Friday, April 28, 2006

Iraq: Moral Militia

Kudos to Penguins in bondage.... for alerting me to this article in Timesonline from the UK.

Iraqis facing persecution from religious zealots, are not allowed political asylum in the USA, since Iraq is now a "democratic" country.




Young lovers court danger from puritan moral militia

From Daniel McGrory in Baghdad
The Times April 27, 2006

DATING is a dangerous game in Baghdad. Ali Ilhiam knows that holding hands with his teenage girlfriend could cost him a beating — or worse — from militant extremists.
“Boys can’t be seen walking and laughing with their girlfriends any more in the new Baghdad,” the 21-year-old university student said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that he was not being watched. Friends of his have been dragged from their cars, imprisoned and threatened with death by self-appointed moral guardians for daring to link arms with their girlfriends in public.



An artificial lake on the banks of the Tigris, built by Saddam Hussein to cool one of his palaces, is among the few sanctuaries where Mr Ilhiam can still meet Murwa Majid, 19. Both are studying at nearby Baghdad University and skip lectures to spend a few minutes together.

They, like many of their friends, dread the approach of the summer holidays, when they will be separated, so they are planning to fail their exams so they can spend two months at college studying for resits.

“This is the only life we get,” Mr Iliam said. Gone are the days when he could go to a nightclub or a party with his girlfriend. “Baghdadis don’t go out any more after dusk. We are all prisoners now.”

Most cinemas and discos have closed, and the few restaurants popular with the younger crowd close at 8pm. Gunmen hang around former favourite haunts and check identity cards to make sure that couples are married.

Mr Iliam, a physical education student, wonders how much longer the Jadariyah Tigris park will remain a haven.

Three weeks ago a gang of militiamen driving on the main road that runs past the park spotted one of his friends while he was embracing his fiancée near the lake.

The gunmen chased the couple as they drove away and forced their vehicle off the road. The driver, a 29-year-old engineer, who would give his name only as Ahmed, was dragged from behind the wheel and pistol-whipped. His terrified partner, Wasan, 23, who is studying at the College of Science, was locked in the car and made to watch. The gunmen took the couple to a makeshift detention centre and warned them that if they were seen “misbehaving” again they would be shot. They have never returned to the lake.

In recent days two young women had battery acid thrown at their legs by Mehdi army members, who are loyal to the militant young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The victims were told that they were being punished for dressing inappropriately.

In Basra late last year a couple were ambushed while walking in the zoo. The man was shot dead and his young partner was partially blinded by the gunmen, who stripped and photographed her, saying that they would send the pictures to her family. She ran home and killed herself.

Mr Ilhiam recalled that holding hands with a girl was permissible under the regime of Saddam Hussein, but he expressed concern about the growing puritanism that is being enforced by both Shia and Sunni militias.

“This country has expired,” Murwa Majid said, nervously twisting a gold necklace that spelt out her name. “No matter what our new Prime Minister says, my generation is pessimistic. Life will not improve any time soon. This is not living.”

Ali Athra, 24, who was also in the park with her boyfriend, ran her hands through her long, black hair and said that if her usual taxi driver did not show up in the morning to take her to university she would quickly change her clothes and order another car.

“I run upstairs, tear off the jeans and top and put on the abaya (headscarf) and a long coat to my ankles,” she said.

“Girls don’t walk the streets alone any more. We used to shop, go dancing, have parties, until a few months after the downfall of Saddam, and bit by bit, every day, we feel more repressed.”

RENEGADE EYE

14 comments:

Tina said...

Imagine for 1 second if Jenna and Not Jenna would live their young lives as these Iraqis now have to. Yeah right... if this is freedom and liberation, then by all means President Bush, let's see your twins slap a hajib on their heads or else risk being splashed with battery acid.

beatroot said...

Unbelievable. You couldn;t make this crap up, could you?

To claim that Iraq is now a democratic country is just gibberish.

And it goes against everything western governments believe thes days. They equate 'freedom' with being 'safe'. Security is the only model they have now. (Of course, safety and freedom are not the same things at all. freedom brings with it danger and risk).

The Iraqis may be free to start up a newspaper or even go and vote...but what's that worth when you are not even sure your child will make it home safely from school without being kidnapped?

sonia said...

Iraqis may be free ...but what's that worth when you are not even sure your child will make it home safely from school without being kidnapped

Well, the only real difference between "now" and "then" in Iraq, is that under Saddam, people would be kidnapped by police, while now only criminals do that.

I call that progress...
Baby steps, I guess...

ramo said...

While the armies, societies, religions, regions and cultures fight, love suffers. I wish them a good and happy life.

Brian said...

"I call that progress..."

Sonia calls that progress presumbly because she doesn't live there. I'd call it regression because at least under totalitarian tyranny, there is an element of predictably, unlike with the tyranny of chaos.

