Situation In Basra David Patel Kindly

Situation in Basra

David Patel kindly writes from Basra with more information about the situation there, some of it contradicting the report in ash-Sharq al-Awsat that I summarized recently:

“I noticed you have a few posting on Basra. Here are some observations:

Sayyid Ali al-Mussawi is not Sistani’s rep in town (as you say in your

post). Sayyid Ali al-Mussawi is the preacher and leader of Hussawiyya

mosque, the big Shaikhiyya mosque in the center of town!!!! Sistani’s rep in

town is Sayyid Ali Abdul Hakim, based in Al-Abilah mosque. [Later clarification:

The full name of Sistani’s rep in Basra is: Sayyid Ali Sayyid Abdul Hakim al-Moosawi

al-Safi, but people in town refer to him as either Sayyid Ali or Sayyid Ali Abdul Hakim.

I have never heard his tribal affiliation (al-Moosawi) used when referring to him.

The Shaykhi leader, on the other hand, is commonly known in town as Sayyid

Ali al-Moosawi. I now understand why someone you cited called Sistani’s rep

‘Sayyid Ali al-Moosawi’, although people in Basra know him by Sayyid Ali

Abdul Hakim. ]

Yes, sellers of alcohol have been systematically attacked and killed. All

public sellers of alcohol, mostly Christians, closed in early Sep after

several were attacked (400 is a massive overstatement). The man we bought

beer from was pistol-whipped and told his son would be kidnapped if he did

not close his shop. The men said they were from ‘al-Hawza.’ Just before

Christmas, the (Shii) man I indirectly bought whisky from in Old Basra was

shot in the face 3 times and killed. No one will openly say who did it, but

most people believe it was 15th Shabaan Movement. These guys cause a lot of

problems. I do NOT think this is an attempt by Muslims to capture the market

for themselves, they have also been attacked. The simple fact is that there

are NO stores publicly selling alcohol and only one hotel, the al-Ayoon.

Alcohol is around, but you need to know someone to get it and it is all

under the table.

I spent a few days camping and hunting with friends from Amarah very close

to the Iraqi-Iranian border. In fact, we lunched in an old Iraqi border

patrol site. There is nothing at all on the border (except hunters trying to

kill gazelle and catch birds…) and it is possible to cross into Iran

without difficulty. The Iranians still man their side of the border, but the

Iraqi side is open and crossing is easy. A British helicopter flies along

the border once or twice a day, but my hunting companions tells me that the

British have deals with locals living near the border to keep an eye out of

odd groups coming across. There are a number of abandoned Iraqi military

sites near Amarah and these locals looted all the sites. They have dozens of

RPGs and guns inside their homes and repainted former Iraqi army trucks

outside. The British know about these and probably have a deal with them to

keep these weapons until they can be traded in for cash in exchange for

information. That said, buses of Iranian pilgrims cross daily. I often see

busloads of Iranians at the rest stops along the Amarah-Basra road . . .

I met Dep Gov Abdul Hafiz al-Ati. He appears to have done a good job in

difficult circumstances getting local councils to work together. He is most

definitely not a theocrat. There are other people in Basra local government

who are fundamentalists trying to Islamicize the system (such as al-Maliki,

the guy who seized the education post after the war and systematically fired

females teachers who refused to wear the hijab, Islamicized the curicculum,

and transferred secular minded teachers to remote schools – the Ministry of

Education in Baghdad finally got rid of him 3 weeks ago, despite protests

from his supporters and 3 days of no school…).”

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