Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ghaith Talks to Iraqi Christians

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has written an article about Christians in Iraq for the Guardian.
Yaqub Moussa sits in his liquor shop in Baghdad. One hand is hidden under the counter holding a black pistol, the other taps nervously on the surface. "People from the Hawza [the Shiite religious authority] come here every month; they take $100 from me every time. If I don't pay they say they will burn my shop because I am breaking the sharia Islamic law."

(Great. Now the Hawza is offering "protection." Sheikh-down artists indeed. -- Jeffrey)

...

Many Christians find themselves obliged to affiliate with Islamic religious parties or tribes to get a degree of protection. After having a car crash, for instance, Sami Mansour, 57, a Christian taxi driver, sought the help of a local Shiite tribal council to solve the dispute. "When the other driver realised I was a Christian, he demanded not only that I should pay for the car repair but also that I should pay the tribal fine," he says. "I then went to a tribal council which agreed to talk on my behalf as one of their 'sons' and the other driver withdrew his claims."

Christians have seen their numbers falling dramatically in the past two years. In fact, they have been leaving Iraq in numbers since the mid-1990s. With the heavy impact of United Nations sanctions against the Ba'ath regime in power at that time, thousands of Iraqis began to flee. The Christians felt this pressure doubly: partly from the sanctions and partly from the resulting "Islamisation" of society. But a new wave of emigration has taken place in recent months, especially after a bombing campaign that began in August, targeting churches in Baghdad and Mosul.
...
Fear of verbal and physical intimidation caused his wife, Jaclin Shamir, to begin wearing hijab, covering her hair whenever she leaves the house to give her the look of a Muslim woman. "I have had to change my whole life. I now wear a scarf most of the time." Holding a golden crucifix in her hands, she says, "I hide this under my clothes now. It's like living in Rome in the early days of Christianity."
...

Read the entire article. (Hat tip: button)

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Husayn argues that there is no chance of an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq.
With the elections of a few weeks coming closer, many people are asking me about the Shia list that is being talked about on the news. For those of you who don't know, many Shia groups have come together to form a sort of political alliance which has the largest number of candidates in the election that is coming up. Before I continue, I should note that the upcoming election is to set up a sort of Parliament, which will form our new Constitution and we will go from there. It isnt an election for national leader like Americans had in November. That will come once we have a Constitution.

Still the possible election of a large-scale Shia coalition has some people outside of Iraq worried that we will slide towards a theocracy like Iran. I say that it isn't going to happen.

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At Kurdo's Wild West Saloon, the regulars are speculating on the meaning of the candle symbol on Sistani's campaign poster.

Sara says:
I think candle means light and that means development or sceince maybe ?! I am not sure

Kurdi says:
the candle means that Sistani needs to burn his beard with that candle

Noori says:
I think the candle and sistani symbols mean that if any countries have men like Sistani and oil they will burn and finish up soon...

And Sheriff Lee C.? Well, he hasn't been in for his afternoon beer and chaser. More later.

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J from Iraq Calling takes a look at the situation on the ground in Iraq.
The insurgents are running up against a few problems. One is leadership, the other is logistics. After the last Fallujah operation attacks dropped dramatically and changed to less confrontational, lower risk attacks. There was a need to preserve the fighting strength that was left. Quite a few insurgent leaders and enablers (like the moneymen) have been rolled up recently. I think the leadership crisis is real and significantly impacting their ability to sustain attacks.

As others have said before, the insurgency in Iraq comes nowhere near the gold standard Vietnamese insurgency, with large scale popular participation. The insurgents are viewed generally as dangerous criminals, sometimes as nutty zealots. They are savvy and have a very good handle on how to play the media. As a result I expect a number of large scale "made for TV" attacks in the coming weeks, followed by a crowd of talking heads discussing how everything has come undone. After the elections we will see more attacks, however, successful elections will further erode the credibility of insurgents of every stripe.

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I have rarely introduced U.S. domestic issues on this weblog, but today I simply cannot resist.

Fake, but Accurate.

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