Yesterday in the news, a family in Iraq lost three of it’s sons as bomb blasts targeting pilgrims ripped through Shia neighborhoods in three separate incidents as they prepared for one of the holiest days in the Shia calendar. This same family lost their eldest son under same circumstances, six years ago.
For many, this is now the only kind of news item they hear about Iraq. That of sectarian violence, killings and deaths, for the flimsiest of excuses. The fact that a family lost three of its own on the same day in the same circumstances in which they lost another six years ago is so sad to fathom. Indicative of the fact that things never got better but rather worse, and if things continue this way, one may be forced to think that this same family may lose nine of its sons in the next six years, again to sectarian violence that’s become the order of the day in Iraq.
Today’s sectarian violence has roots in the very early days of Islam, involving and not necessarily confined to succession issues after the death of the Prophet. It was further compounded in our times by colonialism where the French and British simply clogged up and divided peoples who hitherto considered themselves separate dealing with one another through tiny leeways as becomes necessary, just for their own economic good or as they found pleasing to their empire goals.
The colonialists handed over power to monarchs and strongmen who ran their country like their personal businesses in tandem with the dictates of their colonial masters, who mostly were democratic nations. These strongmen like the colonialists before them ruled with strong arms, suppressing dissent with tools of coercion, maintaining peace (the kind that’s the absence of war) amongst the many religious groups and sects in the middle east, including Iraq.
Over the years, these groups will rear their heads, attempting to gain attention by attacking other groups, even attempting to kill the “Lords of the Manor” in the person of those foisted upon them by western powers or providence, and as usual are crushed while the rest of the world looked the other way. The Arab Spring turned everything around, and all of a sudden people that everyone worldwide thought were simply Arabs, Egyptians, Syrians, Emiratees etc, became known by their sects, and targeted one another (sometimes to the death) according to their sect.
In Iraq, Pandora’s box was opened with the American invasion and deposition of Saddam Hussein and his sons. I am not sure the Americans took cognizance of the fact that a democratic Iraq will be run by the majority, who are infact Shiite and may have some soft spot for their sworn enemy Iran (though situations may change with the current “warming up to the west” body language of President Rouhani).
Iraq has known no peace since the “end of the war”, initially propelled by elements of Saddam’s Baath party, to some of the members of the security agencies who lost their jobs following Saddam’s deposition, then the Al-Qaeda in Iraq (which was put down by Iraqi Sunni groups), before the hydra-headed sectarian crisis and violence that’s now become the order of the day. The states of Saudi Arabia and Iran have found in Iraq a haven to test their might (like they’ve been doing in most Mid-Eastern states and elsewhere in the world with considerable Muslim populations) propagate and perpetuate their own interpretation and version of Islam, mainly by force of arms, only to the disadvantage and loss of property, limbs and lives of hapless Iraqis.
The Iraqi government’s (led be Nouri Al-Maliki) penchant for going against opposition within its government and outside of it, for no reasonable cause hasn’t helped matters. At a point, some members of government were placed under house arrest, while many Iraqis mainly of the opposition and minority groups were and are being hounded into jails and undergoing various forms of torture and abuse, not excluding extrajudicial killings.
The recent visit by Al-Maliki to the US where he was met by low level government officials speaks volumes of the frustration the Obama led government feel towards the man who wanted American forces out of Iraq at all cost in a bid to consolidate his power some years back. The Americans will take his promise to restore normalcy with the aid he’ll be granted with a pinch of salt, while one wouldn’t put it out of the purview of the Americans to be scheming underground his eventual downfall and replacement with someone more amenable to their demands.
The figures amassed in number of dead in Iraq can rival or even outscore those recorded daily in war zones, yet IRAQ ISN’T AT WAR!