National Geographic : 2004 Jun
pT Sh*ffgii i g S Sma yy dsrve tp is power, says Saa'br, apm nntSi ^^^i ex~ ^3i."n we 't r~inqish i bcus w dn' wath pescto to eve hape again." Shiite teen Noor Abdel Hadi tries on her cousin's hijab at her home in Hillah. Whether she eventually wears a veil in public is consid ered her choice, but Muslim women often cover up to avoid public harass ment or defer to a husband's wish for a show of modesty. in Baghdad, it was the bloodiest day since the end of the war. And U.S. officials anticipate more violence in the coming months. "The future is dark," says Hussein Ali Kadhim, 39, a mullah working in the shrine of Abbas, "not for Sunni versus Shiite, but for fighting between the Shiite clerics themselves and their supporters." The Shiites, he says, have a long way to go to recover from the years of repression. "We can pray openly, but now the shrines are full of weapons." But Shiite cleric Fadil al Milani remains optimistic. He thinks the violence will subside and that the Shiites will find their way after years of feeling powerless. "Once everything has settled down," he insists, "then all together, we will head toward a better life." On the feast of the anniversary of Ali's death, Hamid al-Assadi, a 46 year-old Karbala merchant, stood outside his shop, watching the streets. He was doing a good business selling prayer beads, rugs, and clods of Kar bala earth. The streets were full of worshippers-throngs of men in black dishdashas, beating themselves with chains to symbolize Ali's suffering. It was the first time Shiites had been free to perform this public ritual for three decades. It is for this, Assadi says, that Shiites must be thankful. "Now we are in paradise," he said. "Before we were in hell." BACK IN BAGHDAD, IN SADR CITY, the Issa family are no longer looking for their son. They have discovered that Hilu was executed three years after he disappeared and that he was buried in a mass grave with 42 other victims. By mid-January of 2004, human rights organizations said that 270 sites had been reported and 53 confirmed. They estimate at least 300,000 people were "disappeared" in the past two decades, the majority of them Shiites. The Free Prisoners Society, which was set up to help families of victims, believes there are many more. Ibrahim al-Idrisi, a spokesman for the group, estimates the number at five million to seven million. "The people are so furious, and we try to calm them down, tell them to wait till we have courts to judge the criminals," al-Idrisi says. "But some of the families already know the guy who carried out the execution." The Issas think they know the man who gave information to the authorities about Hilu. But they just wanted to find his body. Haj Issa went to claim his son's remains, but he could not tell which bones were his. "I feel desperate," he says wearily. The family is only now beginning to accept that their beloved son, who disappeared when he was 25 years old, will never come home. Haj is bitter about the lack of security under the U.S. occupation. Most of all he wants reassurance-to believe that the Shiites' suffering will not be in vain. ENTER THE SHIITES' WORLD Experience what it's like to live among the Shiites in a spe cial multimedia Sights & Sounds feature narrated by photographer Matt Moyer. Plus: updates and a forum on the direction of the new Iraqi government at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/0406.