Sistani Aide Killed
Shiites Demonstrate Against Kuwait, Nancy Ajram in Karbala
Two clerics, one Sunni and one Shiite, were assassinated over the weekend. Guerrillas shot down Shaikh Qasim al-Gharawi, and his nephew, Hazim Rubai, in East Baghdad as they left the shaikh’s home. Al-Gharawi was a major emissary of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and was sent all over the Iraqi south with messages from Sistani to other Shiite clerics.
KarbalaNews.net reports that the Shiite Badr Organization (the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI]) has identified 40 officers who served in Saddam Hussein’s repressive security apparatus in various provinces, and who are now serving in the Ministry of the Interior. The new Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, is from SCIRI. Shiite members of parliament have repeatedly complained about Baathist officers serving in Interior, and have demanded that they be purged. The article names all forty. The ex-Baath officers were brought into the government by the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. He was a long-time CIA asset who recruited Iraqi military officers into his Iraqi National Accord in hopes of overthrowing Saddam, and presumably these officers had served as covert US agents. The religious Shiites, however, have a deep hatred of anyone who was high in the Baath Party, and seem determined to purge the Allawi appointees, even though US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered them not to do so.
Al-Zaman reports that on Saturday evening about one thousand Iraqis mounted a demonstration in the holy city of Karbala demanding that diplomatic relations with Kuwait be severed because of a slight against Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The demonstrators included major clerics and members of the provincial governing council. They were protesting that a photograph of Sistani was used as the backdrop to a stage on which the Lebanese pop singer Nancy Ajram performed.
Since religious Shiites used Sistani’s picture relentlessly to get the United Iraqi Alliance list elected, and it was posted in all kinds of places where people do all kinds of things, I don’t actually think they have much cause for outrage here. I suspect that part of the reason for the demonstration is that religious Shiites in Iraq are appalled by the images now invading the country via satellite, of pop music video clips and modern women and couples. In contrast, they are having a puritanical moment. But hard as I try to understand it, I can’t help feeling that there are more important issues in Iraq today.