Monday, March 12, 2007

Perspective: Iraq four years on

Mohammed Mumtaz al-Duleimi shows me the ring on his third finger, set with a heavy stone in a dark-red colour that is known in Iraq as gazelle's blood. For the superstitious Shias of the south, it is has long been a talisman to bring good luck; Mohammed, a Sunni from Baghdad, now fervently hopes it will do the same for him. Flashed at the Mehdi Army checkpoints that spring up along his daily route to work, it might just convince any suspicious gunman that he is a fellow Shia, and prevent him being executed on the spot.

His disguise goes further, though, than just the ring and the ID card that hides his distinctively Sunni tribal surname. Mohammed has also committed to memory the history of the Shia religion, mastered the tongue-twisting contractions of the southern Iraqi dialects, and knows the right oaths to be heard muttering aloud at the checkpoint, such as "in the name of Hussein [a famous Shia imam], how long are we going to be stuck here?"

Read the rest at the Telegraph