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Do you expect them to learn forgiveness? -Tribal reconciliation in Balad

(Lt. Col. Robert McCarthy talks with Mayor Amir inside a fabric shop in the city center.)

Balad, Iraq-
In a city that has become known across the province for more than 500 reconciliations of local men with U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces, a broader reconciliation has been ongoing between Shia tribes who dominate the city and Sunni tribes who ring the outlying towns.

Balad was infamous for sectarian bloodshed in 2006. More than 57 people were killed when Sunni insurgents killed at least 14 Shiite farmworkers. Shias killed scores of Sunni in reprisals. U.S. forces were accused of not intervening soon enough to stop the killings. The Iraqi Army was finally sent to step in.

Iraqi reporters, who Tuesday went to Balad to cover reconciliation progress, know first hand about the terrible rifts caused by sectarianism. Mustafa, an Iraqi TV reporter from Baghdad, told a story of a young man who witnessed two brothers killed in front of a third brother. The man said to the killers, what do you expect him to learn, forgiveness?

But now there is a place for blood enemies to meet and discuss their differences. In April a former Ba’ath party building was transformed into a neutral meeting ground for sheiks to discuss tribal reconciliations in the area. So far all the regions Sunni tribes have come to meet with the Shia powerbrokers but the Al Jabouri tribe, who are set to reconcile soon, Sheik Bajit said.

Shiek Bajit, a Shia whose son was killed in the 2006 violence said he sits with Sunnis one by one to reduce violence and kidnappings. One sign that this reconciliation is not just good propaganda is that the Shia all attended a funeral of a prominent Sunni family recently. This had previously been unheard of.

Lt. Scott Marler, 29, Baton Rouge, LA, of 1st Squad 32nd Cavarly Regiment which operates in the Balad area, said the city is now so safe it would be the one place Americans could walk around in the province without their body armor. Agricultural markets on the outskirts are teaming and city merchants said that they have overcome the losses incured during the 2006 violence.

Two weeks ago the mayor started taking down many concrete security barriers and selling them for capital to repave the city roads, according to a U.S. interpreter.(A local farmer poses at a thriving agricultural market outside of the city.)

Mayor Amir Amb Ahadi, an astute Shia politician said the city is significant for trying to get all people to unite. At an Iraqi media event Mayor Amir expressed his gratitude to the local sheiks for “staying away from selfishness,” in reconciling with each other.

A major issue is getting the prime minister’s office to give compensation for 14 families of victims killed in the sectarian bloodshed. Tuesday a man in the market openly complained to the mayor that he recently lost his family to insurgent mortars and didn’t receive any compensation.

After the event, another Iraqi reporter asked Lieutenant Marler what he thought of religious extremists in Iraq.

“I think they should stop using violence to accomplish their goals,” Marler said with carefully chosen words.(Lt. Marler listens to a question from Mustafa, an Iraqi TV reporter.)

The reporters seemed to agree, but questioned how to stop the cycle of revenge. Another added a story of his uncle, a Shia who was killed by extremists. The uncle's son also saw his mother killed and his sister accidentally blinded. What are they going to tell his son? the reporter asked. What’s he going to do when he grows up?

“Nothing I can say is going to make it right,” Marler said, “but going and killing his family isn’t going to make it better.”

The Iraqi journalists nodded.

Mustafa said he had been kidnapped by extremists four times over the course of his reporting on the war in Iraq. “The same people who were working with the Americans also had insurgent ties, he said. But if a Shia tried to start working with the Americans, the Sunni would accuse him of being an insurgent. It’s about power and money," he said.

“I know the truth from poor people,” Mustafa said. “The people are tired from fighting. If he has a job, he won’t plant an IED.”

Social trials in the shadow of progress-
An activist for the Hammurabi human rights organization in Balad said that Iraqi children and women are suffering the most. “Here in Iraq they don’t care much for children. Many are working and they’re not supposed to be working. These are the results of poor people.”

He said there is violence against women. “It’s a hundred percent male (dominated) community. Women are second or third,” he said. Although the new Iraqi constitution is supposed to protect women and children and there are legal protections outlined by the United Nations, they have not been acted on, he said. The activist who offers human rights classes for students and police in Balad, said, “It starts in the schools."
A woman in the local market begging passers-by for money.)

One positive sign for women is that 20 percent of small business loans since the Al Baydaa Small Business Center opened last year in Balad, have gone to women, U.S. forces stated in a press release.

“The first problem is power,” Mayor Amir said, “after this everything else can get done.”

The infrequency of electricity can mean 2 hours on for every 12 off, he said. Many other citizens echoed the problems of irrigation for their crops in this mainly agricultural area. A lot of farmers are complaining, a man representing the agricultural council said. My other concerns are water and fuel.

A great AP article on recent reconciliations in Balad.

Click to view image: '196693-shia_woman.jpg'

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Added: Jun-30-2008 
By: thelastmexican
Iraq, Middle East
Tags: balad, iraq, reconciliation, soldiers
Location: Balad, Salah ad Din, Iraq (load item map)
Views: 6930 | Comments: 3 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Do you expect your own people to learn forgivnes? for 9/11 ?
    Do you expect the jewesh people to learn forgiveness for what hitler did to them?
    Do you expect the kines/japanes/thoes who lived in hiroshima, to accept forgiveness?

    well .. i dont think so

    Posted Jun-30-2008 By 

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    • As for Japan, I didn't know they had terrorism problems, in fact they are flourishing, especially in the field of robotics, so if that isn't forgiveness, they certainly have the brain power to move on and now we are friends, plus there are thousands upon thousands of Americans working there, as there are Japanese here, so that's a bad analogy.

      Posted Jun-30-2008 By 

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    • you miss the point, read agien

      Posted Jul-1-2008 By 

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