The days before the attack conducted by the troops of the international coalition for the liberation of Fallujah, two years after the self-proclamation of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (the Levant) – currently known by the acronym of Isis -, in the Sunni province of al-Anbar, Iraq, at the end of March, some witnesses claim to have seen the head of the local governorate police, Hadi Razaij, sitting on a bed in an abandoned farmhouse near the front, distraught. The hundreds of jihadists who were occupying the city had a long and intense military training and the Iraqi army was not sufficiently trained to deal with them.
His presence on the field as chief commander of the government army in Iraq, a Shiite-majority country, proved that the threat the Caliphate put at stake is no longer between Sunnis – the majority Islamic current in 90 percent of Muslim countries, but not in Iraq: the “orthodox” branch, which considers that the spiritual and political leadership of the Muslim must be put in the hands of a caliph, and whose point of reference Saudi Arabia – and Shiites – the largest Islamic minority, which is the majority in Iraq, and whose main country is Iran: believes that imams are spiritual leaders, with the authority to interpret the Koran, and recognizes autonomy between politics and religion -. It is a war between Muslims brothers – also within the same branch or the same family, not just a religious one.
“What we need the most at present is not reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites, but rather working towards reconciliation between Sunnis and Sunnis,” Razaij said. His battle is even harder and more radical on a personal level than the painful battle among his brothers in faith. His is a family war, between blood brothers. According to the Kurdish information agency Rudaw, his younger brother had been arrested at a checkpoint near Fallujah shortly before that. He was driving a car full of explosives and was charged with being an Isis member; that is to say, in the opposite side of Razaij Hadi’s barricade, despite the fact that the latter had tried to avoid the arrest.
Asked how many cases of family wars between pro-government militia and the Caliphate are there, the general’s answer was: “Too many.” One of his trusted men, Ibrahim Salih Sharmoot, who fought in the southern part of Fallujah, said that his brother Muwafaq was in town too, on the other side of the barricade, among Isis militiamen. “If I happen to meet him in a battle, I will kill him with my bare hands because it is a criminal,” he said.
In short, the global war promoted by the self-styled Islamic State has the characteristics of a real family question (or shall we say a “deal”?): it is a conflict of faiths and political visions among close relatives, which seems to be irredeemable.
In recent days, Rudaw has relaunched a video Isis had spread in April, in which appeared Sheikh Faisal Hammadi’s brother, Nawfal Hammadi, governor of Nineveh, who presented himself as a “jihadist” commander and claimed to “repudiate” his direct blood relative. The latter stated during a press release after the region had been liberated from Daesh by the international coalition in March that the local army had not participated in the military operation because it was “unprepared”.
Long story short, the cases of Razaij, Sharmoot, and Hammadi brothers are not isolated. There are hundreds – perhaps even more – Sunni Muslims coming from the same family who have pledged allegiance – at least, at a first sight – to opposite sides. Kurdish television has made available a long list of “less excellent” names of government militants and jihadists soldiers, enemy brothers. When there is true fight between relatives-traitors for power control, it seems to be tougher and more resolute than that against external enemies. “I never thought that my good and naïve brother, despite his short-temperedness, could become a monster. And his excuse is that he did not want to be slaughtered like a chicken,” said Abu Anas, a farmer from the province of Diyala, whose younger brother Hatim joined a political-religious group that asks fair treatment for the Sunni minority by the Shiite government. “He chose the road to hell, I chose the one to heaven” said Anas, who shouldered an old Kalashnikov they had at home as a relic and joined the government army. At the same time, a video spread by Isis shows a militiaman of the Caliphate who shoots his older brother – who is on his knees and wears an orange jumpsuit – in the head because he is a soldier of the government security forces.
Peace in Iraq, the stronghold of the Caliphate, seems an increasingly distant and difficult goal. Even within the same Sunni community and families. The war among blood brothers and brothers in faith is so exasperate that reconciliation seems impossible today.