This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Librarians in Louisiana are being targeted and facing harassment from conservative activists who want to ban or limit access to LGBTQ books in public libraries.
Ever since Amanda Jones, a middle school librarian, spoke out broadly against censorship over the summer, she has found herself in the crosshairs of an escalating, statewide campaign.
Conservative groups had begun to challenge specific books in her community, and Jones pushed back during a public board meeting in July, saying that everyone in town deserved to have access to information and see themselves reflected in the public library collection.
“Just because you don’t want to read or see [a particular book], it does not give you the right to deny others or demand its relocation,” said Jones at the meeting. She is the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and has worked as an educator and librarian in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, for more than two decades.
“Once you start relocating and banning one topic, it becomes a slippery slope, and where does it end?” she added. Since then, Jones said she has faced unrelenting attacks online, like falsely representing that she shares “sexually erotic and pornographic materials” with children as young as six and “advocat[es] teaching anal sex to 11 year olds,” according to a defamation lawsuit filed by Jones in August against the owners of two conservative Facebook groups. In court documents, Jones claimed she was cast “as a deviant and a danger to children.” The lawsuit was dismissed in September but Jones plans to appeal.
Despite nationwide opinion polls showing parents are largely satisfied with their childrens’ education, efforts to ban or challenge books in schools and libraries surged last year, as a conservative political movement in the name of parents’ rights took aim at literature mostly focused on themes of race, gender, and LGBTQ issues.
The American Library Association, which annually tracks the number of book challenges, documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2022. About 1,650 unique titles were targeted during that time. The ALA said the latest figures were set to exceed last year’s totals.
Students at 14 Iowa public school districts and one university are planning to walk out of class Wednesday to protest bills introduced in the Iowa Legislature that they say discriminate against the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Several controversial bills centered on LGBTQ youth have been introduced this legislative session. Student organizers are particularly concerned about bills that would require educators to notify parents and guardians if a student is transgender, as well as a bill prohibiting the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to students through sixth-grade.
[. . .]
The statewide protest is being led by student groups IowaWTF and Iowa Queer Student Alliance or IowaQSA. Both groups track legislation at the state level.
Wednesday's protest is being spurred by Iowa youth who say they do not feel legislators are listening to the people most impacted by these bills: students.
Iraqis staged a protest in Baghdad on Monday in opposition to changes to the country’s parliamentary and provincial elections law that would bring back a voting system that benefits large parties.
The Demonstrations Committee, a group in Iraq that co-ordinates anti-government protests, attempted to rally demonstrators on Facebook, “calling for major unified Iraqi protests in Baghdad for all the provinces in front of the House of Representatives on Monday to reject the notorious Sainte Lague law”.
The group said the Sainte Lague law, which was replaced in 2021, would ensure “the removal of emerging powers and independents”.
After massive protests that erupted in October 2019 and persisted until the spring of 2020, forcing the administration of former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign, the government agreed to hold early elections, which it did in 2021.
Iraq’s elites were shaken by the protests, the largest demonstrations in Shiite-majority provinces in the country's modern history, while a harsh security clampdown left at least 600 dead.
The 2021 elections were held under a new law to replace the Sainte Lague system, with numerous small electoral districts in each province, a move that gave new independent parties — many of which were supported by protesters — a stronger chance of winning seats.
The Sainte Lague system involved a complicated formula used to apportion seats in favour of established parties.
It was replaced a simple policy to apportion seats to parties with the highest number of votes.
Voters could also vote for individual candidates, rather than party lists, further boosting independent politicians.
Combined, the three changes ensured that about 30 candidates who claimed to be independent won seats in 2021.
The Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework and leading Sunni and Kurdish parties now want to return to a voting system known as Modified Sainte Lague that benefitted larger parties between 2014 and 2021.
Meanwhile, Iraq continues to have water issues. ASHARQ AL-AWSAT runs a report from AFP:
Iraq's Tigris and Euphrates rivers have witnessed a sharp decrease in their levels in the south of the country, officials said Sunday, pledging to take urgent measures to ease water shortages.
In Nasiriyah, capital of the southern province of Dhi Qar, an AFP photographer saw the river bed of the mighty Euphrates dry in patches.
The water ministry blamed the situation in some southern provinces on "the low quantity of water reaching Iraq from neighboring Türkiye".
At a meeting to discuss the problem, Iraqi President Barham Salih highlighted the need for Iraq to reach an agreement with its neighbours over water sharing. The sources of the two main Iraqi rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, are both located in Turkey, and many Turkish and Iranian dams are located upstream of Iraq. The Iraqi authorities have accused Tehran and Ankara of reducing the flow of the rivers, however, agricultural practices in Iraq have also contributed to the decline in water reserves.
In response to the emergency, the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources has promised to release more water from the dams located in the north of the country. The World Bank has also called for Iraq to modernise its irrigation methods and the Iraqi President has reiterated this call.
Robert Tollast (THE NATIONAL) explains, "Iraq has long accused Turkey of holding back water in a network of giant dams, built between the 1970s and the present day. Since then, flows from both rivers have declined by about 40 per cent, cutting off a significant percentage of Iraq’s freshwater, although climate change has also been blamed for declines." Amr Salem (IRAQI NEWS) adds, "The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources indicated that Iraq lost 70 percent of its water shares because of the policies of neighboring countries."
That's US Ambassador to Iraq Alina L. Romanowski meeting with Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid on Sunday. Her Tweet above notes that they discussed the recent Iraqi delegation that made a trip to the US and that they reaffirmed the US support for Iraq to be energy independent, to resume a leading role in the region and to foster the country's private sector. Somehow, Alina left out the discussion KURDISTAN 24 reports on:
The President of the Republic of Iraq, Abdul-Latif Rashid, on Sunday, received United States Ambassador to Iraq, Alina L. Romanowski, according to a readout from the Iraqi Presidency Office.
Strengthening bilateral ties between both countries, Iraq’s participation in the United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference, combating corruption, and the importance of cooperation on issues of common interest were addressed in the meeting, the readout added.
The Iraqi President stressed the importance of Iraq’s participation at the UN Water Conference in 2023, as Iraq is one of the countries most affected by water scarcity and drought, per the readout.
The US ambassador reiterated her country's support for Iraq's efforts to strengthen its security and sovereignty, and hoped that the UN Water Conference in 2023 will adopt solutions for water scarcity in Iraq.
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