Sectarian Battles on YouTube

April 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

While watching al-Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Muqtada al-Sadr (his first televised appearance in about a year) on YouTube, I scrolled down to read the comments. We all know anonymous commenting on YouTube empowers assholes to be bigger assholes and I don’t want to provide a platform for the hatred and prejudice that some people espouse (since these people are usually a minority), but I do want to highlight how sectarian tensions have manifested themselves on YouTube.

Here is the comment from YouTube user “TruthDaTruth” which prompted further investigation:

dirty filthy muqtada the aeroplane of sadri is worthless

The YouTube user “TruthDaTruth” obviously typed his original Arabic into a bad online translator which resulted in “al-Tiyyar al-Sadri” or the Sadr Current/Wing being translated into the “aeroplane of sadri.” In Arabic, “tiyyar” literally means current, like an air or water current, but it used to mean political currents as well. So, the “aeroplane of Sadr” is literally the “Sadr current.”

Anyways — I checked out the guy’s profile and there is an interesting mix of insults and compliments being hurled at TruthDaTruth. (It appears possible that TruthDaTruth is Sunni and harbors some resentment toward Shi’a, but I, nor any of the commenters, know this person’s true identity.)

The comment breakdown:

1) Insults from Shi’a or supporters of Shi’a who do not appreciate his Shi’a bashing.

saudi wahabi lozer,,, saudi wahabi lozer to hell with zarkawi el zarbawi haha and to hell with bin laden bin monkeys hahahaha

2) Insults from individuals who are anti-Muslim and not discriminating between sects.

fuck you, why u named after a Christian rapper u dumb fucked up muslim hahahaha go suck off ya imam u faggot ass bitch

you muslim prick. if you fuckers didnt fly planes into the twin towers there wouldnt be wars all over the shit muslim countries…..
3) Compliments and support from people who appear to be anti-Shi’a. One commenter posted a link to his anti-Shi’a blog which I will not link to here because it is hate speech. Another uses a photo of Bin Ladin as his user photo and expresses support for TruthDaTruth.

Internet as “Real” Speech

I think that many of us define certain Internet spaces as a “community” of sorts. We post videos, photos, and journals on the Internet and many times, people respond. The purpose of this post is to show how certain types of Internet communities are host to some very negative and racist ideas and how they do not serve any constructive purpose whatsoever. I think we have to ask how these Internet “communities” translate into “real” life — but at the same time — I think this question is problematic since the Internet is becoming more integrated into our everyday lives. By this, I mean that the “anonymous commenter” may appear to be a faceless, distant Internet user, but in many societies where the Internet is pervasive, the speech that is made online may just as well have been made face-to-face. Speech made on the internet is “real” speech and should be treated as a tangible phenomenon and not something that exists in some “digital” world of little consequence.

Are you a Badri or Sadri?

April 3, 2008 § 3 Comments

Leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council Abdul Aziz al-Hakim meets with George W. Bush in 2006.

Muqtada al-Sadr did not meet George W. Bush in 2006.

Both Muqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim represent the Shi’a in Iraq. But they represent the Shi’a in very different ways — through their conflicting political movements and military wings.

Sadr’s military wing — or Jaysh al-Mehdi — is in direct opposition to Hakim’s (and the SIIC’s) Badr Wing. One of the factors which creates a divide between the two is relations with the Occupying Forces. Despite anti-Occupation rhetoric and conflict with the United States, Sadr’s movement surely has ties with the US and has engaged in different agreements with the US, as seen by Sadr’s recent cease-fire. Yet Hakim and the SIIC (formerly SCIRI) have cultivated ties with the US since Shock and Awe.

Badri vs. Sadri*

An al-Hayat article from Husayn Ali Dawod explains this internal Shi’i division in light of the recent battles between Iraqi Forces and Jaysh al-Mehdi. He says that differences between the groups have intensified since the recent fighting.

The author explains that individuals who are loyal to Sadr but live in areas controlled by the Badr wing conceal their loyalties to Sadr, and vice versa. For example, if a person has a photo of Sadr on their car and are coming to a government checkpoint, the photo must come down. Sources say that both factions have elaborate intelligence networks which determine people’s allegiances.

Some common slogans seen on building walls in areas loyal to Sadr are: Bring Down the New Maliki dictatorship; Bring Down Hakim — an agent (‘ameel) of the US. Meanwhile, in the Hakim-loyal districts of Karada and Washash in Baghdad, you find slogans that express support for the government

*In Arabic, you can create an adjective by adding an “ee” sound to many words. So, if one is loyal to the Badr Wing, then you can be called a “Badri,” the same is true for “Sadri.” The female form would be “Badriyeh” or “Sadriyeh.”

