In Hurriya, Shiites Protest the US Surge - 09.17.2007

Video - Baghdad/Hurriya, Iraq - It is contentious whether or not the US Surge has made Baghdad any safer. Many Iraqis have complained that the US’ version of security has led to vast divisions within Baghdad, and that sectarian violence has even further divided Baghdad’s already tense residents. Hurriya, a neighborhood on the western side of the Tigris was at one time a mixed neighborhood where Sunni and Shi’a lived together, married together, and existed peacefully, like any other neighborhood.

In 2007 Hurriya became almost entirely Shi’a. Some blame the Mahdi Army for sectarian attacks and cleansing the area of it’s Sunni population, such as in this article from December 2006. Others say the cleansing couldn’t be stopped, holding Sunnis responsible for starting the violence. Parliamentarian Shatha Al-Musawi told The Scotsman that Shi’ites had no time to sift the innocent from the guilty because Sunnis were killing Shi’ites. Because of the cleansing, Hurriya has become mostly quiet, but because it is believed to be a haven of gangs using the name of the Mahdi Army, the Americans have been involved in numerous incursions into the neighborhood.

Hurriya’s residents are unhappy with a recent turn of events which led to the death of Jawad Kadhim Al-Sultani, a well-known and beloved member of the community. His neighbors claim that Al-Sultani was an example of tolerance and brotherhood amongst Iraqis, and that he would help Sunni neighbors as well as Shi’a. Anecdotes such as these abound and are constantly referenced as examples that there is no civil war, or that Iraqis will succeed at eliminating sectarian conflict. Other anecdotes aren’t so positive, intermarriage is all but a forgotten fairytale in Baghdad today.

One thing is certain, the US Surge itself has failed to reconcile the sectarian conflict. Death squads and militias are still prevalent on Baghdad’s streets. Iraqis in Hurriya have been quoted saying that these militia patrols are the only thing that allows them to feel safe. Murders are continuing, and they are leading many Iraqis, such as the demonstrators in Hurriya, to ask why the United States forces are there at all. During the demonstration they demanded that the US be forced to withdraw from Hurriya, and replaced with Iraqi security forces. Some might cynically claim that what they really want is the Mahdi Army’s protection.

Throughout the protest many attendees expressed anger and frustration at the Iraqi Government as well. Its questionable whether the residents of Hurriya and other Baghdadis will put any more faith in the government’s security forces than in the politicians themselves. Across Baghdad, Iraqis continue to be embroiled in sectarian conflict, hoping some semblance of the ordinary will return to their lives. Now that Sunnis have been forced out of Hurriya, it is only the Americans that these residents worry about.


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