Thursday, March 16, 2006

Iraq Civil War, Step 4.3

It isn't blue uniforms facing off against gray uniforms across a skirmish line. It's more like this:

Elsewhere, Shiites and Sunnis have become refugees in their own country, as they flee neighborhoods and outlying villages where they have found themselves members of a suddenly unwelcome minority.

On the other side of Baghdad, more than 50 Shiite families from nearby villages have turned the classrooms of the Al-Shahid Al-Jazairi elementary school in the Shiite neighborhood of Shoala into a refugee camp. They sleep on the school's cracked tile floors, atop dust-colored mattresses donated by neighbors, and cook with kerosene camping stoves.

Mohammed Hussein, a 32-year-old Shiite shopkeeper from the Sunni-dominated suburb of Abu Ghraib, near the infamous prison, has taken shelter here. The day after the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra, he says, he found a notice pasted to the door of his women's clothing store in the Abu Ghraib market."We have information that you are engaged in suspicious activities and have cooperated with suspicious people," the notice read. "You have 48 hours to leave." It was signed by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigades. Hussein collected his family and fled that same day.

"Now I don't have anything," he says. "I had to leave all the goods in the store, and all my furniture in my home. It's not safe to go back to get them." At least 10 other Shiite families fled Abu Ghraib that same day, he says. Hussein, once content to live among Sunnis, is now vowing to fight his erstwhile neighbors. "I don't have the money to buy guns, but if they try to attack me again, I will fight even if I have to use stones," he says.

When even the threat of violence creates a refugee situation, you have civil war folks.


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