Matthew Stiles | 22.10.2004 18:00
The IFTU in Iraq has expressed deep shock and upset at the situation. The international representative of the IFTU, Abdullah Muhsin, had his speech at the recent Labour Party conference disrupted by protestors, unhappy at his warning that premature withdrawal by coalition forces would "lead at best to the Balkanisation of Iraq and or even worse a bitter civil war".
This incident was followed by accusations in print that the IFTU is collaborating with the UK government – which the group rejects as a "false and dangerous allegation".
And at last week's important European Social Forum, the harassment continued.
Around midday on 15 October, IFTU general secretary Subhi Al Mashadani and two Iraqi women members, were verbally harassed and jostled by a small group of ESF participants.
The hostility shown towards them was such that they had to be escorted away by Alexandra Palace security staff.
The second incident, that evening, was even uglier, according to delegates. The plenary meeting on ending the occupation of Iraq, attended by around 1,000 people, and at which Mashadani – who spent more than 10 years in one of Saddam Hussein's prisons – had been invited to speak, was hijacked by the same group of extremists who kept up a constant barrage of noise designed to prevent the meeting from taking place.
A participant at the conference was Keith Sonnet, UNISON's deputy general secretary, who witnessed what happened.
"Unfortunately they succeeded. The co-chairs attempted to get order, even taking a vote to determine support for the meeting. The will of almost all those present that the meeting should proceed, was ignored by the disrupters and their behaviour made it impossible for it to take place."
UNISON says the attacks are unfair and must stop, repeating its support for the IFTU.
"We believe the voice of Iraqi trade unions should be heard at all levels. UNISON is a broad organisation that believes in the principle of free speech.
"No progress will be made on the development of a strategy for the future of Iraq unless we are prepared to listen to all shades of opinion.
"The people who harassed the IFTU general secretary and prevented the meeting from taking place have no interest in genuine debate or the peaceful, democratic future of the people of Iraq."
The IFTU has released a statement saying, "As we understand it, unions make their own decisions based on their own policies.
"Contrary to the allegations against the IFTU, we must state emphatically we have never voted or campaigned for the current interim Iraqi government.
"We are an independent federation supporting a political process to keep Iraq together and to rebuild a civil society in which the rights and freedoms of working people are respected.
"The IFTU will continue to work for organisational, political and social progress of Iraqis and will continue to work with all sections of the international labour movement that support our aims."
The English language version of the IFTU site can be found here http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/en/
This article can be seen at http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=1731