Socialist Worker

Iraq: constituting tyranny

The new Iraqi constitution, to be voted on this weekend, will fuel the sectarianism tearing apart the country, says Sami Ramadani

Issue No. 1972

illustration by Tim Sanders

illustration by Tim Sanders


The US and British occupation is driving Iraq towards disaster by spreading the poison of sectarianism and ethnic divisions.

All the political projects initiated by the occupation, all the legislation, including the new proposed constitution, are sowing discord among ordinary people.

Ever since the US and Britain occupied our country they have created institutions and organisations that are imposing sectarianism.

People are forced to declare which sect or ethnic group they come from. This is alien to Iraq’s secular traditions.

Now the US, through its ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, has drafted a constitution that proposes turning Iraq into a federation.

The only federation named in the new charter is the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Most Iraqis recognise that the Kurds deserve their national rights, and have a historic right to their homeland.

But built into the constitution is the right for any province to break away from the rest of the country.

This will be a landmine for the future of Iraq. So now we are told that there are demands for the south to break away. This call for separation comes from organisations closely linked to the occupation.

These are organisations like the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and politicians who, with the blessing of the US, unashamedly try to use religious and ethnic differences to carve out political and economic power bases for themselves.

All the pro-occupation organisations that supported the national elections in January are campaigning hard for the constitution.

There are no signs of popular support for the break-up of the country and no mass movement in the south for separation.

There will be some ordinary people who might be persuaded to vote for the constitution because they feel that it could bring stability, but there are few illusions that it will bring long term peace.

Any constitution drafted under occupation, no matter how well written (and this one is very badly written) will never bring stability.

What is souring the whole atmosphere and debate over the future of the country is that every term, every concept, every phrase has been undermined and turned into its opposite meaning.

The term “federation” has become a word without definition. The word “democracy” now means imposing politicians and organisations onto the country against the will of the people.

“Freedom from tyranny”, now means a new tyranny of occupation. A “constitution” now means a document concocted by the US and its allies.

This is a poison spreading through the body politic of the country.

People’s lives are deteriorating from day to day. They are not inspired by the constitution and the calls for federalism.

The main demands of ordinary people remain for electricity, clean water, an end to the constant bombardments and military onslaughts, and for an end to sectarianism and terrorism.

People fear the silent killers that do not make the headlines. These are the diseases brought about by contaminated water, the cancer and deformities caused by depleted uranium weapons, and the growing misery of poverty.

These are the main concerns of ordinary people.

Iraq needs a national movement for unity, not a constitution that will rip the country apart.

But without a progressive, united and secular movement it will be very difficult to defeat sectarianism and end the occupation.

For 25 years of Saddam Hussein’s regime this movement was systematically liquidated.

During Saddam’s rule the mosque became an important social and political space for people to meet. His secret police could not ban prayer meetings or close mosques.

These institutions remain as important centres of resistance to the occupation today.

But their influence is greater than their popular base justifies.

Because the mosques are organised they have played an important role in stemming the tyranny of the occupation. But a secular movement is essential to rise above the ethnic, sectarian and religious divisions.

The popular sentiment in Iraq is for unity not division, for independence not occupation.

We need a secular, progressive and well-organised movement that can reflect the popular sentiment of the people and unite Iraq.

Sami Ramadani is a lecturer at London Metropolitan University. He is an Iraqi exile and a member of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation.

Go to www.idao.org for more information


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Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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