Jim Crow toilets at US military base in Iraq

This video is called About Apartheid.

“Apartheid was the name given to South Africa’s brutal policy of segregation that lasted from 1948 to 1994. Under Apartheid, mixed marriages were prohibited, and every individual was classified by race. There were separate beaches, separate buses, separate toilets, separate schools and even separate park benches. This webumentary features South Africans commenting on Apartheid and its harsh legacy.”

As in Afghanistan, toilets at United States bases in Iraq follow the model of South Africa during apartheid, and of the US South before the civil rights movement:

At US Base, Iraqis Must Use Separate Latrine

By Mike Drummond
McClatchy Newspapers

Friday 03 August 2007

Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq – The sign taped to the men’s latrine is just five lines:


It needed only one: “NO IRAQIS.”

Here at this searing, dusty U.S. military base about four miles west of Baqouba, Iraqis – including interpreters who walk the same foot patrols and sleep in the same tents as U.S. troops – must use segregated bathrooms.

Another sign, in a dining hall, warns Iraqis and “third-country nationals” that they have just one hour for breakfast, lunch or dinner. American troops get three hours. Iraqis say they sometimes wait as long as 45 minutes in hot lines to get inside the chow hall, leaving just 15 minutes to get their food and eat it.

It’s been nearly 60 years since President Harry Truman ended racial segregation in the U.S. military. But at Forward Operating Base Warhorse it’s alive and well, perhaps the only U.S. military facility with such rules, Iraqi interpreters here say. …

“It sucks,” Ahmed Mohammed, 30, said of the latrine policy. He called the signs – in English and Arabic – “racist.”

He’s worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military since 2004. He’s college educated and well versed in the ways of Western plumbing. …

Mohammed has sold his house and has squirreled away enough money to buy visas for his family of four. He said he intended to quit soon and emigrate to Germany. The latrine policy is part of the reason, he said.

US aerial bombing in Iraq: here.

Modern Day Jim Crow: the “Jena Six” in the USA: here; update: here. More update: here. And here. And here.

David Duke and Jena: here.

Little Rock 1957 and the US civil rights movement: here.

Fanny Lou Hamer: here.

6 thoughts on “Jim Crow toilets at US military base in Iraq

  1. Bloggers inspire new civil rights wave
    Jena 6 protest nurtured on Web

    By Howard Witt | Tribune senior correspondent
    September 19, 2007

    JENA, La. – There is no single leader. There is no agreed schedule. Organizers aren’t even certain where everyone is supposed to gather, let alone use the restroom. The only thing that is known for sure is that thousands of protesters are boarding buses at churches, colleges and community centers across the country this week, headed for this tiny dot on the map of central Louisiana.

    What could turn out to be one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years is set to take place here Thursday, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, popular black radio talk show hosts and other celebrities converge in Jena to protest what they regard as unequal treatment of African-Americans in this racially fractured Deep South town.

    Yet this will be a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America — a collective national mass action grown from a grass-roots word-of-mouth movement spread via blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.

    Jackson, Sharpton and other big-name civil rights figures, far from leading this movement, have had to scramble to catch up. So have the national media.

    As formidable as it is amorphous, this new African-American blogosphere, which scarcely even existed a year ago, now includes hundreds of interlinked blogs and tens of thousands of followers who within a matter of a few weeks collected 220,000 petition signatures — and more than $130,000 in donations for legal fees — in support of six black Jena teenagers who are being prosecuted on felony battery charges for beating a white student.

    “Ten years ago this couldn’t have happened,” said Sharpton, who said he first learned of the Jena case on the Internet. “You didn’t have the Internet and you didn’t have black blogs and you didn’t have national radio shows. Now we can talk to all of black America every day. We’ve been able to form our own underground railroad of information, and when everybody else looks up, it’s already done.”

    Big preparations

    Hotels are booked up for miles around Jena, the Louisiana State Police are drawing officers from across the state to help control the crowds, and schools and many businesses in the town of 3,000 will close Thursday in anticipation of 10,000 or more demonstrators who are expected, organizers predicted.

    The momentum for the protest did not slow even when the original reason — the scheduled sentencing of Mychal Bell, 17, the first of the “Jena 6” defendants to be tried and convicted of aggravated second-degree battery — evaporated.

    Last week, a state appellate court abruptly vacated Bell’s June 28 conviction, ruling that he had been improperly tried as an adult rather than a juvenile. The local district attorney, Reed Walters, has vowed to challenge that decision, and Bell remains jailed in lieu of $90,000 bond.

    What is animating the protesters is not merely Bell’s legal predicament but the larger perception that blacks in Jena, who make up 12 percent of the population, are still subjected to the kind of persistent racial inequality that once predominated across the Old South.

    In a town where whites voted overwhelmingly for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when he ran for Louisiana governor in 1991, one local barbershop still refuses to cut black men’s hair.

    The trouble in Jena, (pronounced Jee-na) started a year ago with a resonant symbol from the Jim Crow past: After black students asked administrators at the local high school for permission to sit beneath a shade tree traditionally used only by whites, white students hung three nooses from the tree. The incident outraged black students and parents but was dismissed by the superintendent as a youthful prank; he punished the white students with three-day suspensions.

    A series of fights between whites and blacks ensued, on and off campus. Whites implicated in the fights were charged with misdemeanors or not at all, while the blacks were charged with felonies.

    In November, someone burned down the central wing of the high school — an arson for which no one has been arrested.

    And then in early December, Bell and five other black students at the high school were charged after a white student was jumped and beaten while he lay unconscious.

    Although the white student was treated and released at a local hospital, Walters initially charged the six black youths with attempted murder — charges that he later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery after black bloggers and civil rights leaders from across the country raised complaints.

    Besides Sharpton, King and Jackson, the NAACP and the ACLU will have contingents here Thursday, as will the Millions More Movement led by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

    Blogs to the fore

    But many black bloggers say the Jena demonstration is more about a new generation of civil rights activists who learned about the Jena case not from Operation PUSH but from hip-hop music blogs that featured the story or popular black entertainers such as Mos Def who have turned it into a crusade.

    “In traditional civil rights groups, there’s a pattern — you call a meeting, you see when everybody can get together, you have to decide where to meet,” said Shawn Williams, 33, a pharmaceutical salesman and former college NAACP leader who runs the Dallas South Blog.

    “All that takes time,” Williams added. “When you look at how this civil rights movement is working, once something gets out there, the action is immediate — here’s what we’re going to write about, here’s the petition, here’s the protest. It takes place within minutes, hours and days, not weeks or months.”

    This new viral civil rights movement still benefits from the participation of well-known leaders — it just doesn’t depend on them, bloggers say.

    It was black bloggers, for example, who first picked up the story of Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old black girl from the east Texas town of Paris who was sentenced to up to 7 years in youth prison for shoving a hall monitor at her high school. The judge who heard her case had given probation to a 14-year-old white girl charged with the more serious crime of arson.

    After the bloggers and their readers bombarded the Texas governor with protest letters and petitions, Texas authorities freed Cotton.

    The blogs also serve as watchdogs over more traditional civil rights groups. When the NAACP first began featuring the Jena case on its Web site and claimed to be soliciting contributions for the teens’ legal defense, it was a black blogger who noted that the donation link directed visitors to the generic NAACP fundraising page.

    Within days, the link was redirected to a bona fide Jena 6 fundraising site.

    – – –


    The Tribune has reported on the Jena 6 controversy throughout the summer. Read the coverage at chicagotribune.com/jena



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