Barnabas Aid - International Headquarters River Street, Pewsey, Wilthire. Phone: +44 1672 565030 Latitude: 51 deg 23 min 18 sec N Longitude: 1 deg 45 min 48 sec W .
Iraq - Basra Shi'a militias and Bri...

Email:

Iraq - Basra Shi'a militias and British forces in the south

To

Email address:
Separate multiple addresses with a comma (,). Maximum of 10

From

Your name:
Your email address:
Security test:
Please enter the numbers that appear here in the box below.
refresh captcha
CAPTCHA Image
Security code:

Details provided here will never be used in any other context

Iraq - Basra Shi'a militias and British forces in the south

Country/Region: IRAQ

Basra is Iraq's second largest city with a population of some 2.6 million. It is Iraq's main port, centre of its oil industry and capital of the southern Basra governorate. Once regarded as a relatively quiet area policed by culturally alert British forces, it has recently seen a steep rise in violence, as rival Shi'a militias vie for control of the city and its oil hub. Basra always had a sizeable Sunni minority. Since the fall of the Saddam regime, the Sunni population has been reduced from 40 percent of the total population in 2003 to some 15 percent in 2006. This is mainly the result of Shi'a militias targeting the Sunni population. Forced immigration tactics involved sending warning letters containing orders to leave Basra, marking Sunni houses with red paint, preventing wounded Sunnis from reaching hospital, discrimination in employment and services, and much more. Similar tactics have also been used against the much smaller Christian and Mandean minority communities.

Struggle for control of Basra


The real power arbitrators in the south are not the central government democratic institutions, but the Shi'a Islamist parties, factions and their militias, imposing their will on the population by force and intimidation. They have created a virtual Islamist Shi'a region in which alcohol is banned, rigid Islamic dress is imposed, and shari'a law is paramount.

In Basra alcohol and music shops have been closed, women harassed for not wearing the veil, and some women arrested for prostitution on slender evidence. The Shi'a south has been transformed into an Islamic state with shari'a being applied in the courts and politicians seeking the approval of clerics in all important decisions.

Shi'a militias have established themselves as a separate power in the south, where they compete with each other for control of city quarters, rural areas and political and economic assets. They have created their own structures of authority, unaccountable to democratic institutions. They often fight each other as they try to set up their semi-independent fiefs. Operating independently or as part of the local security forces, they have been engaged in waves of abductions, assassinations, and intimidation as they consolidate their control over various territories. In the process they instigate sporadic confrontations with their opponents and they provide patronage to their followers. The security forces are afraid to face up to the militias or to the powerful tribes allied to them in the area. The militias claim they are filling the power vacuum in the region and ensuring a minimum of security and stability, preventing lawlessness and chaos. Their critics argue that they are wresting control over the security forces to establish facts on the ground that enhance their power regardless of the law and of the central state.

In the December 2005 elections in Basra the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) won the largest number of seats, but the Sadrists managed to form a coalition with other Shi'a groups to control the town council. This has led to bad feelings between the two parties and their militias in Basra.

Much inter-militia strife is focused around control of oil smuggling routes that were established to defy UN sanctions against the Saddam Hussein regime. Militias have infiltrated sectors of the police force and are involved in kidnapping and assassinations. Iran exerts strong influence among the Shi'a militias in Basra encouraging hardline Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in what was once a fairly liberal city.

Basra seems to be in a chaotic situation with a variety of militias seeking to strengthen their position. The security situation collapsed in mid-May 2006 in the wake of the killing by persons dressed as Iraqi policemen of Sheikh Hasan Jarih al-Karamishi, the head of the al-Karamisha tribe in Basra. Fire fights broke out in several districts of the city and armed members of the al-Karamisha tribe roamed the streets killing 11 policemen. They also burned down two buildings used as party headquarters by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Police and army did not dare to intervene.

There are actually three separate conflicts going on simultaneously in the South:

1. An internal Shi'a Islamist struggle between the various militias over who controls what in the scramble for power.

2. An ethnic cleansing of non-Shi'a: Sunnis, Christians, Mandeans, etc. who flee the area due to the violent intimidation.

