Hassan Juma’a Awad in the News Again

Iraqi Oil Union Leader Speaks in Manchester, England


[The following is from the December 10, 2005, issue of the UK publication Socialist Worker. Hassan Juma’a Awad of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra addressed a meeting organized by the Manchester trades council and Greater Manchester Coalition to Stop the War on November 24. The Iraqi oil union, which represents 23,000 workers, was set up in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We print an edited transcript of Awad’s speech.]

[For more on Hassan Juma’a Awad, see the article by Kathleen O’Nan, “Iraqi Oil Workers Meet with U.S. Oil Workers,” elsewhere on the Labor Standard web site.]


“Our Union Has Organized Despite The Threats Of U.S. Forces, In Fact Under The Noses Of Their Tanks And Soldiers”

I would like to talk about the main motives for the occupation of Iraq and how we are rebuilding our trade union in the face of U.S. pressure.

The U.S. claims that its motivation for the invasion of Iraq was to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. But its real political goal was to seize control over the oil resources in the Middle East.

As you know Iraq has the third highest reserves of oil in the world, and the U.S. has to keep control over this oil in order to maintain its position as an economic superpower. The main aim of their war is to control our oil and our economy.

It would have been easier to topple Saddam Hussein in 1991 after the U.S.-led coalition had driven the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. After the withdrawal from Kuwait there was a popular uprising in 14 cities across the country. It was U.S. policy during this time not to remove the regime, as it did not have an alternative to Saddam Hussein, so it abandoned the Iraqis and the uprising was crushed. 

Instead the U.S. took its time to prepare for the destruction of our poor country. It fabricated the case for invasion based on Iraq’s supposed possession of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons. It also claimed that Iraq was harboring terrorists, when in reality our country was never a base for terrorism. Terrorism became just another excuse by the U.S. for its war.

The lies that were used to launch the war are now well known and deserve few words.

Hassan Jumaa Awad addressing a meeting in London

 

One of the main aims of the U.S. today is to divide Iraq. The divisions and killings we are now witnessing are the result of this occupation.

The sectarianism that is pitting Sunni against Shia, Kurd against Turkmen and Christian, did not exist at such a level before the occupation of our country.

We see the only options presented to us are privatization of the oil industry and the dominance of U.S. companies over the industry.

The U.S. has decreed that only its companies can bid for oil contracts, sidelining the companies of other countries, whether from Europe or elsewhere.

Only two months after their troops crossed the border, U.S. companies—Kellogg Brown & Root and Halliburton—arrived to take control over our industry. These U.S. companies are the real beneficiaries of the invasion.

For this reason many Iraqi trade union activists who had suffered under the previous regime came together to relaunch the oil workers’ union.

Our union has two strategic considerations. The first is how best to protect the rights of the Iraqi worker in light of the laws brought in by the then U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer.

The second is how to maintain oil production, which is the main source of income for our country.

The U.S. has destroyed all the infrastructure of our country: the hospitals, schools, universities, factories, and workshops.

Oil facilities and pipelines were the only elements of the infrastructure that they did not destroy. This is because they wanted to control our oil.

Our union has organized despite the threats of U.S. forces, in fact under the noses of their tanks and soldiers.

We have been organizing despite the ban on independent unions, and the ban on demonstrations implemented under the transitional administrative law imposed by the U.S. in 2003.

Our union has six main objectives:

We demand the unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

We want the freedom for Iraqis to decide our own future and set our own policies.

We denounce all acts of terrorism against the Iraqi people and hold the U.S. responsible for these attacks.

We condemn the attempt by U.S. companies to take control of our oil.

We support the Iraqi resistance in the campaign to drive the U.S. occupiers out of Iraq.

We demand the cancellation of all debts incurred by the former regime.

Ordinary Iraqis did not benefit from these debts. All the money that was borrowed was not used to build Iraq. It was used to fund Saddam Hussein’s military adventures that caused so much destabilization in the region.

The Iraqi oil workers’ union is determined to prevent any U.S. company from taking over the oil industry.

Iraq exports up to 1.8 million barrels of oil a day, yet even with the present high oil price the people are living in poverty and misery.

There is little healthcare, no social welfare, and the education system has collapsed. The Iraqi people are living under very difficult circumstances. This is the reality of life under occupation.

When we organized our first anti-privatization conference in the southern city of Basra, many of our friends from the United States and Britain were able to see first-hand the poverty and misery of our people. Yet we live over a lake of oil.

Basra experienced deep suffering under the previous regime—more than any other city in Iraq—and suffered eight years of war against Iran from 1980 to 1988, the invasion of Kuwait and repercussions of that war in 1991.

Now we are suffering a new war caused by the U.S. and its coalition. Up to 85 percent of the people in Basra are suffering in some way from the pollution caused by these wars—this pollution has been documented by the United Nations.

The effects of the weapons used on us are being felt by Iraqis across the country, whether in Basra, Amara, Nassiriya, Ramadi, Baghdad, or any other city. It is only by god’s will that we can survive the misery of this occupation.

George Bush and Tony Blair claim that they have brought democracy to Iraq, yet everyday we see this so-called democracy, with the military convoys that fire on innocent people and human rights violations, including torture.

We call on all people who want peace and all organizations that oppose this war to help in our struggle. Since we are struggling to oppose the forces of evil, we need all the support we can get. I thank you for all your support. Again, Iraq needs all the support it can get.

We will remember the real friends who stood by us during these terrible times, and hope that one day we can welcome you all to a free, democratic, and united Iraq.