Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 April 2004
Issue No. 686
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Resistance? Not yet

By Salah Eissa

It is still too early to conclude that the current escalation in Iraq is the start of a popular uprising. It is too early to think that the Shia have shifted position from one of passive resistance to one of joining the Sunnis in an armed effort to liberate the country. To assume any of the above would be wishful thinking.

No one can dispute the fact that Saddam's utilitarian regime had coerced various Iraqi sects and factions into unity. That unity was enforced by gallows and prisons, mass killings and chemical weapons. Iraqi factions, therefore, have never enjoyed the right to voice their needs, the chance to express their interests. And Iraq has been denied a chance to create national unity through a voluntary formula. No sooner had the regime collapsed than long- suppressed conflicts surfaced, with each faction eager to defend its own interests, to seek a bigger piece of the pie.

What is going on in Iraq is, in part, a symptom of the rivalry between Iraqi factions, particularly the Sunnis and Shia. More so than a genuine attempt to rid the country of occupation. The rivalry among Iraq's doctrinally divergent neighbours is also impacting the situation in that country. Once various Iraqi factions reach a common vision of a voluntary national unity, once these forces show commitment to plurality rather than domination, endorse the right of all Iraqis to be equal under one flag, once the various sects agree to create a secular, democratic state, Iraq will have started its march towards liberty. It is only then that we would be right to recognise turbulence as a process of resistance.

This week's Soapbox speaker is the editor- in-chief of Al-Qahira weekly newspaper, issued by the Ministry of Culture.

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