[Homestead] Religios bigots in Iraq do what religious bigots do best

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 13:12:45 EDT 2004

Fight furiously against minority rights  and secular human decency.  The 
Iraq Shiite majority has to be proportionally-represented, but not in a 
position to rough-ride over Kurds and Sunni's.  and the atrocity of 
Shiite Sharia oppression of women ought to be avoided at all costs in 
any decent society---under fundamentalist Shiite domination it won't be..

The New York Times

          September 23, 2004


    Top Shiite Cleric Is Said to Fear Voting in Iraq May Be Delayed


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 22 - Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, 
the nation's most powerful Shiite leader, is growing increasingly 
concerned that nationwide elections could be delayed, his aides said, 
and has even threatened to withdraw his support for the elections unless 
changes are made to increase the representation of Shiites, according to 
one Iraqi source close to him.

Aides to Ayatollah Sistani contacted Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria, the 
United Nations adviser who brokered the agreement to hold the elections, 
planned for January, to express concern that they would be delayed, 
according to Hamid Khaffaf, one of Ayatollah Sistani's top aides.

Another source close to the electoral negotiations said Ayatollah 
Sistani had asked Mr. Brahimi to return to Iraq to try to address his 
concerns. Mr. Khaffaf declined to discuss details of the conversation.

In New York, Mr. Brahimi's aides said only that he had not spoken 
recently to Ayatollah Sistani. The United Nations special representative 
to Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, could not be reached for 

According to people with knowledge of the talks, Ayatollah Sistani is 
concerned that the nascent democratic process here is falling under the 
control of a handful of the largest political parties, which cooperated 
with the American occupation and are comprised largely of exiles.

In particular, these sources say, Ayatollah Sistani is worried about 
discussions now under way among those parties to form a single ticket 
for the elections, thus limiting the choices of voters and smothering 
smaller political parties.

Ayatollah Sistani, who earlier this year sent tens of thousands of 
Iraqis into the streets to demand early elections, is said to be worried 
that a "consensus list" of candidates from the larger political parties 
would artificially limit the power of the Shiites, who form a majority 
in the country.

Under an agreement reached among exile groups in the early 1990's, the 
Shiites were said to make up about 55 percent of the population. 
Ayatollah Sistani, the sources say, believes the Shiite population has 
swelled since then and therefore would be underrepresented on any list 
based on a 55 percent figure.

Ayatollah Sistani also expressed concerns that the Iraqi government, 
possibly under American pressure, would postpone the elections on the 
pretext that the anarchical conditions that prevail over parts of the 
country would make the results illegitimate, the sources said.

According to an Iraqi close to Ayatollah Sistani who spoke at length 
with him last weekend, the ayatollah is so upset about the prospect that 
the Shiites might be underrepresented that he is prepared to withdraw 
his support for the elections if his concerns are not addressed. It is 
unclear, however, what specific demands he has made.

"If he sees that what this is leading to is unfair and unfree elections, 
then he will not take part in it,'' the Iraqi said. "He will declare the 
elections to be illegitimate."

The activity by Ayatollah Sistani represents a reassertion of his 
efforts to ensure that the country's long-suppressed Shiite Arabs 
translate their majority status into political power. In the months 
since the Americans toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah 
Sistani has largely stayed away from engaging in the minutiae of 
partisan politics, but he has aggressively pushed the Americans, the 
United Nations and the Iraqi government to hold democratic elections as 
soon as possible.

The prospect of a boycott by Ayatollah Sistani could have severe 
consequences. The grand ayatollah, the senior cleric among the Shiite 
religious hierarchy, commands vast respect among ordinary Iraqis, many 
of whom could be counted on to give serious consideration to a 
pronouncement by him about the elections. An association of Sunni 
clerics has already announced that they will boycott the election.

Ayatollah Sistani's concerns also reflect a certain ambivalence 
regarding the presence of foreign forces in the country and the 
influence of international organizations like the United Nations. In the 
months since the Americans toppled Mr. Hussein, Ayatollah Sistani has 
declared a wish to end the American presence, but he has not told Iraqis 
to oppose it aggressively.

His concerns come at a time of growing uncertainty about the feasibility 
of holding elections here in January, with a guerrilla insurgency raging 
across much of Sunni-dominated areas north and west of Baghdad. Last 
week, Secretary General Kofi Annan said he doubted whether legitimate 
elections could be carried out in the current environment. Some United 
Nations officials in Baghdad, however, have said they believe elections 
can go forward.

American commanders say they intend to bring many of the most restive 
areas, including Falluja, under control by the end of the year, by force 
if necessary.

In recent weeks, the leaders of the major Iraqi parties have been 
negotiating the possibility of forming a unified ticket for the elections.

Under the electoral system, drawn up by the United Nations, voters will 
select not individual candidates but lists, whose members will take a 
number of seats in the National Assembly roughly proportional to the 
shares of the votes their parties receive.

While many Iraqi leaders envisioned that each party would put forward 
its own list for the election, the negotiations among the larger parties 
are driving at consolidating all of the candidates onto a single slate. 
Party leaders involved in the negotiations say such a ticket would be 
conducive to national unity in a time of great distress.

"The goal is to have a united front,'' said Adil Abdul Mahdi, the Iraqi 
finance minister and a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic 
Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite party. "We think that would be 
better for the unity of the country."

It was unclear late Wednesday precisely what Ayatollah Sistani sought 
from Mr. Brahimi or others at the United Nations. Mr. Khaffaf declined 
to discuss what Ayatollah Sistani would like Mr. Brahimi to do, other 
than to say, "The most important thing now is to hold the election at 
the specified time.''

As concerned as Ayatollah Sistani is about early elections, he appears 
to be equally worried that the democratic process may be usurped by the 
well-financed major parties, nearly all of which flourished in exile and 
cooperated with the American occupation. These parties include the Iraqi 
National Accord, which is headed by the prime minister, Ayad Allawi; the 
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri; the 
Dawa Party; the Iraqi National Congress; the Kurdish Democratic Party, 
and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Dawa and Sciri are Shiite-dominated political parties; the National 
Accord and the National Congress are of mixed religion and ethnicity.

All six of these parties are dominated by exiles, and together they 
formed the core of the external opposition to Saddam Hussein. Each was 
represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, the American-approved 
advisory board that served during the 15 months of military occupation.

"Ayatollah Sistani's concern is that the elections are being controlled 
and managed by the political parties that took part in the government,'' 
said the source close to Ayatollah Sistani.

Similar complaints arose last month during the gathering that was called 
to choose a National Conference, which is now advising the government.

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