Monday, February 19, 2007

War Away from War

Two Iraqis currently living in New York write about their experience away from home.

The first, my friend and colleague Ayub Nuri, writes an op-ed in the New York Times about haunting memories and nightmares from Iraq. And another by Sarmad Ali, an Iraqi journalist working for the Wall Street Journal, about missing family members thousands of miles away in Baghdad.

I am often asked here how it feels to be an Iraqi in New York, and I was even considering writing a piece about it, but I think the above two articles perfectly sum up my feelings and, I'm sure, the feelings of hundreds of thousands of other Iraqi exiles.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Scenes from Baghdad

A view of the dozens of corpses lying in the streets of Baghdad, often for weeks. These scenes of Iraq's civil war have become such a daily part of people's lives so much that they don't bother to remove the bodies. Those were taken in Adhamiya a month ago and the victims were judged as "strangers" or "spies" before they were shot and thrown with the garbage in the street. People in the neighbourhood just covered them with blankets and moved on. Those bodies are rarely counted in the daily death toll, and when they are counted they're just "unknown corpses."

I was told that this man's decomposing corpse was eaten by dogs, and that only his head was left. My friend sent me the photo but it's too graphic to post here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kid's latest post is a crude but powerful read. The state of affairs in Iraq today, or maybe the state of Kid's mind at the moment.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Iraq that was

Iraq in photos, courtesy of Laith at From Baghdad to New York, who is also working on the upcoming online Iraqi encyclopedia WikIraqi. (Music is by the pre-eminent late Iraqi musician Munir Bashir).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Al-Hassan Denies Involvement in Najaf

A statement published on Al-Mahdiyoun's website, signed by Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi in Iraq denies any involvement in the events at Najaf. The statement strongly criticises media outlets and "false clerics" for slandering Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan Al-Basri, who claims to be Al-Yemani, the vanguard and the descendant of the Imam Al-Mahdi.

Statement from Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi in IraqStatement from Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi in IraqI can only conclude that Ahmed Al-Hassan is alive and was not the leader killed by Iraqi and U.S. troops Sunday, whose photos are below.

Here is the full text of the statement (my translation):
Statement in response to media outlets and the Iraqi government

In the name of Allah, the One, the Subjugator.
Peace be upon Allah and His worshippers, embraced with His mercy and blessings.
May Allah curse the infidels, who deny His messengers and their vanguards.

Over the last two days, media outlets have waged a vicious campaign to slander the image of Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan, some intentionally, and some out of ignorance by reporting unsubstantiated news. They have attributed this movement that appeared in Najaf to Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan (peace be upon him), while the Sayyid is not affiliated with them. We say this to all who are uninformed about the truth:

Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan is the vanguard and the messenger of Imam Al-Mahdi (may Allah empower him and his children), and he is the promised Al-Yemani, and he is the one mentioned in the testament of the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), in which he mentioned the imams of Ahl Al-Bait in name. The descendants of Mohammed (peace be upon them) have all mentioned him in name and description on several occasions, and they have heralded his appearance, as the Ansar Al-Mahdi have detailed in their publications. But these allegations are meant to strike the message of Allah and the message of the prophets brought by Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan at the request of his father the Imam Al-Mahdi. “They plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters.” (Anfal: 30)

The truth is clear for those who seek it. The leader of this movement, Jund Al-Samaa’, also according to media outlets, is Ali bin Ali bin Abi Talib, the author of the Qadhi Al-Samaa’ book, in which he claimed that the Imam Al-Mahdi (Mohammed bin Al-Hassan Al-Askari) is a myth created by the Shia, and that Imam Al-Askari (peace be upon him) was impotent. [He claimed] that he is the promised Al-Mahdi and that he was born mysteriously, along with countless claims he made in the mentioned book. Also, he is uncertain about his ancestry and his area, whereas Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan is the offspring of Imam Al-Mahdi and is from Basrah, as the descendants of Mohammed (peace be upon him) have foreseen.

Moreover, his mission is secret and unannounced, while we find that Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan has been preaching openly to the public and to jurists. In fact, Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan’s mission dates back three years before the throne of the tyrant Saddam fell as a reformer of the Hawza of holy Najaf and the messenger of Imam Al-Mahdi (peace be upon him), and it continues to this day. He has challenged the jurists of the three main religions (Islamic in the Quran, Christian in the Bible, and Jewish in the Torah) with all their subdivisions to prove his message from Imam Al-Mahdi to Muslims; from the prophet of Allah, Jesus, to the Christians; and from the prophet of Allah, Elijah, to the Jews. The Sayyid has called on them for debate but they have not responded.

The question remains, though: Why this media escalation against Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan? Why the distortion of the facts? To answer this question it should be known that there are multiple motives. On the part of some satellite channels owned by certain clerics, their aim is to slander Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan to repel people from listening to him and learning the truth about false clerics and their vile conspiracies and falsehoods. On the other hand, some media outlets are loyal to the American tyranny and the Iraqi government, since all supreme clerics in Najaf have issued fatwas legitimising the American occupation one way or another (such as the illegitimacy of Jihad against Americans, or endorsing the American elections in Iraq and the American constitution, etc.), while we find that Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan has mandated Jihad against the Americans and their lackeys, and you can find the statement on the Internet issued by the Sayyid on the day occupying forces entered Iraq, on 15 Dhu Al-Qi’da, 1424 A.H.

