Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Country, My Country

This was one of the two Iraqi documentaries that were nominated for the Best Documentary Award at the last Oscars (both lost for Global Warming), it revolves around Dr. Riyadh, a member of the Sunni Islamic Party which was one of the few, if not the only, Sunni fronts that supported entering the first elections held in January 2005 ( only to pull out at the last minute), following him around as he treks between his home in now-notorious Adhamiya, the charity medical clinic there, and his stint as he tries to rally votes for himself as the Baghdad governorate candidate for the Islamic Party. This central story is told in juxtaposition with a subplot about the efforts of UN officials and other MNF officials as they try to set up said elections, mostly shot indoors in conference halls and private contractor rooms. While Iraq For Sale was a dull talking-heads information piece, this one is the capture-them-unawares personal setting, watching it again for this review turned up some pretty unexpected gems of normal Iraqis captured amidst their daily life: a scene of Dr. Riyadh's wife and daughter trying to kill flies completely oblivious to a raging battle outside, a Najaf woman who complaints that her husband spends all his time with Muqtada al-Sadr, Kurdish men in a car talking about the evils of Arab Patriotism, a visit to the notorious Abu Gharib camps, and a very disturbing segment of a family friend who accidentally metions that he asked Americans for help retrieving his kidnapped son while he does not realize that the kidnappers are still on the phone. It all sounds pretty exciting here, but that was not what I felt the first time I watched, personal documentaries like this are made or broken by the human being you're going to spend those 90 minutes with, and Dr. Riyadh isn't really star material, forget the 'this is real wihout glitz' approach ; the Dr. is a sullen, featureless man who is serious and morbid most of the time, while the monotonus Kadhum al-Sahir soundtrack tries hard to convince you there is something sad in front of your eyes, Dr. Riyadh's desk employee mannerisms shines most boringly in the breadth of the film, even when trying to promote himself in upcoming elections with patients and neighbors in an amusingly low-key election campaign, fortunately the home-video segments are somewhat lively, with a wife who is skeptical about her husband's political aspirations and daughters who are constantly on the tease. Also, as compared to Iraq in Fragments, the artistic vision of the filmmaker: the soundtrack, which is just one song repeated, sounds more forced than coloring, nothing like the gloomy soundscapes of James Longley in Fragments which truly underscores the despair in the characters eyes. The series of official conferences leading up to the elections wind up being filler instead of adding depth, so by the anti-climactic end of the film where the party pulls out of the elections rendering all of the film's point mute and Dr. Riyadh standing in the hallway while his wife and daughters tease him, you are left not sure what it is all about. My Country has a good story and a handful of powerful scenes which are lost between lackluster presentation and wavering storytelling.

Click here to download My Country, My Country (torrent, requires free subscription to site)

PROS: Some interesting scenes of Iraqi experiences during the war.
CONS: Boring hero, unfocused storytelling, soundtrack hell.
ROTTEN TOMATOES: 85% Fresh Rating
KONFUSED RATING: 3 scenes of Dr. Riyadh sulkingly driving his car around Baghdad out of a possible five.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

We start off our Iraqi documentaries fest with the most impersonal of the lot, the very sober and direct Iraq for Sale, made by Robert Greenwald and financed through an online petition which racketed up 750,000$.The real drive behind this documentary was not anything related to the subject matter itself, but just something explicitly tailored to get the democrats more votes in the Mid-term Nov '06 elections). The movie is a blatant condemnation of the exploitations and mistreatment of five large-scale no-bid corporations working in Iraq with the US army including the infamous Blackwater, Haillburton, CACI, TITAN and KBR. The documentary provides witnesses through interviewing families of deceased US soldiers and Iraqi detainees tortured at Abu Gharib, both report that those private companies played a big role in the killing of the former by malpractices and inadequate supplies, and the torture of the latter. While certainly bundled with a load of insight and information, what annoyed me about this movie is the fact that it's a totally drab piece of cold facts, an orthodox news report that tries hard to maintain a neutral tone for 90 mintues when it's anything but ; Okay, you could argue that i'm the wrong person to review this movie as I'm looking for IRAQI documentaries featuring IRAQIS (who appear only to repeat the same shocking details of the Abu Gharib prison in 2004 ) and it indeed has a right to regard information as its main source of inspiration, but it does drag on without any witty moments or pacing (Fahreneheit 9/11 comes to mind) to coat its subject matter for the less-interested general audience like myself, and it's not helping at all that it is not made by a neutral party, which somehow subdues its shock moments, and there are a lot of them, I mean the way this movie reads, it's like those companies are evil beyond redemption in every possible way, from causing the deaths of private contractors in Falluja by supplying bad armor and staff to completely botching the daily food ration. It'd make entities who just want to make the USA look bad like al-Jazeera spray shorts, which is why I saw it yesterday on it. Recommended only for those really interested about the topic. To Put it simply, all the human testimonies on the that appear on this movie serve as mouthpieces exploited for the harvest of information the filmmakers need to get across: Republicans Suck, Vote Democrats. The audience didn't need that much persuasion of course, as its opinion was already decided. For Iraqis like myself, I am quite confident that both sides don't care about us, and would lie their way to hell to get their forbidden fruits, so I couldn't give a shit about either.

