Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
Sunni Accordance Front Suspends Role in Gov
Dulaimi: Legal Proceedings Against Culture Minister Hashemi Must Halt
The Sunni Accordance Front will suspend participation in the cabinet until the government halts legal proceedings against one of its leading members, the head of the three-party Sunni coalition, Adnan al-Dulaimi, announced Friday.
"We have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi," Dulaimi told Reuters by telephone from Amman where he is on a visit.
"We have told our six ministers not to attend cabinet meetings until the government halts these legal steps."
Iraqi security forces attempted to serve an arrest warrant Monday night against Hashemi, charging him with acts of terrorism.
Two suspected militants reportedly fingered Hashemi as the mastermind of a Feb. 8, 2005, ambush against then-parliamentary candidate Mithal al-Alusi, according to governmental spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. Al-Alusi escaped unscathed but two of his sons were killed in the attack.
"The two who planned and carried out the killings of Mithal al-Alusi's two sons confessed that they took orders from him," al-Dabbagh said Monday.
Yesterday, Mithal al-Alusi accused the US embassy of shielding Hashemi from arrest by not ordering security contractors to allow Iraqi police entrance to the al-Rashid hotel, where Hashemi is rumored to be hiding.
Today, the NY Sun reports Alusi planned to hand deliver a letter to the American Embassy in Baghdad Friday, asking President Bush to order Ambassador Ryan Crocker to assist.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Baghdad, IRAQ: A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Iraqi Sunni Minister of Culture Asaad Kamal al-Hashemi attending a ceremony in Baghdad to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.
US Shielding Culture Minister From Arrest?
South American Contractors Reportedly Barred Iraqi Police From al-Rashid Hotel
As'ad Kamal al-Hashemi, the culture minister being charged with acts of terrorism for a 2005 attack on Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alusi which killed his two sons, has been in hiding since Iraqi security forces raided his house in attempt to arrest him on Monday night.
Now Mithal al-Alusi is charging the US embassy with shielding Hashemi from arrest. As Eli Lake reports for the NY Sun:
Mr. Alusi said the wanted man, As'ad Kamal al-Hashemi, had fled to al-Rashid Hotel inside the American-protected international zone in the center of Baghdad. Iraqi national police on Tuesday went to this location, only to be told by the South American mercenaries guarding the al-Rashid compound that they could not enter the grounds of the hotel where Mr. Hashemi was staying. Mr. Alusi then called the office of the American ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, to ask the Americans to order the guards to allow the national police to enter the premises. He was, in so many words, refused.
"I called Ambassador Ryan Crocker's office today and yesterday and they did not give any kind of answer. They are playing with us. They say this is an Iraqi issue, we are not going to be involved. And normally this is a very good attitude, but not when it stops us from arresting terrorists," Mr. Alusi said.
According to Lake, an American officer close to the situation reported that US troops had been ordered by Petraeus to accompany Iraqi forces serving the arrest warrant on Hashemi Monday, but the Pentagon ordered them to turn back en route.
Lakes writes, "On the way to his home, the GIs were ordered to turn around after the Pentagon decided no Americans should be involved in the arrest. 'The order was overturned in Washington,' the officer said."
Al Hikma University, 1959
American Embassy in Baghdad
American Cultural Center in Baghdad
Al Rashid St., 1960
Baghdad Roundabout, 1960
Baghdad train station, 1959
Christian celebration in Baghdad, 1920
Iraqi Museum, 1930s
Rabbi Sassoon's Stamp, Baghdad 1933
Iraqi Jew in Ramadi, 1918
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Interesting Statistical Comparisons
Every 9.62 days, there is an equivalent amount of casualties in Iraq & Afghanistan as September 11th.
There are 9.65 Virginia Tech shootings in Iraq & Afghanistan everyday.
There are 1.61 Madrid bombings in Iraq & Afghanistan everyday.
In 11 days as many Iraqi & Afghani civilians are killed as the entire amount of American military personnel killed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Famed Iraqi Poet Who Called for Unity Became Casualty of War
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraqis weep over the coffin of Iraqi poet Rahim al-Maliki during his funeral in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City, 26 June 2007
A famed Iraqi poet who used his art to call for healing and unity in his home country lost his life in the Monday bombing of the al-Mansour hotel in Baghdad.
The tragedy of Rahim al-Maliki's death imbues a new poignancy and power to the words he wrote in life.
"If you do not love Iraq
Then do not pray with me
You, Iraq, the land of well-being
When you stand tall, we stand tall
They throw stones at your windows
But your glass has destroyed their stones."
Damaged tomb of Ezekiel at Kifl
'Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the damage to the country's antiquities has been devastating. Numerous sites of incomparable archaeological importance - which are vital to the study of the many cultures which have been present during Iraq's thousands of years of recorded history - have been ransacked by looters or devastated by foreign troops. The true scale of this tragedy was revealed recently in a presentation in London by Abbas Al-Husseiny, the chairman of Iraq's State Board of Antiquities and John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Middle East collections. As Susannah Tarbush writes, their assessment of the damage and future threat to Iraq's cultural heritage has had a profound affect on our understanding of this extraordinary cultural heritage. 27 June 2007'
By Susannah Tarbush
For the audience of archaeologists and other experts in ancient civilizations gathered in a lecture theatre at the British Museum in London recently, the images from Iraq projected on a screen were like a horror show. They vividly conveyed the toll that four years of occupation and conflict have taken on one of the world's richest endowments of archaeological sites, ancient treasures, monuments and religious buildings.
The images were shown during presentations by Dr Abbas Al-Hussainy, the chairman of Iraq's State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and Dr John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Middle East collections. The damage has been caused by a number of factors: the systematic looting of museums and archaeological sites, bombings and attacks, neglect, and what amounts to vandalism by coalition troops. As an example of coalition damage Al-Hussainy showed a slide of the 10th century caravanserai of Khan al-Ruba. When US troops used its courtyard for the blowing up of bombs and weapons captured from insurgents, some of the Khan's roofs and columns collapsed.
With the war and ongoing conflict taking such a heavy daily toll of lives in Iraq, some might argue that rescuing the country's archaeology cannot be a priority. But Iraq has an extraordinary cultural legacy of which much remains to be excavated and explored. The damage to Iraq's sites affects not only Iraqis but is a blow to humanity and its culture and history.
The dismay of those attending the British Museum event was increased by their knowledge that at least some of the damage was avoidable. Before the invasion, archaeologists in the UK and the US were vocal in warning of the war's likely impact on Iraq's unrivalled cultural heritage. They alerted the Pentagon and Britain's Ministry of Defence, gave media interviews and wrote letters and articles - all to little avail.
