Saturday, October 18, 2003

Muqtada Al-Sadr

You might have heard of this guy before from Salam or Riverbend. He is a rising young ambitious fanatic Shi'ite cleric from Najaf. His father Mohammad Sadiq Al-Sadr was assasinated by Mukhabarat agents 4 years ago, which caused some fuss by his supporters in Saddam city back then. Saddam city (now Al-Sadr city) is a large poor neighbourhood in northeastern Baghdad inhabited by 2.5-3 million Shi'ites. Riverbend accurately described it as the city's slums. It is Baghdad's Harlem. No one from another neighbourhood would dare venture into that area. I have been there only twice in my lifetime, though it is only a 10 minute drive away from where I live. They were responsible for %80 of the lootings in the city. And now they are responsible for %80 of the crimes, armed robberies, and car hijacking these days. they are armed to the teeth. All of the capital's power generators which were used in governmental, presidental, and industrial facilities ended up there one way or another.
I'm sure the unrest that Baghdad is witnessing today will simply end if the Americans and Iraqi police would surround and extensively search that neighbourhood. They wouldn't believe what surprises would be waiting for them if they did. But the Americans won't listen. They fear they would invoke a revolt. They have good reason to think so. Especially since they have been attacked over there with no apparent reason, and because its clerics have stated it as a 'holy city', although there isn't anything there that would be regarded 'holy'. I'm suspecting its more because they wouldn't want the Americans finding out whatever dirty tricks they're planning there. But something should be done. Maybe the Americans could send in a large force of Iraqi police along with the new Civil Defence Army.

Al-Sadr has recently declared the city as 'American free'. And claimed that he wouldn't be responsible for any attacks against Americans if they entered that area. But he IS responsible for the most anti-American/western rhetoric we have ever heard since Khomeini. Their 'fatwas' are always so fun to listen to. One of these fatwas stated that unveiled women were prohibited to enter 'their' city and might 'face extreme punishment' if they did. Some of their earlier fatwas following the war warned cinema owners and booze shops to close within a week or face the consequences. Many violent attacks against both followed and are still to this day. Another fatwa warned CD and video rental shops to close,..etc. You get the picture.

What is troubling us is that Al-Sadr regards himself as a 'legitimate' leader of the Iraqi people. He keeps blabbering daily that he is more legitimate than the Governing Council, and that the Americans should leave Iraq immediately so he can have his way. He announced a few days ago a 'shadow government' without disclosing its members names, with himself as head of it. He said that the government would include ministries that were not included in the Governing Council's cabinet such as Defence, Information, and Religous Affairs ministries.

The problem is he is too young to be making such a fuss, he is 21 or 22. And he receives instructions from Kazim Al-Ha'iri who lives in -of all places Iran. Kazim Al-Ha'iri issued the 'deadly fatwa' a few months ago that calls for all Iraqis to kill any foreigners, especially jewish intending to buy property in Iraq. Thats just so wonderful, sitting in Iran and telling us what to do in OUR country.

Back to Al-Sadr. He speaks Arabic with an Iranian accent. And I'm sure he was living in Iran before the war, simply because we never heard of him before. Another problem is that he has formed an armed militia called 'Jaish Al-Mahdi' or Al-Mahdi's Army, they dress in black, and wear bands on their foreheads, and have creepy resemblance to Saddam's Fedayeen. I can spot a tyrannt miles away. And this is one. Many moderate Shi'ites accuse him of being responsible for Abdul Majid Al-Khui's assasination in Najaf during the war. And some even go far to accuse him of being behind the Najaf bombing which took 120 innocent lives. A few days ago, a fight broke out in Najaf between his militia and Al-Sistani's followers (Al-Sistani is a widely respected Iranian Iraqi cleric at Najaf). Al-Sadr militants were trying to take over the two holy shrines in the city, so they could use their profits in financing Al-Mahdi's Army. But they were surrounded in a mosque and other parties and clerics from the city intervened to cease the fighting. I heard that at least ten people were dead that day.

I saw those Al-Sadr militants marching along to the Kazimain shrine in Kazimiya a few weeks ago on the anniversary of Al-Kazim's death 1300 years ago! They looked deadly. They were armed and marching along the tens of thousands of Shi'ites who poured from all over Iraq to this shrine. They walk for days because somehow they think they would be rewarded more by Allah if they did it this way. They beat on their chests all the time while they walk and lament the poor Kazim for dying centuries ago. I'm sure everyone has seen them do that on tv. Don't get me wrong, I don't care whatever they believe in, and if they want to beat their chests, I'd be happy to accomodate them and supply them with chains and whips to do that, but the problem is that they want to force their belief on all Iraqis. And they are content just to be able to practice their beliefs, and to hell with everything else that is going on in this country. I blame Saddam. If he would have let them do whatever they pleased in the past, they wouldn't be so passionate about it now.

I just need someone to tell me why the Americans aren't doing anything about this guy? I understand that they are trying to avoid religious figures but he is dangerous and needs to be shut up, so that no one in the new Iraq would be giving us this bullsh*t again. No one wants to replace a dictatorial secular government with a tyrannical religious one, with Iranian-like Mullahs ruling us and telling us how to live so Allah would be proud of us.
Are you listening Mr. Bremer?