“Workers Front In Iraq -Against Occupation and Political İslam” -Interview With Aso Jabbar The Representative of FWCUI

Sendika.org: We know very little about FWCUI and UUI? Can you give us more information about your trade-unions and movements?

Aso Jabbar: UUI was established in May 2003 to confront massive unemployment among people in Iraq as a result of wars, occupation, embargo and destruction of economic infrastructure. It has more than 300.000 member and branches in 7 big cities. UUI is a member of FWCUI.

FWCUI is a federation of independent unions and worker councils, established in December 2003 in Baghdad; it has branches in Kerkuk, Nassiriya, and Baghdad and Basra cities. There many unions belongs to FWCUI like Union of Northern Oil Company in Kirkuk, textile Union in Baghdad, Union of mechanic Workers in Baghdad, leather Industry Union in Baghdad, Aluminium and Cable In Nassiriya etc.

Last conference of FWCUI was held in Basra in November 2004 with participation of more than 350 delegates representing 25 Labour unions and committees in different branches of industries including oil, electricity, textile, harbour workers etc. UUI and FWCUI are independent labour unions rejecting strongly occupation in Iraq, struggling to improve the living standards of Iraqi workers .Main goals of these two organisations are ; End of occupation, political freedom and freedom of association, a secular government ,separation of religion from state and education, equality between men and women ,security and improvement in living conditions of Iraqi workers including a progressive labour law, increase of wages ,resolution of unemployment, medical and social care etc.

We are in the hearts of strikes and protests of workers for their demands as you know now there are waves of protests under our leadership in Baghdad and Nasiriya and Kut. If you read our www.uuiraq.org webpage you will find the news on these events. We are not only present in Oil and Gas sectors but also in many other industries and workers of public services like transportation, Hospitals and Hotel and Bank employers and workers.

Sendika.org: Is your union organized only in southern Iraq?

Aso Jabbar: Our Unions are organised not only in Basra but also in other big cities like Baghdad, Kirkuk, Nassiriya, Kut and Mousul.

Sendika.org: Are there other unions of unemployed workers in Iraq? If there are, do you cooperate with them?

Aso Jabbar: There is no any other independent unemployed organisation .the only and strongest Union of unemployed is our UUI which has more than 300 000 members. Through our strong struggle for jobs or unemployed insurance in Iraq for unemployed people we succeeded to pressurize the Iraqi authorities to make an Announcement by the Ministry of Labor Regarding the Granting of 130,000 Dinar as an Employment Insurance (EI)The nonstop struggle of UUI featured in demonstrations, sit-out campaigns and bringing the mass about the union demands represented by (descent jobs or EI), had a significant influence to enforce it in becoming a social demands even in the government offices that had no serious intention to get to the bottom of the society’s calamity.

Sendika.org: What are the attacks of Allawi government and US occupation forces against your union?

Aso Jabbar: After the war and occupation in Iraq the situation has been deteriorated in which Iraq under the occupation has turned into an international battlefield, this war put the entire region in a crisis, and it has also jeopardized the people’s safety and all aspects of life. Tens of civilians are falling dead on daily basis because of this war without having anything to do with it. Terrorism and terrorist acts are marching towards the residential areas, workplaces, markets and everywhere in the Iraqi society. Poverty, deprivation, and the lack of job opportunities are other results of destroying civility in Iraq.

In reality the Iraqi society now is sunken in a dark scenario. One of the dangerous aspects of the current situation is insecurity, which controls the whole society. The terrorist conflict between America on the one hand and political Islam and remnants of the Baath regime on the other breaches the lives, livelihood and the rights of citizens and workers and claims the lives of scores of them everyday.

Occupation is the main reason of these tragic events against humanity in Iraq and should be ended. Occupation brought several Saddams to power like political Islamic groups, ethnic Kurdish parties, Arab nationalists, CIA agents etc. on the other side occupation and US policy is the main reason of development and emergence of armed resistance forces of terrorist political Islamic groups like Alqadia Alzarqawi. These both sides are killing tens of civilian daily and taking advantage of each other.