This picture of Sadr is in not really relevant to anything, but I just wanted to remind you all that he is RADICAL and EVIL and HATES AMERICA and wears a BLACK CAPE.

Sadr releases statement calling for end of armed conflict

March 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

Muqtada al-Sadr released a nine-point statement calling for an end to the “manifestations of arms.” Here is a copy of the statement in Arabic from Inbaa news service and here are a few of the points below:

  1. Put an end to all manifestations of arms in Basra and all other districts.
  2. Stop all house-raids (al-mudahunaat) and all random, illegal arrests.
  3. Call on the government to apply a general amnesty (al-‘afo) law and a release of all prisoners who have not been proved guilty, especially those from the Sadr Wing (al-tiyar al-sadri).

Jaysh al-Mehdi calls for end to US and British Occupation

March 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

Iraqi soldiers hand over their weapons to a follower of Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City in Baghdad. (Al-Hayat via Informed Comment.)

The recent fighting in Iraq between Iraqi security forces and Jaysh al-Mehdi has laid bare many alliances and foe-ships. I can’t offer any analysis on this web of complex relationships and motives, but here are some reports from Arabic sources on what’s happening on the ground.


Al-Hayat reports that according to official accounts, 275 have been killed and over 500 injured in the past week of violence. PM Nuri al-Maliki has renewed his commitment to fight Jaysh al-Mehdi until the end, but supporters of Sadr say that they refuse “to hand over any weapons unless the government banishes the Occupation.” Similar sentiments have been echoed by Shaykh Zahir al-Khafaji, the military leader of the Jaysh al-Mehdi in Najaf: “Handing over weapons is impossible until the occupation has left the country.”

From these reports, the demands of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers are clear: The US and British occupation must end.

Al-Hayat also notes that the US Military has deepened their involvement in the conflict in by launching several air strikes in Basra and Sadr City. These strikes have led to the deaths and injuries of dozens of people. (Al-Hayat)

Image of a demonstration of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers form al-Jazeera. 

Fighting between Iraqi Security Forces and Jaysh al-Mehdi continues

March 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

US Apache helicopters bombed houses in Hilla, Iraq, killing up to 60 civilians and wounding dozens more. The Pentagon said that US troops were providing air support to Iraqi security forces who have been fighting with Jaysh al-Mehdi for the past three days. The most intense fighting has been in Basra and Kut, where hundreds have been killed or injured.

(Democracy Now and al-Tariq ila Karbala)

This woman’s son was killed yesterday in Hilla during the fighting.

Al-Hayat reports that Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki refuses to negotiate with militants from Jaysh al-Mehdi. Meanwhile, thousands of supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr are holding demonstrations calling for the resignation of Maliki and for him to have a trial like Saddam Hussein’s.

American Liberation and Muslim Catalog

March 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

The NY Times is now offering Arabic-language translations of some of its articles which I think is a good decision, but reading the Times’s articles in Arabic have made me realize the biases which are embedded in the Times’s reporting. (I am not saying Arabic-language news sources are un-biased, it is just that many times, I agree with the biases of the Arabic reporting.)

This Times article on how young Iraqis are becoming skeptical of religious leaders was made available in Arabic. Here are a few observations from my readings of the original English-language article and the Arabic translation:

  1. The English language article refers to the “American liberation” of Iraq in 2003. The Arabic article translates this directly as “al-tahrir al-amriki.” No respectable Arabic-language news source would ever call the American invasion of Iraq a “liberation.” The only Arabic-language station that would use the term “liberation” would be al-Hurra, which is funded by the U.S. to pump out news on how much of a democracy Iraq is becoming.
  2. When the English-language article mentions an individual who is “Sunni” or “Shiite” it is almost always prefaced with an adjective. For example, this man is a “moderate Shiite” or this person is a “religious Sunni.” The Arabic translation uses the same terminology, but it is awkward, but it seems out of place in the context of this article. It is not uncommon for Arabic-language news sources to label a group “mutatarif” or extremist, but it is normally relevant to the subject matter. If there is ever an article which deals with religious leaders or Iraqi citizens, then it would be rare to see the person’s sect prefaced with an adjective.

