Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sufi culture and mercenary culture in Iraq

By Hishyar Barzani -Kurdish Media - UK
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We can distinguish two mainstream cultural areas in Iraq: Arab culture and Kurdish culture. There are also other cultural entities, such as the Assyro-Chaldeen or the Ezdi (Yezidi). Here we are mainly concerned with Kurdish cultural areas, their different components, as well as various stages and development leading from cultural incompatibility to confluence.

The ruling Sunni Arab minority held the key political power since the creation of the Iraqi state by British colonialism in 1922 to the fall of the Ba’ath regime in 2003. The Sunni rulers repressed Shiite and Kurdish political culture. From 2003, this minority is simultaneously at war against the emerging Shiite and Kurdish cultures and against the USA and British occupying forces. It has no desire to accommodate itself to the growing new political cultural spaces.

After the fall of Saddam’s regime, we have witnessed the appearance of multitude of political cultures. The interaction between different political cultures was conflictual. The future of these cultural spaces is uncertain. It is characterized by ever widening “mutual distrust” hatred and violence. So the Arab region has changed from an imposed cultural uniformity to a multiplicity of political cultures. This change is mainly due to the recent USA-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, the situation is quite different and rather special. We have passed from a “multiplicity” to a “uniformity” of political culture. Before 1991, there were three Kurdish political cultures in Iraqi Kurdistan, which existed in permanent hostility.

We name the 3 cultural spaces in Kurdistan’ as A, B, and C:
A = Sufi Culture (Quaderi, Sulaimani, Neqshebendi, Barzan) characterized by spirituality, justice and anti-corruption.
B = Kurdish political party culture and Kurdish nationalism, resembling to a great degree the Arab nationalism. Its slogans were ‘defending national rights, democracy, equality and economic prosperity’.
C = the Culture of an important number of tribes, allied traditionally to Baghdad until 1991 (certain tribes remained allied to the Baath regime until 2003). They were considered by A and B as mercenary, symbols of betrayal and interested only in personal gain.

In Kurdistan, ‘C’ culture has the connotation of immorality, corruption and being always at the service of the enemy. But at the present time, there is by and large only one culture, which is the consequence of the merger between what we have called the cultures C and B.

It worth mentioning that the Sufi culture represents a powerful symbol, around which the whole society has evolved and been organized. In Kurdistan, Sufism has a ‘liberation’ dimension. The symbol may not possess any material power, but as a symbol in action, it has resisted states and empires: e.g. the Ottoman, the Safavid or the British.

During the 19th century in many parts of the world, the Sufi order was the main force of resistance against foreign occupation in North Africa: in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere.

An important resistance leader in this respect was Abd al-Qadir whose family had a tradition of attachment to the Qadiriyya Sufi order. Between 1832 and 1847, Abd al-Qadir led sustained resistance to the French occupation of Algeria.
Omer al-Mukhtar, who belonged to the Sunosiyya Sufi order, resisted the Italian occupation in Libya until he was captured and hanged in 1931 by the Italian army.
In Kurdistan, Sheikh Obeidullah Nehri, affiliated to the Nequeshebendi order, lead revolts against the Ottoman and Safafide Empires, his aim being to create an independent Kurdistan. He was arrested in 1880 and exiled to Mecca, from where he was never allowed to return.
Sheikh Abdulsalam Barzani, from the Neqeshebendi Sufi order, demanded reforms from the Sublime Port, and resisted Turkish occupation. Then he was betrayed, handed over to Turkish troops and finally was hanged in 1914.
Sheikh Said of Biran strived for an independent Kurdistan, and resisted a Turkish invasion of his country. He was defeated, captured and then hanged in 1925.
During the 20s and 30s of the past century, Sheikh Mahmoud Hafid from the Quaderi Sufi order resisted British occupation and strived for establishing an independent Kurdistan kingdom. He was overpowered in a battle, injured and captured by British forces. He died in exile in 1956.