Generally speaking not only occupation forces with Iraqi authorities and but also the political Islamic forces in armed resistance are attacking the struggle of our Unions and worker movement. I will summarise some points in this regard:

1. On January 28, 2004 Decree No 16 issued by Interim Governing Council President Adnan Pachachi granted recognition to one of the existing trade union federations in Iraq, the IFTU, by stating that the IFTU and its President, Mr Rasem Hussein Abdullah, are “the legitimate and legal representatives of the labour movement in Iraq”; We consider that the current situation created by the introduction of Decree No 16 is not consistent with ILO standards and more specifically violates dispositions of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

2. Recently on 02.Feb. 05 a group associated with Alsadir followers in Basra formed of have planned to abduct a number of labor activists(Abu Watan, vice president of FWCUI in Basra) (Sami Hassan, secretary of FWCUI in Basra).They first attempted seducing and bribing one of their relatives to plan for this operation and kill them eventually, which it is considered very common way to deal with their opponents.

3. Allawi Government In collaboration with the company’s administration, and IFTU which is recongised by Allawi governemtn tried to to Crack Down on Workers’ Protests in Petrochemical and plastic Company in Baghdad they threatened workers with sacking, jailing and killing to force them call off a strike organized early this month. They justified these oppressive actions by referring to resolutions passed by Alawi’s government, which ban union activity and install IFTU as the only legal union.

4. The bodies of 18 young Iraqi construction workers taken off a bus and executed last month while seeking work at a U.S. base have been found in a field near the city of Mosul. A terrorist group belongs to the so called armed resistance composed of reactionary political Islamic groups and Arab nationalists shot the men, who ranged in age from 14 to 20, on Dec. 8 after stopping their two mini-buses about 30 miles west of Mosul. The bodies were discovered Wednesday, 05.01.2005. Their hands were tied behind their back and each was shot in the head. All of the workers were from Baghdad’s northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiya who had been hired by an Iraqi contractor to work at a U.S. base in Mousul.

5. While thousands of workers of Textile Industry in the Iraqi city of Kut have been asking for their danger allowances which are trivial and not in proportion with the real risk they face at work due to poor safety standards, the administration resorted to procrastination, lying and threatened to sack and imprison the workers and eliminate their activist. The workers organized a protest against these measures and asked the manager to be sacked who was the key person behind the administration’s misconduct. The manager in cooperation with governor of the city called upon armed groups to suppress the protest. Groups of armed and maske
d men, allegedly from the National Guards raided the place and started shooting on unarmed workers wounding four workers and then arresting another 11 workers who were later release after interrogations. .Instead of bringing the manager Mr. Abdulla Alrawi to justice he was transferred to the ministry’s headquarter. By banning union rights in Iraq, the ministry and the current authority bring in the fascist methods of suppression and denying people’s freedoms used by the old regime while their rhetoric about democracy and election deafens

6. The governor of Sharaban issued on November 2004 an official order to all companies and factories in this neighbourhood to prevent and try any labour activist who joins FWCUI. He stressed that the only official and legal federation is IFTU and threatened to arrest those who joined FWCUI.

7. End of July 2003 Qasim HAdi with more than 18 other members of UUI have been arrested by US forces in Baghdad. On 3rd August 2003 Qasim Hadi general secretary of the Union of Unemployed in Iraq was arrested along with 54 members of the UUI by US forces The UUI issued a statement: The Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) announced on Sunday 3rd August 2003 that yesterday night at 11:30 p.m. U.S forces arrested Qasim Hadi and 54 others who are members or leaders of the Union. The Union of the Unemployed in Iraq had been continuing a sit-in protest yesterday, for the fifth day in a row, when the US troops arrested them for the second time. The Union of the Unemployed in Iraq strongly condemns and denounces the arrest of its 55 members. On 23/24th November 2003 Qasim Hadi was arrested once again, along with Adil Salih, an UUI activist. An international campaign was organized in protest at this arrest as well.

Sendika.org: Do you have a connection with another union federation abroad? And do you have a target as building a further relationship with the international trade-union movements?

