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Sunday, August 27, 2006

A new, blacker darkness

Photo: Paul McGeough

Wabila Felehi Hussein, 50, took justice into her own hands.

Revenge at hands of grieving mother

August 26, 2006

This grandmother led a cold-blooded mission to avenge the death of her son. Nine men were executed. Paul McGeough reports.

THE lined face peers from shrouds of mourning black. Wabila Felehi Hussein is a 50-year-old grandmother, and her life is imploding.

Muthanna, her 30-year-old son, is dead; Adel, her eldest boy, has fled to Egypt; Hanoon, her husband, is in near-catatonic shock. After 35 years in the mixed community of Hoorijab, on Baghdad's southern rural fringe, they were driven out under gunfire. Now 16 of them camp in a single room in the Shiite slums of Sadr City.

Even a short time spent with this family reveals the grandmother's towering strength. Until now, all the blood-letting has been laid at the door of organised insurgency cells, religious militias, death squads that operate within the national security forces and tribal gangs. But this woman is being hailed by thousands as the Shiite mother who spectacularly - and brutally - avenged her son's death.

US officials tick the boxes as they try to build a civil society - they have written a constitution, there have been elections, and new police and military services are in training. But it all collapses in a meaningless heap at the feet of Wabila Felehi Hussein. Iraq's democracy dream is being strangled at birth. Wabila Felehi's home town, Hoorijab, is near the gateway towns to an insurgency stronghold to the south-west of the capital that has been dubbed the Triangle of Death.

But the family insists that until just weeks ago the Shiite minority still shared meals and tea with Sunni neighbours.

But suddenly the word "alasa" - traitors - was in the air as Shiites accused old Sunni friends of fingering them for an insurgency clean-out of Shiites. Then on July 31, Muthanna, the fourth son of Wabila Felehi, was abducted from the makeshift shop where he sold ice, fruit and blackmarket petrol
The evening light was fading as they came to a point on the river bank where six bloated bodies floated face-down in waist-deep water. They recognised the clothing on one as Muthanna's and they confirmed his identity by two tattoos.

The brothers used a blanket to haul his remains up the embankment, laying him at his mother's feet. His hands were tied behind his back, there were two bullet wounds to the back of his head and he had been beaten.


He said that after fleeing Hoorijab, the mother set her sons working their mobile phones, calling the few who they could still trust in Hoorijab to get the name of the alasa who might have given Muthanna's name to the insurgency. "They got the name of the son of a local tribal sheik who lived near their house," he says. "When she sent the boys, she insisted he must be brought back to Sadr City alive, because no one was to be killed unless they had proof of their involvement in Muthanna's death.

"He was interrogated and gave up nine more names. Eight of them were abducted and brought back for interrogation … and then they killed them with guns, knives and by bashing some of them. Adel killed six; Saad killed three."

So then, if this is democratic Iraq, Wabila Felehi Hussein is unimpressed with the new Middle East. But as she slip-slapped her hands in disgust, she was contemptuous. "This is not democracy … we have no stability, no future. It would be better if we all were dead … get me out of Iraq."

Tears streaming down her face, she hit bottom. "We were happy when the Americans came. They lifted the Saddam darkness, but now they have led us into a new, blacker darkness.

This woman has no law, no justice, no police to protect her.

And that is our doing.

posted by Steve @ 12:24:00 AM

12:24:00 AM

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