Among the first acts of Iraq's new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been the order for Iraq's security forces to seize the Basra base of Hizb Tha'ir Allah al-Islami (Islamic Revenge of God Party), a party that has been accused of killing demonstrators in Basra. The move is a clear attempt by the prime minister to portray himself as an upholder of the rule of the law, but it should be emphasized here that the party itself is a minor faction in the grand scheme of things. The move is certainly not part of a supposed wider crackdown on the Hashd or groups with ties to Iran.
In any event, I was interested in conveying the perspective of Hizb Tha'ir Allah al-Islami on these matters. I conducted a brief interview with an official of the party on 21 May 2020. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you talk about the party and its history in a general sense?
The name of the secretary general of the Hizb Tha'ir Allah al-Islami is al-Sayyid Yusuf al-Mousawi. The party was established in 1995 in the south of Iraq, and the party moved among the marshes between Maysan province and Basra province. From 1995, it undertook operations against the regime and striking the bases of the regime in the time of the Ba'athist regime. And after the fall of the regime, it resisted the occupation, it resisted the American occupation and there were in Basra province the British and Danish forces. The party is a political party and has great accomplishments, among them helping the people.
In the party's opinion, what have been the reasons for the security forces' seizure of the party's base in Basra? Is it for a political reason, for instance?
Currently, the demonstrations in 2019: some of the demonstrators- the infiltrators the so-called Jokers- burnt the office and burnt the channels and the media foundations, then they were rebuilt and renovated again. And afterwards, some 10 days ago from today, some of the infiltrators- and not the demonstrators who are demanding their legitimate rights, but among them are some infiltrator demonstrators known as the American joker- attacked the properties of the office, while the office guards fired shots in the air, to scare them, and not opening fire on the demonstrators.
Among the demonstrators themselves are those who bear arms, silencers, snipers, Molotov cocktails, and they struck the demonstrators from among themselves, killing one demonstrator and wounding four others. And this is by the witness testimonies of the Iraqi intelligence in Basra, the National Security, and the demonstrators themselves. They said there is a group striking the peaceful people who are demanding their rights but they are bearing arms and they killed their friends themselves, intending to stir up fitna. And currently the base is under the control of the Iraqi government: the Interior Ministry. The office is under confiscation.
'Sit-in: we will not be silent about our usurped right.'
What are the measures the party is taking in order to recover its base in Basra?
Currently the cadres of the Hizb Tha'ir Allah al-Islami have made arrangements for big demonstrations and sit-ins in front of the diwan of Basra province and before the Basra police command on next Friday- God willing. They will be open demonstrations and sit-ins until the rights are restored, and it is the right of the office and the media foundation. This is a legitimate right. The Basra government itself is saying to the Basra police commander that the office is not responsible for the killing of demonstrators, but rather those responsible for killing the demonstrators are the American Jokers. But the central government wanted to appropriate the base.