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Iraq government orders arrest of oil workers' leaders-- solidarity needed

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 sacking 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 <
mailto: sami.ramadani@londonmet.ac.uk>
Kamil Mahdi  k.a.mahdi@exeter.ac.uk < mailto: k.a.mahdi@exeter.ac.uk>
Sabah Jawad 07985 336886  sabah.jawad@idao.org <
mailto: 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 privatisation of Iraqi oil
demanded by the occupying powers. For more information see the
IFOU's website www.basraoilunion.org





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

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

General e-mail address is  admin@iraqiembassy.org.

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

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



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

The event started outside the offices of BearingPoint, 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

< http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=13782>Ewa Jasciewizc, of
Platform. (above right) Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein leads the march to
the Capitol, photo by Andy Richards; (left) Muhsin Hussein with
Representative Kucinch, photo by Ben Lando

-Report by Andy Richards


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