Dr Curtis says the situation "would have been much better if account had been taken of this very valuable cultural heritage and if the military authorities had been willing to consult much more, particularly with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities. That hasn't happened and we've seen military camps established in archaeological sites at Babylon in particular and at Ur." He describes Iraq as "one huge archaeological site: whatever one does in terms of excavation, building work and military activity is likely to damage the heritage in some way."
In its newly-published 2008 watch list of the world's 100 most endangered sites, the World Monuments Fund includes "the Cultural Heritage Sites of Iraq, where ongoing conflict has led to catastrophic loss at the world's oldest and most important cultural sites, and where the damage continues."
Iraq has more than 10,000 official sites of archaeological interest. The earliest Middle Eastern civilization, the Sumer, sprang up in mid-4th millennium BC Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Sumerians mastered irrigated agriculture, and the first literate society developed in the late-4th millennium BC using cuneiform script. Other achievements were the invention of the wheel and the development of mathematics, astronomy and time measurement. The Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian cultures followed, then the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian and Sassanid periods. Islam spread to Iraq in the seventh century. The Abbasid caliphate built Baghdad in the 8th century as its capital, the leading city of the Muslim world for five centuries until the Mongols destroyed it in the 13th century. Iraq was fought over by Persia and the Ottomans, and became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century.'
Monday, June 25, 2007
My mother used to repeat this saying often in the late 80s and especially in the 90s. One of my cousins told me before the invasion that he was afraid that the hardcore Ba'athists would burn the country and poison the rivers if overthrown. Read Alaa's post about the bombing of the Mansur Hotel - it's a good one.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
By SINAN SALAHEDDIN and OMAR SINAN
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 24, 2007; 4:22 PM
BAGHDAD -- Saddam Hussein's cousin, known as "Chemical Ali," and two other regime officials were sentenced Sunday to hang for slaughtering up to 180,000 Kurdish men, women and children with chemical weapons, artillery barrages and mass executions two decades ago.
Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1987-1988 crackdown, known as "Operation Anfal." A sixth defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence. Death sentences are automatically appealed.
The most notorious defendant was Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who gained his nickname for ordering the use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds in response to their collaboration with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Witnesses testified that Iraqi government forces indiscriminately attacked women and children, burned crops, killed livestock and rounded up civilians into detention camps in a campaign to exterminate the restive Kurdish minority.
Rubbar Mohammed visits the grave of her family members who were killed in a chemical attack by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1998, in Halabja, Iraq, Sunday, June 24, 2007 . Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, Saddam Hussein's cousin and the former head of the Baath Party's Northern Bureau Command, and two other former regime officials were sentenced to death by hanging for their roles in a 1980s scorched-earth campaign that led to the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, by an Iraqi court in Baghdad Sunday. (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)
The defendants insisted they were defending the nation against Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Iran during the bloody eight-year war.
Al-Majid, once among the most powerful and feared men in Iraq, trembled in silence as Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa read the verdict against him and imposed five death sentences for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"You had all the civil and military authority for northern Iraq," al-Khalifa said. "You gave the orders to the troops to kill Kurdish civilians and put them in severe conditions. You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery. You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burned their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide."
Al-Majid said "Thanks be to God" as he was led from the courtroom.
Also sentenced to death were Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, the former defense minister who led the Iraqi delegation at the cease-fire talks that ended the 1991 Gulf War, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.
Mohammed interrupted the judge as the verdict was read, insisting the defendants were defending Iraq from Kurdish rebels who collaborated with Iran.
"God bless our martyrs. Long live the brave Iraqi army. Long live Iraq. Long live the Baath party and long live Arab nations," he said.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
'The gates of hell are open in Iraq.'
-Amr Moussa, Arab League's Secretary General, September 2004
'To us it seems out of this world that you do this. We fought a war together to keep Iran from occupying Iraq after Iraq was driven out of Kuwait. Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason.'
-Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Foreign Minister, speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, 23 September, 2005
-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival
This reminded me of Khalid Jarrar:
"Iraqi Sunnis' attitudes were from the outset shaped by their belief that they would able to get back on top. Many Sunnis clung to the illusion that the Shias' majority status within the country was a myth spread by America. One Sunni talking point, repeated by no less a figure than Jordan's King Abdullah as well as then Defense Minister Shaalan, was that Iranians were crossing the border into Iraq in order to inflate Shia numbers. The insinuation was that many, if not most, Shias were not actually Iraqi at all - that Iraq was being turned into a Shia state by force and fraud." [ Sometimes I find these beliefs amusing. We know that king Abduallah's not the sharpest tool, but damn, he's the king! Ya gotta pass that stuff through your wife before you try it in public, ya hmar. ]
The currency of such beliefs among Sunni Arabs was important in driving the Sunni decision to boycott the January 2005 elections - a choice that the weight of Sunni opinion later came to recognize as a mistake. Many Sunnis at the time, however, were still overestimating their own share of Iraq's population and so believed that sitting out the January vote would hold turnout below the final mark of almost 60 percent."
-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
"The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.
The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people."
Oval Office Address to the American People
December 16, 1998
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Iraqis are bracing for an explosion of sectarian violence following Wednesday morning's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra , and information has begun to surface of attacks being mounted against Sunni mosques throughout the day.
The reporting is spotty, but current accounts indicate that at least one--but possibly three--Sunni mosques south of Baghdad were bombed, one in western Baghdad was set on fire, and one north of Baghdad was targeted with mortars.
Reuters reports that local police said gunmen blew up Iskandariya's Grand Mosque, completely destroying the building.
VOI, however, reports that three mosques were bombed--Grand Iskandariyah Mosque, Hiteen Mosque and Abdullah Mosque.
"Three mosques were brought down after unknown gunmen detonated explosives inside them," a security source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Samarra, IRAQ: Smoke billows from the Shiite Imam al-Askari shrine in the restive city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, 13 June 2007
AP cites police sources reporting that two Sunni mosques were bombed south of the capital, and arsonists set fire to a Sunni mosque in western Baghdad.
Violence also erupted at a Sunni mosque in Ghazaliyah, a mixed Sunni-Shia neighbourhood in north Baghdad, said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
Mortars were aimed at the El-Muhajareen Mosque followed by clashes between gunmen and the guards inside the mosque. After 45 minutes, the Iraqi Army and National Guard arrived at the scene to secure the area, the resident said.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on "believers to exercise self-restraint and avoid any vengeful act that would target innocent people or the holy places of others."
This combination of 3 images shows the stages of destruction of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq. From top to bottom: a Feb. 2004 photo of the shrine, the shrine in Feb. 2006 following an explosion which destroyed its dome, and a Wednesday, June 13, 2007 view after insurgents blew up its two minarets. Saboteurs blew up the two minarets of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra early Wednesday, in a repeat of the 2006 attack that shattered its famous golden dome and unleashed a wave of retaliatory sectarian violence that still bloodies Iraq. (AP Photos)
"We call upon our Iraqi people to exercise self-restraint and not be dragged into reactions like those planned by the killers," it said.'
