Muslim in Suffer

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* * * NOT SATIRE * * * Abbas thanked the Iraqi government for its treatment of the Palestinians

Posted by musliminsuffer on April 6, 2009

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

* * * NOT SATIRE * * *
Abbas thanked the Iraqi government for its treatment of the Palestinians



April 5, 2009

Palestinians Are Top Topic in Abbas Visit to Baghdad

BAGHDAD — Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, visited Iraq for the first time since the American invasion in 2003, meeting with Iraqi leaders on Sunday to garner support for the Palestinian leadership and Iraq’s Palestinian community.

The latest in a long line of Arab leaders who have come to Iraq to show encouragement for the Iraqi government, Mr. Abbas met with the president, Jalal Talabani, and the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, in Baghdad. Among the issues they discussed were financial assistance for the Palestinians, preferential prices on crude oil and political support in the Palestinian leadership’s dealings with Israel, said Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

They also discussed the status and resettlement possibilities of the 2,300 Palestinians stranded in two refugee camps on the Iraq-Syria border.

Mr. Zebari said that the Iraqi leaders assured Mr. Abbas that they would support his government in substantial, and not just symbolic, ways.

“Gone are those days when Iraq and other countries used to use the Palestinian issue for political bargaining or score settling,” Mr. Zebari said.

Saddam Hussein awarded special privileges to Palestinians in Iraq, including free homes in middle-class neighborhoods and secure government jobs, to bolster his reputation as a leader of the Arabs and a fighter against Western oppression. But Iraq’s Palestinians, who numbered about 60,000 in 2003, faced bloody reprisals at the hands of Shiite militias after Mr. Hussein’s downfall. Now there are about 11,000 Palestinians in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad’s Baladiyat neighborhood, a majority Shiite area, said Daniel Endres, head of the Iraq office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nevertheless, saying that the government had taken steps to address their problems, Mr. Abbas thanked the Iraqi leadership for its treatment of the Palestinians.

“The Iraqi government considers them as part of the Iraqi people and part of the government’s concern and a part of Iraqi security,” he said. “We are sure they are in safe hands.”

Also on Sunday, the United States military said that an American soldier had been charged with murder in the shooting death of a foreign contractor in Taji, an area north of Baghdad where a large base is located. The soldier, Pfc. Carl T. Stovall III, 25, of Kennesaw, Ga., has been in custody since March 26, the day of the shooting, the military said in a statement. No further details were released.

Attacks continued around Iraq on Sunday. In Samarra, north of Baghdad, a police officer was killed and four others were wounded when someone threw a Molotov cocktail into their vehicle, local security officials said. A police major in Falluja was killed by a roadside bomb that exploded as his patrol was passing.

In the violent city of Mosul, gunmen killed one civilian and wounded another, and a child was killed by a roadside bomb, Iraqi security officials said.

Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting.

“Safe Hands”

Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: Missing Protection
Report and Recommendations
Workshop organized by A’idoun Group (Damascus, March 5th, 2007)

Since the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Palestinian refugees living in the country are subject to an organized campaign of violence, persecution, and repression led by militias, sectarian groups, Iraqi security forces and US occupation troops. The oppressive acts perpetrated under this campaign against Palestinians came, as mentioned in several reports prepared by relevant international organizations, in multiple forms: expulsion from residential areas and homes, imprisonment, torture and even liquidation. This tragic situation led a number of Palestinians either to flee the country and seek asylum in other countries, including neighboring ones, or find shelter in camps on the borders with neighboring countries where they live under harsh and inhuman conditions. Those who stayed in Iraq lack any personal, social and psychological safety. They live in constant fear. Despite the efforts of concerned international organizations urging Iraqi government to provide proper protection to Palestinian refugees living in the country, and the numerous official Palestinian appeals addressing Iraqi government and Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, to stop this campaign; the awful situation of Palestinians in Iraq remains the same.

Most estimates indicate that of the 35,000 Palestinians present in Iraq in 2003, only 15,000 remain in the country nowadays.

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees, who fled Iraq in search of a secure refuge in neighboring countries, live in a bunch of temporary camps inside these countries or are stranded on the borders with Iraq:

  • Al-Hol camp: located near Al-Hassaka province in northern Syria. This camp was setup in May 2006 when the Syrian government allowed a number of Palestinian refugees (around 260) to enter its territory, provided them with temporary shelters in the mentioned area, and granted them the necessary human assistance.
  • Al-Tanaf camp: located in the neutral area on the Syrian-Iraqi border. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 356 Palestinians are now stranded in tents prepared specifically for that purpose and they live under harsh living conditions. Those Palestinians never got the permission to enter Syrian territories.

