“Secular means anti-religious in the new Iraq”: The story of a man in academia
Welcome to the story of a man who knows what it feels to be ‘secular’ after the fall of the Hussein regime. The following is an interview I conducted with this man, under the code name Hamid, in late February 2012.
Hamid described himself as secular Iraqi. He told me “Iraq by nature was secular, but now in Iraq secularism means anti-religion, instead of the idea of not wanting to mix politics with religion”
Q: How would you describe life under Saddam Hussein?
A: “Saddam executed anyone who was against him. Anyone who challenged him or his family was prosecuted regardless of religion”
Q: How did the US invasion impact Baghdad economically?
A: “We need engineers, we need books, we need people. If our universities are staffed by Iraqis, and the mobs are scaring the professors and educated working class out of the country, who is going to build the country? It was very difficult for people to go to work because of lack of security…and say if I own a factory, without electricity, how can I hire workers? If one loses his job, you can expect him to do anything to feed his kids.”
Q: Would you say there were any physical divisions in Iraq after the US invasion?
A: “They[US military]separated certain parts of Baghdad, it was like a prison and people were denied access to come and go.”
Q: How did the US invasion impact Baghdad politically?
A: “Before there were Shiite officials under Saddam. The Baath party did not care if someone was Sunni or Shiite. Even in the census book, there was no place for Sunnis or Shiites. Any division between the people before the Us played on it, they promoted it.”
Q: How would you describe the security situation in Baghdad after the US Invasion?
A: “The Iraqi police were recruited from the militias themselves. “Religion has been hijacked by the violent mob and the government is not representative, it is an uncompleted government.”
Q: How would you describe the division between Sunnis and Shiites before and after the US invasion?
A: “I had a friend for 35 years, and I did not know if he was Sunni or Shiite until after the US invasion”
Q: How would you describe Iraqi sentiment towards the US invasion?
A: “The invasion didn’t have a post-Saddam Iraq plan. When the Iraqis discovered there was no plan…we discovered we traded a dictator for chaos. The US invaded Iraq for a democracy but instead created a theocracy.”
Q: How will things in Iraq change for the better?
A: “Obama said we are leaving Iraq stable and a democracy, but it is neither…There will be a crack among the Shiite themselves, they will rise first because if the Sunnis try to resist now, they will be killed”