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Iraq’s murdered trade unionists: the perpetrators and the bystanders

Guest post

By Simon Pottinger and Alan Johnson, Labour Friends of Iraq

Yesterday we heard of the death of Hadi Salih, International Officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. He was tied and blindfolded and severely tortured before being forced to kneel and strangled by electric cord and shot. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades. His killers were men loyal to the old regime of Saddam Hussein. But are there other guilty men and women, closer to home?

Violent attacks on IFTU members have been increasing in recent weeks. The IFTU reported:

“On 25 December 2004, a freight train travelling from Basra to An-Nasiriyyah was subjected to a terrorist attack, which led to the kidnapping of the two train drivers, their names are; Salah Mehdi Taher and Salih Chiyehchan Harbi. The other five workers on the train were severely beaten and left in a life-threatening condition, their names are, Abd’ al-Emir Abd’al-Malik, Mustapha Kamel Mehdi, Amer Shamaan Amer, Ali Abd’al-Radh and Basil Abd’ Ouwd.

“On the night of the 26/27 December 2004 the headquarters of the Transport & Communication Workers’ Union was subjected to a cowardly and violent attack by terrorists when they shelled the building with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars which caused a large whole in the wall of the building and a crater in the ground. Luckily there were no fatal casualties.”

Labour Friends of Iraq, and others, have been raising the alarm. We have been campaigning to protect Nozad Ismail, President of the IFTU in Kirkuk and survivor of two ‘resistance’ assassination attempts. We believe the central task for the British left is solidarity with democratic, socialist and trade union groups in Iraq. Ours is a minority if growing opinion.

The majority view, now coming increasingly under question, is that of Lindsey German, Convenor, and Andrew Murray, Chair of the StWC which “recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary” (StWC Statement “endorsed by the officers”, issued by the officers of the StWC, signed by Lindsey German, Convenor, and Andrew Murray, Chair of the StWC. (scroll to document 7)

StW leaders such as Lindsey German and George Galloway have run a campaign denouncing the IFTU (and especially its representative in Britain Abdullah Mushin) as “quislings” and “collaborators”. These charges have appeared in the Arab press, quoted verbatim. LFIQ rightly called this “fingering”, Here, at Harry’s Place, it was, again correctly, labelled scabbing.

When he resigned from StW the ex-Aslef leader, Mick Rix, wrote to Andrew Murray, Chair of the StW warning that Iraqi trade union leaders could die as a result of these StW activities. He wrote:

“The language that was used [in the StWC Officers Statement of October 2004] was deliberate, archaic, violent, and plain downright stupid and dangerous if you happen to be an Iraqi at this present time. Then again you are not.

I don’t think you also realise the danger that your actions and those of the Respect colleagues in the StTW have placed Abdullah and perhaps others in the IFTU against attacks from extremists. Some people talk about life and death situations, some unfortunately have to live it and so do their families in Iraq and I don’t see why you, Respect or the coalition have a right to think you can place them in that situation, when they are living daily with those consequences, because they are not the “new” friends of yourself, George, StTW or Respect such as extreme nationalists, or religious fundamentalists. It is you who have attacked the IFTU and Abdullah. So much for the bold statement the StTW will not interfere in Iraqi internal politics, your statement, and that of the StTW at worst, did, the statement has probably placed these good trade unionists and socialists at a terrible risk.”

(The full exchange of letters between Murray and Rix are: ( here and more here)

Did StWC contribute to this brave mans death? Read Mick Rix above – it is not as though they were not warned.

We must redouble our efforts to protect Hadi’s colleagues after this outrage. The IFTU have called for condemnations of the killing and messages of support to be sent to the IFTU at:

Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU):
Abdullah Muhsin,
1 Mabledon Place,
London WC1H 9AJ,

Any British trade union funding the Stop the War Coalition now has questions to answer: why fund an organisation that is – according to an ex-union leader and left-winger like Mick Rix – putting the lives of foreign trade unionists at risk? Do you stand with Mick Rix and the heroic Iraqi free trade unionists or Andrew Murray, StWC and their fascistic ‘resistance’? Which side are you on?

The lives of Iraqi trade unionists are at stake.


Hadi Saleh, IFTU International Secretary, murdered, 4th January 2005.