The late Sheikh of Barzan (Ahmad) led several revolts against British and Arab occupation during the 30s and 40s of the past century. He was imprisoned for nearly 12 years, and he was freed after the 14 July coup d’Etat of 1958.

All these movements had as a goal to free their homeland from occupation, preserving the people’s true identity, establishing justice and gaining independence. The leading personalities were pious men, honest with a deep sense of justice.

Sufi culture is symbolised by rejection of foreign occupation, restoring of justice, fighting corruption, as well as promoting a high ethical stance and trust in God.

The mercenary category in Kurdistan, (Culture ‘C’) was mainly composed of a number of tribal leaders, who were historically hostile to Barzan.

Among them were also some of the Sufi order, who belonged to the same Neqshebendi order as Barzan, but chose the opposite camp. These were Bradost tribes under Sheikh Reshid Lolan, or the Surchi tribes under their various Sheikhs.

The Zebari tribes under the two brother Aghas -- Ahmed Agha Zebari and Mahmoud Agha Zebari, or under them their sons on behalf of their fathers, these were also in category C. Mahmoud Agha Zebari and his son Zubair Agha benefit from specific government attention, because of a marriage relation to the KDP leader. Mahmoud Agha is the grandfather of today’s President of both the KDP and the Kurdistan Region Government.

The Iraqi governments in the past, did forme out of such tribes, forces which the Kurdish nationalists called “Jash” (a Kurdish word for a little donkey) to signify mercenaries who were armed and paid by the government. Their number varied (it is difficult to give a precise number) but it was probably over 50,000 armed men in Badinan alone during the Kurdish revolt which lasted from 1961 to 1975. These forces were mobile and well acquainted with mountain warfare. They were loyal to their Aghas, who exploited them for enriching their pockets. The Agha would receive a monthly salary from the Baghdad government. The amount was 13 Iraqi Dinar (around 50 USD) for each mercenary. During the military operations, against the bases of Kurdish revolt, and in order to strengthen their fighting morale, the amount was doubled. In case the mercenary forces could take a mountain from Kurdish nationalist forces, their gains in money would be considerable. But the money was given directly to the chief of the tribe, who in turn would pay his men according to his liking. Usually, the Agha would keep half of the money for himself. The more men the Agha had, the more money he would gain. The Iraqi government knew very well that these forces were unreliable and undisciplined, but still it used them as paramilitary troops. They were useful in many ways.

(...)

Beginning in the 40s of the 20th century, Kurdish political parties begun to emerge, the most important one being the KDP- Irak. Most of the political parties, including the PUK have been derived from the PDK. At the beginning, many founders were honest members, inspired by nationalist feelings, a deep sense of justice and were ready for sacrifice. Many of them were imprisoned, some were executed.

These founders were closer to Barzan political action. There was a co-operation between both cultures: of a nationalist party and of the culture of a specific Sufi order. Kurdish people considered the KDP as a vanguard for national struggle. Kurdish masses enthusiastically joined the KDP, and through enormous sacrifice from 1961-1975, sustained the Kurdish revolt and resisted for nearly 15 years all the military operations led by various Iraqi governments.

Thus, the two main cultural spaces, ‘A’ and ‘B’, were united against ‘C’. Unfortunately, the Kurdish leadership, at later stages, due to personal rivalry, despotism, notions of superiority, greed and lack of strategic vision, begun to split, leading the Kurdish revolt to disaster in March 1975.

The corruption, accumulation of money by all means, clientalism, tribal loyalty, and nepotism were rampant among the top KDP leadership, more particularly after 1965. Intermarriage between the leading personalities of culture B and culture C , resulted in ‘hybrid sons’, who later became future leaders of the party, leading to the gradual destruction of both cultural spaces: A and B, securing, at the present time, domination of the Kurdish administration by culture of ‘C’.

[further reading: The Kurds remain caught in the "Transcaucasian Triangle" by David Nissman - 1995 The Jamestown Foundation http://tinyurl.com/3xs7v3]

1 comment:

irving said...

This is a really fascinating article :) I would like to know our Pearl of Iraq Sister's opinion on it.

