» 09/10/2012, 00.00
Archbishop of Kirkuk: sectarian violence in Iraq "politically motivated"
A series of attacks across the country leave an estimated 100 dead and over 350 injured. The violent response to the death penalty imposed in absentia on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Archbishop Sako: divided government, reconciliation project faltering, a fragmented nation and "common" traits with events in Syria, and strong impact of nearby countries. Hopes for peace and future prospects in Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) -
"The violence is linked to sectarian and confessional tensions, the attacks
are of a political nature, I do not think they involve the local mafia or
terrorist groups close to Islamic fundamentalism", says Msgr. Louis Sako,
archbishop of Kirkuk in northern Iraq commenting on the wave of attacks that bloodied
the country yesterday, causing nearly one hundred dead and over 350 injured in
20 separate episodes. The attacks are coupled with the death penalty imposed in
absentia on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, for organizing death squads
responsible for at least 150 killings. "The attacks - adds the prelate speaking
to AsiaNews - are politically motivated, with characteristics in common with
developments in Syria and the events in the Middle East". In this bleak framework,
plagued by a never-ending spiral of violence, comes the Pope's visit to Lebanon September
14 to 16, which for the Church is now "an opportunity to encourage the
building of bridges of dialogue and peace, especially with Muslims . Though, at
the moment, everything appears difficult, if not almost blocked by the
political situation. "
Yesterday a series of attacks targeted different districts in Baghdad's Shiite majority areas, in response
to the death penalty imposed on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. It was
one of the "bloodiest" days of the year, with more than 100 deaths
across the country in addition at least 350 injured in provisional estimates. The
attacks swept the capital, Kirkuk in the north,
Amara in the south-east, Dujail north of Baghdad,
Nasiriyah in the south of the country and other minor episodes in Baquba, Basra, Samarra
The violence erupted not long after the condemning in absentia for
Vice-President al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni minority, accused of organizing death
squads responsible for at least 150 victims. Until last December, when charges
were laid, he was the political point of reference for the Sunni faction within
the Iraqi government, supported by a large Shia majority. He took refuge in the
autonomous region of Kurdistan in the north, then fled to Qatar and finally Turkey. During the trial in the capital,
some close collaborators admitted that in the past the vice-president himself ordered
dozens of murders. Critics speak of "politically motivated charges",
but AsiaNews sources say that
"there is evidence that appears to prove he is not innocent."
"At the root of these attacks - said Msgr. Sako - is a strong tension between
the Shiite majority and the Sunni faction and this violence is clearly
sectarian and confessional in nature." In Kirkuk alone, the archbishop continued, there
were four targeted killings of innocent people. "The aim - says the
prelate - is to destabilize the country" because "the central
government lacks unity and political force even within the same Shiite
majority. There is great tension, there is no dialogue between groups and greater
barriers are emerging ".
In fact, the archbishop of Kirkuk observes that the
Middle East "is like a volcano" and the effects of the crisis
affecting the countries that form the region affect even Iraq. In this
context, Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon becomes even more important:
"We are waiting for words of hope from the Pope - says the Archbishop - and encouragement
for the Church, which must build bridges of peace and dialogue with everyone,
but especially with Muslims" . He confirms that "the exodus of the
Christian community" Iraq
"continues and affects areas where they live in peace. Little is being
done to help them to remain in the country of origin, rather they are being
encouraged to leave."
"We need a real dialogue - Msgr. Sako concludes - between the Churches of
the Middle East and serious and deep analysis of the reality, providing
solutions and future plans, we need concrete steps to restore confidence and a
vision of the future of Christians in region and the Middle East. "
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