Although it is eclipsed from the headlines by the ongoing carnage, there is an active civil resistance in Iraq that opposes the occupation, the torture regime it protects and the Islamist and Baathist insurgencies alike. This besieged opposition–under threat of repression and assassination–is fighting to keep alive elementary freedoms for women, leading labor struggles against Halliburton and other contractors, opposing the privatization of the country’s oil and other resources and seeking a secular future for Iraq. They note that what they call “political Islam” dominates both sides in the conflict–the collaborationist regime and the armed insurgents. Both seek to impose a reactionary, quasi-theocratic order.
Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies articulates the dilemma: “There has been a huge problem since the beginning of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, that the only resistance we hear about is the military resistance. Key sectoral organizations–oil workers, women, human rights defenders and many others–have all continued their work to oppose the occupation, at great risk to their own safety. Many of them operate in local areas, and almost all function outside the US-controlled Green Zone, so few Western journalists, and almost no mainstream US journalists, have access to their work.”
On July 4 the leader of a popular citizens’ self-defense force in Baghdad was executed. According to the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC)–a civil resistance coalition–a unit of US Special Forces troops and Iraqi National Guard forces raided the home of Abdel-Hussein Saddam at 3 am, opening fire without warning on him and his young daughter. The attackers took Abdel-Hussein, leaving the girl bleeding on the floor. Two days later his body was found in a local morgue. Since late last year Abdel-Hussein had been the leader of the Safety Force, a civil patrol organized by the IFC to protect their communities. Like many IFC leaders, he had been an opponent of Saddam Hussein’s regime and was imprisoned for two years in the 1990s. His death was mostly ignored by the world media.
But on August 3 some 100 activists from the Japanese antiwar group ZENKO, an acronym for National Assembly for Peace and Democracy, gathered near the US Embassy in Tokyo to protest the slaying. One banner read: Do US-Iraqi security forces promote civil rights or Big Brother thuggery? Abdel-Hussein found out!
Among those speaking were two IFC leaders, including president Samir Adil, who said, “Because he said, ‘No Sunni, no Shiite, yes to human identity,’ because he wanted to build a civil society in Iraq without occupation, without sectarian militias–for that they killed Abdel-Hussein. They think they can defeat the IFC, the only voice in Iraq that says yes to a free society, yes to a nonviolent society, no to occupation, no to sectarian gangsters. But contrary to that, after the assassination, many people joined the IFC. We received messages of solidarity from around the world. As long as we have the support of people like you, we will never give up.”
The IFC was formed in 2005, bringing together trade unions, women’s organizations, neighborhood assemblies and student groups around two demands: a secular Iraqi state and an end to the occupation. ZENKO’s most significant achievement over the past year has been raising $400,000, which helped the IFC to establish a satellite station, Sana TV.
Nadia Mahmood, an exile from Basra who is the chief presenter at Sana TV’s London studio, told the protesters, “We established the IFC to oppose occupation or rule by Sunni or Shiite militias. That is why the US, which says it came to Iraq to bring democracy, assassinates our leaders and raids our offices. And that is why we must demand an end to the occupation.”