The Kurdish Globe
Most Kurdish Shiites live in Khanaqin province, south east of Sulaimanyah and in Baghdad. Shiite Kurds, or the Faylis, were oppressed as part of the campaign launched against the Kurds in the '80s. But as Globe's Ako Muhammad reports, many Fayli families have moved to Kalar permanently and built their praying places.
Traditional restrictions did not stop Sartip Dawood converting to become a Shiite when he found himself fond of the Imams at the early stages of his youth. The story of his new religion began when he was an intermediate school student. He shared deep beliefs with his radical Sunni followers and Dawood, now 34 years old, explained that they had read lots of religious resources. But this brought him more doubts and pushed him toward resources to the Shiite sect identity of Islam. "I have no doubt any more. Thanks to God for guiding me to find the way," said Dawood enthusiastically while arranging books on shelves of the library of Hassan al-Mujtaba Husseinia, a Shiite Mosque in Kalar town.
The library where Dawood works voluntarily every afternoon contained six shelves of books all about Shiite doctrines, inside a room close to the main prayer hall of the Mosque. With tables and chairs in the middle for reading, the library walls were decorated with picture of Iraqi Shiites reverends and Shiite leaders of Iran.
While Sartip Dawood was busy arranging books, a young man came in and asked for a book to read. The man received his book and sat to read as Dawood continued to explain his love of the Shiite Imams. He bunched 21 volumes of al-Tabatabaee's al-Mizan and added, "Look here, all of them prove that Imam Ali should have become the successor."
Shiites believe that the ruling successor after Prophet Muhammad should have been taken by the "innocent" Ahel al-Bait (or the household family) who are Ali Ben Abi Talib and his sons who are grandsons of the Prophet. The underlining differences which split Muslims to Sunni and Shia have deepened till the present day, but the Shia followers in Kurdistan, despite their small population, practice their ceremonies in peace.
"The Muslims are brothers respecting each other. And they practice their religious rituals freely. Though the Shiites here are a minority, no gap ever happened that caused problems between the religious sects," said Sheikh Abu Haider al-Kubaisi, preacher of al-Mujtaba Husseinia.
Since he came to the town in 1997, al-Kubaisi, an Iraqi Arab Shiite cleric, could play a key role in gathering Kalar's Shiite population, where it estimated to contain more than 1000 families. He preaches Shiites rituals that he has revised indoors. For the celebration of the annual condolence known as Ashura, the death of the anniversary of Imam Hussein Ben Ali, they were gathering at an outdoor yard in the city center.
In 2000, al-Kubaisi's determined attempts facilitated in the building of the first Shiite Mosque in the town funded by donations from public, after inheriting a land of 3500 square meters obtained with the help of an order from the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani. This came two years after Talabani inaugurated al-Hakeem Husseinia in Suleimaniya.
The Husseinia in Kalar was exposed to a couple of minor terrorist attacks in the first two years after it was built. However, the threats did not emanate from the Sunni populations of the town, but from elements sent by the Iraqi government at the time, al-Kubaisi explained.
"These (incidents) were not because of sectarian problems. They (the Sunnis) are cooperating with us and they attend our ceremonies," remarked the preacher who wants the Mosque to remain a safe and permanent establishment to serve the Shiite Imams and its principles.