Click here to WATCH the documentary on Google Video.

GOOD: Insightful information on the purpose and function of private corporations in the war
CONS: Shockers all outdated, unbalanced, subjective approach raises credibility concerns, very impersonal, no iraqis.
ROTTEN TOMATOES RATINGS: 20 red tomato reviews out of 20, 100% FreshTomato rating.
KONFUSED KID RATING: One Abu Gharib detainee's choked penis out of a possible five.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Konfused Kid Presents The Iraqi Documentaries Series

I have several ideas for a series of posts that involve a particular topic which you can find on the sidebar of my blog, I'm still not through yet with Ali al-Wardi, but today, Hometown Baghdad posted its last episode, and so I am going to introduce a teaser about my new series, i will finish it up and then return to Ali al-Wardi's Season 2 (groan).

The Iraqi Documentaries series is about reviewing half a dozen documentaries about Iraq I have seen so far, I have already reviewed two of them before, one here on my blog and the other for another publication, but now that I have seen more documentaries I have a bigger picture and my opinions may have different, the documentaries in question are arranged in the order I saw them:

1. Iraq in Fragments (shot 2004, released 2006, nominated for Oscar '07) by James Langley
2. I Know I'm Not Alone (shot 2003) by Political musician Michael Franti
3. My Country, My Country (shot 2004-2005, also nominated for Oscar '07) by Laura Poitras
4. Voices of Iraq (2004) by the people of Iraq
5. Hometown Baghdad (2006, Chat The Planet)
and maybe Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, although i'm not really interested in anything not directly involving Iraqi people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This is just too much...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

God is listening.

I briefly interrupt my Ali al-Wardi postings to proclaim something that I realized while I was chatting yesterday with a friend, god exists, because:

A. I say so
B. We were talking about Azuz's lung cancer. My friend, a Christian doctor of high calibre, said that he'd give Azuz four months, as you know and I vaguely knew, cancer is extremely difficult if it is discovered later, this is especially true for lung cancer, and Wikipedia says that the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is 14%. As you would lovingly noticed, I put Abdilaziz al-Hakim's name first on my God's Dead Pool on the right, miracle? Allah be praised. To celebrate this, I have decorated Azuz's name in yellow, much to the disdain of my sectarain friend, Shaqawa.

If indeed al-Hakim bites one last cigarette and goes in search for his lost brother, this would create a very vague power vaccum at Badr/SIIC/UIA, first, Hakim Jr, a smiling dude who looks a lot like high-school homosexual cannon fodder, is highly unqualified for this task, there are a lot of hawks at SCIRI, sorry, SIIC so while they cannot risk not crowning Uday, I'm sorry, Ammar's hand because the heavyweight clerical Hakim name means unquestioning public approval, my guess is that he would be a puppet in the hands of someone much more agile. Hadi al-Amiri, head of Badr Corps, is butch, and there's also one of the most wicked faces i ever saw, Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer. One can never forget somebody like Big Bear-double Adil Abdulmahdi, so it's a very interesting issue. Anyway, I am going to pray now. oh God, look at the rest of the list, NEXT NEXT NEXT!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ali al-Wardi 3: Intercession

Some of the foundations of religious faith at that time were based on intercession, meaning that when people claim to hold to the prophet’s companions or household, then it does not mean following their way of life, but to get their intercession on judgement day. People believed that life is mortal, and is not worthy of human interest but must one must tend to the afterlife instead, most importantly by performing religious duties on one hand and to get the intercession of those favored by God on the other. As for morals and good treatment and so forth then they are not important as all sins in their regard may be forgiven by the intercessors whom God loves extremely. It is clear that this principle of ‘intercession’ has roots in the composition of the governing state in old times, people are used to see that the person who is close to the sultan is able to save someone’s neck or grant rewards, this was reflected on their religious faith. This also explains many contradictory social patterns in Ottoman-era Iraq as the people (government and commons) were extremely focused on rebuilding shrines and mosques at times where oppression and thievery was common between people, as the government oppresses people who oppress each other, all believing in a seat of heaven once the intercessors speak their words.

