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Iraq Government Orders Arrest of Oil Union Leaders

Press release from Naftana: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
6 June 2007 12 noon

Iraq government orders arrest of oil workers' leaders . Iraq's powerful oil workers' trade union today expressed alarm as an arrest warrant was issued for its leaders, in an attempt to clamp down on industrial action.

Members of the union have been on strike since Monday 4th June, in protest at the government's failure to meet any of its promises made in a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on 16th May. The union's 16 demands included improvements to wages, health and other working and living conditions as well as consultation on the proposed oil law, which the union opposes. The union added a 17th demand yesterday demanding the sac king of the General Manager of the Southern Pipeline Company.

On Tuesday, al-Maliki warned that he would meet threats to oil production "with an iron fist".

The arrest warrant, based on a charge of "sabotaging the economy" specifically names Hassan Juma'a Awad, the leader of the 26,000-strong Federation of Oil Unions, and three other leaders of the Federation.

Hassan Juma'a commented, "the government is intimidating the union but we are determined to gain our legitimate rights." He added that the strike would continue in accordance with the union's plan.

The strike entered its third day today and is in its "second phase," which now includes the closure of the main distribution pipelines, including supplies to Baghdad. "Phase one" closed some of the smaller distribution pipelines. Phases one and two did not include production and exports.

The union is calling on all its supporters and unions across the world to back the union at this critical juncture.  Sami Ramadani from the union's UK-based support committee, Naftana said: "Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the oil workers' leaders is an outrageous attack on trade union and democratic freedoms."

For further information contact:

Sami Ramadani 07863 138748 sami.ramadani@londonmet.ac.uk
Kamil Mahdi k.a.mahdi@exeter.ac.uk
Sabah Jawad 07985 336886 sabah.jawad@idao.org

Notes for editors: Naftana is an independent UK-based committee supporting democratic trade unionism in Iraq. It works in solidarity with the IFOU . It strives to publicize the union's struggle for Iraqi social and economic rights and its stand against the privatization of Iraqi oil demanded by the occupying powers. For more information see the IFOU's web site www.basraoilunion.org



Register your protest against threatened arrest of oil union leaders!

Demand Iraqi government respect internationally recognized labor rights, including the right to strike




Iraqi Embassy

1801 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 483-7500

Embassy Hours:
Monday-Friday 9:30 AM - 5 PM

Email: admin@iraqiembassy.org

Ambassador Samir al-Sumaidaie
Fax: (202) 462-5066

Faiz Al-Gailani
Counselor / Deputy Chief of Mission
Fax: (202) 462-0564



Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein leads the march to the Capitol
photo by Andy Richards

Dozens of activists joined Iraqi labor leader Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein for a rally and march Tuesday night to demand "hands off Iraqi oil" and to protest the proposed Iraqi oil law. The rally was the first public event of the National "Voices of Iraqi Workers Solidarity Tour."

The event started outside the offices of Bearing Point, the contractor commissioned to draft the Iraqi oil law, and ended with a march and press conference with House Representative and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Capitol Hill.

Speaking through an interpreter, Muhsin Hussein told the crowd that the oil law is simply "economic occupation and the start of new tragedies for Iraq."

"Iraqi people live in a terrible situation. There is 60% unemployment; 9 million live in poverty; and this law would steal 70% of oil profits from the people of Iraq," Muhsin Hussein added. The recent passage of the Iraq War Supplemental included language that would withhold $1 billion in reconstruction if Iraq did not allow privatization of oil reserves, said Representative Kucinich.

"This is pure blackmail and against every principle that the US stands for," Kucinich said. Iraqi oil union leader Abood Umara was scheduled to arrive in DC yesterday, but was not allowed to board his flight this weekend because of problems with his visa.

"Iraqi people are treated like terrorists when coming to the US. The US does not want their voices heard," said the Tour's Coordinator Denice Lombard regarding the absence of Abood Umara. Lombard read a statement from Abood Umara about oil workers' opposition to the oil law. "It is important that the American people understand why Iraqi oil workers, a majority of its Parliament and most Iraqis oppose this law. It serves Bush, his supporters and foreign oil companies at the expense of the Iraqi people," said the statement.

In related news, Basra oil workers have been on strike since Monday over working conditions, wages, a voice in the oil law drafting process, and other issues, reports Ewa Jasciewizc, of Platform.

-Report by Andy Richards