Monday, March 28, 2005


Sparks of Revolution

Sparks of any revolution cannot be considered in isolation of the prevailing environment. They only ignite when the conditions surrounding that spark are already volatile, much like the "Boston Tea Party".

When the US administration discarded direct rule of Iraq through the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority of Ambassador Paul Bremer) and decided for rule by proxy. The initial date for handing over sovereignty to the Interim Government was set for June 30th. The ceremony was later moved to June 28th. Somebody probably told those geniuses that the original date was actually the anniversary of the nation-wide revolution against the British liberation of Iraq. The memory of the revolution is still fresh in the collective memory of Iraq.

In that revolution, much like during Fallujah-I in April of 2004, all Iraqis were united against the British. Feelings of bitterness and resentment actually ran high before the violence. But the violence itself was sparked, almost simultaneously, by two separate incidents.

One spark took place near Fallujah. The famous British colonel Leachman – who was actually well versed in tribal affairs, insulted Sheikh Dhari (Grandfather of Dr. Harith al-Dhari, the chairman of the Islamic Cleric Association). According to his contemporaries, Leachman used to disguise himself as a Bedouin and spend considerable stretches of time with the desert people. He once came back to the British Embassy in Baghdad in such a disguise. His camouflage was apparently so good that he was promptly refused entry by the guards at the gates. Dhari's son, Suleiman, (Dr. Harith's father) was actually the one who shot Col Leachman. That spark started things in the western countryside.

But the first spark took place when the authorities arrested a local tribal chief, Shalaan Abul Choan. While he was being taken away by the British soldiers, Shalaan yelled at one of his companions: "These people may deport me to Baghdad. Send me 10 good gold coins tonight".

That night, ten warriors of his tribe attacked the jail he was held in and freed him. That was the spark the southern areas needed!


Many years later, General Glubb Pasha, another famous British Arabist, who helped establish, and for quite a while headed, the young Jordanian army (and was generally known in the area as Abu Hnaich, the one with the jaw… probably because of his prominent jaw!) visited the area. While going to some function with Sheikh Shaalan with him in the car, the latter remarked, pointing at the surrounding land: "Did you notice, Sahib, that this land is slightly pinkish in color?... well, that is due to all the blood of your young ones that were killed in the 1920 revolution. What insolence and bad taste!


That particular tribe, known as al Dhualim, part of the larger tribe, Bani Hchaim, were famous for their lyrics as well as for something that is called "Hischa" in Iraq, which means saying something innocent and meaning something else, usually less innocent. In fact, these people can make someone who is unaware of their ways look quite foolish!

During the battles, a young man was killed. He was carried by his maternal uncle on his shoulder to take him back home. As he approached their hut, he saw his sister, the boy's mother, churning milk. From a distance he called out in rhyme: "As if you never rocked and lullaby-ed!", referring to the rocking cot those people used for babies. She chanted back immediately in the same rhythm: "I rocked and lullaby-ed for this!", probably meaning "for such a day" or "for such an honorable death".


Coming back to our present situation, I can see so many sparks flying around, some of them foolishly initiated, in a situation that is already volatile.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on Blogwise