Contending for Iraq Shiite Majority in Bitter Opposition. Baathist Party Strayed from Original Ideals to Gain Absolute Control over Iraqi Society. Saddam Hussein Is Striking Decisive Blows to the Internal Revolts Challenging His Grip on Power. but Efforts to Maintain Baathist Party Rule Are Likely to Face Long-Term Shiite and Kurdish Resistance. Here, a Closer Look at the Key Factions in the Country's Power Struggle. DEEP DIVISIONS IN IRAQ

By Butt, Gerald | The Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 1991 | Go to article overview

Contending for Iraq Shiite Majority in Bitter Opposition. Baathist Party Strayed from Original Ideals to Gain Absolute Control over Iraqi Society. Saddam Hussein Is Striking Decisive Blows to the Internal Revolts Challenging His Grip on Power. but Efforts to Maintain Baathist Party Rule Are Likely to Face Long-Term Shiite and Kurdish Resistance. Here, a Closer Look at the Key Factions in the Country's Power Struggle. DEEP DIVISIONS IN IRAQ


Butt, Gerald, The Christian Science Monitor


SHIITE Muslims represent about 55 percent of Iraq's population of 17 to 18 million. They are followers of the Shia branch of Islam, its name deriving from the Arabic Shiat Ali - followers of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. They split away from the mainstream of Islam when Ali failed to be named as the prophet's successor after his death in 632.

The tombs of Ali and his son, the Imam Hussein, are both located in southern Iraq, in the cities of Najaf and Karbala. After the prophet, these two men are the most revered figures in Shia Islam.

Southern Iraq is the stronghold of the Shia, with Basra its key population center. About two-thirds of Basra's inhabitants, more than 1 million people, are Shiites.

There are strong religious, cultural, and family links between Iraqi Shiites and those in neighboring Iran. The Tehran government has allowed prominent Iraqi Shiite opposition figures to base themselves in Iran, and has given opposition groups political and material help. Most notable of the Iraqi exiles is Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - an umbrella group bringing together 12 Shiite groups opposed to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Hakim is the son of Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim who, until his death in 1970, was the spiritual leader of all Shiite Muslims. Hakim fled from Iraq in 1980, when the Baghdad government began to purge Shiite leaders in the south, accusing them of plotting against the regime. …

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Contending for Iraq Shiite Majority in Bitter Opposition. Baathist Party Strayed from Original Ideals to Gain Absolute Control over Iraqi Society. Saddam Hussein Is Striking Decisive Blows to the Internal Revolts Challenging His Grip on Power. but Efforts to Maintain Baathist Party Rule Are Likely to Face Long-Term Shiite and Kurdish Resistance. Here, a Closer Look at the Key Factions in the Country's Power Struggle. DEEP DIVISIONS IN IRAQ
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