Karbala Provincial Council Row Shows

Karbala Provincial Council Row Shows Power of Shiite Clergy in Iraq

Mariam Fam has the best and clearest account I have seen of the recent trouble in Karbala over the provincial council. Apparently what happened is that the Coalition Provisional Authority decided to expand the council from 16 to 40. They asked local tribal leaders and other notables for a list of candidates, and then CPA administrator John Perry simply appointed the ones that he chose from the list.

Several Shiite clergymen, including Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Karbala, and Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi, leader of the Islamic Action Movement, condemned the council as undemocratically chosen because of the CPA appointments. Al-Karbala’i demanded that it resign, and four did.

Sistani is said to view the council as illegitimate because of the way it was selected.

Then on Sunday, the CPA announced that the new appointments would be subject to some sort of referendum. On Monday the governor of Karbala, Saad Safuk, forbade the holding of demonstrations unless the demonstrators had applied for and received a permit at least 24 hours prior to the rally. This decree strikes me as a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regard to freedom of assembly.

One of the appointed council members who resigned is quoted by Fam,

‘ Saad Nasrawy said he decided to resign because he thought the selection process was arbitrary, but would have done so anyway after the clergy raised objections. “We, the Shiites, believe in our religious authority and consider their orders to be sacred,” Nasrawy said. “We consider those who violate their orders to be nonbelievers…I am a Shiite. I have to obey.”

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