Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s latest security campaign – operation “Bashaer al-Kheir” (Promise of Good) - targeting al-Qaeda in Diyala, has aroused much hostility in the province. Criticism emerged when
Niqash conducted a phone interview with the head of Diyala’s provincial council, Ibrahim Hasan Bajelan, to discuss recent events in his troubled province, as well as the investigation into the attack on the provincial council’s premises in July 2008.
Niqash: After the July raid by an unknown security force you suspended the council’s activities pending an investigation. What information has the government investigation collected?
Bajelan: We have not yet received the results of the investigation. The council suffered many illegal attacks; security force not only stormed the building but also beat provincial council members, confiscated security members’ weapons, their mobile phones and their money. They also killed Abbas al-Tamimi, the governor's secretary, and arrested Hussein Al-Zubaidi, head of Diyala’s provincial council security committee and Nizar al-Khafaji, head of Diyala University. They also confiscated council documents and archives. We officially asked the government and the ministries of defense and interior for clarification on the operation’s motives and requested an immediate investigation. The raid was barbaric, resulting in deaths and arrests, but the two ministries claimed that they were not responsible for the attack and have not provided us with any information to date. We now expect the two ministries to finish their investigations and to officially apologize to the council. Regarding the suspension, members are still holding their weekly meeting to issue instructions and look into people’s complaints and demands.
Niqash: But you suspended the work of the council.
Bajelan: The announcement was meant as a condemnation. It does not mean that we will not look into people’s concerns. Diyala’s council announced its demands and we are waiting to receive an official apology from the government or the authorities responsible for the attack because these are the demands of the people of Diyala of all sects and affiliations.
Niqash: Do you think that violations have been committed during the Bashaer al-Kheir campaign?
Bajelan: The operation achieved significant successes in a number of areas especially when the amnesty law issued before the campaign resulted in the peaceful surrender of many wanted people. The problem lies in the way the government has dealt with some of the detainees who surrendered without guarantees. Until now no list of names has been issued and this is why the Islamic Party says that that the government’s campaign has diverted from its original path. The detainees’ crisis coincided with the entry of Iraqi forces into Khanaqin, considered a secure and stable town free of sectarian and ethnic problems. These are the reasons behind the attacks on the campaign.
Niqash: You attended a meeting with a government delegation together with Kurdish leaders regarding Kurdish opposition to the deployment of government troops in Khanaqin. What happened during the meeting?
Bajelan: It was a constructive meeting. The Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, General Babakir Zebari, and Diyala’s governor expressed their respect for Kurdish reservations regarding the legitimacy of the deployment of government troops in Khanaqin. The government and Kurds showed great flexibility in overcoming the crisis. During the meeting it was agreed that local police from inside the city shall handle the security file and both the Peshmerga and Iraqi troops started their withdrawal from Khanaqin.
Niqash: The issue of women suicide bombers still concerns the people of Diyala. Do you think that the security situation is satisfactory?
Bajelan: Yes, it is, but we hope that deceived people start thinking of the country’s interests. They must admit that Saddam’s era has gone forever and that those who came after him are legitimate representatives of ethnicities, sects and affiliations. I would like to stress that women suicide bombers are victims of a situation known to everyone and we hope that these women and armed men surrender themselves to security forces to save their own lives and their country.