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[casi] new rulers of iraq (Julia Guest)

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The New Rulers of IraqIf you have ever wondered what a young Shia woman inthe Southern Iraq has 
been daydreaming about, youmight not immediately think of football.  In Basra andin Nassiriya two 
young women, both interns asked mewhich team I supported.  One of them Hiba in Basraloves 
Manchester United, particularly David Beckham. In Nassiriya Noha, dressed in a severe black, with 
aHejab, asked me excitedly  “Do you like Real Madrid?” Having never really fathomed why anyone 
likesfootball, except perhaps for the great communityspirit I asked her “Do you really like 
football or isit the men?”  She didn’t hesitate, “Oh it’s the men”and showed me her pin up from 
Real Madrid, stuck inher notebook.   I have seen similar responses inBurkina Faso, young women 
infatuated with DavidBeckham and Michael Owen, when they hadn’t heard ofEngland. If women could 
vote for footballers, thesemen would rule the world.However they are unlikely to volunteer for the 
job inIraq.  The current favourite for the
 South is 22 yearold Mudtar Sadr, the son of Mohammed Sadr assassinatedby Saddam in 1998.  Shia in 
Iraq only have Fridayprayers when they have a leader, for the past fivehundred years, there had 
been no Friday prayers, forthe Shia Friday prayers are a volatile mixture ofreligion and politics.  
 In 1998 when Mohammed Sadrrekindled the tradition and called the communitytogether to stand up 
against the unjust leaders of theworld, it was the last speech he made.  The uprisingthat followed 
his assassination had led to thousandsof Shia around Iraq being massacred by Saddam’s army.  For 
the past five weeks Friday prayers are happeningagain.  Now with the possibility of elections 
themosques are packed to overflowing.  Pictures ofAyatollah Homani are being sold, “You would 
beexecuted for even thinking about him in Saddam’s time”Salaam from Al-Muajaha told me.  For now 
the Religiousleaders do not seem to be assuming they will needelections, they have control.  Twenty 
percent ofpeople’s wealth
 is given to Mosques.  Of course thisdoes not fit the picture of a new democracy in Iraqfor the US. 
  One German journalist told me about apress conference with Paul Bremer last week, “Therewere no 
Iraqi journalists there at all, so thequestions the US media put were all about PaulBremer’s plans 
for Iraq, not about elections at all”.It was a woman in Nejev, the holiest of cities of Shiacities, 
that stopped me in my tracks, I was waitingoutside the main meeting hall of the Shia leaders, 
shestood staring at me from behind her complete blackveil, I just had the strangest sensation of 
hearingher crying out.  She stood and looked at me as long asI was looking at her.   I could not be 
a woman under ahejab for long, I had conceded to wear a modest scarf,to cover my self from head to 
toe in Black would bejust undo able.   While I found a great calmness inNejev, it was at a price.   
Amongst the internationalconventions that the US has not signed up to is theConvention on the 
Elimination of
 All Forms ofDiscrimination Against Women. I met some women teachers in Kut, they were excitedabout 
the rebuilding of the education system.  One ofthem told me, “We need it so badly, we need 
investmentin teachers, in books, we had no new books under thesanctions.”  The told me about 
hearing about the plansfor education on the TV.  So far, although they havereturned to school no 
one has been to see them aboutactually changing anything.With more than a hundred different parties 
appearingaround Baghdad.  It maybe sometime before any sign ofa leader that everyone can agree on 
emerges, for thetime being it will be down to men and women in Iraq tomake the changes they want.

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