Friday, March 06, 2009

Interesting Photographs of Martyred Iraqi Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim

Ayatullah al-Sayyid al-Shahid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim is greeted upon his return to his home city of al-Najaf in southern Iraq after over two decades in exile in Iran.

Presented here are a collection of interesting photographs of the late Iraqi Arab Ayatullah al-Sayyid al-Shahid (the Martyr) Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who was assassinated on August 23, 2003 by a massive vehicle bomb, believed to have been set by the then-fledgling organization of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (then called Tawhid wa'l Jihad, or "Unity [of God] and Struggle, and later renamed al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, though its actual ties to Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were/are probably quite limited). Baqir al-Hakim was leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), then named the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an anti-Saddam Husayn and Iraqi Ba'th party composed primarily of Iraqi Shi'i exiles living in Iran. According to scholar Faleh A. Jabar, the SIIC was originally conceived as a party where all Iraqi opposition groups (to use the ridiculous divisionary jargon: "Sunni, Shi'i, and Kurd") would be grouped under a single governing council, which was actively supported by Iran's revolutionary guide, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni. Despite the SIIC's Khumaynist beginnings, an Iraqi source, who is related to a former Iraqi government senior representative, has told me that Baqir al-Hakim's political goals for Iraq had evolved to include representative national elections, as opposed to the imposition of a reactionary theocracy, such as exists in modern day Iran. Tragically, he was murdered by extremists a mere three months after returning to his homeland from over two decades in exile.

An encyclopedia article draft on Baqir al-Hakim is posted below the photographs. It will appear in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Modern Middle East Wars from ABC-CLIO.


A rare photograph of Iraqi Shi'i 'ulama [date unknown, but it must be in the 1970s and before 1980], including Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid al-Shahid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (beard, fourth from the right), Baqir al-Hakim (third from the left), and his brother, al-Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim (third from the right).


An emotional Baqir al-Hakim on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca

Baqir al-Hakim speaks at a conference in Iran, flanked by ubiquitous portraits of Iran's revolutionary leaders, Khumayni and his lesser successor, al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei. At the front of the podium we see a poster with, from left: Baqir al-Sadr, Khumayni, Khamenei, and Baqir al-Hakim.

Poster showing from left then clockwise downward, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Sistani, the SIIC's officially recognized religious guide (though this is little more than a formality, as the party has frequently disregarded his rulings), Baqir al-Hakim, 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, and the SIIC's current acting leader, al-Sayyid 'Amar al-Hakim, a son of 'Abd al-'Aziz, who is currently being treated for cancer.

Poster produced by the SIIC showing Baqir al-Hakim mourning the death of Imam Husayn, the third Shi'i Imam.

An emotional Baqir al-Hakim upon his return to al-Najaf on May 12, 2003.

Baqir al-Hakim speaks at a podium, in front of which is a large portrait of his late father, Grand Ayatullah Muhsin al-Hakim, and photographs of several of his relatives who were assassinated by Iraqi Ba'thist agents. Muhsin al-Hakim was the most widely followed Twelver Shi'i religious scholar/jurist by Arab Shi'is during the 1960s. Two of his premier students were the brave activist Baqir al-Sadr and the more quietist and timid al-Sayyid Abu'l Qasim al-Kho'i (or "al-Khoei"), who in 1991 was captured and paraded on Iraqi state television, where he (surely under pressure) called for an end to the Intifada (uprising) which had shaken the regime of Saddam Husayn to its foundations. In contrast, in April 1980, despite years of government harrassment, imprisonment, and torture, Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, Zaynab, were murdered/executed by Saddam's minions after they refused to buckle to government demands to betray their principles and become lackeys/mouthpieces, even once, for the government.

