Thursday, July 14, 2005

Let Freedom Ring

George W. Bush brings liberation to the suffering people of Iraq (from the Christian Science Monitor):

--- "No alcohol, no music CDs, woman forced to wear hijab, people murdered in the streets - this is not the city I remember," says Samir, an editor of one of Basra's largest newspapers. (His name, and others, have been changed for security reasons.) "In the past, Basra revolted against attempts to make it too Islamic." One woman living in Basra says, "Before, we had Saddam; now we have religious parties and militias. To them, a woman's smile is a crime...."

But even this type of thuggery is not the only manifestation of religious extremism in Basra today. "This is a city where if you have a birthday party for your child, you could end up dead," says one Iraqi journalist. As drama professor Thawra Yousif Yaakub relates, her sister-in-law Salina belonged to an all-female band that performed at baby showers, birthday parties, and other festive occasions, playing before all-women audiences only. Last May, the band were unloading their equipment on the street after a gig, when a man leaped out of a car and opened fire, killing Salina and another band member. "They died because they were women and they made music," Yaakub says...

"We have over 70 political parties, many without any constituents," says one academic. "Where do they get their funding? And whose interests do they serve - Basra's or Tehran's?" If Iran casts a political shadow over Basra, its influence on the city's social life is even greater. Over the past year, for example, many women changed their hijab style from the traditional Iraqi buknuk, or tight-fitting cowl, to the looser Iranian-style scarf. "But of course, the whole idea of compulsory hijab is Iranian," says Salaam Wendy, a Basran who recently returned to the city after living overseas for 20 years. "In the 1960s and 70s, you rarely saw women in Basra covered." As for the bans on alcohol, music CDs, or general mingling of the sexes, "This is Iranian, too," says Mr. Wendy. "In the past, Basra had bars, casinos, nightclubs - it had life. Basra has really become an Iranian city. I no longer recognize it."---

Somewhere, the Ayatollah Khomeini is smiling: "How great is Allah! He's gotten the Great Satan to do our work for us! Blessed be Bush, blessed be!"