Ya Haqq!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sufi culture and mercenary culture in Iraq
By Hishyar Barzani -Kurdish Media - UK
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We can distinguish two mainstream cultural areas in Iraq: Arab culture and Kurdish culture. There are also other cultural entities, such as the Assyro-Chaldeen or the Ezdi (Yezidi). Here we are mainly concerned with Kurdish cultural areas, their different components, as well as various stages and development leading from cultural incompatibility to confluence.

The ruling Sunni Arab minority held the key political power since the creation of the Iraqi state by British colonialism in 1922 to the fall of the Ba’ath regime in 2003. The Sunni rulers repressed Shiite and Kurdish political culture. From 2003, this minority is simultaneously at war against the emerging Shiite and Kurdish cultures and against the USA and British occupying forces. It has no desire to accommodate itself to the growing new political cultural spaces.

After the fall of Saddam’s regime, we have witnessed the appearance of multitude of political cultures. The interaction between different political cultures was conflictual. The future of these cultural spaces is uncertain. It is characterized by ever widening “mutual distrust” hatred and violence. So the Arab region has changed from an imposed cultural uniformity to a multiplicity of political cultures. This change is mainly due to the recent USA-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, the situation is quite different and rather special. We have passed from a “multiplicity” to a “uniformity” of political culture. Before 1991, there were three Kurdish political cultures in Iraqi Kurdistan, which existed in permanent hostility.

We name the 3 cultural spaces in Kurdistan’ as A, B, and C:
A = Sufi Culture (Quaderi, Sulaimani, Neqshebendi, Barzan) characterized by spirituality, justice and anti-corruption.
B = Kurdish political party culture and Kurdish nationalism, resembling to a great degree the Arab nationalism. Its slogans were ‘defending national rights, democracy, equality and economic prosperity’.
C = the Culture of an important number of tribes, allied traditionally to Baghdad until 1991 (certain tribes remained allied to the Baath regime until 2003). They were considered by A and B as mercenary, symbols of betrayal and interested only in personal gain.

In Kurdistan, ‘C’ culture has the connotation of immorality, corruption and being always at the service of the enemy. But at the present time, there is by and large only one culture, which is the consequence of the merger between what we have called the cultures C and B.

It worth mentioning that the Sufi culture represents a powerful symbol, around which the whole society has evolved and been organized. In Kurdistan, Sufism has a ‘liberation’ dimension. The symbol may not possess any material power, but as a symbol in action, it has resisted states and empires: e.g. the Ottoman, the Safavid or the British.

During the 19th century in many parts of the world, the Sufi order was the main force of resistance against foreign occupation in North Africa: in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere.

An important resistance leader in this respect was Abd al-Qadir whose family had a tradition of attachment to the Qadiriyya Sufi order. Between 1832 and 1847, Abd al-Qadir led sustained resistance to the French occupation of Algeria.
Omer al-Mukhtar, who belonged to the Sunosiyya Sufi order, resisted the Italian occupation in Libya until he was captured and hanged in 1931 by the Italian army.
In Kurdistan, Sheikh Obeidullah Nehri, affiliated to the Nequeshebendi order, lead revolts against the Ottoman and Safafide Empires, his aim being to create an independent Kurdistan. He was arrested in 1880 and exiled to Mecca, from where he was never allowed to return.
Sheikh Abdulsalam Barzani, from the Neqeshebendi Sufi order, demanded reforms from the Sublime Port, and resisted Turkish occupation. Then he was betrayed, handed over to Turkish troops and finally was hanged in 1914.
Sheikh Said of Biran strived for an independent Kurdistan, and resisted a Turkish invasion of his country. He was defeated, captured and then hanged in 1925.
During the 20s and 30s of the past century, Sheikh Mahmoud Hafid from the Quaderi Sufi order resisted British occupation and strived for establishing an independent Kurdistan kingdom. He was overpowered in a battle, injured and captured by British forces. He died in exile in 1956.

