Years after Salam Pax, aka The Baghdad Blogger, became world famous for writing about life under Saddam and the American invasion, he’s now living in London, studying journalism and helping to launch new online initiative, Mind the Globe. Here’s his post from late May:
You want to know why Muqtada is so popular? Look at Hezbollah.
This is an aspect often forgotten when people talk about Muqtada al Sadr and the people around him (militarily the Mahdi Army and politically the Sadrist Movement); he is attempting to help out the people in the slums of Sadr City which is something the current Iraqi government promises but never delivers.
“But for the slum’s 2.5 million predominantly Shiite residents, Sadr plays a different role, one of humanitarian-in-chief – gifting money to families of the dead and injured, resettling displaced families free of charge and, every month, helping to feed tens of thousands of Sadr City’s most impoverished people. Sadr offers the funds for any victim of American weapons in Sadr City.”
This model worked for Hezbollah and its non-military Amal arm. Amal is much richer and has a wider reach than al Sadr but he clearly is taking notes and learning from how Amal/Hizbollah gained ground supporters.
In fact, the first time I heard about the Sadrists was right after the war when they organised food rations and opened up hospitals in Sadr City when no one knew when they would open again. But at the time we didn’t really think that this young son of a cleric would end up holding the political process hostage in his hands.
In the meantime Muqtada has developed a real fan following.