My father’s travels ended in 1980. We came back to live the Iran-Iraq war. Zinnah, my sister, was a child of ten when she attended the Dijla (Tigress) Primary School. One day she returned to ask my mother, “Are we Sunni or Shooyouii (Arabic for Communist)?” a word she had most probably picked up in my father’s endless political debates with friends and family and sometimes himself. “Who taught you these words?” my mother asked in curiosity. “Oh! This girl in school asked me if we were Sunni or Shooyouii.” Actually, the girl had asked Zinnah if we were Sunni or Shiite, but Zinnah had never heard either of these words before. “These words will not be repeated in this household! You are Muslim!” came mother’s stern reply. Now, almost thirty years later, and much to my mother’s grief, these very same words are thrown in our faces in every newscast.
In 2003, a few months before the invasion of Iraq, my brother Ahmed, a Sunni, decided to take a Shiite wife. It was agreed that they would have a Sunni Sheik and a Shiite Imam present and hold both marriage ceremonies — the differences are subtle. The idea was to have both holy authorities present. Ahmed, a born procrastinator, only got through to the Sunni Sheik on the morning of that day. Of course, he was booked. My brother and his wife were eventually married by a Shiite Imam. It couldn’t have been lovelier or more tear-inducing.
What has happened to Iraq? It started with a failing dictator whose only means of remaining in power was to divide and rule. The Islamic Shiite Revolution in Iran had its far-reaching effects in 1979 — in fact, it extended as far as Lebanon, where the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the South are Shiite. So is the case in Iraq, but was it necessary to wage a war against Iran to stop the “Shiite Influence”? It achieved nothing but devastation for the Iraqi people, but it did protect the strategic interests of the “Petro-Dollar” industry. After the first Gulf war, US/UN-imposed sanctions only helped further entrench the tyrant in his position, while the masses struggled to survive hunger. It was in the nineties when he reared a generation of starved youth whom he fed his sectarian agenda, which he managed to squeeze into very secular (Baathist) party principles. This, of course, gave birth to its extreme counterpart. Were Sunnis not persecuted under his rule? Of course they were! Thousands died. . . . But more thousands of Shiite perished, and it was not a question of population ratio. If you were detained by Saddam’s “dogs,” and depending on the severity of your “crime,” chances were that, if you were Shiite, you went to a mass grave, almost immediately. If you were Sunni, you languished for the longest time, and if you behaved, your life could be spared for a price, but not until you had undergone torture that perhaps made you envy those who died immediately.
Then came the neo-con agenda. An invasion followed by elections enhanced by sectarian and ethnic platforms thus furthering the divide, and today, we have “Death Squads.” The accusations fly when you hear an Iraqi complaining about the status quo, but the pattern and methodology of lynching that is carried out against both sects is pretty identical. The Sunnis blame Iranian infiltrators, and so does the majority of nationalist Shiite. But Iran has the current ruling party “in its pockets.” What would it gain from a civil strife? You would think it would want to promote the stability of the government that has its full backing.
I came across the answer pretty recently. I found the first clue embedded in an article by Robert Fisk, in which he interviews a Syrian “security source,” who confirms to him stories of Iraqi security forces trained by US forces and sent to detonate explosive cars without their knowing. He adds that “No one can account for the murder of 191 university teachers and professors since the 2003 invasion — nor the fact that more than 50 former Iraqi fighter-bomber pilots who attacked Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war have been assassinated in their home towns in Iraq in the past three years.”
John Pilger goes further to insist that the CIA-controlled Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad “directs the principal death squads” and that their operations are not unlike the “CIA’s terror operations in central America in the 1980s, notably El Salvador.” But then what are the parallels between El Salvador in the 1980s and Iraq in the 21st century? Primarily the existence of para-military groups (militias as some like to refer to them), and as W. John Greene puts it “the disappearance of tens of thousands from their homes and communities and the marginalization of those too fearful to participate in their country’s political future.”
All this coincides with radical changes taking place in the CIA led by none other than the notorious John Negroponte well known for his history as US ambassador to Honduras in “play[ing] a key role in coordinating US covert aid to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and shoring up a CIA-backed death squad in Honduras,” according to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
Iraqis, like any other nation, have always had our differences. However, as a multi-sectarian, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic group, we have not only co-existed but we have also inter-married. I am a product of this tolerance. Kurdish and Turkmenian, as well as Arab, blood runs strong in my veins. Since the establishment of the Independent State of Iraq in 1920, under a British Mandate, we have never been known to kill each other — I repeat, never. Why are they forcing us now to kill each other?But then, who can guess what an occupier’s agenda holds for the future of a victimized country?
The solution to the Iraqi quagmire is not further intervention by any foreign forces. Leave us alone! We can manage our own state of affairs; we have been doing so for almost a century now before dictators imposed their “Petro-Dollar” dreams on our future, and strangers with cruel agendas landed on our shores.
Zaineb Alani was born in North Africa, to Iraqi diplomats, and grew up in China, and later East Africa, Tanzania. She returned with her family to her native Iraq to experience firsthand the impact of two successive wars: the war of attrition with Iran, which lasted eight years, and the first six-week Gulf War, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. In 1994, she moved to Jordan to teach at Jordan University. She accepted a Fulbright scholarship in 1996 to study Education at Ohio State University. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, where she works as an instructional designer and consultant for local companies. Zaineb’s family were forced to pull her mother out of Baghdad a week before the 2003 Gulf War. She has forty extended family members who still live in Iraq. She keeps a blog: http://tigresssmiles.blogspot.com/.