In response to increased pressure from the U.S. government on Iraqi legislators to pass an Iraqi oil law which would legitimate the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) in order to siphon off hundreds of billions of dollars in profits from Iraqi oil to Western oil companies, the head of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, Hassan Juma'a Awwad, published an open letter to American and European legislators rejecting the linkage between U.S. withdrawal and the passage of the oil law.[1]  --  (For more on this law and how the International Monetary Fund, the U.S., and other Western powers are using Iraqi debt accumulated by Saddam Hussein to create immense pressure for passage of the law, see here.)  --  The open letter was posted by Hands Off Iraqi Oil, a web site created by a consortium of British groups opposing the Iraqi oil rip-off that formed in March 2007; it includes Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, Naftana, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want.  --  On Feb. 18, 2005, the London Guardian posted a piece by Awwad, also calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, in which he noted that "Our union is independent of any political party."  --  In that piece, Awwad wrote:  "We see it as our duty to defend the country's resources.  We reject and will oppose all moves to privatize our oil industry and national resources.  We regard this privatization as a form of neocolonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the military occupation."  --  Awwad's visit to solicit support from British trade unionists produced a profile of the union leader in 2005.[2]  --  His name seems never to have been mentioned in the New York Times.  --  But it appears at the head of the list of signers of a December 2006 "Iraqi Trade Union Statement on the Oil Law" that explains that "The proprietorship of the oil reserves under this draft law will remain with the State in form, but not in substance."[3]  --  Also posted below is a Feb. 6, 2007, speech by Hassan Juma'a Awwad on the oil law, in which he points out the "one central objective of the American political leaders who crossed oceans and wasted billions of dollars, that is Iraqi oil.  Indeed we in the Federation of Oil Unions consider this the most important reason for this foul war."[4]  --  "Those who spread the word that the oil sector will not improve except with foreign capital and production-sharing are dreaming," Awwad said.  --  "They must think again, since we know for certain that these plans do not serve the sons and daughters of Iraq." ...


By Hassan Juma'a Awwad, Head of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions

Hands off Iraqi Oil
May 12, 2007

Peace be upon you and greetings to you all,

We wish to clarify certain matters relating to events in Iraq for our friends among the members of the U.S. Congress. It is common knowledge that the occupation spared neither the old nor the young, and that Iraq is passing through the most difficult of times because all and sundry are hounding it and covet a share of its riches. We see no good reason for linking the passing of the feeble Iraqi oil law to the withdrawal of the occupation troops from Iraq.

Everyone knows that the oil law does not serve the Iraqi people, and that it serves Bush, his supporters, and the foreign companies at the expense of the Iraqi people who have been wronged and deprived of their right to their oil despite enduring all difficulties.

We ask our friends not to link withdrawal with the oil law, especially since the USA claimed that it came to Iraq as a liberator and not in order to control Iraq's resources.

The general public in Iraq is totally convinced that Bush wants to rush the promulgation of the oil law so as to be leaving Iraq with a victory of sorts, because his project is failing every day and the occupation is collapsing in all parts of Iraq.

We wish to see you take a true stance for the children of Iraq, and we always say that history will remember those who advance peace over war.

With my regards,

Hassan Jum'a Awwad
Head of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions



By Peter John Meiklem

** 'I will tell people in Iraq how much the British public supports ordinary Iraqis' **

The Big Issue in Scotland
March 2005

History:  Hassan Juma'a Awad is General Secretary of Iraq's largest independent company. He represents around 30,000 workers across 10 unions in Nassiriyah, Amara, Maysan, Thi Qar, and Basra. His recent solidarity tour aimed to raise awareness of Iraq's reconstruction successes and push past the stigmas of conflict.

Looking exasperated, Hassan Juma'a Awad raises his brown eyes, folds his heavy hands together, and shrugs. On either side of him his translators bicker, wave their arms in the air frantically and contradict one other. He shrugs again and half smiles. As a trade unionist Awad is used to struggle. As an Iraqi, he's seen a lot worse than this.

Awad is the president of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, an independent trade union that has fought for workers' rights since the fall of Saddam's Ba'ath Party. He is in the U.K. to meet British trade unionists and, as I speak to him, he is on the last leg of his trip; a lightning quick tour of Caledonia that includes a meeting with OilC -- Scotland's own radical union for oil workers.

The translators -- one Palestinian, one British -- keep battling over his words. At first they tell me he means one thing, then it changes into another. Bloodshed is mentioned but then, proverbially at least, the streets are swept clean in front of me. Awad rarely joins in. He speaks (passionately I think but it's hard to tell without understanding Arabic), then settles back to listen, his eyes shuttling between the translators, his bearing dignified if frustrated.

Eventually, I discover this is what he said: "The trade unions in the Southern Oil Company are in a very difficult situation and we are asking all international trade unions to help and to co-operate with us. We are a free trade union, which does not belong to any political party, and we are independent.

"I believe that 80 per cent of the meetings I have had with the trade unions in Britain have been very successful. I don't think they have been given enough good information about what is really going on in Iraq. I think the information I offered was good for them. After listening they promised to help us. The most important issue for me, and the union, is to develop training for the trade union workers in Iraq. The workers are now the most important thing of all."

The men he represents have already scored an important victory. The Southern Oil Company Trade Union defeated the occupation's administration, then under American Special Envoy Paul Bremer, in a battle over pay. The workers, unhappy with wage structures set by the administration, threatened to "shut down Iraq from north to south" by going on armed strike if their pay demands weren't met. The threat succeeded in raising the lowest wages of oil workers in the South from 69,000 Iraqi Dinar per month to 102,000 per month.

Awad tells me about it and I try to work out if he feels proud, but it's hard to tell. He is more like a statesman than the man on the street corner, the tub thumper of popular trade union legend. "That was the first victory we had, the first thing that made people care about the trade union," he nods, as the translator repeats his words in a voice that is so much quieter than Awad's own. "We believe we have to raise the living standards for workers and this is our first responsibility."

Under Saddam, trade unions were little more than a front for state-sponsored oppression. They were a convenient tool for monitoring; a perverse inversion of what they should be for. Trust, therefore, is a crucial issue. Those who lived under the Ba'ath dictatorship instinctively, and understandably, mistrust those who claim to represent them. So rebuilding the workers' faith in collective action is a tougher job than most.

Hearteningly though, Awad is optimistic: "My union was formed through democratic elections and that was the first time that had happened. That very fact created trust. When the workers elected their leaders they could see that they cared about their interests and there is now a new exchange between the leaders and the workers. Now, we work together."

But there is still a lot to learn, Awad explains. And that is why he is here. He hopes to soak up hundreds of years of British trade union history and experience and take the lessons back to Iraq where he can put them to invaluable use.

"We will be playing a big role in safeguarding oil workers' rights in the south of Iraq, because the next stage of the fight is going to be more difficult. There will be a big role for our union to play in struggling against privatization."

He says the way the invasion turned into an occupation frustrated and disappointed him. Before any real change can happen, he argues, the occupation troops have to leave the country. The Iraqis are ready to manage their own affairs, he says, and even through the mild-mannered translator, he is blunt and determined. He says the elections which took place at the end of January are key.

"If they are to bring any kind of success they will have to stop the occupation and get the troops to leave the country. Secondly, the Iraqi authorities have to make sure the coalition countries have no further influence over government.

"The new administration has to think about the economic interests of the Iraqi people first. They have to look after the country and care for it. If that happens then the Iraqi people can have hope and look forward to living a good life."

After we've finished the interview Awad is due to speak at a political meeting. He seems slightly nervous about it. Although his trip to Britain has been worthwhile, he has been frustrated by conversations that have drifted away from the practical, nitty-gritty of trade union organization, towards larger political questions that make him uncomfortable. He is not here to speak about those things. He has, however, been heartened by the reception he's received from the British people, especially the young.

He tells me about an article written by Iraq's oil minister for Shell's in-house magazine. The minister said 2005 would be the year for "greater dialogue" with Western oil companies. Awad shakes his head; he never would have seen it if a group of young campaigners hadn't pointed it out to him. The experience will be part of the message he takes back to Iraq with him.

"I will tell people in Iraq how much the British public supports ordinary Iraqis. I will tell them about the number of people who are standing in solidarity with us throughout the occupation. I was pleased to find so many young British people who care so deeply about the situation in my country. The young people who are trying to stop the occupation and support Iraq's -- not the occupation's -- economic interests."

By now, the translators have learned to agree on what Awad is really saying. They work as a team, one translating through one point, then the other chipping in for the next. Awad seems to enjoy the relative peace and quiet this new teamwork creates.

For Awad to be successful he will need all the conflict resolution experience he can get. But for now, with the interview finished and everything settled, he stands up, shakes my hand and says thank you in English. His accent is as gravely and determined as I thought it would be.


Official translation


** Statement issued by the Iraqi Labor Union Leadership at a Seminar held from 10 to 14 December 2006, in Amman, Jordan to discuss the draft Iraqi Oil Law **

Global Policy
December 2006

Iraq is rich in natural wealth, foremost among which is its oil wealth, the essence of the economic life for Iraq and the world, which has been the focus of attention of the large industrialized countries in particular. The British and American oil companies were the first to obtain the concession to extract and invest Iraqi oil, nearly 80 years ago. After Iraq got rid of this octopus network, these foreign oil companies have again attempted to dominate this important oil wealth, under numerous pretexts and invalid excuses.

Whereas oil and gas are greatly important for the Iraqi economy, and whereas the building of the State and its institutions are dependent on it, as the main source of the national income, it is therefore the right of the Iraqi people to read the draft oil law under consideration. The Iraqi people refuse to allow the future of their oil to be decided behind closed doors.

Iraqi public opinion strongly opposes the handing of authority and control over the oil to foreign companies that aim to make big profits at the expense of the people. They aim to rob Iraq’s national wealth by virtue of unfair, long term oil contracts that undermine the sovereignty of the State and the dignity of the Iraqi people.

For example, through production sharing agreements these companies shall not be subject to the Iraqi courts in the event of any dispute, nor to the general audit, nor to democratic control. The proprietorship of the oil reserves under this draft law will remain with the State in form, but not in substance.

This means that the occupier seeks and wishes to secure themselves energy resources at a time when the Iraqi people are seeking to determine their own future while still under conditions of occupation.

Iraq’s labor and professional oil unions, after reading the draft oil law, studying the ideas and opinions contained within, and considering the negative impacts it shall have on the whole Iraqi society, have found this law to contain many deep and complex problems, at the administrative and technical levels.

These problems are not remedied in this law, which was rapidly prepared without involving Iraqi specialists and experts in the field in an extensive and organized manner satisfactory to all. Unfortunately even the media and the press have not viewed it, and had they done so, their noble pens would have written about it and criticized and analyzed it.

The draft oil law has overlooked investment of the natural gas that is being burnt off at high rates, causing Iraq to lose millions of dollars everyday, in addition to the environmental pollution this creates.

We have found a variety of negative points in this draft oil law, some of which undermine the sovereignty of the State. On the level of economics, it will impact the real income of the Iraqi citizen. His income would be low, while at the same time he would have weak purchasing power as the overall national income would be limited, and that would affect all the Iraqi people at the health, developmental, social, and economic levels. In addition this law could encourage the termination of the workers' services, either by dismissal or by reducing the total volume of workers, or by reducing compensation, among other possible methods.

There will be a high and insane jump in the fuel prices throughout the country, which would be negatively reflected on the social and economic lives of the Iraqis. The biggest disaster is that there will be an excuse and a pretext for the occupier to extend the stay of the occupying forces in Iraq to protect the foreign oil companies.

Therefore, the oil law, if not radically remedied, will produce calamities that will cause great damage and deprivation and a large increase in the number of Iraqi families under the poverty line.

Feeling responsible towards the working class in Iraq and their union representatives, we hereby submit our demands in specific points, the aim of which is to protect the oil wealth and the Iraqi people. We shall mobilize our workers and their families, and seek the assistance of civil society institutions in Iraq, and the Parliament that was elected by the people, to stand by us and assist us in obtaining the support and solidarity of the Arab and International Labor Unions.

Our demands, which are the demands of the Iraqi people as well as of the Iraqi workers, are as follows:

First: Not to expedite the issuance of the oil law, which would render the oil wealth seized and exploited by the oil Cartel (the multinational oil companies). We are asking to delay this law until it is well prepared by the Iraqis with expertise in the field of oil, with the participation of legal and economic professors from Iraqi universities, and after extensive consideration by the Iraqi trade unionists and the Oil Professional Unions.

Second: We are asking that the discussions about the oil law be attended by Labor Union Federations and Oil Professional Unions for the purpose of enriching the ideas and opinions of the legal provisions of the oil law, as these workers have on-the-ground and practical experience to bring to bear on these discussions. This practice of democracy would contribute to the protection of the oil wealth for the coming generations and for the whole country.

Third: We demand involvement of civil society organizations to contribute their opinions about the law, considering that Article (111) of the Iraqi Constitution specifies that oil and gas are the property of the Iraqi people. It is the property of the people in every place and time. There should be no manipulation of the terms to beautify them at the expense of the Iraqi people.

Fourth: We trust that our brothers, the members of the Parliament, shall study the draft oil law with accuracy and diligence, and that this law will not be approved with all the defects and negative points it contains, and that they will form specialized committees to study it and submit it to the Iraqi people after their consideration.

Fifth: We strongly reject the privatization of our oil wealth, as well as production sharing agreements, and there is no room for discussing this matter. This is the demand of the Iraqi street, and the privatization of oil is a red line that may not be crossed.

Sixth: We call upon the media and press in the spirit of brotherhood to play a role in conveying the facts to the Iraqi people. We are certain that the brothers and sisters in the field of media and press will stand by the Iraqi people to protect the oil wealth from any greedy exploitation.

Seventh: The Iraqi State and its regions should directly invest in oil and gas, as provided for in the Iraqi Constitution, through the support and development of the Ministry of Oil and its institutions in order to ensure the success of the extraction operations.

Eighth: Since work is the qualitative activity that sets apart the human experience, and it is the source of all production, wealth, and civilization, and the worker is the biggest asset to the means of production (we honor humanity), we demand that this law includes an explicit reference emphasizing the role of all workers in matters of oil wealth and investment, to protect them and build their technical capacity, both in and outside Iraq.

Ninth: It is possible to benefit from the experiences, technology, and expertise of some foreign oil companies through purely Iraqi work contracts that preserve the sovereignty and standing of the State and the independence of its political and economic decision-making. The State should have the right to terminate these contracts whenever it wants, however, under the sole jurisdiction of the Iraqi judiciary.

Tenth: To rehabilitate the Iraqi National Oil Company, by virtue of a law enacted for this purpose by the Parliament. The Iraqi National Oil company should shoulder the responsibility of Iraqi oil policy.


1. Hassan Jouma’a Awaad.
2. Asaad Shahid.
3. Mouhsen Khmat.
4. Saba Qasem.
5. Karim Abdelallah Hamzeh.
6. Mahdi Haseeb Ali.
7. Abed Muhammad Sakhi.
8. Abdellatif Mohammad Jamil.
9. Adnan Abdelhalim Alssafar.
10. Khaldeh Alshehab Ahmad.
11. Nouzad Karim Ahmad.
12. Omar Hasan Abdelrahman.
13. Ehan Mustafa Abdellah.
14. Saadea Ahmad Mahmud.
15. Seddeeq Ramadan Hasan.
16. Alia Jabar Kadum.
17. Ghazy Muklif Moqten.
18. Muhammad Hameed Ali.

This is a reference to the Quran:

Walaqad karramna banee adama wahamalnahum fee albarri waalbahri warazaqnahum mina alttayyibati wafaddalnahum AAala katheerin mimman khalaqna tafdeelan

17:70 We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation.


[Translted from the Arabic]


February 6, 2007

Read the Arabic original

The speech of the head of the Federation of Oil Unions in Basra to the meeting held to debate the [proposed] oil law and the oil investment laws on Tuesday 6th February 2007:

To the audience, to the guests, to the distinguished professors,

Greetings, as-salamu `alaikum wa-rahmatu ‘llah wa-barakatuhu.

I would like first to offer thanks to all the brothers and sisters who are participating in this conference to debate the Iraqi oil law, and particular thanks to the Center for Arab Gulf Studies of Basra University, notably to Professor Dr. Jabbar al-Hilfi and his colleagues who have contributed in every possible way in this action.

Dear colleagues,

Iraq today passes through a great trial as all hostile forces join together against it. The people face attacks by *takfiri* zealots and the thugs of the deposed regime, which serve only to extend the war and the occupation which has succeeded in making Iraqi kill Iraqi. This method is not new to the Americans and their allies; as long as chaos reigns in this country many of the sinews of life cannot operate.

Among the objectives America wishes to achieve from the military occupation of Iraq, all the causes of which we do not want to return to, but simply to emphasize one central objective of the American political leaders who crossed oceans and wasted billions of dollars, that is Iraqi oil. Indeed we in the Federation of Oil Unions consider this the most important reason for this foul war.

Dear friends,

ِAnd, following this short introduction, we can today see that many of those profiting from the occupation seek to waste the national wealth which God Almighty has given Iraqis and to deliver to their masters that national wealth on account of which Iraqis paid a high price. Although right up to this hour this wealth has not served Iraqis, we hope that it may yet bring ease not trouble to Iraqis. If we turn back a little, we find law number 80 of 1961, wherein the production areas of the foreign companies in Iraq were specified and limited, and we see the manner in which Iraqis planned to profit from the national wealth was laid out, and as an extension of this law, the decision to nationalize the shares of foreign companies on the basis of which full control of Iraqi oil was achieved.

Recently the Constitution of Iraq on which the Iraqi people voted in the most dire and difficult of conditions notes in clause 111 that oil and gas are the property of the Iraqi people. But alas, this clause in the constitution will remain but ink on paper if the oil law and oil investment law being presented to the Parliament are ratified, laws which permit production-sharing contracts, laws without parallel in many oil producers, especially the neighbouring countries. So why should Iraqis want to introduce such contracts in Iraq given that applying such laws will rob the Iraqi government of the most important thing it owns?

In this regard we would like to clarify the following points:

1 -- We send a message to all the members of the Iraqi Parliament, when debating the oil and investment laws, to bear the Iraqis in mind, to protect the national wealth, and to look at the neighboring countries. Have they introduced such laws even when their relations with foreign companies are closer than in Iraq?

2 -- If those calling for production-sharing agreements insist on acting against the will of Iraqis, we say to them that history will not forgive those who play recklessly with the wealth and destiny of a people and that the curse of heaven and the fury of Iraqis will not leave them.

3 -- We strongly warn all the foreign companies and foreign capital in the form of American companies against coming into our lands under the guise of production-sharing agreements.

4 -- Open the way to Iraqis to manage their own oil affairs. They are able to do that; they have the experience in the field and the technical training, have overcome hardships and proven to the world that they can provide the best service to Iraqis in the oil industry. The best proof of that is how after the entry of the occupying forces and the destruction of the infrastructure of the oil sector the engineers, technical staff, and workers were able to raise production from zero to 2,100,000 barrels per day without any foreign expertise or foreign capital. Iraqis are capable of further increasing production with their present skills. The Iraqi state needs to consult with those who have overcome the difficulties and to ask their opinion before sinking Iraq into an ocean of dark injustice. Those who spread the word that the oil sector will not improve except with foreign capital and production-sharing are dreaming. They must think again, since we know for certain that these plans do not serve the sons and daughters of Iraq.

Dear audience,

We do not oppose the introduction of new technology into the oil sector so as to increase production; we believe in that; but this must be done in a way that will safeguard the stature of the Iraqi state and its sovereignty over natural resources.

In conclusion, the law is in your hands. We consider it unbalanced and incoherent with the hopes of those who work in the oil industry. It has been drafted in a great rush in harsh circumstances. We believe this law to be more political than economic, it threatens to set governorate against governorate and region against region. Therefore I call on all the intellectuals and professors and political leaders to participate seriously in debating this vital topic in a manner useful to those participating in the committee drafting the final communiqué to be sent to the Iraqi Parliament, the Presidency of the Republic and the Prime Ministry. We say: ‘By God I swear that we have told you, by God I say that we have warned you.’

And in closing I would like to thank you for your grace in listening and to call for God’s mercy and blessing.

Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi
Head of the Federation of Oil Unions