05/30/2007, 00.00
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Baghdad, the Mahdi army imposes the veil on Christian women

following in the footsteps of radical Sunnis, Shiites begin to persecute Christians. A letter is circulating the capital signed by al-Sadr militants announcing that special committees have been set up to insure Islamic behaviour. Russia guarantees that “pressure” will be brought to bear on the Iraqi authority and its international partners to insure respect for Christians. This afternoon the Iraqi Diaspora takes to the streets of Stockholm.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Extremist Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq are at war over everything, but united by one common denominator: the persecution of Christians”.  So say the faithful of Baghdad.  A letter is circulating the capital, warning Christian women to wear the veil in accordance with domestic segregation.  The letter is signed by the Mahdi army, linked to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Iraqi Shiite cleric, who the US considers the greatest threat to security in the country.  Upon till now the Sunni group of “the Islamic State in Iraq” was the most violent threat to the Christian community: from their imposition of the jizya – the “compensation” demanded by the Koran from non Muslim subjects – to their expropriation of property and forced conversions to Islam.

Aina news agency today published an English translation of the letter.  In the text the words of the martyr Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr are underlined, when he inquired “Was the Virgin Mary (peace be upon her) unveiled so that Christian women be allowed to be unveiled? Was Fatima al-Zahra unveiled? And were the wives of the Caliphs in the First Caliphate or others unveiled? No and then no…Allah forbid and far be it from all of them”. It then warns that “In the name of the Supreme Being, She is an adulteress, and she even proclaims sinfulness, challenges and fights Allah and his Prophet and ignores and neglects religion”. In answer to the question “What measure should be taken against a woman who disobeys her father, husband, or her guardian by not committing to the legal veil?” the answer is that husbands and fathers “must guide and educate her religiously in order to convince her. If she is not convinced still, then they must imprison her at home and do not expose her to the forbidden interaction with men”. In the end it warns that “special committees have been established to follow up on this matter”. It is signed by “The People's Foundation for the Master al-Mahdi Army”.

Meanwhile messages of solidarity with Iraq’s Christians are arriving from world powers, such as Russia.  the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently sent a letter to the Russian Assyrian Committee and Moscow Assyrian Ethno-Cultural Autonomy Organization, which guarantees that in Moscow’s contacts “with representatives of Iraqi authorities and international partners we delicately try to let them understand the need of ensuring conditions for preserving of original culture of Iraqi Christians, their adequate representation in Governmental structures, achievement of civil peace considering legal interests of all confessions and non-admission of discrimination of ethno-religious minorities”.

In order to bring international attention to the plight of these people in danger of extinction Ankawa.com – based in Sweden – launched a protest march to be held this afternoon in Stockholm, in which exiled Iraq Christians took part as well as other religious minorities who have fled Iraq.  (MA)

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