One of the most controversial cases in Sunni-Shiite debates is the succession of Prophet Mohammed, any researcher looking into the case through modern objective lenses will feel that the case is one of the far past and has no exclusive relationship to the present, Iraqis opinion was different, as they believe the person who succeded the prophet will be their intercessor and could rescue him from damnation.

The foundations of intercessions is common in all major religions in one form or another, but we could argue that its effects are subdued earlier on, as people pour their interest in performing righteous deeds more than indirect intercession, however as time takes its course people revert to their old social pattern, immersed in life and far away from religion, they find themselves drowning in sins and has no hope for salvation unless by a guided figure who will be their ticket to God. They do not ask God directly, for their example is the one of a criminal being led to the court, finding no other solution but to seek a ‘middle man’, so he dedicates his effort to this ‘middle man’, thinking that his heart must soften and be moved by dignity to come to his aid, people extend this principle to what happens before the afterlife as well, when someone is ill, had a relative dead, is in heavy debt, or is surrounded by plague, they would hurry to a shrine of a saint or imam and would cry and beseech him. They rarely address God himself, for he is like the Sultan who is unreachable due to his high esteem and regard.

Hasan Kibreet:

The story of Hasan Kibreet is a very fitting example for the social values dominant at those times, Kibreet was a shaqi in al-Kadhimiya district of Baghdad who lived at late Ottoman, early-British period. The many tales people weave around him depict him as a bloodthirsty butcher of the sort that kills a man and then walks in his funeral the next day, others relate incidents which could only be interpreted as sadistic, as he takes pleasure in bloodshed and pain, when he participated wit the Mujahideen in al-Sha’eeba incidents during World War I he would not only kill enemy soldiers but would decapitate them and bring their heads to clerics who were with the Mujahideen, who were sickened by his deed and would reproach him without any effect.

Someone asked Kibreet about the number of his victims and how he shall face his creator, he said that he killed a lot of people but he is hoping for the intercession of Fatima al-Zahraa, saying that one day while he went with a number of Baghdad shaqis to rob rich houses there, he passed the Sheikh Ma’roof cemetery in Kadhimiya, and he heard the sound of a pleading girl who is crying for Fatima al-Zahraa’s mercy, Kibreet realized that she was about to be raped while still a virgin, so he decided to add one more victim to his list for ‘Fatima al-Zahraa’, killing him and returning the girl to her parents safely. It is highly likely that Kibreet died while being certain that he will get that intercession, and many people of Iraq are still following his footsteps, killing, looting and assaulting, and then doing something by which they seek the intercession of a saintly figure close to God.

They are not to blame, as they are forced to do this due to their conditions, as they have grown up with the morals of Jahiliya, and have taken a custom to it and cannot deviate from it, on the other hand, they fear the punishment of God and hellfire, so they must reach a solace to pacify the catch-22.

Tob Abu Khuzama:

After Ottoman Sultan Murad re-liberated Baghdad from the hands of Iranian Saffavids in 1638, he left one of his heavy cannons to be put at the gate of the fortress, the cannon grew in the eyes of Baghdad’s peasants, Sunnis in particular, to hold something of a sanitly essence by which people are blessed and myths are spun around. The cannon was named ‘Tob Abu Khuzama’, allegedly because there was a small crack at its rim which legend has it that the cannon was at heavens when Baghdad was being laid siege to, and that God ordered Gabriel to descend to Earth to aid Sultan Murad to liberate Baghdad, so Gabriel descended, leading it by the rim. Other legends speak of the pattern of fish on its sides, saying that they stuck to the cannon while it crossed the ‘sea of power’ in its heavenly descent, and that the cannon picked up dirt and transformed it into bombs by the will of God. Other stories mention that Sultan Murad once became angry at the cannon and struck it by his fist, causing the crack as a testament to his physical strength. Another story talk about the cannon itself becoming angry (perhaps by the Sultan’s punch), so it hurled itself in the Tigris which forced Murad to pull it from its rim.

