In this Shiite Muslim holy city, Saddam Hussein stripped away clerics' rights and harassed, imprisoned and killed them. Hakim, a scion of one of the country's most prominent religious families, managed to survive prison and wars.
After the U.S.-led invasion, he witnessed foreign troops in his streets and bombings of his revered holy sites, and also watched young fighters rise up, disdainful of graying religious scholars like him, and briefly seize control of Najaf under the banner of the young cleric Muqtada Sadr.
From his study in the shadow of the golden-domed Imam Ali mosque, the 71-year-old cleric contemplates the humiliations and opportunities created in his society since the Americans came six years ago.
The above is from Saad Fakhrildeen and Ned Parker's "For Shiite cleric in Iraq, good and bad are intermixed" (Los Angeles Times) which is one of the rare articles filed by a US outlet from Iraq today. It's not a great article, it's not even a good article. Mohammed Hussein Hakim is thrilled about the invasion and illegal war and the reporters take it at face value. They fail to point out that, had the illegal war not happened, the Ayatollah would still be living in a secular society and not be so 'influential.' Kind of an important point. When a rabid dog rules the neighborhood, he may or may not be glad about getting rabies but if he hadn't been bit, he wouldn't be terrorizing. Same with Ayatollah Moahmmed.
Yesterday Baghdad saw a bombing which claimed 7 lives and left twenty-three injured. Laith Hammoudi and Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) report the attack took place in the Kadhemiyah neighborhood of Baghdad which was also bombed on Tuesday. They quote eye witnesses:
"It is clear they are targeting the Shiite areas," said Mohammed Mahdi, a 20-year-old merchant who witnessed Wednesday's explosion. "These things are done by the Baathists, for revenge."
Other witnesses blamed Iraq's new government. "If the politicians are all still disagreeing, how will we have peace?" asked 18-year-old Mohammed Salman.
Another bystander, Ehsan Hadi, 32, said he thinks that Iraq's security forces aren't prepared to protect the people. "In general the security forces are not good enough," he said. "Their training is weak."
Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) also cover the bombing in "7 Killed in Baghdad Near Shiite Shrine:"
The assault occurred around noon in the capital's Kadhimiyah neighborhood, as worshipers made their way to the Imam Musa al-Khadim shrine. Witnesses said that women and children were among the victims and that Iraqi security forces blocked ambulances from entering the crowded area.
"People used carts to remove the wounded," said Um Ridha, 30, a teacher.
Iran's Press TV reports this speculation:
An Iraqi lawmaker alleges that 'the occupiers' are behind the recent bomb blasts in Iraq basing his claims on the fact that the US has access to Iraq's security and intelligence files.
Maha al-Dori, a member of Sadr fraction in the Iraqi parliament said that "the occupiers are causing disarray in Iraq with aim of at taking control over the country's affairs."
Al-Dori, who was speaking to al-Alam on Wednesday, also noted that Sadr's anti-occupation movement has called on Iraqis to hold a demonstration, calling for the occupiers' - a term referring to American forces -- immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
He added that the demonstration would also urge the release of the innocent detainees, while protesting at calls for the return of the Baath party.
The Post and McClatchy have strong articles but probably the strongest is Michael Riley's "Polis takes Iraq to task over attacks on gays" (Denver Post). Polis is US House Rep Jared Polis one of the few openly gay members of Congress and he was in Iraq this week. Among his concerns, Riley reports, was "the case of a man allegedly sentenced to death in a criminal court for membership in a gay-rights group." From the article:
An openly gay member of Congress, Polis has been investigating the treatment of gays in Iraq for several months, and last week he spoke through a translator by phone to a transgender Iraqi man who said he had been arrested, beaten and raped by Ministry of Interior security forces.
Human-rights groups tracking the issue also passed Polis a letter, allegedly written from jail by a man who said he was beaten into confessing he was a member of the gay-rights group Iraqi-LGBT. The group said the man had been sentenced to death in a court in Karkh and finally executed.
"Is there anyone to help me before it is too late?" said the letter. Its author's name was being withheld to protect his family.
Polis is to be praised for taking evidence to the State Dept but someone needs to start asking why State Dept officials in Baghdad need to be made aware of these issues and crimes against humanity from people outside of Iraq?
Riley notes how 'sensitive' the issues are for Iraq and the US government -- since the US government installed the current government in Iraq. Riley references Timothy Williams and Tareq Maher's "Iraq’s Newly Open Gays Face Scorn and Murder" and notes how relatives are being "blamed" for the murders but "Polis said the most disturbing aspect of the persecution is that the government itself may be involved. The Boulder Democrat said that while State Department officials in Washington initially dismissed the claims of Iraqi Interior Ministry involvement, the charge d'affaires in Baghdad has requested more documentation and the chance to speak with witnesses and victims."
It's strange that the New York Times didn't report on that but they don't report on Iraq today. They run a one-paragraph brief and they shame themselves but we'll get to that second point in the next entry.
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