Al-Daawa

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(Other Political Parties)

Al-Daawa is the oldest of the Shia Islamist organizations in Iraq. It is one of the most secretive organizations owing in no small part to its many years as a clandestine opposition to the Baath party, so information on it can be hard to come by.

It was created in the years following the 1958 Iraqi revolution. It was formed initially as a reaction to the Iraqi Communist Party whose propaganda at the time characterized the Shia religious establishment as a reactionary obstacle to modernization and economic progress.

Al-Daawa was not initially conceived as a direct activist organization. Instead it saw its role as educating a generation of revolutions. This next generation would then be responsible to seize control of the government and establish Islamic law. Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was one of the early leaders and intellectuals of the party who set much of its early ideology.

Al-Daawa had a mixed but mostly non-violent relationship with the secular Iraqi governments prior to the Baath party coming to power in 1968. Soon after the Baath party came to power it cracked down on Al-Daawa. Many arrests, tortures and executions followed. Sometime in the mid to late 1970s some of Al-Daawa's clandestine study circles became its military wing. Witnessing the success of the Islamist uprising next door in Iran, Sadr issued a series of statements supporting the Iranian revolution and finally issued a fatwa prohibiting Shia from joining the Baath Party. More repression followed as Al-Daawa's military wing began a campaign of sabotage and assassination. Days after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Tariq Aziz, Saddam had Sadr executed.

Al-Daawa's military wing took the name Shahid al-Sadr (The Martyr al-Sadr), and with military and financial support from Iran intensified its campaign of sabotage throughout the 1980s. In addition to Iraqi targets they would also go after governments that gave support to Iraq including the 1983 bombings of the US and French embassies in Kuwait. Increasingly effective repression by the Iraqi government eventually caused Al-Daawa armed campaign to die down by the late 1980s though it could still occasionally strike, it almost succeed in killing Saddam's son Uday in 1996.

It is useful to contrast Al-Daawa with SCIRI. SCIRI formed as a break-away faction from Al-Daawa in the early 1980s, though the two organizations are still closely allied. While both organizations support the establishment of Islamic law, SCIRI is much friendlier to the idea of clerical control of the government. While both organizations get financial and military support from Iran, Al-Daawa maintained it independence. Both organizations have a military wing but while SCIRI is a conventional militia, Al-Daawa's is a clandestine force.

The current leadership of Al-Daawa includes Ibrahim al-Jaafari the parties spokesperson who has a seat on the Iraqi Governing Council. It has shown some willingness to cooperate with the US, but does not do so officially.

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