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Friday, May 13, 2005

Iraq's Suffering Continues

The violence continues on a frightening basis in Iraq. I am not blogging much about this as I really do not know what to say or think. People are again speaking of a 'spike' following the election of the new government. But the underlying level of violence seems to continue unabated, and certainly from the outside you could get the impression of growing momentum with talks of uniformed insurgents etc.

An article in today's Independent describes the plight of Iraq's barbers:

In Iraq a barber works in a dangerous trade. Many have been murdered, beaten or forced to close their businesses by Islamic fanatics who accuse them of shaving off beards or giving Western-style haircuts.

"I did not take them seriously when they warned me against shaving off beards," lamented Mohammed Hassan al-Jebabi, once the owner of a barber's shop in a Sunni town on the outskirts of Baghdad. One day six men arrived in a pick-up truck. They shot into the air and took me away. After 12 days they dumped me back in front of my shop with my arms and legs broken. They said next time they would cut off my hands."

The fundamentalists, generally called Salafi or Wahabi in Iraq, believe it is un-Islamic for men to shave or for barbers to employ an ancient method of hair removal using a thread. Even trimming beards is seen as a crime against religion.

Most barber's shops in Sunni or mixed Shia and Sunni districts of Baghdad now carry a notice in the window saying: "We apologise to our customers but we are not shaving beards."

Now if it is not possible even to resist this basic level of intimidation, where do people expect change to come from?

Certainly in the background there is a lot of talk of civil war. It is impossible to say just how long the average Shiite or Kurd will resist the continuing campaign of provocation. John Cole kinks to a pretty pessimistic assessment in Newsday which suggests that the insurgents may be trying to encircle and cut off Baghdad. All in all, not a pretty picture.

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