Sangroncito said...

It is another sad commentary on the U.S. that once an "oppressed" country becomes "democratic", its citizens are no longer considered political refugees. I remember this so well in Nicaragua during the 80's. As soon as Nicaragua had a docile, puppet democracy that pleased its masters its citizens no longer were "oppressed".

Redwine said...

"at least under totalitarian tyranny, there is an element of predictably, unlike with the tyranny of chaos" -

Jesus, Brian, sorry, this statement is monstruous. Let alone that chaos is predictable in the tyranny of chaos, and all tyrannies are chaotic in their utter predictability. Ask a Pakistani or Iraqi or Iranian.

One thing is predictable when you deal with shit: it stinks, in all its forms.

Sagroncito, good point: but when one border opens, another one closes. That is the predictable nature of soft democracies. (Last time an Iranian refugee was not granted the refugee status, etc.)

Mike B) said...

Thanks for the kudos, R. Eye.

It's a pretty sad situation, one which I think other U.S. leaders like Shrub's father had the good intelligence to recognize would happen. Iraq as a national, bourgeois democratic State will become a theocratic republic, much like Iran has become. It's tough to admit, but Iraq under Saddam's Baathist Party was a secular State.
Sex is better in a secular State. Certain freedoms are more tangible, more worthwhile than others.

Renegade Eye said...

I'll have to tell Maryam Namazie, about the observation that sex is better in a secular state. She'll like that.

It looks like we are reduced to debating if life is a better under a secular dictatorship or a young theocratic democracy.

beatroot said...

Sonia: the only real difference between "now" and "then" in Iraq, is that under Saddam, people would be kidnapped by police, while now only criminals do that.

In virtually every possible way, life has got worse for Iraqis. If you knew how to keep your head down, then life was 'Ok' for Iraqis in the Saddam days. Not great, but it was possible to be content there, if nothing else.

But now? It's a slaughter in many places. Insecurity is part of everyday life, in an unimaginable way for people like us. Religious and tribal identities have come to the fore like they have not sisnce before the golden days of Arab nationalism. Infrastructure is smashed. What there was of civil society is in tatters. Even electricity and water are unreliable in many districts.

And all the time they are being occupied.

If that's progress, then I'm a conservative.

sonia said...

Sangroncito,

It is another sad commentary on the U.S. that...as soon as Nicaragua had a docile, puppet democracy... its citizens are no longer considered political refugees

I always find it fascinating how the very same people who call American imperialism evil simultaneously criticize US for not allowing more refugee and immigrants. That's totally insane! If Bush=Hitler and US=Nazi Germany, shouldn't we, like, DISCOURAGE people from going there?

Mike,

It's tough to admit, but Iraq under Saddam's Baathist Party was a secular State

It's precisely BECAUSE Iraq under Saddam was a secular state that the IDEA of a secular state is throughly DISCREDITED in Iraq (where 60% voted for religious fundamentalist parties)... It was the same with Iran under Shah...

Beatroot,

In virtually every possible way, life has got worse for Iraqis.

Neither you nor I have ANY IDEA. Only the Iraqi people can make such statements (or disagree with them).

If you knew how to keep your head down, then life was 'Ok' for Iraqis in the Saddam days

Personally, just for myself, I would rather die than live while "keeping my head down" to survive. But that's just me...

Brian,

under totalitarian tyranny, there is an element of predictably, unlike with the tyranny of chaos

True, but that's precisely why chaos is better than totalitarian "predictability". You can fight back against criminals, but you cannot fight back against policemen. Where would you rather live: in prison, where your guard will sodomize you every night (that's "predictability" for you), or in a dangerous neighborhood where sexual predators roam the streets ?

ninglun said...

It is well worth following up this story with the wonderful Riverbend's May 02, 2006 Entry.

Mike B) said...

Sonia wrote:
It's precisely BECAUSE Iraq under Saddam was a secular state that the IDEA of a secular state is throughly DISCREDITED in Iraq (where 60% voted for religious fundamentalist parties)... It was the same with Iran under Shah...
**********************

Wrong. The majority in Iraq and Iran are and were conservative, theocratically oriented, Shiite muslims.

sonia said...

Mike,

And you think that the Shah and Saddam had nothing to do with it ?

Do you honestly believe that people are just born fundamentalist ? If persecuting religious beliefs didn't strengthen religion, Christianity would never emerge from Roman persecutions. Shah forced exiled Khomeini into exil - making him the hero of all Iranians who didn't like being torured by SAVAK (i.e. a majority). Saddam killed Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr (Muqtada al-Sadr's father) - making him a hero of all Iraqis who didn't like being tortured by Mukhabarat (i.e. a vast majority again)... Don't you see a pattern here? Secular regime = torture, religious leader = martyr. End result: religious fundamentalism is on the rise...