Agam's Gecko
Saturday, February 25, 2006

aider Ajina has been cited here several times in the past for his translations of Iraqi news articles, which he used to send to Arthur Chrenkoff. I'm glad to see that Haider is still getting them out -- now via Power Line:
The following is my translation of a headline and news published by the Iraqi Arabic newspaper "Aswataliraq" on February 23.

"Iraqis of Samarah start rebuilding bombed Shrine...,and demonstrate for national unity."

"People of Samarah started local campaign to clean up ruble and start rebuilding the bombed Shrine, while other residence joined a demonstration calling for national unity. The crowd chanted 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The governor of Salahudien province announced that the province had received four billion Iraqi Dinars (2,800,000 USD) from the National Government the Sunni Endowment party to help with rebuilding efforts. Local police reported that thousand of residences have voluntarily gathered at the damaged shrine to clean up debris since sun up.

"Local police further reported that thousands of local residences formed a demonstration, which headed to city hall. Demonstrators were chanting 'Not Sunni Not Shiite...one one national unity.' The demonstration dispersed by noon with out incidents.

"The governor of Salahudien province Hamed Alqaisi announced in a press conference that clean up and repair of the shrine has indeed started this AM. Alqaisi added; 'The shrine will be restored to its former glory if not even better, by loyal Iraqi hands.' As far as catching the culprits the governor said; 'A large coalition of Interior ministry, Salahudien police, the Sunni Endowment party and all who have security or management responsibility of the holy shrine has been formed. This coalition has started its investigation immediately after the heinous attack and will publish its report with in a few days.'"

The following is my translation of a headline and news published by the Kuwaiti Arabic news agency KUNA on February 23.

"Iraqis form local Shiite committees to protect Sunni Mosques in Basra and the south."

"Large (peaceful) demonstrations broke out again today in Basra, protesting the heinous attacks on a Shiite shrine in Samarah. Over 100,000 protesters participated chanting condemnations against the attacks and calling for self-restraint and following religious instructions (from leading religious references) for calm. Sheik Abdul Husein Almuhamdawi (a religious leader in the province) said; 'Local national Shiite committees have been formed to protect local Sunni mosques from over zealous individuals.' A source in the local Basra police leadership mentioned that 'Talha' mosque and two other mosques in southern Basrah were subject to light gunfire but no one was injured."
Iraqis have a history of protecting each other across "sectarian lines" like this, with many little-noticed examples during the terrorist insurgency. Sunnis protected Shia minorities in some places, and Shias protected Sunnis in others. Much like the way Christian churches, threatened by Islamist extremists in Indonesia, were secured with the help of national Muslim organisations.

Haider offers his own comments:
Most of our news reports on the bombed shrine and all the damage sustained physically and emotionally. The news further reports on sectarian attacks and demonstrations. While this is true and accurate what is not being reported is the calling for calm and cooperation by all Sunni Shiite religious leaders (except the young Alsadar who remains a thorn). The demonstrations of national unity. The mullahs in Sunni Shiite mosques calling for support for injured brothers and sisters, national calm. They do not report on the Shiites standing guard outside of Sunni mosques in the south. Etc...There are two sides to this incident. The side of revenge, anger and the much larger side of unity and support. This bombing in Samarah has brought more unity amongst Iraqis than any other incident since the stampede on the Kahdumiah bridge (when Felujans [mostly Sunni] donated blood for the wounded in Kahdumiah [mostly Shiite] in Baghdad). Iraqi political parties, community leaders, religious leaders, political leaders all are strongly condemning this bombing and asking for national support and help for the people of Samarah. This outpouring of compassion, support and help is what is not being reported.
Again al-Sadr, again and again al-Sadr. I wonder how much of the violence yesterday was due to something he said at noon prayers. David Brooks this morning on Lehrer said that he thinks Ali al-Sistani deserves the Nobel prize for Peace, for his skill in keeping things together on the Shia side. That a few terrorists could walk into such an important shrine, and just blow it up with such apparent ease, means that other highly symbolic targets are probably not getting the security measures that even common sense should dictate. Al-Qaeda should not have had it so easy. Everybody knows that their immediate goal has been to spark communal conflict.

So now the country is under emergency curfew, while self-congratulating cries of "Civil war! See?... Murtha and I told you so!" echo from across oceans. Be careful what you wish for.

Zeyad writes of his close encounter with neighbourhood fighting, and a lot more great reporting on the situation, on Healing Iraq. Mohammed, writing at Iraq the Model, has more on the role of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Sunni political factions.

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