Iraq: The Dhi Qar Industry That Provides All the Jobs, Then Sickens Workers

Raad Salem (Niqash)

In the southern province of Dhi Qar there are over a hundred brick factories. They emit smoke and fumes 24 hours a day and are a leading cause of illness and environmental problems.

12.11.2015  |  Dhi Qar
Biggest environmental problem: Iraqi brick factories emitting noxious smoke.
Biggest environmental problem: Iraqi brick factories emitting noxious smoke.
In the district of Islah, in Iraq’s Dhi Qar province, tall chimneys belch out black, sooty smoke. Underneath them, locals move around as if they are traveling in trenches, between caves. The smoke blocks out the sun. The chimneys belong to local brick factories – there are around 40 in this area – and are well known for burning what locals call “black oil” – any kind of unrefined petroleum product that can be burned in an oven – to fire their brick furnaces.

Ismail Salib, 25, has been working in one of the privately owned brick factories for years. Workers in the factories are paid according to how many bricks they produce daily. But now Salib, who lives in a nearby village, Safafah, is worried he may not be able to support his family of three much longer – he has a variety of lung problems.

“Medicine is really expensive,” he told NIQASH, admitting that every now and then he was forced to stay in bed coughing, rather than go to work. “Most of the time I can’t afford it.” And, Salib, explains, he didn’t finish his education because he married young; he knows it would be difficult to find employment in another, less life-endangering sector.

Each brick-making plant in the area employs around 150 locals, many of whom come from Safafah village. Many of the villagers report health problems from working in the brick-making factories. The mayor of Safafah, Nassim Jassim Owais, believes that a disproportionate number of health problems – including cancer, asthma, pneumonia and birth defects – can be blamed on the brick manufacturers. Owais also thinks that a lot of locals don’t report illnesses, especially among their children, as they fear losing their jobs.

During a tour of one of the brick-making plants, owner Jamil Katea downplayed environmental and health concerns. “The Department of the Environment has forced us to stop using black oil,” he explains, adding that his factories now use electric kilns, imported from Iran. Some of the brick factories have retrofitted less polluting machinery but it’s not always that effective – and renovating the industry thoroughly would be too expensive, the factory owners say.

“The Iranian systems are not that efficient,” says Ali Hussein Raddad, the mayor of the Islah district. “And competition between the different plant owners, coupled with high demand, means that many of them operate the plants all night using the old methods.”

The black smoke coming out of the brick factories is also doing damage to the environment. Agricultural land gets covered in soot, soil salinity is rising and the price of livestock here has dropped sharply thanks to the pollution.

Penalties have been imposed on some plants, says Mohsen Aziz, who heads the provincial Department of the Environment in Dhi Qar. Nine plants that didn’t comply with instructions had their work suspended and financial penalties were imposed on others. Even so, the plants that were closed continued to operate because there was nobody there to supervise their shut-down.

The problem that the brick factories represent is one of the most pressing environmental issues in the province, he noted. “There are about 107 brick plants and most of them have official licenses,” Aziz told NIQASH. “They are all over the province but almost half of them are in Islah.”

Some politicians are also paying attention to the issue. Dakhel Radhi, a member of Dhi Qar’s provincial council, says he wants to have the council discuss the problem and come up with some sensible solutions. However he also said that there would be a number of formalities to go through before he could do this – and that might take some time, he added.

From Kirkuk to Hell: Tragic Tale of One Iraqi Family’s Attempt to Immigrate to Europe

Shalaw Mohammed  (Niqash)
Policeman Mohammed al-Faj’s family of seven left Kirkuk in mid-October to find a better life in Europe. By the end of October only one of them was left alive.
12.11.2015  |  Kirkuk

A city in northern Iraq, Kirkuk has become well known as a multi-ethnic flash point where political and sectarian disputes have caused all kinds of problems, some of them deadly. As a policeman there, al-Jaf was in more danger than in many other Iraqi areas.

So the 39-year-old sold his house and his car and decided to leave, together with his 34-year-old wife and their five children. On October 16, 2015, the family flew to Turkey. “There I contacted one of the Kurdish smugglers and he agreed to take us in a boat to Greece for US$3,000,” al-Faj continues. “On October 18, he told us the boat was ready and would take 20 passengers. He also sent me a picture of the proposed boat on a messaging app and I agreed to it. But when we arrived at the launching site it was a totally different boat and there were about 50 people trying to get on it. I was scared.”

Al-Faj talks about how the people smugglers sold them on to other people smugglers twice, before they even boarded the boat. Turkey is considered the best port of embarkation for Iraqis because it is easier for Iraqis to get into that country. From there those Iraqis trying to get to Europe will end up passing through the hands of, and paying, a number of people smuggling rings, with each guaranteeing them safe arrival at their destination of choice.