UNRWA and UNHCR work together to run the two camps and provide basic humanitarian aid for refugees. The Syrian government as well, along with some Syrian and Palestinian NGOs operating in Syria, provided both camps with several kinds of services. UNRWA has issued temporary registration cards for those refugees, but this does not mean they are counted as part of the Palestinian refugees registered before the Syrian General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR).

  • Al-Walid camp: located to the Iraqi side of the Iraqi-Syrian borders. It provides shelter to nearly 420 Palestinians who started to fill it up as of December 1st, 2006 according to UNRWA. Refugees living in this area are denied any access to Al-Tanaf camp and UNRWA is unable to reach them. It is the UNHCR and the International Red Cross that offer the Palestinians of this camp some livelihood services, next to the assistance they receive from the chiefs of some tribes residing nearby.
  • Al-Ruweished camp: located on the border with Jordan. On the eve of the war on Iraq, the residents of this camp accounted for 2000 Palestinian and non-Palestinian refugees. In January 2007, only 119 were still living there including 97 Palestinians only. In fact, the UNHCR made sure to settle the majority of those Palestinians in other countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Next to the UNHCR, a Jordanian governmental charity organization offers humanitarian assistance to those refugees. Lately, the Jordanian government extended the deadline granted to the UNHCR in order to find a permanent solution to those refugees through their settlement in other countries.

To discuss the situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq and how to provide them with proper protection, A’idoun Group (Syria/Lebanon) organized on the 5th of March a one-day workshop under the theme “Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: Missing Protection,” supported by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in Lebanon and University of Damascus. The workshop, held at Rida Said Conference Center – University of Damascus, gathered around 120 participants coming from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq to represent different international organizations concerned with this issue (UNHCR, UNRWA, Refugees Affairs Department in the Palestine Liberation Organization (Jordan and Lebanon), the Syrian General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), the Iraqi Network for Culture of Human Rights and Development, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem/Palestine), the Norwegian People’s Aid, the Coordination Forum of Palestinian NGO’s working in Palestinian refguee communities in Lebanon, in addition to other civil society organizations and activists from Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

Below are the papers and presentations made during the three sessions of the workshop:

  • Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: Whose Responsibility? Muhammad Abu Baker, Head of Refugees Affairs Department in the Palestine Liberation Organization (Amman/Jordan).
  • Perspectives of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees towards the Problem of Palestinian Refugees in Iraq; Ali Mustafa, General Director.
  • Palestinian Refugees in Iraq and the role of UNHCR; Mu’tassim Hayatli, legal consultant to the Commission’s Protection Department/Damascus Office.
  • The Role of the Iraqi Network for Culture of Human Rights and Development in Preserving the Rights of Palestinian Refugees in Iraq; Dr. Karim Al-Aboudi,
  • Palestinian Refugees in Iraq: An Iraqi Vision, Dr. Abdul Hussein Sha’ban, International Law and Human Rights Expert.
  • Towards a Civil Campaign to Protect the Palestinian Refugees in Iraq (Position Paper of A’idoun Group); Dr. Mahmoud Al-Ali.

During the workshop, participants had the chance to listen to live and touching testimonies about the suffering of Palestinians in Iraq, made by people who managed to escape from the living hell of Iraq and arrive in Syria.

The last session, during which the “A’idoun Group” paper was presented, was dedicated to a general discussion among participants in order to draw conclusions and put forward some recommendations based on this paper and other ones. The discussion revolved around two main points: first, the current tragic situation of Palestinians in Iraq in comparison with their situation before the U.S. occupation; and second, the ways to protect them and the meaning of the temporary protection they need urgently and pressingly, without prejudice to their inalienable right of return to the homes they were expelled from in 1948. In fact, this temporary protection must be provided while putting in mind that those Palestinians constitute an integral part of the whole Palestinian refugees and Diaspora who hold to their right of return guaranteed by the principles of the International Law and all UN relevant resolutions, namely resolution № 194.

