Iraq

People’s Union rally

The Iraqi Communist Party held a rally over the weekend to kick-start their election campaign:

Once one of the strongest in the Arab world, the Iraqi communist party has always prided itself on being virtually the only faction to overcome the country’s communal divisions and recruit senior cadres from the long oppressed Shiite and Kurdish communities as well as the Sunni Arab elite.

But after two decades of Saddam Hussein ‘s iron-fisted rule which manipulated and accentuated sectarian division, and forced the party itself to go underground, the ageing militants who have resurfaced are facing an uphill struggle in their bid to take advantage of their newfound freedom.

The communists’ historic slogan: “A free country and a happy people,” which echoed around the stands of this stadium Friday would have been a virtual death sentence under Saddam’s regime.

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And many of the veteran cadres who turned out told of relatives or even whole families executed for party membership after the communists were worsted by Saddam’s right wing of the Baath party in the power struggles of the 1970s.

Red-scarfed culture ministry official Raad Sabri said he had lost no fewer than 23 members of his family to the purges of the ousted regime.

He himself was sentenced to death in 1978, only to see the sentence commuted to 450 years in prison and then military service as a human shield in Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran, an experience he miraculously survived.

A full 91 of the 275 candidates on the party’s People’s Union list are women, a matter of great pride for Culture Minister Mufid Al-Jazairi, the communists’ representative in the US-backed interim government.

More pictures here

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