Sheikh Hassan al-Zarqani is the foreign affairs spokesperson for Moqtada al-Sadr, the rebel Iraqi Shia cleric. Sadr’s Mahdi Army launched an armed uprising against the US occupation of Iraq in April 2004. Sheikh al-Zarqani lives in exile in Lebanon after the US issued a warrant for his arrest. He represented Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement at the Cairo Conference.
The situation with the occupation is very difficult. Human rights are under threat everywhere in Iraq. Death or near-fatal injury is a constant threat for ordinary, innocent people — children and old people, women and men.
Millions are unemployed, there is no security, services are non-existent and electricity is just a dream. Health care has become a fairy story.
Every aspect of life, all the basic necessities, are in a real state of crisis in Iraq. If that’s the situation in Baghdad, the capital, think how bad it must be in the provinces. We have to end the occupation, in all its forms, even if it becomes a “peaceful” occupation.
There were some in Iraq at the time of the invasion who were tricked by the occupiers’ slogans of freedom and democracy, and who wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
So they welcomed the invasion. But as time passed it became clear that the occupation is worse than Saddam’s oppression. We rejected Saddam’s oppression, so how could we work with an occupation which has been more damaging to the Iraqi people?
I have a message to the British people. In recent times, it has been possible to distinguish between two groups in Britain.
There is an official, government position, which has used terrorism against the Arab people and the Iraqis in particular. Then there are British people of good conscience who reject intervention in other countries.
We have seen there are many more decent people in Britain than we could have ever imagined, and we’ve seen very positive steps by those who oppose the occupation of Iraq. There were bigger demonstrations in Britain than in some of the Arab countries. This tells us that we should respect those who are responsible, despite the policy of their government.
We hope the anti-war movement will spread, gain a clear voice in government, and so change our view of Britain, which unfortunately we see locked into a “fateful triangle” with the US and Israel.
Sheikh Majid al-Gaoud is the assistant general secretary of the National Front of Iraqi Intellectuals. This is the main political grouping which led demonstrations on 13 November 2003 from Ramadi in Anbar province to Firdaws Square in Baghdad calling for an end to the occupation.
Our organisation has lost many martyrs. The general secretary, Dr Salam al-Gaoud is in prison, and the deputy general secretary, Mahmud al-Samarra has been in jail since the beginning of the occupation.
I am from Ramadi, but we were in Fallujah during the first battle [in April 2004] and the second battle which is still going on. The Americans are preventing journalists from entering.
The occupiers have paid a heavy price in Fallujah and they have lost the political battle by imposing a failed government on us. They have also suffered heavy casualties.
The Iraqi resistance has its own tactics and its own policies, and is increasing its resources. I think that the future is for the resistance. This resistance is part of what will be the future government of Iraq.
We hear a lot about problems between Sunni and Shia Muslims but this is a lie. Iraqis are a mixture of many different religious and ethnic groups.
The Sunnis and the Shias are one. Nor do we have any problem with our brothers the Kurds, the Christians or the Turkmen. There is a difference between ordinary Shias and the exiles who came in the back of the US tanks.
The destruction of Fallujah saddened the Iraqi people. Children, women and old people were killed. Thousands of houses were completely flattened, and many others were partially destroyed. Up to 80 percent of the city has been destroyed. Then there is the pollution. The US used banned weapons. They have used these weapons across the Anbar province. We hear propaganda which says they want to make the whole of Anbar like Fallujah.
We are not against the American people, or the British people or other peoples. These people went out and protested and we respect them for that.
We have every respect for people who are defending the free people of the world. I greet our British friends who came out and demonstrated and say thanks for what they’ve done.
We oppose the criminal acts which have taken place in Iraq, such as the kidnapping of journalists, which present a distorted picture of Iraq and its capital Baghdad, which is known as “Dar-al-Salam” — the house of peace.