The English-language article uses the following descriptors:

a moderate Sunni cleric

a moderate Shiite sheik

a moderate Shiite cleric

a secular Shiite

militant Shiite cleric

a moderate cleric

a non-religious Shiite

From the Times’s article, we are not given any definition on what it means to be a “moderate” Sunni or Shiite. Do “moderate” Muslims support the occupation? Do “moderate” Muslims encourage females to wear hijab?

To call someone a moderate in this context is beyond ridiculous and far from informative and I can only assume that the author (or editor) has other motives when they attach these labels onto individuals. Specifically, these buzz-words are used so that readers can discriminate between good Muslims and bad Muslims. The Times’s definition of “moderate” seems to equate with “reasonable” or “logical,” but it is also the Times’s way of identifying who the U.S. has publicly identified as a non-threat to U.S. interests.

Furthermore, the whole premise of the article is shaky.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

I am sure that there are many young Iraqis who have rejected public religious figures, but 40 interviews can not be indicative of any huge trend. It seems like the reporter knew exactly the type of article she had in mind and then set out to get filler quotes.

Marathon in Fallujah

March 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

Yes, marathon as in a competition in which athletes run. And yes, this Fallujah — the site of some of the war’s worst fighting. This al-Jazeera segment reports on the first-ever marathon held in Fallujah. Why a marathon and why in Fallujah? Because it hasn’t been done before. The report says that most of the runners are participating in the marathon just for the chance to be recorded in history as the first winner of a marathon held in Fallujah.

Unfortunately, I can’t understand Iraqi dialect very well at all so I couldn’t understand the statement of the winner, but I believe he says that a great competition just took place in Fallujah.

Iraq Briefs

March 14, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of Archbishop Faraj Raho meeting with the Pope from AFP.)

  • The body of a kidnapped Iraqi Chaldean Archbishop, Faraj Raho, was discovered in Mosul on Thursday. Al-Hayat further reports that in 2003, there were 800,000 Christians living in Iraq, but many have since left the country or relocated to Kurdistan where the security situation is better.
  • Al-Jazeera reports that 18 Iraqis were killed and at least 64 were injured in a car bomb in Baghdad. An Iraqi child was also killed by American troops in the Diyala province when they were engaged in combat with the Mehdi Army. The American military admitted to the killing and said it was an accident.


March 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

Ahmadinejad with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani from al-Jazeera.

Ahamadinejad to visit Najaf and Karbala

Al-Hayat reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit the Shi’i holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to visit the shrines of Imams Ali and Husayn, respectively, and pay a visit to Grand Ayatullah Sistani. A representative from Sistani’s office has confirmed the visit, but did not give details on what would be discussed.

Iraqi security forces have taken increased security measures in preparation for his visit and the Electric Ministry announced that electricity will not be cut from Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf for the next three days. Shaykh Husayn al-Safar, a top religious scholar in the Najaf hawza (or seminary), said that Ahmadinejad’s visit is confirmation that the hawza of Najaf is the principle center for Shi’i studies and that the city’s ‘ulama (or religious scholars) are recognized as spiritual leaders of the Shi’a.

Walayat al-Faqih

Another scholar said that despite Sistani’s Iranian identity, Sistani operates outside of the framework of nationalism and politics and that he has not recognized the authority of the walayat al-faqih. The three other grand ayatullahs living in Najaf — Muhammad Sa’id al-Hakim, Muhammad Ishaq al-Fiyad, and Bashir al-Najafi — also do not recognize the concept of walayat al-faqih and refuse to have it taught in the hawza.

(Photo of the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus from Novine . . . who was allowed to take photos.)


In the summer of 2007, Ahmadinejad paid a visit to Shi’i shrines in Damascus, including the shrines of Sayyida Ruqayya and Sayyida Zaynab. (Ruqayya is the daughter of Imam Husayn and Zaynab his sister.) The big news at this time was that Ahmadinejad broke into tears at Zaynab’s shrine. Maybe we’ll have a repeat showing.


February 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of the Imam Husayn shrine during Arba’een in Karbala from al-Manar.)

Arba’een means 40 in Arabic and it is the length of time which Shi’i Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the son of Ali and the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Yesterday was Arba’een and 7-9 million Shi’a visited the Iraqi city of Karbala where Imam Husayn was killed in battle in the year 680.

People wore black. Some hit themselves. Attacks were thwarted. No one was killed.

(Image from al-Rai.)

A Dignified Exit . . . Not!

