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Salaam Al-Jubouri, Iraqi journalist and WTI juror imprisoned at Abu Ghraib

Cathy Breen, Voices in the Wilderness

February 10, 2006

Dear Friends,

To my great distress, I recently received news of the detention by US forces of a dear and trusted Iraqi friend, Salam Al Jabouri. Last December he was kidnapped in Baghdad along with a 28 year-old British freelance journalist, Phil Sands. The two were rescued quite by accident by US troops during a house raid in January. Phil Sands was released and is now back in London, but the US military decided to hold Salam.

I met Salam in the fall of 2003 while I was living in Baghdad under the US occupation as part of Voices in the Wilderness. Salam was an integral part of of the Voices house, an invaluable resource to us as well as a frequent translator. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit his family in a farming area on the outskirts of Baghdad during Ramadan, and to meet his widowed mother. Over the weeks and months he became like a son to me. I remember badgering him to write something about the US occupation from the viewpoint of a student.

On Nov. 6, 2003 he wrote: "...I am against violence, war and blood. I want peace for all world countries. Love is more important than anything else. To kill someone else is to act like a brutal animal and not like a human being. If some one threatens you with a gun, threaten them with a flower; They will feel guilty and ask for forgiveness....A lot of Iraqis are being killed. Their only sin is that they are Iraqis. A lot of American soldiers are killed every day. Their only sin is that they are wearing the military uniform. For my part I think the only solution is to replace the U.S. soldiers with International soldiers, to keep security until an election can take place to create a new government elected by the Iraqi people without interference from others."

Over the last two years we have had ongoing contact through internet, and Salam knew that I counted on his first-hand accounts when I speak to audiences about Iraq. In October of 2004 he wrote me a desperate letter. "...there are so many things to tell you...where to start? will my speaking find someone to hear? ...our voices are really in the wilderness...I realize that what we are doing in peace issues is just like a drop of water wanting to find another drop in the ocean...in Iraq we have an angry people who are ready to do anything to ensure something called "future" for the next generations...I think there is little use for our lives. All of us have a psychological disease now, that is what a taxi driver told me, and I think he is totally right."

Imagine if you will, how stunned and overjoyed we were in March of 2005, to run into one another in Amman, Jordan. Salam had come from Baghdad to attend a post-election workshop. Then in May he advised me that he'd been invited to attend the World Tribunal on Iraq in late June. It was to be held in Istanbul; he was to be on the jury. On June 29th, just days after the World Tribunal, he wrote me "I met with interesting people like those Iraqi politicians who had to leave Iraq 30 years ago and met in Istanbul with people from their homeland. They were asking about Iraq, about the people there and ! what the new generation thinks?...I cried when I saw them crying as they were told about the death of close friends. I smiled when I listened to them describe the ways and districts of old Baghdad and remembered their childhood and youth.

...it's the first for me to know how large is the world's solidarity to Iraq, from the very beginning of the Tribunal when the Korean team covered the ground of the palace court with such painful pictures showing the brutality of the U.S. policy, watching the pictures from Falluja and other parts of Iraq. I couldn't control my tears, especially when they put the pictures of the children who got hurt severely during the fighting...it's the first time I have cried since my father's death in 2000, now I am crying, Cathy, and cannot see the characters on the keyboard clearly...it's a kind of strange feelilng...I finished my tests so I have nothing to do, just writing from inside Iraq..."

In a subsequent letter he wrote me "...how terrible is the situation in Baghdad, one feels no desire to write or to do anything...I watch and walk and think, think of the world, the future, my friends, where are they, what are they doing right now? Will I meet them one day? What will the future of Iraq be, what wars will happen, what is after death?...today one of my friends was telling me that he feels sick of the situation; he wants to work.

I learned of Salam's kidnapping and detention through a friend of a friend, journalist David Enders, whom I met last year in NY city. David has been in touch with British journalist, Phil Sands. On Feb. 6, 2006 David wrote a piece called "Danger for Iraqi Journalists" which can be found on motherjones.com. In it he speaks about Salam. One can only imagine Phil's present anguish after the trauma he has suffered. During his own one-week captivity, I understand he wasforced to dig his own grave. Together with Amnesty folks in Europe, he has been speaking more directly with US military media spokespeople in Baghdad, Lt. Cols. Gary Rudisill and Barry Johnson. David says that they have been cooperative at times in the past. The CPT team in Iraq also goes through them.

