Today marks Arbaeen, the largest annual gathering in human history, organized by the Iraqi community.
Arbaeen and the path to justice
Every year during Arbaeen we are reminded that the lovers of justice and liberation from oppression are in the majority. Today on Arbaeen millions of pilgrims from all over Iraq and the world visit the shrine of Imam Husain in Karbala, Iraq. In this place the battle of Karbala took place where Imam Husain ibn Ali ibn Abu talib (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) and his companions took a firm stand against the injustice of the tyrannous Yazid. This ended fatally in the martyrdom and ultimate sacrifice for humanity by Imam Hussain and his 72 companions.
Arbaeen is defined as the 40th day after Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. On this day the head of Imam Husain was returned to Karbala from Damascus and buried with the remainder of his body. On this day his sister Zaynab and other family members traveled from Damascus to Iraq to visit and pay respect to imam Husain.
Centuries later an annually increasing number of lovers of justice with different faiths and backgrounds follow this example and walk in the honour of Zayneb to keep Husains message alive. This year a delegation of Palestinian religious scholars were an important part of the pilgrims that visited Imam Hussain’s grave in Karbala. The visit of the delegation stresses the unity of Muslims and the importance of the Palestinian cause when mourning Imam Hussain. It affirms the obligation and responsibility to defend the oppressed against occupation. Being committed to Karbala means being on the side of the Palestinian people.
The relation between Iraq and Palestine
The relation between Iraq and Palestine is deeply rooted. The lands are connected since the time of the prophets that travelled between the two holy lands. This Spiritual dimension persists until this day since for all religions, Palestine is an important part of their religious identity. Millions of Iraqis view it as their religious and/or moral duty to liberate Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa from the occupiers. They feel they are seperated from their Palestinian brothers and sisters by artificial borders while being targetted by the very same aggressor.
The state of Israel was created to function as a military outpost of the American-European empire from which the Arab-Islamic world could be divided, ruled and subjugated to the zionist settler-colonial project. After dividing the region into nationstates, the next step was balkanizing these very same states. The idea was that if West-Asia was divided along sectarian lines Israel could emerge as the dominant power. In this plan Iraq was a high priority because it was rich in resources and it was a direct competitor to Israel because of Iraq’s rich history and strong identity. This is why Israel was one of the main lobbying actors for the invasion and destruction of Iraq in 2003.
The new wave of normalization or rather the emergence of a new alliance led by Israel is a renewed attempt to reshape West-Asia to the economic and geopolitical interests of Israel. The Israeli occupation was never meant to stop at the 1948 borders of Palestine. The colonial project doesn't know limits and will only be stopped by virtue of resistance.
Last friday on september 24th a large conference was illegally organized in Arbil, visited by 300 people. It was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications. The conference hosted the zionist Chemi Perez (son of the infamous war criminal Shimon Peres) as its speaker and was heavily supported by Wisham al-Hardan of the Sons of Iraq Awakening movement who also held a speech. Another attendee of the conference was Sahar al Ta’i, a senior official from Iraq’s ministry of culture. Sub sections of the October Iraqi protest movement had joined the conference as well. The main goal of the conference was to push for the normalization of Iraq with the zionist state of Israel and to join the UAE in openly cooperating with Israel. The outrage, denialism and rejections that followed this conference clearly showed that Iraq’s major political division is defined by the Palestinian cause. The conference organized in Karbala together with Palestinian representatives recommitted the unconditional support for the Palestinian people and the absolute rejection of any treachery to this cause. Not so long after the Arbil conference the Iraqi government, from Prime minister al Khadimi, to Massoud Barzani and Ahmad al Halbousi denounced this conference and arrest warrants were sent out by Iraqi courts. On monday Hamas praised Iraq for taking action against those who organized this conference.
Publically accepting normalization with Israel even on a superficial discursive level is even for the most pro-American politicians in Iraq a red line because they are aware that the Iraqi public would never accept it and it would decrease the little hair of legitimacy they had. In reality it is highly doubtful that both the Iraqi government and the KRG were unaware that his conference would happen, the performative outrage by the Iraqi government was purely tactical meant for the upcoming elections. The task of Iraqi politicians was to have prevented this conference from ever happening. However it is a mistake to consider this conference as merely a blunderious premature publicity stunt. The reality is that the conference reflects an active struggle -by any means- to reallign Iraq with Gulf state capitalism, Zionist expansion and to cut off the undivided support of the Iraqi nation, its resistance and its religious institutions from the Palestinians. The zionist occupier wants to isolate the Palestinians from the rest of the region at all cost. The presence of a zionist movement in Iraq and the rejection of it is key to understanding the political struggle for Iraq’s destiny.
It is a moral as well as strategic imperative to stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters that have been holding the frontline against imperialist projects in West Asia for decades. The imperialists will never succeed at seperating people that are spiritually, historically, linguistically and culturally tied to each other. Our problem is one and our solution is one: the indigenous people of the region must unite and expel the occupier.