Aso Jabbar: We have strong relationships with many international trade Unions and worker organisation in many countries. I can tell you some of them:

International confederation of free trade Union which their main office is in Brussels

United States Labour Against War-USLAW in USA, International liaisons committee for workers and peoples in France, International confederation of Arab trade Unions, TUC in England, Confederation of Korean trade Unions, Japanese’s trade Unions and we participated in several international conferences regarding labour rights in Iraq and implementation of ILO conventions in Iraq. We are working together with these trade Unions to end the occupation in Iraq and to improve the living situation of Iraqi working people and to have a progressive labour law. We succeeded to establish solidarity committee and campaigns with Iraqi trade unions and workers council’s movement in France and in Japan .We have contacts and friendly relationships with hundreds of left groups and campaigns to end occupation in Iraq worldwide.

Sendika.org: As it is seen from here, there are only ethnic and religious groups in the political arena? Which political forms do you think to represent the Iraqi working class’s demands?

Aso Jabbar: We are struggling to establish network of councils in all branches of industries and also in localities, Quarters and neighbourhoods of people. We are encouraging self governing localities in which people elect their own representatives by themselves, organising their councils and preventing armed militias of ethnic and religious groups and American forces to attack civilian, improving their living condition through their independent struggles. Until now a part from many labour unions and councils, we succeeded to establish these kinds of self governing localities through intense conflicts with reactionary groups in some localities in Baghdad like Sharaban, Mukdadiya, Huda, Al Jihad neighbourhood and in Kerkuk in Altazamun neighbourhood.

We wish to succeed to establish a network of councils which could be able to rule the country but this depend on balance of forces and end of occupation in Iraq but any way we are hard to approach this goal. We will never give up. We are struggling for a massive council movement of workers and people in Iraq which is based on willpower and direct democracy to participate actively in political future in Iraq and to end the occupation

Sendika.org: What is your opinion about the Worldwide Anti-War Movement and do you have or try to build any relationship with these movements? What is your opinion about the Turkey anti-war/anti-occupation movement which has achieved to stop the government while trying to give permission US troops to enter Iraq through Turkey?

Aso Jabbar : Regarding antiwar movement worldwide we always cooperated with them in many countries to prevent the war and occupation of Iraq but after the war and occupation we experienced a marginal role of this great antiwar movement in the political situation in Iraq. Although there are many different elements in this antiwar movement but our goal is to make from this antiwar movement a strong anti- occupation movement to pressurise the occupying forces to withdraw from Iraq .I will try to simplify the conflicts of political forces in Iraq in to 3 fronts :

First front is the front of USA and its coalition and Iraqi ethnic and religious groups which are cooperating width them. Regarding USA tries to establish its new world order and impose its military hegemony and dominance over the world. The main goal of this antihuman front is to prolong the occupation and to make Iraq a permanent military bases for US army in Iraq .They are trying to establish an ethnic and religious government in Iraq which guarantee the interests of USA in Iraq and middle east.

The second front is the front of armed resistance exercised by political Islamic groups and remnants of former bath regime. The main goal of this front is to establish an Islamic government and top impose Islamic Shari on Iraqi people and to create another Iran or Afghanistan in Iraq. They took advantage of the occupation in Iraq to impose their reactionary strategy through their brutal methods like suicide bombers, car bombs which kill indiscriminately assassinations, beheadings, torture, kidnapping, destroying people property, attacking public services, issuing fatwa’s and death threats against anyone who disagrees with them and does not observe their way of living.

The third front is the progressive front of workers women, unemployed students and secular people against the occupation ion Iraq which opposes to both these reactionary fronts in Iraq. Our main goals are:

-Withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq immediately and unconditionally.

-Establishment of a secular government which is non ethnic and non religious

-Improvement if the ling situation of Iraqi people including unemployed insurance, progressive labour law, restore of public services and electricity and water, equality between men and women etc.

-Security guarantee for all Iraqi people.

-Unconditional political freedoms.

We think first step is to strengthen the front of civil resistance against occupation in Iraq which include independent labour movement, unemployed movement, progressive women movement, progressive political parties like Worker Communist party of Iraq, self governing localities etc. should encourage millions of people in Iraq and worldwide to step forward to end occupation in Iraq through massive protests, Intifada and strikes.

