August 11, 2004


Beside the ruined Valley of Peace, Sadr's men wait for martyrdom: idealism and Islam drive Najaf's young militants (Rory McCarthy, August 12, 2004, The Guardian)

Most who take up arms for the 30-year-old Mr Sadr are young and poor. A minority, like Ali, are also well educated.

They revile Saddam Hussein, who spent his time as leader persecuting them, but their eagerness to fight now is largely born out of frustration that the war and occupation has brought little material change to their lives.

Added to this is their avowed religious conviction. "I came for the defence of Islam," Ali said. He and the other 20 or so fighters in his platoon describe themselves as an "Islamic resistance".

The other Shia parties hold little appeal for the fighters. "They just use Islamic slogans to cover up what they are doing," said Ali. "Syed Moqtada is a nationalist and he demands the right of the Iraqi people and the rights of the poor. He is the only one who didn't betray the people and cooperate with the Americans."

The fighters here in Najaf have rallied behind Mr Sadr, the scion of a highly respected clerical family, because unlike all other major Shia political leaders he has so far shunned involvement in the pro-American governments.

Although his radicalism is rejected by many middle-class Shias, he carries a broad appeal for those looking for a revolutionary streak in the Shia faith in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a disciplined group of idealistic, moderate, literate, middle-class Christians--who actually deposed Saddam rather than just reviling him--wait to usher them to that martyrdom--who's your money on?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2004 8:01 PM

My every instinct says they'll do Sadr this time, no truce, no negotiation, no nothing. Dead, or a prison cell.

Posted by: Amos at August 12, 2004 2:00 PM

Odd that people who are disgruntled because their lives are not getting better would engage in suicidal warfare.

I suspect dissatisfaction with material goods has little really to do with it.

The suggestion that they are tribalists pursuing blood feud sounds more likely.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 12, 2004 4:48 PM