MARCH OF THE IMAM |
February 27, 2008
MARCH OF THE IMAM
Posting date: 2/27/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog: Eighty Deuce on the Loose
There was a Muslim religious holiday recently, honoring a fallen Imam named Hussein. On one of the big celebration days the people come to the streets by the thousands, and parade around and punish themselves by whipping themselves in the back with chain whips.
During these kinds of celebrations we try to keep our distance and not interfere with what they are doing. But at one point we had turned onto a street and started heading down it when we noticed a huge procession of people coming towards us. We couldn't turn around and so, in an attempt to stay out of the way as best as possible, we pulled off to the side of the road and waited for them to pass.
There were thousands of men, women and children marching, some of them playing music, some dancing and singing, others dressed up in costume and the rest just walking along with it all. It was not the best situation for us to be in, so we locked our doors. We were surrounded by thousands of people, and if they wanted to get to us it would have been a lot easier than at any other time. It took 30-40 minutes for the procession to pass, and the whole time we just sat in our seats and watched the people go by, occasionally waving when they waved at us.
It was pretty surreal, because normally we try to keep people away from our trucks as best we can when we are out there. But there was nothing we could do, and our trucks were completely surrounded with people putting their faces right up to the windows. Once the crowd thinned out and we could drive off without interfering, we did so.
We had a basic idea of what the holiday was about but we wanted to know more, so I went to our interpreter and asked him. He explained that this was a Shiite holiday, and the story behind it deals with the split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam. A big group of the Muslims felt that the Imam, Hussein, should be the next to run all of Islam. He was on his way to Iraq from Mecca in Saudia Arabia to talk with the people who were calling for him to be in charge. But an army was sent out after his caravan to kill him.
His caravan consisted of mostly women and children, so he did not have much of a fighting force. When he learned an army was coming for him, he went into the nearby city and called out for people to join him and help him fight. But no one came out, and in the end he was slaughtered and had his head cut off and brought back to the king to prove he was dead.
This is why the Iraqi people come out into the steets and whip themselves -- to show their support for him now, and punish themselves for what they did to him then. I find it pretty interesting to learn about the history and holidays of Islam, but I have noticed that there seems to be much violence in it. Maybe that is why things are the way they are for us in this region.
I hopped on Google the other day and looked up the area that we are in. It is the oldest part of the city, and is where Baghdad was founded, many, many years B.C. It's kind of crazy to know that probably some of the streets and alleyways that I patrol were originally paths that people have walked on for thousands of years.