We appreciate very much the brave struggle of Turkish trade unions and labour activists against the war on Iraq and occupation. They succeeded to pressurise the Turkish government to not be involved in war on Iraq and stop military cooperation with US occupying forces in Iraq. We hope that
Turkish trade Unions and antiwar movement is really with the Iraqi working class and its goals against occupation and political Islamic group’s. Look at the governments of who are neighbours of Iraq they are meeting periodic, cooperation with each other etc. We need also to build a strong labour movement in Middle East. In this regard solidarity, moral financial and political support of Turkish Trade Unions to Iraq labour movement and its independent unions are very critical in this moment to oppose the dark scenario on Iraqi people. We call Turkish trade unions with be in solidarity with our FWCUI, workers protests and people movement. The left perspectives should succeed in Iraq otherwise Iraqi masses will have a dark future under the violence of occupying forces and political Islamic groups.

We call you to join our new international organisation which Iraq Freedom Congress and to support our progressive workers movement and its strikes.

Sendika.org: What is your opinion about the armed resistance? Do you think that armed resistance is a way of workers movement or not?

Aso Jabbar: The alternative offered by this “resistance” was made obvious in Falluja and other parts of Iraq controlled by them for short periods of time. Not only is this “resistance” unconcerned with the wellbeing, prosperity and daily needs of the people like electricity and water supply, health services etc., but also (due to the nature of its ideology and politics) it deprives people of the most basic pleasures of modern life, like enjoying music, dance, modern clothes, alcohol, modern hair styles and so on. It attempts to impose the most backward and reactionary values, traditions and way of living on people. Women in particular are forced to live conditions worse in many aspects than conditions under the ex Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Moreover, groups in this “resistance” use the most violent and inhumane methods to impose their will and achieve their objective.

These methods include suicide bombers, car bombs which kill indiscriminately assassinations, beheadings, torture, kidnapping, destroying people property, attacking public services, issuing fatwa and death threats against anyone who disagrees with them and does not observe their way of living. They use funds raised by smuggling, kidnapping and taking ransoms, robbery, theft and blackmail to finance their ominous war. They have negatively touched all aspects of life in Iraq. Evidences indicates that the victory of these groups in the current terrorist war will have disastrous consequences for 25 million people in Iraq, for people in the region and worldwide. It is this obvious reality, which neo-liberals (like Bush, Blair and Howard) use to scare people and to maintain their grip on many Western societies. The fact that the Islamic-ethnocentric resistance is very reactionary and is antagonistic to human wellbeing and prosperity is undeniable.

The reality of the oppressive practices of the occupation forces against the innocent people of Iraq and the sharp contradiction between this and promises made by the USA and UK in days leading up to the war have prompted the vast majority of people to change position and oppose the occupation and its existence and all its manifestations. However, this opposition to occupation does not amount to support for the Islamo-ethnocentric “resistance”. The armed confrontation between the two poles of terrorism in Iraq the USA forces on the one hand and the Islamo-ethnocentric “resistance” on the other has deliberately turned living and working places into battlefields. They are trying to embroil innocent people in this terrorist race. But the resistance of these embroiled people is different from the organized Islamo-ethnocentric “resistance”. There are people who may attack the occupation forces in revenge for the death of loved ones and for humiliation at the hands of these forces. However, these ordinary citizens and their resistance is not an essential part of the current organized armed “resistance” in Iraq.

These political Islamic groups in armed resistance they are taking advantage of occupation and huge protest of people of Iraq against occupation to strengthen their alternative which is establishment of an Islamic government and imposition of Islamic Shari on people Iraq. The main victim of their actions are innocent civilian and people of Iraq like they shot 18 construction workers near Mousul few days ago just because these poor workers are seeking jobs. These groups are not showing any responsibility toward Iraqi society. In contrary we declared our responsibility towards the Iraqi society, the security, decent and prosper life for everyone who resides and lives in Iraq regardless of their ethnic, religious, genetic, or political background. We think first step is to strengthen the front of civil resistance against occupation in Iraq which include independent labour movement, unemployed movement, progressive women movement, progressive political parties like Worker Communist party of Iraq, self governing localities etc. should encourage millions of people in Iraq and worldwide to step forward to end occupation in Iraq through massive protests, Intifada and strikes. I mentioned our goals in the first question but I will summarise them: End of Occupation, political freedom, security, a secular government and improvement in living conditions of Iraqi people and referendum for Kurdish people to determine their future in Iraq.These left groups both theoretically and practically, are not able to take an independent position from the major bourgeois players. They do not have the confidence to lead and organize people against all bourgeois alternatives. They are mentally not up to such a task. Therefore we see these groups resorting to the methods of struggle they are used to: and that is standing with one reactionary bourgeois force against another. Such groups attack others on the left who dare to challenge and oppose this tradition and mentality. However this is a very difficult task and creates a deep dilemma for the members of these pressure groups. The position of the Iraqi Communist Party in support of the occupation emanates from this same mentality (the CP of Iraq has a member on the US appointed interim council). This party too has to spend its life defending this reactionary position.

