reasons to ride that camel and hightail it out of Najaf

New York Times

[Ayatollah Calls for Rally to End Fighting in Najaf]

Grim rumors began to circulate, most of them suggesting that the end was near. One rumor had it that the militiamen, especially those who had come to fight from outside Najaf, were selling their weapons cheap and skirting out of town.

“I want you to tell me the truth,” said Hadir Syed, tugging an ice cart outside the Old City. “There is a rumor that the Mahdi Army gave up.”

On my first day in Najaf as we were driving out of the shrine area hoping that we won’t get shot by snipers one of the journalists said “well, I suppose we can say about them what we want now without worrying, they won’t be going anywhere”. The Mahdi Army looked trapped.

That night someone came into the hotel where all the journalists were staying and gave the guys at al-Arabiya a piece of paper. A hand written letter which they taped to a wall and took pictures off. It had Moqtada’s seal on it but not a signature and at the time what it was saying seemed quite improbable, most journalists there ignored it and it was gone the next morning.

If it were true it would have been a call by Moqtada for his militiamen to leave and disband. In Arabic it said “antum fi 7ilin mini” – you are free of your responsibility towards me and cites a line from a talk by Imam Hussein as he announced to his followers that those who wish to leave and not fight “should see the night as their camel” i.e. you are free to leave if you want and use the night for cover.

So if it was feeling abandoned, trapped or insecure I am not surprised that there aren’t many of them left. The people who stayed were getting the shit kicked out of them the last couple of days. and their leaders and spokesmen were being arrested and shown on TV.

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