3. The attacks on the British forces, who in their turn have to confront the militias in order to impose a certain degree of security, control, and law and order.

Anti-British activities


The Sadrists are also instigating an anti-British propaganda campaign in the Basra region. The British fiasco in Basra in September 2005, when a British military force had to smash its way into the Basra police station to release two British soldiers, revealed the extent of Sadrist infiltration of the police force in that area. The Basra police chief admitted that he could trust less than 25 percent of his officers. Since then British forces have come under repeated attacks. Muqtada Al-Sadr's forces are said to be involved in the anti-British attacks in and around Basra that have resulted in several casualties. The downing of a British Lynx Mark 7 helicopter in Basra in May 2006 using a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile was blamed on the Mahdi Army backed by Iran who seeks to embarrass Britain so as to relieve the pressure on Iran in its search for nuclear military capability. Since January 2006 some 30 roadside bombs have killed 13 soldiers. British compounds are frequently being attacked by mortars and rocket propelled grenade (RPGs).

The Mahdi Army continues to be the most implacable enemy to the British presence in the south of Iraq, and especially Basra. It engages in sporadic attacks on the British security forces in the region to stress its Iraqi nationalist credentials and gain in popularity. The Mahdi Army has succeeded in infiltrating the police force in the area (which numbers some 13,600 members), damaging any cooperation with the British forces. In August 2005 an Iraqi official estimated that 90 percent of police officers were loyal to the Shi'a Islamist parties. Muqtada was able to recruit members of the police force, who remain in their official posts, but unofficially served as undercover agents for the Mahdi Army.

The "softly, softly" British approach, while guaranteeing a measure of quiet over the years since the invasion and keeping confrontation and casualties down, has at the same time enabled the various Shi'a movements to build up their militias, strengthen the role of Shi'a Islamism in the region, weaken the secular forces, and stake their claims to control of specific regions, quarters, institutions and power centres. Hostility to the British presence is increasing and dangerous, while the reduction in the strength of the British force has made it difficult to effectively maintain its security role.


© The Barnabas Aid

Help us: Share this article

Email:

Iraq - Basra Shi'a militias and British forces in the south

To

Email address:
Separate multiple addresses with a comma (,). Maximum of 10

From

Your name:
Your email address:
Security test:
Please enter the numbers that appear here in the box below.
refresh captcha
CAPTCHA Image
Security code:

Details provided here will never be used in any other context

christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

Other articles

Follow Barnabas

or

receive news & appeal emails as they are published

From Twitter

From Twitter_icon
  • Tony Blair urges Western intervention to combat a “radicalised and politicised view of Islam” around world http://ow.ly/w76N5 11 hours ago

  • Iranian pastor Farshid Fathi hospitalised after beating by prison guards http://ow.ly/w4Liq Wed, Apr 2014 16:20

  • Young Christian man killed by Muslim co-worker in Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam http://ow.ly/w1Uum Tue, Apr 2014 15:22

  • Christians driven out of Maaloula by Islamist rebels long to return after its recapture by the Syrian army http://ow.ly/vTrgN Thu, Apr 2014 16:37

Daily prayer

Daily prayer_icon
  • Cry out to the Lord for 33 Christians who have been sentenced to death in North Korea. The believers are thought to have been working alongside Kim Jeong-Wook, a South Korean missionary who was arrested in October 2013. Jeong-Wook has admitted trying to “create a network of house churches in North Korea” and was also said to be carrying Bibles and other Christian literature. His alleged associates are accused of trying to overthrow the government and of receiving a large sum of money for the construction of 500 house churches. Pray that these executions will not be carried out and that international pressure will be brought to bear on North Korea to release Kim Jeong-Wook and to cease its intense anti-Christian persecution. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 3 hours ago

  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for Barnabas Aid partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

© Barnabas Aid 1997 - 2014 All rights reserved.
Barnabas Aid is a registered trade mark