This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lawless Tribal Crime Wave

"If someone knocks on the door, I pray to God that nothing bad will happen."
"Any sound of shooting, even if it's far away, scares us."
Ahmad Hilal, Basra, Iraq

"Basra is suffering. And the crimes won't stop as long as weapons are everywhere and the tribes protect the criminals."
Haider Abdul-Amir Salman, Basra activist
Victims of crime vent their anger at a rally in Basra AP
Basra, roughly 550 kilometres southeast of Baghdad, is the country's second-largest province with a population of three million, terrified of the violence and crime that has transformed their province, their city and their community. Police have registered 1,200 criminal cases, mostly killing, kidnapping, robbery and tribal disputes. Some 70 percent of the country's oil reserves lie in Basra.

The governor spoke of a robbery in late December when a gang robbed employees of a security firm on their way from a bank with the equivalent of nearly £690,000 in cash for salaries. Some members of the gang were arrested yet police retrieved only about half the money.  A door-to-door campaign to disarm tribes in Basra’s northern suburbs was recently announced. Security forces and militias were warned  they would be disarmed and prosecuted if they got involved in tribal fighting.

And in the Middle East, it seems that only stringent, punishing law and order, if it can be brought to bear, will prevent crime from flourishing. Where tribal and religious enmities make perpetrators feel free to indulge their baser instincts on the basis of those differences. Clan, tribe and sect are the motivators of suspicion, hatred and attacks. The symptoms of a still-primitive society.

In Iraq's south the Shiite version of Islam prevails, yet nothing stops Shiite militias from preying on other Shiites through ongoing kidnappings and extortion, robbery and killings. The Sunni Islamic State group has no presence in Basra and the southern Shiite heartland. But the Shiites prey on other Shiites; their tribal affiliations render them inimical and immune to the social graces of civility.

Shiite militias out marauding drive vehicles with tinted windows and absent license plates. Bloody feuds are the concerns of local clans. Iraq's battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has diverted security forces from the south, leaving a protective vacuum. Into that vacuum has flooded militias and criminal gangs and with them theft has soared along with armed robberies, ransom kidnappings and tribal disputes settled by murder.

And drug trafficking has grown. Infighting over government posts and the influence of Shiite militias has made for some very trying times. Nine police battalions much reduced in member-numbers and one army battalion have been left in the province with its population of about three million people, while the remainder of the security forces have been marched off to be redeployed in the fight against ISIL.

Tribal clashes have grown  and drug trafficking from Iran and the Gulf Arab states all exacerbate the state of misery for residents. Those police that have remained are overwhelmed by the number of criminal cases surfacing in the past four months, including killing, kidnapping and robbery, along with tribal disputes. Armed tribesman are in conflict with one another. And since Basra is home to a huge portion of the nation's oil, armed tribesman take to besieging the oilfields demanding jobs.

A campaign has been launched by Basra activists, titled "Stop the Killing", in hopes of drawing attention to their dread and the endemic violence. Protests have been staged, demanding that senior local officials resign, and that improved security and public services be launched. And good luck to all of that. The central government appears frozen with inaction.

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