Those legends escalated into saintly proportions, women would bless their children by it, and would swear by it and hold promises near it, custom has it that the newborn in Baghdad is brought at his 7th day, circled around the cannon, and have his head inserted inside the cannon three times, this continued until it was moved to the war museum prior to World War II, people forgot it and its saintly essence, not so long ago, the cannon was returned to al-Madyaan square, and is today an artifact without any divine value. (Konfused Kid - It was pulled out after 2003 by bandits who probably tried to make good use of its copper)

In conclusion, We cannot understand religious rites in Iraq and other similar societies unless we understand how prevalent and far-reaching the principle of intercession is in the hearts of people, people would deny this sometimes but they are still under sway unconsciously, for without that they would feel astray.

Konfused Kid: I had no intention to translate the passages regarding intercession as most of them were related to a principle which I felt wasn’t relevant to modern times, at least not as powerful as al-Wardi envisions it to be here , but after re-reading it casts very illuminating lights on the contradictory values of religion in Iraqis, it could explain how people who are supposed to be devout can go about their daily life while knowing that they have shed so much blood and destruction. Today, the principle of intercession has faded from the forefront of Sunnis, who claim to ‘ask God alone’. Perhaps influenced by Wahaabism, anyway, it is clear from al-Wardi that a few centuries Sunnis were just as attached to intercession as Shiites. Ironically, Saddam Hussein carried out many of the practices pointed at by al-Wardi here, I cannot remember how many gigantic mosques has he built in the last years of his reign.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ali al-Wardi: Social Glimpses...Part II

Iraqi Moral Values:

Iraqis in the Ottoman period were closer to Bedouin values than Islamic values, due to the control of the ‘Bedouin tide’ on them, there is a stark difference between the values of Bedouins and Islam, in a nutshell, Bedouin values glorify racism, vengeance, looting, killing women to wash away shame and so forth, while Islam condemns all that and considers it banned. Nevertheless, those values were common in the Ottoman period as many people glorified the man who shakes the ground when he walks and who robs houses at night out of manhood, describing him as a ‘lion’, ‘nightman’ or ‘tribe’s pride’.

Those Bedouin tides have always encompassed the Iraqi society at one time or another, in a continuous ebb and flow as Iraq is adjacent one of the world’s greatest Bedouin foundation deserts without any natural barriers separating the two. Bedouin tribes were always ready to enter Iraq and live there, seizing opportunity at times of chaos and wars and famine, or when the government is weak and culture is ripped apart. Bedouin tribes then control Iraqi roads, threatening cities and villages, urging civilians to pick up arms to defend themselves, and in the process spreading values of vengeance, racism and invasion. It appears to me that the most recent Bedouin tide which engulfed Iraq in the Ottoman priod was more severe than any one that preceded it, as Iraqi society never witnessed an era where Bedouin values so dominated as this one. I could bring the following as reasons:

  1. The Ottoman conquest came after a series of Mongul conquests in which no civil government to promote trade and encourage production and irrigation was established, one of the darkest passages of Iraqi history and the lowest of civilization. Post-Abbasid governments were first interested in conquest and taxes instead of reconstruction and order, city dwellers were forced to take shelter in Bedouin and tribal ruggedness as a reaction to save money and soul.
  2. The Ottoman State was past its prosperity and power and started showing signs of stagnation and decay at the time when it seized Iraq in the 16th Century. It was not supposed to stay alive afterwards for a long time but what kept it so was what became known as the ‘Eastern Affair’, as major powers such as Britain and France were interested in keeping the Ottoman State balanced between life and death so it does not die without their having a proper agreement on how to distribute its wealth. As a result, Iraq suffered under a long era of governmental decay and cultural backwardness, which prompted Bedouin tribes to rule supreme.
  3. Ottoman state was preoccupied with its continuous war with Iran, which allowed tribes to do as they please in Iraq. The state itself used the tribes sometimes in its war against Iran, those tribes are known to fight not for any patriotic or religious motive but only for the bounty and to gain rewards that enable dominance on nearby tribes, wide areas of Iraq thus is under the control of Tribal sheikhs ruling according to Bedouin custom.
  4. Diseases filled Iraq at the Ottoman period once every 10 years, an important factor in crystallizing Bedouin tides and destroying civilizations.

