The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Shak Hanish Ph. National University Search for more papers by this author.
1945 to the Present
Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Volume 17 , Issue 2 Fall Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Religious opinion and confessional loyalties were often mobilised against the supposedly atheist communists while loyalties of clan and patronage were often at the base of the ruling cliques themselves.
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I should like at this point to narrate the tales of two different individuals. Their tales illustrate how individuals departed from their communal or ethnic roots and how they then related to it. He became closely identified with the left, sympathetic to the Communist Party, celebrated or grieved the triumphs, defeats and martyrdom of popular struggles in his poetry, and suffered prison and exile on many occasions, to the last decades of his life spent in Prague, then Syria.
In the 19th century and until the early decades of the 20th century, Najaf and Karbala operated almost as autonomous city states under the rule of rival mujtahids interpreters of the law , combined with control of their quarters by lineages and alliances between them. Jawahiri was educated in the religious schools, which included extensive literary components, more attractive to the young student than religion.
In his late teens, his poetry found favour in the now national press, and his talent was noted. He soon found himself in Baghdad and, in , through the patronage and connections of his influential uncle, was offered a job as a schoolteacher. It is at this point that religious sectarianism comes into play. Jawahiri, however, ruined his prospects by refusing to continue with the game. As part of his active and turbulent literary and journalistic life, Jawahiri was increasingly his own man, adopting critical and outspoken stances.
In one of these, he turned against the loyalty of nasab and attacked prominent ulama of Najaf. It included the line: wa minhum lususun, wa minhum lawatun wa-zanatu and in their ranks there are thieves and pederasts and fornicators. Predictably, this drew the ire of the notables, and a flood of protests to the King for sheltering such a person.
This was the very constituency that the King had tried to cultivate through appointing Jawahiri. This was the beginning of the end for his court career. Thereafter, Jawahiri was thrown into the world of literature, journalism and politics, all closely interwoven in that village-like public sphere of the incipient Iraqi nation. He soon developed a distinctive critical voice, and a life of political adventure. Yet, under the monarchical regime which ended in Jawahiri continued to draw on the patronage and influence of the political elite, including royal personalities.
Returning to Political Parties?
These were deeply ambivalent connections, on both sides, yet it did procure him positions, grants and mediations when he found himself in trouble and difficulty, which was often. After the revolution, Jawahiri was showered with honours and positions, but not for long. He soon fell out with General Qasim and ended up in exile.
Jawahiri, then, is a good example of the detachment and deracination of the individual from corporate allegiance, as part of the process of the formation and imagination of the nation. Many were to follow in that path. The Iraqi left, and particularly the Communist Party, was a magnet for the renegades from all communities, who abandoned the bonds and securities of primary allegiance in favour of a political identification as citizen and patriot.
Jawahiri spoke this sentiment in his famous line: ana al-Iraqu, lisani qalbuhu, wa-dami furatuhu, wa-kiyani minhu ashtaru I am Iraq, my tongue is her heart, my blood her Euphrates, my being from her branches formed. Naji was born in , and qualified as a doctor in Thereafter, lacking the resources and connections to engage in an urban practice, he continued in government employment. In that he also suffered from discrimination as a Jew, and lacked the patronage necessary for a more favourable posting.
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He worked in rural and provincial posts until the end of the s, when he retired to Baghdad and engaged in private practice. Naji was imprisoned and maltreated, and eventually left Iraq with the near totality of the remaining Jews. I met and interviewed him in London in the late s.
Naji was not particularly political, and did not deliberately detach himself from the religious community. His deracination was a cumulative process, conditioned by his physical separation from the centres of Jewish life, and his absorption into Iraqi provincial life. Although there were other Jewish doctors in a similar position, they were widely dispersed. There were also small Jewish communities in the provincial centres near his work. Their customs, speech and dress were like their Muslim neighbours, and as such unlike Baghdadi Jews, especially the educated strata of the capital.
Naji had much more in common socially and mentally with other government functionaries and professionals posted in the area. These usually had their own club, Nadi al-Muwadhafin, where they met to chat, play games and drink. Naji neither gambled nor drank, but the club was still his main venue of sociability. He also mixed with the local notability, for whom he cared in his professional capacity. At this level, Naji was integrated into the life of provincial functionaries, and detached from his Jewish communal connections and networks, except during periods of leave when he visited his family in Baghdad.
