Olive Branch Optimism
what a wonderful world...
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jill Caroll is alive and well after 3 months of being held captive by her abductors in Baghdad. The centre of much media attention, particularly in the blogosphere Jill Caroll has become significant figure in the fight for freedom in Iraq.

The freedom of this woman shows that negotiating and reaching out to those considered by many as "not worth negotiating with" is actually a plausable strategy.

Go check the Christian Science Monitor's "Jill Update" if you don't believe me! Jill is FREE!!!
Monday, March 20, 2006
Religious extremism became prominent in Iraq as a result of the 2003 US-lead invasion.
WARNING: this is an opinion piece with no references (as was required by the University since it is also an assignment) enjoy the read but don't assume it is irrelevant because of its lack of sources.

The rise of religious extremism in Iraq is a result of the US-lead invasion in 2003. In dire times it is not uncommon for people to turn to religion and extremist groups who knew this used Anti-US sentiments to gain support in Iraq after Saddam’s fall. Extremists groups crossed the border from Iran (the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq // “Badr Corps”), Saudi Arabia and Jordan (“Al-Qaeda in Iraq”). Prominent religious leaders, whose strong stance against the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq had won over many Iraqi’s, began to envision an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. Damage caused to important religious sites also inflamed caused people to “rally” behind their religious leaders, who have become more extreme as the occupation continues. As a result of the invasion and the cunning of extremist leaders, religious extremism has thrived in Iraq since 2003.

Through out history it is noted that people tend to turn to religion in times of crisis and war as faith allows us to remain optimistic. This means the already deep roots of religion in Iraq became suddenly much more important during and after the 2003 invasion, providing religious figures with the confidence to speak their minds and promote their own motives. Irani religious leaders including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani provided imported Shiite leaders with credibility and support by endorsing the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite Bloc) in Iraq’s first round of elections. This combined with popular anti-US sentiment and the huge power-vacuum left after Saddam’s fall provided the chance for Shiite extremist groups to extend their militia’s and forward the struggle for Islamic revolution in Iraq.

There were other forces pushing for Islamic revolution in Iraq who found their support in the initially alienated//targeted Sunni area’s mostly north of Baghdad. Salafi extremist groups like “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” follow the model of Islam popular in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. By disbanding the Iraqi army the Coalition forces had left the Sunni sect unemployed, open to bribes and full of anti-US sentiment, it is these factors which allowed up Salafi extremism to survive in Iraq post-Saddam. These groups have lost support as the Iraqi population begins to realize their motive; to bring their own kind of Islamic revolution to Iraq. Salafi extremist groups maintain a strong presence in Iraq and by agitating the Shiite population and targeting Iraqi civilians are pushing Iraq towards civil war and further religious extremism.

Iraq contains many of the world’s most important historical places, notably many important religious sites from Islam and Christianity among many others. Along the Euphrates River is also where Sumerian tribes built the first known great civilization of man. During the 2003 invasion many historically and religiously important sites were looted or destroyed, and many of those left unharmed have since become victims of bombs, damaged in combat operations or become the target of sectarian violence. Recently an important shrine in Samarra was bombed, with the result of causing widespread anger and uprising, particularly amongst the Shiite population in Iraq. The attack is consistent with Salafi doctrine and furthered religious divisions and inflamed religious leaders- again pushing Iraqi’s towards extremism. The failure of Coalition Forces to secure Iraq’s holy places and their part in the damage caused to these historically significant places should not be over looked; it is a key factor driving religious extremism in Iraq.

Was it inevitable that religious extremism would prevail after Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime fell? Some would say this is true at least amongst the Shiite majority who are heavily influenced by religious figures in Iran. This idea has merit to it if Shiite leaders were unified in a large sectarian alliance like what recently happened with the joining of Sadrists to the United Iraqi Alliance (the Shiite bloc), in the recent elections. If the United Nations had sent a mission to replaced Saddam Hussein’s regime the one thing these groups truly share, anti-US sentiment, would not have held such an alliance together. Hating the UN just isn’t as credible as hating the US after they act against a UN decision, so I doubt the same level of extremism could have survived in Iraq’s mostly moderately religious culture.

Though the presence of coalition forces in Iraq is the main factor driving the turn towards religious extremism, it is not to say their leaving right now would end the problem. Religious extremism is deep-seated and powerful in Iraq now more than ever and even if the unstable neighboring regimes that back extremists fall, the threat of Islamic Revolution in Iraq would still be high. The recent rejection of Salafi extremist groups in Sunni areas, and the avoidance of all-out sectarian war after the Samarra bombing shows that Iraqi society can handle internal problems, they just need time. Will religious extremism end? I hope so. Is religious extremism more dominant in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion? Definitely.
The "Free Iraqi Women Prisoners, Free Jill Carrol! Petition" created by Toufic Haddad( http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/petition-sign.cgi?freejill)
calls for the speedy release of female detainees in Iraq. The release is a precondition to the release of Jill Caroll and should have been seriously considered even if Caroll was not an issue.

The Olivebranch Network calls for a speedy identifaction//release of female detainees in Iraq, and those who can't be released should have their charges made public- including the evidence which prevents them from re-entering the public.

I took the time to read the "Free Iraqi Women Prisoners, Free Jill Carrol! Petition" and while doing so came up with a new petition idea.

