Iranians protesting Maliki’s visit to the White House
By Hamid Yazdan Panah
UPI Outside View Commentator
UPI, Washington, 2 Nov 2013 –
WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) — Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, took a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook and published an op-ed in The New York Times on Monday. Maliki sets out to appeal to Americans by focusing on the issue of terrorism and the struggle against al-Qaida, as well as the war in Syria.
The reality is that Maliki’s rhetoric and appeals are rife with hypocrisy of the highest order and, though he attempts to portray himself as a victim, he is nothing short of a dictator with the blood of innocents on his hands.
In order to set the record straight on just who Maliki is and what he is after we need look only at the facts.
Maliki speaks of combating terrorism, yet his party has long been closely tied with Iran, the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. In fact, Maliki spent the majority of his time in exile in Iran, as did many of those in the Dawa Party. Without Iran’s backing, Maliki wouldn’t be in the position he is in today and many rightfully view him as little more than proxy of the regime in Tehran.
Many would argue that Maliki has done more to promote terrorism than combat it. This past week ranking Democrats as well as Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., signed a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama which highlighted Maliki’s misconduct as prime minister.
“This failure of governance is driving many Sunni Iraqis into the arms of al-Qaida in Iraq and fueling the rise of violence,” the letter said.
Maliki makes the outrageous claim that “The Iraqi government is serious about not allowing our own citizens to arm any side of the Syrian conflict,” yet it is clear that his government has followed Iran in supporting President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of the Syrian people.
In fact, Iraq has been repeatedly blasted for allowing supply flights to send weapons from Iran to Syria. Maliki’s complicity in the repression of the Syrian masses is nothing short of criminal.
Lastly, Maliki claims that “As we combat violent extremism, we are striving to create and improve our vibrant democracy.” One wonders if he is referring to the massacre his armed forces carried out in Hawija in which dozens of peaceful protesters were killed. Or the fact that executions in Iraq reached a 10-year high in 2013?
In fact, Maliki has taken many steps to dismantle democracy in Iraq. In January 2011 he won a much sought after ruling by Iraq’s highest court, which gave the prime minister’s office control of once independent agencies, including the country’s central bank, as well as agencies responsible for elections and investigating corruption.
Shortly after the ruling, human rights groups reported that forces connected directly to Maliki continued to arrest, imprison and torture political enemies.
Maliki also pursued a court order in July 2010 which limited the ability of parliamentarians to introduce legislation, effectively forcing all new legislation to come from Maliki’s Cabinet or the Iraqi president.
These power grabs were met with widespread protests by those who are disenfranchised by Maliki’s party, including Sunnis and Kurds.
Maliki has met protests with violent repression and many have accused him of running his own secret death squads to deal with dissidents.
Maliki also has the blood of Iranian dissidents on his hands. Since 2009, Maliki has ordered three military raids against Iranian refugees housed in Camp Ashraf, home to the Iranian opposition the People’s Mujahedin of Iran.
These raids left more than 100 residents dead, one of whom was my adopted sister, Asieh Rakhshani, who grew up with me in the United States and was killed by Maliki’s thugs in April 2009. (See UPI article “Sacramento woman killed in Iraq” April 20, 2011).
The most recent attack against Camp Ashraf was also the most barbaric. On Sept. 1, Maliki’s special forces entered the camp and slaughtered 52 residents, some of whom were handcuffed and executed at close range.
Maliki’s thugs also abducted seven residents and continue to hold them with the threat of sending them to Iran to face torture and death.
A worldwide hunger strike has been organized to obtain the release of these hostages but Maliki has shown no signs of relenting. Recently, 45 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives wrote to Obama asking him to reduce military assistance to Iraq because of the Ashraf massacre.
My family and I have joined thousands of other Iranians, Syrians and Iraqi’s who have traveled to Washington to confront Maliki and expose the crimes he has committed.
Under Maliki, ethnic and sectarian division in Iraq have become exacerbated, as evidenced by ongoing nationwide protests and the exile of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.
Maliki is neither a democrat nor a partner for peace, he is little more than a thug elevated to power by the Mullahs of Iran.
(Hamid Yazdan Panah is a human rights activist and attorney focused on immigration and asylum in the San Francisco Bay Area.)