Our greatest tragedy may be
that we tend to forget our tragedies
when the [infant] buried alive is questioned,
For what sin was she killed?”
The Holy Qur’an 81:8
were victims of Nazi oppression and “ethnic cleansing”, the result
of which was the extermination of over five million Jews. By
perpetrating such a heinous crime Hitler engraved his name in
history as one of the most notorious criminals who immersed himself
in the blood of innocent people... We are not going to dispute that.
In fact, we, more than anybody can fully grasp the agony of the
holocaust. We have had a first hand experience with the very same
horrors. Freshly dug mass graves bare witness to the plight of the
Shi’ites. They have been subjected to a systematic, state-sponsored
persecution and murder. Iraq has once again revived those shocking
When Iraqi refugees
return to their homeland, they no longer have hope of finding their
loved ones. Any such hope has disappeared except for a very few
hopefuls who dread the bitter reality of loss. The only hope that
still exists in the hearts of expatriates is finding the burial site
of their relatives… Perhaps also some identifiable remains.
The search for
those remains has become a daily chore for thousands of Iraqis
today. New mass graves are discovered almost on a daily basis. Some
sites contain tens of thousands of bodies, while some are just too
swarming with human remains littered on top of each other that no
one bothers to keep a head count. The bare bones, broken skulls,
cuffed hands and scraps of clothing tell a horrifying story. Many
skeletons belong to women, some even to young children. The scene is
nothing short of horrendous, and the sorrow of loved ones is utterly
Each body has a
story to tell. Each person had relatives, parents, and a family that
was later forced to pay for the bullets used to kill them when a
bill was dispatched to each household. The state was not going to
pay for their punishment. The obligatory payment was probably the
hardest thing to do.
Yet those who
received confirmation of their loved ones’ death were the lucky
ones. Hundreds of thousands of wives, husbands, parents, and
children never had any type of emotional closure. Until, that is,
the infamous incarceration compounds were emptied, Ba’ath party
records were checked, and finally mass graves were excavated.
Those executed by the Saddam regime were brutally murdered
because they stood for an agenda.. Now they themselves have
become an agenda.
Mass graves have
been found in almost every major province. Some of them are group
specific (one has been found to house Da’wa party members and
another one for Islamic Action Organization adherents). Some are age
specific. Even the children were not spared. There is no need to go
into detailed descriptions of the sites and relate stories of those
lucky few who fled only to tell almost unbelievable tales. The real
problem lies in the fact that such stories are becoming mundane and
have lost their position as the number one news story, having been
“breaking news” items just a few days after the war.
For a third of a
century, the Shi’ite people of Iraq have been suffering in the
confines of their own Holy Land. They have been subject to the rule
of the minority, namely the Sunnies. It is no secret that Saddam and
his cohorts subscribe to the Sunni sect. On the outskirts of Tikrit
is a little village named Al-Awjah (which not surprisingly
translates as "The Twisted"), sparsely populated and neglected for
hundreds of years by the rest of the province. Saddam was born
precisely in that village in 1937 from a typical Sunni family.
It was Saddam’s
rise that paved the way for his venomous sectarian hatred to be
materialized. The Shi’ites were subjected to ethnic cleansing of an
unsurpassed scale. For them the punishment for political crimes
started with execution and ended with a lifetime of anguish under
the brutal torture apparatus of Saddam's notorious penitentiaries.
The list goes on to brutalities of detention without trial, torture,
and as the west has now come to discover; mass executions and
documents recovered after the fall of Saddam’s regime suggest a
staggering 5 million executions were made during Ba’ath era alone.
Over 10 million were also imprisoned. They were all Shi’ite save a
small percentage of Kurds. It is also very interesting to note that
after the 1991 Shi’ite uprising over 300,000 were killed or captured
never to be seen again, but there were no injured. This is very odd
considering the logical fact that wars result in many more injuries
than deaths. Under Saddam, however, people were either killed
instantly or killed in mass executions soon after. With slogans such
as “After today no more Shi’ites” the army had advanced into the
city of Karbala. The killed were killed, the captured were killed,
and the injured were killed as well. No one was spared.
Those executed by
the Saddam regime were brutally murdered because they stood for an
agenda, an agenda to have peace and exercise their right to freedom
of religion. Now they themselves have become an agenda. We must not
forget the sacrifices made by Iraqis because although liberation was
eventually accomplished at the hands of the Coalition forces, they
were only sowing the seeds. The Shi’ites of Iraq paid a very dear
price for its liberation, which is why their memory must be upheld
at any price.
We must endeavor to
permanently imprint the memory of those killed by Saddam and his
regime in the hearts and minds of generations to come in order to
prevent such human catastrophes from being repeated. Memorial
must be erected in every major city in Iraqas
well as every capital city in the western world. Names of the victims
must be placed on walls lest they be forgotten.
Committees must be
set up to promote the Iraqi calamity all over the world in an effort
to defend the rights of the Shi’ites in general. Their memory should
be preserved to help other Shi’ites suffering persecution elsewhere
in the world. In many parts of the world Shi’ites are prevented from
practicing their rituals. Their books are banned. Their sacred sites
are either demolished or inaccessible. Saudi Arabia is one such
country where it is a crime to be identified as a Shi’ite. Although
unofficial figures put their number at around 30 per cent of the
total population, Shi’ites do not have any such figures. In some
cities (such as Medina) Shi’ites conceal their faith to such an
extent that even their immediate family members do not know about
them. In such an atmosphere that the likes of Bin Laden were
nurtured, Shi’ites are seen as villains even before Americans. The
western world has only recently discovered the terrifying face of
Wahhabi terrorism at the hands of Al-Qaeda. We, however, have had to
deal with their bitter hatred for many years in Afghanistan (under
the Taliban), Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
Even with the
number of Shi’ites around the world approaching 400 million, the
Shia faith remains not only unrecognized by many countries but is
officially banned in many others.
Despite all of that
it is only today that the plight of the Shi’ites is being heard.
They have been desperately crying out for help for over 30 years to
no avail, but it is only after the fall of Baghdad that facts are
being revealed about the nature of Saddam’s vicious apparatus. We
have only recently come to discover - the hard way - that these are
the remnants of a truly despotic regime. It took 30 years of pain
and suffering along with millions of deaths in Iraq alone, but as
the old saying goes: “better late than never”. The long standing
persecution of the Shi’ites must now come to an end.
Summer of 2003