The Happy Arab News Service

Sunday, December 24, 2006

District by District, Shiites Make Baghdad Their Own

According to the New York Times Baghdad is fast falling into the Shia hands with at least 10 mixed neighborhoods now gone completely Shia.

Published: December 23, 2006

As the United States debates what to do in Iraq, this country’s Shiite majority has been moving toward its own solution: making the capital its own.

Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials.

For the first years of the war, Sunni militants were dominant, forcing Shiites out of neighborhoods and systematically killing bakers, barbers and trash collectors, who were often Shiites. But starting in February, after the bombing of a shrine in the city of Samarra, Shiite militias began to strike back, pushing west from their strongholds and redrawing the sectarian map of the capital, home to a quarter of Iraq’s population.

. . .

Sunni political control in Baghdad is all but nonexistent: Of the 51 members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city’s services, just one is Sunni.

The push developed by Shia militias for ethnic cleansing Baghdad from its Sunni population seem to enjoy backing by some in the Iraqi government.

The debate reaches to the heart of the American enterprise here. While President Bush is considering more troops, some in the Shiite-dominated government say the Americans should stay out of the sectarian fight in Baghdad and let the battle run its course. Getting involved would simply prolong the fight, they say.

Shia militias are not confining themselves to Baghdad alone. Towns around Baghdad are reportedly invaded and taken over by the Mahdi Army.

In a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad, refugees from the embattled northern village of Sabaa al-Bour, many of them women in black abayas, gathered in October asking for food and shelter.

Killings of Shiites in the town had enraged leaders in Baghdad. But weeks had dragged on, and one morning in October, a volunteer walked through the refugees telling them to go back home.

The Mahdi Army was there now, she said. The town was now safe for Shiites.

The local, and maybe even state authorities, are plainly following the Mahdi Army's drive with plans for resettling Sunni-populated areas with Shia

In another plan that appears intended to repopulate heavily Sunni-controlled areas with Shiites, the Ministry of Public Works has proposed giving land to victims of violence inflicted by Mr. Hussein and by insurgents since 2003. The plots would be in six towns outside Baghdad — Abu Ghraib, Taji, Salman Pak, Husseiniya, Mahmudiya and Latifiya, according to a local official familiar with the plan.

. . .

It was not clear how soon the plan would be carried out. A previous proposal, made by the Iraqi cabinet last year, would give some land in heavily Sunni west Baghdad to about 3,000 families, but names are still being registered.

Well. I think the idea is clear. The Sunnis are on the losing side in this war of ethnic cleansings. The Sunni insurgents have started for them a war the Sunnis plainly cannot win and when Shia militias have finally entered into action, it seems that the Sunnis got pretty nothing that can stop them now.

A college student with a Sunni name said he hid in his house, as Shiite militiamen went into homes on his block in late September and marched people away. A few days later, his uncle, a 35-year-old refrigerator repairman, was taken. The body was found in Ur, a Shiite stronghold in north Baghdad.

But unlike a bomb blast, where everybody remembers how someone died, the Sunnis’ losses seems to melt away. The Mahdi Army-controlled police station had no record of them.

Terrified, the men of the family scattered, settling on couches and in a garage of friends and family.

The student, Omar, is keeping a diary.

“One day I’ll be a teacher,” he said. “I should teach children what we passed through.”


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