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Iraq: "There is ethnic cleansing"
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Mar 2nd, 2006 6:00 PM
Mutahana Hareth Al-Dari, spokesman of the influential Iraqi Association of Muslim Scholars, tells Amira Howeidy that the time has come for everyone, including Sunnis, to arm themselves
As Iraq falls near to the abyss of civil war, a security clampdown on the Iraqi Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) twice this week went almost unnoticed. On Monday, US forces supported by other unidentified armed groups raided the headquarters of the influential and largely Sunni Association and arrested two of its main leaders.

Al-Ahram Weekly caught up with the AMS's spokesman, Mutahana Hareth Al-Dari, 37, during a visit to Cairo where he was putting the final touches on the soon-to-be-launched AMS satellite channel Al-Rafedein (Mesopotamia) to be based in Cairo. During the interview, Al-Dari cautiously avoided adopting what could be interpreted as a sectarian discourse but argued that there are forms of ethnic cleansing occurring in Iraq.


The Washington Post reported that 1300 Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, were killed in the violence that erupted following the blast in Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra. Has the civil war started in Iraq?

No. God willing, it won't start. There are attempts to ignite a civil war.

How then do you describe what's happening in Iraq? What's a civil war if this isn't one?

There were prospects of a civil war but they were contained. But the fire will remain underneath the ashes. The forces that were behind the recent crisis will work on igniting it again. Civil war will begin when some forces lose their conscious awareness; I mean the forces which are armed with patience and who endure pain rather than slip into fitna (civil strife). When that happens there will be civil war. But thank God, they chose the general interest of the people over personal interest.

As for the number of Iraqis killed in the past week, the AMS already announced that the death toll exceeds 300. This was confirmed today when the general manager of Al-Teb Adli hospital and its morgue said they have 329 bodies. Then of course there are tens of bodies that were buried by their families before they reached the morgue. So we're actually talking about approximately 400. The 1300 figure is an exaggeration, a way to pour fuel to the fire. A death toll of 400 is not a small figure either.

Reports from Iraq Tuesday said that Sunnis from across Iraq are sending or preparing to send weapons to Baghdad to protect Sunnis and their mosques. Can you confirm this? Do the Sunnis need to be armed?

This need has existed for a long time now. Long before the recent violence, the current government and the security apparatus unfortunately exercised many forms of terrorism against citizens ... There have been detentions and murders, en masse, of many citizens, mostly Sunni, who were taken from their homes at night. So the danger is not new. It's ongoing. The difference this time is that in the past, no one could defend himself because carrying or possessing a weapon was a crime. The occupation forces together with the security forces would conduct their night raids and no one could do anything about it. But after the brutal attack of security forces in daylight against [Sunni] mosques, it is the duty of everyone to defend themselves.

I think that recent events proved to the whole world that there is state violence against many Iraqis. So now it's justifiable and totally reasonable that one defends oneself by any and all means necessary.

The Mahdi army of Moqtada Al-Sadr, and the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Badr organisation, the death squads and such Shia militias, have been exposed recently for their violence against Sunnis. And even during the curfew earlier this week, they roamed the streets freely, terrorising the population and committing more violence and killings. How does the AMS deal with this?

There are security organisations that are affiliated with the current government. Then there are partisan militias that are associated with and have infiltrated these security organisations to serve a political role. It was these militias and the security forces that targeted civilians in the past week.

Read More
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Thursday Mar 2nd, 2006 6:00 PM
The bombing of the shrine in Samarra put the whole of Iraq on edge, with leaders scrambling to contain the consequences

Except for a few clouds gathering on the horizon, it was a clear day in Baghdad. It was a day like any other -- a day that can turn into a tragedy without notice reports Nermeen Al-Mufti. Students were heading to their schools, joking and laughing. Then, suddenly, the mood changed. The news was shocking. The mausoleum of imams Ali Al-Hadi and Hasan Al-Aaskari were bombed in Samarra, 110 kilometres north of Baghdad. The first images came on the screens and everyone prepared for the worst.

The bombed mausoleum was built over 1,000 years ago. It is located in a Sunni town known for its resistance to the occupation; a town that has been punished more than once. The Shia mausoleum was under the care of the Sunnis. For centuries, it was safe. Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shias, flocked to it for blessings.

Within a few hours, the mood in Baghdad was one of gloomy anticipation. Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the country's leading Shia scholar, declared seven days of mourning and beseeched Iraqis to show their grief in a peaceful way. His plea notwithstanding, 168 Sunni mosques were attacked. Some were torched flat. Shias came to Sunni mosques and hoisted black flags on the roofs, declaring them under Shia control.

Ordinary people stayed at home while men in black outfits roamed the streets. News from Al-Basra spoke of attacks on the mausoleums of Talhah Ibn Al-Zubeir and Anas Ibn Malek, two disciples of Prophet Mohamed. In Baghdad, inhabitants of Al-Aazamiya prepared to defend the Abu Hanifah mosque following news that the mosque and mausoleum of Salman Al-Farisi, a disciple of the Prophet, was attacked in Al-Madaen, 45 kilometres east of Baghdad.

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