Through David we were given to understand that Salam was initially sent to the prison camp in southern Iraq, Camp Bucca. Now it seems that he has been transfered to Abu Ghraib. David sees Salam's situation as "indicative of the detention process as a whole. The same sort of things have happened to journalists working for various media outlets, from Al-Jazeera to Rueters, one thing that they have had in common is that they have almost exclusively been Iraqi or Arab." David continues "The military has said Salam is being treated well. We hope this is the case and that his family can get a case number so that he can be visited and a reason for his being held be furnished."

Letters on behalf of Salam Al Jabouri, addressed to Lt. Col. Barry Johnson and Lt. Col. Gary Rudisill [Media Spokespersons for the U.S. Military in Baghdad] can be sent to David Enders at david.enders@gmail.com who will forward the letters on to Johnson and Rudisill.

Danger for Iraqi Journalists

News: Their ordeals don't grab the headlines, but Iraqi reporters work in fear for their lives.

By David Enders

February 6, 2006

That reporting in Iraq is a dangerous business was underscored again last week with the abduction of a pair of journalists from the Iraqi satellite channel Sumariya.

It is unlikely the fates of Reem Zaid, 23, and her colleague Marwan Khazaal, 25, will receive as much coverage as the recent kidnapping of 28-year-old American journalist Jill Carroll. But while the kidnappings of foreigners make headlines, it is in fact Iraqi journalists and media staff who bear the brunt of the danger. The translator Carroll was working with, Allan Enwiyah, was simply shot and killed.

In some kidnapping cases, Iraqi staff working with foreigners have also been held, either by the US military or the Iraqi government, under the suspicion of being involved.

Phil Sands, a 28-year-old British freelancer was kidnapped in December along with Salam Al-Jabouri, a 22-year-old Iraqi journalist and student who frequently worked with foreign journalists and activists following the invasion of Iraq, but had ceased to because of security concerns last year. The two were accidentally rescued by US troops during a house raid in January. No one had known they had gone missing, primarily because Salam had not told his family he was working with foreigners again. This is not uncommon. Iraqis working for the western press generally lie to their neighbors and in some cases their families about what they are actually doing for work. After the pair were freed by US troops, the US military decided to hold Al-Jabouri.

The family was not contacted by the military and Sands did not know how to get in touch with them, leading them to fear the worst. Al-Jabouri's brother Saad tried to convince his mother that her son was just traveling, as he had in the past.

"I did not hear any thing from him for three weeks, and then I found one of his friends who told me that Salam was working as translator with the foreigners," Saad Al-Jabouri said. "He did not tell us that he was working as a translator because we would never allow him to do that...[W]e are worried about his safety. My mother was crying and asked me about him and every day I had to come up with new reason for his absence.

American military spokespersons in Baghdad have yet to respond to inquiries regarding Al-Jabouri's fate.

"The US army has many Iraqi journalists in their custody, the official number is eight but the number that we have is twenty three," said Moaed Al-Hamdani, an Iraqi journalist and a member of the Iraqi Association of Journalists in Baghdad. "Some are photographers and some are print journalists."

US troops in Ghazalia, a western neighborhood in Baghdad, raided the home of Ali Fadhil, a 28-year-old doctor who made "City of Ghosts," a film about Falluja for the London Guardian, on Jan. 9. The raid was apparently part of the search for Carroll.

Fadhil was hooded (a practice US military spokesmen once said had been discontinued) and taken for a few hours' interrogation. He believes the arrest was a case of mistaken identity, but says that videotapes for a documentary that he has been working on about the reconstruction were taken by troops and have still not been returned.

Fadhil is now studying at New York University on a Fulbright scholarship, but he said he lived, the two weeks before he left Iraq, in a Baghdad hotel, afraid for his safety because his neighbors, as a result of the raid, had discovered he worked for a foreign news outlet. (Ghazalia is a Sunni neighborhood that has been the site of much violence.)

Fadhil, who won the Foreign Press Associationyoung journalist of the year award in November, said he has also been threatened by Col. Adnan Al-Jabouri, a spokesman and press liaison for Iraq's Ministry of Interior, while working on a short film about "Terrorists in the Hands of Justice", a program on the government-owned Al-Iraqia station for which the Ministry of Interior provides videotaped confessions from alleged criminals and insurgents. Fadhil's film offers a unique look at the way in which video is being used by all sides to intimidate and terrorize.

