Friday, January 28, 2005

Rambling Post (3)

Saddam was born in Tikrit after his father had been killed. The mother married, later, his uncle. There was no intimacy between the new husband and the young boy. So Saddam was kicked out of home. The boy resorted to his maternal uncle who had had political interests. This uncle, whose name is Kher'alah, made use of the nephew to threat his rivals. A friend of Saddam's youth called (Ibrahim Azzubaidi), a famous broadcaster who became later the general manager of the Iraqi governmental radio station, related many stories about the early times of Saddam's life. Azzubaidi fled the country in the early 1970s when he noticed that Saddam was gaining power and about to be the 2nd man in the government.

One of these stories says when Saddam was about 15 years old; he tried to kill his school teacher because he slapped Saddam across the face. Saddam schemed to knock on his teacher's house door, at night, shooting him and to return to Kher'alah's house pretending that he was sleeping during the event. Everything was correctly implemented except that the one who opened the door was the teacher's young brother. The teacher's brother got the shot in the leg. Nothing was proved against Saddam and the teacher left the town immediately. Few years later, Kher'alah made use of Saddam to kill a political rival called (Sadoon An'nasree). Again nothing was proved against him. But later, after Saddam seized power, he admitted it and paid the man's family money as compensation.

In the year 1959, a bunch of baathists decided to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister. They were looking for guys who had the guts to kill human beings. Saddam was recommended for them and they added him to the assassins. The attempt failed. Saddam, who had been badly injured in his leg, managed to flee to Syria. Since that time, Saddam rose in importance among the baathists. He was warmly received in Damascus by the founder and the leading league of the party. Saddam was brilliant enough to recognize what kind of leaders he was dealing with.

Azzubaidi says Saddam noticed that those leaders were not men of politics, but they were a bunch of schemers and conspirators against each other. Though they were schemers, they did not have the guts to implement their schemes which he got. Azzubaidi phrases Saddam's conclusion :( Saddam discovered the Baath party is the most suitable mount to ride to achieve his ambitions. He did not understand or believe in Baath ideology).

Saddam believed that terrifying members of the party will turn them into a docile group which he can use to seize power.

Saddam went from Syria to Egypt. He remained there till February 1963, which is an unclear period of Saddam's life.

To be continued…

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Eid Al-Adh'ha (Greater Bairam)

The second annual Muslim festival is Eid Al-Adh'ha (The 1st is Eid El-Fiter). The occasion for this one is (Al-Hajj) pilgrimage. Muslim pilgrims head for Mecca and to be present there on certain days. The most important ritual is to spend the night between the 9th-10th of the month called (thill'hijja) on (Arafat) a mountain nearby Mecca. This year it will be the night between Wednesday the 19th and Thursday 20th of January. A holiday for four days is taken each year in the Islamic countries (20-23 Jan 2005).

Hajj is one of the five basic elements of Islam. Though, it is not an obligation. It is said in Koran "…God bids people to go to Hajj. People who have the physical & financial abilities may go to Hajj. Others, who don't, they won't be blamed…"(not certified translation).

Another ritual is to slaughter a (sheep, cow) as an oblation. The meat is to be donated to poor people. With advanced technology of abattoirs, freezers and transportation, this enormous quantity of meat, nowadays, is freighted to poor people all over the world.

About twenty years ago, the Saudi authorities reached an agreement with the Islamic countries says that each country should not send more than 0.1% of its population annually to Hajj. Mecca & Medina become very crowded during Hajj, and to avoid accidents they reached this agreement. Nowadays, more than two million Muslim pilgrims may gather there annually.

Muslims greet each other on this occasion. In Iraq the most common greetings is (Ayamkum Sa’eida) which means (wishing you happy days). When a pilgrim returns from Hajj, he/she is greeted by (Hajj Mabroor) which means (may God accept your penitence). Now, if you'd like to greet a Muslim friend, who understands Arabic, on this occasion, you may copy, paste & send the following:

(Ayamkum Sa'eida. Kul Aam Wa Antum Bikhair)
It means: Wishing you happy
days and hope everything goes well for you.
Finally, Ayamkum Sa’eida all, wishing you & the whole world peace and prosperity.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Rambling Post (2)

Dr. Wardi summarizes that the (unfair competition) attribute in the Bedouin character makes a Bedouin wants to plunder not to be plundered, to assault not to be assaulted, to be the donor not the receiver, others to head for him not the opposite, pursuer not pursued, to relief not asking for relief, to be thanked not the opposite…etc.

Iraq underwent a harsh deterioration in its civilization during the Ottoman period (about four centuries ended by WWI). Moreover, it was open to receive Bedouin tribes from the desert of Arabia. As a result, Iraq became a social melting pot in which the new coming tribes interact with the former inhabitants. This interaction, according to Dr. Wardi, caused what's known as (clash of cultures).

Dr. Wardi says that the Bedouin culture is neither suitable for rural community nor for urban one.

Through close observation of Bedouin tribe's migration, he noticed that the main entrance for these tribes into Iraq is through the north west lands. He enumerates several reasons for that, which are not to be dealt with in this post. The newcomers push the older deeper toward the agrarian lands in the south & the east. As a result they change into farmers and settle down near their lands. Their community changes from Bedouin to rural. But the effect of Bedouin culture does not vanish. It reshapes itself into new traditions.