As al-Faj continues his story, he becomes tearful. “A strong wave hit the boat around midnight just as we were getting close to the Greek island of Lesbos,” al-Faj recalls. “The boat capsized and out of around 50 people on the boat, 25 people were rescued, 12 drowned and 13 are missing.”

Four of those who drowned and two of the missing were from al-Faj’s family. Four days after the incident, al-Faj decided to bury his four children’s bodies in a Muslim cemetery on another Greek island, Kos. They were Khanda, 16, Helen, 10, Van, 6, and Ahmad, 4. Al-Faj still hoped that the bodies of his wife and 11-year-old Abdul-Razzaq might be found. But the Greek government stated that they considered the 13 missing from the boat drowned.

“I am so sorry about what I did,” al-Faj says sorrowfully.

Al-Jaf’s father, Ahmad al-Jaf, is 72 and lives in Kirkuk. Almost three weeks after his family died at sea, he says he begged his son not to leave. But he wouldn’t listen. “The only thing I want now is to recover the bodies of my daughter-in-law and my five grandchildren,” al-Jaf told NIQASH.

“Right from the start I felt that they were traveling the wrong way,” says the brother of al-Jaf’s wife, who also still lives in Iraq. “But Mohammed said he must find a better way of life for his family. He told us not to worry or to be sad and that in 15 days, he would send us pictures of himself and his family in Germany. Five days later, I was told that my sister and my nieces and nephews were dead.”

All of al-Jaf’s relatives in Iraq want the Iraqi Kurdish government to help them bring the bodies home, but this seems unlikely to happen now.

In the meantime al-Faj has decided to continue his journey to Germany alone. He buried his children and then with the further help of other people smugglers, he made his way to northern Europe. He is now living in a refugee camp there. Although he says he has lost his will to live in many ways, he does not plan to return to Iraq. He says he will never go back again if he can help it.

#RefugeeSolidarity: Want to Volunteer on Lesvos?

First of all, THANK YOU for considering the trip. All help is needed. But please note there is currently no central coordination on Lesvos. You must read the information and decide which group(s) to work with. Join Information Point for Lesvos Volunteers if you haven’t yet.


Next, check the following documents:


  1. Information for Volunteers on Lesvos (shortlink:; FAQs, logistics, trip prep and more)
  2. Google map of Lesvos (shortlink:
  3. Short-Term Volunteers spreadsheet (shortlink:; add your name and dates to coordinate with others)


These will give you an overview to get started. They are frequently updated, so check back periodically.


When you’re closer to departure, check on these two lists:


  1. Donations Needed (shortlink:; work in progress–check back frequently!)
  2. Volunteers Needed (shortlink:; work in progress-check back!)


Refugees and everyone working on Lesvos appreciate your efforts! We can’t wait to see you!



these documents and links are referred to elsewhere; they’re listed here for easy reference


information for volunteers


information for refugees

Interview “solidarity Circuit” around the Syrian uprising

Originally posted on Syria Freedom Forever - سوريا الحرية للأبد:

Joseph Daher, member of the Revolutionary Left Current in Syria and assistant at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, explains what solidarity with the Syrian people means to him and defends what he believes is a revolution against criticisms from other leftists.

For more on Syria:
Joseph Daher’s blog –
Joseph Caterine’s blog – JosephCaterine” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>

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CRS fires tear gas grenades into Jungle (2/11/2015)

Originally posted on Calais Migrant Solidarity:

CRS fire tear gas into Jungle ​/ CRS tire du gaz lacrymoégne au Jungle

On the night of the 2nd of November, at around 9:00 pm, refugees were violently attacked by the CRS. This assault lasted for two hours. This video documents the actions of the police and begins at around 11:30 pm.

The CRS (French riot police) delivered several salvos of tear-gas. During the whole operation, approximately 20 tear-gas grenades were fired into the camp. Several shots landed in areas where refugees were sleeping. One shot (0:29) directly hits the living-area of a majority Eritrean community.

At about 12:45 am, the police formed a blockade of about 25 men at the main entrance of the Jungle. The whole event disrupted an entire community trying to rest while angrily provoking others. The police’s action show a level of barbarism, gassing sleeping people, including women and children.

Dans la nuit du…

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Greece: Members of Greek Communist Party raid squatted building housing refugees in Mytilene

Originally posted on Insurrection News:



11.11.15: Approximately 20 members of the KKE (Greek Communist Party) wearing helmets and armed with metal bats have raided a former labor hire center in Mytilene that had been occupied by anti-authoritarians and refugees. The center had been operating as a self-managed space for refugees. The space was being entirely run by the refugees and had been a space to provide support for refugees and immigrants as well as organize demonstrations and solidarity actions.

The KKE are claiming ‘ownership’ of the building and are alleging that ‘severe damage’ has been caused by the occupation. The KKE are also claiming that refugees are still welcome to stay at the building however all the refugees fled during the violent raid and the building is now being guarded by KKE members. According to several sources the building was in fact originally owned by OAED (Greek Manpower Employment Organization), a labor hire company.


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