Speeches at the launch of the TUC Aid Iraq Appeal, 19th October 2004.
|Launching the TUC Aid Iraq Appeal. Left to right: Jeannie Drake (TUC President), Hilary Benn MP, Subhi Abdullah al Mashadani (IFTU General Secretary), Brendan Barber (TUC General Secretary), Hashimia Muhsin Hussein (Basra Electricity and Energy Union President)|
Ive been to Iraq three times in the last year. And I have to tell you that each time Ive come back filled with admiration, not just for the colleagues of mine who are working out there, supporting the reconstruction, but above all for the Iraqis I have met.
Because it is quite a humbling experience I can tell you to meet people who are literally putting their lives on the line in support of principles that they hold very dear. I met one minister in the interim government, before the transfer of sovereignty, who spoke very touchingly on a Thursday afternoon of how she was hoping to help build a new Iraq. She was shot on the Friday morning and she died five days later. I met election commissioners in Baghdad six weeks ago, who wanted to do their job and help the first elections to take place, but who were also scared for themselves and for their families.
And I simply want to say that whatever people think about what has happened in the last twenty or so months, though we will continue to debate and discuss it, but frankly whatever you think about that, what needs to be done now in the interests of building a democratic and free Iraq is very very clear. It is to give support to people who are working very hard in difficult circumstances for that to happen. And the trade union movement which suffered so much under Saddams regime, is as we know one of the essential components of a free and democratic society for Iraq.
Im pleased that one of the contributions were making through our civil society fund is a £5m fund that weve established, alongside our £5m participation fund, to support Iraqi organisations including the Iraqi trade union movement to do the work they want to do to help build a better future for the people of Iraq.
And frankly our colleagues from Iraq deserve all of our support in the task that they are taking on, not least because of what theyve suffered over a very long period of time. So Im very pleased to be able to offer support for the TUC Aid for Iraq Appeal, as its a really important and really worthy cause, and all of us should do whatever we can to support our colleagues in their work.
Thank you all, and a special thank you to the TUC for its support, not only for the trade union movement in Iraq and the IFTU, but also for its support for the people of Iraq as they struggle now in its most difficult time, to reconstruct and to build a new politics.
We have to tell you that we are passing through a critical and difficult time now, though this is nothing new to us as we have lived through the brutal dictatorship that governed Iraq for 35 years, the war and the occupation.
In addition to our role as trade unionists, campaigning for the welfare of working people through decent working conditions, we are also active participants in building a new politics, and working towards the elections that will take place on 30th January to elect a new democratic government that will represent the views of Iraqis.
The warm reception that I have had from you and from UK trade unionists that I have met, has given me a new impulse to return to my country, not only to bring this international solidarity back to Iraqis, but with inspiration for our task of constructing a new and genuinely independent trade union movement. Thank you.
Sisters and brothers, I would like to bring to you the greetings of the working people of Iraq, and to thank you and the TUC for the great support you have shown us in this critical time.
I wanted to speak to inform you what the situation is in Iraq and what the people want. Iraq has seen three wars, and we know what war brings to a nation. We say no to dictatorships and no to the devastation of wars. The war has happened, and though we were not responsible for the war, what we are now responsible for is to build a new Iraq, and a new politics of tolerance, democracy and respect for human rights.
We are facing two difficulties: difficulties from the terrorists who do not distinguish between innocent Iraqis and troops, who bomb places of worship, kill innocent children, and detonate car bombs in marketplaces; and difficulties from foreign troops in the country.
Terrorists and terrorism do not want to see democracy flourish, and do not want to uphold the rule of law. We want to support the political processes taking place in Iraq. We want civil society to flourish. We want the institution of democracy to take hold. We want to see elections taking place, and then we can call for the foreign troops to leave.
These are the principles that will guide us in our struggle, and I thank you very much for your support and solidarity you are offering through this appeal.
Case studies and projects (1,000 words) issued 19 Jan 2005
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