Thursday, February 28, 2008

A largely successful Arba'een

could you spot a suicide bomber?Yesterday completed an important holiday period for the Shia's of Iraq. (Well for the Shia's of the world I guess, but the holiday's impact is all here in Iraq). Arba'een (literally Arabic for the number 40) is the 40th day after Ashura and commemorates the suffering of wives and children of Husayn ibn Ali, who was murdered on Ashura in the Battle of Karbala. His wives and children were then marched across the desert to Syria by the Sunni Caliphate army and many of them perished.

The Shia in my observation* are obsessed with suffering and, as might be said in America, immerse themselves in a culture of being the victim. During Ashura they beat and cut themselves to show their devotion to Husayn and his suffering. They also have a bizarre tradition where they put their sons in a tent which is then lit on fire. All the kids are supposed to run out, but we have had to treat some poor boys who were badly burned. (As an aside, we have treated a lot of burned children and women, apparently there is something wrong with Iraqi stoves in that hot oil is always falling off them) Anyway, the relevance here is to show their devotion to Husayn and the suffering of his family many Shia walk to his shrine in Karbala. They walk from nearby Babil, and Baghdad, but also from Najaf, Basra, even I was told Kuwait and Iran. That is a serious walk, and the sight of hundreds and hundreds of these Shia, all dressed in black, walking down one whole side of the highway, which was closed off for the holiday, is indescribable. Mile after mile off to the horizon of black ninjas. Ah and the noise and the blaring mosque speakers all day long.

As you might imagine, this is a nightmare from a security perspective. It would be easy for a suicide bomber to blend in with crowd. Imagine having to shut a major metropolitan area down to vehicle traffic and protect marchers walking in from all the major highways. An impossible feat, but remarkably, the Iraqis mostly pulled this off, there were several attacks in Baghdad and one suicide bomber in northern Babil (where the Sunni/Shia line is), but it could have been much worse. And I have heard of no attacks in Karbala. We saw the Iraqi Police, Army, and paramilitary forces out on the road everyday, all day, tirelessly working to keep these marchers safe. There were even full blown security plans, operations orders, etc all prepared by the Iraqis by themselves. It was also the best example of Iraqi Army - Iraqi Police cooperation seen recently, and offers hope that these two organizations who distrust each other, but on whom the hope for this country rests, will work out their issues for the benefit of the Iraqi Nation.

*Disclaimer: I am no expert on Shia Islam and can only relate what I have been told by my Muslim friends and Iraqi colleagues.

7 comments:

Hope said...

I hope with this holiday over youand yours can get a little more rest--well relatively speaking.

Anonymous said...

Yo bud, hope that things are working out better there than here. Take care and see you soon.

B...

LT Nixon said...

That's good that the Iraqis implemented most of the planning and execution. I didn't hear about any attacks down in Karbala, but the ISF did detain some knucklehead who had a suicide vest (according to Iraqi TV). Good shit!

The Prime Minister said sectarianism has ended. If he means that, we should be home by Xmas! (yeah right)

"D" AKA CI-Roller Dude said...

Grumpy,
the real story? Most of them can only count to 10, then they use the 4 fingers on their right hand to count to 40 (they don't know about the thumb) And think about this: what if they all got into tents, then set them on fire and tried to run out? the process of evolution - right?
No wonder they have insurgents, if you had little water, couldn't drink a beer, had 2 or more wives, 25 chlildren, had to pray 5 times a day, not eat any bacon and wipe your ass with your bare hand--you'd be pissed off at the world to.

Anonymous said...

Burns from stoves:
Have seen this elsewhere in middle east and 3rd world.
Drag propane tanks in the building.
A no-no here.
Didn't know about cause of all those house fires back then. Combo of propane indoors and using extension cords for electrical wiring. Oil burning contributes too, am sure.
Be safe, keep up great commentary.
V/R Jim W

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

J said...

Hi Grump...
It's encouraging to hear the Iraqis were able to cooperate with each other. ...maybe there is hope.
Take care and try to think of the good stuff...
-J