Intellectuals Call for Democratic Reforms in Iraq
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ A group of Iraqi intellectuals today called on the government of President Saddam Hussein to reform the nation’s rigid one-party political system and pay more attention to opposition positions.
The publication of the statement appeared to be an effort by Saddam to show that his regime is not a repressive one as portrayed outside Iraq, but a pragmatic system that allows its citizens to speak their minds.
The statement - highly unusual under Iraq’s tightly controlled regime - was published in the state-run newspaper Al-Jumhouriya and carried by the Iraqi News Agency, which is monitored in Nicosia.
The statement could also be part of the campaign to muster public support for Saddam’s Baath Party regime during his lastest confrontation with the West over Iraqi attacks on Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq.
Since the United States, Britain and France began enforcing a ″no-fly″ zone in southern Iraq on Aug. 27, Saddam has gone out of his way to encourage public support for his government, notably among southern Shiites.
He has lauded the efforts of southern tribal leaders and Baath officials in countering alleged incursions by Shiite rebels from Iran and has sent an emissary to Jordan to try to make contact with Iraqi opposition groups.
The statement published today was signed by eight Iraqis, including Wamid Omar Nadhmi, a professor at Baghdad University and head of the Iraqi Society for Political Science. The others are university professors and lawyers, including mainstream Sunni Muslims, Shiites and a Kurd.
″A society which is void of a patriotic and democratic opposition practicing its constitutional rights in criticism, free expression and judgment is a stagnated society whose people resort to negativism and lack spirit of resistance,″ the statement said.
The Baathist regime has been talking about political reforms for some time, including adoption of a multiparty system, but no steps have been taken to implement this.
The statement said that ″such cherished objectives like democracy, popular participation and respect of human rights cannot be achieved without concessions″ from the government.
In what appeared to be a reference to the support by Iraqi opposition groups for the ″no-fly″ zone, the statement said: ″There is no possibility that these objectives can be achieved under foreign bayonets and through tearing up the country.″
Baghdad has repeatedly charged that the allied action is a violation of its sovereignty and has said it appears aimed at breaking up the country. The allies also have set up a ″safe haven″ in northern Iraq for the Kurds, who have declared themselves autonomous.