Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Raid on Iraqi trade union offices

Update 2007 03 07:

On further inquiry, Lenin of Lenin's tomb, informs me

…the raid was allegedly conducted on the GFIW/IFTU's office. It so happens that this has taken place before a couple of years ago, and it could easily have happened again. Does it mean anything? Only that the GFIW gets raided about 0.0001% of the time that any other union or civil society institution gets raided, precisely because it is the *only* legal union in Iraq (at least it was last time I checked), and they inherited most of their members from Saddam's 'yellow union' lists. They have done precious little to support workers fighting oil privatisation…

The GFIW merges three Iraqi unions: the GFTU, the IFTU and the GFITU, so in theory it is distinct from the IFTU, but in practise the same ICP [Iraqi Communist Party] leadership obtains. Further, the GFTU is actually the remnant of Saddam's stooge union, whose membership lists were passed to the IFTU. The GFITU was a breakaway from the GFTU in the south, formed because the SCIRI expunged all the Baathists, and made into an 'Islamic' union. The IFTU were unhappy with the merger, but it is essentially the same body as far as I can tell. You can find references online to the merger, but nothing much detailed.


After posting this alert yesterday Mark Elf alerted me that the ‘founding editor’ of Labourstart had written articles suggesting that his principal commitment was not necessarily to honest reporting. I have put out feelers seeking corroboration of the raid on the GFIW office on 23 and 25 February. Ian found an article in the Indian press about a very similar raid on the offices of the Iraqi Union of Journalists on the night of 20 February. Ablokeimet has passed on potential corroboration in the form of a statement from the GFIW on the Iraqi Federation of Workers’ Trade Unions (IFTU) site. Also on that site is an AP story about the IUJ raid, probably from the same source. The Reporters sans frontieres site also reports the raid. If both stories turn out to be true, it could represent the beginning of a new campaign against Iraqi workers. Or perhaps not so new. According to the AP story,

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 101 journalists have been killed since the war started in March 2003, including two this week.

Hussein al-Zubaidi, a journalist with the weekly al-Ahali, was shot to death in the capital on Monday, and the bullet-riddled body of Abdul-Razzaq Hashim al-Khakani, a journalist with radio Jumhuriyat al-Iraq, was found on Tuesday, a week after he was kidnapped in eastern Baghdad, the organization said.

I will update this entry as additional information comes to hand.


I just learned of this campaign thanks to Ian and encourage you to visit the Labourstart site and participate in the email petition.

On 23 February 2007, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country's national trade union center. They arrested one of the union's security staff (later released unharmed), destroyed furniture, and confiscated a computer and fax machine. And then they did it again two days later, causing further damage to the union headquarters.

The union is condemning the attacks as unprovoked. It is calling on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the seized property, and to pay compensation for damages caused. Please show your support by sending off the message below.

[There is a standard message you can just click and send. This is the slightly modified version I sent.]

To the governments of the United States and Iraq

I have just learned to my horror and dismay about the gratuitous raids your forces conducted at the headquarters of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) on 23 and 25 February during which a member of the union's security staff was arrested, furniture destroyed, and equipment seized, I am writing to condemn this unprovoked attack. I support the union's demand for a written apology, return of the seized property and compensation for damages caused.


  1. I am so confused! All my liberal friends told me that expressing anything but contempt for the evil terrorists fighting the occupation isn't really left and totally undermines the labor movement in Iraq.

  2. Liberals are the true friends of the labour movement, after all!

    Since posting that this morning, I've been alerted to the unsavoury character of Eric Lee, the guy running Labourstart. So I'm making some enquiries and will post the results, or possibly delete the entry, depending on what I find out. Meanwhile, I would counsel caution in responding to the appeal. You might want to check out Lee's autobiographical notes on the LS site (
    or this article on his personal site (