The late Sheikh of Barzan (Ahmad) led several revolts against British and Arab occupation during the 30s and 40s of the past century. He was imprisoned for nearly 12 years, and he was freed after the 14 July coup d’Etat of 1958.

All these movements had as a goal to free their homeland from occupation, preserving the people’s true identity, establishing justice and gaining independence. The leading personalities were pious men, honest with a deep sense of justice.

Sufi culture is symbolised by rejection of foreign occupation, restoring of justice, fighting corruption, as well as promoting a high ethical stance and trust in God.

The mercenary category in Kurdistan, (Culture ‘C’) was mainly composed of a number of tribal leaders, who were historically hostile to Barzan.

Among them were also some of the Sufi order, who belonged to the same Neqshebendi order as Barzan, but chose the opposite camp. These were Bradost tribes under Sheikh Reshid Lolan, or the Surchi tribes under their various Sheikhs.

The Zebari tribes under the two brother Aghas -- Ahmed Agha Zebari and Mahmoud Agha Zebari, or under them their sons on behalf of their fathers, these were also in category C. Mahmoud Agha Zebari and his son Zubair Agha benefit from specific government attention, because of a marriage relation to the KDP leader. Mahmoud Agha is the grandfather of today’s President of both the KDP and the Kurdistan Region Government.

The Iraqi governments in the past, did forme out of such tribes, forces which the Kurdish nationalists called “Jash” (a Kurdish word for a little donkey) to signify mercenaries who were armed and paid by the government. Their number varied (it is difficult to give a precise number) but it was probably over 50,000 armed men in Badinan alone during the Kurdish revolt which lasted from 1961 to 1975. These forces were mobile and well acquainted with mountain warfare. They were loyal to their Aghas, who exploited them for enriching their pockets. The Agha would receive a monthly salary from the Baghdad government. The amount was 13 Iraqi Dinar (around 50 USD) for each mercenary. During the military operations, against the bases of Kurdish revolt, and in order to strengthen their fighting morale, the amount was doubled. In case the mercenary forces could take a mountain from Kurdish nationalist forces, their gains in money would be considerable. But the money was given directly to the chief of the tribe, who in turn would pay his men according to his liking. Usually, the Agha would keep half of the money for himself. The more men the Agha had, the more money he would gain. The Iraqi government knew very well that these forces were unreliable and undisciplined, but still it used them as paramilitary troops. They were useful in many ways.

(...)

Beginning in the 40s of the 20th century, Kurdish political parties begun to emerge, the most important one being the KDP- Irak. Most of the political parties, including the PUK have been derived from the PDK. At the beginning, many founders were honest members, inspired by nationalist feelings, a deep sense of justice and were ready for sacrifice. Many of them were imprisoned, some were executed.

These founders were closer to Barzan political action. There was a co-operation between both cultures: of a nationalist party and of the culture of a specific Sufi order. Kurdish people considered the KDP as a vanguard for national struggle. Kurdish masses enthusiastically joined the KDP, and through enormous sacrifice from 1961-1975, sustained the Kurdish revolt and resisted for nearly 15 years all the military operations led by various Iraqi governments.

Thus, the two main cultural spaces, ‘A’ and ‘B’, were united against ‘C’. Unfortunately, the Kurdish leadership, at later stages, due to personal rivalry, despotism, notions of superiority, greed and lack of strategic vision, begun to split, leading the Kurdish revolt to disaster in March 1975.

The corruption, accumulation of money by all means, clientalism, tribal loyalty, and nepotism were rampant among the top KDP leadership, more particularly after 1965. Intermarriage between the leading personalities of culture B and culture C , resulted in ‘hybrid sons’, who later became future leaders of the party, leading to the gradual destruction of both cultural spaces: A and B, securing, at the present time, domination of the Kurdish administration by culture of ‘C’.

[further reading: The Kurds remain caught in the "Transcaucasian Triangle" by David Nissman - 1995 The Jamestown Foundation http://tinyurl.com/3xs7v3]

1 comment:

irving said...

This is a really fascinating article :) I would like to know our Pearl of Iraq Sister's opinion on it.

Ya Haqq!