Rebuilding Samarra - 08.18.2008

VIDEO - Samarra, Iraq - the City of Samarra is in the governorate of Salah Al-Din, 135 kilometers north of Baghdad. The city of Samarra lies on the east side of Dejla River, the city occupies an important place in Islamic history, due to the shrines that have been in the city for centuries.

The two important shrines in Samarra are the shrines of Imam Al-Hadi and Imam Al-Askary. Those two shrines are considered as two of the most important shrines for Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, you can also see in the city the Malwiyyah which is one of most important historical figures in Iraq, the Malwiyyah is a part of the mosque that was bulled in the year 895 and it was built during the time of Imam Al-Ma’amon, and the mosque is still standing today in Samarra.

The two shrines in Samarra were destroyed by a bombing in the year 2006, this bombing exacerbated many of the problems between different militias, and lead to different battles between militias and between militias and the US military. The situation in the city of Samarra was at the worst in late 2006 and early 2007 the Mahdi army was trying to take control of the city, Al-Qaeda was trying to take control of the city as well, but without success. However, the destruction of the Imam Al-Askari Shrine helped Al-Qa’eda succeed in their stated goal of civil war between Sunnis and Shi’as, and has been considered the spark for sectarian battles everywhere in Iraq. A few weeks after the bombing, unidentified dead bodies started to show up in the streets of Baghdad and in other areas in Iraq. Some of those bodies were related to Sunni and some to Shi’a people, some of those bodies were related even to former police officers. There were many rumors going around the blast that targeted the Shrine of Imam Askary, the most famous rumor was spread everywhere in the city of Samarra and elsewhere. This rumor said, “There were Iraqi National Guards vehicles entering the Shrine of Imam Askary in hours before the blast.” There is another rumor that says, “Al-Qa’eda bombed the shrine and kidnapped the workers and the security guards in there.” These rumors and others lead to many doubts within Iraqi society, and encouraged many people to join different militias under the guise of “defending their sect.” The Iraqi government tried to move quickly to save the situation by releasing a statement declaring that Al-Qa’eda was responsible for the destruction. Unfortunately this was not enough, many Sheikhs and Imams working in the mosques around Iraq were killed. Many students were kidnapped from their colleges, tortured, and found dead later. Until now, no one has definitively found the real reasons behind the blast of the Imam Al-Askary shrine, but what is well known, is that the blast moved the Iraqi security situation to the worst that it had been since 2003.

Now many Iraqis are working on rebuilding the Shrine of Imam Al-Askary, in order to avoid any more sectarian conflicts. Also the Iraqi government is working on securing the road to Samarra and the places around the shrine to prevent any further attacks from happening, by installing checkpoints, security cameras, and deploying forces around the Shrine and other shrines all over Iraq.

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