Suddenly, no-one’s named after Saddam anymore

From the International Herald Tribune:

The country’s Sunni-Shiite bloodletting is driving many Iraqis to bury the very essence of their identity: their names.

To have to hide one’s name is considered deeply shameful. But with sectarian violence surging, Iraqis fear that the name on an identification card, passport or other document could become an instant death sentence if seen by the wrong people.

That is because some first names and tribal names indicate whether a person is Sunni or Shiite. A first name of Omar is popular among Sunnis, for example, as is Ali among Shiites.

Stories abound of Iraqi civilians being stopped at checkpoints by militiamen, insurgents or uniformed men and having their identification cards scrutinized. They are then taken away or executed on the spot if they have a suspect name or a hometown dominated by the rival sect. In Baghdad, Shiite death squads – sometimes in police uniform – operate many of the illegal checkpoints, Iraqi and American officials say.

One forger who used to make 25-40 forged IDs a month under Saddam is now making 6-7 a day:

mostly for people who want sect-neutral names. He is not proud of helping people mask their identity and their sect. “We do these things and we’re ashamed of it,” he said.

There’s a thriving trade in forged car licence plates as well, and cars with plates from heavily sectarian regions are selling for 30% less than similiar cars from other regions.

Categories: religion


%d bloggers like this: