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Former regionals man sees trade unionists at work in Iraq

A former regional press journalist has told how trade unionists and politicians in Iraq are coping in the aftermath of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Tim Lezard, who has just retired as president of the National Union of Journalists, spent a week in the war-torn country.

He joined a mostly British delegation of politicians and senior trade union officials to get first-hand insight into the trade union movement being built there.

He visited the cities of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah where he met the President and Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as workers who had been imprisoned by Saddam.

He said: “The purpose of the trip was to get knowledge of the situation out there and to express solidarity with trade unions. Most workers in Iraq are trade unionists.

“They have got the commitment and the courage but not the training or the money because the Government has taken it.”

Tim, (36), said he was shocked by some of the accounts given by Iraqi workers, including that of one man who was put into solitary confinement for a year, beaten every day for an hour and left hanging on a wall.

He said: “We knew there would not be any risk to us and our drivers were undercover police with Kalashnikovs under their seats.

“The security was very tight and we were not allowed out of the hotels on our own. The hotels were secure, with guards and metal detectors.

“We met Iraqis from all over Iraq and spoke to government ministers.

“They all wanted investment but the big threat was terrorism.

“One Iraqi described that as the genocide of working people. Casual labourers queue up for work while suicide bombers come and blow them up.”

Tim is now campaigning to launch a trade union newspaper in Iraq.

Tim was a reporter for the Gazette series in Gloucester from 1988 to 1992, before becoming a freelance journalist in Bristol, later moving back to the Gazette as reporter, chief reporter and news editor.

He joined Newscom’s weekly titles based in Newport as a sub-editor in 1999, moving to the Gloucestershire Echo and later the Gloucester Citizen, becoming health reporter.

His work with the NUJ has covered his time in Gloucestershire and he has also spent time on the national executive and on ethics council representing regional newspapers.