Ahmad ‘Abd al-Hussein, ‘A Letter to the Sadrist Nation’
NAS News, February 6, 2020
Is it too late to warn of civil strife [fitna] because it is already upon us?
Eight martyred in a single night in Najaf, live fire, shells, Molotovs and dozens injured. This is far from being civil strife, this is a calamity.
A few days ago, I wrote that: “The Sadrist brothers want all the people to be Sadrists like them, in terms of their obedience and sanctification of al-Sadr, and this is something both impossible and dangerous at the same time, and all demands that are both impossible and dangerous portend calamity.” At the time, the Sadrists objected to what I said (and they will object now similarly), saying at the time (as they will say now) that we do not want others to be Sadrists or to obey al-Sadr as we do. However, while they deny this, they act according to this impossible desire, a desire not to see anyone who does not resemble themselves in this sanctification and obedience.
Yesterday, I wrote that the position taken by Ja’far al-Sadr was preferable to that of Muqtada al-Sadr, and this provoked their revolt, and many of them threatened me or called a disbeliever [kafir], and all of them cursed me.
This is a great ordeal that we must investigate, because I think it is the key to understanding what happened, not only in Najaf but in recent days in the protest squares.
For the Sadrists, al-Sadr has ismah [a Shi’i theological doctrine of moral infallibility], and if they do not say this publicly, they say he has a secondary form of ismah. Others do not say it but act according to this principle. If you told him that Sayyid al-Sadr has erred in this specific way, for example, the Sadrist will respond as if you said he was a disbeliever, and you will end up in a party of insults which some of them have truly mastered.
I do not think these insulters, and those threatening to kill, have met with al-Sadr as I have, or talked to al-Sadr as much as I have talked to him, or defended al-Sadr as much as I have when al-Sadr was oppressed because of his genuinely nationalist stance, and his previous position vis-à-vis Iranian influence, his position against corruption, and most importantly with respect to carrying through a collective dialogue between the secularists and the Islamists. And this is a matter we tried to achieve – myself and a handful of friends (Dr Faris Kamal Nadhmi, Mushrek ‘Abbas, Sarmad al-Taee, Jassim al-Helfi, and Faris Haram) – we tried with a lot of hope to achieve this and were shocked by the lack of desire from the mainstay of the two parties to realise this objective. We were in the forbidden no-man’s land between the two armies motivated to fight with each other. We faced ridicule and charges of treason from both sides.
All the people of the Sadrist movement, it is not permitted today, yesterday, or tomorrow, to say to them that al-Sadr is wrong, even though he is a man engaged in politics, who plays politics, and politics itself is the child of error, the ally of mistakes, and involves learning from mistakes and sometimes repeating them. Politics is the swamp of errors, and the most adept political player is he that makes the fewest mistakes.
Today, we are all a target for their arrows, I mean all those who see that al-Sadr erred when the Blue Hats are involved in this way, in the seizure of the Turkish restaurant, carrying white weapons at first, and then black weapons [white weapons being those that don’t involve an explosive element, e.g. knives/batons], their beating of all those who chanted against ‘Allawi, being sucked into provoking their insulters, with the 180 degree turn in their rhetoric and its conformity with the rhetoric of the corrupt who call the protesters jokers and Americans, and their justifications, and their ridiculous justifications documented with pictures of beer cans and whisky as if the protester in Tahrir square required an sit-in to drink alcohol and did not know al-Bataween street nearby.
These are huge errors that necessarily places them [the Sadrists] on the opposing side to most of the young protesters, and naturally the mind of the protesters after these errors now believes that the Sadrists are determined to terminate the protests at any cost, and to precipitate a collision with them, and this is a regrettable occurrence.
Has al-Sadr asked himself: Why was Sayyid al-Sadr the last to be insulted from the leaders of the [political] blocs? And why have the protests not dealt with him badly throughout these years? Not because of fear, or sanctification of his person, but because – simply put – he did not stand against the protests.
Now the Sadrists have claimed the right to cleanse the square by force, without recourse to those within the square. They have dug themselves a trench in opposition to the other trench of the protesters. They cannot be surprised by the reaction of the protesters to their errors. The people will quickly forget the many martyrs of the revolution who were themselves Sadrists, the bad deeds also remove the good deeds.
I do not think anyone has given the Sadrists their due as I have in the past, and today I also want to treat them fairly when I say to them: You are wrong, you erred when you tired to protect the protests in this arbitrary fashion, you were wrong, as Sayyid al-Sadr was wrong, to wager on ‘Allawi as Prime Minister, you were wrong to demonize the revolutionaries just as they have been demonized by the corrupt, you were wrong to attack all those who aimed criticism at you, you were wrong when you wanted to hegemonize the squares and sit-ins. You were wrong to carry weapons. You were wrong to make threats left and right to those who argued with you. You are venturing to wipe away the image which you have given of yourself to others in recent years, to make yourselves once more merely an armed faction the importance of whose members lies merely in pulling the trigger. This is not what I learnt of you in these years, and I do not wish to be wrong.
On the day you accept the truth that Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr is a son of Adam, and all the sons of Adam commit errors, and that the noblest are the sinners who repent, you will accept the expression “al-Sayyid erred” and will hear it said by those who are not necessarily your enemies.
I do not think anyone has talked to you [the Sadrists] before with such frankness. And it is a necessary frankness to understand where we are. And where we are, very simply, is the beginning of a civil conflict and sharp social division, foreshadowing war. This is a division caused by the madani [elites], their revulsion and derision towards you (which I have often written about), but then your sins and your mistakes that accompanied the revolution since its inception have became clear these days.
Do you know that you are now closer to a third party? When you want the protests to be on your terms, according to your conditions, you do nothing other than what any armed faction does, any of the armed factions that the protesters curse day and night.
Are there infiltrators amongst the protests? Certainly, and there are those who push their parties to be with the protesters, and there are foreign elements, climbers and pretenders. However, this is a constant feature of all such movements, there is no pure revolution. And those who want to purify a revolution, repress it whether he feels this or not. There is no revolution that measures up to one person’s conditions.
I write this, and I know it will not satisfy anyone. I will not satisfy you because what I write raises doubts about your unwritten and undisclosed beliefs, represented by the accusation of apostasy against those who do not say the Sayyid al-Sadr is infallible or that he is wrong. And it will not satisfy the injured madaniyin who you betrayed and who want to escalate the tone towards you. However, my consolation is that I do not write to satisfy anyone. I write to my homeland and my conscience, and to try and fend off the social strife that myself and my friends tried to avoid.
This brings me back to the first question:
Has time run out to fend off this strife?
The matter is in your hands, I mean in the hands of Sayyid al-Sadr alone: to withdraw the Blue Hats from the squares, and leave the revolutionaries to complete their revolution, and to give advice not to mobilize the Sadrists to make a revolution just for themselves and imposed on others, and to say clearly that the revolutionaries are the ones who will choose the head of the new government and bear the responsibility for the results of this choice, and that he will be dismissed by constitutional means if he does not fulfil his promises and commitments.
This is the advice to you of a friend. A disheartened friend with love for you, but with love for this popular revolution which is the greatest to happen in Iraq since its foundation.
We were together in times of adversity, for years we were together fighting the same monsters. But now I am with the revolution, and even if the whole world stood against it, I would be against the world.
There is not time left in my life to change my place, especially because I am convinced that I am on the right side of the world, I am with the revolution of the youth.