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Ayatollah Sayed Mohamad Baqir Al-Hakim

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) was headed by Ayatollah Mohamad Baqir Al Hakim, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Muhsin [Mohsen] Al Hakim. Sayed Al-Hakim was a co-founder of the Islamic political movement in Iraq established in the late 1950s, along with the late distinguished leader Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr and other scholars.

The Al-Hakim family is a well known religious Iraqi family loved and respected by millions of Shia Muslims in Iraq and throughout the Muslim world. Grand Ayatollah Muhsin [Mohsen] Al Hakim was the spiritual leader for the Shia in the world for the period 1955-1970.

Baqir al-Hakim was born in Al-Najaf in 1939. Baqir Al-Hakim, was born, brought up and studied religion in Najaf, Iraq (the holy city for Shia). He was a distinguished scholar and the personal religious/political representative of the late Grand Ayatollah Muhsin AI-Hakim in Iraq.

After studying at a seminary and working as his father's representative, al-Hakim joined Ayatollah Sayid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr in founding a political group called the Islamic Movement in the late 1960s. Both ayatollahs were jailed several times for their opposition to Ba'athist rule. In 1972 Sayed Al-Hakim was arrested and tortured by the Bathist regime. He was released after a wide spread popular pressure on the regime. In 1977 he was re-arrested following the people's uprising in Feb. 1977 in Najaf, and immediately sentenced to life imprisonment by special court without any trial. He was released in July 1979 following huge public pressure on the regime.

Sayed Al-Hakim's association with Ayatollah Al-Sadr continued after his release in 1979 when Ayatollah Al-Sadr was put under house arrest. At this point Sayed Al-Hakim assumed the responsibility of conducting clandestine contact with Ayatollah Al-Sadr until April 1980 when Ayatollah Al-Sadr was murdered by Saddam's regime.

Sayed Al-Hakim then decided to leave Iraq in 1980 shortly after the eruption of war between Iraq and Iran. He played a prominent role in the deliberations leading to the establishment of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI) in November 1982 in Iran. SCIRI organized opposition groups both within and outside of Iraq. Saddam's regime reacted violently to Sayed Al-Hakim's prominent political activity of SCIRI and arrested 125 members of his family in 1983. In just two days in 1983, the Iraqi regime killed 18 of al-Hakim's relatives still living in Iraq. Despite this ordeal and the assassination of his brother Sayed Mahdi Al-Hakim in Sudan in January 1988, Sayed Al-Hakim continued his political activities against Saddam's regime.

After the 1991 uprisings against Hussein, Sayed al-Hakim assumed his father's role as the unofficial leader of Iraq's Shi'a. In 2003 Al-Hakim was elevated by his supporters to the status of grand ayatollah, which would enable him to become the marja'a ala, or supreme Shiite spiritual leader.

Sayed Al-Hakim returned to Iraq in May 2003 after 23 years in exile. The ayatollah had been the only main Iraqi exile figure still outside the country, and his return coincided with imminent US efforts to start some form of power-sharing arrangement with Iraqi leaders. As he crossed the border and drove to Al-Basrah on 10 May 2003, the returning ayatollah was greeted by thousands of supporters. In Al-Basrah, up to 100,000 people packed a stadium to listen to him address them for the first time in 23 years. In a speech interrupted several times by chanting, he thanked Iran for its support and rejected any US efforts to name a government for Iraq. Ayatollah al-Hakim divided his time since the end of the war between Tehran and Najaf, the holiest Shiite Muslim city in Iraq.

Initially Sayed Al-Hakim was critical of the occupation. In May, at a rally in Al-Nasiriyah, he portrayed the occupation as a danger to Iraqi national identity. "Do the Americans accept it if the English govern their country, even though they share a similar culture? How can we accept a foreign government whose language is different than ours, whose skin is different than ours? Oh brothers, we will fight and fight so that the government we have is independent, that it is Iraqi," he said.

However, al-Hakim later changed his position and SCIRI chose to participate in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. Sayed Al-Hakim's brother Mohsen Hakim became a member of the council. Sayed Al-Hakim himself took a moderate stance towards the Americans. He refused to condemn the US presence or call for jihad (holy struggle) against the coalition. Al-Hakim did not believe that Iran's theocratic government was a model for a future Iraq. In May 2003, al-Hakim told Reuters, "We should not make a copy of the Iranian revolution and establish it in Iraq." He said instead there should be a separation of state and religion in Iraq. But the ayatollah remained committed to his original goals of having an Islamic state in Iraq, something Washington had ruled out. This meant any concessions by al-Hakim in operating with US officials were only a short-term strategic move to gain time to build his own power base.

Iraq's best-known Shi'a political leader, Ayatollah Sayed Mohamad Baqir Al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), was killed on 29 August 2003 in a car-bomb blast in the holy city of Al-Najaf in southern Iraq. Al-Hakim was killed after delivering the Friday sermon at the Imam Ali Mosque, the holiest shrine for Shi'a Muslims. As many as 75 people were killed in the attack and many more were injured.

The attack came just a week after a bomb exploded outside the house of al-Hakim's uncle, Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, also an influential Shi'a cleric and a resident of Al-Najaf. No one claimed responsibility for that attack, which slightly injured him but killed three of his staff.

The death of al-Hakim will benefit radical Shi'a in Iraq, pro-Baath loyalists, and conservatives in Iran, although this does not necessarily mean that any of these groups carried out the attack. It was hard to determine which group carried out the attack, but the method used suggests the assassination was the work of a sophisticated organization rather than a small radical group. Analysts were divided as to whether a more influential organization was behind the attack than a small group, such as the followers of the young radical Shi'a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. The explosive was controlled by remote control, it was packed in a car very close to where Mr. Hakim was passing by. All of this showed that it was very well planned and it may have been done either by the remaining loyalists of Saddam Hussein regime who have access to that amount of explosive and remote control and all sorts of sophisticated tools or the elements of the Iranian regime who were not happy recently about the way Mr. Hakim's policy was pointing.

A top SCIRI spokesman, al-Hakim's nephew Mohsen, had stated in early May 2003 that the ayatollah might quit as the group's head in order to be above the political fray. Leaving SCIRI would have put the ayatollah in the position of an independent cleric issuing fatwas, or religious rulings, on political issues such as US-Iraqi relations. At that time the ayatollah was considered likely to be succeeded in the party leadership by his younger brother Abdel-Aziz, who was his deputy.



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