Arab conspiracy theorists will no doubt BLAME the Iraqi government (and/or the US military) for the bombing!
Famous Shiite shrine in Samarra attacked
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - Suspected al-Qaida insurgents on Wednesday destroyed the two minarets of the Askariya Shiite shrine in Samarra, authorities reported, in a repeat of a 2006 bombing that shattered its famous Golden Dome and unleashed a wave of retaliatory sectarian violence that still bloodies Iraq.
Police said the attack at about 9 a.m. involved explosives and brought down the two minarets, which had flanked the dome's ruins. No casualties were reported.
The attack immediately stirred fears of a new explosion of Sunni-Shiite bloodshed. There are close ties between al-Qaida and some Iraqi Sunni militants. State television said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly imposed an indefinite curfew on vehicle traffic and large gatherings in Baghdad as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Just before the curfew was to take hold, Shiite militiamen carrying light weapons fanned out across Jihad, a mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad, police said. No violence was immediately reported.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
By Sarah Dilorenzo
12:28 a.m. June 12, 2007
UNITED NATIONS – Iraqi religious and political leaders met to reaffirm their commitment to building a tolerant, multiethnic nation, declaring that the ties that bind all Iraqis “will not be broken” in spite of the sectarian violence ravaging the country.
Sunni and Shiite leaders gathered at U.N. headquarters for a two-day conference that ends Tuesday to discuss ways to ease the sectarian tensions sparking violence in Iraq. Iraq's U.N. mission sponsored the event, entitled “Iraq for all Iraqis.”
“We have gathered here in New York, religious leaders and scholars, to discuss the vital issues of reconciliation and re-establishing the fraternal ties that have historically bound the people of Iraq together, which, however strained they may become, are not broken and will not be broken,” said Iraq's deputy U.N. ambassador, Feisal al-Istrabadi.
First Zionist congress meets in Switzerland and issues Basel Program on colonization of Palestine.
First Arab nationalist congress meets in Paris.
Husayn-McMahon correspondence--between Sharif Husayn of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt. Arabs understand it as ensuring postwar independence and unity of the Arab provinces (including Palestine) of the Ottoman Empire.
Sykes-Picot agreement secretly divides the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France.
Balfour Declaration: Britain pledges support for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine.
Ottoman forces in Jerusalem surrender to Allied forces under General Sir Edmund Allenby.
British troops under General Allenby occupy the whole of Palestine.
First Palestine national congress meets in Jerusalem. It rejects the Balfour Declaration and demands independence for Palestine.
Mandate system approved at San Remo Conference; the Palestine mandate is assigned to Britain without the consent of Palestinians.
Anti-Zionist riots in Jerusalem.
Sir Herbert Samuel, first British High Commissioner for Palestine, arrives in Jerusalem.
Anti-Zionist riots in Jaffa; scores of Jews are killed or wounded.
First British census of Palestine: 78% Muslim; 11% Jewish; 10% Christian.
Riots in Jerusalem; 133 Jews and 116 Palestinians killed, by the British military.
British White Paper on policy in Palestine. It causes an outcry among Zionists because it calls for restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine.
Letter from Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister, to Zionist leader Chaim Weizman reaffirms Britain’s commitment to the National Home policy. This was dubbed the ‘Black Letter’ by Palestinians, who saw it as a reversal of the White Paper’s policy as a result of Zionist pressure.
Second British census of Palestine: 73% Muslim; 17% Jewish; 9% Christian.
Arabs observe a general strike to protest Britain's pro-Zionist policies. Riots in Jaffa and Jerusalem with strong anti-British overtones.
Leaders of all five Palestinian political parties call for a general strike rebellion.
British Royal (Peel) Commission report recommends partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Strong opposition from Arabs.
Second phase of Arab rebellion.
The Irgun (a Jewish military organization) plants bombs in buses and marketplaces, killing and wounding hundreds of Palestinian civilians.
Round Table Conference on Palestine in London, followed by 1939 White Paper restricting Jewish immigration and land buying.
The Biltmore Program, issued by the Jewish Agency after a meeting in New York, demands unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine, the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth there, and the organization of a Jewish army.
Irgun and Stern Gang work together in a campaign of terror against the British.
The U.S. Congress introduces joint resolution endorsing the Biltmore Program.
The U.S. House of Representatives calls for unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine in order to establish a Jewish commonwealth there.
1946 (Jan.) Anglo-American commission of inquiry visits Palestine and recommends continuation of the British Mandate.
1946 (Sept.) London Conference on the future of Palestine to consider British proposals for its division into Jewish and Arab provinces under a British High Commissioner. Representatives of some Arab governments attend the conference but no representatives of Palestinian Arabs or Zionists attend.
Zionist terrorist attacks against the British intensify.
1947 (Feb.) British decide to relinquish the Palestine Mandate.
(Apr.) UN General Assembly opens a special session on the Palestine problem.
(Nov.) UN recommends partition of Palestine.
With Britain out of Palestine, the Jews proclaim the area as the Jewish state of Israel. Arab armies invade Zionist colonies and reclaim some Palestinian villages. The Arab state of Palestine is split into three parts: some is taken and incorporated into Israel; the Gaza Strip is held and governed by Egypt; and the West Bank of the Jordan River is held by Jordan. The UN had proposed that Jerusalem and other holy places become an internationally governed entity. During the fighting, Jerusalem was divided into Israeli West and Jordanian East.
Members of the Irgun and Haganah Zionist military organizations detonate car bombs, shell and destroy Palestinian villages and neighborhoods, and build large weapons arsenals. Palestinian irregulars strike back but cannot match Zionist resources and organization.
Irgun and Stern Gang massacre 245 Palestinian inhabitants of Deir Yassin, a village near Jerusalem.
Over 725,000 Palestinians are driven out of their homeland or flee the fighting that accompanied the establishment of Israel. By 1950, more than one million Palestinians live in UN-supported refugee camps in Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Cheney’s Iran-Arms-to-Taliban Gambit Rebuffed
by Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON - A media campaign portraying Iran as supplying arms to the Taliban guerrillas fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, orchestrated by advocates of a more confrontational stance toward Iran in the George W. Bush administration, appears to have backfired last week when Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeil, issued unusually strong denials.
The allegation that Iran has reversed a decade-long policy and is now supporting the Taliban, conveyed in a series of press articles quoting “senior officials” in recent weeks, is related to a broader effort by officials aligned with Vice President Dick Cheney to portray Iran as supporting Sunni insurgents, including al Qaeda, to defeat the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
An article in the Guardian published May 22 quoted an anonymous U.S. official as predicting an “Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive in Iraq, linking al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to Tehran’s Shia militia allies” and as referring to the alleged “Iran-al Qaeda linkup” as “very sinister”.
