March 19, 2013, Washington, D.C. – Today, on the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a group of U.S. veterans of the Iraq war and two Iraqi organizations launched the “Right to Heal” campaign, seeking concrete action by the U.S. government to address the human rights and health impacts of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The U.S.-based Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Iraq-based Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, represented by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, joined together with a filing to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an action outside of the White House with testimonials by veterans and Iraqis, and the launch of a new website, to press their case for justice and reparations for the human rights impacts on all sides of the war.
“The war is not over for veterans and their families who are dealing with its aftermath as a result of the loss of loved ones, or in the form of PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other war wounds both visible and invisible; and it’s certainly far from over for communities in Iraq still reeling from the devastating and awful effects of this illegal war,” said Maggie Martin, Organizing Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “We’re joining with those in Iraq whose lives have also been changed forever to envision a new way forward that reaffirms our shared human dignity and reprioritizes the value of human life and well-being.”
The IACHR petition details the harm and trauma suffered by both U.S. veterans and Iraqis. It is the first of its kind to address the war, the harm to those sent to fight the war and the harm to those against whom the war was waged in human rights terms. The petition provides first-person testimonies and an overview of studies on the long-lasting health and environmental effects resulting from the U.S.’s use of certain munitions, the post-traumatic stress experienced by Iraqis and veterans alike, the effects of war crimes on Iraqis, gender-based violence experienced on all sides of the war, and the “moral injury” suffered by those sent to fight the war. The groups also provide a set of recommendations to the U.S. government to create a path towards reconciliation and reparations.
Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, highlighted the harmful and lasting effects of the U.S. war and occupation on women and children in Iraq. “The U.S. administration tried to justify waging war on Iraq by claiming it would bring democracy to our country. Instead, they brought about a deepened and violent sectarian divide, more torture centers and arbitrary detentions, and turned the clock back in violent and disastrous ways on women’s human rights. A generation of children has been condemned to suffering with severe birth defects and sky-rocketing cancer rates. The U.S. has to be held to account for this.”
The groups announced that they will be seeking to bring these issues to light in additional international forums, including the United Nations, as well as continuing to push for action in Congress. The petition filed today addresses the impact of the war in terms of casualties, mounting evidence demonstrating a broader torture program, war crimes and crackdowns on whistleblowers, as well as a collective trauma of the war shared by Iraqi communities and U.S. service members.
According to Falah Alwan of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, “The withdrawal didn't solve the problems that our society faces. It didn't end the crisis that the US created. We will need many long years to forget the painful memories and suffering of being victims of occupation. We will need decades to restore what the occupation has destroyed and decades to save our future generations. The US invasion has left behind an environment polluted by radiation and soil poisoned with chemicals. Our children and our elders are dying from diseases caused by the weapons and destruction. They cry out for treatment, but there is no cure for their suffering. Many hope for death just to end their pain.”
Said President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Jules Lobel, “We can’t let those in power move on as though the U.S. bears no responsibility for the devastating and long-lasting impacts on all sides of this war. Beginning with the fabricated pretext for going to war and the increasing use of torture in Iraq, the violent destruction wreaked on Iraqis and Iraq’s infrastructure, and the inhumane redeployment policies that treated U.S. service members like cannon fodder, the U.S. government must repair the damage it caused. Those whose lives have been turned upside down have a right to heal.” Mr. Lobel represented members of Congress in their effort to prevent the first Gulf War in 1990.
to read an executive summary of the report presented to the Inter-American Commission, “Demanding the Right to Heal: Acknowledgment and Accountability for the Human Rights Impacts of the U.S.-led Decade of War.”
To read the press release in Arabic
Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) is a national unionist organization for the defense of rights of workers in Iraq, established since 2003, and has representatives in all main cities. FWCUI is known for its continuous positions against the newly introduced neo-liberal economic policies, and the new labor code which the FWCUI describes as “protecting the rights of employers while disempowering workers.”
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Boston to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent. From its inception, IVAW has called for: (1) Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq; (2) Reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future; and (3) Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.
Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), founded in 2003, is a truly pioneering national women’s organization dedicated to rebuilding Iraq on the basis of secular democracy and human rights for all. OWFI has developed innovative anti-violence and political empowerment strategies for women across Iraq. OWFI advocates on behalf of women who are most marginalized, including those who are incarcerated, widowed, displaced or battered.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
Supporting organizations include Civilian Soldier Alliance, War Resisters League, MADRE, and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.