Thursday, April 17, 2003


The English-language Japan Today has this:

Clerics claim control of Iraq's holy cities

NAJAF, Iraq — In this holiest of Muslim Shiite cities, clerics are running a self-declared government. It's the same in nearby Karbala, another sacred Shiite city.

Muslim Shiite clerics have in the past week moved swiftly to fill the power void created by Saddam Hussein's ouster — appointing governors, imposing curfews, offering protection, jobs, health care and giving financial assistance to the needy.

In some respects, they have replaced Saddam as Iraq's new leadership....

In today's Iraq, the power of the "al-Hawza al-Ilmiya" — an Arabic phrase that roughly means the supreme seat of Shiite learning — is second only to that of U.S. forces. It is something of a magic phrase that has become associated with authority or government....

Sheik Mohanad al-Assadi is a 28-year-old Shiite scholar in Karbala. On Wednesday, he met with Youssef al-Haboubi, the long-serving civil servant appointed governor of Karbala by the al-Hawza this week, to discuss city affairs. Before him, he conferred with a doctor, police officers and ordinary people who sought his help to find jobs. He has bodyguards, a precaution after two senior clerics were killed by an angry crowd in Najaf last week.

"Al-Hawza is not contemplating the permanent assumption of executive power through it own members," he explains in a soft voice at the Spartan al-Mokheim Mosque in Karbala. "We have those whom we trust to do this for us."...

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