my current boss, knew Ayad as well and many held him in high regard. I'll be interested to see how his party does in the coming election.

This is an excerpt of Ayad's bio taken from the Ahrar website:
Ayad Jamal Al-Din is a young cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence in March 2003, when he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Ayad Allawi’s overtures to Iran. He is now the leader of Ahrar party, standing in the 2010 election for the Council of Representatives. He is seeking to prevent external interference, especially from Iran, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future. .... Ayad Jamal Al-Din was born in the holy city of Najaf in 1961, from the Arabic Family Adnania Hashemia Korashia. The Family is deeply rooted in literature, poetry, religion, judiciary and various sciences for more than Five hundred years.

Jamal Al-Din’s family is spread across various governorates, including Basra, Nasirya, Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.

His father, Mr. Raouf Mohammed died in exile in 2004, he had written more than fifty books on Arabic language and its rules, principles of Islamic religion and jurisprudence. He completed his journey of enlightenment and learning at the age of eighty, a journey that began at the tender age of seven.

Ayad Jamal Al-Din was raised in an Iraqi najafee community and as a child he memorized Arabic pre-Islamic poetry. He loved Imam (Ali) and the Myrtle Imam (Al-Houssain) and he dreamt a lot about flying a plane over his city. However, the tragic death of his elder brother Mohammed, a pilot, made it impossible to follow that dream.

His first public appearance was at the age of 16, when he protested the Iraqi government’s banning Shia'a from visiting the shrine of Al-Imam Al-Housain, the son of Ali. He was heard shouting; “Saddam, tell Baker that all the people don’t want you” Saddam Hussein was, at the time, Vice President to Hassan Al-Baker.....

In spite of the fact that he had been raised as a cleric, it was in the cultural and scientific world that he lived. The study and research broadened his mind and made him a man with a vision; he knew from very early on that the problems that plague the Middle East lie in the lack of human rights.

Ayad Jamal al-Din is standing for election to end the use of Religion as a means to achieve political goals. His desire is not to have a secular state in order to reduce the role of God in our lives; rather to liberate religion from the state. He wants to see an end to the political sectarianism that pits Kurd against Turkmen and Shia'a Against Sunni, believing that “we have a shared history, and we have a shared destiny”. He has consistently argued that our freedom, tolerance and security walk hand-in-hand....

He formed Ahrar as new group that is open to everyone – women, men, the elderly, the disabled and the poor, and dispossessed. Rather than stoking people’s fears in order to retain control, Ahrar focuses on what unites people; that we are humans and Iraqis first and foremost. That each and every one of us has the right AND the responsibility to change our country for the better.

Ahrar campaigns for transparency, not corruption, for freedom, tolerance and respect. For drinkable water, electricity and a job for everyone in rebuilding our shattered country, and because our nation can only succeed if we come together as ONE Iraq.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recycling in Iraq

Today I went out to a metal recycling place here in Sulaimani with a friend ... I wish I had gotten pictures but I forgot my camera. Amazing place. Occupational and environmental health nightmare. It is a place where they melt down scrap metals into bars for recycling. They get alot of stuff from pickers at the local garbage dump and from Baghdad (apparently they are one of the closest recycling places as all the ones down there have shut down).

Apparently if you are picking up aluminum cans you can get 750 Iraqi dinar per kilo (.64 USD). And the city council rents out the privilege (they get a cut of your earnings).

Anyway this place dealt particularly with aluminum and brass but other stuff as well. I even saw pieces of exploded bombs (those are from Baghdad apparently). Lots of it contaminated with other stuff too (paints, oils, etc.). I saw that they had a pile of old radiators ready to go into the aluminum furnace. Black smoke was billowing out of the place, which was generally open to the air, particularly from the aluminum area and the most people had on were dust masks... sometimes not even that.

I spoke to the owner (through my Kurdish friend) ... of course he says, no, they have no health problems ... (living in denial) ... he pointed to one guy working without even a dust mask in the aluminum smelter with thick, black smoke all around him ... "He's been doing this for years and no problem." Then he said that, on the advice of some doctor, they drink milk with lemon to protect themselves from the smoke.

But the owner was a nice guy and pretty open .... and I thought I'd see if I could get some information for him on health effects, prevention, etc...