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Election posters plastered on a wall in Iraq, January 2009.
Election posters plastered on a wall in Iraq, January 2009.
No stickies allowed! Iraqi authorities "ban" adhesive campaign advertising in Iraq

The independent electoral commission in Iraq has issued a directive banning any posters, candidate portraits, or electioneering materials with adhesive backing that can be plastered on walls and blast barriers -- a tactic that has been commonplace in previous election campaigns in Iraq.

Hamdiya al Husseini, a chief electoral officer, recalled that Iraq’s cities, towns and even outlying villages were turned on similar occasions over the past years into "a jungle of posters, banners and stickers" that remained up for weeks after the poll.

The authorities explained that some exceptions would be made, however: "Cloth ads hung from strings are allowed, so that they can be taken down easily afterward."

The commission is promising to impose heavy fines on any offending factions and candidates -- but some candidates and citizens who spoke to RFI were skeptical that the new restrictions would be enforced, as there are more than 300 entities registered to contest the January elections. "Many of them have already spent millions on advertising materials," one said. "They can hardly be expected to confine their use to the officially designated advertising space."

When it comes to nuclear energy in Iraq, al-haajet umm al-ikhtira'a (invention is the mother of necessity)

Although this story [Arabic link] has received very little attention in the English-language media (aside from this article in the Guardian), Iraq has announced progress in its quest to develop a "peaceful nuclear program" in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The head of the National Iraqi Committee for Atomic Energy, Fu'ad Al-Musawi, added that the program will be centered on the use of atomic power for "water purification projects, agriculture, pharmaceutical production, and [radiation] treatments for various cancers."

Iraq faces many restrictions on the development of nuclear capabilities under a variety of UN sanctions, which also stipulate that Iraq must dismantle all of its existing nuclear facilities in cooperation with the IAEA -- a process that Musawi says is nearly complete.

Since these restrictions also effectively bar Iraq from developing nuclear technology that is essential for medical and economic purposes, the Iraqi authorities have been working with IAEA officials on creative ways to work around these sanctions. The details about exactly what form such a proposal would take haven't been worked out yet, but the process is moving forward, according to officials.

Jinan Al-Ubeidi, head of the Committee on Health and Environment in the Iraqi National Assembly, said that he was confident that a peaceful nuclear program would help alleviate the shortage of available cancer treatments in Iraq. "Most cancer patients are forced to wait in long lines for radiology treatments, and the situation is getting worse...many die before they can receive proper treatment," he said.

A member of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Mithal Al-Alusi, said the Iraqi government must accelerate development of Iraq's peaceful nuclear capabilities, and claimed that it "would not raise the ire of neighboring parties or states" (a reference to Iran). "We ask only to possess [research] reactors which could not be used for anything other than peaceful purposes. I believe we have been very clear since that outset that our proposal will strengthen peace and security in the region," he said.

Controversy surrounds the role of Iraqi tribes in upcoming elections

RFI reports [Arabic link] that some political factions in Iraq have sought to incorporate tribes and their leaders within the coalitions participating in the elections expected to be held at the beginning of next year. Sheikhs from various tribes interviewed by RFI claimed that tribes played an important role at this "critical stage" in Iraqi politics, and could assist in the political process by helping identify capable and qualified individuals from their tribes to serve in government. "Iraqi tribes enjoy the respect of the people because they're able to decide who among their members is most qualified and impartial, to assist with rebuilding the country and contributing to the effective administration of the government," said Sheikh Abd al-Abbas al-Sa'adi.

Abd Faisal al-Sahlani disagrees, arguing against a bigger role for Iraqi tribes in the upcoming elections and saying that it would affect the orientation of the new parliament along sectarian lines, just as Iraq was "on the verge of another kind of shift towards entry into the modern civilizations of the world." In his opinion, Iraq should "forget the eras of degradation under the domination of tribal, bedouin, and backwards mindsets."

--Alex Mayer