Dr. Wardi notices that the tribe, which changes to the rural community, changes from Sunnism to Shiism after years. He attributes this transformation to the exposure to the effective Shiite propagandists. These are consisting mainly of clerics who study in Najaf (a city of about 1000 years old). Najaf represents the main center of Islamic studies for the Shiism. People have used to head for it from all over the Islamic world. Philosophy, jurisprudence, intellectual sciences, logic, linguistics, eloquence, literature, speech art, theology and many other theoretical sciences are taught in Hauza of Najaf. For that, according to Dr. Wardi, Shiites are more organized than Sunnis. He considers the Shiites closer to the urban society than the Sunnis. Still, the Shiites do have tribal traditions.

Wardi resembles Iraq and its contents of tribes to a pickles fermenting vat. According to his hypothesis, the newly migrated tribes are in the top (north) of Iraq, while the old tribes are in the bottom (south) of Iraq. So, one would find the good pickles near the bottom. I think it is clear now why the unstable triangle is at the north west of Iraq.

It seems that Bedouins are trouble makers since very long time in history. Koran (the holy book of Islam) addressed them 1400 years ago saying "…the Bedouins disbelieve in God and hypocrites. They do not know God's law…" and "…the Bedouins said 'we are true believers'. Don't say that; say 'we are Muslims' since true belief does not reside in your hearts…"(Not certified translation)

Many Arab countries emerged after WWI, since the British could not fulfill a promise they made to Hussein ibn Ali (sheriff of Mecca 1908-16) to establish one united Arab state, as I mentioned in a previous post (mistrust). Arab peoples started to work to unite their countries. As a result the Arabic nationalism movement originated calling for Arab world unity. I may classify this movement as one of the tribal sectarianism traits.

A political party called (Arab Baath Socialist Party) was established in the year 1947, adopted the Arabic Nationalism as a central ideology. For unknown reasons, at least for me, it started to attract irrational people. One of these was Saddam.

To be continued…

Friday, January 07, 2005

Rambling Post (1)

Now, continuing what is said in the previous post, scrutinizing your comments, one can deduce:

1. People saying these comments reflect intellectual way of thinking.
2. These people live in communities dominated by law.
3. They are aware of their duties & rights.
4. They know what the means of implementing law are and how to use them.
5. They did not live for more than forty years under oppression which hindered the community resulting in a twisted way of thinking here in Iraq.
6. There are notable cultural differences in perceiving certain concepts.

Now, I can understand all the comments you have made and I agree with most of them. But once again I say that we, the Iraqis, need educational rehabilitation to start moving toward civilized values. One of my favorite visitors to my blog, Papa Ray, directed me to a blog interview with Steven Vincent on Chrenkoff . Vincent toured in Iraq for four months as a freelance and wrote a book about his journey "In the Red Zone: A journey into the soul of Iraq". He says describing the Iraqi society:

"… Imagine children whose father physically and emotionally
abused them for
years. Now imagine that the authorities jail the father and
tell the children
they're free to live their own lives. Theoretically, they
are free, but the
traumas of their past will still haunt them, limiting and
afflicting their
freedom. That's the condition of most Iraqis. As if that
weren't bad enough, add
in the regressive pull of tribalism and reactionary

Good way to describe the aftermath society in Iraq. I think that many Mideast societies resemble the Iraqi. The question is "Should the 'civilized' world break up with such societies and seclude itself?" and if this hypothetical decision was made, would these retrogressive societies leave the 'civilized' world alone? The answer could be found in what Chrenkoff says in his post Steve Vincent goes "In The Red Zone":

"…it was the September 11 attack, which Vincent watched
unfolding from the roof
of his apartment, that destroyed his comfortable old
certainties, alerted him to
a new danger facing the West and awakened inside
him the need to learn more
about it."

Now back to your comments, Vincent is a westerner and to avoid making preconception, he came to Iraq trying to understand what's going on. I can say, for sure, that most of you can not visit Iraq nowadays. So let me try to do my best to put you closer to the Iraqi society, though I know it is not easy to understand certain issues because of the cultural differences.

Iraq with its nowadays geographical area did not exist till the year 1920. The modern state introduced to the Iraqis, and many of the Middle East peoples, by the British. Till then, Mesopotamia was part of the Ottoman Empire and the tribal system was the dominating way of life.

A book entitled (A Study in The Society of Iraq) by Dr. Ali Wardi (an Iraqi sociologist 1913-96), in which he made a very good effort to develop a hypothesis which says that the Iraqi society is very influenced by the Bedouin culture. He believes that the pivot point of the Bedouin culture is (unfair competition); I can not find the exact translation for the Arabic word.
The Bedouin has three major Cultural Complexes, according to Dr. Wardi, which are:

1. Tribal sectarianism: consists of strict adherence to the tribe, chieftain(ism), revenge, succor, lineage boast, protecting woman…etc.
2. Incursion(ism): consists of boasting about power & bravery, fighting & booty, sense of honor, frankness, disdain, to contempt work…etc.
3. Magnanimity & generosity: consists of boasting about hospitality & generosity; helping aliens, neighbors, comrades, allies, and every weak person asking for help.

These three cultural complexes require that a Bedouin should have a powerful tribe which can invade other tribes. He can participate in its raids on other tribes.
A Bedouin should prove his bravery through booty quantity he can gain. And to prove his generosity, he should surpass others through granting as much as he can from the booty. For that the Bedouin is described as (plunderous-granter or donator).

After emerging as a new state, Iraq made a notable progress toward modernization till the year 1958 in which a military coup took place. After that coup, Iraqi society started to slow down in its movement toward being civilized one. And since the year 1979, in which Saddam seized power, the Iraqi society witnessed a significant relapse into tribal values.

To be continued…