ASIA/IRAQ - Torture, Islam for abuse fighting Islam for peace, as Iraq struggles to stay on the road to democracy

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Baghdad (Fides Service)- “ It is time to stop abuse and torture whoever the perpetrators” Father Nizar Semaan, an Iraqi Catholic priest in Mosul, told Fides with regard to torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by US troops. “We are indignant as persons and as Christians. We condemn violence in all the prisons in Iraq whoever runs them” Father Nizar added. “Democracy triumphs when people admit their faults and apologise. It is however most concerning to see Arab media, television in particular, exploiting these reports to feed hatred and violence. I call on the Arab media to have the same courage and coherence to denounce violence and torture perpetrated in prisons in Arab countries. Does anyone ever speak about what goes on in prisons in those countries? I urge international humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross and Amnesty International to visit political prisoners detained in the Arab world” Father Nizar said. “What is more we cannot fail to voice our disgust at crimes committed by terrorists who go as far as to decapitate a defenceless human being”.
“The world must reject torture once and for all. We have international conventions signed by all nations which must be applied. Christianity teaches, as the Holy Father never tires of repeating, that every human person, even the most evil, has inalienable rights which cannot be trampled on” Father Nizar continued. “Those who committed these crimes and those who knew but failed to intervene and therefore approved, must be brought to justice and punished. In this situation however I find comfort in the fact that my people took to the streets to make a peaceful demonstration to protest against the crimes of torture and that these events were reported by Iraqi papers, radio and television. In the long years of the Saddam dictatorship this sort of thing never happened. Families of prison inmates killed by the regime were not allowed even to have back the body of their loved ones” Father Nizar recalls. “ So these are signs that democracy is in the making in Iraq. The West did well to condemn crimes committed against Iraqis because it helped democracy to take root in our country.”
“This is a very difficult time for my country. Sadly there are two Iraqs: an Iraq of hope and an Iraq of obscurantism. When militias led by Moqtada Al Sadr, fundamentalist leader Shiite leader fighting a political battle with the Americans take control of part of some city, they always impose on women the use of the veil and very often they stop students from going to school. Is this what they want, an Iraq obscured fundamentalist ideology?” Father Nizar asked. “It is ever more obvious that this is a battle between fundamentalism and more moderate Islam impersonated by Ayatollah Sistani” Father Nizar concluded.(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/5/2004 righe 38 parole 490)