madly in love with Iraq

26.3.06

The subject I don't like to speak about

Last night one of the members in my gym was wondering about my accent. Take a guess! I replied. He immediately said, ‘are you Iraqi?’ ‘You guessed right. How did you know?’ ‘He answered back in English, I am an Iraqi Sunni! And you speak like my father!’
This guy’s mother is Swedish; his Iraqi grandparents immigrated from Iraq in the late forties! Never seen Iraq in his life and he doesn’t speak a word of Arabic.
His name though is Ali Hasan, a very Shia name!
I didn’t know whether I should laugh or get angry, I said to him, ‘What you have just stated is politically incorrect! Please go and ask your father why.’

On another incident back in December last year, I was visiting a friend of mine in the US. She is quite active politically in her city. The local TV contacted her one day, and they came over to her place for an interview about her opinion on Bush’s latest speech on Iraq.
They were very interested in speaking to me as well, as an Iraqi living in the UK.

As embarrassed as one could be, unlike my confident friend, trying to figure out how to cope with this and what to say, I was so surprised when the TV anchor woman forgot about the original subject when she learned that me and my friend come from different sects! She was on the verge of asking if we trust each other with our lives staying under the same roof!
Later on when they did broadcast the show; the first thing she mentioned was: Two Iraqi women, one Sunni and one Shia in the same house giving two different opinions!

Humanity was there before religions. We Iraqis as everyone else build our relations on the basis of being neighbours, schoolmates, workmates, etc. You pick the person you feel happy with and enjoy their company that’s all. We are no exception.

This might be an already consumed subject, but it is THE SUBJECT at the moment. I couldn’t escape it.

Many Shia in here believe that they should back a Shia government regardless of it being religious or secular. They have to be given a chance!
Many others don’t share their enthusiasm and I am one of them, for two simple reasons;

1. We don’t want a religious government of any kind; it will kill any hope of Democracy.
2. We shouldn’t define Shia and Sunni as identities. They are religious sects.

The actual sentiment now though is that these sects’ represent two different identities; unfortunately we cannot deny it.


The first time I felt the difference was in the early eighties. My mother is of Iranian origin, my father is not, and that was the reason we were saved from deportation. Still, we were treated like people carrying a contagious disease, no one wanted to speak to us the Shia before the Sunni friends. My mother was treated very badly at work which eventually led to her early retirement. My older brother who was serving in the army in the mid eighties was given the lowest rank in the army, he is an engineer and all his fellow friends were officers. It took 4years to bring him back to Baghdad as he was the only male in the family; by law he should not have served in the frontlines. His papers were destroyed every time we applied to have him transferred, because no one wanted to deal with them.

Many might say that there were a lot of Shia baathist and they did serve Saddam, what they don’t say though that there was never a majority of Shia baathist put together in one place. In the one and half year job I held, each department was placed in a different floor, My floor was occupied by a majority of Kurds, the second the majority were a mixture of Sunnis from different cities. The Minister; a Shia was ‘on an island’, not a single Shia in his office. He was scared even from his tea boy.

The strategy was not to let them be together under any form. That is why their religious ceremonies were banned.
When completely excluded from any promotion in the army and refused any political positions even before Saddam, they started their own businesses, from small trading merchants to big entrepreneurs. This was later demolished by Saddam, most of them were evicted from Iraq, and their possessions were confiscated and were distributed between his family members and others from loyal tribes.

The Shia were marginalized and sidelined through out history. It was never a religious problem. It was all to do with power.
This goes back to the time after the death of Prophet Mohammed and the conflict between his followers on who should be ruling. People who backed his cousin Imam Ali were called Shia(t) Ali or Ali’s supporters. After Imam Ali’s death his two sons (Prophet Mohammed’s grandchildren) were the best candidates to lead the Muslim nation. The first was poisoned the second is the well known martyr Imam Hussein. All Imam Hussein’s successors were killed, including the two buried in the bombed Al Askary Shrine. Nobody wanted them because they derived their power from being the descendants of Prophet Mohammed. Consequently this meant the power will stay in their hands forever. This is the legacy.

For once, the Shias have an opportunity to be part of the political process and express their voice as a majority. For them it is now or never.

This is just a simple explanation of a history full of injustice and violence.
It is not a justification for what is happening now.

There are no winners in the current struggle, only losers.

My brother says; I don’t mind a Chinese taking over, if he guarantees a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. I strongly agree.

4 Comments:

  • With the imposition of a sectarian-based election, and the aftermath...I believe its vital for all Iraqis to listen to each other's 'side of the coin'. We never had to in the past, but now that we are being forced down this path, we should listen. If we appreciated our more particular struggles, we would be less ready to judge and attack without reasoning further. I admire your courage in tackling this subject. It's a 'sensitive' issue, but it MUST be addressed. Thanks for being the first to take this step!

    By Blogger ZZ, at 1:50 pm  

  • Hala thank you for this important post. I wish I could write a bit more but I am in a hurry at the moment. Just wanted you to know that I appreciated your post very much.

    Peace

    Nadia

    By Blogger Nadia, at 8:05 pm  

  • Your viewpoint is refreshing. I will likely be reading your page more in the near future.

    .randy

    By Anonymous Randy>>circularlife.com, at 12:35 am  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:08 am  

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