Iraqi Arab ayatollah (1944-2003; some sources say he was born in 1939) and founding leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, (since renamed and hereafter referred to as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, SIIC), one of the two largest Iraqi Shi‘i political parties. His father was Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (1889-1970), the preeminent Shi‘i religious scholar and authority in Iraq from 1955 until his death in 1970. The al-Sadr family is one of Iraq’s preeminent Shi‘i scholarly families with roots in southern Iraqi shrine city of al-Najaf, where the first Shi‘i Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried. The family originally came from the Jabal ‘Amil region of historical Syria, in present day southern Lebanon. Muhammad Baqir was one of three sons, the others being his younger brother Abd al-Aziz (1950-), the current SIIC leader, and Muhammad Mahdi (1940?-1988), commonly known just as “Mahdi,” who was assassinated in Khartoum, Sudan, probably at the behest of the then ruling Iraqi Ba‘th Party under President Saddam Hussein. All three of the al-Hakim brothers were born in al-Najaf and studied under both their father and Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-1980), one of their father’s premier students and an activist scholar who was one of the intellectual founders of the Islamic Da‘wa Party (Hizb al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya), Iraq’s other large Shi‘i political party. Both Muhammad Baqir and his brother Mahdi were both involved in the formation of the Da‘wa Party and the latter was also active in the Jama‘at al-‘Ulama, a clerical association formed in Najaf during the 1950s to combat the rising popularity of communism among Iraqi Shi‘i youth.

Muhammad Baqir was a well-known Shi‘i activist throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned in 1972 and again from February 1977 to July 1979. He left Iraq for Iran with his brother Abd al-Aziz and thousands of other Iraqi Shi‘is, mainly political activists, in 1980 following the execution of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, Amina bint Haydar al-Sadr (also known as Bint al-Huda), in April and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) in September. In November 1982, he announced the formation of the SIIC, which initially was envisioned as an umbrella organization which brought together the various Iraqi exiled opposition movements. The SIIC eventually was transformed into its own political party, as other parties broke away over policy and ideological disputes. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s revolutionary leader, was actively supportive of the new group, seeing it as a tool to harass Saddam Hussein. In 1982-83, the Badr Organization was founded under the leadership of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, forming the paramilitary wing of the SIIC. Officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps provided military training and equipment for the several thousand Iraqi Arab exiles and prisoners of war who filled Badr’s ranks.

During his 23 years in exile, Muhammad Baqir built up the SIIC’s networks among the tens of thousands of Iraqi exiles living in Iran. On the eve of the U.S. and British-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent toppling of the Iraqi Ba‘th government in April-May 2003, SIIC officials claimed to have 10,000 armed fighters in the Badr Corps. The organization’s networks inside Iraq were not as developed as SIIC propaganda claimed, since Ba‘th security forces were largely successful in limiting its growth inside the country. Badr agents carried out attacks on Iraqi government targets both inside and outside of Iraq, and Badr fighters were active participants in northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) during the Iran-Iraq War. Muhammad Baqir and the SIIC were criticized by segments of the Iraqi Shi‘i community for siding with Iran against Iraq during the war, and many Iraqi Sunnis have alleged, inaccurately, that the organization is controlled by the Iranians.

Muhammad Baqir and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, together with other SIIC leaders and members returned to southern Iraq on May 12, 2003. He delivered a rousing speech in front of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis in the main soccer stadium in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra, publicly thanking Iran for its longtime support in resisting Saddam Hussein and rejecting U.S. postwar domination of the country. The al-Hakims were soon joined by thousands of SIIC members and Badr fighters who flooded into southern Iraq’s cities, towns, and villages.

In his public pronouncements and interviews, Muhammad Baqir was supportive of the role of the Marja‘iyya, the informal council of Iraq’s five senior grand ayatollahs based in al-Najaf. He also did not call for his followers to fight the U.S. and British forces in the country, though he remained opposed to their long-term presence in the country. He called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, but did not seek to implement the Iranian model in Iraq, instead envisioning believing that the Marja‘iyya should occupy a major advisory role. Muhammad Baqir was assassinated by a massive car comb on August 29, 2003 following Friday prayers, before which he delivered the requisite sermon, at the Imam Ali Shrine in al-Najaf. Between 84 and 125 other people were also killed and scores more were wounded in the bombing. This attack is believed to have been carried out by the Tawhid wa’l Jihad organization, later renamed al-Qa‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers, led by the Jordanian Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi (1966-2006).

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