- - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The hell of jihadi terrorism is burning in the hearts of Iraqi citizens even weeks after the worst-ever terror bombing in Baghdad on July 3. The death count is now well above 300, including 172 people whose corpses could only be identified by DNA tests.

Near the end of the Ramadan period of fasting, in the coolest period of the day when families with many small children were enjoying a boisterous celebration with friends, a massive truck bomb turned their festival into an incinerator.

Even while firemen were looking for bodies in the fiercely hot shell of the upscale shopping center in Karrada, the site became an interfaith shrine for family and friends of the victims. They brought flowers and photographs of the dead with written promises to keep their memory alive, according Ali Al Bayati, principal of the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, who lost a close friend in the bombing.

“One of my friends was able to jump from a third-floor landing and survived, but another died of smoke inhalation,” he writes.

“We have collected pledges from 72 activists and organizations from different parts of Iraq and from different backgrounds to memorialize the place of bombing so that it becomes an international heritage museum. It will then increase awareness about Daesh crimes against Iraqi people,” according to Dr. Al Bayati.

One letter of support from engineer Ali Al Fartoosi, the director of the Basra Oil Institute, included this appeal: “To all peoples of the world: We are a living nation, nourished by our history and ancient civilization. From our lands all sorts of revelations have been sent. We need your cooperation to fix basics of reform, justice and peace. We are fighting on behalf of all the world, for all peoples on the earth to live peacefully.”

An Iraqi Christian leader, Jinan Slewa, head of the Ashurbanipal Society, wrote: “We, the Christians of Iraq condemn the terrorist operations targeting all Iraqi people. We appeal to the international community to uphold its responsibility to end the terrorism in the world and stop the genocide against Iraqi people.”

The united prayer of grieving citizens was a striking result of the traumatic killing, Dr. Al-Bayati said. Shia, Sunni and Christian Iraqis daily kneel in prayer, side by side.

Shiekh Khalid Al Mulla, a Sunni religious cleric and an official adviser to Prime Minister Haider Abadi, expressed solidarity with victims of the bombing and broke into tears on a TV news show. He was later threatened with death if he stayed in his post.

As Ali Sada, an Iraqi citizen and editor of Daesh Daily, tells it, the Iraqi people are doing their best to build a secular republic that embraces all sects. The vast majority of the Iraq citizens object to being the venue for a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The majority is Shia, but they do not want an Islamic republic. Iraq’s Shia majority, currently holding power in parliament with a fractious coalition of parties, has been goaded into a sectarian war since 2003 by Sunni radicals, and what he calls the “terrorist incubator media” of Gulf states.

“Conflict among Iraqis is not the will of the Iraqi people but the interest of some regional and international actors, trying powerfully to impose it through local political actors,” writes Dr. Al Bayati, a Shia member of the 2 million-strong Turkmen minority.

There are factions in modern Iraq that want to partition the country — Kurds want to get independence; some Sunni separatists reportedly want an autonomous zone protected by Turkey; Turkmen and other religious minorities want to carve out new provinces with autonomy parallel to what Kurdish Regional government has enjoyed for 25 years.

Yet there is evidence of a new nation taking shape in the joint efforts of Sunni tribal fighters serving with regular Iraqi army and together with Shia Popular Mobilization Forces to take back ISIS strongholds in Ramadi, Fallujah, Shirkat and soon, Mosul. There have been dozens of tragedies, like the Karrada bombing, that have provoked spontaneous acts of memorable solidarity.

One may argue that the Civil War deepened America’s understanding of the cost of keeping a nation together. It may be argued that a similar lesson now is being painfully learned by the people living in the land of two rivers, a birthplace of letters, laws and civilization.

Douglas Burton is a former State Department official in Iraq and reports on the Middle East from Washington.

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