Iraqi students defy Islamist militia

Submitted by AWL on 30 March, 2005 - 11:32

From the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI). Students at the University of Basra went on strike for over a week in March. They organised demonstrations outside government buildings in Basra. The strike and demonstrations were about a vicious attack on Basra students by the Islamists in the city.

On 15 March a group of armed militia belonging to Al Sadr in Basra attacked a group of students from the Engineering Faculty on an picnic outing in one of the city's parks. While police stood by the armed thugs launched a vicious attack against the students, destroying all their belongings and ripping off the clothes of a female student. [That young woman is said to have subsequently comitted suicide.] The attackers targetted the female students, especially those not wearing headscarves, and singled out one Christian student. A male student, rushing to help the Christian student, was brutally shot dead by the armed gang.

A day after this tragic incident thousands of students of the University of Basra declared an indefinite strike inside the University. The protesters inside the University compound have been surrounded by the national guards, armed militia of Al Sadr and the police forces.

The demonstrations escalated to express not only anger against the killing but also against the criminal activities of the so-called students linked with Islamic militia groups, and their bullying attempts to impose their policies on all aspect of life.

These demonstrations have proved that the Iraqi people in general and the students in particular are prepared to withstand the attempts to impose reactionary policies on society. These demonstrations highlight the deep desire within the Iraqi society for “normal” civil life.

The FWCUI condemns the criminal action by the Al Sadr gangs against the students and we demand that all those involved in this atrocity should be brought to justice. We demand the right of students to organise themselves in their own independent unions.

[The students also want to see the banning of Islamist groups on their campus.]

We condemn the lack of response by the Iraqi authorities and we hold the occupying forces responsible for the deterioration of the security situation and the chaos in Iraq, a chaos which has allowed the armed militias to impose their reactionary polices on Iraqi people and to restrict their freedom and violate their basic rights.

We appeal on all labour activists and trade unions worldwide to support the striking students and their fair demands.

Student activists from the Education Not for Sale network are organising solidarity for the Basra students. Although their strike has now ended, their campaign continues.

Daniel Randall of Education Not for Sale said: “What is happening in Basra underlines the urgent need for solidarity with trade unions, student groups and other fighting for democracy and secularism in Iraq. This is further proof of how the occupation of Iraq is nurturing reactionary religious and political forces. British students must raise a storm of protest against this criminal attack on Iraqi students.”

Send messages of solidarity with the Basra students to the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq UK representative, Houzan Mahmoud:

Education Not for Sale 07976 000 940

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