"It's very difficult to work with the Iraqi government. If you're not from the channel that is with their party, it means you are against them. They never want to talk to you or let you go into a place that they think is sensitive to them. Even filming in the street is hard."

In some places, filming is simply impossible, for instance in western Iraq, where some cities are under control of extremist insurgents. Fahdil's colleague Omer Mahdi managed to spend three days in the city of Haditha last year but was unable to film.

"As soon as he got there, the fixer he was with changed his mind. He was very frightened. The insurgents in these places are very well-organized," Fadhil said. "He could have been killed at any moment. In this places it is not being a journalist working for the western media, it is just being a journalist. These people are extreme Islamists, and in their religion, journalism is haram [forbidden]."

>"There were many things I couldn't film in Falluja. Some of it was because of the Americans. At the checkpoint they gave me several rules," Fadhil said. "They knew that I worked for [British TV's] Channel Four, so they gave me some respect. They told me the snipers would shoot at me if I stopped my car on the main street."

But Fadhil remains more concerned about the actions of the Iraqi government. He recently spent time in southern Iraq while working on a documentary about reconstruction that he hopes will be released in March, and found people there extremely frightened.

"People are afraid to talk," Fadhil said. "Najaf is under the strict control of [The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq] militia."

SCIRI is in control of the Ministry of Interior. Hamdani, still in Baghdad, echoed Fadhil's concern and related the recent case of a colleague.

"The most recent incident was for Anwar Al-Hamdani, the host of a show on Al Nahreen TV. His show is popular in Iraq, and he allowed some criticism of the new government on his show and the Iraqi military detained him inside the TV station. That is a danger to the freedom of the press."

David Enders is a frequent contributor to MotherJones.com and author of Baghdad Bulletin: Dispatches on the American Occupation. He has survived a kidnapping attempt and nearly been shot by US troops.

Additional reporting for this article by Salam Talib, who once made Enders verbally record a last will and testament before doing interviews with members of an angry funeral party in Sadr City. Talib has also been threatened in Baghdad for working with foreigners.

Inside Iraq's secret prisons: an Iraqi testimony.

Salam Al Jubouri (BRussells Tribunal) 2005-12-19

The White House seemed very upset with what happened in the Green zone, when US soldiers "found" the jail of Jadriya while they were looking for a 15 years old kidnapped child. The images of torture and execution disturbed the US government, who now claims to be the champion of human rights and democracy. Even Condolencia Rice proclaimed that "the US does not torture". They pretended that the Jafaari government had let them down with such abuses. How hypocrite can you get? They trained these men, spent 3,3 billion $ out of the 2004 Pentagonís 87 billion $ budget to create and fund militiaís like the Badr militiaís and the Wolf brigade. They donít fool no Iraqis, even when they hire people like Christian Bailey to plant false stories in Iraqi newspapers. We Iraqis know whatís happening. The US bears prime responsibility for the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians. They transferred their dirty methods used in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to Iraq. And they kill without remorse, using their militiaís to carry out the torture for them. They must be very desperate. On the one hand they want to invade Iran, on the other hand they fund and train Iranian militiaís, and support Iranian fundamentalist currents. But when they decide to invade Iran, every single Shia in Iraq will join the resistance. And they will be as ruthless against US forces as they are now against the Iraqi resistance. How can the US ever get out of this quagmire? A good advice: the sooner they leave, the better for them

My story is about those jails far away from the Green Zone, near to the Iranian zone. Who feels the pain of the prisoners under the whips of the Iranian investigators in Medain, Kut, Baladiyat, and Hilla ? And what is the role of the UN as independent international organization in Iraq, when "investigators" in Iranian jails in Iraq shoot people down without reason, and the UN is looking the other way

My friend Majed Hadi al-jubourie, 27 years old, was arrested in October 2005 by Al Rafidain forces, with the support of US troops, and he and his 3 brothers and 55 years old uncle were taken to the Al-Rafidain forces headquarters in Baladiyat, south east of Baghdad near to the formal Security building

"From the first moment when we were arrested, I felt that those soldiers who arrested us were not Iraqis, I mean they were really very close with Iranians, that was clear through their accents, and through the sayings and the singing that are typical for the Badr forces and the dead Hakim", Majed said

Majed thought that he and his brothers would be executed, because incidents of arrests by the police, who execute people before throwing their bodies in isolated areas, is a common practice these days in Iraq.

