Wildlife news, not war news, from Iraq


This video is about a chuckar partridge (the national bird of Kurdistan; and of Pakistan).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Sunday 22 February 2015

How butterflies are harbingers of hope in war-torn Iraq

A conservation group dedicated to preserving biodiversity offers a hope of fledgling renewal for this war-shattered land

Nature Iraq: not an oxymoron, but the name of the country’s leading conservation group.

Since it was founded in 2004, it has set up a series of projects to understand and protect the wildlife of Iraq. Now it is able to reflect on three years of effective work which has brought great benefits, both to humans and to wildlife.

You might think that compared with other problems being faced by people in Iraq, those that concern the distribution of butterflies are pretty insignificant. But you’d be wrong. Butterflies matter to the world: and perhaps they matter more to Iraq than to any other nation on earth.

That’s because conservation is one of the arts of peace. Preserving wildlife is important at all times and in all places; but when it comes to the healing of a shattered and broken country, a butterfly has a significance that towers above the trivialities. So here are a few examples of what Nature Iraq has been getting up to.

For a start, it has been running a study and education programme in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north-east of the country. The group is supported by the Darwin Initiative, funded by the UK government; by the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, based in Edinburgh; and by Birdlife International, with headquarters in Cambridge. So it’s a business that rises above local troubles. It has a global input and a global significance: wildlife conservation in one place is possible only through the efforts of people in many other places.

Nature Iraq has established an on-line course on biodiversity and conservation, in partnership with the University of Sulaimani in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. It’s been running for three years and 60 students have now completed the course. Another 60 have just signed up.

Then there’s a nationwide citizen science project on the distribution of butterflies and dragonflies. Thanks to the widespread use of smartphones, photographs of these insects are now flooding in to Nature Iraq, which has already identified four species new to the country. The organisation has set up a team of experts across the world, so that every species can be properly identified and mapped. …

The mountain of Peramagroon, which covers an area of 100 sq km, is a spectacular spot that’s home to Egyptian vultures and a flycatcher called the Kurdistan wheatear. It has a species of wild goat and a good population of spur-thighed tortoises. A survey of the area’s plants revealed 650 species, more than twice the number previously known from the area; among them were several species new to science.

A study of land use on Peramagroon will enable Nature Iraq to establish a proper conservation action plan. A series of school visits have been made to the area, and children have been setting up nest boxes as a result. Nature Iraq is also field-testing a phone app that will help to identify birds in Peramagroon; it contains details of 130 species. The long-term aim is to develop this and similar apps for use across the Middle East.

When it is more important to identify a saker falcon than a Black Hawk helicopter, you know that an important step towards peace has been taken. Bwar Khalid of Nature Iraq said: “I hope we can do more projects and activities in the future, especially in our country where there has been nothing except war and destruction.”

Butterflies and dragonflies matter. People looking for butterflies and dragonflies matter. Unknown species of mountain plants matter. Children setting up nest boxes matter. The fact that a Kurdistan wheatear is different from an eastern black-eared wheatear matters. All these things matter if you wish to turn a country deeply harmed by war into a place where life is worth living. …

Such projects have the vividness of a New Year’s resolution: a new start, one in which better things will surely be possible. Hope comes in a butterfly; in an eastern rock nuthatch; in the flora of a mountain; in people dedicated to looking after them all.

Islamophobic violence in the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Muslims discover dead pig at entrance to mosque by ICNA Houston – ABC News

5 December 2012

HOUSTON (KTRK) — A disturbing discovery was made outside of a Houston area mosque and now Islamic community leaders are calling it a hate crime. A dead pig was left in front of the mosque Tuesday in Cypress.

Ilyas Choudry says worshippers at the Islamic Outreach Center in Cypress found a mutilated dead pig Tuesday night near the doorstep of their five-month-old mosque.

“They were totally surprised to see this,” he said.

Leaders at the mosque say the dead pig was placed there sometime after worshipers left following afternoon prayer and arrived back for evening prayer. Muslims don’t eat pork and regard the pigs as an unclean animal. Some in the Muslim community are questioning if this was a gesture of hate.

“I think it borders on being a hate crime at least from our prospective, because we’ve seen these before and generally when people put pigs or have dead animals, it’s really something hateful,” said Mustafaa Carroll with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Islamic Outreach Center says it has not had any problems with neighbors before.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

Mounting violence against Muslims in America

19 February 2015

A series of attacks on Muslims in the US have occurred in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France and executions carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. These events have been seized on by governments around the world, including the Obama administration, to promote anti-Islamic sentiment so as to justify expanded military interventions in the Middle East and stepped up domestic repression.

On February 10, three Muslim-American students—Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19—were found shot in the head, execution-style, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two young women were wearing traditional hijabs when they were killed.

The man who turned himself in to authorities in connection with the murders had previously brandished guns at the victims and threatened them. Before the shooting, Yusor Abu-Salha told her father, “Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look.”

On February 12, an Arab-American man was brutally attacked by two white men at a Kroger supermarket in Dearborn, Michigan. The attackers also taunted his daughter, who wears a hijab, making references to ISIS and Muslims. The attackers called the man and his daughter “r–head” and said, “Go back to your country.”

This video from Texas in the USA says about itself:

Quba Islamic Institute On Fire Southeast Houston, US

15 February 2015

An Islamic Center in Houston southeast side has been damaged by fire. Investigators are trying to determine whether the fire was arson.

