Thursday, March 24, 2005

When Thugs Attack

While I am very much an optimist regarding the long-term future of Iraq, it would be foolish not to recognize the many dangers to democracy that exist in that country. Sadly, the threat extends well beyond the Baathist/Wahhabist terror alliance.

Last week in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, a group of thugs loyal to fanatical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sprang into action. Having been badly beaten twice last year by US and British forces, the Sadrites were looking for an opponent more worthy of their fighting abilities. They found such adversaries in a group of unarmed university students having a picnic. The students were committing the unforgivable crimes of playing music and allowing mingling between the sexes. An article from Wednesday's Times of London describes what happened next:

“They began shooting in the air and people screamed. Then, with one order, they began beating us with their sticks and rifle butts.” Two students were said to have been killed.

(link via LGF)

The local authorities disgracefully refused to intervene. Yet there is a heartening aspect to this story. The students of Basra University reacted to this act of barbarism by taking to the streets en masse to denounce the Sadrite thugs and demand that the authorities act against the perpetrators. Ali at Free Iraqi notes the importance of this action:

This is the change I was hoping to see, the change of heart s and minds against all sorts of fanaticism which without it all efforts whether by the government or America, with all the sacrifices of Iraqis and their bravery in standing against foreign terrorism, remains useless.

As Ali points out, it is the willingness of ordinary Iraqis to stand up for their hard-won and still fragile freedom that will determine the ultimate outcome in that country. It is vital that America and the West stand with them.


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