February 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of American troops not leaving Iraq from Joe Raedle/Getty Images.)

Get Out

According to al-Hayat, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mua’llem said that Syria is prepared to help American forces have a “dignified exit” (kharouj musharraf) from Iraq, as long as America would institute a time table for building the Iraqi forces. Mu’allem has also said that the Iraqi army and government should be built on a national — and not sectarian — basis.

(Image of Turkish troops not leaving Iraq via al-Jazeera.)

Get Out Part II

Al-Jazeera reports that the Iraqi government has called for Turkish troops to leave Iraq, with officials describing the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. Turkey has stated it intends to send an official delegation to Baghdad.

Turkey invades Iraq; PKK calls for peaceful solution

February 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here is a clip from al-Jazeera regarding the Turkish invasion of Iraq. Watch the video for footage of Turkish troops crossing the border and of the damaged infrastructure.

The report says that thousands of Turkish soldiers have crossed the border into northern Iraq in order to target the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (al-hezb al-‘amal al-kurdistani or PKK). Turkey says the group has been using northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks on Turkish soil. This is the biggest operation of its kind since 20 years. Turkey has not provided much information on the operations inside Iraq, but humanitarian groups have reported that bridges have been destroyed and people targeted.

Al-Jazeera also reports that the PKK has threatened to launch attacks inside of Turkey — without targeting civilians — if they did not stop their incursion into Iraq. The PKK has called for a peaceful resolution to the situation, saying that the Turks are the “ones who refuse dialogue.”

Al-Jaysh al-Islami speaks with al-Hayat

February 22, 2008 § Leave a comment

The emir (or deputy) of one of Iraq’s largest militant groups al-Jaysh al-Islami (Islamic Army) has given al-Hayat his first press interview ever. The emir — who remains anonymous — blamed al-Qaeda of blurring the concept of a “clear jihad” (al-jihad al-nas’aa) and that the groups which comprise the organization Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance (al-majlis al-siyasi lil muqawama al-iraqiyya) want a national government outside of sectarian labels, as well as the departure of the occupation.

On Weapons and Military Operations

He said: “Jihad and armed action is our strategic choice, and there are no words now about taking away weapons, the atmosphere (al-saaha — political space) is full of military challenges and whoever gets rid of their weapons, condemns himself to his end.” He was also very critical of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

He said that al-Jaysh al-Islami has undertaken 14,000 operations between 2006 and 2007. Furthermore, 3,000 of the group’s members have been arrested or killed since the beginning of the occupation.

On the Sunni Awakening Councils

In describing the American-formed Sunni Awakening Councils (majalis al-sahwa), he said that there are five types, including: traitors who have had relations with the Americans since the beginning of the occupation and are continuing these relations; those who have lost their purpose (like a shaykh of a tribe) and are seeking that purpose (or usefulness) even if it means cooperating with the occupier; others are searching for money.

On the Shi’a

He said that al-Jaysh al-Islami was not involved in any expulsion of Shi’a from areas that his group controls and that many Shi’a still reside in these areas under the protection of al-Jaysh al-Islami. Additionally, the expulsion of Shi’a from the area has been undertaken by militias that are supported by the American occupation and what happened in the past with expulsions will not happen again.

Talabani met with Sistani, talked about stuff

February 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Image of Talabani from al-Hayat.)

Al-Hayat reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani traveled to Najaf to meet with Ayatullah Sistani. In a press conference, Talabani said that a new government will be formed with PM Maliki at its head which will not succumb to a sectarian quota system. Talabani also denied the presence of movements that seek to replace Maliki with Iraqi Vice-President Adil abd al-Mahdi. Talabani did not give any specific details on his meeting with Sistani.

The article also says that Moqtada al-Sadr’s jaysh al-mehdi will extend its cessation of activities for six more months.

Iraqi Prison Index

February 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

Al-Hayat published a list of details on the people who are currently imprisoned by the US forces at two separate prison camps — Camp Bucca and — excuse the possibly incorrect transliteration — Camp Kruber.

  • 20,400 are imprisoned at Bucca; 3,500 in Kruber.
  • 80% of prisoners are Sunni; 20% are Shi’a or other groups.
  • 300 foreign prisoners.
  • 620 prisoners are younger than 18.
  • 200 prisoners are exactly 19-years-old.
  • Approximately 30 new prisoners arrive every day.
  • Average length of time spent in prison is 330 days.
  • The youngest age of a prisoner is 10-years-old, the oldest is 80.

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