Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sadrists outraged

As if to make it clear how important elections are, the Iraqi government forces, as has been widely reported, yesterday "arrested" the head of the Maysan provincial council, and two other council members, and broke into the home of the provincial governor, "arresting" 30 of his security people. All are members of the Sadr trend. No reasons were given for any of these "arrests".

Naturally, the question arises what role this operation is thought to be playing in the ongoing process of national reconciliation. Official reactions, for instance from Sadr spokesman Obeidi, were naturally critical and pointed out that there was an earlier promise by Maliki not to arrest people just for belonging to the Sadrist trend.

Non-official reactions were more demonstrative, and one can see in them signs of a very understandable feeling of sectarian persecution, and its result, sectarian anger. Here's what Nahrainnet said in its sidebar to its Maysan story today, under a picture of blindfolded and handcuffed prisoners:
At a time when thousands of prisoners are being released from American and government prisons, most of them having been accused of being followers of the dissolved prior regime or cooperators with tafkiiri and terrorist organizations--at this time the government with the support of the American forces is undertaking to arrest hundreds of members of the Sadr trend and members of the Mahdi Army in Maysan province, having before that arrested thousands in Basra and Baghdad and Diwaniya and Kut and Karbala. Now is this National Reconciliation? Is this the winding-up of the de-Baathification law in real terms?

Is this the reward for the faithful who withstood the oppression of Saddam for decades, only to now face the oppression of those who rule in their own name...
The accompanying article points out that some of those arrested are the very people who had arranged for a smooth and problem-free entry of the government forces to the province, on the promise that the operation would be non-sectarian.

The theme of treachery is taken up by another Sadrist news-site, which posts a picture of a Sadr City demonstration apparently from 2006, where pictures of Adbulaziz al-Hakim and Ibrahim al-Jaafari are raised along with those of the elder Sadr, the caption reading: "this was not so long ago", and the text pointing to the Sadrists' role in elevating Maliki and his supporters to power, but no sooner had they attained power than they turned on the Sadrists, and "sold them to the occupation," a betrayal that calls to the writer's mind that of Abd al Rahman ibn Muljam, the murderer of Ali bin Abi Talib in the early days of Islam. I would quote more from this piece, and I would stress its importance as another sign of the hardening of feelings in the Sadrist street as a result of the continuation of this now blatantly sectarian "law-enforcement" campaign. I would also like to call attention to the latent contempt that is implied by the absence of any indication of this Sadrist outrage from American news and commentary. But I would risk being called up again before the Disciplinary Committee on civil discourse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sad indeed. i guess it is an improvement over the airbomb campaign.

6:41 PM  
Blogger JoshSN said...

Thanks for the efforts to counter MEMRI.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Badger, can you explain your use of the term sectarian in this context, particularly since it involves Shi`as going after Shi`as? It seems to me it is purely political and not sectarian at all. Am I missing something?

11:00 AM  
Blogger badger said...

On the Shi'a versus Shi'a side (the government parties persecuting the Sadr trend) I was just using sloppy language, and you're right, that part of it isn't "sectarian" in the "religious sect" sense, but purely group-based and political.

But what I was trying to get at was also another point: The text in the Nahrainnet sidebar is an expression of Sadrist frustration, and it includes the idea that--in contrast to persecution of Sadrists--there is the release of prisoners whom the writer describes as many of them with takfiiri or Baathist backgrounds. What I meant was: This seems to be a case where political persecution can work to fire up the bad old animosities. They are being persecuted politically by Maliki, and as a result of their frustration--and it is in some sense a natural outcome, I figure-- there is at least a risk that as a result they will resort to the truly and in every sense "sectarian" language and feelings. I didn't put that very well, did I?

11:22 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Thanks, Badger. I get it.

The careless (or in some cases deliberately misleading?) use of the term sectarian is something that concerns me a great deal. Misrepresentations and misconceptions about alleged ages-old sectarian conflict in Iraq have been a basis for so many deeply damaging decisions and actions, and so much nonsense and it almost drives me crazy at times that it has become the "received" reality merely by incessant repetition (you had a great term for that concept some time ago, but I have forgotten what that was - do you remember?). So, I think we need to be really careful about our use of the term.

11:47 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Roger. Point taken, and an important one.

(I can't remember that expression, probably it will come to me when I least expect it...)

3:28 PM  

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