Readings — From the February 2009 issue
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By Kazim, a Shia resident of Amara, Iraq, from a personal narrative recorded by the Current Violations in Iraq Project. Directed by Daniel Rothenberg of the International Human Rights Law Institute of the DePaul University College of Law, the project, which employs an all-Iraqi staff of interviewers and analysts, has collected testimony from 1,929 individuals on human-rights violations committed in Iraq since 2003.
Not all of the deeds of man are equal, just as not every person is equal. Therein lies the difference between good and evil.
I am a simple young man. I live in the governorate of Maysan with my family. My three brothers and I used to own shops. I used to sit in one of the shops with my friends Raad, who lived in our neighborhood, and Hasan, who was from a neighborhood nearby. We discussed many things. Since we were young, our ideas were often similar.
After the fall of the regime, various militias emerged under different political factions. We saw men entering the market wearing black clothing and holding weapons. They had new cars with tinted windows. We heard people say, “Those guys are from the Mahdi Army.” We were impressed. My friends and I admired their power and the way people revered them whenever they entered the market. Raad, Hasan, and I decided to join the Mahdi Army.
I visited my neighbor Sayyid Abbas, a comman der, to ask him how we could join. He said, “The Imam’s army welcomes anyone who loves Islam, loves the Imam Mahdi, embodies the traits of the Imam Mahdi, and follows Islamic teachings.”
“My friends and I would like to join,” I said.
“Welcome to you and your friends,” he said. “Come tomorrow to the office of al-Sayyid al-Shahid al-Sadr to complete the recruitment forms.”
The next morning at the office, they asked us routine questions: name, address, and date of birth. They also asked if you were a member of the Baath Party, because if you’d been a member you couldn’t join the Mahdi Army.
After we filled out the forms, we became members. We started carrying out operations around Diwaniya. All of a sudden we were riding in new cars with tinted windows. With each operation we were transformed from simple young men into arrogant soldiers.
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