As millions if Iraqi Moslem Shiites converged the to the sudden holy city of Karbala on Thursday April 20th, a powerful and stern political message was in the process of being delivered to America. The event was supposed to be a religious gathering but as crowds gained momentum in an unprecedented numbers and show of unity, the message became clearly blunt;” No to the American occupation of Iraq.” Media sources showed hundreds of thousand of men and women chanting angrily with fists in the air, “ No to Saddam and no to American.” Three million Iraqi Shiites were reported to have attended the important event of the Shiite Calendar.
Western media clearly played down the significance of the event describing it as more of a religious fest, which has been suppressed for a long time under the rule of Saddam. However, live reports from Arab TV and news sources showed that the Shiites of Iraq are rather organized and unified under the so called the Howzah, council of religious leaders. That is considered the supreme authority representing the Shiite community of Iraq, which comprises 60% of the entire population. Several local leaders expressed their views and feelings to a number of media channels.
One Howzah member announced, “ we intend to free Iraq from the Zionist American occupation. Iraq is for the Iraqis. Americans must leave our country alone.”
At a regional level, the Shiite community of Lebanon lead by Hizbuallh celebrated the same religious event with huge gatherings in Beirut and South Lebanon. The strongest words came from the Hassan Nassrallah, the leader of Hizuallah. The Charismatic Nassrallah gave a fiery speech in which he condemned the American war on Iraq and its military presence. As he spoke to hundreds of thousand of followers,
he said,” Iraq has not just entered the American era (Mandate).” He added, “ No, Iraq was long ago under the American control.” The Shiite leader was referring to the close relationship between the regime of Saddam and US government during the seventies and eighties. The US was the main financer and supporter of Saddam during the war of Iraq against Iran throughout the eighties.
The Hizbullah leader warned America,” I tell everybody here, today, by this event,
will mark the beginning of the end of the American era (mandate) in Iraq and in our region.”
Many political analysts have already begun to draw parallel lessons of Israel occupation of South Lebanon and US present occupation of Iraq. Israel occupation of Lebanon, summer 1982, resulted in the birth of Hizbullah, which fought Israel relentlessly for twenty years culminating in Israel’s first clear defeat with the Arabs in summer 2000.
Also, the occupation of Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 prompted the surfacing of movements like Hammas and Islamic Jihad. The two organizations have been staunch enemies of the stat of Israel engaging in fierce battles and fighting inside the occupied territories for years and years.
One prominent Iranian Shiite political commentator spoke about the new surge of political assertiveness in Iraq particularly among the strong Shiite community. Mr. Al Musawi said in a televised interview, “ There is huge populous sentiment that exist in Iraq now towards strong Islamic movements. The Americans are ignoring it but not ignorant of it. They do not want to believe this reality.” He added, “ after the power vacuum left by Saddam, I can assure you that the mosques and religious leaders have seized the initiative through the Howzah Council.”
Musawi finally asked, “ if the people say, “yes “ to Islam. What will the Americans who believe in democracy say?”
By: B. Samed
April 27th. 2003