Among more than 200 associations created in Iraq during the past year, there is one lay and independent organisation, with its origins in a clandestine left movement which existed under Saddam, that is now challenging the Anglo-American authority. It stands for the rights of the unemployed in Iraq – almost the entire female and male workforce, 10 million out of 25 million inhabitants. Such are the side effects of the massive privatisation imposed by the occupation forces in their aim to deregulate an essentially state-ruled economy. Although it already has 300,000 members, the UUI (Union of the Unemployed in Iraq) is considered illegal by the coalition and by the provisional government, who, at the same time, recognise other associations less inclined to protest and more apt to cooperate. Aso Jabbar, the UUI representative in Europe, tells Red Pepper about his union’s fight for real democracy in the country and about the occupation forces’ attempts to control the rising Iraqi union movement.
What is your union’s position and role in the fight against occupation?
We are openly against the occupation but we are not part of the armed resistance. We are distant from the Islamic political groups that control the resistance. Their political programme is linked to the conservative Iraqi tradition and they are not interested in the improvement of people’s life conditions. We struggle directly – together with the other movements (of workers, progressive women and students) – to defend our rights and to establish a civil, lay, secular society. Our aim is to guarantee to our people safety, real social and political liberties, and the end of poverty created by wars, the regime and the embargo. In this phase of the occupation, our union’s representatives are fighting mainly to avoid the exploitation of Iraqi workers in the reconstruction work which is ruled by Western companies and military forces. The UUI is helping NGOs deliver and distribute aid and medicine to families and people hit by the attacks.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, different unions have been created in Iraq. Yours has a wide and popular support but is considered illegal by the provisional government, although it recognises other unions. What is the basis for this discrimination against the UUI?
The democratisation policy in Iraq proclaimed by the Anglo-American authorities also provides for the control of unions. Through the allocation of funds – more than $5m has been handled by the American confederation Afl-Cio for this purpose – the US and UK say that they want to reconstruct the union movement in our country. But this money might be given only to the associations that are closer to the provisional government, like IFTU (Iraqi Free Trade Unions). Composed mainly of old nationalists and the only union recognised by the coalition, IFTU is also the only candidate to have been accepted as a member of the international labour union confederation and to be recognised by all the other main labour federations, like the European TUC. But IFTU doesn’t seem to act as a real union, they don’t fight – like we do – for aid and subsidies for the poorest families. They are not so keen on the enshrinement in law of rights which are still denied, ranging from free association to the right to strike. Furthermore, their protest action is nearly non-existent; they say they are against foreign exploitation of our natural resources but seem more interested in helping foreign firms to reconstruct rather than defend workers’ rights. However, the fact that they are recognised by the new government is forcing many Iraqis to join them if they want a job.
UUI asked for affiliation to the international confederation (ICFTU) and the support of Arabic Unions (ICATU), and you also appealed to the International labour organisation (ILO) to have a real labour code. What answers did you get?
Apart from promises and good intentions, the international union movement hasn’t answered us yet. We are waiting for the ILO to take up a position against the violations denounced by us, by starting an inquiry into the Iraqi situation. But the ILO is an agency of the UN, which has showed it has no real power in Iraq. Therefore, until the occupation forces are replaced by UN forces, there can’t be any real improvement in civil, human and workers’ rights in Iraq. As far as the Arabic confederation ICATU is concerned, its official position is neutral but in reality the response changes according to the member country. For example, we are fully supported by the Lebanese Union, but others, such as Syria, Egypt or Libya have hesitations, since they fear political consequences for their governments.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank