Sheik Hassan Zargani, spokesperson of the movement led by Moqtada al-Sadr
Sheik Hassan Zargani, spokesperson of the movement led by Moqtada al-Sadr, speaks: united resistance of Schiite and Sunni Iraqis
STEFANO CHIARINI, ENVOY TO BEIRUT
appeared in "Il Manifesto", Septeber 14
"By denying visas and preventing us from explaining the program of a political force that plays an important role in our country, the Italian government has confirmed its role as a follower of the U.S. occupiers. It has demonstrated it fears our words because they are the words of a national and patriotic movement that wants nothing but the liberation of the country and because it knows that the Italian people are against the war and the occupation."
Sheik Hassan Zargani, foreign representative of the movement of Moqtada al-Sadr, on passage to Beirut, receives our visit in a small and undecorated apartment on the ground floor of an anonymous building at the center of the labyrinth of alleys and small apartment houses in the mostly Shiia Haret Reik neighborhood on the southern edge of the Lebanese capital. Sheik Zargani, who was publisher of the newspaper Hawza closed by the U.S. forces last spring, tells us how the denial of the visas arrived in the midst of an intense internal debate on whether or not to accept the opportunity to participate at the meeting in Chianciano on the Iraqi resistance. "Usually we never send our representatives to the occupying countries - says the Iraqi spokesperson - and we were not so enthusiastic about the presence of some of the Baath speakers, but in this case, in light of the solidarity towards the Iraqi people of many Italians, we were thinking of making an exception. What is involved now is missing an occasion for you and for us to start a dialog."
The movement of al-Sadr considers itself part of the Iraqi resistance?
We are against the occupation of Iraq and we fight it in any possible political, social, and institutional way and also with arms. And we will continue to do so until liberation. At the same time we think that it must take forms that do not harm the Iraqi people and the civilian population.
More and more often the media speaks of a possible split of the country and of clashes between Sciite and Sunni people.
The problem in Iraq is of a political and not religious nature: The risk of frictions of this type derives from two factors linked to the occupation: In the first place the institutional political structure imposed on Iraq by the USA, with the distribution of all the responsibilities and of posts in the state power on the basis of percentages assigned to the several ethnic and religions groups. A system in which the parties and the politicians are not called upon to do well for Iraq, the country, but for their community or ethnic group, itself damages the collective. There is then the ominous effect that many politicians, often having returned to the native land after decades abroad, and who have no popular following, try to justify their power by stoking the flames of the religious and ethnic differences.
You are therefore for an immediate withdrawal of the troops……
The presence of foreign troops is at the root of the chaos in Iraq and it is necessary to withdraw them as soon as possible. If then the Iraqi people decide to ask for support from neutral troops, even from the UN, we will not be contrary to this.
At the international level the acceptance of a possible division of Iraq coming from the leader of the Sciri (the majority Shiite party), Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who has called for one super region of Shiite majority in the south of Iraq, has certainly provoked a surprise.……
Our movement is opposed to the division of the country and has organized several demonstrations in order to defend the unity of Iraq. We agree, we are not contrary to local or regional autonomy, but this form of intentional extreme federalism coming from the occupiers is the forerunner of disintegration. Moreover, inasmuch as the Shiites are the majority of Iraq people we do not see why we should have to be locked into a ghetto in the south of the country.
What is then the position of the movement of Moqtada al-Sadr on the referendum of next October 15?
We are against the articles of the constitution which prescribe the division of the country, but at the same time it is not our intention to provoke a confrontation between yes and no that would play the game of the occupiers. I believe that soon there will be an announcement regarding this.
In the West Moqtada al-Sadr is depicted as a politician who means to impose on Iraq the Iranian model……
Before everything else I would want to recall that in Iran, which is different from the way it is in many other countries, there are lively cultural and political debates, but in any case we are Iraqis, we have our own history, and other models do not interest us. We know well that Iraq is a kaleidoscope of communities, religious and ethnic groups and it will never be possible - the Americans are noticing this to their expense - to impose on the country a state model that is not shared by all the people. Without however forgetting that Iraq is a Muslim country and to me it seems unreasonable to think that this fact can be ignored.
You don`t fear that Iran can arrive at an unwritten understanding with the USA at the expense of Iraq?
Iran is a besieged country that is forced to operate in an international setting where there is not even a shadow of justice. It is sufficient to look at how the USA and the EU (European Union) demands that Tehran renounce its nuclear program, which at the same time is quiet about the Israeli atomic bombs. Therefore it is logical that the Iranian government try to defend itself by all possible means. Politically we are a young movement but in these two years we have learned a lot and we understand their reasoning. In the same way, however, we think that the future of Iraq must be in the hands of the Iraqis and that it is up to us to decide the objects of and the means to our liberation.