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These photographs obtained by the IFTU in Basrah show the moment on 15 March 2005 when members of an armed militia attacked a group of students having a picnic in one of Basrah’s public parks. Here a gunman openly brandishes his pistol in a public park.
In the background members of the militia surround one of the students, while a supporter makes a victory sign.
Thge IFTU is supporting a petition from the General Union of Students in the Iraqi Republic (GUSIR) condemning these vile acts and will be circulating copies for supporters to sign shortly.
On Monday 22 March the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) Basrah branch organised a public demonstration in one of Basrah’s main streets in support of the Iraqi students from the Engineering faculty of Basrah University who were the victims of the horrific and barbaric attack by religious zealots in a park a week earlier while holding a picnic.
The IFTU Basra branch supports students as they struggle to build civil society. The IFTU marched in support of the students believing that it is important to publicly demonstrate that the condemnation of the savage attacks comes not only from young people, but from workers in Basrah. The IFTU has clearly stated to the population of Basrah, to the Iraqi civil and political authorities and to the outside world that the legitimate trade union movement of Iraq stands shoulder to shoulder with the students in their demands for full civil and political rights, that the perpetrators of these brutal acts are punished, the abolition of “the Committees for University Security and Protection”and that offices of political parties be removed from the colleges.
The IFTU supports a democratic Iraq and opposes any political or social repression reminiscent of the movement of the Taliban.
Statement issued by the General Union of Students in the Iraqi Republic (GUSIR) – Basra branch
About the attack on Basra University students
For a Free Student Life .. For a Better Future!
To the student masses .. and our people in Basra governorate
After sharing with our people the joy of elections, and looking forward to laying the foundations of democracy in the new Iraq, students at Basra University got proper permission for a picnic, which is one of our basic freedoms as students. But we were shocked when armed groups stormed through Al-Andulus Park and launched an attack on students, tearing the clothes of female students, stealing gold jewellery, mobile telephones and recording equipment. This act of aggression was a blatant violation of the basic principles of Islam as well as human rights. The attackers also made unfounded accusations that are totally false.
We look forward to your support for our continuing strike until our demand is met that the perpetrators are properly punished in accordance with the norms of a state based on law. We stress the need for abolishing “the Committees for University Security and Protection”, which are run by forces that are hostile to progress. We also demand that the offices of political parties be removed from the colleges.
We all aspire to a democratic Iraq that would have nothing to do with Saddam’s regime and in no way resemble the movement of Taliban.
Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation – External relations Committee
Solidarity with Basra University Students
Condemning the Vicious Attack
Reports received from Iraq, especially press reports and statements of student organizations based in Basra, have provided details of the vicious attack on a group of students of the Engineering College in Basra University while out on a normal picnic in a local park on 15 March 2005.
An armed group, claiming to be implementing Islamic law, carried out the attack in a barbaric manner, violating basic human rights and freedoms. Students, including female students, were brutally beaten up, with personal belongings such as gold jewellery, mobile telephones and recording equipment being stolen; an act which contravenes even the most basic principles of Islam.
In a telephone interview with an Iraqi satellite TV station, Sheikh Asaad Al-Basri, a cleric who is the local representative of the group behind the attack, openly admitted responsibility for this vicious act. He attempted to justify it as being “God commandment” and in accordance with a religious edict.
While strongly condemning these blatant violations of human rights, we consider this attack a form of laying seeds threatening Iraq’ future democratic schemes. We declare our full solidarity with the victims of the attack .. with all Iraqi youth and students, as they relentlessly strive for a better future of a new Iraq.
We appeal to all friendly youth and student organizations to declare their solidarity with the Iraqi youth and students, against any violation of their basic right to social and cultural activity, to express their opinions freely and to participate in political life.
Let us act to put an end to any oppression and to attempts to use religion as cover for usurping the rights achieved by Iraqi people through their own sacrifices and struggle.
Let us unite genuine efforts for a democratic Iraq, and to safeguard the rights of youth and students, and the basic freedoms of citizens.
17 March 2005
Several iraqi bloggers report that students from Basrah and Shatt Al-Arab universities in Basra City have been on all-out strike for the last three days as a reaction to the attack on 15 March by religious hardliners and Mahdi Army militiamen on students organising a field trip or a picnic at Al-Andalus park in the Al Makhal area of Basra.
The Kuwaiti arabic newspaper Al-Qabas also reported that hooded men assaulted the students with rubber cables and truncheons which resulted in severe injuries to an Armenian Christian girl, Zihoor Ashour who lost one eye because of being beaten on her head very hard with a thick stick of wood. Another student (a boy) who came to her rescue after militiamen had torn off her clothes and were beating her was shot in the head and died subsequently from his injuries.
One Iraqi email correspondent writes: “It was a tragedy. The students of all colleges are in what you can say a revolution because of this. They made many demonstrations against Al-Mahdi army and Al-Sadr demanding to remove their offices from the universities and also a group of the students went to Sayid Al-Sistani to make him talk to Al-Sadr and advise him to be sensible in his actions.”