That article and subsequent reports on CNN May 30, in the Washington Post Jun. 3 and on ABC news Jun. 6 all included an assertion by an unnamed U.S. official or a “senior coalition official” that Iran is following a deliberate policy of supplying the Taliban’s campaign against U.S., British and other NATO forces.
In the most dramatic version of the story, ABC reported “NATO officials” as saying they had “caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces.”
Far from showing that Iran had been “caught red-handed”, however, the report quoted from an analysis which cited only the interception in Afghanistan of a total of four vehicles coming from Iran with arms and munitions of Iranian origin. The report failed to refer to any evidence of Iranian government involvement.
Both Gates and McNeill denied flatly last week that there is any evidence linking Iranian authorities to those arms. Gates told a press conference on Jun. 4, “We do not have any information about whether the government of Iran is supporting this, is behind it, or whether it’s smuggling, or exactly what is behind it.” Gates said that “some” of the arms in question might be going to Afghan drug smugglers.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. McNeill, implied that the arms trafficking from Iran is being carried out by private interests. “[W]hen you say weapons being provided by Iran, that would suggest there is some more formal entity involved in getting these weapons here,” he told Jim Loney of Reuters June 5. “That’s not my view at all.”
Poverty Creating Child Labor Force
With Breadwinners Missing, Children Take to Streets to Support Their Families
BAGHDAD, 12 June 2007 (IRIN) - Iyad Abdel-Salim, 12, left school six months ago and has been working to boost the family income. His father was killed in Iraq's political violence. As the only boy in the family, and with three smaller sisters to look after, he was forced to go onto the streets and work.
"I cannot see my family suffer without food. My mother cannot go to work because she has to stay with my sisters, and our uncles cannot help us as they are displaced and without money," Abdel-Salim said.
"I feel tired when I get home. I usually stay 12 hours in the streets selling chocolates and pencils. I eat just one meal a day to save money, and when I return I just want to sleep," he said.
BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Two Iraqi boys sell cigarettes in Baghdad, Iraq.
Thousands of children, like Abdel-Salam, have moved onto the streets to help augment their family's income, either because they have lost their fathers in the violence, or because they are forced to help as their families do not consider education to be important. Some of the children have no one to look after them.
"I have no choice. Life in Iraq has turned into hell. It is dangerous to work in the streets. Twice men tried to rape me. God protected me and I was saved, but maybe one day I will be abused," Abdel-Salim said.
The UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) estimates that about 11 percent of Iraqi children under 14 work.
Claire Hajaj, communications officer at UNICEF's Iraq Support Centre in Amman (ISCA), said poverty was driving more children to work on the streets.
The 2006 annual UNDP report said one third of Iraqi families are living in poverty, but specialists believe the number could have increased markedly since then.
"Since last year we have observed a huge increase in the number of children on the streets, and the number of orphans resulting from sectarian violence has also increased. This is disastrous for the future of Iraq because those children are not getting an education and are exposed to drugs, prostitution and sexual harassment," Professor Salah Faris, a social and economic analyst at Baghdad University, said, adding: "There are few projects tackling child labour in Iraq today. This is unacceptable."
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in partnership with UNICEF, has developed a programme to take children off streets and this has already borne fruit.
"They are given the opportunity to go to a centre and receive psychological support and then return to their family," Hajaj said.
"Already, 150 children have retuned to their families... but this is a small project which needs much more funding," she added.
Hajaj said one of the main ways to tackle the problem was to help children return to school by offering them support and finding mechanisms to help families.
Ali Mussawi, president of the local non-governmental organisation (NGO) Keeping Children Alive (KCA), said two of their projects tackling child labour had to be stopped after they received threats from gangs and militias that were using children on the streets as fighters or drug sellers.
"NGOs in Iraq are suffering as a result of the insecurity. Two of our volunteers were killed while doing their job trying to collect children from streets," Mussawi said. "They were killed for trying to help children and now we feel impotent and useless."
"In this context [the author talked previously about graves and the sending of the corpses of dead Shia worldwide to Iraq] one should mention that recently [at the time of this writing - 1960s?] there were in the Pakistani town of Tiri violent clashes concerning these problems. In this city and around it the Shia who live there are accustomed to holding processions to commemorate Imam Husayn on 10th of Muharrem every year. Curiously enough there is a religious school, the "Madrasat al-Hudda" in this very city which is visited by many students with zeal and where the Madhab [ confession] of the Wahabi form is taught.
The Wahabis nurture a secret hatred against the Shia and asked them to abolish the processions they were used to holding every year because these processions are "heresy" and a deviation from Islam in their eyes. In the year 1962 the Wahabis eventually began to mark these processions with violence – they attacked the participants on 10th Muharrem with shovels, axes and wooden clubs. There were hundreds of injured and dead. It was a terrible slaughter in which many Sunnis were remarkably killed because they were used to participating in these processions, like many Sunnis in Iraq were.
The highest authority of the Shia at the time, Sayyed al-Hakim, regretted these incidents, sent a telegraph to the Pakistani ambassador in Baghdad and authorities in Pakistan and asked them to take strict measures against the leaders of these horrible gangs of criminals...
This incident resembles in some respect the acts of Wahabis in Kerbala in the year 1802 [massacre] or in the city of at-Ta'if in the year 1924 and in different cities which were conquered by the Wahabis or where they could impose their strong influence. Once the Wahabis attacked Egyptian pilgrims on their way to Mecca, for no other reason than the Egyptian pilgrims were used to taking a "mahmal" [ a "mahmal" is a wonderful ornate cedar chair, sent by Islamic rulers as a sign of their sovereignty on the pilgrimage to Mecca] with them on their journey to Mecca.
The Wahabis want all Muslims to go back to the simple teachings as they existed in early Islamic times; they want nothing added to or anything omitted from these original teachings. This is very difficult to realize and probably in most Islamic countries impossible. Maybe it is possible to carry out these simple teachings in the desert where the living circumstances did not change much from earlier times. In the Rif and in the cities the living circumstances have changed profoundly and the people are in need of other people and other means that help them to cope with their struggles.
Meanwhile the Wahabis still believe that it is possible to reform the faith of people by the sword and horrible massacres. Many rulers have used this method in the past, too, but only achieved the opposite of what they had wanted. The "reform" of a belief by the sword leads to nothing but a radicalization of faith in the hearts and minds of the believers [ the ones being attacked and "reformed"] and a much stronger grip on their faith. [Mahdi Army, anyone?]
