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[casi-analysis] '' Revolution .."

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The 'planners' really didn't read a history book before they 'liberated' did
they. Had they done so even they would have realised that in Iraq, history
has a habit of uncannily repeating. Visitors are most welcome, invaders  and
're-educators' - what patronising, outrageous arrogance - are not. What a
mess. best, f.
 Published on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 by Knight-Ridder
Iraqi Whispers Mull Repeat of 1920s Revolt Over Western Occupation
by Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Whispers of "revolution" are growing louder in Baghdad this
month at teahouses, public protests and tribal meetings as Iraqis point to
the past as an omen for the future.
Iraqis remember 1920 as one of the most glorious moments in modern history,
one followed by nearly eight decades of tumult. The bloody rebellion against
British rule that year is memorialized in schoolbooks, monuments and
mass-produced tapestries that hang in living rooms.
Now, many say there's an uncanny similarity with today: unpopular foreign
occupiers, unelected governing bodies and unhappy residents eager for
self-determination. The result could be another bloody uprising.

To many Iraqis, today's U.S. occupation reads like an old play with modern
characters: America as the new Britain, grenade-lobbing insurgents as the
new opposition, and Ahmad Chalabi and other former exiles on the Governing
Council as the new kings.

"We are now under occupation, and the best treatment for a wound is
sometimes fire," said Najah al Najafi, a Shiite cleric who joined thousands
of marchers at a recent demonstration where construction workers, tribal
leaders and religious scholars spoke of 1920.
The rebellion against the British marked the first time that Sunni and
Shiite Muslims worked in solidarity, drawing power from tribesmen and city
dwellers alike. Though Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic minorities are rivals in
the new Iraq, many residents said the recent call for elections could draw
disparate groups together. A smattering of Sunnis joined massive Shiite
protests last week, demanding that U.S. administrators grant the wishes of
the highest Shiite cleric for general elections.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani has been unbending in his demand
for direct elections instead of U.S. plans to select a new government
through caucuses. At the request of L. Paul Bremer, the American envoy to
Iraq, and several members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, the
United Nations is sending a team to Iraq to study the feasibility of holding
elections in time for the transition of power this summer.
Sistani's representatives expect widespread civil disobedience and violence
if elections are deemed impossible.
"They know what will happen if they do not listen to us," said Sabah al
Khazali, a religious scholar who joined last week's demonstrations. "They
know this is a warning."
The historic rebellion has broad resonance. A band of anti-American
insurgents has named itself the "1920 Revolution Brigades," and Sistani
himself, in a newspaper advertisement this month, asked Iraq's influential
tribes to remember that year.
"We want you to be revolutionaries ... you should have a big role today, as
you had in the revolution in 1920," the ad said.
Elderly tribal leaders recently discussed revolution amid plumes of incense
smoke and the gurgle of tobacco-filled water pipes. Many men on the
50-member Independent Iraqi Tribes council proudly claimed ancestors who
rose against the British in 1920. They likewise would join a revolt if
Sistani and other clerics gave the word, they said.
History writers are less kind in their assessment of the rebellion's
outcome. In 1920, the League of Nations awarded Britain the new mandate of
Iraq as part of secret deals made during World War I. Just six months into
British rule, Iraqi opposition was growing. After the unrest deteriorated
into three months of death and anarchy, the British plucked an Arab
nationalist fighter from exile in the United Kingdom and installed him as
king. The monarchy lasted until 1958, when a military coup turned Iraq into
a republic.
To many Iraqis, today's U.S. occupation reads like an old play with modern
characters: America as the new Britain, grenade-lobbing insurgents as the
new opposition, and Ahmad Chalabi and other former exiles on the Governing
Council as the new kings.
"We've sacrificed many martyrs and we would do it again," said Sheik Khamis
al Suhail, the secretary of the tribal council. "In 1920, we faced a
struggle between Muslims and non-Muslims in Iraq. We are living under
basically the same conditions now, and revolution is certainly possible."
Iraqi Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the country's population of 26
million, look to Sistani for leadership.
"If Sistani called for revolution, I would sacrifice my life for the good of
my country," said Hamdiya al Niemi, a 27-year-old street vendor whose father
raised her on stories of the 1920 uprising. "My father was so proud talking
about that time, how we kicked out the British and how we should never allow
foreigners to rule our land."
The al Hamdani tribe, with thousands of members across Iraq, provided key
organizers of the 1920 revolt. These days, the family name is linked to the
cream-filled confections sold at the popular al Hamdani pastry shops
throughout Baghdad.
Yaser al Hamdani, a 28-year-old tribe member whose great-uncle fought in the
revolution, said he'd give up his job in the steaming bakery for a
"Of course I would join," Hamdani said. "There would be bloodshed along the
way, but sacrifice is important for success."
(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services

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