May 30, 2024

Basra, Test Case for Withdrawal

The Christian Science Monitor says that Basra is turning into an emerging "Shiite Taliban state" now that the British are packing up their kit bags and leaving town:

The billboard in Umm al-Broom Square was meant to advertise a cellphone service. Instead, it has become a message to those who dare to resist the rising tide of fundamentalist Islam in Iraq’s second largest city.

The female model’s face is now covered with black paint. Graffiti scrawled below reads, "No! No to unveiled women."

That message joins the chorus of ultraconservative voices and radical militias that are transforming this once liberal port city that boasted some of Iraq’s most lively nightclubs into a bastion for hard-line Shiite Islamists

with the British gone, many say, they leave open the possibility that Iran could extend its influence within the mosques, religious schools, and militant party headquarters. Over the past four years, Basra has undergone its own Islamic revolution of sorts.

Posters of the leader of Iran’s 1979 social and religious revolt, Ayatollah Khomeini, who at the time imposed similar limits on his society, are plastered everywhere in Basra.

Public parties are banned. Selling musical CDs is forbidden in shops. Those who sell or consume alcohol face recrimination, even death. Artists and performers are severely restricted and even labeled as heretics. A famous city landmark, a replica of the Lion of Babylon statue that stood here for decades was blown up by militants in July. It was considered idolatrous, according to the strict interpretation of Islam.

Signs ordering women to cover up appear throughout the city. One woman, an Iraqi female activist from Basra, says the notices even threaten death. One banner, she says, said unveiled women could be murdered and no one could remove their bodies from the street.

CSM’s view of what what the vandalized billboard represents is too narrow.  What it really gives us is a graphic foreshadowing of what would likely happen all over Iraq if the American troops were to leave prematurely.

Cross-posted at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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