No injuries have been reported in the blaze that erupted before morning prayers on Friday in a storage area of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school. Officials at the institute said investigators told them the fire was intentionally set. Muslim worshipers have described the incident as particularly troubling after the Chapel Hill attack that left three Muslim students dead. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on state and federal authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime.

The Tom Carter article continues:

On February 13, the Quba Islamic Institute in southeast Houston, Texas was the target of an arson attack that destroyed a substantial portion of the building and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. On February 17, police in Austin, Texas arrested a man for threatening to bomb an Islamic center as well as a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Last month, a “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” event (the declared purpose of which was to “engage American Muslims in the political process”) was attacked and disrupted by anti-Muslim thugs. Another attack was organized on “Muslim Day” in Oklahoma City. The attacking group’s Facebook page screamed, “Get Islam Out of America.”

The rate of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States stands at five times what it was before September 2001. A recent poll found that out of all religions, Americans harbor the most negative feelings towards Muslims.

The American political and media establishment bears a significant portion of the responsibility for these trends.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress entitled “Fear, Inc. 2.0, The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America” exposes a veritable “Islamophobia industry” operating on the periphery of the American state. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent over the past decade to promote anti-Muslim bigotry through a shady network of politicians, journalists, foundations, “activists” and “experts.”

This Islamophobia network enjoys close ties with police departments and the intelligence agencies. Anti-Muslim bigotry, the report indicates, can often be found “masquerading as law-enforcement counterterrorism training.” The training materials and “experts,” according to the report, encourage police and intelligence agents to see “a terrorist plot in every mosque.”

The intentional whipping up of anti-Muslim bigotry has intensified internationally in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks last month. As the World Socialist Web Site has explained, the campaign to vilify Muslims serves definite political ends.

Anti-Muslim hysteria provides a justification for imperialist mayhem abroad as well as a wedge with which to attack democratic rights at home. Policies can be pursued in the climate of such hysteria that would otherwise be unthinkable. And, as with all such campaigns against racial and religious minorities throughout the twentieth century, murderous and fascistic elements are mobilized that, in a crisis, can be unleashed against the working class as a whole.

In cultivating the conditions for an intensification of anti-Muslim violence within the United States, a particularly reprehensible role has been played by the racist, homicidal film American Sniper. The film features an elite US soldier heroically slaughtering Iraqi “savages” for God and country.

Chris Kyle, the real-life sniper behind Clint Eastwood’s pro-war propaganda film, boasted of killing more than 300 people. (He was apparently also a pathological liar who bragged about having shot and killed dozens of “looters” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to have participated in other events that are unlikely ever to have happened).

During a military investigation of allegations that Kyle killed an unarmed civilian in Iraq, Kyle said, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

In the current toxic social climate, and in the absence of any progressive outlet for social discontent, American Sniper has met with a certain and disturbing response. “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some f—ing Arabs,” wrote one individual on Twitter. “Nice to see a movie where the Arabs are portrayed for who they really are,” wrote another, “vermin scum intent on destroying us.”

Another individual wrote, “Great f—ing movie and now I really want to kill some f—ing r–heads.” And another: “American sniper made me appreciate soldiers 100x more and hate Muslins (sic) 1000000x more.”

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee described a “drastic increase” in hate speech on social media following the film’s release. It is not difficult to see how these kinds of responses can translate into real violence.

A revealing episode was provided by the “National Prayer Breakfast” on February 5. Bowing to pressure from the right, Obama utilized the occasion (a reactionary spectacle under any circumstances) to denounce “ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism, terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.” Obama also mentioned the Crusades and the Inquisition as examples of “terrible deeds” committed in the name of religion.

Obama’s appearance fueled an ongoing campaign by the Republican right denouncing the White House for not going far enough in vilifying Muslims. Obama was criticized on the grounds that his invocation of the Crusades and the Inquisition “throws Christians under the bus.”

“The words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ do not come out of the president’s mouth,” declared Republican Senator Ted Cruz. “The word ‘jihad’ does not come out of the president’s mouth. And that is dangerous.”

“The president’s comments… at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore told reporters. “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

The engines of anti-Muslim agitation in the United States do not include only the usual suspects: the Republican Party, the military, AM talk radio, police, the intelligence agencies, Fox News, the Murdoch press, religious zealots, billionaire reactionaries, the Tea Party and so forth.

Instead, anti-Muslim prejudice has been lent a certain respectable gloss by so-called “liberal” and “left” sections of the political establishment. These layers either endorse the vilification of Muslims, acquiesce to it, or make hand-wringing scholarly inquiries into whether or not Islam is “inherently violent.”

“The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam,” read a front-page article in the New York Times on January 9, “is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.” The article then weighs arguments—for and against—the proposition that Islam is “inherently more violent than Judaism or Christianity.”

No significant section of the political establishment in any of the imperialist countries has shown itself capable of taking a principled stand in opposition to the promotion of anti-Muslim sentiment. That task falls to the socialist movement, which stands for the international unity of the working class, defends its democratic achievements, and rejects all attempts to whip up national, ethnic or religious bigotry.

The author also recommends:

New York City police, CIA in massive spying operation among Muslims
[26 August 2011]