It is time to call on the US government and Iraqi Interior Ministry to release a comprehensive list of ALL detainees held in Iraq, and with that in mind I created the "Identify Iraq's Detainee's" petition

The petition states: To The US Government & Iraqi Interior Ministry

We call for the government of the United States of America and the Iraqi Interior Ministry to release a comprehensive list of ALL Iraqi and foreign nationals detained in Iraq.

The list should include full names(where known) of detainees, when, where and on what charges each was detained, along with their current locations.Read more »
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The Olivebranch Network has been alive as an idea for a little under two months today- and has already started to grow and has the potential to reach people. Today I was informed of an article about bloggers and Jill Caroll in which the Olivebranch Network was used as a source!

Excellent :) here is the link: "Bloggers Try To Reach Journalist's Captors In Iraq"

here is the mention: The Olivebranch Network credits Baghdad-based blogs for getting the ball rolling for Carroll's release. BoingBoing appears to be leading the U.S. effort. The postings circulating here state that Carroll has the independent "spirit of a blogger."

---- On the contrary to this I would like to say the real campaign in the US was lead mostly by two bloggers who have not been mentioned in this article:

MadCanuck and Fayrouz whose campaign to help the widow of Jill's interpreter was highly successfull and became one of the most important motivators behind the continuation of the campaign for Jill's release. (It is important to note that most campaigns for jouranlists or foreigners abducted in Iraq lose steam very quickly and receive limited publicity in Iraq).

None the less it's a great article. Go have a look and post about Jill TODAY. Put this link in your blog posts - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0113/carroll_update.html#psavid

Sunday, March 12, 2006
Jill Caroll & The Iraqi Media//Blogosphere (cross posted from OB network)
Iraq has never experienced a campaign with such local, national and international determination to help an individual as the campaign for Jill Caroll's safe release.

Two well known Baghdadi bloggers Baghdad Treasure and 24 steps to liberty (both are contributors here at the Olivebranch Network) were very close to Jill and played an important role in this campaign by inspiring other bloggers to offer help. Which they did.

In whatever way they could find bloggers were reaching out to help Jill; be it contacting media, politicians, other important political//religious figures or just posting, praying and sending support to Jill's family and employers at the Christian Science Monitor.

Iraqi bloggers and the blogosphere which immediately surrounds had a strong response to the incident surrounding Jill's capture- particularly the death of Alan Enwiya(Jill's translator). Alan was much loved by the younger generation of Baghdadi's for his all-encompassing knowledge and love of music. Alan ran a popular music store which became central to the life of many music loving Iraqi youths including many popular Iraqi bloggers- until war came back to Baghdad once again. Read more »
Friday, March 10, 2006
Missile falls in top Mosul school
A friend today told me a missile had fallen in her school. Two girls were injured and the library and another building majorly damaged. This was one of the top school's in the Northern city of Mosul.

Where did this missile come from? A question I will answer for you in my next post.
For now I want you to ponder this question: Why bomb a school library?

And why stop a bus full of college girls and force them to expose their heads and breasts, in a highly religious area such as Mosul? (The last one was definately US soldiers, local tribal leaders and journalists even confirm the fact.)

I guess I wanet the US troops to leave soon, but not until there was some security for my friends and now there Is a "deadline" for withdrawal (2007)- it is time for Iraqi's to reinstall their neighbourhood watch. It is time for Tribal Sheihk's to step forward and fill some of the power-void while the government struggles to overcome its secterian issues.

In 2007... The troops should be gone... Let's pray they leave Iraq safer than it is now.
--- Cross posted from the Olivebranch Network

Though some members of the network have yet to post it's time to pay thanks and say a little tribute to the wonderful Olivebranch Network contributors.

Though not yet two months old the network now includes prominant Iraqi bloggers (Baghdad Treasure, 24 Steps to Liberty, Majed Jarrarand Hassan (from Average Iraqi).

Other excellent if not so prominant bloggers have also joined the team including, John Hennington (US soldier//blogger returned from Iraq), Salam Adil from Asterism (Iraqi in UK), Meso Rock (Teenage Iraqi Girl in Saudi Arabia), Z from No Pain No Gain, Shahram Kohldi from SCAN-IRANIC and Farid Pouya from WebGardian (Irani blog about Irani Blogs).

I would also like to save a special mention for Baghdad Doctor for his most wonderful contributions, particularly the post "Unforgettable Day"- watch for more from him soon.

Two other people need mention (other than myself):

Attawie our excellent female Iraqi writer//poet now living in the UAE, *yet to post*- and last but not least Antony Loewenstein, whose generosity and kind heartedness is the reason this network came to be.Read more »
Monday, March 06, 2006
The Brat (missing you)
I recently left home and I remember how it feels for siblings to lose their brothers or sisters who are older. I remember when my brother left the first time, oh how I cried. I remember the piece of me which felt betrayed inside. I remember the pain which I feel about now, but I know my little sister will survive somehow.

This poem reflects the way I feel about "The Brat", better known as Cazza

The Brat (missing you)

Tears run down these cheeks at night
when I think about my sisters life.
When I remember all the times that past,
the lives which left us both behind.

The friends and family I no longer see,
the past behind, what future for me?

I miss my sister this is true.

So Cassie I wish to say-
though distance and space may come between:
"I will never leave".

dedicated to Cazza
Luke(y) Skinner 6/3/06