I. The current situation compared to the previous one

Before 2003, Palestinian refugees in Iraq enjoyed an acceptable status of social, economic, and cultural rights. Successive Iraqi governments granted Palestinians residential units, job opportunities, education and health care with some constraints on their right to property. Some people tend to compare the situation of Palestinians living in Iraq to the situation of those living in Syria. In 1956, the Syrian parliament passed law № 260 on the necessity to treat Palestinian refugees on the same footing as Syrian citizens regarding their rights to work, recruitment, trade and free businesses, education, health services, and even military services, without compromising their right to maintain their Palestinian nationality. In this context, one should mention resolution № 202 promulgated by the Iraqi Revolution Leadership Council in 2001 calling for equality between Palestinians living in Iraq and Iraqi citizens with respect to all the rights Iraqis enjoy with the exception of the right to acquire Iraqi nationality.
As a matter of fact, Iraq refused from the beginning that UNRWA takes care of Palestinians living on its territory, as it does in neighboring countries.
After the US occupation of Iraq and the overthrowing of the old regime, the situation of Palestinian refugees changed dramatically. The rights they once enjoyed no longer existed.
In this regard, the Iraqi Interim Government took a series of discriminative procedures against resident Palestinians in Iraq, the most important of which were:

  • Making Palestinian refugees in Iraq the responsibility of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and no longer the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs; this meant denying them the right to residency. A new procedure was put in place: Palestinians now have to observe periodical identification verification procedures; i.e. they have to visit the Ministry’s offices regularly to identify themselves; and one cannot disregard the huge life threatening danger they are risking during that process.
  • Imposing a series of oppressive conditions and constraints on every Palestinian who asks for a new travel document. Accordingly, only a small number of Palestinians who filed visa applications got their request answered positively.
  • Ceasing the issuance of Identification Cards to all Palestinians born since 2003, and refusing to issue replacement cards in cases of loss or damage, which resulted in a great number of Palestinians having no identification papers- Non ID’s.
  • Putting constraints on the free movement of Palestinians by preventing them from traveling abroad, and by arresting and even killing them as they passed by Iraqi Army checkpoints and Interior Ministry commandos during their daily commuting.
  • Subjecting Palestinians in general to intimidation, arrest and detention at the hands of some militias, national security guards and US occupation troops, without putting them on trial or filing any specific charge against them.
  • Subjecting Palestinians to arbitrary lay off from work and depriving them from food shares and health care. Palestinians are even scared of going to hospitals and health centers because of the risks they might face only because they carry the Palestinian identity.

II. The recquired protection: meaning and limits

Participants in the workshop agreed on the description and diagnosis of the situation of Palestinians in Iraq. They also agreed on a number of general recommendations on how to deal with this situation. However, their opinions diverged as to the meaning and limits of the preferred temporary protection and the solutions involved. The opinions they expressed can be summarized as follows:

  • Rejecting any solution that calls for sending the Palestinians of Iraq to neighboring Arab countries such as Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia; or to the Palestinian Authority’s territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And in consequence, rejecting UNHCR solution which suggests the settlement of Palestinians in foreign countries outside Iraq. People upholding this opinion argue that such solutions do not only lead to the eradication of the Palestinian Refugee society in Iraq, but also constitute a dangerous precedent that paves the way for conceding the right of return and ultimately losing this right definitively. On the other hand, they find that the best solution is that Palestinians stay in Iraq while the Arab League and relevant international community organizations apply pressure on the Iraqi government to provide Palestinians with safe haven and humanitarian aid in compliance with the pledges of the Iraqi State by virtue of the Casablanca Protocol, issued by the league of Arab States Council of Foreign Ministers in 1965.
  • Refusing to transfer Palestinians to the Iraqi Kurdistan under the claim of providing a safe shelter for them temporarily; a point that was the subject of discussion between the official Palestinian delegation that visited Iraq and the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani. This refusal finds its roots actually in the fear that this might be a prelude to reviving the projects of settling Palestinians in northern Iraq.
  • Calling upon Arab states, especially Syria – known for its good hosting of Palestinian refugees – to receive all the Palestinians of Iraq temporarily until the Iraqi problem is resolved. In fact, the most important and urgent thing right now is to save their lives because their current situation in the country will not make them hold on until the right of return is fulfilled.