The Iraqi Communist Party
At times, in his own words, he forgot that he was a Jew, as the following episode indicates. Once, during an epidemic, Naji encountered difficulty in securing premises for quarantine. The landlord of the designated house tried to renege on the deal at the last minute. To obtain the key Naji had to be firm and assert his authority, to the extent of slapping the man. Yet he could not forget for long. The political events of the time heightened consciousness of religious divisions, especially with regard to Jews.
The Second World War, combined with events in Palestine, aroused nationalist sentiments that were tinged with Nazi sympathies. At one point he had an encounter with Fawzi al-Qawuqchi , the Palestinian militia commander, and his men, there to support Rashid Ali, before withdrawing to Syria at his defeat.
Later, the foundation of the state of Israel heightened anti-Jewish sentiments. While Naji continued to enjoy warm and friendly relations with his patients, local people, notables and religious dignitaries, he was increasingly the target of hostile treatment by his superiors, medics and health directors.
Some were jealous of his professional success, others resentful of a Jewish presence. As a result he was given the least desirable postings, loaded with extra work, and thus prevented from pursuing more lucrative private practice. He was deterred from resigning by a regulation that doctors retiring from government service could only engage in private practice in the location of their last posting, in this case small provincial centres.
Under the rule of General Qasim, who overthrew the Hashemite monarchy in and was himself overthrown in , the power of the tribes, clans and communities was severely challenged by progressive policies, such as land reforms and legal reforms of family law, and by ideological politics. It was then that the Communist Party made the running in wide-ranging mobilisation of many sectors of the population.
This in turn provoked reactions from opposing forces, mostly varieties of Arab nationalists. These movements were not confined to politics but reinforced the already established cultural and artistic manifestations, from literature to theatre and the plastic arts, and an intense journalistic field to go with these. Wider sectors of the population were brought into the civil society of citizens.
This political effervescence was, of course, to lead to severe and bloody conflicts in an unstable society.
The rise and fall of civil society in Iraq | openDemocracy
This was not easy to accomplish. The combination of bloody repression and incorporation proceeded at a gradual pace through the s, particularly with the manoeuvre of bringing the Communist Party into a common front in government, culminating in the final repression of the party and all its popular associations towards the end of that decade. The society of citizens was eliminated. They were regimented into the ranks of the party and of loyalty to the ruling clique, their intellectual and cultural products dictated by these considerations.
Those who resisted suffered the usual horrors of imprisonment, torture and execution and often the victimisation of their families. The lucky ones escaped to join the ever-expanding communities of exiles estimated in the millions. Those that remained were reduced to voices of the rulers, often persecuted and humiliated by party and security thugs put in charge of universities and cultural institutions.
At one point, university teachers, alongside other public employees, are directed to lose weight by a particular date or lose rank and pay, with threat of severance. There followed frantic and painful efforts by rotund middle-aged men to comply. The description of the day of weight registration is tragi-comic, with a large number of professors scrambling to get into a small clinic, exhausted and humiliated.
The author, a professor of Russian literature, committed suicide soon after she completed the book. These hardships are exacerbated by the drastic impoverishment of the salaried classes in the years following the Gulf War and the UN sanctions. The parties were repeatedly purged to ensure complete loyalty and subservience to the ruling cliques. At the same time, the parties became vehicles for the penetration and control of all public institutions and functions, working closely with the multiple security forces. Politics and civil society are totally incorporated into the authoritarian state.
Under these conditions, the security and life-chances of any individual become dependent on their relationship to the organs and networks of the regime. For most people, these relations are mediated through connections and solidarities of kinship and community. In the spheres of power, of government and the military, official rank is subordinated to informal connections of kinship and relations to members of the ruling clique.
In the offices of state and public life, it is again connections to the centres of networks of power which procure tenure and promotion. In the s, after the depredations of the second Gulf War, the Hussein regime came out openly in support of tribalism. Selected tribal sheikhs were officially instated as leaders of their tribes, some of their lands restored reversing earlier land reforms and supplied with arms, on condition of loyalty to the regime and ensuring social and political controls in its favour.
By then, of course, they constituted no threat to the regime, but could be useful as instruments of social control.