Marking the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

The countdown is on. This Thursday marks five years since the invasion of Iraq. To mark the anniversary, Amnesty International has put out a briefing document today detailing the wide range of human rights violations that have been going on ever since.The early birds amongst you might have caught me on BBC Five Live’s Morning Reports programme talking about it at 5.10am this morning. You can listen again by clicking here.To summarise – for the benefit of those of you who don’t want to listen to my dulcet tones – there has been a huge civilian death toll, a massive flow of refugees (four million according to latest estimates), death squads, mass imprisonment without charge and a surge in violence against women (195 women were burnt alive in honour killings in the first half of 2007 alone). All pretty gloomy stuff and highlighted superbly in today’s coverage in The Scotsman and The Metro.Naturally, Amnesty International is not the only organisation marking the anniversary. The British Red Cross also has a report out today, which reveals that millions of Iraqis have little or no access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare. The Today programme begun a series of reports this morning, and The Guardian is also embarking on a week’s worth of articles. In the latter, Rageh Omaar has an excellent piece in today explaining how it has become increasingly difficult to report in the country. He writes: “It's now almost impossible [to report] unless you are surrounded by armed bodyguards or you observe ‘the 20-minute rule’ – that you allow yourself no more than 20 minutes to get out of a car, speak to Iraqis and then leave. Any longer and onlookers will phone local militia to say they've seen westerners on the street.” Madness.The crisis in the country has even encouraged the Pope to join in. In his Palm Sunday address, as reported by the Associated Press, he said: “Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq.” Pretty strong stuff from his Holiness.While Pope Benedict XVI was uttering his words from the Vatican, Gordon Brown was making a promise to hold a public inquiry in to the UK’s involvement, as splashed all over the front page of today’s Independent, and the new Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, as reported in The Telegraph, was jetting in to Iraq to check on how the recent military “surge” was doing, andClearly McCain’s visit must have had a bigger effect than the words of the Pope. A new BBC opinion poll reveals that 50% of Iraqis believe that their lives are “good” – the highest rating for three years. Finally, tomorrow sees the launch of an Amnesty report on how HIV-ridden South Africa is devastating the lives of thousands of rural women there. As ever watch this space for details.

 

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