They say every cloud has a silver lining. The death of hundreds of Iraqi Muslim Shiites on August 31, 2005 in a Baghdad stampede was by all means a catastrophe. But from among the weeping of bereaved mothers and the tears of distressed men, hope has emerged.
The scene on that day was a demonstration of the failure of the US occupation’s plans to divide the country, which is known for its ethnic and religious diversity but has never known sectarianism throughout its history and has never witnessed a civil war.
The US-led occupation and its Iraqi collaborators have involved sectarianism in every aspect of life, starting from the cabinet to the lowest governmental posts. The Iraqi media and people were never indulged in sectarianism as they have been since the beginning of the occupation in April 2003.
However, the catastrophic stampede prompted Iraqis from different backgrounds to offer help in every possible way, providing a beautiful example of national unity.
The stampede took place in Kadhimiya, a Shiite-dominated Baghdad district; Adhamiya, a neighboring Sunni-dominated district, set about helping fellow Iraqis. Sunni and Shiite mosques in different Iraqi cities were urging people through loudspeakers to help the victims. Iraqis from all religions and sects donated blood to the victims of the tragedy.
A Sunni teenager from Adhamiya gave a striking example of Iraqis’ unity. Uthman Al-Ubeidi died while saving his fellow Iraqis from drowning into the Tigris river.
Uthman saved seven people and died of exhaustion while he was trying hard to save the eighth one. This example, alone, is enough to express everything and prove that Iraq is hard to break.
Another incident that shows the authenticity of Iraqi unity is the reaction to Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim’s call to establish a federal Shiite state in southern Iraq. Al-Hakim made his call in front of a large crowd of Shiite mourners, who gathered in Najaf on August 11, 2005 to commemorate the second anniversary of his brother’s (Baqir Al-Hakim) death. Al-Hakim suggested to group nine southern Iraqi governorates in order to establish a Shiite entity, which would eventually break up from the mother homeland of Iraq.
The call stirred resentfulness among Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Arabs. Despite the huge cash and propaganda utilized to back the call, it did not receive the desired support; protesters marched all over Iraq holding banners that read, “Sunnis and Shiites, we will not sell this country.”
As the Sunni Arabs were fighting the constitution battle to abort the potential division of some parts of Iraq, Shiite Arabs in the south were opposing Al-Hakim’s call.
Shiite tribal leaders voiced their rejection of Al-Hakim’s proposal; as a result, Al-Hakim’s parliamentary bloc dropped their demand of a Shiite self-rule region.
The formula was to save the face of allegedly Iraq’s biggest Shiite political party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), but the message has been very clear to the promoters of Iraq’s partition: The people of Iraq want to remain united.
Reliable sources told me that leaders of the powerful Iraqi Arab tribe Albu Amir are discussing the disavowing of Mahdi Al-Amiri, leader of Badr Brigades, the military wing of SCIRI and Al-Hakim’s closest ally.
Albu Amir is not content with having one of its sons promote the split of Iraq’s Arabs and the establishment of a tiny puppet Shiite state.
Iraq’s unity will always prevail, not because Iraqis are in solidarity, and not because Iraqis are smart, but because Iraq’s unity is divinely orchestrated; Sunnis and Shiites live all over Iraq. Each Iraqi Arab tribe has Shiite and Sunni members. No Iraqi governorate, except for Al-Ramadi, is 100% Shiite or 100% Sunni. Iraq’s unity is guaranteed by Iraq’s natural composition.