The Wahabis destroyed the graves of some Imams in al-Baqi [ in Medina] and believe that if they destroy all these graves [some Shia leave gold and ornaments on the graves of Shia Imams] once and for all, the faith in them will be rooted out totally, too. But they don't guess that the belief in holy graves will only grow stronger in the hearts and minds of the believer and that one day will come when they will be rebuilt and carry twice as much gold and ornaments as they did prior to their destruction.
Whoever wants to reform the faith of people, has to change the living circumstances and the social state and psychic mood because faith is their product and not the result of logical and abstract thinking. It is just ridiculous to ask something from people they will not understand and unjust to impose something on them they cannot carry out."
Monday, June 11, 2007
BAGHDAD -- A group affiliated with al Qaeda is giving Christians in Baghdad a stark set of four options: Convert to Islam, marry your daughters to our fighters, pay an Islamic tax or leave with only the clothes on your back.
A U.S. military official said American forces became aware of the threats only last month and have erected barriers around the largest Christian enclave in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood in an effort to protect residents.
Christians in Baghdad refuse to discuss the threats by Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent umbrella group that's dominated by al Qaeda in Iraq, for fear of retribution.
But in Syria, where thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, tales abound of families that were killed or driven from their homes because they either refused or couldn't afford to pay the jizya, a tax usually levied on non-Muslim men of military age that's been part of Islam for more than 1,000 years.
"Two or three months ago, we heard we were going to be forcibly removed from Dora," said Rafah Elia Daoud, 53, who fled to Damascus, Syria's capital, on May 24. "Not everyone got a paper with the threat, but we knew. The choice was to convert, pay the jizya or get out."
A note and a bullet
Her husband, Jamal Antone Karoumy, 66, said one of his brothers got a note and a single bullet under his door. The note said, "If you don't pay the jizya to the resistance, you'll be killed."
Madeline Shukr Yusuf, 74, is still shaken by her recent escape to Damascus. She said she didn't have enough money to pay a monthly jizya of 250,000 Iraqis dinars, about $200. The insurgents were determined to collect their tax, she said.
"They wanted to kill me and take my gold bracelets," she said, tears filling her eyes at the memory. "They tell us pay or give a daughter in marriage to a fighter."
It's unclear when the threats against Christians began. But fear is palpable among them in Iraq today. On June 3, a priest was gunned down in Mosul with three companions after afternoon prayers. His body lay in the streets for hours. Another priest was kidnapped Wednesday in a Baghdad neighborhood.
Christians in the capital refuse to talk. At a church in Karada, a priest shooed away a McClatchy correspondent. Nearby, five black funeral banners graced with yellow crosses fluttered in the wind.
The relationship between Christians and Muslims has been complex. In the Middle Ages, Christian crusaders tried to capture Jerusalem from Muslim rule at least 10 times, and modern-day extremists still invoke those efforts in calling for jihad -- holy war -- to defend their faith.
Al Qaeda, which has killed thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, has also targeted Christians, whom Iraqis widely consider to be pacifists.
Still, early Muslims considered Christians, along with Jews, to be "people of the book," as Muslims refer to followers of other monotheistic religions, and believed that they were entitled to protection under Islamic rule, in exchange for the jizya. It was considered a substitute for the tax for the poor, the zakat, which Muslims pay annually.
In some cases, Christians who fought alongside Muslims were exempted from the jizya and shared in the spoils of war with Muslims.
Christians in Iraq
Iraq had long been home to thriving Christian communities, primarily Assyrian and Chaldean Catholics, who trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamia. Several of Saddam Hussein's closest confidants were Christian, including his foreign minister, Tariq Aziz. Christian communities were prominent in many major Iraqi cities, including Mosul, in the north, and Basra, in the south.
The Christian minority was estimated at 636,000 to 800,000 of Iraq's prewar population of 24 million.
Baghdad had major Christian enclaves in the central neighborhood of Karada, the eastern, mostly Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad and nearby al-Ghadir and the notorious Sunni-dominated Dora in the capital's south.
Many Christian Iraqis have fled the country, with at least 19,000 registered with the U.N. in Damascus alone. Ablahad Afram Sawa, a Christian Iraqi legislator, estimates that a half-million Christians have fled Iraq since 2004. He calls the exodus the worst oppression faced by Christians in nearly 2,000 years.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Guidebook For Taking a Life
We were in a small house in Zarqa, Jordan, trying to interview two heavily bearded Islamic militants about their distribution of recruitment videos when one of us asked one too many questions.
"He's American?" one of the militants growled. "Let's kidnap and kill him."
The room fell silent. But before anyone could act on this impulse, the rules of jihadi etiquette kicked in. You can't just slaughter a visitor, militants are taught by sympathetic Islamic scholars. You need permission from whoever arranges the meeting. And in this case, the arranger who helped us to meet this pair declined to sign off.
"He's my guest," Marwan Shehadeh, a Jordanian researcher, told the bearded men.
With Islamist violence brewing in various parts of the world, the set of rules that seek to guide and justify the killing that militants do is growing more complex.
This jihad etiquette is not written down, and for good reason. It varies as much in interpretation and practice as extremist groups vary in their goals. But the rules have some general themes that underlie actions ranging from the recent rash of suicide bombings in Algeria and Somalia, to the surge in beheadings and bombings by separatist Muslims in Thailand.
Some of these rules have deep roots in the Middle East, where, for example, the Egyptian Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi has argued it is fine to kill Israeli citizens because their compulsory military service means they are not truly civilians.
The war in Iraq is reshaping the etiquette, too. Suicide bombers from radical Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups have long been called martyrs, a locution that avoids the Koran's ban on killing oneself in favor of the honor it accords death in battle against infidels. Now some Sunni militants are urging the killing of Shiites, alleging that they are not true Muslims. If there seems to be no published playbook, there are informal rules, and these were gathered by interviewing militants and their leaders, Islamic clerics and scholars in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and England, along with government intelligence officials in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Islamic militants who embrace violence may account for a minuscule fraction of Muslims in the world, but they lay claim to the breadth of Islamic teachings in their efforts to justify their actions. "No jihadi will do any action until he is certain this action is morally acceptable," says Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident who runs a leading jihad Internet forum, Tajdeed.net, in London, where he now lives.
Here are six of the more striking jihadi tenets, as militant Islamists describe them:
Rule No. 1: You can kill bystanders without feeling a lot of guilt.
The Koran, as translated by the University of Southern California Muslim Student Association's Compendium of Muslim Texts, generally prohibits the slaying of innocents, as in Verse 33 in Chapter 17 (Isra', The Night Journey, Children of Israel): "Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause."
But the Koran also orders Muslims to resist oppression, as verses 190 and 191 of Chapter 2 (The Cow) instruct: "Fight in the cause of Allah with those who fight with you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. ..."
