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Press Release

07 April 2004

Lynch Mobs Cannot Stop the Pace of Democracy In Iraq

It is almost a year since the evil dictator was toppled, and while we Iraqis do not claim that we are safely and irrevocably on a course to liberal democracy, the honest and rather remarkable truth is that we have made enormous strides in that direction. The atrocities in Fallujah's streets were acts of rage, not strength. It is ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism. The heart of darkness is part of the case for regime change in Iraq. A few more years of Saddam, or perhaps his charming sons Uday and Qusay, and whole of Iraq would have looked like Fallujah. The Baathists, by playing off tribe against tribe, Arabs against Kurds and Sunni against Shitte, were preparing the conditions for a Hobbesian state of affairs. Their looting and beggaring of the state and the society - something which we now possess even more painfully exact information - was having the same effect. Saddam broke and maimed and traumatized Iraq and its people. The evil regime eliminated intellectual and professional classes.

It's becoming more and plainer that the moral high ground is held by those who concluded, from the events of 1991, that it was a mistake to leave Saddam in power after his eviction from Kuwait. However, though that regime-change might have been, it would have spared the lives of countless Iraqis and begun the process of nation building with 12 years' advantage.

The recent riots in Baghdad, Basra, Kerbala and Njafa were orchestrated by a radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - a fanatic that represents a minority voices only. Mr Sadr has exploited the frustration felt by younger, often unemployed Iraqis in order to position himself as a credible figure among Shia Muslims before the transfer of power on June 30. Last April Abudel Majid al-Khoei, a more senior and more moderate Shia cleric, was hacked to death by a mob, Mr Sadr and his henchmen have now been charged in the cleric's slaying. Reports suggest that his group has been infiltrated by Saddam's diehards and financially supported by some Iranian circles such as Ayatollah Al Hairy.

The re-emergence of Mr al-Sadr militias is a reminder of the coalition's failure to disarm unlawful holding of rams, which has led to both intimidation and murderous vendettas. Those not authorized to hold weapons must be deprived of them. Mr Sadr's thuggish and violent confrontation led to imposition of strict and reactionary self- rule on Iraqi women and people's life style choices, which was met with contempt and condemnation by the vast majority of the Iraqi community in Britain.

What's more, there are hopeful signs that Iraqis of different religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is far cry from predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath. Fallujah is a reminder, not just of what Saddamism looks like, or of what the future might look like if we fail, but of what the future held before the coalition took a hand. What we need now is support towards peace, democracy and the respect for human rights.

Jabbar Hassan

Note:iA was established in 1987, it is a major Iraqi organization in Britain. Every year iA deals with more than 10,000 Iraqi cases in Britain. If you would like to support our work please contact 020 8741 5491.

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