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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Barbarism from Sadr's Thugs

From Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist Anthony Shadid, describing how Sadr's thugs have ethnically cleansed a Gypsy village in Iraq:

Attack on gypsy village goes unanswered

By Anthony Shadid

QAWLIYA, Iraq - No one lives here anymore.

A month ago, Qawliya's collection of perhaps 150 homes in southern Iraq contained a small red-light district, an isolated warren known for prostitution and gunrunning and as a haven from the law. Today, it is destroyed, the few sounds of life made by barking dogs and scavengers piling bricks from razed homes.

Its residents -- hundreds of men, women and children, mostly members of Iraq's tiny Gypsy minority -- were driven out by a militia controlled by a militant Shiite Muslim cleric, residents and police say. Neighbors systematically looted it. Some accounts say the village was burned, though the militia denies it.

No one has been punished, police say. The U.S.-led occupation, which learned of the raid soon after it happened on March 12, has yet to make it public. Qawliya's residents, most of whom fled to other cities, largely remain in hiding, fearful to talk.

Qawliya's fate is a grim tale about the forces that are shaping southern Iraq as the civil occupation nears an end -- the ascent of religious militias, the frailty of outgunned police and the perceived reluctance of foreign peacekeepers to play an assertive role. Making those factors more combustible, residents say, is the question of whose law rules Iraq's people.

This is the sick mentality of Sadr's criminals and why a crackdown on this riffraff is needed - NOW:

There were few casualties, residents said, because the village appeared to have been tipped off before the attack. Several residents said the militiamen had come to retrieve a girl from Diwaniyah who was either abducted or had sought refuge in Qawliya.

That was the justification cited by Hussein Tawil, a spokesman for Sadr's office in Diwaniyah, who wore a pistol slung around his chest. Two Kalashnikov rifles sat in the corner of his cramped office, which was lined with four plastic chairs and a wooden stool.

"They provided a fertile land for sinning," said Tawil, a burly man. "There were so many crimes in that village."

For months, Tawil said, Sadr's office had sought to reform the village. It had offered to send a preacher to serve there, provide religious CDs and videos, hold Friday prayers in the town and send five of its residents to the seminary in Najaf. "Since the fall of the regime, we tried to call on these people to improve," he said. "I wanted to give them an opportunity for a decent life."

"They refused," he added.

posted at 2:17 AM by Jonathan

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