Militants in southern areas of Iraq are reportedly targeting former members of the Baath Party in a bid to exterminate them, causing new displacements, according to local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
[Read this story in Arabic]
At least 200 ex-members of the Baath Party of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have been killed so far. According to local police, hundreds of families have been forced to flee their homes.
“Militias are conducting a campaign to exterminate over 4,000 members of the Baath Party,” said Hassan Dureid, spokesperson for Iraqi Brothers Relief, a local NGO working in southern Iraq. “Most of these people didn’t have a choice and were obliged to join the party during the ex-regime.”
“Dozens of new widows of ex-members of the Baath Party have reported [the deaths of their husbands] in the past three weeks to southern governorates, and their numbers could increase, according to experts,” Dureid added.
|We want to prevent Saddam’s followers from returning to power and the best way is to exterminate them.|
Militants affiliated with Shia groups refused to give detailed information about the campaign but said their action was to guarantee the “cleansing of any remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime”.
“We want to prevent Saddam’s followers from returning to power and the best way is to exterminate them,” Abu Khalid Alawi, who said he was a senior local Shia militia member but declined to name his organisation, told IRIN. “Only Shia families in the southern governorates really know what we suffered in their hands and we don’t want to risk having them back,” he added.
The Iraqi Brothers Relief said they were worried about the number of newly displaced families which have been seeking protection in displacement camps in southern areas, mostly on the outskirts of the cities of Najaf, Missan and Basra.
“We have received information from our volunteers that at least 2,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children, have joined displacement camps in the south over the past three weeks,” Farid Abbas, a spokesman for Najaf-based NGO the Muslim Organisation for Peace (MOP), said.
“These families are without their husbands or fathers because either they have been killed or were forced to flee to the northern governorates for being ex-Baath Party members,” Abbas said.
Change of policy
Current government policy, supported by the US, is to reinstate some former Baath party members in government posts to bolster the government’s effectiveness. This is believed to be one of the reasons for the current campaign by Shia militants in the south.
“In 2003, the temporary Iraqi government set up by Paul Bremer started firing all Baath Party members from government posts,” Professor Abdel-Qader Azize, a displacement analyst at Baghdad University, said. “The problem is that most of these people didn’t have a choice and were forced by Saddam’s regime to follow orders or would have been killed.”
“This move failed and the US government is now forcing the Iraqi parliament to reverse the law and accept ex-Baath Party members back into government jobs,” Azize said, adding that this was causing local resentment.
|My husband was killed by militants two weeks ago because he was a Baath Party member and now I’m displaced with three children without even clean water to drink.|
The Iraqi government couldn’t be reached for comment but the governing council of Basra said they had started negotiations with militant leaders to get them to stop such attacks.
“We are suffering twice and paying for something we didn’t have any say in. My husband was killed by militants two weeks ago because he was a Baath Party member and now I’m displaced with three children without even clean water to drink,” said Um Zeid, who has recently become yet another widow in Iraq.
“Is that fair? Is it right that people go around killing the heads of hundreds of families just because one day in the past they had been obliged to work for Saddam?” Um Zeid asked.
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