In the typical car bombing, some Islamists say, God will identify those who deserve to die — for example, anyone helping the enemy — and send them to hell. The other victims will go to paradise. "The innocent who is hurt, he won't suffer," Dr. Massari says. "He becomes a martyr himself." (and will the victim's family not suffer? what if the victim loses an arm or a leg and lives?)
There is one gray area. If you are a Muslim who has sinned, getting killed by a suicide bomber will clean some of your slate for Judgment Day, but precisely where God draws the line between those who go to heaven or hell is not spelled out.
Rule No. 2: You can kill children, too, without needing to feel distress. (unbelievable)
True, Islamic texts say it is unlawful to kill children, women, the old and the infirm. In the Sahih Bukhari, a respected collection of sermons and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, verse 4:52:257 refers to Ghazawat, a battle in which Muhammad took part. "Narrated Abdullah: During some of the Ghazawat of the Prophet a woman was found killed. Allah's Apostle disapproved the killing of women and children."
But militant Islamists including extremists in Jordan who embrace Al Qaeda's ideology teach recruits that children receive special consideration in death. They are not held accountable for any sins until puberty, and if they are killed in a jihad operation they will go straight to heaven. There, they will instantly age to their late 20s, and enjoy the same access to virgins and other benefits as martyrs receive.
Islamic militants are hardly alone in seeking to rationalize innocent deaths, says John O. Voll, a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University. "Whether you are talking about leftist radicals here in the 1960s, or the apologies for civilian collateral damage in Iraq that you get from the Pentagon, the argument is that if the action is just, the collateral damage is justifiable," he says.
Rule No. 3: Sometimes, you can single out civilians for killing; bankers are an example.
In principle, nonfighters cannot be targeted in a militant operation, Islamist scholars say. But the list of exceptions is long and growing.
Civilians can be killed in retribution for an enemy attack on Muslim civilians, argue some scholars like the Saudi cleric Abdullah bin Nasser al-Rashid, whose writings and those of other prominent Islamic scholars have been analyzed by the Combating Terrorism Center, a research group at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Shakir al-Abssi, whose Qaeda-minded group, Fatah Al Islam, has been fighting Lebanese soldiers since May 20, says some government officials are fair game. He was sentenced to death in Jordan for helping to organize the slaying of the American diplomat Laurence Foley in 2002, and said in an interview with The New York Times that while he did not specifically choose Mr. Foley to be killed, "Any person that comes to our region with a military, security or political aim, then he is a legitimate target."
Others like Atilla Ahmet, a 42-year-old Briton of Cypriot descent who is awaiting trial in England on terrorism charges, take a broader view. "It would be legitimate to attack banks because they charge interest, and this is in violation of Islamic law," Mr. Ahmet said last year.
Rule No. 4: You cannot kill in the country where you reside unless you were born there.
Militants living in a country that respects the rights of Muslims have something like a peace contract with the country, says Omar Bakri, a radical sheik who moved from London to Lebanon two years ago under pressure from British authorities.
Militants who go to Iraq get a pass as expeditionary warriors. And the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not violate this rule since the hijackers came from outside the United States, Mr. Bakri said.
"When I heard about the London bombings, I prayed that no bombers from Britain were involved," he said, fearing immigrants were responsible. As it turned out, the July 7, 2005, attack largely complied with this rule. Three of the four men who set off the bombs had been born in Britain; the fourth moved there from Jamaica as an infant.
Mr. Bakri says he does not condone violence against innocent people anywhere. But some of the several hundred young men who studied Islam with him say they have no such qualms.
"We have a voting system here in Britain, so anyone who is voting for Tony Blair is not a civilian and therefore would be a legitimate target," says Khalid Kelly, an Irish-born Islamic convert who says he studied with Mr. Bakri in London.
Rule No. 5: You can lie or hide your religion if you do this for jihad.
Muslims are instructed by the Koran to be true to their religion. "Therefore stand firm (in the straight Path) as thou art commanded, thou and those who with thee turn (unto Allah), and transgress not (from the Path), for He seeth well all that you do," says verse 112 of Chapter 11 (Hud). Lying is allowed only when it is deemed a necessity, for example when being tortured, or when an innocuous deception serves a good purpose, scholars say.
But some militants appear to shirk this rule to blend in with non-Muslim surroundings or deflect suspicion, says Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, the general director of Lebanon's internal security force who oversaw a surveillance last year of a Lebanese man suspected of plotting to blow up the PATH train under the Hudson River.
"We thought the story couldn't be true, especially when we followed this young man," General Rifi said. "He was going out, drinking, chasing girls, drove a red MG." But he says the man, who is now awaiting trial in Lebanon, confessed, and Mr. Rifi recalled that the Sept. 11 hijacker who came from Lebanon frequented discos in Beirut.
Mr. Voll takes a different view of the playboy-turned-militant phenomenon. He says the Sept. 11 hijackers might simply have been "guys who enjoyed a good drink" and that militant leaders may be seeking to do a "post facto scrubbing up of their image" by portraying sins as a ruse.
Rule No. 6. You may need to ask your parents for their consent.
Militant Islamists interpret the Koran and the separate teachings of Muhammad that are known as the Sunna as laying out five criteria to be met by people wanting to be jihadis. They must be Muslim, at least 15 and mature, of sound mind, debt free and have parental permission.
The parental rule is currently waived inside Iraq, where Islamists say it is every Muslim's duty to fight the Americans, Dr. Massari says. It is optional for residents of nearby countries, like Jordan.
In Zarqa, Jordan, the 24-year-old Abu Ibrahim says he is waiting for another chance to be a jihadi after Syrian officials caught him in the fall heading to Iraq. (kudos to Syrian officials) He is taking the parental rule one step further, he said. His family is arranging for him to marry, and he feels obligated to disclose his jihad plans to any potential bride. (how considerate of him)
"I will inform my future wife of course about my plans, and I hope that, God willing, she might join me," he said.
Yes and this is why I will never forgive the sectarian scum of the Earth Shi'a that joined forces with the U.S. and which resulted in the death of my family members. Will never forgive or forget what these traitors have done and those scum suckers deserve anything that is happening to them. And I have a big problem with American soldiers walking the streets of Baghdad. Iraqi Mojo does not speak with any authority for any Iraqi. He is a disgrace to even the Shi'a their, I am sure of it. This kind of man speaks with no dignity as he opens his doors for the Americans, he will even offer his mother to the soldiers so they feel like they are at there own homes. Iraqi American you should dissolve this blog and begin your knew blogging life with Jeffrey in New York you have more in common with him that you do with any Iraqi whether Shia or Sunni. You are the joke of all the Iraqi blogs. People witness you from one blog to the next leaving your dummy comments and the people email back and forth about how stupid you are. You are like a stupid joke that even all the Shi'a make a mockery of. If you dont beleive me ask your Iraqi "freinds" bwahawawahha
So the ordinary Iraqi Shi'a deserve to be murdered because Shi'a like Ahmad Chalabi joined forces with the US. I have noticed (based on comments on other blogs) that many Sunni Arabs feel this way, unfortunately. For 24 years, as Saddam's regime mass murdered Iraqi Shi'a and Kurds (and many good Sunni Arabs!) the Iraqi Shi'a and Kurds never blamed the ordinary Sunni Arabs of Iraq for the crimes Saddam and his henchmen committed. The Iraqi Shi'a and Kurds never bombed a marketplace in a Sunni Arab neighborhood. During Saddam's rule, no Iraqi Shi'a ever stormed into a Sunni Arab's home, dragged the men from their rooms and murdered them for being Sunni.
