February 27, 2008

Name: Eddie
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.

Framed_eddie_imam 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.


Thanks for serving and thanks for all you do!

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Thanks for this insight.

The dust of Baghdad is indeed quite ancient, but Muhammad lived after Christ. Some of these peoples' traditions may be older than dirt, but you can't lay all if it on Islam. Then again this is an Islamic holiday, or is it? We all say grace on Thanksgiving, but its roots seem to be in some pretty secular history. I guess this holiday would be like protestants celebrating the day Martin Luther nailed it to the door, maybe? I can see how it might be divisive.

What kind of religion was there before Muhammad? Could there be something even older than Islam that is the fundamental nature of their violence? I've heard of Christian sects that nail themselves to crosses & such... but what I've read of the Koran doesn't seem to support this behavior...

I guess what I've read of the Bible doesn't support some of the allegedly Christian behavior either.

At the end of the day people, even really different people, got a lot of the same desires in life.

Protect yourself while you're over there protecting us at home, we want you back in one piece.


There is something much older, it's Zoroastrianism and it was the first monotheistic religion known in history. Much of Iraq's
culture stems from its influence.

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