Cities and Tribes

There are two social patterns that lay evidence to the extremity of the Bedouin tide in the Ottoman era ; the sparse population and the high ratio of tribes per cities. Mid-19th century Iraq’s population was somewhere close to 1-1.25 million, a very small number as compared to Abbasid Iraq, where the population of Baghdad alone is more than all of Ottoman Iraq. (KK – currently, Baghdad is 6 million, the population of all of Jordan, and Iraq is 28) Tribes in the Ottoman era where three quarters of all of Iraq, some were Bedouin and others were farmers, but all held tribal identification and customs fiercely in their hearts, they looked at all governments as hostile, regardless of being Turkish or Iranian, tribes would aid the victorious and loot the vanquished, regardless of their ideology differences.

On the other hand, city dwellers had three levels of social identification as opposed to the sole tribal one. First of all comes the neighborhood or district against all other neighborhoods in his city, as it comes to be a synonym for the tribe for Bedouins, this local identification would expand to what we could the ‘city’ identification, when the city is threatened under a common ailment. The third level is sectarian, such as when a sectarian case is raised or a state of one of the two sects comes to invade, the citizens then forget all their district and city identifications and pour their attention on that, to quote the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brother on our cousin, and me and our cousin on the stranger.” Hereby, it is clear that sectarianism is another level of social awareness, and is not based on religion or care for it.

The Phenomenon of ‘Shaqawa’

One of the most important social aspects that hint at the Bedouin tide is the ‘shaqawa’, which gives us a clear insight on the values and composition of the Iraqi society.

A “shaqi”, legally speaking, is a criminal who loots houses and imposes ‘taxes’ on the rich. Socially however, he is a hero by which the neighborhood takes pride, he does not disobey the dominant local customs – often a rich, noble guardian of his neighbors, and is keen to observe the rights of ‘the common bread and salt’, his criminal behavior is directed both at the government and at those who do not encompass his identification. Many a bloody battle has been fought at night between the Shaqi and the governmental soldiers, as his status in the eyes of the people increases with the increasing number of victims and battles, if he enters prison, it is a medal on his chest, if he is killed ; a funeral comes out to mourn the ‘great’ man. (Konfused Kid – I have often wondered how come the criminals are always loved, this seems to be universal somewhat in humans, Natural Born Killers, anyone?)

The ratio of shaqis to normal population was very few per district, in spite of their small numbers, they exemplified the social standards with clarity. Their small numbers is a result of the rare qualities one must have to be the shaqi : Courage, physical prowess, weapon efficiency, a stout heart and a dashing spirit. If one person gets lucky and have all this, and then gets to be luckier by surviving a few bloody battles, then his reputation will soar in his neighborhood, eventually adopting all the manners of the confident protector and champion, with a certain ‘walk’ and ‘talk’. Most boys in the neighborhood look up to him as a role model, wishing to be like him when they listen to their fathers and relatives speak copiously, most of those boys will never be like him as explained earlier, which could lead them to suffer immense psychological complexes like the ones which troubled Khalaf bin Ameen.

Khalaf bin Ameen:

Khalaf bin Ameen lived at late-Ottoman period, Baghdadis still chuckle at his anecdotes, all revolving about him being an ugly, cowardly person wishing all the time to be a shaqi to be looked at, he had holstered two big guns which he never uses unless he is absolutely certain that the danger has passed completely. He would spin tales of the most intricate detail about his adventures of looting, mudering and robbing, most of which attributed to himself naturally, if a big heist is attempted, Khalaf would go to people asking whether his name was included in the list of the accused, laying birth to the famous saying: “Didn’t they mention the name of your uncle?”, he would try to confess for crimes he did not commit to attempt and enter jail, but the governor would obstinately release him every time, leading him to come about complaining about the unjust governor who releases the criminals and imprisons the ‘innocents’. Most people, like Khalaf, loved to pompously pose as shaqis, bin Ameen was alone in the spotlight because he exaggerated himself to the point of mockery. A lot of people still carry that trait, and if their hearts are exposed to the masses then we would see many Khalaf bin Ameens. Dr. Mustafa Juwad traces the traditions of Shaqawa to those of the ‘Ayareen’ and ‘Shuttar’ who dominated Baghdad at the Abassid, while the comparison is valid, there is a huge difference; a Shaqi works alone while Ayareen and Shuttar were groups that resembled military soldiers at times and unions at others, and my personal judgement is that the ‘Ayareen’ represented the revolution of the poor over the rich as a result of the aristocracy that grew in the civilized Baghdad at the time, the rich capital of a far-reaching empire. Historians say that when ayareens and bandits would intercept tribes they would justify this by taking their right of ‘zakat’, of which merchants deprived them. This social condition is undoubtedly different from the Ottoman-era Baghdad, people had nothing near an ‘aristocratic’ segregation at the time, it was replaced by an identification with their tribes or neighborhoods, the rich man in a neighborhood would open his doors for everyone in his neighborhood without discrimination, they would swiftly come to his aid in battles and fights. This is more apparent in countryside than ciites, as the sheikh in the countryside would not be arrogant and would not distinguish his clothes, food, or residence to a great degree, he is always at the service of his tribesmen, and they are his loyal soldiers and trustees. This is another sign of the domination of Bedouin tides, as people in general do not adapt to aristocratic denominations until they become civilized and start to feel that money is the vein of life, in Bedouin culture, money is appreciated only in the extent that it embellishes and develops their identity, while the Ottoman governor sole interest was in collecting as much tax money as possible to send to Istanbul, and if anything is left then it is his share, if he thought of building then this will be exclusive to mosques and religious schools, for he, as all people, believe in the principles of intercession.

The Principle of Intercession will be the focus of the next post.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ali al-Wardi: Social Glimpses of the History of Modern Iraq

Ali al-Wardi is often considered the 'Godfather' of Iraqi sociology, A secular-styled writer of Shiite lineage, al-Wardi has written what many considered to be the definitive books on the history of Iraq and the psychology of its unfortunate inhabitants. His neutrality, which rejected both Marxist communism and Pan-Arab nationalism (the two major sparring factions at the time) put him at great troubles. I have long searched for his books and by a stroke of luck managed to find them online. I have been reading in this book 'Glimpses' for quite a while, in the following series of posts I am going to translate what I felt is relevant and crucial for those who want to understand why is this going on in Iraq. This book was published in 1951, but it didn't take it long for me to be dumbfounded by how little we progressed, and how much we stepped back. Take a look and see for yourself. al-Wardi, like my least favorite bloggers Iraq The Model unfortunately agree with me, is a must-read for anyone who even thinks of breaking it into understanding Iraq. This is for all the people who think 'Iraq' is still related to those distant civillizations we like to trumpet every now and other: The Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadains, even our own Islamic civillizations of Kufa, and Harun al-Rashid's Abbasid Baghdad, have nothing to do with the Ottoman-Saffavid foundations this bastard Iraq was built upon.

Ali al-Wardi,
Glimpes in the Social History of Modern Iraq
Published in 1951.

To study Iraqi society, an interest which I have become fascinated by for quite a substantial amount of time, I realized that I cannot understand society at present unless I understand the conditions by which it passed in its past decades, as each event must have left an impact, large or small, on the current behavior and thinking of people.

I would also like to point out a dilemma which always plagued me enormously in previous books, the question of neutrality and objectivity. Many delicate subjects will be discussed in this book regarding the viewpoints of many Iraqis, and those people are quite taken to view history the same way one would view a multi-faceted pyramid, as each group focuses on one side while omitting the others altogether.

Social Hypnosis

Iraqis are not different from other human beings, to be subjective is a natural human trait that could be weak or strong according to circumstances, a person undergoes in his social life a hypnosis that we could call ‘social hypnosis’, as society exerts on man since early childhood various impulses in values, morals, beliefs, and social considerations and by so puts man’s thinking in certain moulds that are hard to break. Thus, a person born in a certain environment is usually personified by the environment’s religious, political and emotional definitions. He believes that he took up those patterns by his own free will and choice while not realizing that he is merely the making of his own social environment.

Hypnosis can affect human beings to a degree that he could see white as black or to think that a particularly repulsive odor is quite pleasant.