Today another gentleman (yikes!) left this comment for the same post:
Iraqi American is so far from reality he is still in the Iraq-under-saddam mindset. He is truly a JOKE in the blogosphere. The only ones who come here are right wing Americans.
MOJo has an obvious obsession with Saddam, eventhough he is dead. ARAB IRAQIS distance themselves from the Mojo clown, who can hardly speak or write Arabic.
MARK MY WORDS: THE AMERICANS WILL STAY IN IRAQ FOR ANOTHER 50 YEARS MINIMUM. They dont build the biggest embassy in the world there for no reason.
This will all backfire:
Israel and America will never allow Iran to have the nuclear weapon, and therefore Iran will be wiped out in less than 2 years. The time is ticking.
When Ahmedenijad is beheaded along with Ayatollah Sistani I will be the FIRST to be cheering on the streets.
Where do I sign up for the American army? I would LOVE to destroy Iran and behead Sistani. Dont worry, I will "liberate" Iran.
My response to Ahamad:
"Iraqi American is so far from reality he is still in the Iraq-under-saddam mindset."
Iraq is being terrorized by the people who LOVED Saddam and the Al Qaeda scum buckets who seek to destroy any hope for democracy in Iraq. Saddam was a piece of shit, and so are the people who love(d) him. So are the Wahhabi scum of earth who believe that Shi'a are infidels and deserve to be murdered.
"The only ones who come here are right wing Americans."
Except you are here, ghebby. Your friend haidar was here yesterday.
"MOJo has an obvious obsession with Saddam, eventhough he is dead."
Saddam and his filthy henchmen are responsible for the murder of my relatives and my families' friends. They are responsible for aiding Al Qaeda after 2003. I do not expect terrorist sympathizers like you and haidar to understand.
"ARAB IRAQIS distance themselves from the Mojo clown, who can hardly speak or write Arabic."
LOL, you mean Arab Iraqis who LOVE Saddam and the 'resistance' distance themselves from Mojo. Except you are here commenting on my blog. Is this how you 'distance' yourself from me??
"MARK MY WORDS: THE AMERICANS WILL STAY IN IRAQ FOR ANOTHER 50 YEARS MINIMUM."
If terrorist scum continue to mass murder Iraqis, you may be right - US troops may stay in Iraq for decades - mark MY words! So if you don't want to see so many US troops in Iraq, perhaps you should encourage your terrorist heroes to stop murdering innocent Iraqis so that American troops can leave Iraq.
"They dont build the biggest embassy in the world there for no reason."
America has embassies in almost every country in the world. Why aren't you slamming Qataris for hosting the United States Central Command? Why don't we see marketplaces in Doha being bombed??
The hypocrisy of Arabs like Ahmad is really quite astounding:
"Israel and America will never allow Iran to have the nuclear weapon, and therefore Iran will be wiped out in less than 2 years. The time is ticking."
Iran wiped out? I don't think so. Maybe the US will eventually overthrow the fundie regime, but wipe out Iran? Perhaps this is what you wish.
'When Ahmedenijad is beheaded along with Ayatollah Sistani I will be the FIRST to be cheering on the streets.
Where do I sign up for the American army? I would LOVE to destroy Iran and behead Sistani. Dont worry, I will "liberate" Iran.'
It really is amazing how stupid people like Ahmad are. REALLY AMAZING. In case you haven't noticed, ghebby, the Americans respect Sistani, unlike so many Sunni Arabs! But it doesn't surprise me that you'd want to behead Sistani.
Perhaps most interesting is that both Ahmad and haidar are living in (or at least blogging from) western countries. Ahmad is in Canada and haidar is in California.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
So this is what has befallen the Shi'a in places like Amriya. Amriya is the same district where my grandparents owned a house, and where another distant relative of mine was murdered in January 2006, presumably for being a translator for the Americans - I wrote about that story too. The people who murder Shi'a just for being Shi'a must be the Wahhabi scum from outside Iraq - I cannot imagine that even Ba'thists would commit these kinds of crimes. But even if the murderers are non-Iraqi Wahhabis, they could not have known where the Shi'a live in Baghdad without the help of locals, so the Iraqi Ba'thists are at least accomplices in these crimes. I cannot fathom how the Iraqi Shi'a can reconcile with Iraqis who have aided Al Qaeda in their pursuit to murder Shi'a.
Whenever I had a bad fever as a child, I had trouble sleeping - I would always wake up from a recurring nightmare in which I imagined enraged human beings killing each other in horrible ways. This nightmare was accompanied by the scariest feelings, as if the world was going to end soon. At 3 am this morning I woke up from this same nightmare and had these scary feelings. I kept thinking about Khala Fawziya and this war that has torn Iraq apart. Even after the Wahhabi murderous scum are driven out of Iraq, I cannot imagine how the Iraqi Shi'a can live peacefully with the hardcore Ba'thists - I'm afraid it's impossible after all that's happened.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Iraq’s Curse: A Thirst for Final, Crushing Victory
By EDWARD WONG
Published: June 3, 2007
PERHAPS no fact is more revealing about Iraq’s history than this: The Iraqis have a word that means to utterly defeat and humiliate someone by dragging his corpse through the streets.
The word is “sahel,” and it helps explain much of what I have seen in three and a half years of covering the war.
It is a word unique to Iraq, my friend Razzaq explained over tea one afternoon on my final tour. Throughout Iraq’s history, he said, power has changed hands only through extreme violence, when a leader was vanquished absolutely, and his destruction was put on display for all to see.
Most famously it happened to a former prime minister, Nuri al-Said, who tried to flee after a military coup in 1958 by scurrying through eastern Baghdad dressed as a woman. He was shot dead. His body was disinterred and hacked apart, the bits dragged through the streets. In later years, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party crushed their enemies with the same brand of brutality.
“Other Arabs say, ‘You are the country of sahel,’ ” Razzaq said. “It has always been that way in Iraq.”
But in this war, the moment of sahel has been elusive. No faction — not the Shiite Arabs or Sunni Arabs or Kurds — has been able to secure absolute power, and that has only sharpened the hunger for it.