Sendika.org: Do you think that Iraqi Workers Movement can be bounded in “non-violence struggle” types?

Aso Jabbar: We did not principally rejected an armed struggle against the occupation and we will not in the future but there is a split on the left internationally on the question of the reactionary Iraqi Islamo-ethnocentric “resistance”. Some leftist groups lend support to this reactionary resistance. It is the mentality of the pressure group which prevails in these organisations and determines their political position and activity. The reality of the oppressive practices of the occupation forces against the innocent people of Iraq and the sharp contradiction between this and promises made by the USA and UK in days leading up to the war have prompted the vast majority of people to change position and oppose the occupation and its existence and all its manifestations. However, this opposition to occupation does not amount to support for the Islamo- ethnocentric “resistance”. The armed confrontation between the two poles of terrorism in Iraq the USA forces on the one hand and the Islamo- ethnocentric “resistance” on the other has deliberately turned living and working places into battlefields. They are trying to embroil innocent people in this terrorist race. But the resistance of these embroiled people is different from the organized Islamo-ethnocentric “resistance”. There are people who may attack the occupation forces in revenge for the death of loved ones and for humiliation at the hands of these forces. However, these ordinary citizens and their resistance is not an essential part of the curr
ent organized armed “resistance” in Iraq. I think armed resistance leaded by a progressive labour movement in Iraq needs preparation and enough readiness of working class to step forward to this phase of struggle. I would like here to divert your attention to the new initiative of FWCUI and worker movement in cooperation with progressive women, unemployed movement, student movement and some left parties to the formation of Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC) in March 2005.

The newly-formed Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC), an umbrella organization of various left-wing parties ,labour unions , unemployed , women movement and human rights groups, is calling upon Iraqis to establish “the control and sovereignty of the people at every level and to any extent possible” on a priority basis. In our recently issued Manifesto, the IFC repeated the familiar strategic proposition that trade unionists and women rights activists need to expand mass participation in antigovernment and anti-occupation street demonstrations and protest rallies. But, more importantly, the IFC also recommended the formation of armed militias to “counteract the aggression of forces hostile to people’s power.” The IFC’s programme has been endorsed by a range of prominent Iraqi and international personalities who vehemently disagree with US-sponsored efforts to paint the Iraqi quagmire. As one critical step towards freedom and prosperity for the Iraqi people. “We’re going backwards,” said an academic at Basra University’s Political Science Faculty. “Check out the level of corruption in the Iyad Allawi government, the number of ‘total unemployment’ areas and the bold aggression of the Islamic enforcers, and then figure out where Iraq is headed.

We are living under a false dawn.” in certain residential districts in Baghdad, groups of citizens organized by IFC-related entities have already formed armed militias who are mandated to counter the activities of Shia radicals, Sunni terrorists and the US led Coalition forces. However, the real battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis will have to be fought in Iraq’s slums and, to some extent, in the Iraq’s rural communities. “Once before, in the 1960s and 1970s, Iraq’s secular forces were pitted against Iraq’s Islamists,” a veteran trade unionist in Basra pointed out last week. We emphasized that the people’s militias should be regarded “primarily as a defensive force, which will only resort to violence when the people are being attacked.”

Sendika.org: What do you want to say to Turkish Working Class and anti-war movement?

Aso Jabbar: I answered this question inside other questions.

Thank you very much

sendika.org – 30 March

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