Safar Uprising in Iraq
Safar uprising in Iraq (Arabic: إنتفاضة صفر في العراق) was the uprising of the Shi'a of Iraq in the form of Arba'in procession against the government of the Ba'ath Party. This uprising was made in the month of Safar 1397/1977.
Ba'ath Party restricted holding religious rituals and also setting up any mawkib, and banned any procession. But, people of Najaf prepared for organizing Arba'in procession on Safar 15, 1397/February 5, 1977. A caravan of thirty thousand people moved toward Karbala. The government encountered this movement since the beginning and some people were martyred. Finally, in the route to Karbala, army forces attacked people and thousands of people were arrested. Some were killed, some were sentenced to death and some others were given life sentences.
In 1968, the Ba'ath Party took power in Iraq. One year later, it imposed vast restrictions over organization of religious rituals of Shi'a. These restrictions caused different clashes between people and the government over holding religious rituals.
In 1972, religious rituals were restricted to husayniyyas and few husayniyyas had the permission to hold ceremonies.
In 1976, during the presidency of Hassan al-Bakr and the vice presidency of Saddam Hussein, orders about banning of holding Husayni rituals were issued and setting any mawkib and procession toward Karbala were banned. Also, holding mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a) were very much restricted and it was permitted only with certain conditions. In 1977, these orders were repeated.
In the first ten days of Muharram 1397/December 1976, restrictions were increased. Cars were inspected by government officers and any device related to mourning were confiscated. Some reported that government officers took the foods prepared for pilgrims too.
On the eve of Ashura' (January 1, 1977), some Shi'a youths decided to hold mourning. The government was informed and arrested and imprisoned tens of them. People decided to demonstrate on the eve of Muharram 25th/January 16th, 1977, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam al-Sajjad (a). After they consulted with al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, they postponed it to Arba'in.
On Safar 15, 1397/February 5, 1977, a great crowd of people who wanted to go for Arba'in procession and visit the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) gathered in the shrine of Imam Ali (a) in Najaf. Some researchers mentioned their number thirty thousand people.
Despite the prevention of military forces, the crowd moved out and stopped at a distance of ten kilometers out of Najaf. Around the camp, military vehicles stopped. In the road and during previous days, some clashes had happened. Another clash happened fifty kilometers from Karbala and four people were martyred. Despite the clashes and the martyrdom of some individuals, people continued their way. Finally, military forces engaged and killed sixteen and arrested thousands of people.
Among those who were arrested, eight people were executed and sixteen people, including al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim were given life sentences. Also, some people who had escaped from Iraq were sentenced to death in their absence, including Sayyid Murtada Askari, al-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadl Allah, Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din, and Muhammad Mahdi al-Asifi.
Arba'in procession from Najaf to Karbala has been a religious movement and ritual. But, procession and movement of mawkibs in those years and those situations were considered a kind of protest and fight with the government.
People had held a green flag in front of the crowd on which it was written "the hand of God is above their hands". This flag with the text written on is considered having a clear message for the government.
Al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr had asked people to organize their slogans about Imam al-Husayn (a) and do not chant slogans against the government. However, slogans against Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein were chanted.
Imam Khomeini and Sayyid Abd Allah Musawi Shirazi approved this uprising. Al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr supported this uprising since its beginning and sent al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim as his representative among pilgrims to strengthen their spirit and guide them on the main goals. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim went among people in the route between Najaf to Karbala, supported them and noted that he would stay with them to the end.
Researchers considered the role of clergies of Najaf in this uprising very critical.
The government of Iraq called this uprising as a sabotaging action made by colonist governments. However, some considered this uprising a religio-political movement which was the first uprising against Ba'ath Party based on religion and the movement of Imam al-Husayn (a).
Here are some results mentioned for this uprising,
- This uprising destroyed the fake Islamic face Ba'ath Party had made for itself.
- The fake grandeur of the Ba'ath Party was broken by this uprising and for the first time, people stood against Ba'ath government.
- Some conflicts emerged in the Ba'ath Party.
- Stations in the route towards Karbala, providing services for Imam al-Husayn's (a) pilgrims in the procession of Arba'in.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from انتفاضه صفر عراق in Farsi WikiShia.