As to the Iraqi government, it serves its American masters and has an interest in this escalation against Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan and his followers in order to cover up its repulsive actions on 1 Muharram by destroying the Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi Husseiniya in holy Najaf, and then plundering and burning it. As well as the burning of the “Pledge to Allah” banner and the banners bearing the names of Allah, the Prophet and the pure Imams (peace be upon them), the arrest of the honourable Sayyid Hassan Al-Hamami – the son of Shi’ite cleric Sayyid Mohammed Ali Al-Hamami – and many followers of the Imam Al-Mahdi (peace be upon him), for no reason, just because they said, “our pledge is to Allah, and our constitution is the Quran.” This action was not the first; it was preceded by the demolishing of the Najaf Al-Ashraf Husseiniya and the arrest of followers, the attack against the Amara and holy Karbala husseiniyas, and the husseiniya in Baghdad before that, the arrest of followers, and many, many other provocative actions.

In order to silence the Ansar and free media outlets, they have to slander Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan so that his words would not be taken seriously. It is not a surprise that these despicable satellite channels would go along. It would be surprising if they stood for truth.

But other satellite channels have no interest or affiliation with the Iraqi government, but they clapped along with everyone else. They should report the attacks against husseiniyas, the detention of the Ansar and Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hamami, instead of broadcasting false news without corroboration from the offices of the Sayyid, which are all over Iraq. It would have taken less than an hour to inquire. The Ansar radio station also broadcasts day and night over the Internet, and the truth can be discerned from it.

In the end, we say to all that it is only a matter of days. If [rule] lasted for someone else, it would not have reached you. We are for Allah and to Him we will return. Those who have wronged the descendants of Mohammed (peace be upon them) will come to know by what a (great) reverse they will be overturned.

Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi in Iraq
10 Muharram, 1428 A.H.

This account by two LA Times correspondents who visited Zarga in Najaf has probably the best description so far of the compound and the fighters.

Regarding the author of the Qadhi Al-Samaa' book, Al-Arabiya TV reported ten days ago that unknown groups were distributing this book by an unknown man who claims to be Al-Mahdi and a descendant of Ali bin Abi Talib in Diwaniya and other southern Iraqi cities. The book has the photo of the so-called Dhiyaa' Abdul Zahra, whose posters were found at the orchard in Zarga, on its cover. No other details are known about the author, but it seems that the Iraqi government and even informed Shi'ite clerics have confused him with Ahmed Al-Hassan (who denies writing the book as his statement above makes it clear), while the media confused them both with Mohammed Al-Hassani Al-Sarkhi. The details remain murky and the government has not disclosed how it discovered that the group was plotting to attack pilgrims or to kill senior Shi'ite clerics in Najaf. But it's interesting to hear the telling detail that local police officers said they did not move against the group at first because they thought they were the Mahdi Army.

UPDATE: Read my latest column at Iraq Slogger for the Najaf governor's recent statement.

UPDATE: Another account of the Najaf battle, based on interiews with some members of the Hawatim tribe.

Aswat Al-Iraq News Agency just reported that Iraqi police raided offices at the town of Hayy, south of Kut in the Wasit Governorate, suspected to belong to the Jund Al-Samaa' movement. No one was found at the offices but several documents were confiscated. Colonel Abbas Al-Jubouri, commander of the Scorpion Brigade of the Interior Ministry in the nearby Babil Governorate, which took part in the Najaf operation last Sunday, had stated that interrogation of the detained members of the group indicate that the majority of those killed in the operation were from Diwaniya, Hilla and Kut, and the rest were from Samawa, Nasiriya, Amara, Basrah, Najaf and Karbala.

UPDATE: A biography of Sayyid Ahmed Al-Hassan, as posted on the forums on his website:

- Born in Basrah, Iraq.
- Graduate of the Civil Engineering Department, Engineering College, Basrah University.
- Studied at the Hawza (religious seminary) of Najaf.
- The Imam Al-Mahdi sent him to reform the Hawza in Najaf five years ago, and he has carried out practical, scientific and economic reform in the Hawza and in society.
- Since the Hawza does not offer Quran studies, he taught the Quran there and the cause of Imam Al-Mahdi (peace be upon him).
- After the infidel Saddam Hussein defiled the holy Quran when he ordered it to be written in his blood, Al-Hassan publicly stated that Saddam did that to curry favour with Satan. He was chased by the infidel forces of Saddam because of this statement. Al-Hassan was the only cleric in Najaf to strongly protest that, and he said that Saddam made his death wish and the end of his rule when he wrote the Quran with his najis (impure) blood. He also condemned the clerics of Najaf and Muslims in general for remaining silent over this abominable act of the infidel Saddam.
- The Hawza had abandoned its role in preaching virtue and preventing vice, in addition to caring about the public's affairs. Al-Hassan called for taking care of the public's personal and religious affairs and for lifting injustice against them.
- He was responsible for what was termed the revolution against financial corruption in the Hawza, and he was supported in this by many Hawza students. He once entered the office of an aide to one of the supreme clerics with over 30 students and demanded that he tell the cleric to reform. He also sent students to supreme clerics to demand that they put an end to financial corruption in their dealings, by wasting monies on their aides and agents while leaving orphans and widow starving in poverty.
- Three years ago, under the rule of the tyrant Saddam Hussein, he declared himself the messenger of the Imam Al-Mahdi (peace be upon him) and, as a result, he was sought by Saddam's infidel forces. He was miraculously saved by Allah from the hands of the tyrant, and he is now preaching for the support and the empowerment of Imam Al-Mahdi (peace be upon him).