In this respect, the director of the Syrian General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees, related to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, made clear that Syria does not want to be the only one to apply a solution based on hosting the Palestinians of Iraq. However, it supports any collective Arab decision under the framework of the Arab League, agreed upon by hosting Arab countries.
Participants also called upon the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization to provide Palestinians in Iraq with Palestinian passports; and work quickly and efficiently to receive them in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and overcome all the obstacles hindering such step, including its rejection by Israel.

  • Calling upon the Palestine Liberation Organization to adopt UNHCR solution upholding the settlement of the Palestinians living in Iraq and border camps in foreign countries – that accept to host them – considering that moving Palestinians from one refuge country to another or settling them in foreign countries does not necessarily mean relinquishing the Palestinian identity or giving up the right of return. Only a few number of participants had this opinion. Nevertheless, we do observe to mention it in this paper out of objectivity and faithfulness to the content of our workshop.

III. General recommendations and suggestions

First, participants in the workshop held the Iraqi government, the militias connected to it and, of course, the US occupation troops, responsible for the suffering of Palestinians in Iraq and Iraqi civilians. In fact, these authorities must ensure first and foremost the protection of civilians during war, according to the principles of the International Humanitarian Law, and more specifically the 1949 Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols of 1977 concerning the protection of armed conflict victims.

Participants stressed on the following points:

1. The need for a Palestinian action mostly at the level of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the National Authority, the factions and the civil society in Palestine and outside. The Palestine Liberation Organization must assume, namely through its international and Arab relations, its responsibility to find practical solutions for Palestinian refugees in Iraq; solutions that guarantee their personal, economic and social protection without compromising their legal status as refugees and their right to return, considering them as an integral part of the whole Palestinian refugees and Diaspora.
2. The need for the Palestine Liberation Organization to consider Palestinian victims in Iraq as martyrs of the Palestinian Revolution and entrust their children to the competent Palestinian institutions.
3. Urging Palestinian parliamentarians to take quick and efficient action amongst Arab parliamentarians, especially the Human Rights Arab Parliamentary Body in order to raise the Palestinian Refugees problem in Iraq at the international parliamentarian level considering it as a human rights issue.
4. Activating urgently the role of Palestinian civil society organizations and bodies and establishing a relief committee with the aim of organizing the relief efforts in border camps offering the Palestinian refugees the necessary assistance in collaboration with the concerned Syrian bodies and Syrian civil society organizations.
5. Increasing people’s awareness regarding the suffering of Palestinians in Iraq through Palestinian mass media (newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television channels, websites, etc…) and through the mobilization of western public opinion by addressing Arab and Palestinian communities in Europe and North America in order to defend the rights of Palestinian refugees in Iraq on the basis of the respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Principles, especially the 1949 Geneva Convention.
6. Establishing an Iraqi-Palestinian civil committee from Iraqi and Palestinian civil society bodies, and coordinate to that end with the Iraqi Network for Culture of Human Rights and Development. This committee shall take on the responsibility of following up the dossier of Palestinian refugees in Iraq, update it with all documented information, and establish contacts with the competent international law bodies in order to raise this issue at the international level and file lawsuits against US occupation troops and some officials in the Iraqi government and the militias connected to it charging them with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
7. Submitting a petition to the Arab League concerning the tragedy of Palestinian refugees in Iraq, and exhort it to call upon hosting Arab states, especially Iraq, to respect their commitments made by virtue of the 1965 Casablanca Protocol and all other relevant resolutions.
8. Urging UNHCR and UNRWA to activate their roles and reinforce their coordination in order to register, help and protect the Palestinian refugees inside Iraq and in border camps until the Iraqi problem is resolved and they return to their original homeland by virtue of resolution № 194.
9. Launching an Arab civil campaign to protect Palestinian refugees in Iraq. Arab NGOs networks shall be urged to participate in this campaign which shall adopt a realistic plan of action setting the strategies that are to be followed and the public to be addressed. A website for the campaign must be created to constitute a tribune for dialogue and opinion exchange between different parties.

Finally, for the recommendations of this workshop not to go unheeded, the A’idoun Group (Syria/Lebanon) supports the establishment of a follow-up committee gathering a number of active organizations in this workshop. This committee shall adopt the recommendations concluded in this report as its general framework as of the moment it starts to function.

Jaber Suleiman
March 2007

Bodies of Iraqi Palestinians murdered by the Mahdy army


:: Article nr. 53179 sent on 06-apr-2009 02:16 ECT



-muslim voice-

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