Listen to Iraqis engaged in the fight, and you realize they are far from exhausted by the war. Many say this is only the beginning.
President Bush, on the other hand, has escalated the American military involvement here on the assumption that the Iraqi factions have tired of armed conflict and are ready to reach a grand accord. Certainly there are Iraqis who have grown weary. But they are not the ones at the country’s helm; many are among some two million who have fled, helping leave the way open for extremists to take control of their homeland.
“We’ve changed nothing,” said Fakhri al-Qaisi, a Sunni Arab dentist turned hard-line politician who has three bullets lodged in his torso from a recent assassination attempt. “It’s dark. There will be more blood.”
I first met Mr. Qaisi in 2003 at a Salafi mosque in western Baghdad, when the Sunni Arab insurgency was gaining momentum. He articulated the Sunnis’ simmering anger at being ousted from power. That fury has blossomed and is likely only to grow, as religious Shiite leaders and their militias become more entrenched in the government and as Kurds in the north push to expand their region and secede in all but name.
Caught in the middle of the civil war are the Americans. To Iraq’s factions, they are the weakest of all the armed groups in one crucial respect: their will is ebbing and their time here is limited. That leaves Iraqis more motivated than ever to cling to their weapons, preparing for what many see as an inevitable plunge into the abyss.
“Everyone — the Sunni, the Shia — is playing the waiting game,” an Iraqi leader told me over dinner at his home in the Green Zone. “They’re waiting out the Americans. Everyone is using time against you.”
Much seemed different in April 2003, when the Americans pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square and allowed Iraqis to drag it through the streets. It looked like an act of sahel at the time, but the Americans failed to establish total control, as Iraqi history says a conqueror must.
Four years on, Sunni and Shiite attacks against the Americans are expanding. There is little love among Iraqi civilians for the troops, though many fear the anarchy that could follow an American withdrawal.
“I’m still sticking by my principle, which is against the occupation,” Mr. Qaisi said in an interview here while visiting from his new home in Tikrit. “I’m Iraqi, and I think the Iraqi people should have this principle. We have the right to defend our country as George Washington did.”
As long as I have known him, Mr. Qaisi has rejected the idea that the Sunni Arabs are the minority in this country. To him and many other Sunni Arabs, the borders of Iraq do not delineate the boundaries of the war. The conflict is set, instead, against the backdrop of the entire Islamic world, in which demography and history have always favored the Sunnis. That sense of entitlement is fed by the notion that Iraq’s Shiite Arabs are just proxies for Iran’s Persian rulers.
For the Shiites, who make up 60 percent of Iraqis, the unalloyed hostility of the Sunni Arabs only reinforces a centuries-old sense of victimhood. So the Shiite militias grow, stoking vengeance. Through force of arms, and backed by the Americans and Iran, the religious Shiites intend to dominate the country entirely, taking what they believe was stripped from them when their revered leader Hussein was murdered in the desert of seventh-century Mesopotamia.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Ali al-Wardi is often considered the 'Godfather' of Iraqi sociology, A secular-styled writer of Shiite lineage, al-Wardi has written what many considered to be the definitive books on the history of Iraq and the psychology of its unfortunate inhabitants. His neutrality, which rejected both Marxist communism and Pan-Arab nationalism (the two major sparring factions at the time) put him at great troubles. I have long searched for his books and by a stroke of luck managed to find them online. I have been reading in this book 'Glimpses' for quite a while, in the following series of posts I am going to translate what I felt is relevant and crucial for those who want to understand why is this going on in Iraq. This book was published in 1951, but it didn't take it long for me to be dumbfounded by how little we progressed, and how much we stepped back. Take a look and see for yourself. al-Wardi, like my least favorite bloggers Iraq The Model unfortunately agree with me, is a must-read for anyone who even thinks of breaking it into understanding Iraq. This is for all the people who think 'Iraq' is still related to those distant civillizations we like to trumpet every now and other: The Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadains, even our own Islamic civillizations of Kufa, and Harun al-Rashid's Abbasid Baghdad, have nothing to do with the Ottoman-Saffavid foundations this bastard Iraq was built upon.
al-Wardi explains that Iraq has basically always been a protectorate of the Ottamans (Sunni) and Iran (Shii), and that ever since the Persian Saffavid dynasty, Iraq has been the "grounds for violent clashes between the Iranian and Ottoman states, something that will last for three centuries. From here the famous Iraqi saying: “be nil ajam wil room balwa ibtilayna” (Between the Ajam (Persians) and Room (Turks) we fell into tragedy)..." It's a very interesting read and explains a lot about the history of sectarian tensions in Iraq. Until I read Kid's post, I had never thought of the sectarian conflict in Iraq as being a proxy war between the Ottomans and Persia. I wonder if al-Wardi were alive today he would agree that Saudi Arabia has replaced the Ottomans as the primary protectors of Sunnism in Iraq. Thank you, Kid, for translating al-Wardi's work. I look forward to reading more.
Iraq government orders arrest of oil workers' leaders
WASHINGTON - JUNE 6 - Iraq’s powerful oil workers’ trade union today expressed alarm as an arrest warrant was issued for its leaders, in an attempt to clamp down on industrial action.
Members of the union have been on strike since Monday 4th June, in protest at the government’s failure to meet any of its promises made in a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on 16th May. The union’s 16 demands included improvements to wages, health and other working and living conditions as well as consultation on the proposed oil law, which the union opposes. The union added a 17th demand yesterday demanding the sacking of the General Manager of the Southern Pipeline Company.
On Tuesday, al-Maliki warned that he would meet threats to oil production “with an iron fist”.
The arrest warrant, based on a charge of “sabotaging the economy” specifically names Hassan Juma’a Awad, the leader of the 26,000-strong Federation of Oil Unions, and three other leaders of the Federation.
Hassan Juma’a commented, “the government is intimidating the union but we are determined to gain our legitimate rights.” He added that the strike would continue in accordance with the union’s plan.
The strike entered its third day today and is in its “second phase,” which now includes the closure of the main distribution pipelines, including supplies to Baghdad. “Phase one” closed some of the smaller distribution pipelines. Phases one and two did not include production and exports.
The union is calling on all its supporters and unions across the world to back the union at this critical juncture. Sami Ramadani from the union’s UK-based support committee, Naftana said: “Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the oil workers’ leaders is an outrageous attack on trade union and democratic freedoms.”
Naftana is an independent UK-based committee supporting democratic trade unionism in Iraq. It works in solidarity with the IFOU. It strives to publicize the union’s struggle for Iraqi social and economic rights and its stand against the privatisation of Iraqi oil demanded by the occupying powers. For more information see the IFOU’s website www.basraoilunion.org