9 June 2007
Iraqi human rights activist, Ali Hili, reveals that for most ordinary Iraqis, life is now worse than under Saddam Hussein’s brutal misrule.
Saddam was a tyrant. It is good that he is gone. But since the American and British-led invasion in 2003, a once prosperous nation has been reduced to chaos, impoverishment and terror.
Despite the country’s immense oil wealth, mass unemployment and poverty are now the norm. In many regions, public utilities and welfare provision have collapsed.
Although many Iraqis are attempting to forge a peaceful, democratic future, much of the country is blighted by war, mob rule and sectarian violence. Most people live in a state of permanent insecurity and fear.
Suicide bombings, assassinations and death squad killings are daily occurrences. Some of this indiscriminate violence is perpetrated by foreign al-Qaida terrorists and by Sunni insurgents, including loyalists to Saddam’s now defunct Baathist regime.
But many of the killers are linked to leading Shia parties in the western-backed Iraqi government, in particular to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its armed wing, the Badr militia. Other killers belong to the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to firebrand fundamentalist cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Both these Shia militias have instituted a reign of terror, often aided and abetted by Iran. Despite their differences, Sadr and Badr share the common goal of establishing an Islamist dictatorship.
Under their brutal, perverse interpretation of Islam, Sunni Muslims and other religious minorities face harsh persecution; as do women who refuse to wear the veil and who refuse to submit to male domination. Also targeted by the Sadr and Badr killers are lesbian and gay people, women who have sex outside of marriage, and anyone who wears jeans or shorts or who listens to western music. Having a stylish haircut, drinking alcohol or wearing jewellery can get you branded as an ‘infidel’ and result in a bullet in the back of the head.
Saddam was evil. But even under his savage regime everyday life and personal relationships were never subjected to such extreme moral policing and violent repression. For women and gay people, and for Muslims who follow the “wrong” interpretation of Islam, the clock is being turned back to the Dark Ages.
Ali Hili is director of Iraqi LGBT. For more info and to make a donation:
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