Interview with Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi
Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi is a leading Shia scholar in Baghdad, chairman of the "National Conference for an Independent and Unified Iraq" as well as spokesman of a coalition of some 50 parties boycotting the elections
Q: Why do you participate in the World Social Forum?
Before the war we had been in opposition to the regime of Saddam Hussein. But at the same time we decidedly opposed the presence of US soldiers in our country. When the mobilisations against the impending war began, we recognised the necessity to establish contacts to the movement outside. As Iraqis we had a special interest in the strengthening of the movement. Therefore we became part of the global network against the war. The war evenutally led to the occupation. Therefore the movement must continue in order to end the occupation. We thus call upon all to participate at the international day of action March 19/20 on the occasion of the second anniversary of the war. We on our part will conduct mass protests within Iraq.
Q: Why your coalition called for the boycott of the elections?
These are not the elections the Iraqi people is asking for but the one imposed by Bush and his allies. It is the democracy according to US designs in order to legitimise the aggression. Therefore we have called upon our people not to go to the ballots and subsequently not to recognise the institutions emanating from them and to which they should provide legitimicy to.
Q: Do you think that the majority will refuse to participate including the Shiite masses?
Even the contrator which is conducting the elections abroad recently admitted that only 22% of the eligible registered themselves. In reality it is even much less. One must bear in mind that the pressure outside the country is very strong. So we can be sure that in Iraq even fewer people will cast their votes.
The boycott campaign engulfs the big majority of our people including the Shias. In exile the Shias are proportionally more. The extremely low registation rate can therefore serve as an indicator for the Shiite population in the country itself.
Q: What about the Kurds?
Also the Kurds dislike elections under foreign domination. But they live under the dictatorship of two parties allied with the US, which are at least as bad as Saddam used to be. Therefore they cannot voice any opposition.
Q: What do you think of the resistance including the armed one?
The armed resistance is something completely normal and legitimate even according to international law. Or was the French resistance against the Nazi occupation illegitimate? Every people got the inalienable right to raise in arms against foreign domination.
Q: Might the boycott campaign lead to the unification of the resistance forces?
This is our aim. All political forces poised against the occupation must be unified, because this is the will of then Iraqi people.
Q: Including the Baathists?
Yes, all from Muqtada al-Sadr to the Baathists, but without Saddam, for Saddam is responsible for the dictatorship which indirectly led to the occupation.
Q: Many liberation wars were led with the goal of a democratic constituent assemly. It this an aviable option also for Iraq?
The idea is good and important also for us in Iraq. For we are in favour of elections, but not under occupation. First the occupants must be thrown out, than the Iraqi people will perform their own elections.
Q: What do you know about the situation of Abduljabbar al-Kubaysi who advocated a political front of the resistance forces before he was kidnapped by the US army. Until now his whereabouits remain unknown. Are their effort to liberate him in Iraq?
We have protested in front of the media and we have called upon the different parties to take action. But it is not only about Abduljabbar, but tens of thousands of other political prisoners who are affected among them many important personalities like the Kurdish religious authority Sheikh Ali Babir or a leader of the Dawa Party, Khadum al-Khalisi (who is no relative of mine). He was opposing the regime of Saddam Hussein as he is today against the occupation.
Porto Alegre, Brazil
January 29, 2005