"They blindfolded us, handcuffed us and put us in an American van without windows, to the Al-Rafidain forces camp, then they put us in a cell and started their investigation which consisted only of beatings. They did not ask us a specific question, they did not know why we were there, all they knew was that 'we are Sunniís and we are mení", Majed said angrily. "They used sticks and pipes to hit us, every night. We were trying to cover my uncle because he is sick and older than us. We thought that he might die under these severe beatings"

Majed considered himself lucky at that time, as he was hearing the sounds of torture in investigations rooms and solitary rooms, he was hearing the shouting of the prisoners, and he saw them after the investigation: half dead. They brought them with blankets as they were not able to walk

"They were torturing people from the Dora district. They were so savage with them, so brutal. They were torturing them many times a day. One day they were torturing us after dinner, and they decided to put us with them in the same cell. We were forty people, squeezed in a tiny cell. These were the most difficult days. I thought that I would die. They broke my bones, they tortured me and everyone in that cell, to force us to confess that we killed policemen, and tried to make us confess in front of a camera to show us on Al-Iraqia tv"

"They ordered my brother Hamed to carry dead bodies from people tortured to death. They choose him because he was big and strong. I thought that they would kill him later on as he saw a lot of their crimes "

Hamed is still afraid of the horrors he witnessed. He asked me not to mention anything that would reveal his identity, and he decided not to stay at home after that horrible experience

"They were killing people as if they were killing flies. They were not afraid of anything. It was apparently very easy for them to kill anyone. I carried many bodies which were covered with blood and filled with holes of drilling devices, and some of those bodies were shot. They gave me this job for one reason: they did not want their uniform to be covered with blood. We were putting the bodies in ambulances, and then they would take them away. I think they were thrown into rivers or in deserted areas"

Hamed told me: "the ground was covered with blood, all red. They used everything to torture people. Making holes in heads seems to be very easy for them, as they were trained to do that. They do a dirty duty and follow orders from superiors"

Majed told me about someone's horrible painful story inside the jail. This story is a good example of how terrible and inhuman the people are that were in charge of the jail. "They took someone for investigation and we were hearing him shouting during the torture. They were telling him to confess what he did. He was saying that he did nothing, then they shot in his leg with a pistol, then brought him back into the cell. He was bleeding a lot, because there was a hole in his leg. We treated him with a rag and we asked the guards to take him to hospital, but they refused, they said: 'you Sunniís deserve this, you are Saddam's peopleí. The man was dying and no one could help, they kept him for more than a week until there was a bad smell coming from his leg, we all were smelling. The place was incredibly dirty with urine and human excrements. I still feel the smell coming from that man's leg. It was like he was rotting. He remained there when we were released. He asked us to inform his family in case he would die, and said: "pray for me. I want to die, because I canít stand the pain anymore"

Majed said: "if you get out of that jail you feel a desire to join Zarqawiís people to fight against the Shia and Americans, and you believe what Zarqawi says, if he exists. Those militia men were hanging Hakimís picture everywhere in the jail and tortured us continuously. I hate that picture now. I hate their black hats and their dirty beards. They are a shame for Islam. They are not Muslims"

Majed said that some Shiite religious men were mediating between the prison officers and the prisoners families. Their families had to pay something like $3000 to release a person, sometimes more, depending on the financial situation of the prisoners families

This is now happening in Iraq, to my friends and family, on a daily basis, while you Americans are buying Christmas presents and preparing Turkey. Every Iraqi has a similar story to tell. We never had sectarian violence before, but Bremer and Bush are successfully heading for a catastrophe when they remain in Iraq. And Iíll tell you why. Let the occupation troops leave and the equilibrium will be restored. Now people can kill without impunity, because they feel protected by the occupation forces. They are pushed into a sectarian corner by every law that has been issued by Bremer and the TAL. But if the troops leave and one Iraqi kills another Iraqi, heís certain that there will be revenge. Remember that this is a tribal society, and if one member of the tribe gets killed, the other members of the tribe have the obligation to revenge this killing. Everyone in Iraq knows this, and they will think twice before committing atrocities as they are doing now, with the help of US tax money and protected by Bremerís laws and US occupation forces. I hope you understand by now that there is only one way to solve this conflict before it really escalates: bring your troops home before my people kicks them out. With every new prisoner, every new civilian killed by your airplanes and Apache helicopters, ten new people will join the popular resistance

:: Article nr. 20527 sent on 11-feb-2006 04:31 ECT


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