Seeking a Sectarian Identity in Iraq

February 6, 2008 § Leave a comment

(Map of Baghdad from the PCL Library.)

Al-Hayat spoke with Farha al-Neel, a mother of 13 sons and 3 daughters, who is currently lying in her death bed in a Baghdad hospital. Farha’s story is unique because her children have adopted different religious-sectarian identities as a way to cope with increasing sectarian violence. Before the war, the family was not inclined toward Sunni or Shi’i Islam, but after the US invasion triggered sectarian conflict, members of the family adopted whichever sect was predominant in their area. The sons that live in Sunni areas are now Sunni, and those who live in Shi’i areas are now Shi’a.

Farha said she was always frightened of Shi’i militias targeting her Sunni children and of al-Qaeda targeting her Shi’i children. Two of her sons were killed in an explosion at the Askarayn Shrine in Baghdad. Al-Hayat interviews the sons. The eighth-eldest Yusuf lives in a Shi’i area of eastern Baghdad and has photos of the Shi’i marji’iyya hanging on his wall. The fourth-eldest Adnan lived in the Abu Ghraib area amid growing Sunni extremism, he escaped the area after he found out that followers had killed his brother.

The article says that after 2003, people separated along sectarian lines and this led to more divided neighborhoods.


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