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Iraq Freedom Congress Rejects Violence of Occupation and Insurgency

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In Iraq, a citizen-powered organization is working to end the U.S. occupation though humanist messages and nonviolent civil disobedience. Among international solidarity movements, the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC) has a strategy for cutting through the fog of ignorance and chaos that feeds the war and it is finding worldwide support for its message.

Amjad Al-Jawhary, North American contact for the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, said the IFC is needed as an umbrella group bringing unions, women's rights-, and human rights groups together. "Insurgents in Iraq have tried all kinds of violence and failed. The country slipped into carnage. Neither the U.S. nor insurgents have achieved success," said Al-Jawhary. "IFC is a different way-a civil way-an international movement to drive the occupation out of the country."

The war has unleashed reactionary religious and ethnocentric forces against the people of Iraq. Escalating sectarian violence is a direct result of the US occupation and has affected every aspect of Iraqi life, according to the IFC's founding document.

The new organization, barely a year old, is committed to delivering a nonsectarian, democratic society. That can only be attained when the country is no longer occupied by foreign industry-backed military, say IFC leaders.

To understand the goal and mission of the IFC, think of the antiapartheid movement of South Africa's African National Congress. The ANC's call for justice for the black majority reverberated globally until intense public pressure on governments and, finally, multinational companies forced the South African government to abandon its apartheid policy.

From Japan and Australia to Canada, Italy, and Germany, members of workers' unions, human rights-, and women's rights groups have joined the IFC in support of US troop withdrawal and Iraq sovereignty. Large-scale support is coming from the United States and the United Kingdom, in spite of the fact that those governments stubbornly refuse to change course on the war, ignoring majority opposition from their constituents.

Sami Abusalem, newly elected head of the IFC's North American Branch (he is based in Canada); said the IFC monthly newsletter "became very quickly the voice of IFC all over the world." IFC places no religious or political restrictions on membership, but all members must be "pro-human being and pro-Iraqi freedom."

Abusalem said the goal of the IFC is "to propose a humane alternative solution that will create a real government and produce a secular institution in Iraq, where everyone is equal regardless of race, color, or ethnic beliefs."

IFC President Samir Adil contributed an open letter to Cindy Sheehan in the first newsletter, which was published in May. "Dear Cindy . . . our enemy has never been your or any mother's son. Our and your enemy is the inhumane policies of Bush's administration in Iraq. We cannot stop the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq unless we unify our efforts in Iraq and the US," wrote Adil.

It seems the newsletter is long overdue. Without it, who would know that Adil recently traveled to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the American Friends Service Committee and debated PNAC (Project for a New American Century) cofounder and Iraq war architect Richard Perle?

Members of Japan's antiwar movement recently contributed start-up funding for the IFC's major project, an independent satellite television station called PEACE/IFC TV. The station will inform and unify people by counteracting the ethnic and religious division inspired and inflamed by the occupation.

Just as the Bush administration has divided America among political and religious lines through media propaganda, the administration has similarly inspired hatred among Iraqi ethnic and religious groups through violence and propaganda. The new station will launch in August.

Along with improved communication in-country and internationally through a multi-language web site, IFC is organizing "Peace and Passion Houses" offering safe harbor for Iraqis who have been victims of violence. At the opening of a Peace and Passion House in Alexandria in May, the local IFC president said the organization will "protect the people and achieve short-term goals such as social services and basic needs."

The fledgling IFC received a major boost in the United States following last year's Iraq Labor Tour sponsored by US Labor Against the War (USLAW). USLAW, with more than 100 local unions as members, organized the 25-city tour so Iraqis could speak to Americans face-to-face and encourage dialogue and understanding free of media reinterpretation. A video of the tour, called "Meeting Face to Face," has been distributed to cable-access stations and interested groups.

At the conclusion of the tour, representatives of USLAW, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, the General Union of Oil Employees, and the Iraq Federation of Trade Unions signed a declaration in Washington, D.C., stating: "The occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and economic domination."

David Foster, then director of Steelworkers District #11 and a host of the Iraq labor visit to St. Paul, said US and Iraq workers have much in common. "What has become bitterly apparent in recent years-around the world and here at home-is that the global economy is being organized by the Global Fortune 500, not on the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but in opposition to it. And especially in this country, the erosion of existing labor rights has been a consistent refrain of the Bush Administration with each successive treaty, trade agreement, and international monetary accord."

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.ï She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.
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