Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Govt continuing its harrassment of Mahdists. Some point the finger at politics, economic conditions, and indiscriminate-force policing

Al-Hayat had some news yesterday on the Mahdist movement.

(1) The spiritual leader of the Fadhila Party (breakaway/sibling of the Sadrist movement), Mohamed Jacoubi blamed politicians for the recent Mahdist activities (referring apparently to this year's happenings with the Adherents of the Mahdi and also last year's with the Army of Heaven). He said politicians have been covering their failures by invoking the name of the Najaf Shiite religious hierarchy, and this backfired by giving the groups a broad opportunity to stir their membership up against the Najaf authorities. (Anticlericalism and direct access to divine knowledge being one of the main tenets of these groups, so the politicians did the worst thing possible when they pointed the finger at these religious-intermediaries as also connected with the (corrupt) government).

(2) A police/army campaign of arrests has started in the town of Khalas in Diyala province, east of Baghdad, against members of yet another Mahdist group, this one calling itself Adherents of the Imam Rabbani. (The leader's name is Fadhil al-Marsumi. He is one of those mentioned in a recent rundown by a researcher summarized by Voices of Iraq a couple of weeks ago). Twenty-eight of its members have been arrested so far. As the researcher noted in that article, one of their special tenets of this "new" group is that "there is a new Mohammed for each age", and for the current age the Mohammed is Marsumi himself. The Al-Hayat reporter says "authorities" compared the Army of Heaven, the Adherents of the Mahdi, and this latest group, but all he tells us is that they said they all have similar beliefs.

(3) The Al-Hayat reporter says the religious establishment is studying the emergence of these groups in an attempt to explain them. The government, for its part, blames "countries in the region and their intelligence agencies" for supporting these groups (recall that the Supreme Council website purported to tell the whole story of the Adherents of the Mahdi, naming Baathist intelligence in the pre-2003 period, and naming in particular the UAE as leading the Gulf-states support for the group in the more recent period; same link as for the above VOI piece). More independent researchers, on the other hand, tend to stress social, political and economic factors as providing the conditions for the rise of groups like these, and one of them pointed out that "the use of plenary power to try and curb these groups perhaps only helps expand the range of their activities."

(4) All of which reminded the reporter to ask the Diwaniya governor about the recent Human Rights report (by an Iraqi parliamentary committee) that called attention in detail to human rights abuses in prisons in his governate and elsewhere in the South. (Recall that the Adherents of the Mahdi website, before it went dead, published statements accusing the government not only of arbitrary arrests, but also of torture). The governor, the reporter tells us, "expressed his lack of agreement with the report". Period.


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