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    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Iraq and the Melia

    I was listening to NPR yesterday evening and couldnt help connecting the current conflict in Iraq with one in Africa that was the subject of two great movies: Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April.

    What in the world could Baghdad have with the Hotel Melia?? Small bastions of solace amid a storm of sectarian violence spiraling out of control.

    If you haven't seen Sometimes in April, I highly reccomend it. I think it is better than Hotel Rwanda, which is a great movie. Something running through both movies is the theme of international indifference while people slaughter each other over a name.

    "What's in a name?? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
    (Who wrote that line?)

    The Hutu and Tutsi sects that massacred each other in the movies above really were one people. The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european. The Tutsi, or European group became rulers over the more numerous Hutu group. When the Hutu regained power, tension spiraled towards genocide.

    Now, in Iraq, we have the start of a similar situation. Shi'a and Sunni are both Arab, however, due to differences in religious belief, stemming from hundreds of years ago (i.e. who should rule after Mohammad, his grandson or someone else), numerous wars and sectarian violence has bred mutual animosity and distrust in --not all but-- a number of people who now work towards cleansing towns and suburbs of Baghdad of the "other" group. I fear it may have hit critical mass. The government there and here cannot stop the course of events without seriously stepping up manpower, and that will only put the lid on things until the "police" leave. How can you stop and change hundreds of years of pride and animosity?

    I blame the Brits for arbitrarily creating Iraq from a mish-mash of ethnic and religious groups that weren't getting along then and don't now. The road to peace will be long and hard, changing the habits and prejudices of parents and children, and could start by having mandatory study of enlightenment philosophers in schools (for the young...when they can go to school). Obviously much more needs to be done, but I don't profess to have all the answers, if any.


    Consul-At-Arms said...

    "The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european."

    Huh? Where'd you hear that? And if it were true, how is that several neighboring countries, where the Belgians weren't the colonial power, have the same two tribes?

    Triet said...

    Well, I took your question and ran with it. First, I made the statement based on admittedly little knowledge on the subject, and what I had seen on Sometimes in April.

    So, after reading your comment, I wanted to see if I was wrong. Yes and no. The Belgians did separate people into the groups Hutu and Tutsi based on physical features. But I was wrong in the insinuation that they were exactly one people before this.

    The Hutu and Tutsi were one people for years. They lived in tribes, intermarried, etc. For most of this time, Hutu designated farmers and Tutsi designated rulers or people not doing rural work. Therefore, the indentifier could change as you changed class, work, etc.

    However, by the time the Europeans arrived the Hutu and Tutsi designations were starting to congeal in a Tutsi=non-farm-worker and Hutu=farm-worker identity, making most societal leaders Tutsi. Their work indoors and a different genetic origin for many of them, gave them lighter skin, and more European features generally.

    Hence, when the Belgians came, it was easy to see the Tutsi's as more European, already versed in ruling a society, and easy candidates to run the colony.

    Since this is becoming longer than expected, I am going to put quotes in another post.