This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t make the headlines from Iraq but surely it is significant information:
Al-Sayyed Ahmad al-Safi, the representative of the Shiite ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, laid stress in the Friday sermon in the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala on “obligatory participation” in the elections and he said, “He who contravenes that will go to hell.” He confirmed that, “We must take responsibility and participate in an obligatory way because this is a national duty, and not taking part would signify treason against the right of the nation.” And Safi added that, “Participation has an obligation based in religious law because the transgressor will enter hell.” He clarified that, “The topic of the elections represents something truly significant for Iraqis in terms of following their destiny.” He continued, “We must get ready to prepare ourselves to participate strongly in them in order to realize the hopes whose realization we’ve been awaiting a long time,” without spelling out what these hopes were…
Ten days ago, Sistani called on citizens to register their names in the election registers on which the work [of assembling them] will start at the beginning of next month. He said in a fatwa, “It’s a duty for all citizens entitled to vote–males and females–to make sure that their names are correctly registered on the voting rolls.” And the Shi-i marja laid stress, either directly or through those close to him, on the holding of the elections on the decreed date at the end of January.
As for Shaikh Sadruddin al-Qabanji [Shi-ite–HC], he called in his sermon in Najaf on “The people of Fallujah to take a good example from Najaf and Samara on how to end their pain, so they can get themselves out of it and prepare themselves for the elections.” He added, “We call on the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars which is still undecided to participate in the election process and to avoid isolation … And we Shiites seek an Iraq for all … Not participating means that the occupation stays and the chaos continues.”
Hat tip: Jeff Weintraub who adds this comment: These and other recent news stories underline the fact that the most important figure pushing for the Iraqi elections to be held on time is not Bush or Allawi but rather Sistani. A lot of the journalistic discussion in the US seems to miss this fact. The Iraqi Shiite leadership are the major force driving the movement toward elections, which means that any attempt to further postpone (or derail) them will almost certainly provoke outrage among Iraq’s Shiite majority.
This is probably a good enough reason, by itself, why the elections should go ahead, come hell or high water. So we should all hope against hope that they can (somehow) be held in less than catastrophic circumstances, and with less than catastrophic results.