Iran and Shiism

It is a common mistake to think that Shiism began in Iran, as all modern historical research shows us that it started in Iraq and then extended into Iran. Scholars agree that Iranians were Sunnis until the advent of the 16th century, with the emergence of the Saffavid state. Prior to that, Shiites were not few in numbers there, but were only in a few cities. At the Saffavid era, Asfahan became the capital of the state and the center of Shiite learning, after the collapse of the state that center moved into the Iraqi city Kerbala and remained there until the end of the 18th century, where it relocated into Najaf and settled there, apparently for good. (Konfused Kid- not really, Qom is now a rival center that is just as powerful as Najaf.)

What we wish to extract from all this is that Iran, after becoming Shiite, began affecting the Iraqi society considerably, as ties between the Iranians and Iraqi Shiites grew by the days. Therefore, a unique social condition was established in Iraq, The majority of Iraq’s population were Shiite Arab while their scholars were Iranians. Iranian students come into Iraq to take lessons in Najaf or Kerbala, some return home and some stay. It is only natural that those who stay remain connected to their homeland, bringing influence of any political and religious disputes back home, the disputes between clerics in Iran would spread in Iraq this way, going as far as affecting the general population, such examples are the cases of the Tinbak in 1890, and the Mashrootiya in 1906, and many others. This unique condition would have been unimportant had Iraq been a part of the Iranian state, but destiny had it that Iraq becomes part of the Ottoman state, so the Iraqi society had a very severe identity crisis, as its government was linked to Turkey while the majority of the population was linked to Iran.

Sectarain Escalations:

Ottoman State has appeared in Turkey since the 7th Hijri century, but it expanded Westward first towards Europe, and never headed East towards Iraq and other Arab states before the emergence of the Saffavid state in Iran, ever since then Iraq becomes the grounds for violent clashes between the Iranian and Ottoman states, something that will last for three centuries. From here the famous Iraqi saying: “be nil ajam wil room balwa ibtilayna” (Between the Ajam (Persians) and Room (Turks) we fell into tragedy), this ‘balwa’ in Iraq came because the Iranian State adopted Shiism as a slogan while the Ottoman picked up Sunnism, escalating sectarian tensions in Iraq unbearably. Sectarain tensions existed in Iraq since early Islam, as Abbasid-era Baghdad witnessed battles between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods in which many were killed, houses were burned, and religious places violated. The clash reached its apex only when Iraq became between the rock of the Persians and the hard place of the Ottomans, as the talk of the town for Iraqis consisted merely of the news of the two states, with each sect beseeching God to grant victory to their compatriots. Iraqis knew nothing then of modern political ideas such as patriotism, nationalism or independences. All that filled their thinking was religious sentiments represented by sectarian extremism. By this, they did not consider Iranians or Turks as foreigners who sought to occupy the land and its wealth, but as a protector of the sect and a rescuer of the subjects. This view was widespread until very recent times, an example of this is the veneration given to a canon known as ‘Tob Abu Khuzama’, this canon was brought by Ottoman Sultan Murad the Fourth to liberate Baghdad, and then left it there. The population used to bless with the canon and its flag in spite of it just being a tool to ‘occupy’ Iraq and ‘colonize’ it according to modern-day standards.

Sectarain war, on its outward appearance, is based on the clash between those who adhere to the prophet’s household and those who adhere to his companions. As a matter of fact, both Ottoman and Iranian states were both similar in being as far as possible from the principles of both the Prophet’s household and companions. Both were in the vein of traditional imperialist countries which bore little resemblance to the Islamic State witnessed in the days of the Prophet and his Rashidun Caliphs. Ottoman-era Iraqis knew nothing of this, as all that was important to them as that the state be of their sect, so their Imams shrines are venerated and their religious practices and festivities are taken proper care of, the state then is free to do as it pleases as its affairs does not concern them and they believe it is of little concern to their religion.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Iraqi Refugees Real Number In Jordan

the Jordanian government signed an argeement with a Norwegian NGO, FAFO,to conduct a survey to estimate the actual number of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, the results are expected to be published next month, after fieldwork has been finished in April and May, according to the website of the NGO.

Usually, any story involving Iraqi refugees you read will tell you that there are about 750,000 Iraqis in Jordan and 1.5 million in Syria.

However, a source from the Norwegian NGO just told me that the initial results seem to indicate that the total number is much lower, almost half of that estimate in here (Jordan). With the strict rules applied by the government on Iraqis entering Jordan, as well as the high cost of living and inability to find work or residency, I don't find it surprising that the estimate is lower, but it's such a huge difference that I am still willing to wait for the official results.