Iraqi delegation visits the Netherlands: Co-operation in bringing democracy and reconstruction to Iraq

25 October 2004

Iraqi delegation visits the Netherlands: Co-operation in bringing democracy and reconstruction to Iraq

From the 16th to the 24th October a group of progressive Iraqi organisations visited the Netherlands. The visit came at the invitation of the radical left Socialist Party (SP). Eight days were filled with meetings and debates around the subjects of democracy, elections, and party formation, all in preparation for the general elections in Iraq next January.

Iraqi delegation meets the Dutch press

During an extremely busy week the five visiting Iraqis received a range of advice on a number of subjects, always aware, however, that in the end it will be the Iraqi people themselves who must decide the best way to move their country through the transition from dictatorship through occupation and on to "normalisation" and democracy.

As well as meeting SP leader Jan Marijnissen and national secretary Paulus Jansen, the delegation visited numerous members of both houses of the Dutch Parliament, trade unionists, and activists from women’s movements, youth groups and other social organisations, a range of experts and numerous people with direct experience of the different ways to get from dictatorship to democracy. They also, of course, met with representatives of the many Iraqi and Kurdish people who live in the Netherlands.

During a visit to the headquarters of the SP, Marga van Broekhoven, who holds the party’s purse strings, and education organiser Rosita van Gijlswijk gave an account of the SP´s development over the last decade. The delegation went away with a great deal of practical information regarding the conduct of election campaigns, including the development of websites. In Nijmegen and Rotterdam they had the chance to meet local elected representatives.

The delegation also attended the presentation of the Rooie Reus Prize in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam and, to their surprise, were themselves, as a token of international solidarity, nominated for the prize. Delegation leader Mohammed Jassim Mohammed, member of the executive of the Iraqi Communist Party and editor-in-chief of its newspaper, expressed gratitude for the SP’s invitation to the Netherlands and the opportunity to discuss the coming elections and what might happen after them. The delegation included in addition a university professor from Babylon, a Kurdish woman who came as representative of the community group Tammuz, a representative of a progressive youth organisation, and a representative of the progressive press.

The delegation told their Dutch hosts and others with whom they met that the situation in Iraq is indeed serious, but not hopeless. Reigning in the many forms of violence and the ending of the American-led occupation must be the priorities, said Mohammed Jassim Mohammed, but in the background many internal and foreign interests were at work, hindering the quest for peace, order and reconstruction. This, he said, is something which the interim parliament and the interim government must expose in the struggle for normalisation of daily life and to win the trust of the Iraqi people and give them faith in the future. Mr Mohammed believes that secular and progressive parties, provided they conduct a good and honest campaign, can attract in January a reasonable share of the votes and play a significant role in the reconstruction of their ravaged country. The coming months, he said, would certainly be extremely difficult. After decades of dictatorship you cannot expect to pluck democracy from the air, especially if you happen to be sitting on one of the biggest oil supplies in the world.

During the visit the delegation also reached concrete agreement over further co-operation between a range of Iraqi and Dutch organisations in the framework of democracy and reconstruction. Senator Tiny Kox and SP executive member Hans van Heijningen, who earlier this year paid a working visit to Iraq, accompanied the delegation during its time in the Netherlands. They expressed the view that in every respect the initiative had been a success, and that this was largely due to the willing co-operation of a large number of people. ‘There is on our country great interest in Iraq," said Senator Kox. "Many people want in one way or another to lend a hand and help with reconstruction. The task is to transform this goodwill into concrete actions. This working visit is just one example of how this might be achieved."

A special word of thanks is due to Faisal Nasser, Chair of the Iraqi Platform in the Netherlands, who spent the whole week with the delegation and was able to provide them with many opportunities to meet relevant and interested groups.

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