Letter: Shias and Saddam

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The Independent Online
Sir: The article by Charles Richards, 'Danger grows for isolated minority' (15 January), is accurate in portraying the worsening plight of the Shias in the south of Iraq. Labelled as 'monkey-faces' by Saddam, the Shias of the southern marshes are being subjected to a programme of ethnic cleansing by their implacable dictator.

The unified Iraqi opposition - the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - has consistently called for the establishment of a full security zone below the 32nd parallel. According to the information we obtain from our sources within the marshlands, the current no-fly zone does not go far enough.

Saddam's land-based forces bombard the villages daily; his dreaded secret police, the Mukhabarat, have stepped up their agenda of random arrests, detention and torture in order to quell any chance of uprising. We are beginning to come to the belief that the situation has even deteriorated because of, not in spite of, the no-fly zone.

Where Mr Richards has erred is in equating the suffering of the Shias at the hands of Saddam with disenfranchisement on a political level within the INC. This is simply absurd. Mohamed Bahr-ul-

Uloum, a senior Shia cleric, is one of the three-member Presidential Council. Sheikh Hamam Hamadi, a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is vice-president of our 26-member Executive Council. In short, the Iraqi National Congress has been overwhelmingly embraced by the Shias, who feel that it is their only hope against the real enemy - Saddam Hussein.

Furthermore, his analysis of the three-man Presidential Council (a Kurd, a Shia and a Sunni) as reinforcing rather than overcoming sectarian differences is myopic. Almost any other composition would achieve precisely that. By avoiding the divisiveness of proportionalism, the Iraqi National Congress is aiming for a political atmosphere where Iraqis will put their political faith in any candidate who best serves the interests of the country as a whole.

Yours faithfully,

AZIZ ALAYAN

Member, Executive Council

Iraqi National Congress

London, SW3

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