Message from Iraqi Trade Unionist:
“Leave Our Country Now!”
the first days of the U.S.-British invasion of
by Hassan Juma’a Awad
Hassan Juma’a Awad is general secretary of
Iraq’s Southern Oil Company Union and president of the
We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. When the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural wealth. Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs, and our people tortured, raped, and killed in our homes.
Saddam’s secret police used to
creep over the roofs into our homes at night; occupation troops now break down
our doors in broad daylight. The media do not show even a fraction of the
devastation that has engulfed
The occupation authorities have
maintained many of Saddam’s repressive laws, including the 1987 order which
robbed us of basic union rights, including the right to strike. Today, we still
have no official recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in
10 oil and gas companies in
However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government. We believe unions should operate regardless of the government’s wishes, until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not those of American imperialism.
Our union is independent of any
political party. Most trade unions in
Our union has already shown it is able to stand its ground against one of the most powerful U.S. companies, Dick Cheney’s KBR [the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root], which tried to take over our workplaces with the protection of occupation forces.
We forced them out and compelled
their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khourafi, to replace with Iraqi workers 1,000
of the 1,200 employees it brought with it [from
We see it as our duty to defend the country’s resources. We reject and will oppose all moves to privatize our oil industry and national resources. We regard this privatization as a form of neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the military occupation.
The occupation has deliberately
fomented a sectarian division of Sunni and Shia. We never knew this sort of
division before. Our families intermarried, we lived and worked together. And
today we are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf
Bush and Blair should remember that
those who voted in last month’s elections in
We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don’t want a timetable — that is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country, and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills, and the resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.