|GEORGE NEGUS: Haifa, welcome to
HAIFA ZANGANA, WRITER AND ACTIVIST: Thank you.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you think the Iraqis are aware of
Australia's involvement in the conflict in your country?
HAIFA ZANGANA: Oh, they are, yes. They know
exactly figures and the numbers and all what's called
the coalition forces.
GEORGE NEGUS: So how significant do they think our
HAIFA ZANGANA: Not very significant because mainly
they are worried about the Americans and the British and
the Australians come, like, I don't know fourth or fifth
place, or even less, perhaps.
GEORGE NEGUS: You have said that the series of
interim governments that have occurred over the last few
years, since the invasion, have been a total disaster.
What about the latest attempt at a government? The new
government of national unity?
HAIFA ZANGANA: Hardly anything has changed really.
What we are witnessing in this new government is almost
the cloning of the same people, or the same sectarian
and ethnic divide they were establishing under Paul
Bremer, the ex-ambassador of Iraq.
GEORGE NEGUS: Will it work as a government? You're
making it sound like a puppet government.
HAIFA ZANGANA: It is a puppet government nothing
more or less. I don't think it is going to accomplish
anything different than the previous one. All they are
receiving They are on the receiving end of orders from
the unexpected visits by Condoleezza Rice, Jack Straw
previously, and to orders from Bush and Blair.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you don't see it as a true
attempt at an Iraqi government at all?
HAIFA ZANGANA: It isn't at all. It is not even a
government even. It is a government of the green zone.
It is an occupation government. An occupation
government, no matter what it does, it doesn't represent
people and their aspirations. People have the right to
GEORGE NEGUS: Are you saying that life in Iraq is
no better or in fact worse than it was under Saddam
Hussein, the dictator?
HAIFA ZANGANA: He is not our moral yardstick on
any level regarding political government with political
attitudes at all and invasion. So better or worse, we
are entitled o to democracy as much as any other
country. And democracy the way we understand it is not
taking place at the moment.
GEORGE NEGUS: We should look at it this way. You
were imprisoned and tortured under Saddam, right?
HAIFA ZANGANA: I was, yeah.
GEORGE NEGUS: How badly? Can you give us some
HAIFA ZANGANA: Terrible. It was terrible. It was
something beyond imagination and it is still happening.
The same thing is happening now in Iraq. So we are
against this continuity of torture. This is why we
fought Saddam's regime. We did not fight for 35 years to
replace it by another torturer.
GEORGE NEGUS: I guess what a lot of people in the
West would say, particularly government leaders and
leaders of the coalition, is that you can say this now.
Could you say this in Iraq now? Where you couldn't
criticise Saddam without finding yourself in prison and
tortured, now can your voice be heard in Iraq?
HAIFA ZANGANA: No, you can't actually. Iraqis
inside Iraq cannot say what I'm saying at the moment
here. I'm saying it because I am here. I feel safe and
secure. I would not be able to. Because whoever voicing
any issue against the occupation is Iraq is targeted. We
have the academics being targeted, we have hundreds of
our scientists being killed, academics, lectures,
professors, whoever. Journalists we have the biggest
campaign of killing journalists. Fiction writers - we
have a fiction writer who'd been imprisoned for three
years, not even saying a word about anything.
GEORGE NEGUS: So if you are am saying in Iraq what
you are saying to me now, would be a victim, you would
be a target of that kind of treatment?
HAIFA ZANGANA: Yes, definitely.
GEORGE NEGUS: Doesn't that leave Iraq and people
like yourself in a no-win situation? If you listen to
Condoleezza Rice, she says that all that has gone wrong,
the thousands of mistakes that she has acknowledged has
occurred is worth it - to get rid of Saddam, it was
HAIFA ZANGANA: This is a total farce. And it is
continuing what we heard from Madeline Albright, before
that when Iraq was under sanctions, when 500,000
children were killed or died because, as a consequence
of the harsh sanctions on Iraqi people. 500,000 children
were killed and she said that the price was worth it.
And here is Condoleezza Rice repeating the same thing.
"We are only committing mistakes in Iraq." It is not
mistakes. When you kill a person this is a crime, you do
not call it a mistake. So crimes are committed in Iraq
every day. In fact there is an Iraqi being killed at the
minute where we're talking now. One Iraqi per every five
minutes killed as a consequence, direct consequence of
the occupation. So we are asking for the withdrawal of
troops and immediate withdrawal - not to go on for 5
years or 10 years and prolonging, putting a timetable to
it. The way they walked in the troops, they have to
GEORGE NEGUS: Let's talk about that. Because in
the last few days Tony Blair has talked about the
withdrawal of troops, George Bush has talked about the
withdrawal of troops, Blair has gone so far as to say
maybe by the end of the year all the British and
American troops will be out, I suppose that means
Australian, except for a couple of key areas like
Baghdad and the West. What would occur if there was this
withdrawal that you say Iraqis want, if that was to
happen in the next six months?
HAIFA ZANGANA: To start with, we have to make it
clear that the withdrawal that Tony Blair's talking
about, or Bush, is different about the withdrawal we're
talking about. I am talking about the complete
withdrawal of troops. That doesn't mean they go around
and build bases, American bases in Iraq which they are
doing at the moment. There are more than 14 bases
building. And there is the biggest embassy in the world.
And no signing of long-term binding agreements, not on
behalf of Iraqi people but on behalf of these interim
governments or the puppet governments at the moment.
This is second.
Third - there should be a compensation for all the
crimes being committed against Iraqi people, whether in
life or the destruction of the country. So we're talking
about a different kind of withdrawal. They said the
country is going to descend into civil war. But we it
have already. Those occupation forces there, they are
encouraging it because they are emphasising the force of
one militia against the other, even supplying weapons to
certain militias against the other. So who is
encouraging civil war?
There is no civil war among Iraqi people themselves.
There are the militias fighting. And there is another
kind of war which no-one is talking about. This is
really the fighting of Iraqi resistance against the
GEORGE NEGUS: How do you draw the line, then,
between a terrorist and an insurgent, and an insurgent
and a resistance fighter?
HAIFA ZANGANA: There are differences. I'm talking
about 80 attacks per day, average, which has being
really constant for the last two years and targeting
American and British troops. This is, for me, pure
resistance. I cannot really believe this is terrorist
acts or any civilian act, attacking civilians. This is
Iraqi national movement demanding liberation,
independence and building our own country, the democracy
as we see it democracy because we are desperate for
democracy and we want to do it that way. Not by shock
GEORGE NEGUS: In the meantime, is there anything -
from your contacts, which are regular, and your visits
to Iraq - is there anything vaguely resembling normality
about life? How would you describe life in Iraq?
HAIFA ZANGANA: Whenever I talk to an Iraqi, I ask,
"How are you today?" they say "Well, thanks God, we're
still in one piece.
GEORGE NEGUS: Nice to meet you. Enjoy your stay.
HAIFA ZANGANA: Thank you very much.