The man who whispered to Iraqi Shiites, but not only

Anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, November 23, 2019 (SABAH ARAR / AFP)

He is a 89-year-old gentleman who is almost never seen in real life, but who is present on posters, pennants and signs all over Iraq. Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is, these days, the most important man in Iraq, in any case one of the few who still has authority and legitimacy intact, while the country is plunged into post-war chaos. that no one knows how to stop. He is a 22-year-old man from Iran, patiently climbs the ladder of Shiite clergy, and imposes himself on the fall of Saddam Hussein as a powerful voice. From the American invasion, one begins to scrutinize his sermons carefully, never read by himself but by his relatives, as well as his fatwas. He systematically refuses to meet the Americans, who fear him, so he never compromises with them. He stays at home in Najaf, a small town, but a holy city that houses the tomb of Imam Ali. Every Friday, surrounded by a powerful armed militia, he receives some of the 25 million Shiites who worship him.

Iraqis no longer want their corrupt leaders. They no longer want this life that is not one, in a country that can not get out of 40 years of war. Ayatollah Sistani has always, throughout his sermons, taken care to explain that political power should be secular, unlike Iran. A speech that eventually reassured including desperate Sunnis in Iraq, who sees in him a recourse. What he will not be. The old religious observes, and calls the authorities to hear the need for reforms. He denounces the violence. Cleverly, he does not call to protest, but supports the movement. Strange situation where a country ends up scrutinizing the least word of a man from another time. But who will know how to avoid the dreaded bloodbath?


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