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Where will Al-Hakim”s call for a Shiite federation take Iraq? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Shiite leaders in Iraq have escalated their calls for a Shiite federation in the south and the center. On the anniversary of the murder of his brother Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, Al-Sayyid Abdulaziz al-Hakim called for the formation of such a federation. Before a large gathering in Al-Najaf yesterday, he justified his call by saying, &#34It has become necessary to establish one district that includes all the Shiite regions similar to the Kurdistan district in northern Iraq&#34. Al-Hakim considered that as a sacred demand. He was then followed by Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary general of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who seconded Al-Hakim”s call, saying, &#34The Shias should forge ahead and establish a federation in the south or else they will regret it&#34.

Such calls and other similar calls that imply the division of Iraq mean that the Iraqi policy-makers from all currents have not understood democracy and have not been able to liberate themselves from the harsh legacy of the past. They are thus showing that they are not better than those that practiced racism and sectarianism as they fragmented Iraq with their fatal centralization and a one-party regime whose backward and cruel practices remind us of the Middle Ages. The defects started with the foundation of the Iraqi State that tried its best to erase the image of a united Iraq, at least on the geographic level. The Iraqi people were taught on the historic and political levels that Iraq as a homeland was formed by Britain. When Arab and Kurdish politicians now talk, they refer to a marriage contract among the various regions of Iraq that was concluded in 1921. However, the truth is the exact opposite. As a geographic and political entity, Iraq existed before the Britons and the Ottomans. The topographic maps, the diaries of the Ummayad and Abbasid dynasties, and the archives of the Ottoman Empire attest to this fact. The wali (governor) of Baghdad was called the &#34vezir&#34 (minister) of Iraq who ruled the three provinces of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul. Nevertheless, this does not prevent arranging the political and administrative management of Iraq after the departure of the Ottomans. Everyone – Shias and Kurds – were lived under the tyranny and unjust rule of the Ottomans.

It is true that the Shias have suffered from sectarianism throughout all the past eras. However, it is difficult to consider the first republican regime as one of these eras because it seriously tried to establish an Iraq without any discrimination based on religion, sect, and nationality. Therefore, it is high time for the Shias to consecrate a non-sectarian system instead of making sectarian demands or making sectarian concerns a priority. By making sectarian demands, the Shias are reversing the situation and demonstrating their own sectarian tyranny. This is exactly what is happening today. The rush to hold the elections and making the Shiite religious authority the sole authority that decides on every minor and major detail have charged and mobilized the other side. The other side is now worried about its existence and has lost confidence in the entire political process. Politics is the art of the possible. However, the politicians of the Shiite community have gone beyond this possible as they hint or threaten with their majority. On the very first day after the liberation of Iraq from the previous regime, two muezzins called for prayer. The problems of religious waqf were revived and instead of talking about Iraq, all the talk was about sects and the rights of sects. Sectarianism was used as if it was a magic wand that would establish justice and erase all the differences and discrimination.

Let us keep in mind that Iraq was ruled by Sunni authorities during the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the Ottoman era, the Al-Aykhaniyah, Al-Jala”iriyah, and the Turkish sultanates, like the state of the white and black sheep. So is it conceivable for the other side to give up this history so easily and flexibly? Changing minds and souls requires time. It requires mutual trust and determination not to have the opposite happen. It seems that the Shiite leaderships have not mastered the political game. They delegated political power to the men of religion who are all non-Iraqis. I say this as one from the other side who is monitoring and who objects to the mistakes that are being made in the political performance. Otherwise and had conditions been normal, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani would have been the most concerned for Iraq and the Iraqi people. On many occasions, statements were attributed to him endorsing the Shiite alliance list (169) in the January elections. In fact, Al-Sayyid Abdulaziz al-Hakim and Dr Ibrahim al-Ja”fari often insisted on what Al-Sistani”s office tried to distance him from. Al-Sistani is known to have told Ambassador Bremer, &#34I am an Iranian and you are an American&#34. In other words, leave Iraq for the Iraqis.

The call for a Shiite federation in all the regions of central and southern Iraq is another mistake being committed by the Shiite political figures. Such calls – on top of the insistence of the Kurds to solve all the pending problems with the former central state, although Jalal Talabani is the president of all Iraq – would only result in dividing Iraq into mini-states. If that happens, the Iraqi people would then wish that the Ottoman regime and the geographic contiguity of Iraq”s provinces would come back. The Shiite politicians are making drastic mistakes when they keep giving one justification after another for the intransigence of the other side and its worry about the political performance. The question that begs an answer is the following. Will a Shiite province be the promised paradise for the Shias? Volices are rising every day calling for a federation of the three southern provinces of Basra, Al-Amarah, and Al-Nasiriyah. Voices are also rising every day calling for the secession and financial and administrative independence of Basra. It seems that Iraq has become a toy in the hands of Iraq”s politicians. Based on the political facts and the raging debate, they are turning Iraq into a mere fantasy or the illusion of a homeland rather than a real homeland. Abu-Hasan al-Mas”udi preceded everyone when he set Iraq”s geographic borders from the farthest point in the north in present Iraq to Abadan in the south.

Furthermore, the special characteristic of Iraqi Kurdistan and its autonomy or federation cannot be ignored. It has its own language and national history. However, this federation is a cause for worry and concern if the matter is related to time. In other words, the international conditions are not conducive to a full Kurdish secession. The acceptance of a federation with the rest of Iraq is governed by circumstances rather than by feelings of Iraqi nationalism.