Students say that their belongings, such as mobile phones, cameras, stereo players and loudspeakers, were stolen or smashed to pieces by the militiamen. Girl students not wearing headscarves, most of them Christian, were severely beaten and at least 20 students were kidnapped, taken to Sadr’s office in Al-Tuwaisa for ‘interrogation’ and were only released late at night.
Students also say the police and British soldiers were nearby but did not intervene.
A Sheikh As’ad Al-Basri, one of Sadr’s aides in Basrah, stated that the ‘believers’ of the Mahdi Army did what they did in an act of ‘divine intervention’ in order to punish the students for their ‘immoral and outrageous behaviour’ during the ‘holy month of Muharram, while the blood of Imam Hussein is yet to dry.’ He added that he had sent the ‘group of believers’ to observe and photograph the students, and on witnessing them playing loud music, ‘the kind they play in bars and discos’, and openly talking to female students, the ‘believers had to straighten things out’.
Thousands of students have been demonstrating in front of the Basrah Governorate building in Asharr for the last three days, shouting ‘No to political Islam’, ‘No to the new tyranny’ and ‘No to Sadr’. The police (who are loyal to Da’wa in Basrah) reportedly attacked the students in order to disperse the demonstrations.
One iraqi blogger writes: “The Governor of Basrah appeared on Fayhaa TV on Sunday 20 March claiming that problems with Sadr’s office had been resolved peacefully. The Governor (who is a member of Da’wa) apparently met with representatives from Sadr’s office under the mediation of Shia Islamic parties in Basrah (Da’wa, SCIRI, Fadheela, Thar Allah) and it appears that Sadr’s aides agreed to ‘punish the guilty parties under a special religious court that would convene for this purpose’ and to compensate the students and to return all stolen items to the students. The Governor claimed to have met with the family of another Christian girl who was badly injured, ‘generously’ offering her free treatment in any country she chooses.
“No mention of the rule of law here. No involvement of Basrah’s civil courts at all. The whole incident was mopped up in a tribal-religious meeting, but this time at the Governorate level. The guilty parties were sinisterly assigned the job of punishing themselves. A great lesson in democracy. But then, no one was punished for the executions and torture at religious courts in Najaf the last time anyway.
“What is even worse, the official statement from Sadr’s office in Basrah. It asks for the names of the students that were ‘allegedly mistreated’ in order to compensate them. And listen to this; ‘Sadr’s office in Basrah offers to provide the universities of Basrah with groups to protect the students in their future field trips.’ This following Sheikh As’ad Al-Basri’s fiery statements that the students had ‘disobeyed his orders, and the stick was for those who disobeyed,’ alasa limen asa. He also alleged that the students had shouted ‘No to Islam’ in their demonstrations this week, insolently adding that the students should be punished for their ‘blasphemy’.
“The Governor literally appointed Sadr’s office as judge, witness and law-enforcer. We might even say that the Sadrists were in fact rewarded for their vile act…
“The students of Basra have made their demands clear; bringing the Sadrist militiamen to a public trial in the presence of representatives from Basrah’s student groups, banning Islamist armed groups from entering campus or running Islamist student groups, and the dissolution of the infamous ‘Security Committee’ which operates in most of Basra’s colleges, and which is reminiscient of the Ba’ath’s ‘University Security’ but taking a Shi’ite Islamic appearance instead of a fascist nationalistic one.
“Student groups from Baghdad, Arbil and Suleimaniya have sent statements of support to Basra. Incidentally, four students were injured in Suleimaniya during demonstrations that have been taking place for the second week in row against the privatisation of educational institutions in the Kurdish region.
“Still no condemnation from the the Hawza, when the attack against the students was done in its name.”
Students march against outrage by religious hardliners in Basra
On 15 March in Basra, a group of students (both male and female) from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Basra organised a day trip to one of Basra’s Parks in the Al Makhal area of the city.
Once in the park, the students were attacked by a mob of Islamist hardliners who told the students that such gatherings of young men and women are “an un-Islamic practice”. The mob severely beat the students and shaved off one of the woman student’s hair as a punishment in a practice eerily reminiscent of the atrocities carried out against women in neighbouring countries. 15 students were taken to hospital as a result of the brutal attack where they are still recovering.
The incident happened while local police were looking on. 12 police cars were reportedly at the scene while the attack was taking place.
This brutal outrage must be condemned as an attack upon the Iraqi people’s civil liberties. Such repression should and must not be allowed to happen in a democratic Iraq.
0n 16 March as a reaction to the unprovoked attacked thousands of students (both male and female) from Basra’s University marched in protest and in defiance of the attackers.
Students from all faculties of Basra University took part in the demonstration yesterday, condemning the attack. They carried banners with the slogan “No to Terrorism”.
The Students and civil society organizations in Basra are calling on the local and national authorities to bring to justice the culprits.
Some of the students who were taken to hospitals were in a serious condition.