Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Iraqis' Stories: 'Where can we live safely as Sunni-Shia husband and wife?'

The steady fragmentation of Iraq into religiously divided zones is presenting thousands of mixed Sunni-Shia couples with an impossible dilemma: where can they safely live together?

As formal partition of the country becomes a more likely prospect by the day, moving up the political agenda as a way of stemming the bloodshed, people like Mustapha and Zeinab face a stark choice.

Mustapha, 42, an engineer, is a Sunni Muslim while his wife, Zeinab, 36, is Shia, and together they have three young children. The family has already been forced to move from Sunni-dominated west Baghdad to the relatively mixed centre of the Iraqi capital.

Now Zeinab's parents have told her that if a segregated Shia region is formed, they will move there from Baghdad, afraid of living in a Sunni zone. "It is a bitter feeling, to have to choose between my husband and my parents," she said. Mustapha foresees the capital splitting between Sunni west and Shia east, and has prepared the family's passports, ready to leave if the country divides.

"Down south, I'd be under a permanent threat as a Sunni, but if we moved to a Sunni region the extremists would see me as a traitor for marrying a Shia," he said.

Read the rest at the Telegraph UK